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© 2014 - 2015 Ted Louis

Joel VII

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This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

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Chapter 16

Our trip home was uneventful. The boys and Ginny spent most of the flight playing on the Xbox. The only time the game console was not busy was when the flight attendant served a snack. About midway in our flight, the pilot announced that we would arrive in San Antonio about twenty minutes ahead of the schedule. He told us that we had a very strong tail wind.

I think we were all glad to be back in San Antonio as we disembarked the plane. The ground crew had our vehicles waiting for us and we took off for home the moment our luggage was loaded. It was nearly five pm as we got onto 281. With the evening traffic, it took us almost an hour before we were entering the gate to our home.

There was a strange Toyota parked near the garages as I maneuvered the van into its slot in the garage. We were climbing out of the van, when a young man came around the corner of the house.

"Mr. Johnson, I'm glad you're home," he said.

"Hi, Rick, I was wondering whose car that was," I said. "How are the dogs?" I had hired Rick Gibson to look after the dogs while we were gone. He was one of the Vet Techs that worked with Tracy.

"Somebody broke into your house," Rick said.

"When did this happen? Boys, stay out of the house. Somebody broke in and they might still be in there," I warned.

"Just a bit earlier. When I arrived, the dogs were very agitated, barking and growling. When I got around to the back of the house, I saw one of those ATV's next to the patio. Then I saw that the glass in the patio door had been broken," he said, pausing for breath. "I looked in and I could hear somebody making a racket, so I yelled at them."

"Did you see who it was?" Donald asked, as he had heard the conversation.

"Not really," he said. "There was only one guy and he had a ski-mask over his face. Anyway, he must have heard me yell and came barreling out through the broken glass, knocking me to the ground. He was carrying a pillowcase. It appeared to have stuff in it. He jumped on the ATV and took off east toward the woods. It had one of those tags on it with a name. I didn't get a real good look at it, but it looked like Brad or Bret, it was kinda dirty. I'm sorry that I can't give you a better description. Oh, and the guy was wearing white gloves. I noticed them when he knocked me down."

"Was the alarm going off?" I asked.

"Not when I got here."

"Did you call the sheriff?" I asked.

"Yes, I called on my cellphone as soon as I got up off the ground. I thought it might be him when I heard a car drive in. He should be here anytime," Rick said.

"He will probably want you to stick around and make a statement," Donald said. "It may take a while. If you want you can stay for supper. We had decided that no one wanted to cook tonight, so we are going to go get some pizzas."

Just then a sheriff's car drove up to where we were standing and Jesse Cantu got out.

"Hi, Jesse," I said. "It's been a while since I've seen you."

"Hi, Mr. Johnson," he said. "You've been keeping yourself out of trouble. The caller said you had been broken into. Is that right?"

"That's right, Rick called it in. Jesse, this is Rick Gibson. Rick, this is Deputy Jesse Cantu. You know my partner Donald Baker."

"It's good to meet you Rick," Jesse said. "Tell me what happened from the beginning."

Rick repeated the same information that he had given us a few minutes earlier. Jesse made notes in a small notepad that he had retrieved from his breast pocket.

"Dad, can we go in the house?" Peter asked, as he came up to me and patted me on the arm. "I gotta go to the bathroom."

I looked at Jesse and he nodded. "Use the one just inside the back door and then come right back out. I think the dogs would like to see that you are home."

"Okay," he said and headed to the door. He was followed by William and TJ.

"I know you said the thief was wearing a mask, but what about his height? Was he tall? Skinny? Fat? Young? Old?"

"I guess he must have been fairly young the way he jumped onto the ATV. Fairly athletic build and about my height and weight. I'm 5' 9" and weigh 140 pounds."

Jesse wrote for a while in his notepad before saying, "Let's go check where the burglar broke in."

"Jesse, Rick said that the alarm was not going off when he got here. I know that we set it before we left last week."

"That's interesting," he said. "We'll have to check the controls inside."

The three of us followed Jesse around to the back of the house to see where the break-in had occurred. It was just as Rick had described it. The sliding-glass door had been shattered. The burglar must have used something to help break the glass because it had been tempered glass. Jesse looked around the area and finally picked up a fist-sized rock that had a sharp point on one end.

"This must be what he used to break the glass," Jesse said. "Unless there is some way to strike its edge, tempered glass is very difficult to break. A sharp point can do the trick if it's used to strike with enough force. This guy has probably done this before. If a couple of you would follow me inside, we can check to see what has been taken. From what you said, Rick, it can't be anything large if the only thing he carried out was the pillowcase."

