The creaking - of a door, an arthritic joint, a tired mind. Little audible signs and signals. All isn't well. Rust gathers. Oil diminishes. Hinges scrape. Thieves abhor doors that creak. Throws plans into disarray. Home-owners, converserly, sleep safer.
A creak in the night is as good as a security alarm costing thousands. Provided one is not a sound sleeper. Sound needs to be heard. Snoring stentorously over the creaking is no help. Thieves love snoring. The snoring of others, that is, not their own. It reasurres, helps re-gather their panic-strewn plans nearly wrecked by the creaky door.
Measured snoring is high on the burglar's 'Much Appreciated' list. It provides an underbeat to the pace of the burglary. Carefully planted footsteps around the room can be placed to the rhythm of the snorer. The swiftness of a 'takeaway' could be summed up in snore scores. Fifty snores at the rate of one every four seconds leaves a little over three minutes to clear out a particular room of valuables. Fifteen minutes - or a little over 200 snores later - it's possible, at that pace, to rifle through three bedrooms and a sitting room.
Top on the list though - the most preferred scenario for Mr Robber - is 'no creaking door, heavy snorer, deep sleeper, creaking mind.' With those boxes ticked off, Mr Thief isn't really interested if the victim being burgled is arthritic of joint or not. Although it would help if he were.
Creaking limbs are no match for the fleet footedness of heels fuelled by panic. Especially creaky joints propelling themselves painfully through a fog of broken sleep, running first east then west then everywhere but the right direction while the brain clears and delivers the harsh truth in red letters.
Casing the joint is what professional burglars do, noting meticulously for weeks their quarry, his movements, his habits, his peculiarities. Even if the quarry is a wealthy retiree.
Mr X is studied as though he were a germ under a microscope. Everything about him, eventually, is collated. Especially his 'lights out' hour - 10.30 pm. On the dot. Mr X has a creaking door. Tick the box. Mr X is a vigorous snorer. Tick. It is reliably believed Mr X's mind is slowing - twice he's left his wallet behind on a bank teller's counter. Half tick. Mr X now perambulates sectors of his area with the aid of a walking stick. Double tick. And so to the big night of the big heist. Midnight. Moonless.
Skilful keywork springs the front lock in seconds. The door squeaks like a thousand starving mice. But the snoring upstairs overcomes everything. One burglar, working solo. But working professionally. Van parked outside. Sitting room cleared in no time. Now for the three bedrooms upstairs. Mercifully, stairs that do not creak!
Time is of the essence. Confidence - now that the sitting room has been done without a hitch - is growing. Adrenaline flows in a rush. Skip lightly but purposefully up the stairs, two at a time, momentum carrying Mr Burglar forward, upward. Skip, skip, skip&..trip! Pitch face forward. All balance gone. Whack! Thud! Out cold.
The snoring stops abruptly. A bedside light goes on. A man on the floor. Head aligned with the edge of the dresser. Mr X checks the tripwire on the top stair. It is still in place. The police arrive. The paramedics arrive. The paramedics take away Mr Burglar. The police take away Mr X. He will be questioned and charged. Mr Burglar will later be interrogated. Mr X, too, will emerge, but now with a crime sheet against his name. Who was it that invented 'Safe as houses'?
Kevin Martin is a journalist based in Sydney, Australia