One day last spring, I was sitting on the couch chatting on my cell phone with my daughter when a stranger walked into the family room and stopped right in front of me. “Who are you? And what are you doing here?” I demanded.
In a moment of time that suspended for me, I quickly assessed him. He wore a wrinkled white shirt, rumpled jeans, sandals, and his disheveled hair was dark brown. He looked, to me, about 23 years old. He stood still with his arms by his side, staring out the family room sliding doors at the greenbelt to my right. His lips did not move.
This intruder didn’t seem to know I was there. I was glad that the coffee table was between us. He was just three feet away from me.
I still held my cell phone and as I headed for the front door, I instructed my daughter, “Hang-up and call the police for me, Honey. There’s a guy standing here. He’s in a trance.”
“Oh Mommy! Run out of the house!”
“I’m leaving right now. Call the police, Honey.”
In my thin T-shirt and wrinkled shorts, without any shoes or sandals, I rushed out the door and up the path toward the other homes. I yelled for my neighbor, “Harry! Harry!”
Eight weeks previous, I had a total ankle replacement of my left foot. My doctor had advised me, “Don’t run yet.” In my fast-walk mode, I did my best to get away from the intruder who could cause me harm. Then, as I was not used to yelling for help, I put more effort into my voice, “Harry!”
Except for the soft birdsongs of the afternoon, the neighborhood remained quiet.
Maybe, I thought, Harry isn’t home. I called his wife’s name, “Mina! Mina!”
A gate screeched, Harry, in his khaki shorts and a red polo shirt, dashed out of his patio. With a questioning look on his face, he approached me. “What’s wrong?”
“There’s a guy in my family room. I don’t know who he is, or how he got in,” I said.
Harry headed toward my house. As he crossed the lawn, he picked up a tree branch left from the windstorm the night before. Harry slapped it against his other hand to test its strength, and then with caution went in the front door of my house. I waited, and then began to wonder what was happening inside my house. Was the kid resisting Harry? Was Harry okay? In other emergencies, the police have been quick to respond. “They should be here by now,” I said aloud. I called the police myself.
“911,” the police operator said.
I reported what happened and added, “My daughter called the police from Dana Point. Did she reach you?”
“Where is the intruder now?” the police operator asked.
“Right now, my neighbor, Harry, is walking him out of my house. He’s directing him with a tree branch, and ordering the young man to sit on a brick planter. Are the police on their way?”
“Your daughter’s call has just been relayed to me. I have patrol cars coming right now. Stay on the line,” she said and put me on hold.
Seconds later an officer on a purring motorcycle is zooming up the long sloping path that runs the length of the greenbelt behind my house. At the same time, patrol cars are coming down the tree-lined street behind me. One, two, then three, police cars with lights flashing, pull over and park along the curve of our street. The motorcycle cop stops near Harry and dismounts. His right hand is on his hip where his gun would be. Holding his left arm toward Harry, he signals for him to stay in place. As he gets closer to the intruder, he is talking. I see the officer’s lips move but I can’t hear what he is saying.
I tell the 911 operator, “They’re here. Thank you,” and click off the call.
The first officer that comes up to me has a clipboard in hand and starts to ask me questions. The other officers come out of their cars and look toward him, and he gives them a nod and points, with pen in hand, toward Harry and his captive.
Ten minutes later, my daughter arrives from Dana Point where she works as a teacher. More police cars park behind the ones already here. Then my son-in-law is here, too. It is mid-afternoon on a workday. It amazed me that traffic on the freeway let them come here so soon. The police, my family, I have more support than I had expected.
What I also had not expected was a Crime Scene Investigation van pulling onto my driveway. The sight of it made me shudder. On television, a CSI team on the scene usually meant much worse circumstances. This officer and I went into the house and I recalled for him what had happened in the front room. Then we went into the bedroom where he checked the screen and sliding doors. “It was easy for the intruder to come in through this sliding door. The lock on it isn’t very strong,” he said.
Another officer came into the bedroom. “We found his backpack leaning against your chaise. He might live in this neighborhood and mistaken this house for his own. He isn’t talking,” the officer paused, and then added. “We think he might be high on something. We won’t know until we check him out.”
I went back outside into a breeze of fresh air scented by the eucalyptus trees. I felt relief as my daughter and her husband hugged me.
“Mommy, you’re so calm! Weren’t you scared? I was.” Her words came rapidly. “I was so worried about you,” she added.
“I was worried, too,” said my son-in-law. “I was at home. I got here as quick as I could after she called me.”
I pointed to six the patrol cars lined up behind us. “I’m okay. Look at all the help that came. I wish you were here to see the motorcycle cop ride up the path behind our house. When I saw him zoom up here on his motorcycle, my body tingled. I think it was a feeling of relief that help came, mixed with the realization that I wasn’t watching a movie.” I laughed at my silliness and they joined in. We were all movie buffs. I could see that my humor broke-up the tension we had been experiencing. Right then, my husband came home, and we told the story all over again.
Over the weekend, Harry received a visit from the police department. They gave him a certificate honoring him for his courage to come to my assistance. Harry is now a neighborhood hero.
Several months later I received a summons to appear in court to testify. However, because the intruder had been involved with drugs before and had recently been in rehab, my testimony was not needed.
My friends were astonished and relieved to hear that I was not hurt. One of them, a nurse, said, “You know, people on drugs sometimes can be violent. So you were very blessed to be safe.”
I do thank God for protecting me, and I do pray for this young man who was so lost.