"Donald and I will come with you to see if we can determine what the guy took," I said. "Rick, why don't you go see if the dogs are alright?"

"Yeah, they were pretty upset when I got here and I haven't had time to see that they had food and water," Rick answered.

Jesse, Donald and I stepped carefully into the house after Jesse took several photos of the damage. We tried to avoid walking on the broken glass as we entered. We made a careful survey of the living room and found nothing obvious was missing. Making our way through the breakfast room and the family room, the results were the same. The kitchen area had obviously been ransacked. All the cabinet doors and drawers had been opened and the contents disturbed. Gilda would have to tell us if anything had been taken. Going from the kitchen into the butler's pantry is where we could tell that things had been taken. All the sterling silver flatware, the silver serving dishes, and silver candle sticks were missing.

"What's the total value of the missing silver?" Jesse asked.

"Hmm. Let me think," I said, running some numbers in my mind. "I would have to check with my insurance agent, but I would estimate the total would be somewhere around eight to ten thousand dollars."

"More than enough to make it grand larceny. A major felony," Jesse said. "It's likely, that's all the guy had time to take, but let's continue going through the other rooms."

None of the other rooms on the ground floor or those upstairs appeared to have been touched. The rooms in the new addition didn't look as if the burglar had even searched them. We would have to get Gilda to also examine her room for missing items.

"Where are the controls for the alarm located?" Jesse asked.

"There's a keypad just inside the back door and one in the master bedroom. The master control box is located in the utility room," I said.

"I didn't see that when we did a search of the house," Jesse said.

"I guess I didn't think there was anything in there that the thief could want or take. About the only things in there are the washing machine and clothes dryer," I told him.

When we opened the door to the utility room, we didn't see anything out of place. The door to the control box was shut and at first glance nothing appeared to be out of place. Jesse looked more closely at the lock on the metal door of the control box. "This looks as if it has been opened with a screwdriver or knife or something similar."

"It wouldn't take much to force it open, its main purpose is to keep the door closed," I said. "The key to it is hanging on a hook in the cabinet over there. I guess he didn't think to look."

Jesse opened the door and looked inside the control box. "Two wires have been pulled loose from their connections. That probably silenced the alarm, but it still should have phoned the alarm company before he had time to disarm it. We need to check to see if the phone lines have been cut. Where do they enter the house?"

"Right outside the back door. It's just around the corner here." I said.

The junction box for the phone lines into the house appeared to be untouched until Jesse took hold of it and it came off in his hand. The wires had been neatly disconnected from their contacts. It looked as if we would be without home phone and internet access until we could get the phone company here to repair it.

"Jesse," Donald said, "it looks to me as if this guy knew what he was doing and may have had knowledge of the layout of the security system. He must have known that we were going to be on vacation and away from the house. The only thing he didn't seem to know was that there was someone coming to look after the dogs and what time he would be here."

"I agree. If you can compile a list of people who would have known about your security system and a list who knew you were going to be gone this week. Maybe we can narrow down the suspects. I'll file my report, but since Rick said the guy was wearing gloves, we're probably not going to get any finger prints. If you can get me a description of the stolen silver, I'll see that the local pawn shops and those in San Antonio are made aware," Jesse said.

"We can do better than that. When I contacted my insurance agent to write a homeowner's policy, he came and made a video tape of all the high value items. I'm sure that he taped the silver. I'll contact him first thing in the morning to get a copy for you," I said.

Jesse got into his patrol car and left.

"I suppose we had better get the glass cleaned up and find something to cover the door. It might get a little cool in the house with the glass broken out," I said.

"What's going on?" Gilda asked when she saw us sweeping up the glass. "I saw the sheriff's car leaving as I was coming over here with Lenore."

"Somebody broke in and stole some stuff," I said. I went on to tell her as much as we knew and asked her to go through the kitchen to see if anything was taken and then check out her room for anything missing.

"Dad," Joel said, as he came into the house, "everybody is getting hungry. Can we order the pizza now?"

"Sure," I said. "Use my cellphone, the regular phone is not working."

"Are Hildy and Manfred and the girls going to eat with us?" he asked.

I looked a Gilda, who nodded her head. "Yes, order enough for all of us."

"Rick said he couldn't stay for the pizza. He has a date," Joel said.

"Do you know of anything we can cover the door with?" Donald asked.

"I was trying to think and I can't come up with anything," I said. "We need a piece of plywood or something like that."

"I think Manfred has some," Gilda offered.

