They Took Everything—Except One Odd Thing

There’s been a break-in at your apartment. The robbers took everything—your couch, your clothes, your toilet paper—except for one odd item that they left right in the middle of your living room. This item, though meaningless to the police, is a clue that you recognize and it will lead you to the culprits.

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

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168 thoughts on “They Took Everything—Except One Odd Thing

  1. nelleg

    The Lost Manuscript

    One afternoon Lisa gets a call from her landlord telling her that her apartment had been broke into and the police had already been notified. Lisa quickly leaves work horrified at the thought of strangers going through her most intimate stuff. She arrives shortly after the police. As Lisa walks up she is greeted by a tall police officer with brown hair, cut military style and beautiful green eyes.

    “Hello ma’am. Are you Lisa Dunway?” He says in a wonderfully yummy voice.

    “Yes.” Lisa squeaks out.

    “I’m afraid I have some bad news, the robbers have completely cleaned you out except for one item ma’am.” Oh that voice, Lisa had a hard time even focusing on what was going on.

    When she was able to come back to reality she asked “What was it?”

    “This ma’am.” The Lisa could see how tone his arms were as he handed her a small notebook

    All of a sudden Lisa turn ghost white as stared at the little red notebook. How could this be? What was going on? Am I in a weird dream or something? Thoughts raced through Lisa’s head but nothing made sense.

    “Are you okay ma’am? You do recognize this don’t you?” The heavenly masculine voice snaps her back

    “Uh, Yeah. I recognize it, it’s just…” Lisa stops. She doesn’t even know what to say next.

    “What is it Lisa?” Oh how nice it is to hear her name come from such incredible lips.

    “I haven’t seen this since I was eleven. It is a silly little story I wrote called The Crouton Kid. I was going to turn it in as an assignment for English class when it was stolen out of my locker.” Lisa felt the redness in her cheeks as the embarrassment filled her.

    “Do you know who took it?”

    “No, everyone thought I was making it up as an excuse for not having my assignment.”

    “Well hopefully we can use it as a clue to figure out who did this. Is there a place you can stay? They really did a number on your door; I don’t recommend you stay here.”

    “Yeah, my friend Marcy will let me stay with her.”

    “If you can think of anything you let me know. My name is Scott Goodwell, here is my card.”

    “Thank you Officer Goodwell.”

    “Please call me Scott. Let me walk you to your car.”

    “Sure, Scott”

    “The Crouton Kid?” questioned the officer with a smile. “You like salads?”

    “I guess.” Lisa said with a shrug

    “Well I was just wandering if you would like to get one with me for lunch tomorrow? We could discuss the break in.”

    “Okay.” Lisa said while still wondering if this all must still be a dream.

  2. bubblywriter

    “Ohh Dani, I just LOVE him. Michael is the sweetest guy ever.” sighed my best friend Carly, standing next to me, as she threw her head back, and close her eyes; a huge smile on her face.
    I turned to look at her, and when her eyes opened and she saw my face, her expression changed dramatically. Her lips fell from a smile into a slight frown. Her eyes widened with concern, and her laugh lines were no longer visible.
    My face, I knew, was red. My normally blue eyes were red and puffy, and I had tears falling out of them. Mascara was probably streaking my face with tiger-like stripes.
    “Dani.” Her tone had changed, her voice was now softer, lighter. “What’s wrong?”
    “I-I don’t…nothing. I-it’s nothing.” I said.
    “Dani. Tell me.” She came closer.
    “Nothing, Carly. I’m just…it’s just…my allergies. There’s a lot of pollen out here.”
    “A lot of pollen my ass!” She shrieked. She came even closer, now I could smell her strawberry hand sanitizer, which she used religiously and carried three mini bottles of everywhere. “Danielle Grace Kennedy, what is wrong?”
    She wasn’t going to give up. “Michael…” I began slowly.
    “Michael what? Spit it out!”
    “I slept with him.” I blurted.
    “What?” she spat, standing back.
    “I’m sorry Carly. It’s just…last night…when you left, he and I were alone and I’d never even met him, so I thought a couple drinks would make it less awkward. One thing led to another, and…well.” She just looked at me. That’s it. She stood there glaring at me for what felt like an eternity, and then she turned around and walked away.
    I thought about running after her, but decided against it. She needed time to be alone. She’d probably be over it by tomorrow, like she’d gotten over every other relationship that had ended in disaster.

