It was a foggy autumn night when I first encountered him. As I was driving home from my late shift at the hospital, I came across a rather unusual person. As I turned onto the street into my neighborhood, I saw a tall man dressed in a dark-colored hoodie, walking on the right side of the street. Given the area I lived in, he seemed out of place. As I passed him, I attempted to get a better look at his face, but with his hood being up, and it being dark out, I was unable to. I tried hard not to be too judgmental, after all, for all I knew he was just one of my neighbors whom I hadn’t met yet, just out for a stroll, due to being unable to sleep. We’ve all been there, right? However, unbeknownst to me, that was only my first of several encounters I would have with this guy.
I had the following day off, and I barely thought about him. That was until I turned on the news that evening and saw that a house in one of the nearby neighborhoods had been broken into, and the homeowner had been assaulted. How awful, I thought. Who could do such a thing? The thoughts of my encounter with the man the previous night then came rushing back. Could he have done this? I certainly didn’t have any proof, but I can say that that man definitely seemed to stand out.
As the story concluded, a “1-800” number was displayed at the bottom of the screen, asking for any tips or information that may lead to an arrest. Figuring it couldn’t hurt to call, I called the number, waited on hold for several minutes, before a woman picked up on the other end, and asked me what information I had. I told her that the night previous I saw a suspicious man in the area in which the crime happened. She asked me for further information about the man. I told her that he looked to be about 6’0” tall and wearing a dark hoodie. She asked what he looked like, to which I told her that I unfortunately had not seen his face. There was a long pause on the other end of the phone before the woman spoke again. She asked me what the man was doing. I told her that he was just out walking. I was met with yet another pause before she asked me a very pertinent question. She asked if the man appeared to be disheveled, flustered, hurried, or in any way distressed. I told her that I didn’t really get a good enough look at him, but that he didn’t seem to be too bothered. In fact, he seemed rather calm. I could hear her typing on a keyboard on her end, before she thanked me for the tip, and abruptly hung up. I suppose it wasn’t the most helpful of tips but seeing as how any bit of information could help put a violent offender away, it seemed as though it would have been wrong not to report it.
Given the recent events, the next morning before school, I gave my boys a quick refresher course on stranger danger. I reminded them not to talk to strangers, or to get into anybody’s car. They assured me they knew not to do those things, and off to school they went. I trusted them to stay safe, they were smart kids, after all.
The next so many days went by without incident, but again, one night on my way home, I would encounter him. This time, however, I did get a look at his face. Just like last time, I was driving home from work, and as I turned into my neighborhood, I saw him walking. This time he was towards me, at a similarly average pace, like last time. He definitely wasn’t someone I recognized from around the neighborhood. He had long, dark hair, a goatee, and big brown eyes, wearing the same dark-colored hoodie as last time. He had a somewhat vacant look in his eyes. However, the only thing I could think was that I was possibly looking into the eyes of a violent criminal.
I only saw him for a few seconds before I turned down my street and arrived home. As I got out of my car, and was collecting my things, I glanced down the road to see a tall, dark figure off in the distance, at the far end of my street. Only this time, I could see that the figure was walking towards me. I quickly gathered up the rest of my things and headed inside. Once inside I looked out my front window to see if he would walk by, but I didn’t see him again, that night.
Two days later, a breaking news story came on the TV, saying that yet another house had been broken into, and the homeowners assaulted. This time, however, one of the house’s occupants was murdered. Stabbed 17 times, to be exact. Even more startling, though, was that this time, it was in the neighborhood right next to mine. Whoever was doing this, they seemed to be getting closer. Having seen the man’s face and having an inkling that he may have something to do with it, I called the police tip line again, and added to what I had previously reported. I told the woman on the other end, who I believe to be the same woman as last time, what I had seen. I told her that he was a Caucasian male, with brown eyes, and long hair. She again asked about his demeanor, to which I again told her that he came across as being very collected, if not a little out of it. She asked me what made me believe that he was involved in the crimes. I told her that while I had not witnessed him do anything particularly sketchy, he seemed kinda strange and like he didn’t belong. Also, that I knew that he was outside at night, when the crimes took place. She thanked me for my contribution and assured me the police department would look into it, before hanging up on me.
Several times over the next so many weeks, on my way home from work, I would see squad cars patrolling my neighborhood, as well as the surrounding area. I guess they took my tip seriously, I thought. During that time, I also didn’t have any strange encounters with the night walker, as I had begun to call him. I guess the cops scared him inside.
I felt quite a bit safer with the police around, and having not seen the man in a while. With that renewed sense of security, I went about my life like normal: going to work, running errands, going for a jog, and the like. Things seemed to finally be getting back to normal. I also had a home security system installed, just in case. You can never be too careful, after all.
