NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH

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Chapter 11

I awoke the next morning almost as excited as my kids, but for entirely different reasons. The kids were ecstatic because it was the next to the last day of school. I was excited by the prospect of signing autographs in the afternoon, but was also a little nervous. A book-signing was quite different from reading stories to a bunch of preschoolers, and my stomach did a flip-flop at the thought of being the center of attention for a couple of hours. However, being the center of attention was better than no one asking for an autograph at all, which was always my biggest fear at such events. After all, I was only the illustrator, not the author.

But first, I had to get the kids on the school bus, take Frank for a walk, and do some light housework. Then I had to bake four dozen cupcakes, half vanilla with chocolate frosting and half chocolate with vanilla frosting, for both the kids’ school parties the following day. The house soon smelled delicious and even Frank roused himself to come into the kitchen to beg. For once, I didn’t have to share and I licked both of the beaters, the spoon, and the bowl all by myself!

I had just enough time to shower and get ready for the book-signing after that. I chose a bold yellow dress, with a gold belt cinched around my waist, and matching gold jewelry. I scrunched mousse into my hair and spent a minute blow-drying it into loose, tousled waves. I wore a little more mascara than usual and painted my lips a bright red. I felt properly confident when I checked myself out in my full length mirror; at least my outward appearance didn’t betray my inner jitters.

Traffic was light and it only took me ten minutes to get to the mall. I even managed to snag a parking spot by Waldenbooks’ main entrance. There was a sandwich-board sign inside the doors, announcing my impending book-signing. A couple of latex balloons were tied to it, and they ebbed and bobbed in time to the air current produced by the opening and closing of the automatic door.

I had only done three book-signings before, and two of those times I’d been accompanied by the author. As usual, my table was situated near the back of the store, just outside the children’s section.

The manager, a thin man who reminded me of a vulture with his somber suit and bald, red head, recognized me and rushed forward to shake my hand. He escorted me to the card table and safely locked my purse away under the cash register. I took my seat at precisely one o’clock and didn’t sign a single autograph until nearly two. Several people had approached me to flip through copies of all the books I’d ever illustrated, which were standing on the table all around me. I had cleared one bare spot directly in front me, barely large enough to open a book and sign it.

The first book I signed was for Amanda and Gabby. I couldn’t believe it when I looked up and saw Amanda approaching, pushing Gabby in her stroller.

“Hi,” I said, jumping up and knocking over a couple of books. They fell to the floor and several customers looked my way. I figured my embarrassment would be worth it if my commotion drummed up some business.

“I read about this in the paper and thought we’d come and check it out,” Amanda said.

“Thanks.” I leaned closer and lowered my voice. “It’s been a flop.”

“A lot of mothers work nowadays. And those who stay home usually put their little ones down for a nap right now. I know Gabby’s missing hers, but I thought this was worth it.”

I wasn’t sure if she was just trying to console me, but her excuse sounded logical to my ears. Both my own children had napped every afternoon from two until four up until they started preschool. Lenore, my agent, had no children of her own, and probably hadn’t taken nap times into account when she set the gig up.

Amanda browsed through my selection of books and we chatted about Gabby’s sleeping schedule. She chose two of my favorite books and had me sign them before a young woman stepped up behind her.

“See, now you have a line,” Amanda said with a grin.

“Thank you,” I said as she wheeled Gabby to the front of the store to pay for her autographed copies.

I signed several more books during the last hour, and wasn’t feeling like such a loser when Bethany stopped by on her way home from work. She was dressed in classic Bethany style and looked affluent, respectable, and gorgeous. I noticed she attracted the attention of a couple male patrons as she headed my way. She stopped in front of my table and glanced around.

“Not exactly like waiting for tickets to a Wiggles concert, is it?” she asked.

I couldn’t help laughing. “No, I’m nowhere near the Wiggles league.”

“Has it been this slow the whole time?”

I nodded. “But I get paid the same, regardless.” My contract had a stipulation stating that I had to attend certain promotional events in order to get paid for my book illustrations.

“That’s good.”

I thought for a moment she was going to ask how much I made for a two hour book-signing, but instead she picked up a copy of ‘The Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe’ that I’d illustrated. She did a double-take at the front cover.

“Hey, this looks like Mrs. Matilda.”

“It is,” I whispered.

Bethany began to laugh. “Oh, I have to have this.”