    The next morning, I went to the mall. I was having lunch when I got a call from a blocked number.
    “Hello?” I said through a mouthful of lettuce.
    “Danielle Kennedy?” I heard a male’s voice ask.
    “Yes. Who’s this?”
    “Officer Clark from the NYPD. We are in your home right now, and there has been a burglary.”
    “It seems they have taken everything. All your furniture, all your clothes, even your fridge is empty. The fridge seems to be the only thing that was left here. Except, the thief did leave one thing, in the middle of your living room, but it doesn’t seem of much importance.”
    “Well, what is it?”
    The phone vibrated, and I looked down. It was a text. From Carly. It said, “Hiding a spare key under the Welcome mat? You basically invited me in.”
    “A mini bottle of strawberry scented hand sanitizer.” Officer Clark laughed, “It smells pretty good.”

  3. Miss Alex

    “What is this?” asked the cop named Dick. Of course right? Bald head, badge hanging from a chain around his neck, bulge the size of my leg protruding from his trousers. Dick… perfect. He was a you know he’s a cop when you seem him kind of guy. It’s a goddamned letter Dick. What in the hell do you think it is? My six thousand dollar TV? No. My German shepherd? No. My fucking manuscript? No. It’s that letter that I have been avoiding for weeks. Her letter. And now I wanted to read it, but it was in Officer Dick’s hands now. She wanted this to happen because I wouldn’t deal with it. I wouldn’t deal with her.
    “A letter, nothing important. Obviously it is my last possession Mr. Dick.” He started to hand the pink folded up piece of paper over to me and then jerked it back with a wry smile. It was the sarcasm, he was getting ready to hand me the letter, but I had to open my mouth. What did she have to say? I didn’t know. I had gotten drunk instead, shoving it between the couch cushions, night after night, putting it off until later. I didn’t want to give her the satisfaction. She was going to make sure I read it. Wanted to make sure I dealt with the problem at hand. I went for a beer and then remembered that I didn’t have a refrigerator. That bitch.
    “Dear Jack. That’s your name right?” I had to deal with her now. Right now. No beer to hide behind and no dog to bicker with. God I loved that dog. And now here’s Dick, standing in front of me with the letter.
    “So that’s how it is Pauline? You going to take everything from me so all that I have is your fucking letter? Way to go Pauline. Nice work. Good job you crazy bitch.” Officer Dick raised his eyebrows obviously passing judgment and shook his big head. He returned his eyes to the letter.
    “Dear Jack: I know you killed Fran. I just want to be with you Jack. If you come to me now, I will let it all go. I want you to love me Jack (like I love you). I want to be with you. I want to be your wife, your lover, your friend. I can be better than my sister was. Please Jack don’t make me do it. Come to me and let me love you. P.S. I got that knife you used to slice my sister up with in my safe with your bloody fingerprints and her DNA. So what is it Jack? What will it be? Love, Pauline.”
    It was worse than I thought. She’s got me. Got me real good.
    “I didn’t even know she had a sister.”

  4. clillianjohn

    Fallen leaves prance along the pavement in a victory dance, unaware that the price of their freedom was death. The warm autumn breeze caresses them, moves them along in front of my car as lemmings to the ocean, not knowing what is ahead but knowing it is their destiny. We all exist now and anticipate the next minute, but life gets in the way and we readjust, turn that corner, take a different path.

    Yesterday morning I left for work in the usual rush, coffee sloshing all over the place because I didn’t secure the lid, me not minding because I had run out of creamer anyway and would freeload on the coffee at work.

    The day passes as always, conference calls, interviews, last minute meetings, dressing downs, pep talks, and lunch somewhere in between. Human Resources is a fancy term for “WTF is going on in your department.” Eventually the turmoil ends, and I head home.

    Pulling into my driveway I remain in the car. Slightly ajar, the front door welcomes any being, human or animal, into my safety net. Narrowing my eyes, I consider the possibility that I did not lock up. But my doors are locked 24/7, whether I am home or not. Other people in this neighborhood do not bother, but they do not live in fear.

    Breathing again without realizing I had stopped, I carefully approach. I know who might be in there. If it is who I think it is, he brings my death, but not without a fight.

    At the threshold I pause. This may actually be a plain old robbery. Relieved, I note the missing front hall table first and push the door open wider to see nothing. They even vacuumed.

