Burglaries Unfounded

“Charlie three?” chirped the dispatcher through the radio.

“Charlie three,” answered the beat three officer, Victor Kolvinsky.

“Can you head into the station for a burglary report? The desk just called and said an elderly female came in to report items stolen from her apartment and she has offender info.”

“10-4,” said Kolvinsky as he turned the wheel on his Ford Explorer with the marked “POLICE” billboard along both sides. As Kolvinsky drove towards the station, he thought it was odd that the old woman was coming into the station to report a burglary rather than call when it occurred. But, in his fifteen years on the job, he’d learned just how many strange things would occur that the average citizen was unaware of and had come to expect oddities on various calls.

Kolvinsky pulled to the rear of the station and parked his squad in the designated zone reserved for on-duty police officers. It was directly behind the station and had no security measures in place. No gate, no hidden entrance. Only a sign that read “Police Vehicles and Personnel Only.” The surveillance cameras that were affixed to both entrances were only there for show, neither had finished being set up. The parking area could easily be seen from the civilian side of the street and as one officer had warned, “If anything bad is going to happen at the station, it’s going to be in the back at the squad parking zone.”

Kolvinsky parked his squad and walked to the rear entrance, punching in the key code on the rubber-faced pad. He then walked through the hall towards the front of the station where the front desk officer, a civilian, was stationed.

“Hi Lisa,” said Kolvinsky to the plump blonde who sat in the vestibule surrounded by windows. Lisa was nearly forty, never married, but had one teenager. Lisa was quite the catch back a few years prior but since having her child and experiencing the struggles and hardships of single motherhood, she kept her suitors at bay as her teenager was her only focus and she made that known. 

“What’s the shake, Easy-bake?” asked Kolvinsky, his typical greeting to Lisa, or who the other cops referred to as his work wife. Since Kolvinsky was typically the beat three officer, frequently viewed as a punishment doled out by the bosses when an officer found themselves on their bad side deserved or not, he and Lisa had had plenty of time to become acquainted with one another. As three became known to be his beat, which he didn’t mind but he made the bosses think he did so they’d keep giving it to him, he’d spent a lot of time with his work wife at the front desk, bullshitting and bitching and flirting and philandering.

“Oh, I’m not easy, Honey. You would know,” smirked Lisa. 

“Believe me, I do,” said Kolvinsky. “Say, Lees, when are you gonna let me take you out?”

“How many times must I tell you to quit asking?”

“At least one more,” winked Kolvinsky. Lisa fluttered her eyelashes at him. 

“What is this young lady here for?” he said, turning his gaze toward the elderly woman waiting in the foyer on the wooden bench. 

“That’s Mrs. Chavez from nine-ten North Wilson.”

“The independent living place?” Asked Kolvinsky. Lisa nodded. Kolvinsky studied her a little longer, feeling like he’d dealt with her before but wasn’t able to place it. Nothing about her seemed particularly familiar but he got the sense he’d interacted with her before. “Do you recognize her?” 

“I sure do,” said Lisa as she turned back to her computer and put on her reading glasses. 

“I can’t remember where I’ve seen her. I feel like I’ve talked with her before but I can’t place her.”

“Oh, I’m sure you’ll figure it out,” Lisa said with a wink of her eye. 

Kolvinsky leaned over to the massive industrial-sized printer in the corner of the room and pulled out the paper tray, removing a single piece of white paper. Rather than use three to five pages in his small pocket notebook and strain his hand trying to write small enough to fit the page, he found a single page of paper was enough to get the gist of nearly every possible report. 

He made his way to the public side of the foyer and the woman watched expectantly as he approached. Upon entering that side of the foyer, Kolvinsky could instantly smell the woman’s perfume and the faint scent of baby powder. She was sitting on the bench with her hand on her walker which stood next to the bench. Her hair was short and gray and stood three inches above her head but was patted flat in the back. She had on a green old button-down blouse with a dark blue cardigan that hung over her shoulders. Her pair of old, worn, acid-washed jeans looked like they were starched in place. He looked at her hands wrapped around the handle of the walker and saw they weren’t so much holding on for support but were permanently gripped around it due to her arthritic knuckles.

“Good morning, ma’am. What brings you in here today?”

“My neighbor has been stealing things from my apartment,” the woman said bluntly, her eyes scowling at Kolvinsky. 

“Oh, okay. What has she taken from you?”

“She’s taken some of my jewelry and my old China from on top of my cabinets.”

“What kind of jewelry was it?”

“It was an old silver chain with a cross of Christ. It was $450,” she continued. 

“I’m sorry to hear that,” said Kolvinsky. “What about the China?”

“It was on top of my cabinet and I don’t see it up there anymore.”

