Rose cleans her plate with her toast and says, “People don’t call out with their home phones. Half the time they take out their cell phones out and use them just because they’re closer.”
“Yeah, I was worried about that too,” James agrees. “But I was a little panicky from the night at the library. The wrong crowd of guys finds you in a place like that, three o’clock in the morning…”
“So what’d you do?”
“Well, I decided to make another key. But just in case someone came home while I was off doing that, in case the whole thing came unravelled, I gave myself ten minutes to round up a little survival kit.”
Rose nods – all the housebreakers and burglars she knows are emphatic that you never want to spend more than ten minutes in a house. It doesn’t matter what the outgoing call logs say – people mix up their schedules all the time.
“It wasn’t hard,” James goes on. “They had a boy my age, and Lindsey in college – lots of food in the place. I grabbed an old backpack out of the back of the hall closet, and filled it up with a little bit of everything – a sleeve of crackers, a couple cans of soup, couple of bananas, couple of apples, a can of cocktail peanuts.”
“So were you thinking you’d come back if they’re going to come home and find half their food gone?
“Well, that’s the thing. They had Lindsey to blame and also a basketball player. If they notice all the peanuts are gone, what are they going to do imagine a sneaky homeless burglar or imagine one of their kids scarfing them down and refusing to admit it?”
Rose cocks her head, thinking about it. She says, “I’ll bet they had arguments about things like that long before you ever showed up.”
“Got that right. Same thing with clothes. I went up and helped myself to a pair of jeans and socks and a nice sweatshirt and two tee shirts. Again, the kid might wonder where they went, but kids are always missing a sweatshirt or something. He might stomp around looking for it, but it’s not going to occur to anyone that someone broke in and stole a single set of his clothes.”
“So you gave yourself ten minutes to grab enough food and clothes to survive a couple days if you had to.”
“Right. Then I figured I should get to the Meiier’s out on the main drag and get a copy of the key made. Get it back under the rock before anyone got home and noticed it was missing. By then it was getting close to one thirty. I made it back within an hour, walked right in again and yelled and no one answered, and so I went out and put the key back where it went.”
“Then what? You left?”
James clears the plates and starts doing the dishes, stacking them carefulling in the dish rack as he’s finished. Rose starts realizing, he doesn’t even have to put them back where he found them. As long as several people live in a house, each of them will assume one of the others moved stuff around, if they notice changes.
No one will come home and demand to know who dirtied two plates and two skillets, and then washed them. He could probably leave them in the sink – nothing would be strange at all about both the teenagers swearing they didn’t do it.
“No, I didn’t leave,” James says, looking very proud of himself, a little mischevious. “I spent the night.”
“Come here and take a look at this. These big houses, they’re a lot alike.”
He finishes wiping off the counter and the stove, and tosses the dishcloth in the sink, and opens the basement door but Rose says, “Hold on.”
She gestures around at the kitchen, the open back door. “I know you’ve been at this a while, and I’m not wanting to second guess you, but how can you be so sure no one’s going to walk in here while we’re in the basement, looking at whatever it is you want to show me?”
“Ah.” James consults the cell phone again, and then hands it to her. “Check this out.”
Rose looks at the cell phone and it’s gibberish to her – she hasn’t had a cell phone in a solid year. “Check out what?”
James trots down a hall toward the front door and points into a small office at the front of the house. He says, “Look.”
Rose follows him into it, and he gets on his knees by a computer desk and pulls up a cord from the back with a small plastic ring clipped to it like a key ring. “These are passwords,” he tells her. “These are passwords to all of Julie’s accounts – Julie’s the mom here, divorced one year, taking it pretty hard. A lot of people keep their passwords written down and attached to the cord like this so they can get to them easy but hackers can’t, and then if the system ever crashes, they’ll still have them.”
“What good does that do you?”
James holds up the phone again. “I’m tracking Julie’s cell phone with her GPS chip. When she leaves work, this phone will tell me. Takes five minutes to set up, if you have access to the phone number and the cell company’s password and login ID. Some people use it to keep tabs on the teenagers or their employees or just their spouses, if that’s how it is. But most people have no idea you can do it at all.”
(Continued at this link…)