It was a sunny Thursday afternoon. I had dinner with some friends to talk about our daughters’ upcoming graduation party. I made it home about 6:10 pm…not bad, I thought. Not bad, until I crested the hill and saw the long line of blue lights leading up to my neighborhood. They weren’t letting people turn in. Had there been an accident? I inched up to the front of the line of cars waiting to turn in. I rolled down my window, telling the policeman directing traffic that I lived in this neighborhood. Can I turn in?
No, he said, with almost a little laugh. This is an active crime scene. There’s been a shooting. Keep moving.
I’m sure my jaw hung open as I slowly rolled forward, past my seemingly quiet suburban neighborhood. I spied the yellow crime scene tape stretched across the road. What do I do now? Where do I go?
I called home to see if anyone was there. They were, and had no idea what was going on. They went outside to see a cop car right in front of our house. Someone was in the back seat.
I ended up parking down the road at a brand new parking lot for a park. Other neighbors were already gathered there, waiting. We saw a helicopter circling.
Details came from all directions. Fragments of a story trickling in. Neighbors who were in the subdivision called with reports of what they saw. One crime scene turned into two. Texted photos of a young man’s body laying in a yard, being cradled by a woman, screaming.
Then the second crime scene developed…astonishingly, the house next door. The older couple. The ones out playing Motown on the weekends as they tended to their lawn and their grandchildren. Grandkids playing basketball in the driveway, waves from their car as it pulled in.
He shot her. Killed his wife. In the basement.
IN. THE. HOUSE. NEXT. DOOR.
And then, he killed his son-in-law, presumably when they came over to the house and found her. They tried to get away, but he killed him at the end of the street.
My jaw still hangs open when I stop to think about it.
(Did I mention this was in the house next door?)
I will never understand…. why? She was friendly and kind. Frankly, the killer was too. I didn’t know the son in law. Rumor has it he was mentally impaired. The man who murdered him could sometimes be seen walking the young man up and down the street for exercise. And now, one of those men is dead. The other sits in jail. I will never understand.
The neighborhood stayed roped off most of the night. Once the helicopter had gone and people were roaming freely in the neighborhood (except for getting in or out), I decided to take a path home through the woods. It was an eerie feeling that night. Like you were living next to a stranger. Who could do such a thing? Fresh eyes of a sort. Cast with sadness.
Since then, the house next door sits empty. The children of the dead woman and murderer come over to clean it out. I cannot imagine their sorrowful work. The heaviness. The heartbreak.
What will happen to the house next door? I would assume someone will move in, eventually. For now, it is just dark and quiet.
And for now, I just feel sadness. For the lives lost. For the family that lost a mother, a grandmother, a father, a son, a friend. None of it could ever possibly make sense.
I walked by the mailbox today. It hung open. So many letters and catalogs piled up. A hanging basket the family moved off the screen porch laid on its side in the front yard. Life goes on and things pile up, topple over, are left undone but left nonetheless.
You never know what is happening behind closed doors. What someone might be capable of. Even the neighbors you wave at, smile at, could be hiding something dark and sinister. Is the message to be kind? Is the message to be wary? Yes and yes.