Monday, July 27, 2009

So...just how ready are you to defend your castle?

Or your Freehold? Well, this weekend the Family Freeholder got to run a little real-world test.

We need some serious work.

Saturday, I slept in. After breakfast, I was checking my work email (my weekend on call) when Daughter came screeching into the room. "Somebody's messing around the Neighbor Across The Street's house!"

In our neighborhood, this is enough to cause a rise from Low Yellow to High Yellow. We're semi-rural, and our road isn't a cut-through to anywhere. As a matter of fact, the road itself is a large horseshoe shape. In effect, it goes nowhere. Everyone either knows or recognizes everyone and their vehicles. (Get a new car, and it's like the 50s--people come to visit.) We don't get random foot traffic here--and if it had been someone she knew, she wouldn't have been concerned.

Add to that the known fact that they were out of town. Time to play nosy neighbor.

I start looking, a discreet distance back from the actual window. "Dear, I don't see anyone."

"I haven't seen him since he came back out of the carport."

PING! Not good--the carport has a door that can't be seen from the street. OK, I'm not liking this.

Finally, I spotted a vehicle, which had been obscured from view by trees and angle. A big Cadillac Escalade, complete with Gangsta rims. Yeah, I'm profiling a bit, but it's a popular vehicle configuration with a certain class of locals that I don't aspire to know socially. I counted two heads.

My eyes were attracted to the front door of NATS house, where someone was quickly backing down the steps. PING! That's weird--you don't back down steps. When I can get a look, it's a teenager, but a big one--my size or better. Decently dressed, except for the crotch of his pants being down halfway to his knees. Dare I mention his skin color? (I mean, I don't need the Big O lecturing me on race issues. Just because I grew up with it all my life, I know nothing.) Now I'm profiling a lot. (Not that I care; I know the crime stats in my area.)

PING! Time to call 911 and get a deputy on the way. I call for the cordless, get the dispatcher on the line and start my spiel--"I'm The Freeholder, and I reside here, and I see some people around my neighbor's house there..." and while I'm going through this, the kid is sprinting back to the vehicle, where a conversation occurs.

And now he's moving at a fast walk toward my house, and the Escalade is backing up.

PING PING PING! Orange! We're at Orange! I really don't care for this one bit. I'm calling for Daughter and hand her the phone. "Talk to the dispatcher." I'm heading for my shotgun. While in the bedroom, I'm telling Mrs. Freeholder to hurry the F up, because I need her on the phone.

By the time I get back to the den, which looks into our foyer, he's on the front porch, knocking. The idiot box is on, and there's no way to not hear the running in the house. Plus the sound of a 12 gauge pump racking is bound to carry. (I know it carried over the phone to the 911 dispatcher. I have no other explanation for how a deputy got to the scene that quick, unless the sheriff's office has recently acquired transporter technology.) Answer or not?

OK, we're stupid. I have daughter answer the door--she's dressed, Mrs. Freeholder isn't. On the way, I warn her that if I shout anything, hit the floor. (Now, in explanation, I figured that answering the door was relatively safe, since no weapons were obvious. Also, I figured if they knew someone was at home, we would be marked off the target list. Yeah, I know, this was still way stupid. Lesson learned--next time, let 'em knock.)

With me out of sight, ready position, loaded, safety off, finger properly indexed, and one step sideways from moving into sight if necessary, she opens the door. Kid asks to speak to a parent. Mrs. Freeholder in her nightgown looks at me like "You do it; I'm not dressed." I look at her, then at the shotgun as if to say "Are you nuts? Carrying this?" She gets the point and goes to talk to the kid.

The story is that they are tree cutters, and they're cruising the neighborhood hoping to drum up some work. He even has a card, which he hands over. Mrs. Freeholder thanks him curtly and closes the door, locking it. Bless her for remembering that part.

At some point, someone must have hung up the phone, but I missed it.

I flip the safety on and breathe for the first time in a while. Then the adrenaline shakes start. I get the gun to a safe spot, breathe some more, and go get my S&W out of the safe and strap it on my hip. I am well and thoroughly spooked by this point. This was as close as I've ever come to using a gun in self-defense, and the magnitude of the situation (plus all the stuff we did wrong) is starting to register.

This could have been a CF of the first order.

Daughter yells that the deputy has pulled up in my driveway. I go out to the porch and turn so that the hip my pistol is on faces him, hands well away. I then verbally address him and point out that I'm armed.

Astute man he was, he had not missed that fact. We talked. He had found the Escalade and had questioned the occupants. He also found another vehicle (a car) running with them. They did have chainsaws, but he seemed to agree that they didn't seem to be dressed or fully equipped for tree work. No truck, no ladders, no ropes, etc. (Please note, he didn't come right out and say he agreed something was wrong. I'm inferring from what he said and how it was said.)

It turns out he lives relatively nearby, and he didn't seem to think I was out of line, either by being concerned or with my level of concern. I got the distinct impression he rather approved.

Have I mentioned I like where I live recently? I do, you know.

After about 10 minutes of talking, and the Escalade driving by twice giving us both the stink eye, he departed. I decided that I would go back to my plan for the day, but that I would cut wood carrying a pistol. I told Mrs. Freehold I felt a bit stupid, but that stupid was better than needing it and not having it to hand. She did not argue the point.

After a bit, I walked across the street and checked out NATS house. Storm door was ajar (unusual) and there was no card stuck in the door. (Very unusual. We get a tree guy coming thorough the neighborhood around once a month, and they always stick a card in the door if you're not home. We have a collection of them. They're also all local--none from the next town over, as this one was.)

Later on, I met up with one neighbor, who said that said kid had never knocked on their door. They have somewhat fewer trees than I do, so....

Found out after that that they had been in the neighborhood on Friday as well. That's a bit weird, since there are less than 100 houses in the whole place. How long does it take to knock on 100 doors, even when they're as far apart as they are here? It can't take two days.

The deputy gave the neighborhood some extra love that day. I'm not sure if anything should be read into that.

I've done some checking, and I can't stir up the business name or the name on the card. I haven't called the number for obvious reasons, but I may, just to see.

I'm very suspicious the entire neighborhood was being cased. After all, as I've told my neighbors, Bad Guys have cars and they know where People With Good Stuff live. Things being what they are, break-ins all around the area are up. We're sort of due.

Luckily, I was taking Monday and Tuesday off, so I'll be around the house a lot and I can keep an eye on the place. That ought to get us out of the immediate danger zone, I hope.

I'm evaluating having the burglar alarm that came with the house refurbed and turned back on, along with a monitoring service.

I've went over this whole thing in my head about, oh, 7,892 times at last count, and I know we did not do well at all. I'm going to look at some formal training on home defense--the infantry and scouting tactics Uncle taught me 2+ decades ago aren't going to cut it in this environment. Mrs. Freeholder is uncomfortable with the subject, but I think she has some understanding of why it's needed.

I'm not putting this out there for critiques of our performance--if I was interested in that, I'd put this up on one of the gun fora I read from time to time. Having seen those kinds of threads, I'm not interested in hearing what they have to say--I don't know who they are or their qualifications, so I assign their input little weight.

I am putting this out there to jar the heck out of my readers. I live in what is known as a "nice neighborhood"--these things don't happen here. I got a little complacent. My pants weren't completely down, but my belt was unbuckled and my fly unzipped.

JW Rawles and Michael Bane have both been both been warning that higher crime rates and home invasions would be coming to "nice neighborhoods". While this was neither (so far), it was close enough for my taste.

Since I can't be a good example, I'll just have to serve as a horrible warning. Get ready, because all indications I've seen say that it really is starting.

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