As usual, he went home late that evening, after 9 p.m., tired and drained after more than a full day’s work, and looking forward to a hot shower, a rotisserie chicken sandwich with coffee, relaxing moments before the TV (perhaps an episode of Criminal Minds) and then to about six hours of deep sleep.
Automatically, he scanned the front and one side of the house for lurkers and, satisfied there was none, drove past and returned in five minutes or so, this time from the opposite direction, scanning the other side of the house. He pressed the remote when he could see the whole iron gate and, again satisfied, drove inside, shaking his head mentally for the umpteenth time at the lengths he had to go to protect himself and his daughter.
He let himself in, looking around all the time. All seemed to be okay. His daughter would not be at home since she had to attend evening classes at the Arthur Lok Jack School of Business in pursuit of the EMBA. She too would have to go through the same routine when she came home. He traipsed up to his bedroom and then… froze and unfroze in split seconds.
His bag dropped to the floor. His senses of sight and hearing became as alert as they could be. There were ransacked drawers everywhere. There were shards of glass and lengths of burglarproof steel on the floor by the back door. The door curtain was rising and falling, blown by a mild easterly breeze. He ran to his dressing table and cursed silently. Most of his perfume and eau de cologne, picked up at airport duty-free shops during his trips abroad, was gone—Givenchy, Burberry, Hugo, Lacoste, Nautica, Dolce & Gabbana, Sport Extreme… . He stopped counting the missing bottles, realisation sinking in. He checked a drawer for his jewelry; as he expected, his two gold chains and a Tag Heuer watch were no longer there. Ruefully, he congratulated himself on not keeping cash at home; the bitch and them would have to try elsewhere!
And then he looked at the bedhead for his laptop. His laptop with all his business—contacts, back account information, schedules, drawings, pictures, and documents. He held his head and flopped onto the bed in defeat. He had decided to carry the tablet instead of the laptop that day, to lighten his bag. The laptop was protected by a long password comprised of a random mix of capital and common letters, numbers, hyphens, and underscores, but he wasn’t so sure that the thieves didn’t have the smarts to break it. Some of the information on it was synced on the iPad, which gave him a fleeting moment of triumph, but, oh shoots!, he had not yet taken steps to be able to remote-wipe the laptop, nor did he believe in storing things in the cloud.
He assessed his situation as a matter of course. He would replace the perfume, eau de cologne, and jewelry in due course, but the loss of the laptop with its precious information made him feel quite vulnerable.
That plus the breached back door. He would have to beg his welder to come and fix that door that same night, and he would barricade it from inside. But first things first: he would call his daughter and advise her what to do that night—most likely stay with a relative or check into a hotel; and he would call the police.
Call the police? He questioned himself. Conventional and responsible wisdom recommended that he call them, but he had called in the past, and they had not come, the next day citing manpower shortage or deployment of their scarce resources ‘up the hills’. Perhaps they would come this time?
He is still wondering whether he caught them in one of their transient initiatives, but they came, took pictures, but no fingerprints (that was for the next day!), and invited him down to the office for a statement the next day. There they subjected him to a constable, who labored so heavily to record what he was saying that he asked for a few sheets of paper and wrote the blasted thing himself, which they stuck into the report book.
That day itself, the bandits called him, saying that they had his laptop with its hard drive of information, and that they wanted $60,000 in exchange for it. So that was it, he thought bitterly. They had read his moves and seen his lifestyle, and thought they could bleed him for money in exchange for information that they assumed he valued highly. He told them he did not have that kind of money and, after some intense haggling, they settled on $40,000. He said he would get back to them for the exchange to be made.
He took all this information to the police, who decided to set a trap for the bandits. The police monitored all the telephone arrangements between him and the bandits—where they would meet and at what time; they would pounce at the point of delivery. On the day of the drop off, he went to the agreed meeting place.
There was a car parked some 100 metres down the road, and a call came for him to walk up the road and drop the money off some 90 metres from the parked car. When he had taken some 30 paces, another car suddenly came rushing down the road. Scared, probably thinking it was the police, the bandits drove off—to break in and steal another day.
Goodness gracious! You would think… Let’s leave the story there, you hear. Let’s ask instead a question hardly anybody is asking, Are our police officers well trained to handle break-ins, blackmail, and related crimes?
PS: It seems our protagonist will get his laptop and jewelry back. An
acquaintance of his, who has
contacts with the underworld,
is facilitating the return…