Angel Watch - Goosebumps, Signs, Dreams and Other Divine Nudges
By Catherine Lanigan
In mid-January 2000, my husband Jim had the opportunity to go to a Rockets basketball game with a friend. Because Jim never does anything like this, we all looked upon the evening as a novelty. With him gone for the evening, I planned a quiet night of watching and studying my DVD movies, maybe giving myself a facial and just spending time petting our golden retrievers, Beau and Bebe and playing with their eight puppies. It was my kind of quiet night alone with my dogs.
Our kitchen and family room is all one room. It's surrounded by glass on two sides, one south-facing wall being four French doors that all open onto a tiny patio and garden. I like to think of it as "New Orleansesque," rather than the minuscule plot of land that it is. The south side of the patio is guarded by an eight-foot-high, black, wrought-iron fence and gate, the design with the arrows pointing heavenward. The east wall is a nine-foot slab of gray concrete, and the house itself borders it on the west and north.
I say all this to give an exact description of the surroundings, which make my unbelievable story even more bizarre.
At approximately 7:45, the French doors began shaking wildly under the impact of someone banging on them. "Help me! Let me in! Help me!" a woman screamed at the top of her lungs.
My dogs never bark unless there is danger. They sensed it in aces. Beau, the 125-pound male, began barking that sounded like the hounds of heaven roaring down from the sky. Bebe joined in, her bark shrill and maddening more than frightening. Once the eight puppies in their nursery in the garage heard their mother, they all began barking. The cacophony was enough to frighten the devil himself.
The woman outside my French doors was undeterred.
"They're going to kill me!" she yelled, banging even more loudly on the doors.
I bolted from the sofa and shot to the door, but didn't open it. "Who is going to kill you?"
She was hysterical. "Two men. Two men kidnapped me and they're going to kill me. You have to save me."
The woman was in her early thirties, pretty and tiny as a bird. She looked Hispanic, but her English was impeccable. She was dressed in a nice blouse, skirt, jacket and heels. Her long dark hair framed a beautiful face with perfectly applied subtle makeup.
"Get down!" I shouted through the glass. "Stay in the shadows."
"Please, for God's sake, let me in. Save me!"
The dogs were still barking and making a racket. I couldn't think. I was terrified. My postage stamp-shed backyard was not lit. The interior of the house looked like I had a party going on. Instantly, I doused the lights. "Stay low," I begged her.
She was crying and trembling as she crouched in the shadow. "Please, let me in."
I was a mass of confusion. My rational, well-experienced mind told me I was being set up. Her accomplice was no doubt on the other side of my fence, lurking in the dark to spring around the corner and dash into the house once I unlocked the doors.
Visions of myself at gunpoint, the dogs being gunned down in a spray of bullets and blood everywhere terrified me.
Yet my heart told me this was a woman in trouble. She was terror-stricken. Tears streamed down her face. She could hardly breathe.
But in those shadows awaited death for all of us, I believed.
From inside or outside myself, I will never really know, I heard my conscience or my guardian angel say, "But what if I am her only chance? What if it's up to me to save her life?"
I said a prayer, "Please, God. Let me be right. Let us save this woman."
Without another thought in my head, I unlocked the door, eased it open only a crack and reached my hand through. "Give me your hand."
She reached for me. I was struck at how soft and smooth her skin was and the fear I felt flowing beneath it.
Quickly, I yanked her into the house and locked the door.
"Stay down ... on the floor," I said, envisioning the bullets smashing the glass and killing us all.
At this instant, I discovered something else about myself I had never known.
I placed my body in front of Beau and Bebe so they would be protected from the bullets. I never realized how little value I place on my own life. When I believed that any second we were going to die, my soul sought to save my dogs and this stranger rather than save itself.
I haven't a clue what this means. I don't think it was courage, exactly, only that I must feel more a part of heaven than this earth. The stuff of heaven must mean more to me than anything here. Or maybe it means I love my dogs more than I want to stay on earth. I don't know. Who answers questions like that? Metaphysicians? Psychologists?
At that point, I did quiet the dogs down. Once Bebe quit barking, the puppies calmed down as well.
The woman's panic increased. "I have to call my husband. They are going to my house to kill my children."
My God, I thought, what is this woman's story and how could a sweet thing like her get mixed up in something so awful? Is she a drug dealer?
"I'll call 911," I said.
"No, the man outside. He called 911."
"What man?" I looked down my front hall to the leaded glass door. I saw my neighbor Chuck sitting in his car outside his house with his lights on.
"That man." She pointed to Chuck.
"Stay down!" I said, crawling nearly on my belly, still expecting the spray of bullets to come flying at any second.
I got to the front door, crouched and opened it a crack. I stuck my head out. "Chuck!"
He got out of his car, but kept watching the gate to our gated community. "Catherine, stay down and stay inside. Where is she? Have you seen her?"
"She's in here with me."
"She's in your house?"
"Yes! Did you call 911?"
"Yes," Chuck replied. "They're on their way. Just stay inside and stay safe."
Chuck was a criminal attorney, so I figured he would know what to do in this situation if anyone would.
What I didn't know was that Chuck was staying in his car for two reasons. One was he wanted to watch the gates for the cops and for any sign of the kidnappers and would-be murderers. Number two was that his wife, Pam, was supposedly following him home from their club where they'd been. He was terrified that Pam could come driving through the gate and the kidnappers would grab Pam just as easily as they'd taken this woman hostage.
I closed the door and turned to the woman. "How did you get here?"
"Those men, they were going to rape me. They said they would kill me."
"Where were you? How did you get here?"
"In the empty apartments over there." She pointed to the west.
"That's crazy, there are no apartments anywhere near here."
"Yes," she cried through huge racking sobs, "the ones right there!"
Her story sounded fishy. We live in an area where there just are not any apartments around. Now I was more terrified than ever. She surely had an accomplice who just hadn't figured out how to break into my house yet.
I feared I'd made the wrong decision letting her in.
"They were going to rape me."
"Who are they?" I asked.
"Two men. They had ski masks. They came into my work. I work at a check cashing place. I'm the manager. They know I know the combination to the vault. They followed me home from work tonight. They jumped me when I got out of my car at home. They said they were taking me back to my work and that I had to give them the combination to the vault. I said no. They took me to the empty apartments. The one, he bent me over and pulled up my skirt. He said they would rape me and kill me. The other one stuck the gun in my head."
She was sobbing so hard I could barely understand her.
"But how did you get away from him?"
"I shoved the one with the gun and I kicked the other in the balls. I ran out of the apartment. Then I ran to the corner and then I saw that man out there in his car, the one who called the police. I saw him driving by. I ran after his car and when he opened the gate, I ran into his garage behind his car. I banged on the car windows, but he wouldn't let me in. He backed his car out of the garage. I ran over here to your house. I climbed your fence and banged your windows. You are an angel-you let me in."
I was stunned. Chills racked my body. "You climbed my fence?" I was thinking that I was five foot ten inches tall. This woman was not even five foot. Yet she scaled that fence that I couldn't possibly climb. I was shocked.
"Yes." She sank to her knees in the small alcove by our front door.
"I'm not an angel," I said.