Part 3: In the days following I spoke to everybody I crossed paths with about the flat-screen robbery; the gardener, the pool guy, the neighbor’s gardener, even Franklin, the care-taker of the Rat House in addition to several other houses owned by an absentee Chicago couple. Well, especially Franklin. It was said that if gringos lived in a “Franklin” house, they wouldn’t get robbed. Franklin figured out if all the gringos went away, there would be no jobs.
Most of the hired help working in the beach houses, lived in the squatter’s village the other side of the street; the wrong side of the tracks, if you will. The corrugated iron shanties were built on government owned land and had been there for a generation. The parents of the now teenagers were aghast at the out-of-control behavior of their children, but were helpless to correct it. Besides, they benefitted from the sale of the stolen goods if there was any money left over after the drug purchase. The elders of the village want to live under the radar to avoid having the government bulldoze the entire area as they had done some years prior. Turning a blind eye was preferable to the alternative. Even if the identity of the perpetrators could be proven, no legal action would be taken; there is no room in the jail and no money to build more cells. We heard some of the cops and armed guards are in on the robberies; maybe the paid guards orquestrate them to create jobs for themselves. Everybody smiles and nobody knows anything. About anything. Ever. What they do know is gringos go to an ATM, punch some buttons, and it gives them money.
I was hoping Franklin would play vigilante for us since, most likely, the Tico community knew who the robbers were, but my theory didn’t prove out; the robberies continued. Our Tico neighbor, a retired ICE (PG&E to us) executive, bought his dream house, where he lived happily for four months, with his quiet, reserved wife, a Great Dane, three Chihuahuas, and a medium sized mutt. His house looked like a prison with a cement fence with razor wire circles attached to the top, barred windows, an iron gate and an alarm system. On a quiet Tuesday, he and his entourage left the house at 5:30 am for the morning beach walk. An hour later they returned to find they had been robbed of everything of value they owned; several watches one of which was a Rolex, two laptops, two iPhones, cash, passports, credit cards – everything but the landline which they used to call the Parrita police. Three hours later (it’s fifteen minutes away) they came, took a report and that was the end of it.
We were heart-sick for them. They were numb. Three days later the robbers returned for the tools they didn’t get the first time, while the couple was in the house with barking dogs. A week later they sleeping, well trying to sleep (the wife looked like a zombie, not getting a good night’s sleep since the first robbery), and heard them using a power tool to saw through the wall of the cement bodega (storage shed) for the lawn-mover and weed-whacker. The pair huddled together quaking with fear while the dogs barked and the robbers carried on. The next day they put a “For Sale” sign on their house.
As badly as we felt for our sweet neighbors, we took the news as a wake-up call and removed everything of value from our house and stored them with friends in Atenas, at which time we also made arrangements to rent a casita in our old neighborhood for a safe house to have in addition to the “free” beach house. I was on my way to Fayetteville to visit my daughter, and packed my laptop, cell phone, and camera to take with me. My trip was to be for three weeks, with Don flying in for the last few days to join me for my daughter’s wedding! I would think about moving later.
Chelsea and I were in mother-daughter “Bridezilla-mania” with wedding being the center of our universe. No matter how big or small, how much or little lead time there is, the wedding trumps all else. When the call came, I received it as though I were under water. “Honey, they broke into the house.” Don said. “Huh? Which house? What do you mean?” He said: “Our house.” I was still perplexed: “What do you mean our house; the Atenas house or the beach house? Or Lynn and Lucas’s house where we stashed our stuff?” At this point I didn’t know where we lived. This simply wasn’t registering, much like the time a friend, who lived in Felton, a rural mountain area in Northern California, stumbled out of bed early in the morning to get ready for the commute to Silicon Valley for work. The cat had dragged his night-kill inside the house as an offering to the master: a rat as big as himself. The “master” stood there frozen until the image caught up with his brain. Now what?
I was flabbergasted, flummoxed, speechless. Don waited patiently, then said: “The Esterillos house. At the beach. Our house.” After a few seconds, I found my words: “Oh, that house. What do you mean? How? What did they take?”
In a calm quiet voice Don said: “The neighbor called. They crow-barred the door open; broke the frame, and ransacked the place; dumped out all the drawers, tossed everything on the floor. I’ll let you know after I see the place. I had car trouble and stayed in town last night rather than risk the drive in the dark. I’ll call you later.”
I was relieved to hear my hubby was safe and sound. Stuff can always be replaced; a good man is hard to find! Look how many I had to go through before I found a good one. Never mind. Let’s not count!
I did a quick mental inventory and figured they took my bicycle, his surf-board, the new blender, the cooler, a small boom box, and maybe the big old clunker TV from the 70s we bought after the flat screen went out the window. Okay, I could live with that. Back to the wedding planning…Chelsea and I had dresses to fit into; it was time to get on the treadmill and burn some blubber. I took my MOB (mother of bride) duties seriously; shopping, fittings, hair, nails, cake tasting, keeping the bride’s blood sugar level. We became regulars at Ruby Tuesdays’ all day Happy Hour and small plates program where Chelsea could prop up her Bridezilla Binder and we could plan our next mission at the mall. We fit a year’s planning into thirty days, so every minute counted.
I’ll think about the break-in after the wedding.
Part 4: Confronting the scene of the crime… (Coming soon)