When someone asks you about your dream home, how do you respond? It might be an apartment in a big city, a big house on a farm, or (if you’re like me) a cozy house with a picket fence in the suburbs.
My husband and I moved into my dream home about 5 years ago. It’s located in a tiny town; one of those places where everyone knows everyone and no one locks their doors – about a 30 minute drive from the city. We thought we found the perfect place. We were SO very wrong.
You see, the thing about people is that you never really know them. It’s common in this kind of town (and everywhere really) to come across the type of people who seem to be the nicest and most normal human beings on the planet, but who are different monsters behind closed doors. Usually it’s nothing more than hidden alcoholism or drug use, a secret affair, or domestic abuse… but even Jeffrey Dahmer seemed like an okay guy, and we all know what skeletons were in his closet (and fridge).
The weirdness started a few months ago when our new neighbor moved in next door. He kept to himself. He didn’t talk to anyone except for the occasional visitors that came from out of town to see him. They were a catalyst for rumors. I’d heard that he was a drug dealer, that he had been in and out of prison, and that he was cut out of his family’s lives for touching his nephew or niece but not reported for it out of pity. He was quiet and a little creepy, but he seemed okay to me. Apparently, I’m an idiot.
A couple of weeks ago, my sister was leaving my house late at night when she noticed that the dome light on her car was on. Someone had just been in there, it seemed. She ran back inside and alerted my husband who then walked her back out and took a look around to see if he could find the intruder. They heard footsteps on my neighbor’s porch, but couldn’t actually see anyone. My husband called out but received no response. The next day, he spoke with another neighbor about the incident, to warn him to lock his car at night. That neighbor told my husband that he had spotted someone in the bushes across from his house two weeks prior and chased the person to the house next to mine before he lost the guy. A few days after the chase, someone broke an upstairs window trying to get into his house while he and his family slept. The whole neighborhood was freaked out, and we had our suspicions that the new guy was the culprit, but we had no proof. No one had been able to see his face when he was busted, no one could say whether he had been chased TO his house, or if the person running had simply hidden on his porch or in his yard. Local police agreed to increase patrols in our area, and things quieted down for a while. That was, until this past weekend.
It was late on Saturday, around midnight, when I heard what sounded like power tools running. There’s a house nearby that’s being renovated by the family that lives there, so I just assumed they were finishing a project before turning in or something. I didn’t really care until about 45 minutes later when I saw the flashing lights outside my window. I went outside to see three police cars, an ambulance, and a small crowd gathering in front of the house next door. No one seemed to know what the hell was going on for once. The only information that I could gather was that an old lady who lived a few doors down had called the police to file a noise complaint when the sound of the tools woke her up. I had been standing with the crowd for about five minutes before the officers came outside to move us away from the house and rope off the area with crime scene tape. The coroner’s van showed up a short while later. It wasn’t until the next day that we finally got the story.
Two officers had responded to the noise complaint. They could hear the tools running inside, but no one answered the door when they knocked. One of the officers looked into a window and noticed a pool of blood on the living room floor. They called for backup and entered the house. My next door neighbor had killed some woman, dragged her down to his basement, and was using a power saw to cut her up into pieces. When the police entered the basement, he panicked and used the saw to end his own life. Apparently, he almost completely decapitated himself. As gruesome as the details of this heinous act were, the murder-suicide wasn’t the thing that caused the most unrest in my little community. He had a large, hand-drawn map of the town hanging in his basement. Each house was drawn as an empty square, and each square had notes written inside: how many people lived in the house, whether or not they had dogs, and the best time and place to enter the home undetected. He also had a stack of photos on a table near the map. He had taken pictures of every house on our street, some at night and some during the day, some from the outside and some from within.
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