It even got to the point where I felt so safe, that one night I decided I would go for a late-night walk. It had been a particularly rough night at work, and I figured it would be a good way to blow off some steam. It was a nice night, anyway, and uncharacteristically warm for early November. The moon was nearly full and had a beautiful orange glow to it. I put on some athletic clothes and headed out. I went up and down several streets, just enjoying the solitude, when I rounded the corner of one of the streets, and became keenly aware of what sounded like a quick burst of footsteps coming from behind me. I turned around but didn’t see anybody there. I guess it was just my mind playing tricks on me. I slowly took a few more steps before I heard what sounded like a few short, heavy breaths coming from the bushes next to me. I looked over, but couldn’t see anything. On that, I cut the walk short, and just headed home, admittedly a little spooked.
I was happy that I hadn’t encountered the man that night, or any of the previous two nights since, for that matter. Since I was now worried that he may be lurking, again. It didn’t last, however, and I would end up encountering him for a third time. I was driving home from a friend’s birthday party, late one evening, and just like the previous two times, I saw him walking along the road, as I turned into my subdivision. It may have been the alcohol in my system, or the fact that I had pepper spray at the ready, but this time, I decided to try and talk to him. Foolish, I know. I pulled up next to him and rolled down my passenger-side window. Driving at a snail’s pace alongside him, I called to him several times, shouting “hey,” but received no response. I then loudly asked him if he was lost, but he just kept walking, as if I wasn’t even there. I then did something that I definitely should not have done. I shouted “hey,” and honked my horn at him. He stopped dead in his tracks, turned sharply towards me, and stared daggers at me. Oh shit, I thought, and sped away, much faster than the allotted speed limit of my neighborhood would suggest I should. I felt like an idiot for that one. Not being at all tired, I stayed up that night, watching TV, and trying to sober up, when I noticed the faint glow of red and blue lights off in the distance. I looked out my window and saw that they were coming from just a few streets over, in my neighborhood. I had a bad feeling about this.
I woke up the next day with a pounding hangover. I went into my living room, and turned on the news, hoping it could possibly shed some light on what happened in my neighborhood the previous night. I was in luck, but to my chagrin the story was about yet another crime having been committed. This was certainly very worrying, until I heard the news reporter say that the perpetrator had been caught. Apparently, the man had been stopped in the middle of his attempted break-in by a private citizen who had recognized what he was doing, and wrestled him to the ground, in an attempt to subdue him. Apparently, the ensuing fracas woke one of the neighbors, who saw what was going on, and called the police. Which explained the flashing lights I saw the night before. I was so glad to hear that they had finally nabbed the perpetrator. I was wholly prepared to see the face of the man that I had attempted to speak to the night before, but was instead met with the mugshot of a much older, balding man, with noticeably blue eyes, and a graying five o’clock shadow. Suffice it to say, it was most certainly not the guy I had been seeing walking around at night.
The private citizen who had thwarted the perpetrator’s attempt was interviewed by the news reporter, and to my utter disbelief, it was the man I had seen walking at night. I heard him speak for the first time. He didn’t sound scary, or threatening at all, he actually had a rather mellow, average-sounding voice. When asked why he did what he did, he said that he was just trying to do the right thing and look out for his neighbors. The news reporter then asked if he hesitated before acting. He responded by saying that he hadn’t, and that risking himself for the greater good was just the price of being a good Samaritan. When he was later asked about why he was out for a walk at such a late hour, he said that he had insomnia, and that walks were very calming for him, allowing him peace and serenity, to collect his thoughts, and that they would usually induce sleep.
The field reporter then concluded her interview with the man, before throwing it back to the news anchors in the studio, who furthered the report. The lead anchor said that the man who had been attempting to break into my neighbor’s house, upon his detainment, admitted to having committed the recent string of break-ins, and assaults in the area, including the one that lead to one person’s murder. When asked about how he chose his targets, he said that he preyed upon people who appeared to be the most vulnerable, and that had he not been caught, his next target was going to be a lady that he saw out walking late at night, a few nights previous, whom he had followed, and watched from behind some bushes. It was me. I was supposed to be next. If not for the man I kept seeing walking around at night, my boys would be left without a mother. After hearing that, I turned the TV off, and headed for bed, but not before going into my boys’ room, where they were fast asleep, and kissing them both one more time goodnight.
So, there it was. The guy I had been afraid of, who I had initially thought to be a violent criminal, turned out to be the hero, and in the end, he saved my life. I guess you really can’t judge a book by its cover.
Credit : Steven Allen
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