A Stranger At the Door – Part 1

Late July, at midnight. A tapping on my sliding door. Rocks against the glass. The doorbell going off. Over and over. It went on for 16 nights, all of this, sometimes for five minutes, sometimes for an hour. Always between midnight and 1am. Some nights, hidden by my closed blinds, he picked things up from the floor of my second-story balcony and threw them across to the other side. Some nights he saw that my light had been turned off and banged on my bedroom window.

I ignored him, thinking he was some punk who thought he was funny. Then one morning I found  a terrifying note on my door and a one-word message on my car. That’s when I called police. For three nights, they tried in vain to stop him. He taunted them, and me. When they finally caught him, they had to chase him down to his own apartment. He lived 100 feet away. He told them I was his girlfriend.

They brought his ID to my apartment. I did not know who he was.

He might be let out on bail. In daylight, on my way to a weekend court office to get a two-day peace order until I could see a judge, I found another message written on my car.  “NOT YET.” I had to have the police come again. At the court clerk’s office, a bail bondsman, seeing my state, slid his name and number toward me and softly suggested maybe all I needed was a good dinner. I was too exhausted and overwhelmed to realize he was hitting on me. I’d already spent hours that day trying to find out if I could get out of my lease without a penalty, trying to make sure I had somewhere to go if this man was released on bail, trying to make my boss at work understand why I couldn’t come in. I had slept fewer than three hours and woke to phone calls from the police precinct, asking questions about the report made by the first officer who responded. He had left out important details, lied about what happened to the note I had kept and turned over as evidence after he had told me to throw it away.  He was already in trouble before this and was now likely to lose his job. For weeks, commanding officers and detectives from Internal Affairs questioned me in a series of interviews. I was asked to testify in a tribunal hearing to determine the officer’s punishment.

In the days after the arrest, I had to go back to court for a temporary peace order, good for a week. Detectives came and asked me questions, dusted my window and sliding door for fingerprints. I found out that my visitor was also a suspect in three indecent exposure cases, the victims of which were women living in ground-floor apartments within walking distance of my 2nd floor place, who had seen him on their patios, watching them while he pleasured himself. I learned that my upstairs neighbor had tried to bail my visitor out, that police now suspected they were dealing drugs together. I worried that my neighbor might be a threat to me now, too. An illegal cab driver, also apparently a known dealer, also an associate of my visitor, sat parked directly in front of my apartment one day. Officers found him in the upstairs neighbor’s apartment on another night, even though the neighbor said he didn’t know who drove the sedan in the lot.

I did not live in a “bad neighborhood.” What had happened to my quiet, safe home?

Nine days after the arrest, I faced my visitor in court, at a final peace order hearing where he was allowed to question me. It’s a civil proceeding. It works that way regardless of criminal charges. If you want a piece of paper that says he can’t come near you, first you have to stand in a room full of strangers who also need protective orders and tell your story, stand with him six feet away and talk to him. When I saw him walk in, in handcuffs, I had a flash of a memory: him sitting on the front step of the building next to mine, in basketball shorts and a T-shirt.

It was the only time I had ever seen him before.

Separately, the criminal charges were set. Stalking. It took weeks to reconcile the word to my consciousness. Stalking? I had a stalker? I wasn’t famous, I was no one. Would people take me seriously if I said it? Would they roll their eyes, thinking I was being dramatic? Thinking I was flattering myself?

Twenty days after his arrest, I moved.

I worried that the first officer’s mishandled report would hurt us in the prosecution, that my stalker would get away with it and come looking for me, even now that I lived ten miles away, having closed all my service accounts and opened new ones in my new place instead of transferring, so there was no trail from old home to new. To ease my mother’s mind, I rented a PO box instead of getting my mail at home. But he knew where I worked. The information was in the peace order delivered to him in jail.

*****
This is the first of three posts. I have wanted to write about this since I began blogging over a year ago. Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.

