Sometimes 2+2 ≠ 4

whitevanThe first thing you should know before reading this post is that my house has been robbed not once, but twice. The second thing you should know is that I have a wicked imagination. I arrived home around 12:45 pm today to see a white van parked across the street from my house. This was exactly the sort of white van that you imagine a terrorist or a serial killer might use (though the one in Silence of the Lambs wasn't white).

An Asian woman sat in the driver's seat and she was staring at my house. Staring at it like we had an appointment and I was late. But I didn't have an appointment with anyone, white-van driving or otherwise.

It didn't seem all that likely to me that there was an Asian female crime team in my neighborhood, but like I say, I've been robbed before. When our neighborhood was robbed around that time, there were a couple of men posing as handymen. If no one answered, they'd break in and steal gold and leave within three minutes, before the police could respond to an alarm. Who's to say that there couldn't be a female-led crime team? I'm a feminist!

My back door was locked (as I'd left it) and when I entered the house, our dog lay on her bed, barely offering a glance at me, and my laptop remained on the kitchen counter where I'd left it. Maybe that woman driving the white van was part of a cleaning service that was leaving fliers on the doors of the houses in my neighborhood. I checked the front door for a flier, but there was none. There was, however, an old red flip phone on the welcome mat in front of my front door. And the van was gone.

Obviously, the driver's cohort had dropped the phone in haste after realizing my house was locked. I flipped the phone open to check the contacts. I'm not a police officer, but I play one in the movie of my life. Alas! The phone was deader than dead and would not yield her secrets. No worries, though, I have enough cords in this house to revive any phone, flip or not.

While the little red phone charged, I sat down to some lunch. I figured that it wouldn't hurt to find out if there had been any robberies in our area. It turns out that there have been! Several, in fact. And one within the week that was just a couple of blocks from me.

Now it seemed imperative that I do my civic duty and alert the police department of the suspicious van and the very suspicious cell phone. (I mean, who has a flip phone anymore? Very suspicious.) The police officer arrived with his very important hat and his very big gun and all of those important, but unidentifiable accoutrements attached to his belt. I immediately felt safe and also a bit embarrassed to be a bother. Surely, he had other things to do than talk to a stay-at-home mom.

After taking my statement on one of those tiny pads, he walked the perimeter of my house to look for anything out of place. By the time he returned, the phone held enough charge that it turned on. I was secretly very excited. After all, I was on the cusp of helping a police officer identify the all-female crime syndicate terrorizing our neighborhood, right?

The officer began to scroll through the contacts. Maureencell. Mariecell. Rogercell. Right away, it was obvious that this was not the cell phone of an Asian crime boss. The officer clicked the emergency contact. (What self-respecting crime boss would have an emergency contact?)

"Oh," I said, a bit crestfallen. "This is my neighbor's phone."

"You sure?" the officer said.

"Yup, that's her daughter's name. I know them well."

He chuckled and left the phone on my counter. "Well," he said as he left. "If you see anything else suspicious, give us a call. You never know if it could help." With that, he took his important hat and all of those unidentifiable accoutrements on his belt and he left.

It occurred to me after he was gone that we have new neighbors and that the women in the van were probably working at the house. Then again, maybe there is a female-led Asian crime syndicate. I guess we'll never know.

**UPDATE: When she came to pick up her little red cellphone, my neighbor surmised that she'd dropped the phone somewhere between our two houses and that the woman in the van placed it on my welcome mat to ensure that someone would find it. And that is why she was looking at my house. My neighbor's interpretation is far more plausible and it demonstrates a lovely faith in humankind. (But my interpretation was much more intriguing, don't you think?)

Gemma Chan and Al Weaver in BBC's Sherlock

(suspicious white van image from Sherlock S1;E2 "The Blind Banker" image from