SMOKE: Chasing A Thief
Originally published: 21 July 2004
I've had a recurring nightmare which has persisted with me since I was a kid - I'm at one end of a corridor in my house and on the far end an intruder appears. That's it. I can't ever remember the rest of the dream.
What makes it a nightmare is not what the intruder does, but rather the shock of seeing someone unexpected in my house. It's not a pleasant feeling.
I have all manner of backup plans for any given eventuality and my sturdy, short cosh is always at the ready, halfway between the front door and the passage. That way it is always equidistant to the nearest possible entrance to the house and I regularly check to make sure it is in place.
Can't be too careful these days. As can be witnessed by a fun little experience I had yesterday.
It was around midday and I was in the middle of a site meeting with Tashi, who was standing next to my computer. My desk faces the window which looks out onto a narrow alley that runs along the side of my house, on the other side of which is a wall separating us from Monkey Boy.
I was turning to look at Tashi (she hadn't said anything - I often just turn to look at her) when almost instantaneously the pair of us saw a head going past our window.
The perp - a man of about 40, who looked scaly as hell - was crouching low so as not to be seen, but obviously hadn't crouched low enough and we could just see him from the neck up.
No amount of words upon a page can convey to you precisely how loudly - when I seriously put a lot of effort into it - I can roar. But believe me when I tell you that I have had a lifetime of roaring and screaming and bellowing behind me, and I discovered that I haven't lost the old touch.
At almost the same moment Tashi pulled a classic "scream" pose, checked to make sure she looked good in the mirror, contemplated going to change into something more glam, decided against it, and screamed. Like a banshee.
The poor bastard bolted and by the time Tashi had opened the front door he was clean gone - if anyone is looking for a 100 metre expert for Athens - this guy is your man. Musta done it - climbing over gates included - in five seconds flat.
At precisely the same moment she opened the front door Tashi hit the panic button - one of many which are strewn around our house for precisely such occasions.
By this time I had retrieved my cosh and followed her outside, where she was frantically opening the gate. I went haring through and into the road and looked wildly around.
People were coming out of their houses and a couple of young guys pointed up a side road to show me where he'd gone. Kicking off my slops I set off in pursuit and my 6.4 for the 100 metres - while not as motivated as the thief's time - was credible, considering the health issues involved.
He was gone. Clean gone. A car pulled up alongside me with a woman driver and a male passenger and the woman opened her window and asked me what the guy had done.
She'd seen me haring out of the house with a distraught Tashi following. Tashi had reluctantly realised that at some stage the screams had to stop, and as romantically appealing as the notion was of a young damsel in distress - with nasty bad men killing people left right and centre and blood and gunfights and stuff - common sense prevailed, and she went indoors to deal with the security company, who were on the phone.
The chick in the car got my brief description and went screaming off up the road in a swirl of tyre-smoke looking for commies under the bed while I started hopping fences and scouting around gardens as I was convinced the bloke had to be hiding somewhere close by.
I was hopping back over a wall when a police van came screeching to a halt next to me, closely followed by the good boys of ADT Security, who made the two cops look like slightly camp babies in comparison.
The cops took one look at me and were clearly struggling to maintain a professional, humourless demeanour - I had no shoes on, a pair of baggy jeans, a huge jersey (hey - it's cold indoors) on probably the hottest day this winter, and my trusty cosh which was gripped by a white-knuckled hand.
I couldn't speak because I couldn't breathe, a situation you too would have found yourself in if - like me - your (conservative) estimated lifetime intake of nicotine stands at almost a quarter of a million cigarettes.
It turned out the cops had been around the corner in the next road - attending to a reported burglary. Putting two and two together I went into my back garden - to the back wall - and sure enough there in the soft turf was a clear heel imprint.
The bugger had robbed the house behind us and when the cops turned up he had hopped the wall and set off the chain of events which led to me writing this story.
When Tashi spoke to the security company on the phone ("There were hordes of them, darling - thousands of them. It's the bloody killing fields, darling") they asked if they should call the police and she apparently told them that she thought they should - not because she was scared of the burglar, but because she was scared of what I would do to him if I caught him.
Her fears were well-founded - I would have wreaked unnatural revenge upon the bloke and passed a sentence on him way worse than his crime. I was angry at not catching him because I wanted to stave his head in (the dried blood on my cosh is starting to fade - it's been a while), and shatter his kneecaps.
I know myself - had I caught him I could easily have killed him, despite the fact that he'd done absolutely nothing to me. He deserves some time behind bars, but he would never deserve the kind of beating I would administer to him.
I worried for a while about my own murderous thoughts, but had my doubts assuaged when a little while later another security guy rocked up at my door. He had apparently been at the other house on the first call and had actually seen the burglar - looked him in the face. He couldn't get him because there was a barb wire fence separating them.
But this guy was a professional and clearly had a deep passion for what he does, which is rare in the security industry. He told me that this suburb was "his" and that he didn't want scum like our thief to be operating in it, and he was genuinely tortured - he really wanted to catch the thief.
Then the lightbulb went on - I also don't want scum operating in our area. I'm actually bloody sick and tired of scum operating at all - it's a frustration borne of years of having to always be on the lookout, for having to have security bars and doors and windows and locks and chains and Trellidors, of having to check the shadows when you park your car at night, of having your personal possessions stolen time and again and for never knowing when the guy walking towards you is going to dirk you in the ribs.
You bet your ass I would have beaten that swine. An oke can only take so much.
All Smoked Out,