    I race around, checking every room, laughing hysterically. No bed, no sheets, no cat box, no cat, floor shined, toilet sparkling but no toilet paper, floorboards dusted, even the paper clips I left on the kitchen window are gone. Clean. Fresh. Fresh start.

    If he found me, then the other will find me soon too, so time is short. Fifteen years have passed, and I never dared write down the code but meticulously reviewed it with every coin that passed my palm. Beginning around the circumference of each room, I run my hand between the carpet and the floorboard upstairs. Nothing. Twenty minutes later desperation in the way of perspiration is pouring out of my skin.

    Flipping the switch illuminates the living room to my great joy, never so grateful for a light bulb. And then I see it. A tiny plastic brown piece of a toy. No children live here, no children visit. This is it, clever man. I was expecting a penny, nickel, or dime.

    Grabbing the Lincoln log I race to the car.

    Dawn pushes through the darkness in the Missouri early morning. I have driven all night, and contemplated the possibility that death will be waiting for me at the end.

    But for now, I am free.

  5. bugaboo2

    “Come on Sadie, you know you want to!”

    Carol’s voice filtered through the phone line. She was a sweet girl, but when she got an idea stuck in her head she could be more annoying than a barking chihuahua. Sadie pursed her lips together to keep from lashing out at her friend whom she knew meant well. Sadie tried to gather her thoughts as she searched for her apartment keys in the bottom of her purse.

    “Of course I would like to go, Carol. Who wouldn’t want to just drop everything in their life and live somewhere exotic for a year, while getting paid just to teach people English? There are way too many things going on in my life right now. I cannot just up and leave everything. I have more responsibilities than that.” Sighing, Sadie managed to get the door open and go into her home. She had a long day at work and was ready to go to bed early.

    “Name them.”

    Sadie actually looked at the phone, and then put it back at her ear. “Name what?”

    “Name them,” Carol said again. Her voice was startlingly quiet, very unusual for her. “Name all of your responsibilities that are keeping you from going with me to China.”

    “Fine. Number one is my job. You know that place I go so they can pay me so I can pay my bills? Number two are my bills, which I seem to have entirely too many of for just one person. All of my family lives on the other side of the country so I guess the only other things would be my apartment and all of my stuff in it. Why?” Even though she answered the question she was now really confused about how Carol had asked it.

    “Just wondering!”

    Just like that Carol was back to her regular, annoyingly chipper self. Sadie wondered if her friend had bipolar disorder. She finally got Carol off the phone and settled in for the night.

    The next night Sadie was slowly sipping her mocha inside the closest fast food restaurant to her house after filing paperwork with the police. Yesterday everything seemed so good! In just 24 hours she had lost her job, lost her apartment, and to top it off everything was stolen out of the apartment before she got home. Everything! The weirdoes even took everything out of the bathroom! All that was left when the police came were the chopsticks she had from last week’s Chinese takeout. They were left on the floor in the living room, and she was spinning them around mindlessly as she tried to figure out what to do. Her phone vibrated on the table and startled her back into reality.


    “Hey, Sadie! It’s Carol. Are you ready to go to China now, or are there more responsibilities you have to take care of?”

  6. Paint Words

    He stands there, and a salty tear drop falls from his eye hitting the coffee table making a splash. That only he could hear. A cool breeze hits him coming from the smashed window where the robbers made their entry. Shivering from the breeze he noticed something glaring from the sunrays the shined through the split glass. He looked down at the coffee table to see the picture of his daughter that had recently passed, and his daughter was pointing in this picture with a huge smile. He looked in the direction that beautiful arm was pointing. It pointed to his old run downed desktop. He thought to himself as he laughed. Who would want to steal this old thing, it’s not worth anything.
    He turned on his desktop, and it took forever to start up. Finally, he’s able to log on. It’s been forever since he’s been on this old desktop. He notices a shortcut icon, and under it says For My Daddy.
    He starts to cry, and another tear drops from his eye. This time falling down his shirt then onto the letter T on the keyboard, and the impact of the tear cleared some of the dust that was built up on that key.
    He clicks that icon, and the first thing he sees is the words I Love You Daddy. Then the video starts to play. It’s his daughter and him outside in the front yard throwing around a soft ball. If someone was standing behind him, they would see the huge smile of his glaring off the computer screen.
    He keeps watching the video, and it’s his daughter all dressed up for her dance recital. She asks him, daddy to a look pretty. He responds by saying, no baby you look beautiful. She also mentions to him, daddy thanks for being there with me through my cancer. He says, baby girl I would never leave your side.
    The video finally comes to the end. Then some more words pop up. They say, Daddy Thank You for Everything. I Made This Video To Show All The Wonderful Memories We Had.
    He turns his head looking out the window that is broken. Looking at that tire swing as it swings in the wind. He screams out Oh Missouri it wasn’t supposed to be like this honey. You had your cancer beat, and there was nothing going to stop you from your dreams of becoming a Doctor. He looks back at his desktop and leans over to turn it off from the back, and as he does this he smells the lotion that she would wear. He smiles brightly.
    Then in an instant a flash overcomes him. They’re both in the car, and he’s holding her. Repeatedly telling her I will never leave your side, I will never leave your side.
    He comes back to reality, and punches the computer screen. Screams out, she overcame cancer god, but why did that dumb man have to drink that day.

