When I returned from the computer-fixer-man this afternoon I noticed my next door neighbor chatting it up with a man and a woman. I pulled into my driveway and they walked over to me. It seems they had some questions they hoped I could help answer.
Our home is older - built in 53. It has history as does the neighborhood in which it is situated. I've written about our house before at length so I don't need to detail it except to say that the people that built it lived in it for nearly 50 years.
The beauty of old houses is the fact that things have happened there - other lives have shared the space that you now occupy. I love that. Children have been raised, hearts broken, love made, meals partaken, holidays celebrated, souls released in the house that I call home.
When we moved in five years ago I would ask our neighbors or anyone else about the house and the people that lived in it before us. I got some good stories. One of them was about a peeping tom 35 years ago. I was told he had stolen underwear from clotheslines and peeked in windows. He developed an interest in the house next door and had gotten busted during a stakeout that had the cops hiding in what is now our garage. Hey, it was the best story we got - a mildly disturbing but classic case of a small-town perv. Not much happens here but everything gets remembered... just not too well, apparently.
The gentleman today introduced himself as a Detective; the woman was an author. They wanted to talk about that peeper from so many years ago. It seems the story I got was a little inaccurate. The cops did indeed use my garage to stake out the house next door. They did catch him in the act. They did run through my backyard. But they didn't catch him. He shot at them, exploding one detective's flashlight, the glass of which shattered into his eye and allowed the peeper to escape. And that wasn't all...
He was no ordinary peeper. He was known by a ridiculous name. His little crime spree wasn't just about peeping. He began that way with a little burglary thrown in, but by the time it had finished he had raped more than 100 woman and murdered at least 15 people in a wave of terror that engulfed California from the mid-seventies to the mid-eighties. Bundy, Zodiac and Son of Sam had nothing on this guy. And unlike Bundy and Berkowitz he has never been caught. The closest the police ever came to getting their hands on him was that December night in 1975 in my backyard.
The detective and author were trying to follow old leads - trying to nail down a suspect so many years later. They had a theory but weren't sharing. Not that I had much to share either except info about what I had done to my yard and what I was pretty sure had been around back then. They looked in my garage at the window where the cops in 75 peered into the darkness to nab the perp as he looked in windows next door.
Less than two months before those cops missed their chance the peeper had killed a college professor a couple of blocks away who was responding to the screams of his teen daughter. The peeper would also be responsible for numerous burglaries and rapes in the neighborhood, as well as the murder of two young girls, their bodies left in a canal outside of town. The following March the terror ended here in our town. But in Cordova California it started anew. For ten years he moved through the state before the cops began to feel certain they were dealing with the same guy. And then suddenly he stopped, or moved out of state, or died... or just took a breather - no one knows.
My visitors today unnerved me not just with the story but with their serious sense of urgency. They were in a hurry, as if there was a clock ticking. It was weird. As they left I had more questions and they suggested I google the details. Of course I did. It only made me more uncomfortable.
There is history and then there is history. The lives that shared our home were no doubt similar to ours, just as all of our lives are basically similar. They laughed and cried and lived and died. They raised their families and hoped for the best. They watched the sun filter through the same trees and cuddled in front of the same fireplace. They also did something else I hope we will not share: they lived in fear in this house we call home. I can taste that a little tonight and our lovely home feels tainted now.
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