I visited the house again today with a friend, expecting to give a tour and measure rooms. What I got instead was a stark reminder about what it means to rehabilitate a property in Detroit. After a meal at the pub, we arrived shortly before dusk.
I knew something was wrong when I saw the broken carving. The day before, it was injured but respectably resting on the stairs. Today, it was in several pieces on the ground. A few paces away, I saw it: broken glass, and a door ajar. Someone ripped the screen from the outer door, punch a hole in the door glass, and knocked away the plank that had kept it wedged shut.
Somewhere in the house, there was a faint thud. Was it our imagination?
We moved more cautiously around the first floor, my left hand in my coat pocket fingering an open knife. It would be cold comfort if we found someone inside. I moved back to the main entrance and made sure it was open to allow a hasty retreat. We moved countertops and furniture into position to barricade the damaged door from further attacks. It would take a battering ram to get thru it now.
We heard another thud.
We moved upstairs, then to the attic. At every turn, evidence of a search. Pictures missing from a wall, cabinets opened, objects knocked over, and bags emptied. Dusk arrived as we made our way downstairs, then to the basement. Flashlights lead the way as we carefully avoided ambush around each corner. Finally, the coast was clear, and it was also clear what had happened. One of the basement windows was missing, it’s frame and security bars wrenched free and set carefully to one side. Our visitor had heard us arrive and beat a quick retreat out the slender window.
We moved more furniture and planks into position to barricade this second breach. Satisfied at our work, we moved outside to the grounds and checked the garage. In a futile gesture, I made sure the door was latched as I left. At least I’ll have a signal if it’s opened again.
We retreated to the Woodbridge Pub for another round, ideas of room measurements forgotten after a tiring hour of building new barriers. Once home, I begin assembling notes and supplies. My ideas of this being a slow and thoughtful process are discarded as I fill a bucket with screws, chain, and chicken wire. Battle plans are readied as power tool batteries begin charging.