Today's word is "effraction," for "break-in". The following is a sentence by sentence account of a chilling run-in with an intruder on Thursday night--while alone in my home. After you read it, I would like to know your tips on securing your home--and yourself--as I am currently obsessed with the topic.
Thursday night Jean-Marc was with friends in Marseilles, watching the European semi-final soccer match (Marseilles vs. Salzbourg). Thirty-five minutes away (by car), here in La Ciotat, I settled in for the night, with my golden retriever on the floor beside my bed. Normally, Smokey is stationed downstairs, but when I'm alone we brake the rules.
I had closed my shutters around 8 p.m. before it was dark out. Lying in bed I was watching a crime show on Youtube when I heard a noise in the kitchen. I hit the pause button on my iPad and tuned in to the downstairs area. It must be our new dishwasher, I assured myself, returning to the scary program I was watching.
I continued to watch until I heard a distinct shuffle in the room below me (a former garage now enclosed, and currently used as a storage room--accessible from our driveway). After a few more "knocking around" sounds coming from down there, I determined it was my husband who had surely changed his plans and was unloading something from his car into the store room. It was around 9 p.m.
He was making such a ruckus that I told myself it had to be Jean-Marc--as no burglar would be that loud...
Next I heard loud scraping, as though he was moving steel furniture. What the?... The grating was getting closer and closer until, suddenly the noise shifted to the shutters beside my bed, on the 2nd floor!
Something was out there on the ledge. I wanted so badly to believe it was my husband....who had climbed up the side of the house? I recognized the familiar screeching of our un-oiled wooden shutters. It sounded as though somebody was swinging them back and forth outside the room beside mine!
The most chilling sound came next: not a pop, not a bang, not a crash of glass--it was the sound of forcing. Instantly I knew: somebody was breaking into the next room via that window. Within seconds, via blunt force, they would be inside our house!
The next moment happened in a matter of seconds--so quickly my dog did not even react! I flew out of bed and shot right to the tiny hall that joins the two upstairs bedroom rooms. I needed to let the burglar know this house was not empty. Someone was home! I flipped on the light to announce my presence. I still wanted to believe that it was my husband, but when I turned into the room and flipped on the second light I was absolutely horrified to see a dark figure hunching beside the window trying to force it open!
I could not believe my eyes. How could this be happening?
Remembering a friend of mine who surprised an intruder in her home in Marseilles, I did exactly as she did and charged right toward the intruder! A glaring window separating us, I could not see hair or skin--only the L-shaped form which took up the window's ledge and sidewall. My fist raised, my other hand holding my mobile phone, I shouted OH! OH!
I had heard my husband bark those words in parking lots, as a car was about to back into ours. OH! OH!--two forceful grunts that signal HEY! BACK OFF! WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING!!
Those two grunts--and my fist which punched the air in front of me with each step forward--and the figure in the window startled and began to turn away. Whether it jumped or clamored back down, I do not know. But when I felt certain it was off the outside wall, I threw open the window and shouted:
Looking around, all the neighbor's shutters were closed (unlike the one in the second bedroom where I was shouting from. The shutter I had left open, earlier....). And the silence. Not one person opened a window or a door.
I quickly shut and locked the window and began fumbling with my mobile phone. Only I couldn't manage to dial I was shaking so badly! Fumbling and fumbling my first attempt to call my husband failed. Instead, I got our old home number. I could not manage to disconnect the call in order to try another number.
Finally I re-diled and got my husband, in time to tell him what was happening. Meantime on the landline I had dialed the 3 digits--what I thought was the French equivalent of 911.( I was wrong in thinking it was "118"!)
That's it! It's "112"....
I was now on the phone with a dispatcher, who connected me to "17" (the number I should have dialed first: the police). But I panicked during long hold in which a recording said over and over, in French "you are at the municipal police. We will be with you shortly.... It went on forever, as I kneeled down low beside my bed. No lock on my bedroom door.
Though my legs were trembling so badly, I was not that afraid anymore. I knew the burglar had run off. Still, I was too scared to go downstairs and check to see if the police were there. The minutes passed as I listened for the buzzer at our front gate.
"I can't believe they are not here yet!" I said to Jean-Marc, who stayed with me on the line the entire time.
"I'm now 20 minutes away...in Cassis. I'll be there soon," my husband assured me.
Twenty minutes? What if the intruder came back? Was he still lurking around the yard? I could not bear 20 more minutes! My voice now shook along with my legs "Please don't hang up!"
Next, I was startled by the buzzer. Surely it was the police. But what if it wasn't?
Just like the woman who had charged toward the window 20 minutes before, I did not hesitate to hurry downstairs and open the front door. In the distance, I saw three shaded figures behind the front gate.
They said nothing.
I moved closer. "C'est le police?"
Post note: It was the police, arriving 20 minutes after the emergency call--almost at the same time my husband arrived from Marseilles! They did a tour around the property with their flashlight, took no fingerprints, and were gone. I was left feeling like an old lady who had heard noises in the basement.
I still can't shake this uneasiness or the memory of the figure in the window or the cracking sound of the frame about to burst. I keep thinking, What would the intruder have done, once inside?
Thank you for sharing your knowledge with home security and self-defense, in the comments below. Any reassurance is appreciated as well! As my neighbor said, "they won't be back." I hope she is right.