When our house was built the plan was to have a large storage room off the main hallway. This storage room would have a door to the hall and a door to the outside making it convenient to bring stuff from either the inside or the outside into the room. The room was half filled with stuff that would never be used at the time Amy came to live with us, she was a newborn baby at the time and I was four years old. Amy stayed in my mother and father’s room for a year or so and then they wanted her out, my being much smaller than they and able to offer little resistance, they moved her into my room! I never saw this as something I had gained but as long as she stayed in her cage in the corner of the room it seemed a livable arrangement. I was six years old when Amy learned to climb over the rail of her crib and land screaming on the floor. Once she learned this skill she felt the need to practice it every night after my parents had gone to bed, it was the screaming part that wore me down. I called a family meeting. Amy was excluded from this meeting because of her age and because of the subject matter. It was decided that my father would build a shed in the backyard and I would take possession of the storage room at the end of the hall. The storage room was small, it had no closet, no windows but it had access to the great outdoors, which even at the age of six I understood to be a level of freedom. At nine years old I understand how easily this freedom can be taken away and only escape through my back door when absolutely necessary and well after both of my parents have gone to sleep for the night. Tonight is such a night.
Our street looks much different at night. There are four streetlights on each block, one at each corner and two evenly spaced mid block, one is directly in front of our house. The light from one streetlight reaches the light from the next so I am never in complete darkness, I can see well enough not to trip. The trees make strange patterns on the concrete walkway that change from dim to dark and from in front of me to behind me depending on which street light is closest. The houses are all dark; some porch lights are on, not many. Some houses have detectors in their porch lights so when a cat passes by the lights will come on, but most of the houses are dark and remain dark as I walk by. I haven’t got far to go. Up ahead I see the sparkle of two eyes peeking around the trunk of a tree. I walk faster, toward the concealed person. The last peek was from the left side of the tree, closest to the sidewalk, so I walk as quietly as I can on the grass next to the road and slowly creep around the trunk from the left side closest to the road. Just as the person takes another peek and discovers I am no longer on the sidewalk, I give him a poke between his shoulders, Ricky jumps about a foot. I try to keep from laughing out loud and end up making some wierd sucking sounds which cause Ricky to start making the same sort of sounds which ends with us sitting on the grass on the dark side of the tree waiting to see if any porch lights come on. None do.
“You ‘bout scared me to death,” Ricky says as soon as it is clear we haven’t woke anyone up.
“Have any trouble getting out?” I ask. Ricky’s room doesn’t have a back door.
“No, they sleep like babies,” Ricky whispers, returning to stealth mode.
“Trust me, babies are not great at sleeping,” I still remember the year I roomed with one. “Lets go,” I motion toward the sidewalk and toward town. The shops along what was once Main Street and now is some kind of park-like plaza are dimly lit on the insides with their signs all dark. Some of the shops have neon signs in the corner of their windows announcing they are closed. The plaza has old looking streetlights spaced about twenty feet apart. The streetlights are not old even though they have been make to look old and have timers that automatically dim their light at night after the stores have closed. Some of the trees growing out of planters have been decorated with white Christmas lights wrapped around their branches and the trees do more to light up the red brick covered plaza than the streetlights do.
Ricky taps his watch so it will light up, “It’s almost time,” he whispers.
“Always at the same time?” I whisper back, already knowing the answer but just making conversation.
Ricky nods, “Justin saw him three nights in a row when his house was being painted and his family stayed in the hotel.” We find a place near the closed for the night coffee shop. In a corner shaded by some brick pillars we do what every great hunter is good at, we find a comfortable spot on the ground and we wait. Five minutes go by. The still summer night offers a slight chill compared with the heat of the day, stars fill the dark sky.
“There,” Ricky whispers and points to a lone figure. The person, dressed in black, walks to the door of Alan’s bookstore across the plaza and tries the door, it appears to be locked. He looks around himself. Did we make a noise? Did he catch a movement we made? The lone man walks to the next business and tries the door to the candy shop, it appears to be locked. As he makes his way to the next shop I nudge Ricky and point toward the man, Ricky nods and we slowly get to our feet and clinging to the shadows we make our way to where the man tries the door to our jewelry shop. As he tried the locked door we get within ten feet behind him.
“Hey you!” I shout in my most adult cop voice. The man jumps a couple of feet into the air and turns slamming himself against the glass front of the jewelry shop his hands instinctively raised above his head.
And then he sees us, “what are you kids doing out here?” he asks. “You about scared me to death,” my second near death causing of the night.
“What are you doing here?” I go ahead and ask my prepared question although I can see plainly written across the front of his black shirt the name of the security company he works for.
“I’m doing my job,” he answers, “and part of that job is to send you kids home.” We take off toward our houses before he can think of taking names and informing parents.
“Super heroes are only as good as their information,” Ricky states as we get back to the concrete walkway that leads to our homes.
“I’m thinking of getting out of the business,” I say after walking in silence for a while and giving it some thought.
“What else could he have been doing three nights in a row?” Ricky asked shaking his head in disbelief.
“We just saw what we wanted to see, Ricky. We just saw what we wanted to see.” It was a good feeling knowing we had not shared our plans with anyone. “What should we tell Justin?” I ask.
“Nothing,” Ricky answers.
“Good plan.” I make the turn into my yard and Ricky keeps walking toward his house. The back door to my room squeaks, note to self – oil the door.