The panic in Ricky's voice instantly ramped up my fear for his safety, but I tried to sound calm as I asked, "When? And I take it they weren't successful." Even as I spoke I was turning the key in the ignition and moments later I pulled out of the lot onto the street.
"About…fifteen minutes ago," he replied shakily. "The alarm went off, which I guess chased him away. I called the cops. They're on their way."
"You stayed inside?"
"Yeah. Duh. I'm not stupid." I was glad to hear some of his feistiness returning. "Sorry," he muttered.
"Hey, not a problem. Did you get my spare gun?"
"Umm, no. Hell, I'd probably have shot my foot off, I was shaking so much."
"Did they say how long until the cops get there?" I wanted to keep him talking, figuring it might help him calm down some.
"No, but I can tell you anyway."
I heard the sound of the doorbell behind his words. "Don't open the door until you're sure they're legit."
"How do you know? You ask them to show you their badges. And use the peephole,'' I added, just be certain he got it.
"Yeah, yeah. I know. Hold on."
"Don't hang up."
He didn't. I could hear him calling out, "I need to see your badges." Then a moment later there was the sound of the door opening. By then I was only a block away. As I turned the corner I saw a police cruiser sitting in front of the house. Pulling into the driveway, I got out of the car and went inside. I almost laughed when one of the officers spun around, his hand going to his gun.
"He lives here," Ricky practically shouted.
"Okay. Sorry." The officer relaxed, turning his attention to Ricky and the second officer.
Ricky told them—and me by extension—what had happened.
"I was upstairs, getting ready for bed, when I thought I heard a noise in the backyard. Like, umm, someone stepping off the lawn onto the gravel by the garden. The window was open is why I heard it. I peeked out from behind the curtain and didn't see anything so I figured it was probably a stray dog. Then"—he shuddered—"I got the crap scared out of me when the alarm went off. Damn that thing's loud. You should have warned me." He glared at me.
"Yeah, probably." I crossed to his side, putting one arm around him. He was shaking. I figured the adrenalin was wearing off now and I held him tightly. One of the cops looked nonplussed and I almost said, "The hell with you," restraining myself at the last second.
"Do you know where they tried to get in?" the other cop asked.
Ricky shook his head. "No way was I going to go looking. But if they were in the backyard I guess somewhere at the back of the house."
The officer nodded and he and his partner went to check.
"How are you doing?" I asked Ricky, although it was obvious he was still scared.
"I'll survive. But what if they'd ignored the alarm and still come in?"
"You tell me," I said, wanting to know what he would have done.
"Grabbed your gun and"—he almost smiled—"tried to hit him and not my foot."
"Funny. Not." I turned him to face me, my hands on his shoulders. "The gun's a good idea, but a better one would be to lock yourself in the bedroom, call the cops, and then head for the bathroom. That way the dude would have had to get upstairs and through two doors. By then the police would have been here."
"And shoot him when he came through the bathroom door?"
"You or the cops?"
"Me. They'd be stuck outside since the door was locked, hollering on the bullhorn 'Come out with your hands in the air'."
"No, sir," one of the officers said as he returned to the living room. "We'd have broken down the door and come to your assistance."
"I guess that makes me feel a little better," Ricky replied. "Where did he try to get in?"
"One of the windows. It was raised about four inches. That's what triggered the alarm."
"Kind of stupid of him not to figure the system was armed."
"Maybe." I frowned. "Or maybe he wanted it to go off. Another message as it were."
"Message?" one of the officers asked. So I explained. Then he said, "Have you reported this?"
I shook my head, and lied through my pearly whites. "I was going to first thing in the morning."
"Good. Do you have any idea why this person is after you?"