I came up the apartment steps—loaded with groceries. At my door, I was troubled to see it hanging open a crack.
As I entered, I called out. No one responded.
My hope was that Ann was inside. There was a silence. I called her name again. The worst flashed through my mind.
I set the bags down, started to look around—expecting someone to leap out at me from behind every corner. The city will do that to you. Make you crazy.
Right away, I realized that no one had broken into our place. The computer was still in the spare room. The laptop was on the table in the living room in front of the big screen TV. Our stereo was still there. I peeked in our bedroom … the other computer was there too.
I cursed Ann for leaving the fucking door open all day. Then I went and scooped up the plastic bags. Took them in the kitchen, started cutting onions and garlic to make chili.
Ann came home and I didn’t say anything about the door being left open. She’d been the last one out in the morning, but—I kept quiet. Partly, I didn’t want to terrify her with the idea that someone could still be in the apartment. Instead, we joked around. Fooled around on the living room floor—even though the bed was close enough.
We ate the chili, talking about going to Costa Rica, once the rainy season ended. Hot springs near the volcano. Riding horses in the jungle.
Afterwards, I wanted to go in my office and write. As I sat down at my computer, Ann called from the bedroom—”Where’s my book?”
“Why would I know where your book is?”
“I left it right here on my nightstand.”
“I didn’t touch it.”
Her voice got louder as she approached, “… must have wound up on the bookshelf.”
Ann came into the room—froze. Mouth agape. She was staring behind me in the direction of our large wall-size bookcase. ” … What?” I swiveled around on my chair—
—every single book was gone.
Two cops came. A woman and an old man with a moustache. Lt. Rameriez and Sgt. DiSantis. They looked like they’d been into some heavy shit lately. As a result, we weren’t treated with kidgloves, as Ann requires of the authorities.
“Ok … you come home. You think there’s been an intruder—” starts Rameriez, she has a little pad, folded over—taking notes.
“There’s definitely been an intruder,” Ann says.
“What’s missing? What valuables?”
“Ok, for starter—your books …”
“A whole bookcase of them. Maybe 200.”
“Alright … what else?”
“Nothing?” DiSantis say, smirking.
He’s looking right at our big screen TV anyway. He’s a dope.
“Just the books,” I clarify.
I point out the laptop and the computers and the stereo systems. The Dvds, the “… you get the point. All the other stuff has been undisturbed. It was just our books.”
“Ok …” Lt. Rameriez flips the pad closed, puts it away in her pocket.
“What? Take your pad back out!” Ann commands.
The cops are exasperated, “Were these rare books? Were they collectables?”
“No.” Ann admits. “They were mostly …”
“Mostly, what? Spit it out. ” DiSantis says impatiently.
“Used paperbacks from Ebay.”
“Great.” Both the officers tell us to have a lovely evening—they’ve got to be going. They say that they will keep a close eye.
They say—”911 is for emergencies.”
They say—”Making a false police report is a very serious thing.”
Ann, the pitbull she is, chases them down into the foyer of the building and she takes down both of their badge numbers.
She keeps the badge numbers on a little slip of paper beside her alarm clock. For years the slip of paper sits there. Sometimes I see her glance in it’s direction, her lip twitching.
We moved. Not because of the odd break-in. There was a better apartment across town, our lease was up, I didn’t like the annoying sound of the radiator beside my desk that would startle me while I worked.
For a time, we settled in. Getting comfortable with the new neighborhood, meeting our neighbors. Forgetting all about the disappearance of all our beloved, ratty, torn up paperback books.
That is, until they began to appear—one by one, back on the empty shelf.
As they were being finished and then, rightfully returned by whoever had taken them.