When you get a home alarm system put in, you really don’t expect to need it. Because either it's too late or you think having it all you need to be safe. My name is Alison Smith nee James. I’m average height, average weight and have shoulder length brown hair with artificial highlights and brown eyes. I am as mediocre and plain as it gets. I married an equally average man named Steven Smith and we have three kids ages 7 (nearly 8),12, and 14. I work from home and Steve works from 8pm-4pm. He occasionally has to go out of town for work and recently a neighbor’s house had been burglarized, so we decided to get a home alarm system installed. The burglar had been caught but there are other criminals lurking everywhere; even in our suburban small city of Centerson, OH. And the burglar had been caught because of the neighbor’s alarm system. We decided it would be particularly helpful to us because our house is rather oddly designed.
The front door immediately opens to a wall to a staircase and to the right of the door is a small area we used a mudroom with a bench and line of coat-hooks. The left is a short hall that leads to a hall with a closet against the left-most wall and then to the right is the staircase that goes up to the second floor of three bedrooms and a full bathroom. There’s another doorway, without a door, that goes into the rest of the first floor, immediately into the dining room open to the kitchen which is separated by a decent sized kitchen island. That further goes into the open-concept family room. In the family room is a wall with a door that leads to a half bath. On the first wall of the dining room, that connects to the staircase, is a door to another staircase that goes to the master bedroom and en suite. So, the children’s bedrooms are upstairs, and my husband and I are in the finished basement. When the children were younger (and fewer), Steve and I slept upstairs. But now we have an alarm system.
And it was going off at 2:03 AM.
I woke up with a start from the head-splitting sound and screamed as I sent the comforter flying off me. Steve was two hours away in a hotel on a business trip. I scrambled and half-fell out of the bed and looked up to the ceiling in fear and confusion. I clicked on the room light and ran halfway up the stairs and then stopped to a quiet walk and then took a breath when I opened the door at the top. I looked at my empty hands. A thousand thoughts went rapid-fire through my mind. What did I do if I came face to ski-masked-face with a thief? What if the other burglar was a part of a gang and the initiation was breaking into a house? What if they were armed? I couldn’t bear the thought of my kids coming downstairs in fear and confusion and finding their mother shot in the dining room. My heart was thumping out of my chest. My breath was coming in fast and shaky. I could feel perspiration on my forehead. The police were contacted by the alarm and presumably on their way. But not fast enough to stop anything in the next couple minutes. I quickly looked down the short staircase to scan around the room.
We didn’t own any guns, nor did we have a fireplace. My choices for a weapon were high heels or a TV remote. If I could get to the kitchen, I could get a knife or a hammer since we kept a toolbox under the kitchen sink and we kept the kitchen light on dim at night. I sunk low to the ground and slowly opened the door. I waited. No one running by with a stuffed potato sack.
The alarm was still blaring. The front door had the alarm system keypad on the wall space next to it to shut it off. But I needed to get a weapon first. And after clearing the first floor, check on the kids asap. So, I looked around and didn’t see anything or anyone. Nothing seemed out of place, but I was so scared about encountering someone that the couch could have been taken and I wouldn’t have noticed. I sneaked to the kitchen and grabbed the carving knife from the cutlery box and spun around. A niggling thought of how my knife meant nothing if the intruder had a gun, but I immediately felt better holding the knife anyway.
I more boldly went to the front door and shut off the alarm. I realized the front window was slightly opened. I slammed it shut. I peeked through all the windows-but I saw nothing. I couldn’t decide if it was better to see nothing or not. I then headed upstairs, knife first. The nearest rooms at the top of the stairs were the 12-year-old's next to the 7-year-old's. Then there was an upstairs closet, the bathroom, and the 14-year-old's room. We left the light on upstairs too, so it was easy to see the hallway. I looked around quickly, the bathroom door was open and looked empty. I saw the two younger kids but checked the bathroom for any baddies in the shower first. I opened the closet and saw nothing. I set the knife on the bathroom sink counter and hurried back to my kids. I saw my 12-year-old, she was standing in her doorway, holding the 7-year-old boy who was crying and clinging to her. I went over to both with relief. Then I quickly scooped up the 7-year-old.
“Darry, Darry, baby, shh, it’s okie, Mommy’s here” I patted his back. “Did you see anything, Katie?” I asked my 12-year-old.
She looked like she was trying hard not to look scared. She shook her head and moved closer to me, and I wrapped my free arm around her and rubbed her shoulder to comfort her.
Darrell, ‘Darry’, cuddled into me and sniffled into my shoulder as his cries stopped. I looked at him more closely and he looked more tired than scared. I let go of Katie and went to Tyler, the 14-year-old's room. I cracked the door and saw the lump of a log still sleeping. Katie was right behind me.
