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Nancy Drew and the Case of the Cabin Snoop

When my family leaves the city and heads to the cabin, we relax on a number of levels. The closer we get to our destination, the more the white knuckles relax on the steering wheel. Work seems worlds away and so our conversations tend to center on the beauty of the passing landscape, what we should grill for dinner and who will be first up to ski behind the boat. Once we arrive, my chore list is set aside as we all head down to the lake. Our Suburban is left, to be unloaded later – and most likely the keys are in the ignition. We’re in the country now. Everyone knows everyone. Neighbors come and go, borrowing a cup of sugar one day and dropping in for coffee the next. No one locks the doors and until one unfortunate weekend last summer, neither did we. At our cabin, we left the chainsaw and wood splitter by the woodpile. Leaning up against the house was the ladder that we use for watering the window boxes on the second floor. My husband’s much-loved, mostly rusted pickup truck sat out front with the keys in the ignition. Parked alongside her were the trailer and Bobcat. Living worry free and relaxed is just a way of life for us at the cabin. However, as the police would later point out, what was carefree for us was free cash for “them.” A series of events led the police to eventually apprehend some unwelcome visitors to our cabin. And that has changed the way we live. It began on a Friday when my neighbor asked the man lurking around her cabin why he didn’t just ring the doorbell if he was “interested in buying a cabin in the area.” She also told him that, no, she would not provide him with the names and phone numbers of her neighbors in case they might be interested in selling. That same weekend I received a call from a woman claiming to work for the alarm monitoring company that we used at the cabin. She said they were updating their records. I told her I’d call her back later, when I had more time. She offered me a phone number at which she could be reached. I told her I’d just call the number on my bill. She suggested that I use the number she was providing, which I thought was odd. I never did call her back. Sunday night, back home in the city, we slept right through a call from the alarm monitoring company. When I played back the message on the answering machine Monday morning, I learned that they had responded to an intrusion at the front door to the cabin, and that the police had been dispatched there. I immediately called the alarm company and then the police. The police reported that when the officers arrived at our property, everything looked okay. The cabin doors were secure and there were no signs of forced entry. However, I still felt a bit uneasy so I called one of our full-time neighbors at the lake and asked if she could ask her husband to take another look around on his way home from work. It was during this call that she told me about a stranger lurking around the public access launch, which is right across from our cabin. Sunday night they had spotted this guy in a silver pickup truck looking at our place through binoculars. They thought it was strange and she said she regretted not writing down the license plate number. Hmmmm. My mind got to spinning. In the last few days there had been too many strange events, and I thought the police might be interested. So I got on the phone. Of course, there was a little piece of me wondering if the police in our cabin community would think I was a paranoid city woman or even someone attempting to live out my childhood dream of becoming Nancy Drew. But the officer I spoke with took me very seriously and said he would go recheck our property. To this day, I thank my lucky stars that I called him. If not for my Nancy Drew instincts, he would not have spotted the silver pickup truck on our road, run the plates, checked the occupants’ alibi and apprehended the two career criminals. After questioning the suspects, the officer called me back with a little story and some very good advice. Supposedly, the two men in the pickup were casing our house and most likely a number of other places on our side of the lake. On this particular day they were planning on driving our Bobcat onto our trailer, hooking up our trailer to our pickup truck and simply driving off. They intended to sell our equipment for quick cash. Perhaps they would have returned and used our ladder to enter the upstairs. Or maybe they would have just sold the ladder, chainsaw and wood splitter too. Who knows? As the police officer said, “you can’t predict how the mind of a criminal works.” And so, the lesson here is simple. When it comes to security, be just a little less relaxed at the cabin. Yes, I am suggesting that as a cabin owner, you sit up and take note. An alarm is not enough to keep you and your cabin safe. Be aware of your surroundings. Are there people lurking about who don’t belong or who are acting suspicious? Are you leaving items outside on your property that could be easily stolen? Are you providing ladder access or, worse, transportation for a potential intruder? At the end of summer, I (the Nancy Drew wanna-be) and my husband (who I shall affectionately refer to as one of the Hardy Boys) took a walk around our cabin. We decided that not only would it look a little less cluttered but also it would just be safer if we put everything away. Of course, this is good news for my husband because as I write this, he’s getting bids for his brand new pole barn. l Deb Mallin has since hung up her detective hat and returned to her true cabin passions: cooking and entertaining.

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