She thrust the book at me to sign just as the manager sneaked up behind me. He quietly thanked me and handed me my purse.

“It’s three,” he said in my ear.

I quickly signed Bethany’s book and waited with her at the check-out counter. Fortunately, business was still slow and we didn’t have long to wait. After Bethany paid for her book, we walked to the parking lot together.

“You look great,” Bethany said when we reached my car.

“Thanks. So do you, as usual.”

“You should wear that tonight.”

I looked down at myself and shrugged. “Okay.” It was one less thing to worry about, I figured. I slid behind the wheel of my car. “See you in a few hours.”


Tiffani showed up to babysit on time, with Brandon and Bethany on her heels. I hadn’t helped Bethany dress, and I was dismayed to see she’d found the red dress I’d hidden and was currently wearing it. The v-neck was as revealing as I’d figured and even Bill had a hard time keeping his eyes off her cleavage.

I quietly invited Tiffani into my bedroom, but for once didn’t want her fashion advice. Although in my opinion she probably could have helped out Bethany. Even with her low-rise jeans and kohl-rimmed eyes, she looked better than Bethany.

“I’m sorry about yesterday,” she said immediately, her eyes downcast.

“It’s not me you should be apologizing to,” I pointed out, crossing my arms and looking sternly at her bowed head.

“Well, I’m sorry to have embarrassed you and for making you lie to my mom.”

I held up my hand. “Whoa, hold on there. I never said I wouldn’t tell her.”

She swallowed with a loud gulp. “No, I guess you didn’t. I was just hoping, you know. . .”

“Yeah, I know.” I shook my head and sighed. “I should tell her.”

She met my eyes for the first time. “Yes, I know.”

“But I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to or not.”

I considered the conversation to be over and I headed to the door. I paused at the open doorway because a sudden unpleasant thought hit me.

“There’s no entertaining here. And especially not in my bed.”

She looked shocked. “Of course not. I would never disrespect you like that.”

“Only your own mother?”

She hung her head and silently followed me out of the room.

I kissed my kids goodbye, and Bill needlessly told them to be good. We rode in Brandon’s car, and Bill and I held hands in the back seat as we drove to one of my favorite local restaurants.

The Dinner Theater was a themed restaurant which featured different performers every week; plays, musicals, and comedic routines. Only one meal was served per day, at seven p.m. sharp, and you had to have a reservation. Bill and I had eaten there a few years earlier, but he’d been reluctant to return because we’d been mercilessly heckled by the comedian who was performing that night.

Fortunately for us, the choice of entertainment we were about to see was an interactive murder mystery. I soon found myself so engrossed in the play that I could have been eating dog food and wouldn’t have noticed. The wait staff were all out-of-work actors and they put on an enthralling performance. I figured out who the murderer was halfway through the play, and I used my recent super-sleuth skills to try and fill in the blanks before the ending. I was concentrating so hard, the feeling went by unnoticed for a minute. Then the unmistakable feeling caught my attention. Drip.

“Shit,” I whispered.

Bill caught my eye and gave me a questioning look.

“Excuse me,” I said. “I need to use the ladies’ room.”

I tried to catch Bethany’s eye, but her attention was riveted on Brandon. I quickly headed to the restroom and was relieved it was empty. I locked myself in a stall, hiked up my skirt, and hovered over the toilet. In this awkward position I took inventory of my purse: lip gloss, Altoids, and my cell phone. Not even a single quarter. I hurriedly dialed Bethany’s cell phone number.

“Hello?”

“Bethany, I need your help.”

There was a pause then her muffled voice whispered, “Cami Jo? Where are you?”

“In the bathroom. Mother Nature paid me a visit and I’m unprepared for her.”

“Oh. Gotcha.”

Two minutes later the outer door opened and I heard the sound of conversation mingling with the clink of silverware before the door closed and all was silent again.

“Cami Jo?”

“In here.” I held my hand above the stall door and waved. “I don’t have anything with me and I don’t even have any change to buy something here,” I complained.

I heard the sound of quarters jingling down a slot, and a moment later Bethany handed me a tampon under the door.

“Thanks,” I said. “Do you ever think it’s weird that there are tampon machines in the ladies’ rooms and condom machines in the mens’?”

“Uh, I never really thought about it before.”

“Well, picture it: a guy’s in there buying a condom and his date’s in here buying a tampon.”

“That would be ironic.”

