Taking Detective Work Into My Own Hands


The house next door to mine was broken into a couple of days ago. Somebody smashed a window in broad daylight and took a bunch of cash and an expensive camera.The cops showed up at my front door to take a report, and I strained my memory for suspicious sightings between 10 am and 11 am the previous day. I work 10 hours a day from a room in my house that has a birds-eye view of the street and, therefore, the crime scene. Surely I could recall something?


I was so engrossed in my computer screen, that I couldn’t cough up one single piece of evidence. I felt like such a negligent neighbor. But today, that all changed. Here’s what happened:

1.01 pm

I spot a blond, curly-haired man in a navy blue shirt approaching my security door. He tries the handle and finds it locked. He spins a few frantic, confused circles and wonders off next door.  It has to be the robber, who else would be trying my door? I snap a shot of his profile with my memory.

1.03 pm

I call the 000 emergency line and report the man. I describe him in impressive detail. “We’ll send someone out,” I’m told. I hang up the phone feeling important.

1.07 pm

I spot the man again. This time, he’s leaving the front door of the house adjacent to mine, the shameless bastard. I run out onto the street so I can see what he’s up to, but he quickly slinks off into a dark hidey hole.

1.10 pm

A police car arrives at my door asking for more details. I let them know I just spotted the criminal again crossing the street, trying another person’s door. “Thanks for your information. We’ll keep looking,” the cops say. They drive off down the street, combing the area for navy polo shirts and curly blondes.

1.11 pm

Watching out the window, I spot the robber yet again. He’s standing outside my house on the pavement, right there in the daylight, hands in pockets, utterly shameless! I’m 100% sure it’s the man who just tried to rob my house. I decide I’m not going to let this arrogant thief slink off again.

1.12 pm

I go outside and approach the man. “You!” I say. “What do you think you’re doing trying everyone’s front door?”

“I’m not,” he says, guilt oozing from his pores.

“I’ve been watching you out of my window,” I tell him. “I saw you come up and try my security screen.”

“I … I was just lost,” he stammers.

“I’ve called the cops, you know,” I tell him, pointing to the approaching police car.

“I … I just … it’s just that I couldn’t find … I’ve been looking for …” The robber trips over his own bullshit. “I was confused and just didn’t know which  …” He gives up his excuses and sighs in defeat.

I knew it: guilty as shit. Crime solved. I resist the urge to blow the smoke from the muzzle of my non-existent gun.

1.13 pm

My neighbor (the one who was just robbed) comes out onto the street and approaches the man. The robber just stands there, frozen, as the woman whose house he has violated approaches him in broad daylight. What the hell is wrong with this guy?

“Hi Larry,” my neighbor says, pulling the thief into a hug.

Larry? Who the heck is Larry?

“I couldn’t remember the number for your house,” the robber says to my neighbor. “Been trying every door in the area.”

“Well, I’m glad you finally made it,” she says to him, tousling his blond curls.

1.14 pm

The metallic ping of a penny dropping is interrupted by the Blips and Chhts of a radio sounding from the open window of a cop car. Now with a positive ID on the curly-haired blond guy in a navy polo, the cop opens his door and steps out.

The robber and my neighbor turn and stare at me.

I look at my neighbor, then at the cop, then at Larry.

1.15 pm

“Oops,” I say, before quickly slinking off to a dark hidey hole.

Torre DeRoche is the author of two travel memoirs, Love with a Chance of Drowning (2013) and The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World (due out September 2017). She has written for The Atlantic, The Guardian Travel, The Sydney Morning Herald, Emirates, and two Lonely Planet anthologies.

Leave a Comment

  • Lauren de Lange January 28, 2011, 5:52 am

    Oh No! Back to detective school for you Torre. If he was a real robber, he would have legged it for sure. I am amazed at your courage, I would never approach a potential criminal for fear of being verbally or physically abused.

    • Torre DeRoche January 28, 2011, 5:57 am

      It’s bright and sunny outside, and there are many witnesses. But when I get a bee in my bonnet, my consideration towards personal safety is lost. I think I got this from my mother. One of her most famous acts of righteous bravery happened when she was 8 months pregnant. She got on a bike with a baseball bat and cycled down the street to intimidate some naughty neighbourhood boys. You’d think I came from a hillbilly redneck family. You’d be right.

  • Lily Graison January 28, 2011, 6:45 am

    Ha! That’s too funny…and would so be my luck. You deserve a ‘thumbs up’ for trying. Its more than most neighbors would do.

    • Torre DeRoche January 28, 2011, 6:46 am

      I try to be a good person, but it always seems to backfire.

  • Bree January 28, 2011, 7:23 am

    You’ve got balls, woman. Fearful adventurer, my ass!

    (Poor lost little chicken.)

    • Torre DeRoche January 28, 2011, 7:27 am

      I’m fearful about adventure, not about confronting meek, confused-looking robbers!

  • Christina January 28, 2011, 2:04 pm

    Man, what a great neighbor you are!

  • Kim H January 29, 2011, 7:23 am

    That was so funny and what a great read! Love the way you write. I’ll be back here for sure:)

    • Torre DeRoche January 29, 2011, 9:05 am

      Thanks Kim! It’s good to know that my humiliating pursuits are not going unappreciated.

  • Mo January 29, 2011, 10:52 pm

    I like it, paranoia is healthy!

    • Torre DeRoche January 29, 2011, 10:54 pm

      Perhaps not in the quantities that I have.

  • Adam @ SitDownDisco May 3, 2011, 11:19 am

    I guess Larry and you won’t be on speaking terms in the future…

    • Torre DeRoche May 5, 2011, 10:39 am

      I was never on speaking terms with my neighbors anyway (they never return my friendly greetings) so … meh!