Kolvinsky looked at the woman and though she was sitting, he couldn’t imagine her being much taller than five foot three. “Ma’am, I don’t mean to sound rude but, are you able to see on top of your cabinets? Have you been able to check or had someone else that works at the building check?”

“No, I haven’t but I know they’re not up there. I don’t trust any of those people in there to check, they’ll probably steal more of my stuff. Place isn’t what it used to be. There’s even some blacks in there now,” said the woman. 

Kolvinsky eyed the sheet of paper in his hand with a few scribbles on it. 

“Alright. What makes you think someone got in and stole these items, ma’am? Did someone force the door or pry it open or was there a time when you let them in and noticed the items missing later?”

“No, I leave my door unlocked. I lost my key years ago.”

“Okay, so when do you think they got in?”

“She must’ve got in when I was sleeping. As I said, I leave my door unlocked. She’s a small Jewish woman. Her name is Schwartz. She’s always hated me. I haven’t seen her in a while but I know it was her.”

“What makes you think it was her?”

The woman shifted impatiently in her chair as if Kolvinsky should already know why and he’s burdening her by making her elaborate. She inhaled and sighed. “Because she’s always hated me ever since I beat her at Bingo a few years back. She got all indignant and would always walk past my door and knock before scurrying away.”

Kolvinsky stared down at the paper in his hand as he stood over the woman. The paper had the woman’s name scribbled in the top left corner along with her date of birth and address he recovered from her ID card. He had written down the missing items but not much else. He still couldn’t place where he knew the woman from but with every detail, the memory seemed to get closer and closer. 

Kolvinsky was studying Mrs. Chavez as she spoke. Obviously irritated and likely anti-semitic, he was able to imagine Mrs. Chavez’s life. Likely widowed, she lived alone in an assisted living apartment where the carpets were grayed with time and lack of care. The two windows in the apartment faced the street but the shades were always drawn with one of them slightly sagging but too tall for the woman to fix or notice. She had pictures of her family, primarily her late husband and their kids, in frames around the apartment along with a shrine to the Lady of Guadalupe and other religious figurines. Hispanics were very traditional and often very Catholic, passing on their religion to their children without fail and with much more strict adherence than did anglos. Kolvinsky hadn’t ever been in a Hispanic household, for any reason, without religious symbols scattered throughout, especially Our Lady of Guadalupe. He was also certain the woman primarily watched Mexican soaps each morning without fail except for Sundays when she watched Catholic Mass in Espanol. 

“Has she ever said anything threatening to you, Missus Chavez? Or anything that made you think she’d trespassed into your residence before?” asked Kolvinsky, more to cover his bases than to expect a real answer. Unless the old burglar admitted to the thievery or there were cameras inside to catch her in the act, it was likely to be another case quickly shut by the detectives with no true resolution. 

“Well she wouldn’t tell me she was going to steal my things now, would she? What kind of a stupid question is that,” said Mrs. Chavez with a huff. 

Kolvinsky stared blankly at the woman, maintaining his poker face so he didn’t immediately showcase his sudden displeasure in speaking to the old hag. He wanted so badly to say “Well, good luck to ya then!” and turn toward the door only to have the old woman watch as he shredded his notes on the matter and return to the street. However, he’d become accustomed to people taking out their frustrations on the police despite him simply being the reporting officer by chance, as any other officer would’ve been, and treating him as if it was his fault he hadn’t been there at some specific point in time to prevent the theft and drag the thieving old Schwartz off to the Big House. 

In his fifteen years on the job, he’d dealt with numerous people berating him and cussing him out after he’d taken a report for them. Wives beaten by their husbands, husbands clawed by their wives, “victims” of theft who’d left their cars unlocked overnight, even young kids who’d had their bikes stolen, he’d been yelled at by all of them as if he were the perpetrator. While there were many people who’d simply said “Thank you, Officer. Stay safe, Officer. Be careful out there, sir,” even though that was what any decent human being would expect, they weren’t the most memorable. Cops typically remembered the assholes, the jagoffs, the scumbags who cussed them out without provocation, and when they finally got their comeuppance, whether it be another report for a stolen bike or the “victim” had become the offender and was getting placed into cuffs, the officer would gladly take that call with a smile on their face and politely say, “Here’s your report number or court date, sir or madam. Please take care.”

“Schwartz was her name, you said?” 

“Yes, Schwartz. Miriam Schwartz. She lives on my floor,” said Mrs. Chavez. 

“Would you be willing to sign complaints against the offender, whoever they are?”

“I didn’t come all the way down here with my walker to let the thief off the hook,” said Mrs. Chavez, scowling at Kolvinsky. 