We both snickered for a second before I emerged from the stall. I washed my hands, and cast a quick glance at my backside in the mirror. I didn’t want to be walking around in my bright yellow dress with a red stain on my ass. Luckily, catastrophe had been averted in the nick of time.

“Is everything okay?” Bill asked after I rejoined him at our table.

I nodded. “My period just started.”

“Oh.” His smile vanished and the twinkle left his eye. “I was hoping I was going to get some later.”

I snorted. “Sorry, not tonight, Mr. Smith.”

Brandon insisted on paying the check at the end of the evening. Bill and Brandon skirmished over it for a minute, like some sort of verbal tug-of-war. Finally, Brandon put an end to it by saying, “It’s my treat. We’re celebrating.” He then gave Bethany such an intimate look that I felt it was prudent not to ask what they were celebrating.

On the drive home, Bethany pointed out that her and Brandon’s initials were the same. I knew she was envisioning monogrammed towels, sheets, and pillowcases.

“B.M.,” Bill said with a laugh, referring to Bethany and Brandon’s initials. “I bet you got teased a lot as a kid.”

Bethany said “no” at the same time Brandon said “yes.” Bethany glanced at him, before turning around in her seat to give Bill a strange look.

“B.M.,” Bill repeated. “You know, bowel movement.”

Brandon began to laugh. “It must be a guy thing.”

“Thank God,” Bethany and I both said.

Bill and I thanked them for a lovely evening when we got home. Bill and I crossed our lawn as Brandon kissed Bethany on her front porch. Bill and I paused on our own front porch for a kiss, too.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw Tiffani sitting on the couch alone. She was watching a show I’d heard of but had never seen before. We barely spoke as I paid her. She cast me a guilty look over her shoulder from the front door.

“Cami Jo, could you please walk me home?”

I never had before and didn’t want to then, but couldn’t think of an excuse. I glanced at Bill and he shrugged. I kicked off my high heels and slipped my feet into my trusty flip-flops. Tiffani began speaking once we reached the sidewalk.

“I don’t want to talk about my mom anymore, or anything like that,” she said.

“Good.”

“I do want to talk to you about something else, though.”

“I figured as much.” I was glad it was dark so Tiffani couldn’t see my eye roll.

“Chavez asked me to run away with him about a month ago.”

“What?” I halted and grabbed her wrist. “You can’t just drop a bombshell like that and keep on walking!”

“Calm down. I only said he wants me to run away, I didn’t say I was going to do it.”

We began walking again. The street lights couldn’t penetrate the thick foliage of the Bradford pears, and we picked our way carefully through the dark. I could smell night-blooming jasmine and heard a dog barking in the distance.

“Well, are you?” I finally asked when we’d reached Tiffani’s gated lawn.

“I’ll tell you like I told him: No, I’m not running off with his broke ass! He has no money, and even I know you can’t just live on love.”

“Yeah, it’s pretty tough,” I said, remembering how much Bill and I had struggled in the beginning. Talk about being a starving artist.

“I figured I could get a job as a stripper, but I don’t want to flash my snatch just to support some deadbeat boyfriend. No man is worth that.”

I wholeheartedly agreed with her, and was secretly impressed by her wisdom. Heather must have done something right, I thought.

“Anyway,” Tiffani concluded, “I wanted you to know I’m not entirely stupid.”

“Good to know.” I was still disappointed in her, but some of her virtues had been redeemed in my eyes. “Thanks for babysitting.”

“Anytime. And Cami Jo, thanks for listening.”


The disappointment I felt toward Tiffani adversely affected the opinion I had of my own kids. I found myself studying Katie Nicole with narrowed eyes, trying to see any of Tiffani’s behavior displayed in her. Likewise, I watched Dylan suspiciously, trying to detect any of Chavez’s loathsomeness in him. I dreaded telling Heather about finding Chavez in her house, but I knew I must. It hung over my head like a dark cloud. I also knew the motto “the sooner, the better” was applicable in this situation, yet I still procrastinated.

On Thursday morning, the last day of school and, therefore, only half a day, I decided to pay Mrs. Matilda a visit. I wanted to see how her auction preparations were going. The front door of her stuffy old house was open, so I bypassed Ms. Gertie’s and headed straight to Mrs. Matilda’s front porch. I poked my head in the doorway and called, “Yoohoo!”