  7. Stumpo's Daughter

    Charlie lay on the bare floor with only his white, cotton boxers to cover the little dignity he had left.

    “Thank God” he smirked, thinking of how humiliating it would be to have to sneak into his neighbor Jim’s house to borrow a pair of underwear.

    The afternoon sun glared through the window illuminating the emptiness and his headache. He sat up in the middle of the room and scratched himself. His head was pounding but he considered it doubtful that he’d find any pain-killers.

    As the blood rushed to his head, he looked around the measly apartment.

    “Without all the crap it actually looks decent”, he thought for a second. “Someone could really turn this into a nice home someday.”

    Charlie pushed himself up off the floor and made his way to the toilet, hoping that someone hadn’t managed to rip that out of the ground as well.

    As he stretched his aching body, he noticed the mirror Angie bought at the flea market was still in the same place. There was something written on his forehead. He looked at his reflection closer and smiled.

    “Screw you.”

  8. SodaCityWriter

    I walked up to my house and immediately got a bad feeling, eyeing the outside to see if I saw anything out of the ordinary. As I went up the steps to my townhouse, I saw my neighbor Ms. Walters peering from behind her lace curtains. I went to wave and she quickly closed the curtains, obviously hoping that I had not seen her. This confirmed the feeling I had, which made my stomach plummet.

    I unlocked the front door and turned on the hallway light. The bench where I laid my coats was gone, the small glass table where I’d put my purse and keys had vanished, and the round, lavender rug my mother had purchased when I first moved in had disappeared. I walked towards my living room listening to the echo of my footsteps moving across the wood floors and the only thing left was a small, pink envelope sitting in the center of the room. This validated what I had already known; I would not be able to live in any peace or comfort as long as I had her. I rubbed my stomach and the tears welled up in my eyes. There was no use in crying. This was just the way that it had to be.

    I opened the envelope that had the seal of The Center in red wax. There was a light pink card that said “She belongs with us”. I threw the card down and slumped onto the floor. I had hoped that I wouldn’t be found but that’s what I get for wishful thinking. I pulled my cell phone out of my purse and dialed Dr. Thompson. He quickly answered and whispered calmly, “Hello Sophie”. I could tell by the sound of his voice that he had probably gone through the same thing earlier in the day and was now at The Center. “Dr. Thompson, I really do appreciate everything that you have done for me”, as I tried not to sob, “but I really do not want to do this”. There were a few moments of silence on the other end. “I understand Sophie. I have tried to help so many people in your situation but there is nothing left for me to do. They have confiscated all of my files and that’s how they found you and others”. As he let out a long sigh, I could hear women sobbing and I knew that would be my fate. “Well, I’m going to hang up now”.

    I hung up my cell phone and pulled out a small picture of my mother. I do not think I would ever know how she did not end up at The Center herself. I wiped away more tears and grabbed a peppermint in hopes that it would settle my stomach. As I went to put the empty wrapper in my purse, I could see headlights through the living room window and I braced myself for what was next. I had met my fate.

  9. Laycrew

    I looked at the mail as I absentmindedly opened the front door to my house, I flipped the light switch on, but nothing happened. My jaw dropped to the floor. I froze as the blood drained from my arms and legs when I saw that everything was gone, the fish tank, the piano, the furniture, gone. I searched through every room to find nothing, nothing at all. Who could have done this? And how did they do it so fast? It would have taken me days, with lots of people, to empty the place.

