I am always fantasizing about how my life could be made into a murder-mystery. Why? Who knows. Maybe because nothing exciting happens to me. Sometimes when I'm on a walk, I pass a garbage can that smells...strange. I suddenly notice the house it waits in front of, and wonder if someone has been murdered, chopped into tiny pieces and hidden in the garbage. I look down, half-way hoping to see a bloody finger sticking out of the dirt. The lawn is dead or overgrown, meaning that no one has been there to take care of it. Do I dare lift up the garbage lid, maybe pretending to throw away a wrapper? My heart pounds, and I rush away, glancing at each house that I pass to check if anyone suspicious is watching me through parted curtains.
A few blocks from where I live, a house sits vacant because someone was murdered there. I don't know why that scares me so much, because it's not like the house is haunted. The body isn't decaying inside the walls, nor is its ghost pacing the dusty hallway. But I get an eerie feeling as I pass, wondering if maybe the killer is inside, waiting for his next victim. Does anyone actually ever buy a house where someone was murdered? My husband thinks I'm crazy for thinking these things.
Despite these musings of murders, one aspect of my life that would make a great novel is my next door neighbor. I've never really liked him, but never for a good reason. He's very friendly, always willing to talk and share a smile. But what I think about sometimes is what if something changed when his wife left him? Living there alone with his dog and memories of marriage, what if something inside of him clicked, sending him off the deep end?
I picture him standing outside in his backyard under his strange red porch light, staring up at our house. His dog is inside so the barking won't wake the neighbors. He's watching our bedroom window, thinking, forming a plan. And then one day, he follows through.
"Hey, guys, wanna come in for a Popsicle?" he asks my young boys on a hot day. They're playing in the irrigation water up to their knees while I casually watch from my room as I fold laundry.
"Yeah!" they shout, tearing across his yard and darting into his house.
And then they're gone. I rush to the window, looking frantically in our yard, then burst out the front door, calling their names. Nothing. I run to the back, calling out to them, hoping that they're behind the shed digging for worms. A bird flutters away, and my cat rubs against my feet. I kick her away as I run back to the front and search the road. Don't they know better than that?
"Hey, Kim!" my neighbor suddenly appears, a strange gleaming in his eyes. "How's it going?"
"Have you seen my boys?" I ask, drowning in panic.
He removes his hat and scratches his head. "Yeah, I saw them playing out here a while ago." He pauses and puts his hat back on, backwards this time. A smile creeps across his lips. "I invited them in for Popsicles."
"They need to come home NOW," I say firmly, my heart beating faster. I already know what he's going to say.
"Why don't you come in and have one, too?"
"No. Get my boys. They need to come home."
He smiles. "Now, I can't do that. Maybe you should just come in."
I don't need to go in to know that he's got my children tied up.
I am careful to warn my children daily that they are never to leave our yard without permission. Not if Grandma comes over and wants to take them for a ride, or if Miss Donna wants to invite them over for a cookie. What they don't know is that I'm protecting them from the man who lives next door.
Not everybody in my life is a suspect for murder, but can you blame me for questioning the man with the strange red light? Nothing has happened yet, but then again, he's only lived there for a year...