I Survived, Part II of X: Blue Lights, Long Night

by David E. Shellenberger on December 11, 2017

“The game is afoot.”
       — Sherlock Holmes

I had put the house on the market more than a year earlier.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery writes of mourning the loss of friends: “It is idle, having planted an acorn in the morning, to expect that afternoon to sit in the shade of an oak.”

The world we are accustomed to is a friend of our souls. The new cannot replace the old. I still plant acorns, but I missed the oaks. I missed home.


I chatted with my new friend, the man abducted at the bank. He too was from New England; he was down for the day as a volunteer. When it comes to crime, any place can be the wrong place, and any time can be the wrong time.

We found we found we had other things in common. And we were both relieved to be alive.

We discussed that it was fortunate we were alone — any women with us would have been vulnerable. My friend had made the trip alone, and I have been amicably divorced for three decades. My missions became my life, and I remain single.

My friend was scheduled to fly out in the morning. Could he do so without his wallet, which was in his duffel bag in my car?

More police arrived. There were six or more police cars at my house all night. As one of the officers explained, the home invasion was a major crime — a rare event in the area.

A county rescue squad vehicle arrived with two men. They took my pulse and blood pressure. My numbers are normally low, but I suspect they were elevated that night.

They asked about my injuries, including the concussions. I had incurred two concussions from slipping on ice in New England. I knew there was no concussion pill, but I would have benefitted from applying ice to the bumps. However, the emergency vehicle did not carry ice, and I could not enter my house to get my own.

In view of the concussions, the technicians tested my cognitive ability. They asked me what day of the week it was and who was president. I teased them by naming Theodore Roosevelt but conceded I knew the name of the then-president. The humor lobe of my brain apparently remained intact.

The technicians offered to take me to the hospital, but I declined. I had to stay to make sure that every officer who entered my home knew about the cats. I wanted to avoid an officer leaving a door open or mistaking a darting cat for a criminal. I explained that whatever the cost to my health, keeping the cats safe was imperative.

An officer asked for my license plate number. Somehow, I remembered it. He inquired whether I had a tracking device on my car. I recalled that I had had LoJack installed when I bought the car. He relayed the information to headquarters.

The police understood my priority. An officer took me to the back corner of the house and shined a flashlight on Victoria, who was hiding behind the television console. I always drew the shades at night; maybe I had still left this shade partially open, or maybe I could see her through the edge of the shade. I called to her and tried to reassure her. She would know my voice.

I recounted the events to detectives and other police officers. A senior officer directed the placement of yellow crime scene tape around my yard.

The police quickly located my car about a mile away. An officer asked whether I had an extra car key. I explained where he could find it hidden in the house. The police drove or towed my car to a police garage to dust it for fingerprints and check for DNA evidence.

I later learned that the police recovered my friend’s duffel bag from the car. Fortunately, his wallet was still in the bag, and he was indeed able to fly out in the morning.


I wanted to reach my friend Jonathan, who lived just a mile away. Nowadays, we tend not to know people’s telephone numbers. The numbers are on our cell phones and computers, and our contacts often have only cell phones, not listed landlines. Borrowing an officer’s, I tried several means of getting his number, to no avail.

We waited for two crime scene investigators to arrive. It was a busy night for them; the second investigator came after several hours.

Officers with rifles cleared the house. The police have to be sure that all criminals have left a crime scene — and that none has returned.

The investigators had a lot of work to do in the house, including processing footprints and taking photographs. After a while, one of the investigators gave me my hiking boots, which had been by the front door, and let me enter to try to secure the cats.

Victoria was still hiding behind the television stand in the corner of the living room. I spoke to her, picked her up, and started carrying her. As I mentioned in Part I, the cats revert to the feral under stress, and they had never been so stressed. Poor Victoria panicked, severely scratching the top of my right wrist. I set her down, and she ran back to her hiding place.

I tried again, holding more firmly by the scruff of her neck and supporting her with my other hand. I was able to get her in the garage.

I called for Eve and searched the house, to no avail. Both cats are cautious. But Victoria is courageous, while Eve is still skittish, and she is an excellent hider. I knew she would come out when I returned to the house alone.

In searching for Eve, I saw that the criminals had torn my office apart, strewing files and other belongings on the floor. And, of course, they had stolen my computer.

The police called the rescue squad again. I was bleeding profusely from the scratches. I apologized for being a repeat customer. Again, there was little the technicians could do, but they did give me a bottle of water to wash away the blood and paper towels to dry off.

The lead detective confirmed that I did not have a grill on the patio. He showed me the propane tank the thugs used to smash the glass door. He found the source of the tank, a neighbor’s patio with a dark ring where the tank had sat.

The detective asked the questions police have to ask when there is a home invasion: Did I know the thugs and did I use illegal drugs? No and no.

Home invasions often are related to drug trafficking. Criminals seek dealers’ drugs and cash.

Any of us, however, can be a victim. I suggested to the police that the criminals had probably targeted my house because it was high-end and visible from the road that ran by the development. Further, the house was vulnerable because it was isolated. The developer had not yet built on the lot on one side of my home or sold the house built on the other side.

I explained my background to the detectives. I had worked for two decades as a securities attorney, fighting fraud and abuse in private practice and as a regulator. In the course of my work, I had referred numerous cases to the authorities, particularly the FBI.


The investigators completed their work about 5:00 a.m. The lead detective said he would get a couple of hours of sleep and then be back to work. It was evident the police were determined to solve the crime and capture the criminals.

I had not followed the local news, but there had been a crime spree in Albemarle County and Greene County, to the north, that had begun the prior month. Armed robbers had targeted five commercial establishments — convenience stores and pizza restaurants.

The 7-Eleven that the criminals hit that night had been previously robbed on June 12th, and the nearby Domino’s Pizza had been robbed on June 27th. With the home invasion, the police were concerned that the criminals were escalating their violence.

I thanked all of the officers. After the long night, a long day lay ahead for the detectives — and for me.


I was fortunate to be alive. I knew I would never be the same. I would always be more wary, and every moment of life would be more precious.


Part I

Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII

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