    As I walked across the hardwood floors, the flipping and flopping of my flip flops echoed off the walls. Everything was gone, all the junk in the garage, even the dogs, I sank to the floor in disbelief.

    That is when I saw it, the plastic spoon, near the front door. Angered swelled inside me when I saw the plastic spoon that had been my torment for the past week. The spoon game was what it was called. I nearly had several heart attacks over the course of the week because of episodes of the spoon game. When I dropped a boy off at his home, I was scared to death when kids with spoons jumped out of a truck in the dark to tag him. The poor kid never had a chance as he ran around a building and back to his house only to be cornered and lost.

    Boys with spoons had stalked my daughter the next day outside the house and she locked us all in. Later she ran all the way home when they waited for her down the street. The next day they were out of the game and that was when the real torment began. The new boy with the spoon nearly got her out but she escaped by telling him she had to use the bathroom. Then the paranoia all over again, locking us in the house once more because all he needed to do was touch her with that spoon and say her whole name to win the game. While I picked her up from band practice the other night, I was sure he was crazy when he jumped on the hood of my car as he pressed the spoon on the windshield trying to convince her that it counted while we held up traffic in the parking lot. All the cars behind me started to honk when he gave up. He said it wasn’t over yet.

    But this, he had gone too far to win the spoon game. Taking everything from my house to win a game, it was too much. The teacher who started this game was about to hear from me. I would see to it that the boy and the teacher replace every last item, every last fish, to its rightful place. Because of this, I would make sure my daughter won that blasted game. And maybe we should start locking the front door.

  10. BleuVenom

    He closes his eyes at the sight before him. David now realizes how much trouble he’s in. Unfortunately, he didn’t care one bit. His arrogance wouldn’t allow him to feel sorry for himself while its twin ego refuses to show any sign of remorse.
    David walks the thick plush midnight blue carpeting into each of the three bedrooms. One he used as an office where he hacked into people’s banking accounts. Where his desk sat, the pile of carpeting was higher.
    The second room, a playroom for the man-child, was full of video game systems and two futons where he hosted friends when something new came out. They would have showdowns until sun up. Where he placed the futons were the only spots the nape of the carpet stood up in an otherwise heavy traffic area. This room now lay bare.
    The master bedroom, he entertained his love du jour or someone else’s was now a ghost of his sordid past. He had one heck of a time getting the parts to his oversized king bed into this room. A big square patch of smoothness replaces the area of his bed. Nothing but emptiness resides here now, perhaps like him.
    After checking every room, closet, cabinet and drawer, David came to the same conclusion. He was stripped of everything. His self-proclaimed title: The King of Fun came to an abrupt end.
    Looking around closely now, he notices the square shadows on the walls. The small nail holes he’d fill in when he moved out in order to get his full security deposit back. The sofa and lamp impressions left reminders too.
    He burst into laughter. “You bastards! You could’ve at least wiped the place clean!” In all his observing, he noticed everything that wasn’t there but not what was there now.
    A white business envelope glows from the carpet. He walks over until the paper lies between his expensive shoes. He looks perplexed. He crouches to retrieve the faced down intruder. He flips it over. Immediately, he knew what happened. He stood up quick and angry. He was about to rip the envelope.
    “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” a voice warns.
    Before David could turn around, the voice is at the back of his head.
    “I didn’t hear you come in,” David’s breath catches.
    “Of course you didn’t. It’s the carpeting.” The suited man said.
    “What do you want?” David asks.
    “In all of your arrogance, you have the nerve to pretend you don’t know why I’m here. You have to know that sooner or later we’d catch up to you. It didn’t matter how many times you moved, we would find you. We will always find you. The debt is always paid”
    He remains behind David.
    David carefully reaches into his pocket and turns around slowly.
    “Will you take a check?”
    “Are the funds readily available?”
    David sighs: “yeah.”
    “Before we do this, I must remind you that this is an attempt to collect a debt.”

  11. radioPanic

    This was a lot of fun, and a unique take on the prompt. Especially liked that the main character didn’t immediately know what the ‘one odd item’ even meant. Also, I’m a bit of a dialogue fanatic, and yours has a very natural, realistic flow.