At times, the man who walked through an open French door and into a house in Guilford to rob the occupants acted like a gentleman. He politely asked the women for a Gatorade, even as he pointed a gun at them. He complimented their demeanor. He insisted that his hostages wear their sandals and take umbrellas when he marched them outside in the pouring rain.
But, two of the four women said in interviews yesterday, the gunman also threatened to kill them Tuesday night.
He ransacked their home on Southway looking for money. He boasted that he had killed two people. And he made them lie facedown together, first on the kitchen floor, then on a futon in an upstairs bedroom.
The second time, Melanie Andrzejewski was sure that he would pull the trigger.
"He didn't. He changed his mind," she said. "I really got the feeling that he changed his mind."
Temea Jones, 23, a Johns Hopkins University student, said the intruder, who wore a white T-shirt, black sweat pants and two black doo-rags to hide his face, swung between being polite and aggressive before escaping after the 90-minute ordeal.
"You see the TV shows, and you expect for them to stick to one mode of behavior instead of going back and forth," she said.
Jones said the gunman walked into the house shortly before 10 p.m. through a side porch door and forced the four women into the kitchen. He then lined them up and made them tip-toe barefoot up the stairs to avoid waking a fifth housemate, a 20-year-old male who Jones said slept through the ordeal.
The robber grew especially frustrated after a room-by-room search for cash.
"He seemed to be in awe that we only had $23 in the house," Jones said. "We're poor. Get over it."
Jones offered to empty her bank account using her ATM card, so the robber led the four women outside in the rain, she said.
Trip to ATM
As Jones ran with a small umbrella to the Bank of America ATM at Greenmount and Venable avenues, the other three huddled beneath a larger umbrella at the end of the block.
Andrzejewski, 58, said the robber stood at the corner watching Jones, a gun held out at shoulder height, and threatened to kill the others if she returned without money or called police.
"He said to her, 'Look in their eyes and remember their lives depend on you.' And I wanted to smack him in the head," Andrzejewski said. "I did not get the feeling that this was the first time he did this. It sounded too rehearsed."
When Jones returned with $323, the robber still wasn't satisfied. After they walked back to the house, Jones offered to cash two money orders intended to pay the rent.
This time, Jones said, he brought a bicycle as he marched the women through the rain, and suggested that she ride it to the Giant supermarket on 33rd Street. She opted to walk instead.
And as he waited for her to return, he walked back to the house again with the other three women and started chatting, said Andrzejewski, the house's property manager.
"He talked conversationally, like we were at a cocktail party," she said. "He said, 'I like you, you're smart. I like you, you're strong. If I saw you on the street, you'd be my girlfriend.'"
Cashier calls police
But while he was chatting with housemates, Jones got a cashier at Giant to call police.
Andrzejewski said an officer in the area responded to the call about 11:15 p.m. and started walking to the house. When the robber saw him, he "took off like a shot" and climbed the back fence, she said.
The robber escaped with three cell phones, about $350 and several pieces of jewelry. Meanwhile, Jones and her housemates were left wondering why no one saw them walking around outside at gunpoint and why a security guard who once hassled Jones over parking a moving truck in the street wasn't around.
"Where was that guy?" Jones said. "We spent enough time outside that somebody could have seen something."
Maj. Michael Pristoop, commander of the Northern District, said police are reacting to the home invasion, and to a night-time armed robbery nearby the night before, with increased uniformed and plainclothes officers.
Pristoop said that overall crime in the district has started to decline for the first time this year, with a slight increase in robberies.
'Pulling out all stops'
"The Police Department takes the matter very seriously and is pulling out all stops to increase our presence and deployment in the area to avert any further incidents," Pristoop said.
The women who were robbed now lock all their doors, leave porch lights on and hang curtains on the windows to prevent passers-by from looking inside the house.
Jones said she's been sharing a bedroom with her 24-year-old housemate, and that the two of them shove a dresser against the door before going to sleep.
Told to return home
One of the women, a 20-year- old, had come to Baltimore to teach at a summer camp and was ordered home to Pennsylvania by her parents.
But Jones, who is studying for a teaching certificate at Hopkins, said she has no plans to move.
"This is a really nice neighborhood, and I was really happy to move in here," she said. "If you change your normal routine, he's got more than just your money. He's got your mind."