It had been a great trip.
At least some of the time. Parts of it. And the not-great parts, like Greg getting sick from the water after being told repeatedly not to drink it, much to his children’s amusement, or Gilda throwing a temper tantrum because she had a sunburn but couldn’t bring herself to put the words together to tell someone, so the pain built up to volcanic force and she freaked out right there on the beach, screaming and crying and ranting and raving while the locals slowly gathered around to see the crazy gringa flip out and make a huge spectacle of herseld.
And right in front of her teenaged daughter, too.
Speaking of whom, Gwyneth had her issues too, mainly from having a deadly combination of charisma and overconfidence. Time an again, she assured her parents she could do things she couldn’t, then failed spectacularly at them, then blamed everyone else for the failure, then stormed off, sulked, and when she came back, she acted like it had never happened.
And then there had been Tino’s constant wandering off because something caught his attention, and his repeated use of the “I wasn’t lost, I knew exactly where I was” defense, which never worked.
So maybe it wasn’t a great trip per se, on paper, but the Jensen family had a lot of fun, and the disasters were vastly outnumbered by wonderful moments, and so when they came home from their three weeks in Cabo San Lucas, they were in a terrific mood, and ready to go back into their regular lives determined to kick ass.
And that mood lasted until Tino, in his role as self-appointed commander of everything electronic, inputted their unlock code into the alarm system, and nothing happened.
He tried again. Same thing.
He tried it a third time, going very very slowly and carefully, and still nothing.
He was just starting to feel the icy touch of panic when his father Greg ambled up to the door. “Having a problem with the alarm system, Tom… er, Tino? ”
“NO. ” said a glaring Tino. “It’s just not working. ”
“I’m pretty sure… ” said Greg in his cheesy Cowboy voice, “that things not working is the very def in ition of a problem, pardner. ”
Tino looked at his dad through narrow, suspicious eyes. Was his father making fun of him? You could never be sure with him.
“Mind if I give it a try? ” said Greg while reaching for the keypad.
For a second, it looked like Tino was going to fight him over it, but apathy overcame him and he shrugged, got out of the way, and said “Okay, but you won’t be able to do any better than I did. It’s broken, Dad. It’s not like you trying it is going to magically make it work even though it’s broken. ”
By this time, Greg had produced a long strip of paper with the code written on it, and was patiently typing the code in one alphanumeric symbol at a time.
No improvement. He tried it again. Still nothing. He even got Tino to read the code out while he typed it in. Nope. Nothing.
It wasn’t until the two men returned to their task after a tense and lengthy consultation that Greg was able to solve the problem.
“Wait… shouldn’t it say SYSTEM ARMED here? ” He pointed at the alarm panel’s LCD screen. ” But it doesn’t. It says ‘OPEN’, and there’s a little picture of an open door. ”
Silence as they let that thought sink in.
“One of our tries must have worked. ” said Tino. “And we just missed it. ”
“I don’t think so. ” said Greg. “When you get the code right, it plays that cute little bit of music and the door pops open. That’s kind of hard to miss. ”
Tino nodded, and they laposed back into their problem-solving funk.
The horrible truth dawned on both of them at almost the same time.
“We never armed it!” said Tino.
“Precisely, dear Watson!” said Greg.
“And that means that… for all the time we were gone..” said Tino
“…the house was wide open! ” finished Greg.
They looked at each other, aghast, for a moment, then yanked the door open and ran inside in a panic.
As they went through the house, like SWAT team commandos, they called out each room as being “clear”, meaning nothing seemed to be missing.
“TV room CLEAR, we still have all out stuff!”
“Laundry room CLEAR! The thieves somehow resisted the temptation to take our dirty socks and underwear!”
“Dining room CLEAR! The fine china and the stuff we’re actually allowed to use are present and accounted for!”
And so forth and so on.
“Oh look! ” said Gilda. “It looks like the boys finally got the door open. ”
“It’s about TIME!” said Gwyneth. “I haven’t eaten in AGES and I am STARVING!”. She brushed past her mother on her way to the kitchen.
You had eggs and steak an hour ago, thought Gilda. With a mountain of hash browns and pancakes and a carafe of OJ. And you ate a whole big of Mint Oreo’s in the car. But Gilda knew that a teenager’s demanding metabolism was a harsh and demanding master and not to be trifled with except in the direst of circumstances.
“Now where did those silly boys go?” Gilda, walking inside. “Greg? Tommy? ”
“It’s TINO, Mom! ” said Tino exasperatedly as he dashed by. “God!”
“What are you doing? ” she shouted after him.
He reappeared for a moment. “Just, um…. checking stuff, Mom!” Then gone again.
“And just what’s that supposed to mean? ” said Gilda to herself. Just then, Greg emerged from a doorway and was just about to walk past her when she caught him by the elbow and brought him up short right in front of her.
“Dearest husband. ” she said sweetly, with a smile that made Greg instantly wary and alert, like a doe that had just heard the snapping of a twig in the forest. “Love of my life. Treasure of my heart. Father of my children. The only man for me. Please, if it’s not too much trouble, could you please tell me what the hell is going on here? ”
Greg smiled an earnest, honest, trustworthy smile, and said he had no idea what she was talking about and that nothing was going on. At all. Anywhere.