"Great! As soon as Joel is off my phone, I'll call him to have him bring a sheet over."

"Use mine," Donald said, handing me his cellphone.

"I'll take the cart back over so he won't have to carry it all the way," Gilda said and left.

"I'm going to go pick up the pizzas," Joel said. "I'll see if I can get Chris or one of the twins to go with me to hold them."

"Here," I said, handing him three twenties. "That should handle it."

He left and a few minutes later the Strasser family and Gilda returned. Manfred carried a sheet of plywood in and placed it by the broken door.

"I didn't think you would have any tools, so I brought mine," he said and began measuring the door. He began muttering to himself as he took the measurements. "You probably don't want to put nails into the door frame. I think we can use a good amount of duct tape that will hold until we can get someone out here tomorrow to fix this."

"I'll leave it up to you," I said. "I'm certainly no handyman. If I can help in any way just let me know."

"You can steady this while I tape it."

That was about the extent of my handyman skills.

It wasn't long before Joel was back with Chris and the pizzas. They came in carrying five boxes containing large 18" pies. I shook my head thinking we would never eat it all. I went to the door leading out from what the builder called the conservatory and called for the boys to come for supper.

"Bandit missed me," TJ said.

"I'm sure he did," I said. "Now, go wash your hands. The rest of you, too."

I don't know how thoroughly the hand washing was because they were back to the table grabbing pieces of pizza in a matter of what seemed to be seconds.

"How come somebody broke the glass," Peter asked around a mouthful of pizza.

"The man wanted to steal some things," I answered.

"Why? Can't he buy his own stuff?"

"Some people think that if someone has nice things and they don't, then they think it's okay to steal it."

"Why?"

I suppressed a smile, because I knew Peter was asking, for him, a serious question. "That's a hard question to answer. People have been asking why for a very long time. Let's just say that many people who steal other people's things would rather steal than get a job to buy their own things."

"Oh," he paused before continuing, "that's not very nice."

"No, it isn't," I said. "Now, if you have finished, go wash your hands and face. You have tomato sauce all around your mouth."

As the adults were sitting around drinking coffee after the post-pizza cleanup, Manfred asked, "Is your phone not working? I called before we came over and all I received was a busy signal."

"Yes, the thief disabled it at the phone box outside," I said.

"Did he smash it?"

"No, just pulled a couple of wires. I'll have to get the phone company out here to repair it," I said.

"Mind if I take a look? I've hooked up more than one telephone in my life. I may be dumb as a post when it comes to computers, but can handle most kinds of wiring."

"Sure, go ahead."

Donald and I followed Manfred out to the junction box. He picked up a Phillip's screwdriver from the tool box he had brought earlier. "This is a piece of cake," he said, after he had examined the wiring. "It's all labeled with the color code for each wire position." Less than a minute later, he said, "Check to see if you have a dial tone."

I stepped inside and into the kitchen where the nearest phone was. I picked up the receiver and heard the dial tone. I dialed Joel's phone in his room. When he answered, I asked him to check to see if he had internet access. I gave thumbs up to Manfred, who was standing just inside the back door. About a minute later, Joel reported that he had a good internet connection.

I went back outside where Manfred was securing the cover on the junction box. "Thanks," I said. "It would probably have taken the phone company a couple of days before they would have gotten around to us. I hate to be without the home phone even though I do have my cellphone."

"Crane," Gilda said as we reentered the house, "I don't think anything is missing either from the kitchen or from my room. The bum did take every bit of the silver and I had just polished it the week before we left."

"The insurance will pay for it if it's not recovered," I said. "I'm just glad that we weren't here when the break-in occurred. The boys seem to be handling it well, at least so far, but I think we will need to watch them to see if there has been any effect."

"Gilda," Hildy said, "do you want to go grocery shopping with me in the morning? I need to get fresh meat and produce. We used up everything before we left."

"I'll make my list tonight and we can go right after I get breakfast out of the way. Give me a call when you're ready to go."

We sat around and talked for a while before Hildy said it was time for them to take their girls home and get them ready for bed. Donald had already convinced Lenore that she should stay the night in our house. The boys had retired to the music room. We could hear them playing through the door they had left open.

"Come with me, sweetie," Gilda said to Lenore. "Let's get your bath taken and then I'll read you a story before your dad comes to tuck you in." Gilda took Lenore's hand and they walked up the stairs to Lenore's room.

"I didn't see the Xboxes in with our luggage," I said.

"No, I called my assistant from the plane and asked him to pick them up after we left. I didn't want the boys, and Ginny, chomping at the bit to set them up so they could play," Donald said. "Phillip will have them delivered tomorrow morning along with the TV's."

