Seven PM, five nights ago, the big park-n-ride lot at the southern end of the light-rail line. I’ve just spent 35 minutes riding on the train; I have another 15 or 20 to go behind the wheel of my car before I see the lights of home. I’m tired. It’s been another of those relentless-onslaught kind of days that seem to have become the default for my job, and I really don’t need any more bullshit tonight.
I don’t know how far I parked from the train platform. I’ve never been good at judging distances. Not like my dad, who can tell at a glance and with surprisingly good accuracy how far away something is, anywhere from about a half-inch up to a half-mile. The walk from the platform to my car isn’t as far as a half-mile, but it’s a lot closer to that than it is to the half-inch, and it takes me a good minute or so to make the hike, the whole time thinking about how much I just want this day to be done.
My Mustang waits for me, gleaming dully in the orange glow of the sodium-vapor lamps. It’s a welcome sight. My keys are already in my hand, and I hit the unlock button on the remote-control fob from 20 paces away. The interior lights come on, the headlamps flash twice, and the car alarm chirps four times to indicate that it has been triggered at some point during the 10 hours since I armed it this morning. But of course it has. The alarm is always going off. If the park-n-ride’s closest neighbor wasn’t a sprawling hillside cemetery, I’m sure it would be a real nuisance. As it is, I doubt more than three breathing people ever hear the damn thing as it screams at the passing birds who set it off. I never wanted a car alarm, didn’t want to be one of those guys. It was my dad’s idea — no, actually his insistence — that I get one shortly after I bought the car, because he was just certain that a Mustang convertible was bound to attract trouble. I thought he was being silly, that nothing would happen to my car and that an alarm wouldn’t stop anything if it did. But I caved eventually, the way I always do with him. And I dutifully set it every single day, and some days I even feel a little safer.
I notice the problem through the driver’s-side window as I’m reaching for the door handle. The glove box is hanging open. And the lid to the center console between the seats is standing straight up. A cold prickle races over my arms and legs at the same moment a hot flush rolls through my stomach and face. Somebody has been in my car.