In the summer of 2007 I was twenty-four. I’d recently earned my degree, in early childhood education, and found my first real job. No teacher will admit to this, but we get paid pretty well, at least that is what I thought in the summer of 2007. Having only ever worked service sector jobs, you know cashiering at a grocery store, doing clerical work over the summer, that kind of stuff, I was finally making real money. With my new income came the overwhelming desire to move out of my mom’s house. It’s not that I didn’t love my mom, rather that I yearned the freedom that I believed came with owning your own house.
I’d been working as a special education teacher for around six months and I’d saved enough money for a down payment on a house. I’d been searching for the perfect place for months. My must haves included a fireplace, a big master bedroom, and more than anything else a large yard with a view. I did a lot of research deciding how much I could spend, and sadly found that all that money that I thought I was making really wasn’t that much. It looked like I would have to make a few compromises on my dream house.
Too good to be true was how I first viewed it. The house had everything I was looking for. It had two bedrooms, a fireplace, over two acres of land and, best of all, it was in my price range. I was weary when making an appointment to view the house, because of the price. It was almost fifteen thousand dollars less than equivalent houses I’d looked at. The advert said the asking price was reduced, and I was worried something dramatic would be wrong with the house. I brought my older brother who works as a contractor, and all around knowledgeable guy. We toured the house, the realtor making everything seems amazing, and my brother examined all sorts of things, most of which I didn’t really understand, but I took him at his word when he said it was in good overall shape. I was beyond excited. My first house.
Paperwork done, money spent, it was move in time. I had a moving party at which I bribed my friends and family with pizza and beer to help me move all my stuff in to my new house. Not having any furniture yet, we used boxes for seats and tables. It was a magical moment in my life.
My third day at my new house, and all was going great. The roof hadn’t collapsed, the bathroom hadn’t flooded, and all was right with the world. Work was still great, and I remember finding myself sitting in my very own living room just smiling for no real reason. Then my neighbors stopped by.
My new house had a lot of land, but my neighbors had even more. My nearest neighbor’s house isn’t even visible from mine, and at the time I loved that fact. That Saturday afternoon, my neighbor Mike and his pre-teen daughter Katie came over to welcome me. I was in bathroom, door open and why not I lived alone, when I heard a man’s voice. “Hello?” Leaving the bathroom and walking to the kitchen, I peeked my head around the corner of the room, and looked out toward my front door. There were Mike and Katie, the first time I’d met them. They introduced themselves and we exchanged pleasantries. They seemed nice enough and had brought me cookies. I welcomed them in, asking them to take a seat (on the remaining unpacked moving boxes). As we talked I noticed something was a bit off about them. Mike in particular seemed to be looking at me with a particular interest. He also asked a lot of personal questions about my job, my family, and my interests. Finally, I had to ask why the twenty questions. He sheepishly apologized explaining that the last owners of the house had been busted for manufacturing crystal meth.
That explained so much, the price reduction, Mike’s twenty questions, and the mysterious iron door that led to the basement. While touring the house, of course, I noticed the door, and though I thought it unusual, I didn’t worry about it. The house was so perfect, what was one strange metal door.
Day four and I’m home. I make dinner, watch a little local, no cable, television on my new, and temporary, futon. Night falls, and I head to bed. The one downfall of the house was that it didn’t have central air conditioning. This Sunday night was an especially hot night, and I had my windows open. I awoke from the heat around two in the morning. I was still adjusting to the new creaks and groans of my new house, but the sound I heard wasn’t anything I had heard the house make before, and it seemed to be coming from my back yard. I lay in bed listening and I heard this steady sound. I got out of bed and looked out my bedroom window, the one overlooking the back yard where the noise seemed to originate. By the dull moonlight I could barely make out a man in my yard, and it slowly dawned on me that he was shoveling. He was digging a hole.
I use my cell phone as my alarm clock, so it was on hand, and I dialed 911. Before this event if someone had asked me how I would react to such a situation I would have guessed that I’d freeze petrified, but I surprised myself. As the emergency number rang I walked to my front door and checked that it was locked, then I moved toward my back door. I walked through the kitchen toward my small covered back porch/mudroom and then listened to keys turn the lock, and then watched as the handle turned. I was connected to dispatch almost simultaneously as the back door opened, and man entered my house. I screamed, and ran immediately to my bedroom, locking the door almost before I had shut it. Hard knocks resounded on the frail wooden door. Standing, looking at the door, I remembered I had 911 on the telephone. I gave the dispatcher my address, explained what I knew of the situation and then, against dispatch’s advice I hung up the phone.
I hadn’t yet bought a frame for my bed, so I was just sleeping on a mattress laid on the floor. I didn’t have a dresser yet, or any other furniture aside from a small bookcase. As the man outside my bedroom kicked the door, I moved the tiny bookcase against the door, and then for good measure I leaned my mattress against the door, also, fully realizing neither would stop the intruder.
I looked out my window at the man still digging, now more frantically in my back yard. I watched as he bent down and removed something, couldn’t quite tell what in the oppressive darkness of the night, and stepped back in fright as he ran toward my house. I called my mom, not sure what I was going to say. As the phone rang I heard the shovel man stomp his way into my house, and then the two men exchanged words, which I heard. “Got it,” says one, “Who is in there?” Then guy two, “Some girl.” At this point I yelled that I called the cops. Man one, “Leave it.” Silence, and then two sets of footsteps leave out the back door, and I watched them run across my backyard away from the house. My mom never answered the phone, but I did accidentally leave a message on her answering machine. On the message you can hear two men softly talking and then me saying that I called the cops. My mom saved the message to give to the police. It is a haunting reminder of a terrifying occurrence.
The police arrived just a few minutes after the men ran from my house. I saw the lights, and came out of my room. The cops figured that the drug manufactures that owned the house before me had buried some cash in the back yard, and the their family, or friends had come to retrieve it. The cops scolded me for not changing the locks on the doors as soon as I bought the house. They explained that it was something everyone should do, but especially people who purchase a house previously employed by drug dealers. I in turn scolded my realtor for not telling me that the house was previously a meth lab.
The police never found the people in my back yard, and I’m sad to say that the experience caused me to move back with my mom where I lived another year until I had recovered the courage to look for a new house. I now live in a condo, sharing a wall with a nice family, in a brightly lit neighborhood. I don’t have my fireplace, or my big yard, but I do have piece of mind. One day I think I will return to a house with land, but it’ll be a while.