"TV's?" I asked. "We already have one."

"Yeah, I know, but I thought we needed two identical ones so that both systems would be the same. This way the screens sizes will be the same so no one will think they are being discriminated against."

"Some discrimination," I said, sarcastically.

"I love your boys. I wish they were mine as well," he said.

"And, I love William and Lenore," I said. "But you don't need to try and buy their love with things."

"Dad," Joel said, as he came down the stairs. "Jimmy doesn't have to go to work until noon tomorrow. Is it alright if I go see him before he goes to work?"

"Of course," I said.

"Thanks," he said and went back up the stairs, two at a time.

"I think it's time for our musicians to start getting ready for bed," I told Donald.

"Maybe we ought to think about taking them to the San Antonio Symphony sometime," Donald said. "We have been derelict in using our tickets and they only have a couple more concerts this season. It might be a stretch for Peter, William and Lenore, but the others are old enough that they might enjoy it."

"I like that idea. When is the next performance?"

"I believe it is a week from this coming Saturday. I'll check to make sure," Donald said and headed for the bedroom to check.

I went upstairs to the music room to get the boys started getting their showers taken and into bed. Even though it wasn't a school night, I didn't want them to get out of the habit of going to bed on time. I was surprised that they didn't put up a protest.

"Where's my dad?" William asked.

"He's looking up some information. He will be here to tuck you in after you get your shower taken," I said. "TJ, you make sure that your brothers do a good job and be sure they shampoo their hair."

"Is William my brother?" Peter asked.

"If you want him to be, then I guess he is," I said.

"Goody," Peter said, and grabbed William's hand and pulled him into their room.

"Interesting," I thought.

When I explained what had happened to Donald, he replied just as I had.

"I wish it were in fact," Donald said. "It just isn't going to happen in Texas, at least not in the foreseeable future."

"What did you find out about the Symphony?"

"It might be a little to adult for them, but we'll never know until we try it out. They are performing Shostakovich Symphony No. 10."

"How about tickets?" I asked.

"The company purchased a block of twelve. That includes our two," he said. "The other ten are distributed to staff members at the last minute in case I need to use them for important clients. When I go into the office tomorrow, I'll have my secretary hold them for me."

"Well, I think it's time to go see that the kids are in bed," I said.

"Why don't you come with me to Lenore's room and say goodnight to her as well?"

"Here's your daddy," Gilda said when Donald opened the bedroom door. "I love you, sweetie." She gave Lenore a kiss on the cheek and helped her into bed.

"I love you," Lenore said, returning Gilda's kiss.

"Can I have one of those?" Donald asked, as he sat down on the side of her bed.

"Uh huh," Lenore responded, wrapping her arms around her dad's neck and giving him a kiss.

"Have you got one for Crane?"

"Uh huh," and reached her arms out for me and my kiss.

"Sleep well, sweetheart," Donald said, adjusting his daughter's covers.

We entered the three youngest boys' room and found them already under the covers. "Donald and I have come to say goodnight to you. Did you all brush your teeth?"

"Yeah," came three responses.

"Daddy, if William is my brother, does he get a hug, too?" Peter asked.

"Of course, he does," I said and went to give William a hug. Peter was next and then TJ.

Donald gave his son a hug and tucked him in and them went to Peter and hugged him. TJ acted a little surprised when he was approached, but he returned Donald's hug.

The twins and Chris thought they were getting to big to be hugged and tucked in bed, but I still made sure that they were in bed when I made my rounds. They were in bed, but the lights were still on and they were talking when we walked into their room. "Five minutes and it's lights out," I said before Donald and I said goodnight.

Joel, as usual was propped up in bed reading a book when we got to his room. "Don't stay up too late reading," I said. "Goodnight, son."

"Goodnight, dad, and you too, Donald."

"Goodnight, Joel."

"Would you like a glass of wine before we go to bed?" I asked Donald as we were walking down the stairs.

"Good idea," he answered.

I went behind the bar and opened the wine cooler. "That son-of-a-bitch," I sputtered.

"What's the matter?"

"That thief discovered the wine, because it's all gone. We had a half dozen bottles in here before we left," I said. "I'll bet he made a couple of trips to his ATV. The second one was probably the one where he knocked Rick down. I guess we won't be having that glass of wine tonight. Damn, that's irritating."

"I'll stop at that wine shop across the street from the office tomorrow and replenish our supply. We might as well go to bed," he said, putting his arm around my shoulders.


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