Rear window, front window, it’s the same thing really. You’ve seen the old Hitchcock film right? Where after breaking his leg, photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jefferies (Jimmy Stewart…and if you were with me when I got my wisdom teeth out then you know what a big Jimmy Stewart fan I am…) is confined to his Greenwich Village apartment, using a wheelchair while he recuperates. His rear window looks out onto a small courtyard and several other apartments. During a summer heat wave, he passes the time by watching his neighbors, who keep their windows open to stay cool. The tenants he can see include Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr), a traveling jewelry salesman with a bedridden wife. Sure that Thorwald murdered his wife, Jeff starts a full investigation…and the rest is history. I won’t tell you the rest though, just in case you haven’t seen it. Which is crazy by the way, it’s really a must see.
Anyway…three nights ago life imitated art right here in my parlor (or fancy front room for you lamens…) right through my front window…
(cue Hitchockesque music)
Before I tell the story let me start by telling another brief story about my mother-in-law, the Mafia Princess. Because of her upbringing surrounded by, yes, the mafia…(combined with her marriage to my father-in-law who is always looking over his shoulder and has busted a lot more than chops in his day) she is always on high alert and very aware of, what she feels to be, suspicious surroundings. Due to this fact, a few years ago she noticed a suspicious truck driving around our family’s neighborhood very late at night and verrrry slowly. After observing him for a while and then seeing him circle back around again, this time with a flashlight shone on each house, she decided that was it. She woke up her husband and they jumped in the car to chase down the alleged threat. After a call to the police, a very heated pursuit, and a very frightened teenage kid, it turned out to be….none other than….the paper boy.
Well those two people that chased down the paper boy also created their son, my husband, who refuses to wear flip-flops because you never know when you have to chase someone and always has to sit facing the door when we’re in a restaurant just in case somebody comes in blastin’. Neither of those things have ever happened to him by the way, but you’ve always got to be prepared. “It’s all about anticipation babe” is one of his favorite quotes to me.
My point in all of this is that when you spend enough time with people like this, you start to get a little paranoid yourself! I grew up in a small quiet town where the most activity was when a teenager played their music too loud at the car wash across the street. So before I was married I would have thought nothing of the two silver suburbans parked outside of my neighbor’s house one night. But now, it’s a whole different story.
Our neighbor across the street is a very elderly man who lives alone and is usually lights out and very quiet by seven o’clock. So the fact that these two suburbans, one in the driveway one in the street, both running with their headlights on, were in front of his house at 9:30 at night seemed very suspicious to me. As I stood in my front window looking through the blinds at the cars, I saw a dark figure run quickly from the car to the house back-and-forth at least three times.
“That’s it” I said to myself. “I think they’re robbing him. I’m calling the police.”
I called the local police department and calmly explained to the dispatcher what I had observed. “I hope it’s nothing”, I said, “But it really seems suspicious and I thought I should report it just in case there’s a problem.”
Assuring me I did the right thing, the man on the other end stayed on the phone with me asking me questions while simultaneously reporting it on his radio to the officer who was already on his way to the scene. Just as I was about to hang up the phone with him, I now saw two men leave the house and even though it was dark, I could clearly tell that they were carrying…a body.
“Wait, wait” I said frantically to the dispatcher, “They just came out of the house carrying a body…I’m serious! Ok now they’re putting it in the back of the suburban!”
As he tried to keep me calm and assure me that the officer was almost there, he did note that this was quite suspicious and asked me if my doors were locked.
“Great.” I thought to myself, “They’re coming for me next! Can they see me watching them out the window?! Are my doors locked?! Did I take the clothes out of the dryer?! (a woman’s work is never done…) Why did my husband have to be working late tonight of all nights?!”
But the men, after depositing the body into the trunk, separated, got into the two suburbans and drove away, as I did my best to describe the color, make, and model to the operator. (Is it just me or am I really using a lot of commas in this post? oh well I’m dealing with the real police, I don’t have time for the grammar police today!)
Right after they left, all the lights in the house turned off and a woman came out the back door, stood still to light a cigarette as it glowed in the night, got into a van that had been parked behind the house, and drove away.
Just then there was a knock on my door.
(cue “this is the part where she gets murdered” sounds)
It was the police. The officer who had been called to the scene had intercepted the suburbans as he pulled into our development. He stopped both of them for questioning and went on to explain to me what had happened, as he expressed his gratitude for my excellent detective work.
“Apparently”, he said, “The two suburbans belong to…. Hospice. What you saw was in fact a body. It was your neighbor, Mr. Hastings.”
Flooded with thoughts and emotions as my life had just flashed before my eyes I feebly asked, “So…he’s dead?”
The officer explained that yes he had died and his daughter, the smoking woman in the mysterious van, had called Hospice to come pick him up and take him to the funeral home. (In the back of an SUV?! Still seems strange to me, but hey, it’s Florida)
He commended me on my “sleuthery” (I don’t really think that’s a word but no matter), tipped his cap in a very Joe Pesci in Home Alone sort of way, and left.
I poured myself a drink to calm my nerves and called the butcher at work to tell him the story.
“You’re just like my mother”, he said to me. “The mafia princess.”