(with apologies to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
"Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
"The dog did nothing in the night-time."
"That was the curious incident," remarked This Cat's Abroad.
Yes, yes, yes, Sherlock Holmes may have beaten me to this quip by a hundred-some years, but, as God is my witness, those very words were coursing through my tiny febrile brain several weeks back when Mr. This Cat's (Not Abroad) and I came home to a House in Complete Disarray.
So, several weeks back, Mr. This Cat's (Not Abroad) and I came home to a House in Complete Disarray. It was 9:30 at night, and all of the lights were on in the house and the side door was open - not something we usually do since we earned our Home Safety Badges all those years ago when in Cubs and Brownies. Naturally, I assume that this is Mr. This Cat's' doing (Home Safety Badge notwithstanding) and as I pass through the brightly lit kitchen into the hallway leading upstairs, I make my displeasure clear to him under no uncertain terms. How could you forget to lock the side door? I gently chide him. Then my feet begin to crunch - or more accurately, something under my feet begins to crunch.
Glass, Mr. This Cat announces. There's glass everywhere!
We turn on the lights - for the downstairs hallway is the only room in the house to be in the dark (although admittedly, Mr. This Cat and I are in the dark as well, but that's more of a metaphor) - and find that the window next to the still open side door has been smashed. The lock of this door has no key (or at least, Our Landlord never gave us one) and was kept secure by means of a sliding bolt. Outside the door lies a garden trowel.
Celeste! I scream. Where's Celeste?
Celeste! Celeste! Celeste! Celeste! Celeste! Celeste! Celeste! Celeste! Celeste! Celeste! Celeste! Celeste! Celeste! Celeste! Celeste! Celeste! Celeste! Celeste!
We both race about the downstairs level calling her (see above quotation and repeat 12 times) and then I bolt upstairs to find the spare room with its door closed. Opening it, there lies Celeste freakishly calm and with a slight grin on her face. Beside her is a licked-clean container of Turkish labneh (cream cheese). She wags her tail and makes a tentative move out of the spare room.
After an all too brief moment of raucous rejoicing that our dairy-loving pet of three weeks is alive - if not behaving a tad stunned - I open our bedroom door to find a scene worthy of Insert Any American Cop Drama Here before me: the drawers (and their contents) from our wardrobe and nightstands are lying topsy-turvy on the floor, and all of our clothes have been pulled down from their hangars and are strewn about the floor ... to which I cry - are you ready for it?:
Oh my God, we've been robbed!
In no way do I suspect that Mr. This Cat has already figured that out.
Between screams and sobs, I started itemizing what is missing from the bedroom to Mr. This Cat, who is still downstairs sweeping up the shards of glass lest Celeste cut her paws. The iPod, my eReader - oh God, the camera ... the cash is missing ... the list goes on.
We call Our Boss, who seems to have the phone number of anyone who is anyone in Erbil on her Rolodex, and then call Our Landlord. She (the former) is outraged and hangs up to start making phone calls, and he (the latter) seems to think that our problem is a broken window and tells us to call him in the morning. Try as he might, Mr. This Cat is unable to convey the import of what has happened. Giving up, he calls Our Landlord's brother who not only lives a block away but possesses a higher level of English.
A few moments later, Our Landlord's Very Aged Father - who lives next door to us but speaks minimal English, so we usually ignore him - lets himself into our front yard. In tow with him are his Equally Aged Wife and their Grandchildren who are visiting them from Sweden. All six of them walk into our house without a word to us, and take in their surroundings as if they were strolling through a botanical garden or a zoo. The youngest child is carrying a box of popcorn. I'm always glad to provide a safe and enjoyable diversion for the locals. After the un-guided tour of our house, they leave - as silently as they had
Our Boss arrives next and after stooping to pick up a piece of popcorn from the driveway (Popcorn? she asks. Apparently we're the in-flight entertainment, I respond), she surveys the house. Shaking her head in disbelief, she calls a well-connected friend in the Private Security Business (this is, after all, Iraq). While she is making her phone call, Our Landlord's Brother arrives.
In the 30 years we've lived in this neighbourhood, nothing like this has ever happened, he says.
My Very Aged Parents were out and they heard nothing.
Our boss announces that the police are on their way.
The police are on their way, she announces.
No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, cries Our Landlord's Brother. There is no need.
Insert a lengthy conversation between Our Boss and Our Landlord's Brother in which words and phrases like in the 30 years we've lived in this neighbourhood, nothing like this has ever happened, safety, accountability, this is a crime, security, in the 30 years we've lived in this neighbourhood, nothing like this has ever happened, they're working for an American NGO, in the 30 years we've lived in this neighbourhood, nothing like this has ever happened punctuate the night air.
Celeste, in the meantime, has joined us all outside on the lawn, just as stunned as ever. She's been drugged, I say. There was an empty food container in the upstairs spare room where she was locked. They lured her with drugged food and locked her inside. They knew that we had a dog. They knew she loved dairy. They were prepared. They knew when we would be at work. Who breaks in between 7 and 9:00? They cased the house.
Maybe it was your friends, Our Landlord's Brother helpfully suggests. Your friends know the dog. Why else did your dog not bark?
This would explain the curious incident of the dog in the night-time, he adds quite unnecessarily like a puffed-up peacock.
(Okay, I made up that bit but the implication was clear).
How do you know that the dog didn't bark? I thought your Very Aged Parents were out for the night. Besides, our friends already have iPods and eReaders and such. Oh - and they're our friends.
The Secret Police arrive. They are a motley crew of undercover cops, for they are the Not-Very-Secret Secret Police that everyone knows, rather than the Really-Secret Secret Police that nobody knows (this is, after all, Iraq). They walk into our house without a word to us, and take in their surroundings as if they were strolling through a botanical garden or a zoo. Fortunately, none of them is carrying a box of popcorn.
Who did this? they ask.
Isn't that your job to find out? we respond. Or perhaps it was: we don't know. Either way the idea is the same.
They have the good grace to ask us what is missing, appear disturbingly disappointed at the quality of our list, take the garden trowel as evidence, and leave. They are in the house for a total of 5 minutes and, according to Mr. This Cat who showed them about, looked at and touched nothing.
In the meantime, Our Landlord's Brother has slipped off to make a phone call. Unbeknownst to us, he too has some well-connected friends, and (still unbeknownst to us) he calls one of them to make any further police investigation go away.
Time passes and the four of us - Mr. This Cat, Our Boss, still-stunned Celeste and I - sit on the front stoop with our metaphorical deerstalker hats on, trying to piece together what happened. That Celeste was drugged is a given. That the thieves were professionals is a given. But who did this? Our new Iranian neighbours? - ask any Kurd and they will tell you that all Iranians are thieves, as they've told us repeatedly. A client of the Woman We All Believe to be a Whore who lives across the street? The balconies of both of these homes have a direct line of vision into our front yard. It's easy to watch our comings and goings. Our habits are - well - habitual.
Our boss decides to call her well-connected friend in the Private Security Business (this is, after all, Iraq) again. They speak briefly and she hangs up. He's making some calls, she tells us. He calls back a few moments later to tell her that a request has been made to bury the case, but - fear not! - he too has even more well-connected friends, and after a phone call or two, the case has been resurrected and reinstated.
For the love of God. Where's Franz Kafka when you need him?
We learn that we are to go to the police the next day to fill out a report. I have no idea if this will be with the Not-Very-Secret Secret Police that everyone knows, or the Really-Secret Secret Police that nobody knows (this is, after all, Iraq). Nor do I know if we will get our trowel back. Sitting on the front stoop, I can't help but notice that the garden needs to be weeded.
To be continued ...