Like many of my friends growing up, we would spend the afternoons after school at home alone waiting for our parents to come home from their jobs. When I was younger, like elementary age, my mother stayed home and would be there when my brother and I got off the school bus but as we got older and were more capable of taking care of ourselves she joined the ranks of the employed.
For me, this meant coming home to a locked house, using my key to get inside, making a snack, and watching cartoons until she or my dad came home.
We lived out in the country on several acres of land. Our neighbors all had similar plots so the houses were pretty spaced out. Crime was virtually non-existent in the area. Growing up in the area I can only remember 1 murder and that was a pair of renters who occupied my uncle’s house next door. The husband and wife couple got into an argument over dinner which was apparently the last straw in things and the wife shot the husband with a .22 caliber rifle in the head while he slept in their bed. They weren’t local to the area that I remember and were only in the house for a few months before the shooting took place but that was about the only example of crime in the area that I can recall from my youth.
My point being that the area I grew up in was considered very safe, very family-friendly, was the epitome of quiet, country living. These were the very reasons my parents chose to move out to that location shortly after my brother was born and before I was even conceived. They wanted to raise their kids in nice, quiet area and not in town where they felt an increase in violence and crime made for an environment less conducive to raising a family.
Well, there was a family member who was going through a divorce at one point. With my parents working and my brother enjoying his first after-school job, I was often left at home alone in the afternoons. When the divorce was announced, the other party felt a great deal of anger towards not just their soon-to-be-former spouse but to our entire family. This individual made a number of angry phone calls, often while intoxicated, to issue various threats of violence against the different family members.
One such call was to my parents where the aggrieved threatened to burn our house down with us in it and then make it look like an accident because they were a former cop and "knew how". After such an alarming call from what they felt was a verifiable threat, my parents felt they had no choice but to let my brother and I know about the situation. We were given strict instructions not to answer the phone unless we knew who it was (back in the days of Caller ID and landlines), to keep the doors of the house locked at all times, and that if we were ever to see this individual to immediately call for or get help.
This person knew where we lived, knew where my brother and I went to school, knew where my parents worked, knew our ages, our birthdays, and just in general a lot of information about us that would have made it easy for them to get close to us anywhere in our daily lives. It was something concerning and slightly scary for a young kid to hear but it was important to know because our ignorance could have put us at greater risk.
This meant that my afternoons of watching cartoons while home alone took on a new level of apprehension and concern. To some degree, it was thought that the threats were little more than the results of drunken bravado but at the same time we had no idea how far the threats might be taken while under the influence of unstable emotions mixed with vast quantities of alcohol.
For the next several weeks, I would spend my afternoons sitting in the living room floor watching TV with one of my dad’s pistols sitting next to me while I ate my snacks and watched my shows. My parents didn’t know, nor would they have approved, of me having a loaded firearm out next to me like that but given the circumstances I wasn’t going to have it any other way on those afternoons where I was in the house alone while this lunatic potentially plotted against us.
On one particular afternoon, while I was watching TV in the living room with dad’s pistol next to me, I heard a strange noise coming from the back of the house. Our house had 2 exterior doors. The front door was a heavy steel door with a massive deadbolt on it. If someone wanted to come through that door they would have their work cut out for them while the back door was less substantial, all facts that would have been well known by the former family member who visited our home on multiple occasions over the years.
The noise coming from the house was an odd banging sound. It didn’t sound like someone knocking on the door but there was definitely some type of forceful contact being made with the surface of the door. We did have a dog but not one with a hard tail that would make such a thunderous thudding sound by striking the door while wagging. This was something else, something unfamiliar, almost ominous sounding. The door had a small window in it and it sounded like someone trying to knock the window out, something my brother and I had done previously causing my mother to reinforce it.
The noise lasted for several seconds and had caught my attention. I grabbed the pistol and decided to investigate. I was curious to see if my mind was playing tricks on me or if I was really hearing someone trying to break into my house while I sat inside watching cartoons.
The back door of the house led into a small room adjacent to the living room. I crept through the door that separated the two rooms and slowly eased my head around the corner to see the back door and its window. I shouted “who’s there?” As I peeked around the corner and saw that flash of movement at what looked like someone quickly moving away from the window’s view. I heard the thudding sounds of footsteps running across the wooden surface of our back porch before things went silent.
Unsure of who or what was outside of my house and where they/it might have gone, I crouched down and slowly sneaked over to the back door. I slowly stood up and looked out of the door’s window from the side. I didn’t see anything so in a moment of bravery, or stupidity depending on how you choose to look at it, I used my key to unlock the deadbolt that held the door shut (my mother insisted that we have a deadbolt that used a key on both sides for maximum security). With the door unlocked, I swung the door open with pistol in hand and checked my surroundings.
