On September 10 my son turned 19.
We celebrated as best we could, considering that we all had work schedules to keep.
That night, at 2:00 AM, we were awakened by a knock at the door.
I looked out and saw that there was a small fire on our steps.
I picked up my sword (yes I keep a sword by the door) and then thought better of it.
I went to my gun cabinet and took out a Glock 19.
I was in full fight or flight mode, so as I held the gun I centered myself and thought about everything I knew about gun safety.
After making sure that the fire was under control, I cautiously checked the area around the
Down the block I saw two figures walking away and took note of their silhouettes (height, weight, etc).
I knew that if I did not pursue them that my chances of catching the perpetrators were slim.
I also knew that chasing people with a gun was a recipe for disaster, so I opted to let it go.
My son and I put out the fire, before it could spread to the bushes.
I was relieved to see that it was a bag of shit, which lead me to believe that it was just a teenage prank.
After the fire was out, we found that they had left a birthday card.
It was a fairly scary card.
The handwriting was unstable and in it they had made a reference to hurting one of our dogs and had drawn a picture of an airplane flying up our dog’s ass and made a 9/11 reference (my son’s birthday is on 9/10, not 9/11).
The card said “9/11 Always Remember”.
I told my son..
“These idiots got the phrase wrong. It’s not ‘Always Remember’. It’s ‘Never Forget'”.
My son was actually kind of afraid and I have to admit that I was as well, simply because it was clear that someone had spent close to an hour crafting the card and anyone who does something so premeditated is possibly dangerous.
I told my son that we would have our suspect within 24 hours.
We went back to bed.
The following day I met with the neighborhood watch and asked them if we should file this under teenage prank or if it was something more serious.
As I have PTSD, I have a tendency to be paranoid, so when making any important decision, I seek guidance of those calmer than myself.
All the neighbors agreed that this was serious and that a police report needed to be filed, so that future actions could be documented and a stalking report could be filed if need be.
I agreed to make the report, but first I wanted to do the detective work and give the perpetrator an opportunity to explain themselves.
We made a list of people who had been to our home and then crossed off all the people that did not know that it was my son’s birthday (we knew that this was not 100% fail-proof, because someone could have been informed through the grapevine about his birthday.).
This somewhat eliminated his Facebook friends, as the perp clearly knew that he had a recent birthday, but probably did not have him as a Facebook friend, because they had the date wrong.
Also we knew that it was someone who had met our dog, Butch, because their drawing of him was pretty accurate.
Furthermore we concluded that the two figures who were walking away, were probably the ones who had started the fire.
All this told us was that our suspects were between 5’0 and 5’5 and were slender.
The first thing we did was contact our close friends and we told them all that if this was a joke then we would laugh it off, but that they needed to tell us NOW if they did it, because the fire had spread to the bushes and once we filed the police report that it would be considered arson and we did not want any of our friends going to prison (the bushes actually had not caught on fire, but for sake of the sleuthing I had went out and chopped away a good portion of the bushes to make it look as if they had…yes I know I am crazy…which is precisely why people should not be vandalizing my property at 2:00 AM.).
Our close friends all denied it, but of course became very concerned for our son’s safety.
We sent pictures of the card to all of them and asked them if the art style looked familiar.
A few of my son’s friends said that they recognized the style and informed us of who they felt it was.
As this person had been to our home, I asked my son if they had any reason to dislike him.
He said that he had went on a few dates with the female suspect, but tried to distance himself from her, as her and her friend seemed “pretty crazy and had a lot of red flags.”
I asked if they fit the physical description and he verified that they did.
I told him that we could reasonably conclude that the perpetrators lived east of us, because the figures I saw were heading east when I came out of the house.
We also agreed that the perps probably lived within walking distance of our house and probably did not own a car.
We inquired about the address of the suspects and sure enough, they lived about eight blocks east of us and did not own a car.
I put on my most professional looking clothes and went to the house.
When I arrived, I could hear people talking, but no one answered.
I left a note saying that we had security footage of who had set the fire and that the fire had spread and we would prefer to handle it with an apology than with arson charges.
My son also texted a mutual friend and asked the friend if he knew the whereabouts of the two girls at 2:00 AM the previous night.
The mutual friend stated that both girls were in his house with him at the time.
We agreed to wait two hours before responding to the text, knowing that if they had done it, that they would spend the time arguing over what to do and hopefully crack.
Two hours later, my son texted back..
“Okay, well we are going to make a police report in the morning. The police will come and question you. Just tell them the truth and everything should be okay.”
Then an hour later he messaged the mutual friend again and said
“We just pulled the security footage. I thought you said that they were at your house at 2:00 AM!?!?”
A text came back several minutes later with the words…
I should probably point out to you that we DO have a security camera pointed at the exact spot where the fire was started, but the camera was not turned on at the time, due to an issue we had been having with our system.
We did not feel that this information was relevant to our suspects.
We knew that if we were wrong about the suspects that we could simply say..
“We weren’t saying that it was you, but it sure looked like you on the footage. I guess lots of people look like that when it’s dark.”
We had already decided to make this one push to flush them out and if it was unsuccessful, that we would make our police report and forget about it as best we could.
About an hour after the mutual friend had assured us that the suspects were with him, at his home, during the fire, one of the girls texted my son saying that she had purchased a birthday present for him and wanted to drop it off.
I told him to reply
“Oh you remembered that today was my birthday!!” (in actuality his birthday was the day before).
She replied that she would never forget his birthday and wanted to bring the gift over.
She added that she wanted him to meet her outside.
We all agreed that we were not comfortable with that.
My son told her to come on over.
She replied that it would take her about 20 minutes because she was on foot.
I asked my son how he felt and he said that he was scared.
My son’s friend said
“Dude, she’s crazy. She’s going to kill you!!”
When she arrived I answered the door.
I pointed up at the security camera and said
“Just for legal purposes I want you to know that we film everyone that comes onto our premises.”
I could tell by her clothing that she was not concealing a gun.
You could tell she was nervous.
We treated her with kindness, like we do everyone and for just a moment I was thinking..
“She can’t be one of the perpetrators. No one is crazy enough to come in here after doing that.”
I could tell that the security camera had her shaken so I just turned to her and said
“So you are sticking to your story? You honestly are going to force this to become a police issue?”
The eyes of our entire family were on her.
At this point the girl broke down and started confessing, but mainly blaming her friend.
She told us how she was hurt by my son breaking it off with her.
She told us that it was immature and that she was sorry and never meant to scare anyone.
I told her that it was great that she had confessed and that we would not be calling the police.
I then placed my unloaded gun on the coffee table and it made an audible thud on the table.
Even though the gun was not loaded, I still made sure that the safety lock was secured and that I placed it facing away from all people who were present.
I told her about my PTSD and how I thought we were being attacked and how I was outside with my gun, trying to defend my family.
I explained to her that I understood that it was just a joke for her, but that I was concerned for her safety going forward.
I explained to her that waking someone up in the middle of the night with a fire is a good way to have something awful happen.
I explained to her that I was a teenager once and also did stupid things, but that I really wanted her to know how at a different house, maybe the person would have pursued them and maybe things would have gone south from there.
She seemed to be genuinely sorry and we were all relieved.
My son, who had previously feared for his life, was so happy that it was all resolved.
I didn’t want to victim-blame, but I had to take this opportunity to remind him that we have to be careful who we date and even more careful about who we bring back to our home.
My son is an outstanding young man and I know that he will take what he needs to from this experience.
Hopefully the girls learned something too.