“Sounds good, ma’am. If there’s anything else I need from you, I’ll give you a call.” Kolvinsky asked for and received the woman’s phone number, a landline of course. He clicked his radio and asked for a report number which he wrote down on his sheet of paper as well as a report number card. He gave the card to the woman and held the door for her as she shuffled past him. He told her to take care and she waved him off as she shuffled away, not even turning her head. 

Kolvinsky punched in the code to the station at the secure door and made his way to the report writing room. He pulled up the report application and was just about to open a tab when something popped into his head. Something about this report felt familiar. Not only Mrs. Chavez but the silver necklace rang a bell too. He looked up Mrs. Chavez’s name to see if anyone had had calls with her before. Thirteen event numbers popped up in the results with five of them being reports. In the events, he saw that she’d primarily made noise complaints about her neighbor, presumably Mrs. Schwartz, who’d been knocking at her door before leaving before Chavez could open the door. Of the reports, she was listed as the “victim” in two burglary reports, two theft reports, and once she was listed as the “suspect” in a criminal trespass report for refusing to leave a cell phone store after telling the manager she would shoot him and blocked his car in the parking lot with her walker. 

He clicked open one of the burglary reports and read through it. It had the same premise as the report he’d just taken. Someone possibly broke in, she’d noticed items around the apartment missing, all from places she likely couldn’t see due to her height and inability to stand on a chair to check, and all listed as rather expensive religious relics. He noticed all the reports had the disposition of “Closed” or “Unfounded” made by a detective. 

Now it started to click. He’d taken one of these reports before from Mrs. Chavez, his being the first theft report in the system from six years prior. He remembered Mrs. Chavez as being slightly less rude than she had been today but he remembered her arthritic hands and hunchback. She’d been back a few times to check in on the progress of the case and he’d direct her to a detective and before long, she’d forget she’d made the report and the detective got nowhere with the case so it would be closed. Before long, as her dementia progressed and her irritable attitude soured with time, she’d make more and more reports. Most were likely brushed off by senior officers who’d had experience recognizing dementia patients but some had snuck through, either due to apathetic officers who wanted to take the report to get some time off the street or some rookie who didn’t know the signs. 

To ensure he completed his due diligence, Kolvinsky looked up Miriam Schwartz of 910 north Wilson. After looking through the results, he found what he’d suspected. He clicked the report number and the case opened up. “Death Investigation” was the title. Miriam Schwartz was found deceased of what appeared to be natural causes three years prior. She was found in her apartment, down the hall from Mrs. Chavez, of a heart attack where she appeared to be washing dishes in her kitchen when she clutched at her chest and fell to the floor, leaned up against the fridge. The downstairs neighbor called to complain there was water leaking from their ceiling and didn’t seem to be stopping and it hadn’t rained. The fire department initially responded but quickly called for police when they found Schwartz’s apartment door slightly ajar with water flowing out from it. As she had a DNR, Do Not Resuscitate, the faucet was turned off, the paramedics pronounced her Time of Death, and a funeral home was contacted. 

The report confirmed Kolvinsky’s suspicions. No one had broken into Mrs. Chavez’s apartment, with or without force, and while her items may have been missing, they were likely misplaced or forgotten, not stolen. Kolvinsky closed out the report tabs and clicked out of the old cases involving Chavez and Schwartz. He picked up the phone and gave a brief call over to the dispatcher requesting to cancel the report number and close out the call. 

Kolvinsky walked back to the front desk and saw Lisa, still manning her station as she had been the past five hours. He walked over to the shredder and dropped the single sheet of paper into the slot, listening as the sheet cut and crumpled before being deposited into the waste bin. 

Kolvinsky took a seat next to Lisa who looked at him over the tops of her reading glasses, grinning. She rotated her chair towards him and let her readers fall onto her chest as they hung from the chain around her neck. 

“Figure her out?” asked Lisa. 

“Yeah, I figured her out,” said Kolvinsky. 

“Usually I can get her out of here by writing down some nonsense number but she insisted on speaking to an officer today. You were the lucky hunk,” said Lisa, twisting back and forth. 

Kolvinsky chuckled and raised an eyebrow, doing his best Clark Gable. “Speaking of getting lucky,” he winked at Lisa. 

Lisa rolled her eyes and rotated her chair back towards the computer screen, but Kolvinsky could see the smile on her face and the color that just flooded to her cheeks. 

“How many times must I-” 

“At least once more,” said Kolvinsky, his lips pulled tightly into a smile, showing his dimples under his daily scruff. He rose from the chair and walked down the hallway to the back door near the parking lot. Lisa watched him intently and bit her lip as he walked down the hall, watching his belt shake with his hips with each step. 

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