At the time, there was a tall wooden privacy fence that ran along the southern edge of our property line next to the house that divided our property from our neighbor’s. There was a gap at the back of the fence that allowed anyone to move freely from one property to the next so the effectiveness of the fence was questionable but it was there regardless. As I emerged from the back door and took stock of what was around me, I saw another flash of motion along the fence that gave me the sense that someone or something was moving around to the other side of the fence and beyond my view.
Out of sheer reaction and adrenaline, I pointed the small gun at the fence and proceeded to squeeze the trigger several times, only stopping when the magazine was empty and the chamber had locked opened. The small pistol only held a handful of rounds but I fired each one of them as I swept my arm across the length of visible fence line. The purpose was to chase whoever/whatever had run behind the fence with each shot.
Having discharged every shot in the gun and now virtually defenseless, I scampered back into the house, locking the back door’s deadbolt behind me. From there, I ran back into the living room, grabbing the cordless phone on the counter before running through the house and into my parents’ room. I found the box of bullets next to their bed for that gun and took them with me to the bathroom I used in between mine and my brother’s bedrooms. I locked myself in the bathroom ready to dial 9-1-1 while I struggled to reload the gun. I listened for noises that might signify the intruder had returned but hoped that my show of force would have scared them off. Either way, I was determined to be ready in case they returned because I knew that calling 9-1-1 while living out the country meant having a lengthy wait for someone to arrive. If there was an intruder and I called 9-1-1, by the time the cops got to the house there was significant odds that all they would find was a corpse but I was going to do all I could to ensure it wasn’t mine.
The seconds seemed like minutes and the minutes seemed like hours but after a while of silence I pulled myself from the bathroom and returned to the living room. I spent the rest of the afternoon constantly peeking through the curtains and windows of the rooms around the house to see if I saw anyone outside or any clues that danger lurked nearby. The peace of the afternoon has been sufficiently shattered and there was no chance of it returning soon.
A short while later my mom arrived home from work. I rushed through the house to return the pistol to its expected place because I still had no intentions of letting them know that I had used the gun. Later, I found no signs of damage on the back door so there was no evidence of anything other than a few bullet holes in the fence for what transpired that day. I chose silence that afternoon until I could prove danger over paranoia but even after exploring the fence where I had shot exposed nothing I was left wondering if the events of the day were nothing but figments of my imagination.
Vindication came a few weeks later though when the angry former family member tried breaking into their former spouse’s new apartment before being shot in the process. My family member said they heard this loud banging on the door (similar to what I heard) and there had been recent threats of violence against them so they didn’t hesitate and fired their .357 pistol through the apartment’s door, striking their former spouse in a non-lethal fashion. The wound was sufficient enough to bring their assault on the door to an end and required treatment from medical professionals before going going to jail for the incident.
The shooting at the apartment, especially so soon after the incident at my house, left me fairly convinced that the angry individual came to our house first and after being thwarted there next decided to try their luck with their former spouse. Why our house before the former spouse’s? I can’t say for sure but I assume the alcohol may have been a factor, either that or the fact that they knew our house out in the country would have been more secluded compared to an apartment in the middle of a town so whatever nefarious activities they got up to would have a greater chance of success with less chance of being caught. Either way, if that was them banging on my back door, I provided for them a teaser of what their future held. I never saw enough of the motion to say for sure who or what was moving but given the circumstances, I become convinced that I had successfully defended my home from this person that day and I had I not taken those actions that my life might have taken a very different path, perhaps a much shorter one.
After the shooting at the apartment, things soon went back to normal. That person was no longer a threat, the calls stopped, and we went back to our relatively peaceful way of life. I continued to watch TV in the afternoons with the doors locked tightly and a pistol I had absconded with from my dad’s collection at my side while home alone but there were no other incidents or scares.
Regardless of whether or not there was actually any danger to me that afternoon, to this day I still prefer to keep my house locked up tight when home alone. I’ve upgraded from my mother’s double keyed deadbolts to biometric locks on doors both on the exterior of the house as well as key interior rooms. Likewise, I’ve upgraded from my dad’s small caliber pistol to an armory of higher caliber pistols and other guns so that there is always at least 1 gun nearby no matter where I am in the house at any given time. I have cameras recording the exterior and interior of my house at all times. Some may call it paranoia. Some may call it protection. I call it a product of my youth that I feel the need to ensure my family is protected in as many ways as possible because even those once closest to you may one day be a threat to your safety.