I saw Mrs. Matilda’s considerable backside sticking out from behind a stack of boxes right beside me. As she straightened, she bumped into the boxes and they began to totter. I managed to grab them before they could topple over and hit the floor. Mrs. Matilda tried to squeeze her girth through the maze of boxes and her hip brushed against another stack. The top one fell to the floor with a crash.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“Pooh,” she said, waving my apology away with her hand. “I was just seeing what’s missing today.”

“What do you mean?”

“Every day I’ve been coming to check on my stuff, and every day something new is missing from the boxes. It’s completely throwing off my inventory!”

Poor Mrs. Matilda. There seemed to be no end with the problems concerning her house. She pushed past me to take a deep breath of fresh air on her front porch. I followed her and positioned myself on the top step with my back to the sun.

“I guess you’re looking forward to the auction being over and everything getting out of here,” I said.

Mrs. Matilda continued to look over my shoulder at something across the street as she answered me. “Yes, but then a whole new can of worms will be opened.”

I thought of the mold and the mice, and shook my head sympathetically at her. “I still say you need a natural disaster.”

“That’s what I’ve been praying for, dear,” she said, her eyes never once meeting mine.

“Well, I have a few things to take care of this morning,” I said. “I just wanted to check on you.”

I turned to go and saw what Mrs. Matilda had been watching. I missed the bottom porch step just as Tiffani spread a blanket out in the middle of her spacious front lawn. She wore the same pink bikini I’d previously seen her in and as I watched, she lay down and began to apply lotion to her legs. I walked home, completely lost in thought, wondering about the inappropriate behavior of teen-agers.

My retrospective mood was broken that afternoon. The kids got home amidst squeals of laughter and shrieks of joy. Their exuberance was contagious, and soon even Frank was bouncing around and enthusiastically yapping. I found myself laughing along with them in no time.

We had a picnic in the backyard, and I pretended not to notice the pieces of sandwich they fed to Frank. As they cleaned up our trash, I went to my studio to retrieve something I’d hidden in my paint cabinet weeks before.

“Surprise!” I called out, setting a couple of bulging bags on the ground in front of them. Inside were four pump-action water guns, an array of sidewalk paint with brushes and rollers, a big bucket of colorful chalk, and a bag of empty water balloons. All we needed was water and our imaginations.

We spent the afternoon alternating between soaking one another and decorating our driveway and adjoining sidewalk with brightly colored scenes. Some of our artwork spilled onto the street, and the asphalt was soon covered with gardens, galaxies, and menageries of mythological creatures. The kids had inherited my artistic talent, and I was impressed by the assortment of pictures they drew.

Bill got home in the middle of our last water fight. His suit and Italian leather loafers were saturated within thirty seconds of his arrival. He was, by far, the water balloon champion, though. He and the kids ganged up on me until the balloons were gone and I was drenched.

We ordered pizza for dinner and, in honor of the last day of school, ate in our pajamas in front of the TV. Katie Nicole reminded us yet again of her upcoming slumber party, and she dominated the conversation for several minutes. I finally jumped in, successfully cutting her off, to remind them of my own plans for a Girl’s Night the following evening.

After dinner, we had the kids drag out their full backpacks and show us everything they’d brought home from school. Dylan showed off his completed Family Tree, which had a big, red A+ at the top. We examined the names on the branches, tracing Katie Nicole’s namesake and my own, and exclaimed over the long-ago dates.

“I couldn’t find my name anywhere,” Dylan said.

“You won’t find it on our family tree,” I said, giving Bill a meaningful look, cuing him to field the upcoming onslaught of questions.

“I insisted we name you after the greatest lyricist and folk singer of all times,” Bill explained. He retrieved a CD from the entertainment center and muted the TV. Soon the house was reverberating with a famous nasal twang.

“Geez,” Dylan complained after listening for a couple of minutes. “You couldn’t have named me after someone cool?”

“Bob Dylan is cool,” Bill insisted defensively, looking hurt by the slight to his favorite musician.

“Wow,” Katie Nicole said after glancing at the CD cover, “he’s even ugly.”

Dylan abruptly stood up and turned off the muted TV and the music, getting everyone’s attention before pulling a crumpled piece of paper from his backpack. He stood before us in his Incredible Hulk pajamas and his cowlicked hair poked up from his forehead.

“We had to write an essay for Family History,” he began, his eyes downcast and his fingers worrying the frayed edge of the tattered paper in his hand. “I had to read mine in front of the whole class because my teacher said it was the best. Now I want to read it to you.”