I pursed my lips in disappointment at Tyler snoozing still. Everyone but him could have been shot and he’d be suspect #1 when he claimed he slept through it all. Of course, Steve could sleep through a bomb too. Still, my motherly instinct was to check on Tyler anyway. Maybe he was awake and had just buried his head under the pillow to muffle the alarm sound. Or maybe he was scared and was pretending to be asleep instead of showing it.
With Darrell’s face still nestled into my collarbone, I clicked on the light to the room and moved closer to the bed. As I did, the bump under the comforter looked less like a teenager’s body. I narrowed my eyes and tugged the top of the comforter over. I was greeted not with a messy-haired, bleary-eyed teenager but a haphazard lump of dirty laundry. I felt my nostrils flare. It was a school night. I went over to his window. It was closed but his window went out to a slightly slanted roof towards the backyard. I’d sent him out this window many times to get mis-thrown frisbees and the like off the roof. The fall from the edge of the roof to the ground wasn’t a casual fall but it wasn’t a harrowing leap of faith either.
I set Darrell on the edge of Tyler’s bed, right on top of a dirty sock, and rubbed the back of my fingers gingerly against Darrell’s cheek and he sleepily looked at me. I kissed his forehead. Katie had come just inside the room. A habit from Tyler threatening to ‘pound her’ if she came any further into his room. Her eyes were wide at the laundry.
“Watch Darry so he doesn’t fall to the ground” I instructed Katie.
She moved to stand next to the bed but was watching me.
I went to the window and opened it. I looked around, I’d left my phone in my room in the basement. I looked at Tyler’s nightstand and computer desk. No phone. No surprise.
“Katie, will you please go get your phone?” I asked.
She shoved her hand out to me. She was holding it. Of course, she was. No pre-teens these days would go anywhere without their phone on them, alarms blaring or not.
I passingly wondered where the cops were, but I had lost the concept of time; an hour or two minutes were the same to me.
I turned on Katie’s phone light and then crawled out onto the roof through the window. I shivered in the chilly night air. I was barefoot and in a large tee shirt and pj shorts. I was dressed for being in a warm bed, not out on a cold roof. I inched closer to the edge and saw our ladder leaning smartly between two windows, blocked by the hydrangea bushes against the roof’s edge. I nodded knowingly as my tongue went between my teeth on my left side. I crawled back inside the window and shut it quietly.
Then I saw the lights of a cop-car pull up. I watched the two cops get out of the driver and passenger doors. The driver-side cop was shorter and slightly overweight, moving to the driver’s side back door and the passenger cop was tall and slimmer. rounding the front of the vehicle. I blew out a hard sigh as I turned around. Katie was watching wide-eyed, and Darrell had fallen to his side asleep again.
I handed Katie back her phone after turning the flashlight off.
“Katie, go back to bed.” I told her as I lifted sleeping Darrell.
“Did you see Tyler outside, Mom?” she asked a little too excitedly.
“I did” I said “So you can go back to bed now”
“Is he in trouble? Are you going to beat him up?” she asked, really excited now.
“No! No, Katherine, I am NOT going to ‘beat up’ your brother” I said matter-of-factly with an eye roll.
“But he’s in trouble, right? Right!?” she persisted.
“YOU’RE going to be in trouble if you don’t get into bed right now” I told her. I grew up an only child and couldn’t relate to my children’s delight in seeing each other get punished. It was almost ghoulish, and I debated taking them to counseling. But Steve -who had two older siblings and a younger one- insisted that it was just a natural sibling rivalry thing that kids did. I wasn’t comforted when I asked how long they did that, and Steve had replied ‘about 25’.
I tucked Darrell in bed. When I passed Katie’s room, she was in bed but furiously texting on her phone. I knocked on the open door and she shot her face up to see me giving her ‘the look’ and she clicked her phone off and laid her head on the pillow. I raised my eyebrow but then there was a knock at the door.
Gee, I wonder who that could be.
I smoothed my hair down a bit as I walked down the stairs.
I clicked on the porch light and opened the door.
The cop from the driver’s side door had a big southern mustache and a had that midwestern drawl.
“Evening, Ma’am, we were responding to an alarm pinged from this address and on our way on the street, we saw this young man running away.”
The other taller cop, who looked much younger and deeper skin-toned without an accent picked up the story “Yeah, we stopped him, and he said he lives here. Is that true?”
I looked at my scared, worried, embarrassed teenager in handcuffs, fully dressed, with disheveled hair, looking at the ground.
“He’s going to wish he didn’t” I replied.
His head shot up with wide eyes and I gave him a parental-smirk.