Lost any keys lately? I lost a spare set about a year ago in my home. I was sure they were under something or had fallen behind something. I was equally convinced they’d turn up during some deep cleaning of my dresser or coat closet.
In truth, the thought of those lost keys did tug at me. They were important keys, after all: one to my house, a “fob” to the office, an expensive car key and a cheap little key to my mailbox. But there was some peace in knowing they were lying in wait in my house somewhere.
Well, the keys finally did turn up, and I have the South Salt Lake Police to thank for it.
The police were the ones to call me shortly after midnight on a recent July night and ask if I still owned a Ford Mustang. (I should add that they called me on the landline registered to the man I live with. I only answered the phone at that hour because he was asleep and I feared it might be an emergency call for him.)
The police asking for me on my boyfriend’s phone was enough of a shock. But asking about my car, the one I’d seen in my driveway just hours earlier, seemed preposterous. Yet, would I check my driveway anyway?
So, I did. And sure enough—there was a big dark vacant space where my car should have been.
I haven’t had too many arguments with reality lately, but if there were a comic strip about my life that night, the voice bubbles would have included “Wha …?” followed by “What the …,” followed by “No way!” followed by “You gotta be effing kidding me!” (Liberally lace expletives wherever you like.)
I went back to the phone and confessed that my car was indeed missing, indeed stolen. How did they steal it? I asked. Break a window and hot-wire it?
Thus began a series of calls where the police would go and question the car thief and then call me back with additional questions. Meanwhile, they told me to report the crime to my local police department so South Salt Lake could arrest the driver.
“The woman driving the car claims you gave her the car,” the police said on a subsequent call. “She has the key.” They then perfectly described the key chain I lost a year ago.
“I did lose some keys,” I told them sheepishly, fearing I somehow had done something to allow this to happen. “But I lost them in my house. How could she have them? Who is she?”
They gave me a name I didn’t recognize. “I don’t know her, never heard of her,” I said. A couple of phone calls later, the truth began to trickle out.
After police arrested her, they searched her purse and found her ID. It was a different name but still one I didn’t recognize.
Finally, she began telling police something that made sense. About a year ago, after answering my boyfriend’s help-wanted ad on Craigslist, she had been hired to do some cleaning and yard work at my boyfriend’s apartment rentals. She had been working next door and likely came to our house to get some cleaning supplies. While inside our house, she noticed my spare keys and pocketed them.
They became her “ticket outta here.” She bided her time, waiting a year before making her move. She apparently needed a little “courage” to pull it off, as the cops found meth in her purse. After taking my car, she met a friend at a tire shop in South Salt Lake, ostensibly to see if the car was roadworthy for a trip she planned to St. George.
They were just about to go inside the tire shop when an observant South Salt Lake policeman noticed car lights in a deserted parking lot behind a tire shop. He drove around back to see what was going on. The person she was meeting drove off in a hurry on his motorcycle.
She was busted, plain and simple, for theft and drug possession. And I got my car back, seemingly unscathed, at 4 in the morning. She’s now in county jail awaiting trial. Who knows what will happen next.
I do know what happened to my boyfriend when I woke him up with the news. It was something along the lines of a deafening shout: “How could you let a stranger into our house!?”
“She seemed nice,” he said, amid much groveling. “I never would have thought her capable of this.”
Coincidentally, the day after almost losing my car, John Gardner, the media manager for Miller Sports Park, called the office to tell us about various high-performance Mustang driving schools going on at the track. In the course of the conversation, I eventually confided in John that I drive a Mustang (it’s sort of a midlife-crisis car for me, and I sometimes feel self-conscious about it). I also told him how I nearly just lost my car.
After hearing the tale, he urged me to name my car. “Lots of people who like cars name them,” he said. “Call it ‘Lucky.’”
I think I will. And to the person whose Ford car keys were also on my recovered keychain, and to those whose house keys were on my recovered keychain, I would say you are lucky, too. She might have come for you next.