He cleared his throat and looked up, his hazel eyes bore directly into mine. “This essay is entitled ‘Who You Admire Most.’” His eyes dropped back down to the smudged paper and he began to read in a soft, clear voice. He sounded surprisingly well-spoken, and I wondered if he possibly had a career in politics ahead of him.

“I admire my mom the most because I think she’s the greatest mom in the whole world. She’s fun and smart and nice. She teaches me stuff like how to roller skate. She makes me laugh when I’m sad. She makes up fun games for us to play. She’s a painter and sometimes she even gets paid for it. She’s president of the Neighborhood Watch and helps other people with their problems. She’s my mom, the best mom in the whole world.”

I had tears in my eyes as I hugged his head tightly against my waist. There were times when I wished my kids would never grow up. Needless to say, I hung the heartfelt essay on the fridge with a pair of ladybug magnets Katie Nicole had made for Mother’s Day when she was four.

To lighten the mood and to celebrate the last day of school some more, I suggested we go to the backyard and catch the first fireflies of the season. I retrieved our trusty “lightning bug lantern” (which was nothing more than an empty two-liter bottle with pinholes poked in it and string looped through the lid) and two butterfly nets from the garage.

Bill and I sat together on the back porch and watched our kids race around in the dark. After Dylan proclaimed the lantern was “all filled up with bugs,” Bill hung it from a hook by our dining room window. It was the same hook we hung our hummingbird feeder from every summer, a snowflake wind sock in the winter, and a rain chime every spring. The lightning bug lantern would hang there until the kids were in bed and I could tiptoe out and release our flickering little captives.

The four of us lounged on the porch, with Bill and me pointing out constellations and waiting for the kids to settle down enough to go to bed. The last day of school was almost as exciting as Christmas Eve to them. Instead of dozing off with visions of dancing sugar plums and piles of presents, they drifted off to sleep with visions of twinkling stars and endless, carefree days ahead of them.


I awakened with a start at midnight. I don’t know what woke me because all I could hear was the chirping of crickets and Bill’s intermittent snores. I listened attentively but didn’t hear any suspicious sounds. I lay there for a few minutes longer before deciding to get up and check all the locks again.

The kids were both sleeping soundly, no doubt still dreaming of the first day of summer vacation, and Frank was curled up by Dylan’s feet. I was about to go back to bed but made a quick detour to peek out the living room window first. I looked right and all was well, but I froze when I looked to the left.

Parked in front of Ms. Gertie’s house was a lone police car, its spinning light casting a flashing red wash up and down the street. I stood with my hand on my heart, unsure of what to do. As I watched, Officer Jackson emerged from the house with Ms. Gertie hot on his heels. He barely paused on her porch long enough to tip his hat at her before striding down the walk to his car. He was gone a moment later, and Rain Lane returned to its darkened slumber.

I had a harder time, however. I lay awake for hours, contemplating the event I’d just witnessed. Had someone broken into Ms. Gertie’s house? If so, I believed more than one policeman would have shown up. I hoped it had only been a close call, like when I’d interrupted my burglar. I lay awake for a long time and finally got drowsy at almost three o’clock.

I was drifting off when my sleepy brain said, “Disco?” My conscious mind recognized the rotating red lights on the ceiling for what they actually were, though, and I came fully awake. I put on my slippers and looked out the window.

Two police cars were parked directly across the street in front of Amanda’s house. Their lights were on, and the street and my front yard looked like they were illuminated by strobe lights. Hence, my exhausted brain’s association to a disco.

I quietly crossed the room and put on my robe. I was careful to close it and tie the belt tightly before I picked my way down the stairs. I managed to get to the front door without tripping over any toys, and I soundlessly unlocked the door. I made sure I closed it behind me and I still had both slippers on before I jogged across the street.

The Johnson household was in chaos, with four policemen milling around barking questions or orders at everyone and Gabby wailing at the top of her lungs. Tonya was sobbing loudly against Jon’s chest and Jeremiah was too distraught to even try and make them act like siblings, not lovers. I took all of this in from the open front door, then I cleared my throat and said, “Knock, knock.”

All eyes, minus Gabby’s, turned toward me. Officer Jackson barely inclined his head in my direction.

“Mrs. Smith.”

