See also: "the story that is apparently so riveting, I need to create a five-month-cliffhanger out of finishing the two-part post. whoops." I found the Officer's card in my wallet this weekend, so it prompted me to finally finish this little tale.
So, back in September, my car was broken into. I have never so much as left my keys in an obscure place, let alone had my car entered by a stranger who felt compelled to climb into MY car in order to steal from me. The night of September 15 was pretty traumatizing for the control freak that I am. I honestly felt like someone was breathing down my neck, watching my every move for the next couple days. I kept imagining my personal things floating around my hometown... a computer with photos of my college years, my grandmother holding me as a baby, the many trips Sean and I have taken together. Cue the sick pit in my stomach.
Thankfully, ST was on his way in the next day... as I told you, he surprised me with the computer last spring. He reminded me that there was anti-theft software on the computer (the same software he'd installed on his personal laptop, his company computer, etc), and he'd test to see if he could even access it remotely (seeing as he'd never had a reason to open it up). Instantly, I was hopeful again. Less than 24 hours after the incident, Sean, waiting in the Denver airport on a layover, told me he could see screenshots of what the person USING the computer was looking at. This person lives 10 minutes from my house... he went to high school in the town where I live. We could see where he works, what his kids look like, who he's married to. I was completely fired up. The alleged thief was sitting in a van, trying to access wi-fi to chat on AIM. Erasing MY itunes in order to download horrible music like The Band Perry (still, to this day, when I hear "If I Die Young," I want to massacre someone--as if the song isn't horrible enough in and of itself). Playing on Facebook and posting things like, "hey! got a new laptop--let's chat!" Being exposed to this person's life made me feel a little creepy--how weird is that? They'd stolen from me, but I felt a tinge of discomfort, being so clued in to a total stranger's life. Anyway, I called the officer working my case (who'd reassured me that there are ways to locate a stolen laptop, and he'd thought there was a pretty positive chance I'd get it back eventually), and let him know what was going on. He told me to continue tracking what they're doing and we'd talk the next day--that he had to research to see if WE were violating their rights (since there are Internet privacy issues at stake)... I was equal parts pissed and excited. Odd mix of emotions.
Meanwhile, the weekend comes and goes... Sean and I spent the days, relaxing in Houston with my best friend and her then-fiance for their bachelor/bachelorette party weekend. I spoke with the officer briefly on Saturday, who told me he's still waiting to hear back from his "buddy in the Secret Service." He continued to remind me that he worked narcotics on the south side of Chicago for twenty years--as if this was some sort of reassurance to me. Meanwhile, we made it back home, and still had heard little news from the officer. I was increasingly frustrated... I'd pretty much come to terms with the fact that my photos and such were wiped from the MacBook, but knew that with each passing hour, the odds of finding all of my belongings was growing dimmer. Call me naive, but I actually had hope that my stuff would turn up. Sean was on his way back to Nashville come Monday, I was back in my office. I'd noticed that the culprit (we'll call him R) was Facebook friends with a guy that I know my aunt and uncle are friends with. I texted my aunt in the early afternoon to let her know and she responded with something along the likes of, "hmmm." My workday ended, and I made the commute home. I took a quick power nap and awoke to the vibration of a call from my aunt.
Aunt: "hey sweetie, just wanted you to know that your laptop is on its way home."
Me: "wait, WHAT?"
She further explained that R went to high school with her brother-in-law (whom I've known for years). She told me that BIL had called R, and asked him if he recently bought a laptop. R freaked out and said he was on his way to pass it off to my aunt's BIL. My aunt told me to call the BIL, but to be sure the cops were involved. I agreed--I didn't want the transfer to take place without an officer present.
(this is such a long story. I hope you're still with me!)
I call the officer and recant the story. He was clearly agitated, realizing his massive Internet-privacy-slash-let's-call-my-Secret-Service-buddy case was jacked. He agreed to meet me at the police station after R returned the computer. I met him, and he basically said that R had a believable story and he doesn't believe that he was the person who stole it. The guy who returned the computer did not match my description of who was lurking in front of my car on Thursday night, and he told a story of buying the laptop from someone off the street. I was instantly skeptical--what idiot would buy a $1700 computer off the street at 11 pm? R even claimed to have visited his local police department (not the same town where the incident happened) to see if a computer had been reported stolen (which, it would've shown up in a database, HAD the officer working on my case reported it stolen). I asked the officer why, nearly 18 hours after the incident, the computer wasn't recognized as stolen in this database that he kept telling me about. He quickly tried to breeze over an admission that he didn't finish the paperwork, because he thought he knew who it was. Long story short, I was incredibly aggravated, but got my computer (which was wiped clean), and went home.
The next day, ST received a phone call from the chick who is married to R (he'd emailed them a day or two before, saying that he doesn't care what the story is, he'll forgive and forget--he just wants my stuff back--all of it, the bag, the computer, the journals, the planner, etc). Sean three-wayed me into the call and I silently listened to the guy's story. As dumb as R seemed to be for buying a computer off the street, his story seemed to add up. He claimed that he was on his way home, and a random man stopped him on the street. The man said he was trying to get to Austin, and that he and his girlfriend had just split up... he tried to sell the computer for $250, but R said no. Eventually the man sold it to him for $100. And yes, the man who sold the computer to R matched the description of the guy I saw (about 5'7,", Hispanic, fairly puny, jean shorts--ew, glasses, shaved head, tattoo on his left forearm). He even walked ST through how he was able to break through the password protection. Just hearing his story made my skin crawl--even as I slowly absorbed the validation that he wasn't the true criminal.
Moral of the story? Be sure your car is locked when you get out of it... I know this seems pretty basic and idiotic of me to not have double-checked, but I'm admitting I failed. I was in my hometown, the town I'd grown up in--1500 people. For years, we didn't lock our door at night. earning themselves a speeding citation. It was the sleepiest of towns growing up, but it definitely imbedded a sense of false security within my heart. On the Thursday of the incident, I was just crying and crying to my dad, "but I grew up here! This type of stuff doesn't happen here!" (again, I know that real problems exist in the world, and at the end of the day--especially seeing as I got my computer back--this isn't a huge problem. But at the time, it was my problem, it was fairly traumatizing, and I had a pretty hard time with it). My false sense of safety was brought on by the fact that I was in my little hometown grocery store, just spending five minutes picking up lemon juice. I was on the phone when I got out of my car, and I hit the remote on my keys, but I didn't insure that my car chirped back at me in response. And here we are.
I know I'm fortunate, all things considered. Plenty of people have faced much worse, and lucky for me, my wallet (with all my credit cards, etc) was in hand, as I was in the store. I was able to retrieve about 2/3 of my photos, digging through Facebook and my blog and such, so not all was lost.
Lesson learned. Just be careful. Be aware. Dishonest people lurk everywhere... learn from my mistakes!
Have you ever been violated like this? How long did it take you to feel safe again?