Yes, investigate we surely must

Dan Rodricks

November 29, 1991|By Dan Rodricks

I have been trying to figure out this story about the intruder who got into an apartment in Parkville the other night, took nothing and did nothing except rearrange the long-stemmed wine glasses in a dining room hutch. They're calling him the Lone Rearranger.

Very bizarre, indeed. But then again, this is Baltimore, Oz on the Chesapeake, the place where police once arrested a guy with 21 pigeons stuffed down his pants.

No matter that strange things are common in our history -- Spiro Agnew; the melting Bicentennial birthday cake; the plane crash in Memorial Stadium; the boa constrictor that got loose inside an MTA bus; the televised mayoral debate in which Monroe Cornish declared everything William Donald Schaefer said "a bunch of junk;" the fat burglar who got stuck in a chimney on Light Street -- and no matter how tiresome it all gets, we must investigate further. In fact, we are driven to it.

Theories abound on the Lone Rearranger. Here, in no particular order, are just a few of the ones being discussed by serious criminologists.

1. A burglar got scared. The story we're getting is that the intruder forced open the front door of the Parkville apartment while the two women who lived there slept. He was extremely quiet. He took nothing. The only thing he did was move four long-stemmed wine glasses in a Spanish-style hutch so that they stood in a neat row. Now, ask yourself: Isn't it possible he had to move the wine glasses to reach something more valuable -- a silver snuff box maybe -- but panicked at the last minute and decided to leave? This would be a great theory, except that it's too plausible and, as such, boring.

2. The burglar is a neurotic neighbor. One of my favorite theories. The suspect in this case must be someone who had visited the women's apartment before -- a neighbor from down the hall, a door-to-door sales rep, a plumber who tends to be finicky. Whatever, this person is so obsessive that he had a quiet fit when he saw how the women had arranged their wine glasses in the hutch "They were at a curved angle when we went to bed and in a straight line when we got up," one of the women told police, which made her sound a little on the gonzo-obsessive side herself. I mean, how many of you check the wine glasses before you go to bed to make sure they're still standing at that ever-so-stunning "curved angle"? Anyway, looks like the Neurotic Neighbor is a prime suspect.

3. Martha Stewart did it. I like this theory, except that I can't see Martha doing Parkville. Ruxton, maybe. Or maybe even Lutherville. But not Parkville. I can, however, see America's most annoying hostess running late-night commando raids to rearrange wine glasses according to the Stewart standard. I know that, with the holidays upon us, this is Martha's busy season. But still, I think it's worth bringing her in for questioning. We should bring Bob Vila in, too -- just to aggravate him.

4. Crop circles. I like this theory, too. The people who are pushing it think the wine glasses were moved by the same supernatural force that created those fantastic crop circles in the United Kingdom. I realize, however, that after years of mystery about the crop circles, a couple of blokes finally came forward to say they had staged the whole thing. Yet, when authorities tried to duplicate the crop circles by following the hoaxers' directions, they could not make the circles as perfectly round as previously recorded. That means the hoaxers were probably a hoax. Everyone knows that the crop circles were made by forces beyond our wildest imaginings. What they were doing in Parkville, I can't figure. But I can't figure what Martha Stewart would have been doing there either. She's such a snob.

5. The intruder just likes to mess with stuff. You know the type. Annoying. Clammy. The Lone Rearranger -- man or woman, we can't say -- might just be the messing-with-stuff kind. Two years ago in Dallas, a woman returned to her apartment after a two-week business trip to find that someone had lounged in her couch, slept in her bed, turned on several appliances, washed and dried the linens and done the dishes. The bathroom, however, was a disaster. This led the Dallas woman to the conclusion that the intruder must have been a guy. "I don't think any woman would have left the bathroom that disgusting," she said. Fine. But is rearranging wine glasses in the nighttime an obsession of men or women? Beats me. All I know is: This bears further watching.

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