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Attempted Burglary

Saturday, April 01, 2006

It's 5:30am and I'm not really sleeping due to this awful bug that is making me cough, sniffle and ache all over my body. My brain makes whooshing, throbbing motions and I try to drift into uneasy slumber.

I hear a kind of crashing noise in the kitchen. I suspect one of the many items of dangerously balanced, recently washed up items has thrown itself to the floor in an attempt at attention seeking. Curious, I get up and walk naked in the dark to the kitchen door and peek round it.

There is something at the window. My eyes adjust and I see a figure lurking there, with his hand through our cat flap, obviously trying to reach the window latch above.

My first thought is that it is my crazed neighbour from below, living out one of his psychotic fantasies, so I stride into the kitchen, and right up the window.

It isn't my neighbour.

He has withdrawn his hand and is squatting there in the about-to-break light on our balcony, a hundred feet up, on our fire escape.

'What the fuck are you doing!' I scream in a slightly hysterical manner.

He considers this for a moment then mumbles something like, 'I'm trying to get in, I'm staying here.'

'But this is my flat!' I scream.

He shows me his mobile phone. I stare at it. What the hell has this got to do with anything? I lock the cat flap, which he must have somehow opened from the other side.

'I must have the wrong flat,' he tells me, 'I must be below you.' And then gets up and walks casually down the fire escape. I watch him go and then stand there in the kitchen window for a minute or two longer looking out at the empty metal stairs.

After this I find it even harder to sleep.

In the morning I examine the cat flap and it falls to bits in my hands. He has pulled bits off and smashed it up. There is now a big hole in my kitchen window and no flap to cover it. I hastily make a repair with some duct tape and then put a big wooden board over the window before we go out to look at houses (which is another long story of disappointments, or, rather, broken appointments (as opposed to broken apartments)).

When we get back from hours of fruitless walking I bang on neighbours' doors in the building and ask if they have a guest who might have broken into my flat last night. They all seem a bit worried by the whole thing and no-one has a clue.

It all seems a bit fishy to me, so I go to the police.

Ah, the police, the stories I can tell of the police, but I won't right now. This time, it seems, the police are, wait for it, nice.

Of course, the police station closes at about 6pm. I have to use a yellow phone by the door which rings forever (so it seems). As I wait I'm happy that I didn't run here with a crazed axe murderer chasing me.

'Hello, Police.'

'Hi, I'd like to report an attempted break-in at my flat last night.'

'Please hold.'

Click, whirrrrr, ring ring [etc]...

[Automated voice] 'You are through to the non-urgent police reporting centre, please hold.'

When a voice finally does answer, I fully expect it to be an Indian call centre, but it isn't and the woman is jolly and sounds quite local.

I explain what happened.

'And why,' She asks, chidingly, 'didn't you call 999 last night?'

She takes it all very seriously despite my personal suspicions that the guy was perhaps just wasted and on a psychedelic adventure. She doesn't like the sound of it though and says they'll treat it as attempted burglary.

She laughs, 'I'm sorry,' she says, 'but the image of the man with his hand through the cat flap and you charging in there naked, oh, ha ha ha ha, ho ho!'

'Indeed.' I agree.

An hour later a policeman comes by the house and takes a statement, which then took an hour. My god, I think, how long does a serious crime report take?

He finished up by saying, 'Right, forensics will be round at some point, and then we'd like you to come down to the station to do some e-fits and line-up parades.'

'Really?' I'm quite incredulous. 'If this is just a drunken idiot, I'm causing a lot of work, aren't I?' I say, feeling guilty.

He dismisses this and tells me, 'No, there's something not right about this case and we're taking it seriously.' He then calls his sarge and tells here, 'Hi Sarge, just finished taking the statement, bzzzt, yes the cat flap case, bzzzt, okay, back soon.'

And leaves.