By Belinda Riehl
October 31, 2018

Halloween houseNot in costume or with satchels to Trick or Treat at 10 o’clock in the morning, the first uniformed officer rang our doorbell. We saw him on the porch through the dining room window. A younger, leaner uniformed officer stood in an “at ease” but ready position down three steps six feet behind the first officer on the walkway with his right thumb tucked in his uniform pants pocket just below his holstered weapon.

My husband, Danny, opened the front door. With a smile and a strong but friendly voice, he said, “What brings this show of force to my door?”

“We’re looking for Shannon,” the first officer said with a soft smile, his right arm bent at the elbow and the heel of his right hand casually resting on the butt of his holstered gun.

In Danny’s usual way, he didn’t offer what he knew about Shannon, the former tenant who’d lived in this house we’d recently rented.

“What crime did she commit?” His habit of answering a question with a question wasn’t muted by police officers at his door.

“We got a call from her family in Oregon.”

“This is a lot of manpower for a welfare check. I was a police officer for thirty-eight years. Good deployment of personnel, though,” Danny said as he looked beyond the front yard to the third uniformed officer on the sidewalk. There were no police cars in sight.

“Oh, you’re from L.A.?” a fairly obvious question given that Danny was wearing his blue LA Dodger cap. “What department?”

cop and policewoman“LAPD for twenty-seven years, then the L.A.D.A.’s office for another eleven. You probably know my son; he’s a Deputy D.A. here.” They exchanged names and laughs. The third officer from the front sidewalk moved up onto the front yard to hear the light-hearted conversation about attorneys and prosecutors. The officer with the sergeant stripes, the most experienced officer on the scene, appeared from a place of cover between our two parked cars in the driveway.

“You know why they bury attorneys eight feet down instead of six?” the first officer asked. “Because deep down they have a good heart.” They all laughed.

The young officer closest to the first officer casually rested his forearm on his holstered gun. Clearly, they weren’t going to need to deploy tactical force.

In my full-length robe and uncombed hair, I made myself more visible to the officer at the door, still behind Danny as he took up most of the space at the wide-open doorway. “We just moved in last week,” I said. Danny stepped aside slightly. “Shannon lived here before us. She told our landlady she was moving to Oregon where she’d bought property.”

“That fits what we know,” said the first officer. “We got a call from her family in Oregon that she never arrived.

“She also had a business here in town,” Danny said.

“We checked there too,” but offered no further information.

“I’d be happy to give you our landlady’s name and number,” I said. “She might have a phone number or email address, but I know she didn’t leave a forwarding address because we’re still getting her mail.”

“Thanks. That could be helpful,” the officer said.

While I stepped away to write down our landlady’s information, the two officers facing each other at the door continued their police banter. Danny, the confident, retired, equally strong dog had sniffed the butt of the confident, younger, seemingly capable first officer who’d gingerly sniffed Danny’s butt. The two watchdogs meant each other no harm and their tails wagged as they shook hands.

I handed the officer my note and said, “I hope she’s okay.” I didn’t step too far into the doorway. No need for the whole neighborhood to know I was still in my robe at ten in the morning.

“Thanks for the information,” he said.

Everyone said, “Have a nice day.”

After he closed the door, Danny said, “They’re looking for Shannon for something else.”

“What makes you think so?” I often accuse him of being cynical. Sometimes a bad driver is just a bad driver and not trying to piss him off; but, sometimes his suspicious nature is warranted. His career experience and wisdom have served him well.

“First, there’s no way they send a sergeant, and three officers to do a welfare check and park half a block away. The sergeant between our cars, the third officer a distance from the house on the sidewalk, another uniform behind the guy at the door—that’s pretty tactical deployment for a missing person. It was more in line with looking for a violent offender.”

“I heard the guy on the sidewalk say it was a training day when you said this is a lot of manpower.”

“I was going to tell the training officer he was standing too close to the door,” Danny said with his typical wide grin.

“What do you think? She left town with too much debt?”

“By the way she left this house and yard in such a mess, it’s hard to believe she could run a business. Looked to me like she left pretty quickly. I’m guessing check fraud or grand theft. Maybe a warrant. Even the neighbors said her tweaker boyfriend had brought her down. I don’t know why the police are looking for her, but I have a feeling she doesn’t want to be found. No forwarding address. Didn’t arrive where she said she was going. Family in Oregon looking for her. If the boyfriend is looking for her, that’s where he’d look too. Who knows?”

“They sure didn’t offer any information,” I said.

“I don’t usually tell people I’m a retired cop, but I thought they’d offer a little quid pro quo.”

“They definitely stayed tight-lipped,” I said.

“Did you hear what they said when the neighbor across the street asked what was going on when they were leaving?”

“No, but I’ll bet he was a little disturbed by his new neighbors bringing the police to his neighborhood,” I said. “What’d the police say?”

“One of the officers answered, ‘Somebody stole a baby stroller.’”

“Do they teach that in the police academy, how to never give a straight answer and redirect the conversation?”

Danny chuckled and said, “You tell ‘em what they want to hear. Don’t leave ‘em scared. They don’t need to know the truth. They might try to help and get themselves hurt.”

“I’d like to have known the truth,” I said.

“Need-to-know basis, Sweetheart…”

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Belinda Riehl
Associate Editor 2018 Redwood Writers anthology Redemption–Stories from the Edge; author of “Security at the Inn,” a fictional story told in 2020 after surviving the 2017 Sonoma County Wildfires included in Redemption; author of “Lighter Load,” a 100-word poem about the loss of her beloved dog in RW 2018 poetry anthology Phoenix–Out of Silence, and then…; author of “Wallet Karma,” a true story published in Sonoma Seniors Today, January 2018 issue, http://www.councilonaging.com/news-events/sonoma-seniors-today/; author of “Speak in Ink,” a poem published in online magazine Medium.com, https://medium.com/indian-thoughts/speak-in-ink-29152214a785#.e1e6i9q4j; winner of Redwood Writers 2015 Pullet Surprise for exceptional volunteer service to Sonoma County writers.
Please visit my blog: https://belindariehl.wordpress.com/ to read Occasional Musings by this writer.