“Officer Jackson,” I shot right back, but he was already ordering one of the men to dust for fingerprints on the dining room window and sill. Judging by what he was saying, that had been the point of entry.

Amanda handed the still-crying Gabby to Jeremiah and came to the door with her arms outstretched. She smiled warmly at me, despite the hour and the occasion.

“Come in, Cami Jo,” she said before she’d even reached the door.

“Is everyone all right?”

“We’re fine,” Amanda said. She slipped her arm around my shoulders. “Gabby woke up for a bottle and she and Tonya interrupted a burglar halfway through the window.”

She sounded so nonchalant, as if this sort of thing happened every day, that it caused me to look closer at her. Her wide eyes were vacant and I could feel her knees knocking together. I realized her nonchalance was in fact a form of shock.

Tonya pulled herself together with an effort and Jon kissed her forehead. She took Gabby from her father’s arms and Jon put his arm around her. Together, they began to sway and sing a soft lullaby. Gabby quieted almost instantly. All eyes turned to the still bundle in Tonya’s arms; the sudden silence was practically deafening. Officer Jackson began barking orders again and all other sounds resumed.

Amanda still had her arm around me in a death grip and her eyes darted around the room, not stopping long enough to focus on anything in particular. I led her to the couch and sat down beside her. Her husband stood in the center of the room, looking like he didn’t know what to do now that Gabby had been taken from him. I caught his eyes, nodded at Amanda, and suggested he get her a glass of water.

“No, no,” Amanda said in a dreamy voice. Jeremiah turned back to her, his eyebrows raised and his head inclined in a questioning angle.

“A scotch on the rocks, please. Wait,” Amanda held up her hand. “Better make it a double.”

Jeremiah walked to the bar in the dining room. A second later I heard keys jangling as he unlocked the liquor cabinet. Then, the only sounds to be heard were Officer Jackson snapping out orders and the clink of ice in a glass. Jeremiah brought Amanda her drink and I quickly got up and pushed him into my vacant spot. Without further encouragement from me, he slipped his arm around her shoulders. She looked at him for a second, and I saw the dreamy look leave her eyes as they focused on him. I stood there awkwardly, everyone seemingly oblivious to my presence, and I knew I was no longer needed.

“Well, if there isn’t anything I can do, I guess I’ll be going home now,” I said.

Amanda tried to get up, perhaps to hug me again or to walk me to the door, but I shook my head and gestured for her to remain seated.

“Thank you, Cami Jo,” she said.

Jeremiah looked from her to me. “Yes. We really appreciate your concern.”

Tonya and Jon continued their quiet crooning and didn’t look up as I showed myself out. I was practically to the sidewalk when I heard Officer Jackson call for me to wait. We stood under a Bradford pear tree, next to one of the police cars, and were bathed in a pulsating red light as we spoke. Officer Jackson explained his intent to canvas the neighborhood later in the morning, “at a more reasonable hour,” to see if any of my neighbors had seen anything. He figured if he could get my statement right then it would be one less thing he’d have to do after the sun came up. I hadn’t seen anything out of the ordinary, except the police cars, and I told him as much. Then I mentioned seeing him leaving Ms. Gertie’s house earlier in the night.

He nodded; his eyes on his notebook. “Another B & E attempt.” He closed the notebook and turned his penetrating blue eyes on me. “She caught someone trying to jimmy open her front door and called 9-1-1. I was on patrol, at the end of the street, and arrived within seconds. By the time I got there, though, the perp had taken off. I never saw a thing.”

I hesitated, then mentioned my own similar experience. He listened intently to everything; his cold stare never leaving my face as I spoke. He only had one question when I was done talking.

“Why didn’t you call the police?”

I shrugged, not wanting to admit to him the list of reasons I had. I was certain he would think they were all petty. What was frightening your children compared to the safety of the entire community?

He shook his head at me. “Even if we don’t catch him immediately, it gives us a record, which does help us catch him eventually.”

Feeling properly chastised, I hung my head, unable to meet his fierce blue eyes anymore.

“You can go now, Mrs. Smith.”

I hustled across the street, but paused on the sidewalk when I heard him call to me. I glanced over my shoulder.

“If more of your neighbors were as aware as you, we’d have caught this guy by now.”

“Thanks,” I said.

His compliment relieved me, and I was able to slip back into bed without waking Bill. I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, thankful that I didn’t have to wake up early and get the kids off to school.

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