A few months ago, I was scared out of my wits when a heavy hand thudded on the door of my apartment.  I live in an apartment block with four top-to-bottom flats, accessible only via a secured entrance from the street, so my first thought was that it was a neighbor coming to complain about something, or possibly my landlord conducting a random spot-check.  Either way, it is an unusual enough occurrence (actually, no one had ever knocked on my door before – we are not casual, drinks-party neighbors, but the type who actively avoid each other in the stairwell) that my heart immediately started jackhammering in my chest.  The second rapid-fire thought, naturally, was that it was someone announcing their intention to rob and kill me.

My third thought would probably have been of the gas meter man, had it not been 8:00 at night and a gruff, muffled voice then announced, “Police.”

I can’t think of a single good reason that police would be calling at your home.  They don’t send police to tell you you’ve won the lottery.  They don’t sell cookies.  They’re only there to question you, arrest you, or give you bad news.

Or, someone pretending to be police is there to rob and kill you, possibly after they robbed and killed whatever idiot neighbor buzzed them into the building.  In any case, one opens the door with great reluctance, sometimes hiding a kitchen knife behind one’s back.  This is embarrassing when they are, in fact, real police, and one makes them hold their badges to the peephole and stand five feet back on the landing before one will crack the door two inches to eyeball them, sweaty fingers clutching the most lethal-looking implement from the butcher’s block.

So, I opened the door fully to sort of a dream-come-true.  Why?  Well, apparently some poor, drunk bloke had been mugged and beaten down the street two nights before, and they were checking to see if anyone had heard or seen anything.  I was not under suspicion, no one I knew had been mangled in a car accident or anything, it was all very standard.  It was a dream-come-true in the sense that I had two official PCs (Police Constables) on my doorstep, and as an avid consumer of British crime novels, they were just perfect.  Both were white, early-thirties, with shaved heads, thick bodies, and wearing jeans and leather jackets with their badges strung around their necks.  They had proper East London accents, and one of them wasn’t above a cheeky grin at my flustered face, even though they were both appropriately grave and professional in general.

They even commended me on my precautions, although recommended I not stab anyone, as I unsubtly dropped my kitchen knife into the recycling bag on my right.  It was pretty much the coolest thing that had happened to me in weeks (my condolences, obviously, to the victim, who was recovering well in hospital).

Sadly, I had no helpful eyewitness testimony to offer, as the assault had occurred past my bedtime, however eager I was to be helpful.  I definitely talked too much, but didn’t have anything to say.  It was just exactly like a crime drama!  I was so excited afterward I emailed my mother right away (also a mega-fan of UK thrillers) and then realized, damn it!  The entire exchange took place at the doorway!  I should have invited them in for a cup of tea – I blew it.

They totally looked like this, without the gun.

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But that was actually the second time I’ve had the police at the door.  The first time was in Texas, and a very different situation.

Four years ago or so, I was conducting an illicit affair with a senior colleague from my office.  It sounds sexy, but actually we were in a clandestine LTR for three years and had a very comfortable, mundane relationship.  Hiding it from our co-workers was not fun or titillating, but a real drag and source of stress, especially after our boss found out and threatened to sack one of us (that would have been me).  Nonetheless, we carried on, love blah blah, and were as cautious as we could reasonably be.

The reason the boss found out about our relationship was that he lived in the apartment complex across the street from my boyfriend, and came over and knocked on his door to see if the boyfriend wanted to play golf – the first night I ever slept over, coincidentally.  And the boss, on his way out (the boyfriend having made his excuses as I cowered in the bathroom), spotted my car in the parking garage.  I mean, really.  What a bitch.

A year-and-a-half later we were still carrying on, although I’d long been hiding my car on a distant side street whenever we stayed at his.  That boyfriend (we’ll call him Craig) was a big fan of BBC radio, as an expat Brit, and had recently gotten satellite.  One Friday night, we were playing with the new toy, and found a swing station that got me all hepped up.  I used to swingdance at clubs and took lindy hop classes (way before it was cool, thankyouverymuch), so was trying to show Craig some Moves.  After several glasses of wine, it devolved into a free-for-all, with us both jumping on the sofa, flinging one another about the room, and collapsing in hysterical fits of laughter.  We were having an excellent time, until a swift and official rat-a-tat banged out on the door.

The Bossman always in the back of our minds, of course we panicked.  “Police!” came the shout.  At which we panicked some more, both of us sweeping the room with our eyes to see if there was anything incriminating in view.  This was dumb, as we had nothing but wine and cigarettes, neither of us having touched a drug in years.  But that’s what happens, even to innocent people, when the law shows up.  I wildly expected to turn around and discover a mirror on the tables covered in mounds of cocaine, or a three-foot bong in the corner – just something illegal that had escaped our notice would magically appear.

Of course, this didn’t happen, and I instead ran into the bedroom and hid under the bed, such was the il/logical strength of our fear of the Bossman.  I heard Craig open the door, to be questioned by two cops.

It transpired that a concerned neighbor had called in a report of a domestic disturbance, assumedly due to my jumpin’-jivin’-and-wailin’ and what probably sounded like me being thrashed to within an inch of my life (actually, I was doing a heavy-footed Charleston to some Louis Prima and trying to teach Craig how to jitterbug – if anyone was in peril, it was him).

What didn’t help was me timidly creeping out of the bedroom, looking terrified, before we explained it to the officers and apologized for the mix-up.  They kept us for about 15 minutes, even though I assured them I didn’t need to be questioned separately.  The female officer never took a beady eye off Craig and, afterward, he said he’d never felt guiltier.  I felt bad for him, but also thought, good for that cop.  If she sweated my kind, innocent boyfriend that hard, I hope she strikes genuine terror into the hearts of real abusers.  Still, embarrassing.  We would have sent an apologetic note of explanation if we had any idea who reported us.

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So there are my two law-at-the-door stories, which thankfully have been ultimate non-events.  Feel free to share your own, hopefully, non-events.

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