everything all right, sir?" one of the local policemen shouted out at me from about twenty feet away. He was shining his flashlight in my face, moving it up and down, back and forth as if to reveal something subtle or hidden in my eyes, or cheeks or mouth.
I was standing on the upper step of the front porch of the place. I had a phone book in one hand and my cell phone in the other and I was talking to the alarm company. Jennifer, on the other end of the conversation, was assuring me that everything would be fine and that the police had been called off, but here they were in front of me, the second one with his hand on his gun, still holstered.
"Iím trying to get the instructions fromthe alarm company to silence the alarm," I said to the cops. The one closest to me nodded. I held out the phone. "Would you like to talk to her?"
He shook his head slowly and deliberately and asked me: "Do you work here, sir?"
"Yes, I do," I said. "Iím not sure what happened when I entered the code to disarm the alarm, but I must have hit a wrong button, because it went off anyway."
"I see, sir," he replied, pulling out a very small notepad and an even smaller pencil. "Would you mind putting down the phone, sir, and answering a few questions." It was a statement and not a question of its own.
"Iíd be happy to, but Jennifer is getting me instructions on shutting off the alarm."
"Can that wait, sir?" he said quietly. His partner, behind him still held his flashlight aimed into my face and his other hand on his pistol.
"Officer, Iíd be happy to answer any questions, but I have to get this alarm shut off first."
"Well, sir, if you think that is your priority..."
"...then we understand that you donít want to answer our questions."
"No, I do." I nodded vigorously. "But Jennifer is getting me the instruc..."
Just then Jennifer came back on the line with the necessary code information for shutting off the alarm and rearming the equipment. I tucked the phone book between my legs and held up my hand to the policeman, whose named appeared to be Ruppert. I nodded in response to what I was hearing, turned to the officers and waved my hand at them twice, turned my back and headed into the porch area and over to the front door.
"Stand where you are, please, sir," Officer Ruppert said quietly.
"Iím just going to turn off the alarm," I said.
"Please stand where you are."
"You can talk to the alarm company yourself, Officer."
"Please remain where you are."
Frustration was mounting. I really wanted to get indignant with the man, ask him why it had taken almost twenty minutes for them to get the two miles from the police station to the place. I wanted to tell them that if Iíd been a burglar the sounding of the alarm would have gotten me going quickly and I would have been in the next county - the next state, probably - before they had gotten to the driveway. I contained my enthusiastic exasperation and turned my attention to my intention - shutting off the alarm.
His one-track mind almost matched mine. I put my hand on the doorknob, pushed open the door and the loud alarm which had been killing my ears for minutes got even louder. Officer Ruppert took a step backward at the increased volume of noise.
"If you donít mind, sir," he said, "would you please stop that alarm." I nodded to him, went inside, punched in the new code and after a moment, the alarm went silent. I thanked Jennifer and asked her if she would mind talking to the policeman. She said she didnít have to, that the police had been called off. With that the line went dead. She had hung up. I closed the phone and went back out to the porch. My two police officers were still waiting, exactly where theyíd been, but I did notice the Officer number two had finally taken his hand off his gun.
"We have a few questions for you, sir," Officer Ruppert said, his pencil poised.
"Of course you do," I said. "Please."
In quick succession I answered the questions, giving him my full name, my home address, my telephone number, my social security number, my motherís maiden name, how long Iíd been employed at the place, the name of my employer and a few other irrelevant pieces of information, like the make and model and year of my car. It seemed like an awful lot of information that no one needed, not even for a credit check or a resending of the the ID code for one of those on-line membership accounts.
As I finished answering his questions, there was an odd tinkling noise emanating from his shoulder. He reached up to a walkie-talkie like device on his left shoulder and he pressed two buttons. There was a squalk and then some numbers recited and then nothing. Officer Ruppert never responded in any way.
"Was that headquarters rescinding your order to come out here?" I asked. "The alarm company said that would happen."
He didnít answer me. Instead he closed his pad and placed it back into his shirt pocket along with the tiny pencil.
The second police officer came forward into the light shed by the security lamp on the porch. "I know where you live," he said.
"Well, yes, I just gave you that information," I replied.
"I was there once," he said.
"You reported a golf club," he said.
"Oh. Right." I remembered the incident from the previous year. Someone was holding up local grocery stores and gas stations with a golf club. I had fouind a golf club tucked into some trees near my house and I had called the police. They came, took it away, asked me a few simple questions and Iíd never heard any more about it.
"I remember you," he said again.
I smiled before I spoke again. "So what happens now?" I asked them both. "Do you need to come inside and check anything?"
"No, thank you, sir," Officer Ruppert said. "I think weíre done here for now."
"Well, okay, then." I smiled again. "Iím just going back inside to lock the place up again." I turned and headed back to the door.
"What are you doing, sir?" An unbelievable question.
"I told you. Iím going to re-arm the alarm and get going."
"Please donít do that sir."
"I think I have to. I canít leave the place disarmed."
"Are you sure you know how to do it, sir?"
"Iíve been doing it for months."
"Is there anyone we can call to help you, sir?"
"No. I know what Iím doing."
"If youíre sure, sir."
I waited for another statement from him, but nothing more was said, so I went in, got my hat, armed the alarm system and came back out, locking the door behind me. As I came down the steps I saw the two policemen getting into their car. I headed for mine, got in and started the engine. We backed up together and I preceded them down the driveway. Looking both ways for signs of traffic, I pulled out, making a left onto the road, and they followed me. Were they, I wondered, going to follow me all the way home. Would I be hearing from them again? Would Lois? Was I going to have a police blotter? I wasnít sure what would happen next.
Looking in my rearview mirror I saw them enter the road, heading in the other direction. I breathed a sigh. The ordeal was over.