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30 thoughts on “A Stranger At the Door – Part 1

    • It’s a difficult irony. When I started blogging, I wanted to do this. But it took more than a year to build up the guts, the trust in the readers, and the security to do it. Let alone figure out how to put it all into words, edit it down, figure out how much emotion I wanted in it, etc. I also had to be a little careful with what I detail in Part 2; I didn’t want to compromise that by posting on it and then having someone somehow find it.

    • It’s interesting that you say that. I felt at the time like maybe he was trying to screw it up. Of course, it had nothing to do with me; he was just not a good police officer. And now he’s not a police officer at all.

    • The day before the tribunal was scheduled, I got a phone call from the attorney for the county telling me that the officer had wised up and would take the deal the county was offering him, rather than lose his job AND his benefits. He is no longer an officer with the county.

  1. Excellent post. It really conveys your mounting sense of horror at the situation and your frustration at the complexity of it for you. No wonder you are now dealing with stomach acid issues. After going through something that unsettling, anyone would.

    • Thank you. Writing this was hard in a lot of ways, one of them being trying to figure out how to accurately, honestly and appropriately convey everything…without seeming self-serving or self-congratulatory. It’s been quite an experience.

  2. I bet this was hard to write and I’m glad you did. BTW, that other stranger’s post that is exactly the same as this in your moderation bin was from me. I was logged in as my brother by mistake. I don’t want you to think there’s anything creepy going on!:)

  3. OMG. This is so scary. I don’t know how you lived through so many nights of it. Think I would have had a heart attack or fled my home immediately. Wonder how many women this happens to? If somebody doesn’t write about it, like you have, how can we know?

    • I really did think he was just some joker in the beginning. Then it was my stubbornness that got me through a few nights. It was the note and the word on my car that changed everything. I wish I hadn’t been so foolish for so long before that. I hope you’re able to read the next two parts; given your series on being a woman, I think you’ll have a particularly valued perspective on it.

    • That’s exactly right, Stoney. I mentioned to Pithypants that I had to build up trust in the readers, guts, make sure there would be no potential problems or conflicts with what I detail in Part 2… and then figure out how to actually write it. There have been a lot of deep breaths.

  4. I am terrified just reading it. I pray you are safe now – I always like to think there are good people around me, but life has taught me that it is not always the case. I am glad you wrote this and look forward to the next chapers. It seems we put victims through a lot, doesn’t it.

    • I am safe, thank you. It’s frustrating to learn that our security in our place is compromised. I remember being angry about having to move (even though it was obvious that I had to move) because I felt like, “The terrorists win.” But in the end, the only thing that made me feel safe again was moving. I feel so strongly about those who don’t have that ability – that’s what triggered the events in Part 2.

  5. 😯 O. M. G. That just made the hairs on my arms stand up on end. I’ll be interested to read the rest of this. I cannot believe they made you face him in court and be allowed to be questioned by him?!! I would have set up some cameras to video the whole thing. Would a lawyer have helped? Creep- y.

    • It’s an interesting facet of the way civil and criminal proceedings intersect. I understand it. For me, it meant showing the courage of my convictions, but I can understand why some people wouldn’t be able to do it. If you don’t show up for the hearing, your protective order is nullified, which leaves you unprotected by the law. You sit in a room with so many other people who need a protective order, too, and you hear their stories as well. Then you go back the next week and watch some of them drop their complaint against an abusive spouse, etc., and you think, “My God, he’s going to kill her.” But there were women whose stories were heart-rending who came up to me when I was waiting for my order to be processed outside the courtroom and wished me luck. It was profoundly humbling and touching.

    • Thank you Dan. It became very real and very frightening when I found that note, and then that night when the second (and, ultimately, arresting) officer came, read the note and told me he thought this was serious and that I was being watched. I can’t even describe what that was like.

  6. Pingback: A Stranger At the Door – Part 2 | thesinglecell

  7. Pingback: A Stranger At the Door – Part 3 | thesinglecell

  8. Pingback: Always There | thesinglecell

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