I called Lois as soon as I got home and filled her in on the details of my "arrest," and luckily she was amused by it all. I think I apologized at least three times for my inept fingers. She couldnít have been kinder. Now, I thought, its finished. I can relax. That thought lasted all through the night and well into the next morning. At 11:17 the next day, however, it all came back to haunt me.
"Hello?" I said into the telephone. My caller ID gave no indication of the caller, but I answered it anyway.
"Is this...?" and the voice named my name.
"It is. Who am I speaking to?"
"This is the police, sir. We just wanted to ascertain that you were at home."
"Yes, I am. Of course, I am."
"Thatís fine, sir. Please remain in your house. A car has been dispatched and the officers should be with you shortly."
"The officers? Whatís this about?" I asked.
"Just a routine follow-up, sir. Nothing to be concerned about."
"A follow-up? You mean about yesterday?"
"Yes, sir. Nothing to worry you. Just a few routine questions."
"I see," I said, as I noticed the police car pulling into my driveway. "I donít understand it all, but..." the doorbell rang. "I think your men are here now."
"Very good sir. Have a good day." The line went dead as the doorbell rang for the second time. These policemen werenít being very patient.
I hung up the phone and headed downstairs to the front door. The bell was ringing for a third time before I got there. I moved the snake from the doorsill - it keeps out the winds and even some of the insects - and unlocked the door. As I opened it I became aware that this pair of cops werenít as friendly as yesterdayís had been.
"Yes, can I help you?" I said.
"Take two steps back, please, sir," said one of the policemen. He had his gun out and it was pointed at my leg.
"What is this?"
"Weíll ask the questions, sir. Just take two steps back, please."
Guns frighten me, so I did as Iíd been told. I took two steps back into the room and both of them entered my house, shutting the door as they came in. I think I took two more steps backward and they came up, two more steps, toward me.
"You donít need a gun, officer," I said nicely.
"Weíll be the best judges of that, sir," the second man said.
"Iím unarmed," I said, showing them my empty hands.
"And weíll be the judges of that, too," he replied, moving toward me, his hands out ready to frisk me.
Of course I froze in place, terror replacing bravado. The cop ran his hands up under my armpits, then down my sides and legs, patting the in-seam as well as the outer seam. Then he patted and squeezed my rear end and genitals before taking a step back.
"Heís clean," the man said to his partner.
"I am, too," I said. I had just showered and bravado was making a tiny return to the fore.
"We have a few questions, sir, about yesterdayís break-in," said the first man, the one with the gun. I could read his name plate now. It said Cairns.
"Can you holster that, Officer Cairns? I asked him.
"No, sir." He paused. "Are you refusing to answer our questions, sir?"
"No. Not at all. I just... the gun makes me very nervous."
"That is one of its properties, sir," he replied.
"Well, all right. If you have to have it out..."
"Yes, sir. You can sit if youíd like."
I thought about but remained standing. With his gun held at that angle I knew that sitting down would alter its target from my leg to my stomach. I preferred the idea of being shot in the leg, somehow.
"About yesterday, sir." He cleared his throat. "What was your aim?"
"Yes, sir. What were you doing there at that time?"
"I see. Well, I was returning some exhibit materials we used for the Governorís reception the day before at the museum."
"Thatís fine, sir. And did you return those materials?"
"Yes, I did."
"Good. And did you take anything out of the place when you left, sir?"
"No. Nothing. Oh, except my hat which Iíd left on the desk when the alarm went off."
"You took off your hat, sir? While you were inside?"
"Yes. I did."
"And why was that sir?"
"Well, I had to use the phone to call the alarm company and I needed to read the phone number on the wall and I couldnít see it with my hat on so I took it off and laid it on the desk."
"I see. Thank you, sir."
"Can I ask what this is about, officer?"
His partner nudged him once and they exchanged a glance. The first one, the questioner, nodded once and the second officer returned the nod.
"You realize sir that it is our responsibility to verify your answers."
"Well, I guess so," I responded.
"And that to do so would mean finding proof of the honesty of your answers."
"It seems you gave the arresting officers some false information yesterday, sir, and that is why we are here today."
"I did...? I donít think so."
"Sir, you provided them with a contact phone number to verify your employment at the place and when it was checked it proved to be a number for a very different individual and not the business you broke into."
"I didnít break into anything. I hit a wrong button on the alarm machine." I knew I was sounding high-pitched and even indignant, but this was getting crazy.
"Sir, the phone number you provided was incorrect. How long do you claim to have worked there?"
"Over eight months or so."
"And you do not know the phone number?"
"Of course I do," I said, and as I said it I remembered how many times during the season I had accidentally juxtaposed the numbers. I took a moment and wondered if perhaps in my haste to respond, with all my anxiety over the situation, I had done the same thing again.
I gave them the number. They exchanged looks.
"That is not the number you provided last evening, sir."
"I may have been a bit flustered about the whole thing and gotten it wrong then," I told him. "Iíve been known to do that on occasion."
"But we are the police, sir. We need accuracy."
"Well I just gave it to you correctly." I waited but there was no response. "Go ahead. Call it. Youíll see." I gestured toward the telephone. No one moved.
"Itís not our job, sir, to make that call," the officer said calmly.
"Well, what is your job, then, officer?" I knew I sounded cocky, but I couldnít help myself.
"We will have to ask you to accompany us, sir."
"I beg your pardon?" Now I was angry. "Accompany you where?"
"Youíll just have to come along with us, sir." He took my arm and pulled me forward a step, but I pulled back, heaving my arm out of his grip. He raised his gun higher, the barrel at a level with my earlobe. "Please donít try to resist, sir," he said.
"Resist? What does that mean, Officer Cairns? Are you arresting me for something?"
"Weíll have to see about that, sir."
The second officer moved behind me and put his hands on my shoulders, holding me in position.
"Will you come quietly, sir? Or do I have to cuff you?"
I wanted to say "oh, yes, cuff me please, take me into illegal custody, let me sue the dark blue wool gabardine pants off you," but I managed to stay calmer than that and just shook my head. I wasnít about to be led out of my house in handcuffs. After all, I hadnít done anything. Of course, thatís not how the moment went down.
"Iíll come, of course," is what I said to him, "but can I use the bathroom first. Please."
He shook his head slowly. It was a decisive moment and I responded by letting my nervous morning bladder do its thing. That was bad enough, embarrassing enough for me, but the closeness of our two bodies, as he held me by the arm, unfortunately got him wet, too. That was something he wasnít going to accept easily.