INTRUDER

Pat O’Malley
12 min readOct 1, 2022

I guess it started with my neighbors. Young junkie couple, always screaming and throwing things at each other. I never said much to them in passing. What did get my attention was their habit of never fully closing the door to their apartment whenever they’d leave.

More often than not, I’d come home to that thin sliver of darkness where the entrance next door wouldn’t fully close, staring at me. It felt like the small opening was daring me to see what was inside. All of that yelling I’d overhead, was my neighbor’s co-op as wretched as I envisioned it?

I can’t explain it, I don’t think any rational mind could. All I know is that one fateful day while my neighbors were out, I let my morbid curiosity get the better of me. I tuned out the thought of consequences, pushed my neighbor’s slightly ajar door all the way open, and stepped into their empty home.

My heart was racing. I knew I was committing a serious crime. Any second now I expected my neighbors to come walking back in and I’d be dead meat.

Worst of all, the inside of their apartment was a total letdown. No art or any pictures on the wall, not even a sleazy pinup. The only thing to catch my eye was a ceramic Ying/yang ashtray overflowing with cigarette butts that lay on the granite coffee table by the small flat-screen television.

Trashy, but hardly the crack den I had imagined.

For the next few minutes, I tip-toed quietly around the apartment like a ghost. The kitchen was full of crumbs on the tiles and a sink piled with dirty dishes. The bedroom was easily the messiest, with wrinkled clothes tossed everywhere with a bed that looked like the sheets hadn’t been changed in years.

Content, I peeked out through the window blinds to see if anyone was nearby. With the coast clear, I carefully slinked out of the apartment. Before returning to my own home, I made sure to leave their door slightly open just the way I found it.

My neighbors never said anything to me.

They probably had bigger things on their mind. Not too long after my break-in, the couple ended up getting evicted. The object of my curiosity was gone but the thrill brought on by the suspense of my intrusion stayed with me. All I could think about was how alive I’d felt sneaking around in someone’s private property and getting away with it too.

I suppose that was when things started getting out of hand.

You’ve got to understand. I had zero intention of ever hurting or stealing from anyone. It was like how shoplifters get off to the thrill of not getting caught stealing.

I’ll spare you the lengthy details and cut to the chase. After some lock-pick training here, preparation there, and blah blah blah, I snuck into four more houses since my first time and still haven’t been caught.

The hardest part is scoping out exactly which home to invade.

It takes at least a week of scoping before I decide which house is the lucky one. By then I can tell whether or not the owner has a dog. One of my rules is absolutely no dogs, can’t have those damn things barking or ripping me to shreds.

In my opinion, the best time to break into homes is the middle of the day. Most people are at work and unlikely to suspect that their wonderful middle-class home in their nice quiet suburb would ever be the target of some weirdo like me. Even better, the homes I’ve hit are stingy on surveillance cameras. Why bother spending all that taxpayer dough when you’re living in a town where the biggest crime is teenagers stealing their parents’ Xanax?

You’d think learning which neighborhoods had surveillance cameras installed would be a challenge, right? All I had to do was Google each of the neighborhoods that I spied on to see which properties had cameras installed. Turns out, homeowners that do have cameras have to have them registered with the county.

Three more times I’ve crossed the line and toured alone through strangers’ homes. Three more times and I still haven’t once come close to being caught. With good reason too, I wasn’t sloppy, I always wore gloves. I never left any trace that’d lead to suspicion or reports of any mysterious break-ins on the news.

Look, I’m not delusional, I’m perfectly aware that what I’m doing isn’t right. Right before I pick the lock of each of the past three homes I tell myself that this is the last one. Better to stop while I’m ahead. I can only be lucky for so long before the homeowner comes back and I can’t escape or the police stop being incompetent.

The promise never lasts, and what of it? It’s a victimless crime. Is it my fault people aren’t carefully locking their doors? As I said, it’s almost suspiciously easy to duck in and out undetected. No body, no crime.

Sometimes I think maybe I want to be caught. Maybe subconsciously I want someone to catch me, frozen in the ray of their flashlight. I’d stutter out some pathetic excuse before attempting to flee and falling on my face. Then I’d finally have someone tell me that what I’m doing is wrong and that I need to stop right now.

Of course, that’ll never happen. I’m too good for them to catch. I’m an artist.

Each time I walk around, opening and closing drawers, and seeing what they have in the medicine cabinet, my chest feels like a beehive. There’s a swarm of insects buzzing around stinging and biting my insides. It’s not quite anxiety, not quite euphoria but it gets me to where I need to be.

I’ve got a lot of problems.

