I was on the phone earlier tonight with my associate Clarabella when I made the half-wry, half-childish exclamation, “Damnit all, I am just trying to have a Saturday night, here!”
To understand what led to this you’ll need to know that I spent most of the day in my office grading papers working old case files, and that immediately before this outburst I had discovered — by accidental touching — a hidden pile of turds left behind in my office closet by one obnoxious, stealth-pooping cat. That’s not all, though, oh no. Get this:
I had walked to school to work and then walked back, trying to get a little exercise and possibly enjoy the now cool, Fall-like weather. (70 degrees. “Fall-like,” my ass. But I digress.) I’d stayed in the office a bit longer than planned and wound up walking home in the dark. I live only a few blocks from campus and downtown, in an area where small houses, condos, and apartments are filled by a typical mix of residents: students, singletons, seniors, young families. This is a town where the sidewalks are generally filled with joggers, football fans, and dog walkers. As boring and middle-American as it is, I still managed to feel creeped out on the dark streets of my neighborhood.
In the daytime, it’s all very boring and usual, but at night it seems more sinister. Very few streetlights break up the gloom, and the sidewalks are treacherously overtaken by kudzu vines and broken glass. The vacant house on the corner of my block used to annoy me so much when it was occupied by several frat boys and their loud, untrained pit bulls (five of them!), but now it just sits empty behind overgrown shrubs and vines.
I minded my business and kept my eyes open and felt very silly indeed for my wariness on the walk home. A couple of hours after I’d gotten back, though, the quiet neighborhood erupted in a huge chaotic mess. I heard what seemed like a minor kerfluffle in the parking lot out front (just 30 or so feet from my door) and looked out the window to see a couple of guys jump the small fence and run away across the street. Moments later, I was disturbed again, this time by the lights of a police cruiser pulling into my lot. As I looked out the window, three more cruisers pulled up. Before long, they had a couple of young guys up against the cars being frisked while chaotic shouts rained down from the balcony above me.
“You better take care of them before I do,” someone yelled. “WORD IS BOND.”
I’ll spare you the long recount of what I saw as I peeked sneakily out between my front window blinds and instead tell you what I found out later: one of the neighbors upstairs had been in his car headed to work when about 6 guys came up to him and told him to get out. When he didn’t, they shot up his car and ran away. No one was hurt, but when my neighbor (the victim) told me about it, he was clearly still in shock. He was waiting to talk to the police, perched on the stairs outside my front door.
“Are you OK,” I asked him, and he just kind of looked at me, wide eyed, and shook his head slightly.
“I’m just shocked,” he said.
While we were talking, the police were busy taping off the area with yellow caution tape. Later the crime scene unit (consisting of one dowdy, middle aged, very un-Gil-Grissom-like man) showed up with a small digital camera to snap some pictures. At some point I saw one cruiser leave with a man in the backseat, but I have no idea if he was one of the “perps” or not.
Clarabella and I, who both get our legal and police procedural information mainly from Law & Order, speculated that the police might want to “canvass the neighborhood” for witnesses, and might knock on my door to ask if I’d seen anything, but they didn’t. Even if they had, I couldn’t have helped in any way. In the dark, I’d only seen silhouettes jumping the parking lot fence — there’s no way I could identify anyone.
From what I gathered, though, it was a random, opportunistic occurrence. My neighbor didn’t seem to know them, and I doubt they’ll be back. Nonetheless, it was extremely disturbing. By the time I figured out what was going on, there were already four police cruisers in the parking lot and everything felt safe enough — though still chaotic and uneasy.
Needless to say, I’m a bit shaken up, but mostly just glad nobody got hurt. My assistant Jameson and I are on the case. We’ll be tuning in to the local news tomorrow to see what additional facts we can ascertain, but for tonight, Jameson and I are keeping close to home, away from windows, and are making full use of our supplies of club soda, lemons, and ice.
Case Status: Pending