Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Scary Story

On this lovely sunny day, this house doesn't really look that scary at all does it?
Well, it isn't really scary anymore, but once upon a time some pretty shady business went on here, and over time, transferred itself into one of the scariest experiences I have ever had.

There was a woman in her late twenties or early thirties who lived as a renter in several houses here in the Buffer Zone.

 When I first met her, she lived here.
She kept her dogs (she had two, one medium sized and one small, both very yappy) in the back yard behind the fence.  Then she moved to the House that Burned (before it burned, of course!).  That house does not have a  fenced yard, so she constructed one of wire and sticks, the kind of materials people use to make those wire enclosures for their compost, but bigger.  It seemed insubstantial, but the dogs stayed in it.

I think it was about this time that I realized she was a little off.  She would come over to talk to Miss May under her wisteria arbor.  She didn't have a job and was rather vague about looking for one or what she had done previously. In fact, she was just plain vague period. 
Once she had asked Miss May to borrow her car and I remember thinking that was a bad idea.  I don't know, there was just a vibe about the lady.  Like she was an adult, but she wasn't all there.  You got the idea that she was living on her own, but she was the real responsibility of relatives somewhere else.

Anyway, she eventually moved from the House that Burned, to the house in the picture.

If you look closely here you can see that the split-rail fence has wire over it.  The landlord built the fence (at first she had her little compost fence) and she kept her dogs out front.  This struck me as weird because the whole backyard is fenced in--at least I think it is.

Anyway, about this time too she started going around with young black males in large beat-up cars.  These boys (guys in their late teens or early twenties) sat low at the steering wheel and moved in pairs or groups of three.  To see her, a white woman in her thirties, with them was incongruent.  The cars moved in and out of the driveway at all odd hours.  Many had no license plates, just cardboard signs that said "Tag Applied For" --if that.

One night, at about eleven or maybe midnight, my husband took a walk by her house.  He paused on her sidewalk, in spite of the noisy dog alarms, and a man hiding up in her magnolia tree asked my husband what he was stopping for and told him he had better keep moving.

Of course the Garden Lady had her eye on all of this, and though some suggested prostitution, we mostly believed it was a meth lab.  The police began to quietly watch the place and rely on our reports.

One day, a man stood out on the sidewalk in front of the house with a large black umbrella on a day with no rain.  Periodically, he would open the umbrella and stroll up and down in front of the house. He would hold it out in front of him and twirl it, not hold it over his head.   He stand like that for about thirty minutes and then he would close the umbrella and merely loiter.
It wasn't too long after that that the police had enough evidence and  were able to come in and close the whole thing down.  Our suspicions were right.  The woman had been wrangled into using the house for a meth lab.  Apparently, her parents had to come in and bail her out, and we were right about her being simple minded as well.

Okay, so here's the scary part.  About two years after this whole thing was over, someone came to my house and started banging on the front door at about two in the morning.
I sprang from my bed in a terrifying mix of fuzzy delirium and panic.
"Tracy!  Tracy!" a man yelled as my dog, hackles up was going nuts.  "Come on let me in!"
Oh my god, I thought, did I lock the door?  Please let me have locked the door!!
The man outside was struggling with the door knob.
"Go away!" my husband commanded--loud, but as panicked as I was.
Somehow, I had managed to dial 911 and was giving them my information even as the man continued to try to get in.
Things got quiet, and I was afraid to move the curtains to look out the window for fear of seeing his face!
The flash of red lights (no siren) gave me courage at least to peak out the kitchen window.  From there I could see that the man had moved to the house next door, and looked collapsed on their porch.  When the officers came to my door, I pointed them to the collapsed man.  They helped him up and put him in their car.
I am sure the man was trying to get to that other house, the meth house.  He had been away for awhile--in jail I think (though where did I get that idea?  Did he say something like "I'm out now?"  Or something? Did the police say it?  Did I hear it later from the Garden Lady?)--anyway, regardless--he obviously was trying to get drugs and was high and disoriented.  The dog barking wouldn't have bothered him, only made him think he was in the right place.

Good grief!  It was like a horror movie watching the door knob, hoping to heaven it didn't budge!


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