I looked back up through the canopy of the tree fern which had done sweet bugger all to break my fall. It had at least deflected the fly screen so that it had only nicked my ear on its way to embedding itself in the ground beside me. I did a quick systems check. Breathing seemed to be coming back online, arms could be feebly waved in the air. An attempt to wiggle my feet produced a rustling in the hydrangeas in the correct direction, so the connection between head and feet seemed to be good. I tentatively raised my head and took a quick look. All my limbs seemed to be bending in the correct spots and in the correct directions with no additional new joints I didn’t have when I woke up this morning. I gently felt around my head, and apart from my ear, there didn’t seem to be any blood. All up, it looked like I was okay and so I hauled my way up through the foliage until I was something close to vertical.
At least the ladder was still…
…oh well. At least the ladder had missed me on its way down. Lucky I’d stood up though. That would have probably done me in. With some effort, I hoiked the ladder back up and against the wall. This was stupid. Someone was going to be answerable for this, and I knew exactly who to pin this on. I just wasn’t sure yet how to apportion the blame. As I climbed back up to the window, I considered the balance. Who should shoulder it more, my elderly father, who was currently undergoing an operation, or my even more elderly mother, who was at the hairdressers getting her hair done while my father was undergoing an operation? Or was it an even 50:50 split? After all, both of them had left their keys in the house when they set off today.
Level with the window, I just hoped that neither mum or dad had worked out that this is where I used to break into the house when I’d left my keys behind. I’d never told them this window didn’t latch properly in case they did something stupid like get it fixed. Mind, it had been 20 odd years since I’d needed to do this so the possibility was real that they had worked it out for themselves. Doubtful, but possible. Leaning precariously across from the increasingly wobbly ladder, I put my palm in the just the right spot, wiggled, and eased the window open. Something had finally gone my way. Access was mine. I pulled the curtain across, leaned over and started to pull myself in.
This presented a new challenge.
I was now half in and half out, my legs waving around in the air while my hands failed to reach the floor. I was beached. Come a cropper on the reef that was the windowsill. Fucking hell, I thought, what was I doing?
“We were wondering that.”
I was pretty sure I hadn’t spoken which meant a few things. Firstly, that thought must have been broadcast audibly; secondly, that wasn’t my internal voice; thirdly, that meant there was someone outside; and fourthly, shit had now officially gone sideways. Or I was going slightly mad. It was slim hope, but I hoped for the first option.
“Oh, hi. Neighbour?”
“Not unless your neighbours are Constables Georges and McDougall.”
Crap, the cops. Damn neighbourhood watch. I knew mum kept tabs on everything that happened in the street as a hobby, but I didn’t think that level of vigilance extended past the fence-line.
“Ahh, don’t believe they are, no.”
“Right then, back to the question you yourself posed. What are you doing?”
I honestly wasn’t too sure how to answer this. I mean, I knew exactly what I was doing, but the reason for it was so ridiculous that I knew the cops wouldn’t believe me. I sighed and figured being honest was, if not believable, at least far-fetched enough that the cops would have to believe it.
“I’m breaking into my parents house.”
“Forgot your key?”
“Well, no, but it doesn’t work so they must have changed the locks. Look, I’m quite uncomfortable here.”
“We can see that.”
“Could you give me a boost over the window sill?”
“Well, you might appreciate that from where we’re standing, it appears you may be attempting a bit of breaking and entering. If we were to assist you inside, that would make us accomplices and then I’d have to have all of us down the station assisting me with my enquiries.”
“And then because me interviewing myself would be a clear conflict of interest, I’d have to let us all go.”
“Not really. Looks bad on the weekly reports. Having said all that, you’re doing such a shit job of this, you’re either telling the truth or you need a new area of crime to get into. Now, how about you hop down here and we work this out. You might be good at talking out your arse, but I’m sick of looking at it.”
There wasn’t a choice really. Next step was probably being tasered, so a strategic retreat was probably the best option. I waved my foot around in attempt to find the ladder. Managing to locate it and hook it with my foot, I dragged myself across the window sill to it, and managing to get an arm out and gripping the ladder, pulled myself out of the window. I carefully climbed down the ancient timbers that made up the ladder, expecting them to let me fall at any moment, until my feet touched the ground. I nearly Poped out and kissed the ground, thankful that I’d managed to get down a bloody ladder without injuring myself.
Constable Georges dropped me to the lawn and started taking notes as I recounted my day while Constable McDougall started making a few inquiries by phone in attempt to verify my story. The sheer ridiculousness of the day was the only thing that saved me as I finished up with Georges as McDougall hung up the phone.
“Astonishingly, yes. He’s good to go.”
Sitting on the lawn, so close to getting in and getting the keys, surrounded by smart arse cops who were smart arses purely by the virtue of being correct that I was indeed crap at this, I had for the first time since this caper began a chance to evaluate my day so far.
It had been an utter bastard of a day.
And I still hadn’t got the keys.