It’s past two in the morning and Bailey is barking his head off downstairs.
So I’m told by Kim, who shoves my shoulder to wake me. Otherwise I never would have heard the dog, having learned to sleep through anything during all those years at the intersection of Drunken Shouting Way and Car Alarm Alley in Greenwich Village.
I shake my head to clear it. Sure enough, the mutt is making a frantic racket, a solitary suburban sound that’s truly chilling.
“Someone’s in the house!” Kim says.
“Aww, I doubt that.”
“Charlie, you have to go down and check it out!”
I grab my stepson’s cricket bat, which we keep by the bed for emergencies like this.
A baseball bat would feel much more appropriate, and it occurs to me that if I go downstairs and get killed by an intruder, I’ll be greeted at the Pearly Gates by St. Peter with the words:
“Hey, what’s a New York guy like you doing with a friggin’ cricket bat?”
Kim is getting impatient.
“Charlie, hurry up!”
“I’m putting my pants on. That’s important to you, isn’t it?”
She knows what I mean. A few years ago we were asleep in our New York apartment when suddenly a lunatic began bashing on the door at two a.m. - a drunken, drugged-out neighbor who’d miscounted the floors as he climbed the stairs, and thought we were in his place!
I jumped from bed stark naked and braced my hands against the door to keep him out. Kim called 911, then ran to my side - not to help me, but to dress me.
“Come on, get your knickers on!” she urged, holding my underwear open for me to step into.
If the worst happened she wanted the New York Post headline to read WRITER SLAIN, not NAKED WRITER SLAIN. That’s class.
And after the cops arrived and cuffed the guy Kim offered them tea and biscuits - certainly the first time New York’s Finest had ever been served by a blonde Brit wearing little more than rings, an over-sized t-shirt and toenail polish.
But this is a whole other scenario. I don’t even know if London has a “Make My Day” policy. For all I know I could get in trouble for wounding an intruder, on the grounds of First-degree Impoliteness.
I creep down the stairs and flick on the light in the kitchen, where Bailey is not only barking but running in circles. He charges past me to the front door, slamming his substantial weight against it.
Gripping the cricket bat, I look through the door’s little window and see something that makes my stomach drop - a pair of glowing yellow eyes, peering right at me.
Jesus. This is a creature straight from the pages of Stephen King. He bares his needle-like teeth, and then my eyes adjust to the moonlight and I can make out what he is.
A fox. They’re all over this neighborhood, and they’re nocturnal. This one was probably eating out of our garbage can.
I tap the cricket bat against the door, and the fox takes off. Then I turn to Bailey, who’s switched from barking to gasping.
“Good boy,” I tell him, stroking his head. “Don’t have a heart attack, the after-midnight veterinarian rates are a killer.”
I calm him down and put him to bed. Then I go back upstairs.
“What was it?” Kim asks.
“A burglar.” I slap the bat. “Got him right in the head, two good shots.”
“It was a fox. He ran away. Are you going to make me a cup of tea? Isn’t that standard procedure in these situations?”
“Come to bed, Charlie.”
As soon as I settle in, Bailey starts barking again. Kim wants me to go and calm him down. Instead, I start humming a song and point at the digital clock, which reads 2:45 a.m.
“What song is that?” Kim wants to know.
I was hoping she’d ask. Just the excuse I need to start singing.
“It’s quarter to three....there’s no one in the place, except you and me...”
Next time: TO BE HONEST WITH YOU...