“The downstairs bathroom is CLEAR! Our strategic reserves of humorous towels and decorative soaps is secure!” shouted Tino.
“Then what was that? ” said Gilda, with a grin.
“Oh, who knows what that boy is thinking….” Gilda arched her eyebrows at him, then wiggled them, “Well, okay. You got me. He’s checking various rooms to see how much got stolen. ” said Greg.
“Stolen? ” said Gilda. “And why would he be doing that? ”
“Because… sit down, dear, you should be sitting down for this…”said Greg, ” because he and I discovered that the alarm system was turned off for the whole time we were at Cabo San Lucas. ”
“WHAT? ” said Gilda with wide-eyed incredulity. “That’s impossible. I set the alarm myself. You have to be mistaken. ”
“No mistake, dear. When we came home, it was disarmed. That could only have happened if it was disarmed when we left. ” said Greg .
Gilda fumed a few moments. Then made up her mind. “When then it’s time for me to join the search. I’m the only one who knows where things are around here anyway,
Gwyneth wandered into room while shoveling Corn Flakes from a huge bowl into her face. As usual, she was having them with soy milk and a dollop of peanut butter.
She was halfway through the room when she felt her parent’s eyes upon her.
“What? ” said Gwyneth.
Greg put a fatherly hand on her shoulder.
“Sit down, please, Gwyn. Your mother and I have something to tell you. ” said Greg.
All four Jensens were gathered around the dinner. There was pizza. Diet Coke. Cake. Ice cream. But nobody seemed to be in the mood to eat.
They were quite the sight to see. The happy gang from the morning were now tired, dirty, disheveled, and depressed. The cat, Tiger, was walking on the counters, normally a heavily verboten zone. But nobody cared enough to get the spray bottle.
Tiger was not sure what to do with this new found freedom/.
So he curled up and took a nap.
“So, Mom. ” said Gwyneth. “You didn’t find anything missing, right? ”
“Not a single thing. ” said Gilda. “My jewels were all over my dressing table for anyone to see. My $5000 laptop too, plus my old phone that must be worth at least $500 to some addict somewhere. ”
“Tell them about the envelope. ” said Greg.
“Oh right…. and I had left the cash donations to the World Wildlife Reserve from last month’s convention in a manilla envelope. Marked “Cash Donations”. And I left it right next to the front door so I would remember to take them with me. ” said Gilda.
“Shortest robbery ever. ” said Greg. “Easiest too. There had to be at least fifty thousand dollars in there. But nope. No takers. ”
“What about your search, Dad? ” asked Gweneth.
“Same as your mother. Everything all present and accounted for. My tools, your mother’s car, the liquor cabinet. Not a single thing missing. How about you, Tino?”
Tino gestured vaguely. “I checked everything. My video games, my vintage sneakers, my computer, my laptop, both my tablets, my synthesizer… all still there. ”
“And there was nothing missing from my fashion vault either. ” said Gwyneth. “And you know what that means. ”
“We didn’t lose a goddamned thing. ” said Greg.
Gilda and Tino nodded sadly.
“But… that’s a good thing, isn’t it? ” asked Gwyneth. “all that time and not losing a thing? We got lucky, right? ”
“I guess so. ” said Tino.
“So we should be happy, right? ” said Gwyneth.
“Yup. ” said Greg, uncharacteristically morose.
“Well then what’s the problem? ” said Gwyneth. “Why is everyone so depressed? Since when is good luck a bad thing? “.
Nobody could answer that for while.
Eventually, Greg spoke up. “Because it doesn’t make any sense, god damnit. There must be close to half a million dollars in easily portable and sellable goods in this hour, and this place was wide open for three whole weeks. 21 days. And our privacy bushes make us an even easier target. You could slip in and out with all the loot you could carry in both hands and never be seen. We were the perfect target. And yet nobody even tried to take anything. Why the hell not? Our stuff is as good as anyone’s. ”
“Oh my god, that’s it, isn’t it. ” said Gilda. “We are really that shallow. So shallow that we are sitting here d3epressed because nobody thought our stuff was worth stealing. ”
Silence hung like heavy curtains as nobody denied it.
“But that doesn’t make any sense!” said Gwyneth. “How would the burglars even know there was an opportunity? It’s not like they hunt by scent!”.
That should have been funny. But it wasn’t. It wasn’t funny at all.
“All they had to do was look at our alarm system and see that it wqasn’t armed. Then they would know. ” said Tino.
“Yeah but like…. what are the odds of that? Who goes around looking at alarm system panels? Hell, who does breaking and entering at all in this era of cheap surveillance cameras and YouTube. Why take the risk? ” said Gwyneth.
“My history says that crime is really rare. ” said Tino. “People think it’s everywhere because they see it on TV all the time. But it isn’t. Most people will never be the victim of a single serious crime in their life. That’s what Mrs. Ting says. ”
“And this is a safe neighborhood. That’s why we moved here. There’s almost no crime at all here. Just the usual drunken brawls and noise complaints. That’s it. ”
“So then…. this was to be expected, right? ” said Gwyneth. “It’s not that we were lucky… the odds were against us being burgled to begin with. Right? So why are we sad?”.
<——–to be continued tomorrow———>