Down the street from my house I rent a ground-floor apartment. "This is my studio," I'd proclaimed to my wife when I took it, feeling tall and filled with staggering intentions, but that resolution wilted no slower than other past intentions.
Somebody has noticed the place is rarely in use. And they must've learnt that the landlord and his wife who live on the upper story are away on a long trip—must've learnt also that it is to the US that they've gone. They've brought a lever of some kind and pried open the door on my part of the premises and, leaving alone my books, and rummaging in my drawers and finding only odd stationery in them, they've abandoned my floor and used their tool on the door that links my part to the landlord's, upstairs.
The tool has not been necessary. Four screws that held two bolts have yielded to a shove and the door has smiled a welcome. Up on the landing one short twist of the tool has splayed the jamb and defeated the latch and secured for the intruders an uneventful entry.
It was when I saw that door in that state that I rushed and fetched four policemen, worried if someone had been attacked inside, though I knew of the owner being away.
So at first we were five who trampled about in the severely violated private place. All electronics was untouched. The burglars had applied themselves in the bedrooms: cupboards were open with dresses and sheets spilling from them; an almirah was laid down on a doubled-up carpet, and its door had been opened with the same technique employed on other doors. Clothes and papers and imitation-jewelry lay about on undisturbed sheets. A neat-pressed shirt on a hanger lay unruffled on a bed, like it was waiting to go to office. I gaped at the safe built into the almirah, at how its steel handle had been turned successfully.
"A professional job," the neighbors said, each in their turn as they came in. The man from the house opposite said in an accent from some indeterminate part of the north, "these fellows knew everything about this house." And he said that again and again and nothing else and I left him to his lone perception. The young lady from the house diagonally across wondered loudly and endlessly, "but how did they get in?"—though man after man showed her how the blokes had sailed in.
The landlord's daughter and her husband arrived, and I looked for anxiety and saw what looked like cheer. "I moved everything to my house in three suitcases last week," the young lady said. They considered the mess in equanimity, but broke into confusion when the police asked them to write out a complaint, and also when the question came up regarding how to secure the house, what with the bolts all broken. The police dictated the entire complaint to the young man, and when I began to write one, they said no complaint is needed from me.
The couple called America and woke up the landlord. There wasn't discernible alarm on that side of the world either. He wanted to speak with me, to ask for the favor of a guard for the short term, and for a carpenter. At this time the lady who lives a few houses down came in. I don't know her, but I know she has known only wealth in her life, and now it seemed she knows expertly how theft is done. "Inside job," she declared, and left.
The landlord's daughter's husband asked me after everyone had left: "won't the police catch the servants and talk to them? They must be behind this thing." I asked him to take care, or some hapless fellow might get treatment he doesn't deserve. "I don't think the police are…," he began to say, and I shut up, and wondered if the burning that started under my skin was from shame.
A guard turned up at night. An executive chair was commandeered and kept outside for him, nothing else being available. He draped his soiled plainclothes on it. And he pulled on his uniform over his frail body, and straightened up to guard a robbed house. The houses all round were quiet under a gibbous moon, not having heard of a robbery until now in the enclave, not wanting to hear much of it now.
Now it is the morning after, and I'm wondering why the police said I needn't write a complaint, and I've just realized they made no notes. Don't they write a mahajar on the scene of a crime any more?