Heritage architecture is the highlight of my neighbourhood. Houses are built close together, higher than they are wide, with cedar shingles, and hardy-board siding painted in bright and vibrant colors. Cherry trees line the streets and in the spring their pink blossoms blanket the ground. The water park centered in the middle of our community is a draw to every family within a 10 mile radius. It is the perfect place to raise kids. The neighbourhood is beautiful but it’s the residents that infuse it with life; and no matter how promising that life begins, it can always be corrupted.
I wanted somewhere safe where my son could grow up, where his future siblings might play without my paranoid and vigilant watch. It was this Semi Gated community that promised the sanctuary I longed for. Family dreams are built on the foundation of what it means to be home. Home is first and foremost a place where you feel secure. It’s a recognizable land mark, a number on the front door; it’s the broken path up to a familiar house, and a tree where you carved your name. It’s where lives are lived and memories made. And I wanted something pure. The neighbourhood was so new I convinced myself that darkness had yet to find it. I had no idea that darkness already lurked there.
For four years he lived in our neighbourhood, camouflaged in the laughter of our children as they played. He claimed to be a doctor and because we weren’t given any reason to doubt it, we took him at his word. We trusted his judgement and his unsolicited advice. And on the rare occasion that he was in town (he owned two different homes) neighbours did the neighbourly thing and offered coffee and conversation. He was always polite even as our children played at his feet and ran through his yard. He tried to make the strata meetings, his fees were never in arrears. He was friendly and respectful. He was completely unremarkable. I never feared him, I barely knew him. Brian was the perfect neighbour but Brian did not really exist.
Brian was in fact a fugitive. He is not a doctor but a sex offender. He fled from prosecution and hid in my country.
A predator lived next door to me and I didn’t suspect a thing. Monsters don’t look like monsters. They look like normal people and hold normal jobs. They don’t enter your life with Nazi symbols on their shoulders, or guns in their waistband. They don’t look unkempt or speak in hushed threatening tones. You never see the darkness unless they want you to and by then it’s often too late.
The Heritage architecture is the highlight of my neighbourhood and every spring the cherry trees bloom. He watched and waited for it; a monster in our midst.