That brings me to what happened at house number five. I’d spent the past week spying on this place as per my usual routine. Small two-story canary-yellow home sitting on the curve of a cul-de-sac.

From what I’d gathered, the owner’s a young guy, with glasses and some padding in his frame. No way he’s older than thirty. He heads out to work every weekday morning and comes back in the evening. No dogs no security that I can see not even from the older couple living next door.

He was perfect.

On the big day, I donned my best Uni-Bomber cosplay; dark sweats, sneakers, sunglasses, and of course gloves. I parked my car a few blocks from my target and tried to keep as low a profile as possible, a process that always feels awkward as hell. Don’t mind me, the sketchy cliché slinking by on his way to invade someone’s home. That day, I don’t think I saw a single car drive past me by the time I reached my target’s backyard.

The back doors were locked. Hardly a surprise but it became annoying once my picks kept snapping each time I tried to pick the lock. Seemed like this guy must have cared about his home. That’s fine, he zigs I zag.

Fortunately, during my scouting, I’d taken note of a small window on the back of his house.

A little prying here and I lifted the window, hoisted my body into the small square, and pushed myself inwards until I stumbled into the bathroom, knocking all kinds of toiletry crap over. I cursed under my breath and did my best to put the toothbrush and deodorant back where I had found them.

I remember thinking, “At least he keeps a clean bathroom.”

Pulling myself together, I opened the bathroom door and stepped into another stranger’s hallway. I did it; number five. I took a deep breath and felt the waves of dopamine hit me.

The first decor I noticed was an older model TV, the kind with a fat back sitting in the living room. Nearby on the coffee table was a board game, apparently midway through, pieces and cards scattered about. That was weird, I hadn’t seen him invite any friends or guests over while I’d been spying on him.

I rolled the two die on the board. Four and three, I randomly chose the green game piece and moved it forward seven places. Normally I’d put the piece back but for some reason, I thought: “Screw it, let him think his house is haunted.

The kitchen looked clean enough except for the opened cereal and pop-tart boxes on the counter. Back in the hallway, I inspected the few closets I came across. Lots of closet space hardly anything inside except for a handful of old coats hanging up.

I knew I needed to hurry this along, I’d already been inside this guy’s house for over ten minutes. The bedroom was the only room left to see, then I’d make my triumphant exit. I crept towards the bedroom when the horrible clicking sound of the front door unlocking stabbed my ears.

What?! Someone’s at the door? Was the guy home early?

This was bad. Really bad. Was it finally happening? Was this the moment when I was finally busted?

No time to think, I needed to hide fast. I knew there’d be no way I could squeeze out the bathroom window in time. Panicking, I darted through the bedroom door in front of me.

Crouching in a stranger’s room, I heard the front door open followed by footsteps. My dark clothes suddenly feel much too hot. My body began sweating as my heart hammered away. I knew I needed to find a better hiding spot than this.

Desperately, my eyes shifted to the first hiding spot that came to mind, the space under the bed. I looked at the darkness beneath the mattress and the eyes under the bed stared back at me.

It was a girl, huddled under the bed in front of me was a young girl, no more than a teenager. She was wearing pale pajamas and her dirty blonde hair was a mess. Her wrists and ankles were tied and there was duct tape across her mouth.

We both stared at the other in disbelief. What the hell was going on? Who was she?!

Finally, she broke the silence with a loud, pleading scream muffled by the tape over her mouth. Snapping out of my confusion, I remembered I was trying to hide. Awkwardly, I answered her with a finger to my lips.

Shhhh, for the love of God be quiet!” I thought at her.

Too late, the bedroom door opened.

The door nearly hit my face as flattened my body against the wall and watched the homeowner walk in. With his back to me, he took out the jingling keys from his pocket and tossed them on a dresser.

A whole week, all the time and effort I spent monitoring this guy. Seems like I missed the part where he keeps a young girl tied up in his bedroom. You think you know someone.

Before I knew what I was doing I charged at him. Blame it on my poor impulse control. Shoulder first, I rammed the front of his body into the dresser. Hard. I remember the loud “OOF!” sound as the wind knocked out of him.

He spun around. Before he could register what was happening, I punched him in the nose as hard as I could. Even with gloves on, I felt one of my fingers break as it made contact.

F**k, that hurt. I hadn’t punched anyone since I was twelve.

Rage-filled eyes tearing up from my love tap, he lunged at me and locked a tight grip around my neck. Pushing me forward he slammed me back into my hiding spot against the wall. When I woke up this morning this was not how I expected today to go at all. His fingers dug sharp pain into my throat as the world started going grey. He lost his grip when I introduced my knee to his groin.

