“We’re just getting more of her stuff,” the guy said.
“Oh,” I said. I gave him my look of complete dispassion, honed through years of giving students enough rope in case they want to hang themselves. “Some people broke into the house and stole a bunch of stuff. I’m going to go down and file a police report Tuesday.” I have never been to the police station, so although the idea of another mansion-related errand irked me, at least it would be another adventure, too.
“Oh,” he said. “Well that was going to happen, I guess, if the place is abandoned, I mean, who’s gonna care?”
This attitude I disliked. “Well, the water was turned off, and I had to get a plumber in here to run a line for my place, so I saw what happened.”
“Well, you coulda called me. I’m a plumber,” he said. He smiled. That was either the boldest shit ever, or he was truly innocent. Who knows?
“Well, you have nice weather for moving,” I said. And I shut my door. I checked to make sure they weren’t in my space downstairs (nope), and watched out my window to see what they took with them: some old boards, and some glass bottles. I wasn’t going to get riled up about that crap. When they pulled out, I noted the color and shape of their car. Maybe Lenny Briscoe would ask me about that later.
An hour later, as I started to back out the driveway, a former mansion tenant and the cops were pulling up. Lenny wasn’t one of them. Oh, well.
I told the cops my part of the story, and then the other former tenant (his Indian name is “Parks On The Lawn”) ranted and raved about how the culprits had stolen stuff from him. I told POTL I had put his photo album in a kitchen cabinet so that it wouldn’t get lost with all the other junk in the mansion. I wanted to set it on fire. I wanted to punish him for taking off without bothering to mention to me that he had stopped paying the utilities and there were robbers about, but I hadn’t.
The four of us, two cops and POTL and I, went down into the mansion basement to inspect the damage. Every time I go down there, I see something new. Last time, I found a tiny bathroom. This time, I saw a cutout of a mummy taped to the wall, like it’s a funhouse. “Is this house haunted?” one cop said.
“Oh, yes,” I said. “Definitely.” Ghosts are just memories. I see ghosts of myself all over. And I remember, and imagine remembering, the history of the mansion. The cops enjoyed shining their flashlights around just as much as the gas man and the plumbers.
“How old is this place?” one asked.
“1905,” I said. Betweeen my knowledge of the house, my three-year tenure, and my utility payments, I think I looked more like a person who takes care of mansions than a person who busts them up to sell copper for crack.
We continued to walk through the mansion, floor by floor. “I’m glad you guys are looking around,” I told them. “I looked through the place myself before, and my parents were like, whoa, don’t do that. I teach in the inner city, so sometimes I think I can get away with stuff.” Was I playing the teacher card? Of course I was. I mean, I earned that card with wrinkles and sweat and student loans. Is my status as an inner city teacher evidence of my commitment to the community and its improvement? Hell, yes, it is.
“Is it okay if I go?” I asked, finally. One doesn’t like to give police officers the impression that one is running away.
“Oh, sure,” he said. He asked me if I knew an old friend of his, another inner city teacher. I didn’t.
“Also,” I said, “By the way, the owner said this was totally okay, so I’m having some friends over to see the place and drink a few beers in a couple of weeks. I don’t want them to get arrested or anything.”
“Of course not,” the cop said. I told him the date. He told me I could ask for extra patrols that night if I wanted to. And I left the visitors in the mansion. When I got back, the cops were still hanging out, on the porch. Did I mind? Not a bit.