Mr. Hecht led them to the living room, pointing to money on a television table by his chair. "One of them scooped up the change I had to buy ice cream from the Good Humor truck.
Another man grabbed a $10 bill for the milkman."
"After that," Mr. Hecht said, running a big, rough hand through his white hair, "two of them shoved me into my chair and held me in it, while the third one tied my hands with clothesline rope. Then, he shoved rags in my mouth."
My heart raced. If this could happen to my heavyset neighbor, it could happen to anyone in our working-class neighborhood, including me.
Mr. Hecht had invited me in for iced tea and to tell me this story. He was in his seventies. He told me he rotated his hands until the rope loosened enough for him to free them. Then, he yanked the rags from his mouth.
As we sat in his kitchen talking, a breeze carried the smell of roses his wife had planted through the screen door. Mr. Hecht offered me cookies he had baked and fresh lemon quarters to cut the sweetness of the tea.
A widower, Mr. Hecht cooked his food, vacuumed and polished his Victorian furniture, and washed his clothes. He seemed comfortable living by himself despite the rising crime in our neighborhood. Hardly a night went by without police car sirens wailing through the nearby business district.
Mr. Hecht and I had been neighbors since I was born. That was 20 years ago. Months after our discussion, I heard knocking on Mr. Hecht's door. Pulling the window shade aside to peek out, I saw three men on his porch. They were in their thirties. Mr. Hecht opened the door. Placing my ear up to our adjoining wall, I strained but failed to hear what was said. Then, someone slammed the door.
With shaking hands, I pulled the window shade aside again to look for the men. I didn't see them, so I grabbed my keys, locked the door, and climbed over a railing separating our porches. Pounding my fist on Mr. Hecht's door, I yelled, "It's Mary." Looking through the sheer curtain panel covering the door's glass, I saw Mr. Hecht sauntering towards me.
He opened the door, looking as if nothing unusual had happened. "They got me again," he said. "They snatched the money and rushed out as if their lives were in jeopardy.
Maybe they were.