Underneath the bed, the girl watched as I pounced on him and we both fell to the ground. Above him I kept wailing on his face, knocking his cracked glasses off. The pain from my broken finger throbbed with each blow but that was fine by me. Snarling, the little b***d raked his nails across my face.

I hardly recognized the sound of my voice as I yelled in pain. I responded by grabbing the sides of his head with both hands and pounding his skull into the carpet again and again like he was a magic 8 ball which gave me the wrong answer. After a couple more slams I realized that his arms had stopped moving.

His eyes were mostly closed, a disoriented expression on his face. Oh Christ, had I killed him? I don’t need to tell you the enormous sense of relief I felt when I heard a hiss of air escape his lips and saw his chest slowly rise.

With that out of the way, I recognized my chance to escape. I turned to sprint out the door when I remembered the girl. Crap, now I was faced with yet another dilemma.

She’d seen me, a home invader who stumbled upon her captivity. I wasn’t supposed to be here anymore than she was. At the same time, was I going to leave her tied up at the mercy of Mr. Homeowner when he came to? Exactly what kind of monster am I?

With adrenaline still coursing through my veins, I rushed towards the bed, grabbed her arm, and pulled the girl out from under. Grabbing the keys on the dresser I frantically began to saw through the duct tape around her wrists until they severed.

I could hear the homeowner begin to groan. The girl whimpered as she scrambled to peel the tape off her mouth while I continued on her ankles. Finally, the tape snapped from the jagged edge of the keys and she was free.

“Run!” I barked at her.

Half the tape still on her face, the girl bolted barefoot from the room like a frightened rabbit. She ran out the front door, I ran out the back. I didn’t take another look at the psycho on the floor struggling to regain consciousness.

I ran from the house, not caring if anyone saw me. I ran past my car and didn’t stop until my lungs were on fire. Any good, euphoric feeling that I’d had while inside was long gone.

Eventually, I made it home and locked my door. The next day, I saw a news report about the discovery of a missing teen girl.

I listened and learned the story of how one terrible night the girl’s home had been invaded by a disturbed young man. He gunned down both of her parents with a shotgun and proceeded to take the thirteen-year-old prisoner. After nearly two months of imprisonment, the girl had found the strength to free herself from the binds her captor kept her in while he was out.

A nearby woman walking her dog called the police after the girl ran towards her and told her story once she’d calmed down. Squad cars rolled up to the canary-yellow home on the cul-de-sac where they arrested the kidnapper. The picture of the suspect shown in the report was missing the snarl and rage that I had seen but it was my guy. There was no mention of any pre-existing injuries he had on him while he was arrested.

The report wrapped up with a mention of how the girl was traumatized but safe and recovering with relatives.

So there it is. By pure dumb luck, not only did I manage to once again avoid getting caught trespassing but I also stumbled upon saving a kidnapped girl. Guess, I’m a hero now. All’s well that ends well and all that I guess.

Who am I kidding? This sucks. Ever since that day I’ve been spiraling in anxiety and all the unanswered questions. The news reports say she freed herself and don’t mention anything about suspicious people dashing away from the house. Still, could the cops be just keeping that a secret from the public?

That girl looked right at me. Has she said anything? Why wouldn’t she want to ask about me? Wouldn’t she want to speak about the random guardian angel who rescued her? Or does she somehow recognize me for what I am and latched on to whatever escape option she could take? Is her silence her way of thanking me?

So I saved the girl and my reward is enough anxiety to get me to drop my hobby like the bad habit it is. How’s that for justice? As for Mr. Homeowner, somehow I doubt bargaining a story of being assaulted by some mystery prowler will help his case.

The bottom line; at least one person out there knows about me. Even if she may not fully understand what I do it’s too slippery of a slope to gamble on. I don’t think that girl will ever forget my face and if one day she ever decides to say anything…

Oh, how I’ll miss the feeling of creeping into unsuspecting homes and fiddling with their possessions. I’ll dream of my days as a prowler, slithering in empty homes building my secret. Those days are over, I’ll have to get my dopamine fix elsewhere. I mean, it’s probably for the best right? It was only ever a matter of time before there would be no more lucky breaks.

It’s over. I’m never doing it again. I know I’ve said it before but this time I mean it.

Maybe.

You know, I had my doubts but it feels pretty good to finally be able to talk to someone about this. The anxiety that’s been eating away at me since that day feels like it’s been lifted, if ever so slightly. It’s like I can finally exhale.

Anyway, you’re my lawyer. Hypothetically speaking, say I were to ever fall off the wagon and get busted. How does my case look?

THE END

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