At approximately 2:45 AM on Sunday, August 10th, 1986, a loud thud stirred Cameron Bray out of deep sleep. It seemed to come from somewhere around his house.
The thirty-nine-year-old warehouse manager placed his feet gently on the floor. It was a clear night. Having rained earlier in the day, the air was warm and dense with humidity.
East Chesterfield Road, where Bray lived, was a quiet stretch through the suburbs just outside of Canyon City. Cars rarely drove by. There was never anyone traipsing noisily about on the street.
Bray rose and looked out his bedroom window. His newly- mowed front lawn was barren. The streetlights created shadows but also filled in the areas around the house, illuminating sidewalks, streets, and the bramble-filled vacant lot across the way. He strained, narrowing his eyes. Still, Bray couldn’t see anything that could have made the sound anywhere within the pale illuminated halo.
Maybe I imagined it? Bray wondered.
He lived alone. Six weeks ago, Bray had broken up with a girlfriend. They had been together for a little over one year, a relationship that had come to its end in a bloodless separation. Melanie had simply wanted out. Not wanting a fuss, Bray obliged her, moving into the Riverside Inn for a weekend while she moved her things out.
That couldn’t be Melanie. She’d already gotten all of her stuff.
Rolling onto his bed, Bray began to drift back to sleep when the sound came again. This time he heard what it was clearly. It was the sound of someone pounding.
This time, Bray bolted upright. The sounds were real. Someone was inside the house.
Sweat formed across his high, smooth forehead. With a shaky hand, he picked up the bedside rotary phone and dialed 9-1-1. The operator picked up.
“911, what is your emergency?”
Bray shielded his mouth in an attempt to mask his voice. “There’s someone in my house…”
“422 East Chesterfield…”
The operator cleared her throat.
“Uhm, we already have officers on the scene.”
“Already? What do you mean...?”
“Someone from your address called a moment ago…”
Bray dropped the phone and hurried back to the window for a view outside. Empty moments before, the lawn was now filled with police cars, flashing lights, and one officer standing in the street.
“Hello?” The voice came from the dangling phone. “Hello? Are you still there?”
Bray crept down the front stairs. Each step onto the tread sent a loud creak through the house. Damn these old houses.
The downstairs lights were on. There were people gathered in the living room. Slowing at the first landing, Bray overheard what they were talking about. The voices boomed with the authority of police officers. They were asking routine questions. But who?
Bray continued. Coming into the living room, he found two uniformed police officers huddled over the couch with their backs to the staircase. Bray cleared his throat, announcing his presence.
The nearest cop startled and reached for his pistol. He was a young kid, hardly able to fill the midnight blue uniform, his wrists and neck swallowed up in cuffs and collar.
Bray threw up his hands.
“What the hell is going on here?”
An older cop turned to the sound of his voice. He carried a drawn, matter-of-fact expression on his gray-bearded mug. Bray caught a glimpse of his bronze name tag: Kelvin.
“Who are you?” Kelvin said.
“Who am I? I live here.”
Officer Kelvin placed a calming hand on the young cop’s shoulder. “I think he’s fine.” The quivering hand lowered.
Bray sighed with relief. “I’ll ask you again,” he said. “What the hell is going on?”
The cluster of cops took a step backward. Hidden behind them, seated on the couch, was a man. He was no more than forty years of age with neatly parted dark hair. He wore a forest green windbreaker that was tattered and filthy. From loafers to knees, his khaki pants were covered in mud and grass stains. Something in his appearance said he was a man who had just recently let himself go. His jaw showed three-day salt and pepper bristle. Sweat dotted his brow. Sleeplessness marked his eyes. Through all of that, he looked like the kind of guy that bragged about his golf game in the grocery line.
“Are you Mister Cameron Bray?” Officer Kelvin asked.
Bray nodded. “Who is that?”
Kelvin shook his head. “You don’t know this man?”
“Hell no. I have no idea who this is.”
“Did you call 911, Mister Bray?”
“A minute ago. But when I did... they said I already called.”
The three cops exchanged befuddled looks.
“Someone else lives here?” Kelvin asked.
“I live alone.”
The cops turned their attention back to the man. His expression was blank. Being the subject of conversation didn’t seem to bother him.
“Help us understand what happened here, sir,” Kelvin continued.
“I called the police,” the man said, plainly. He pointed to the kitchen phone.
“Why?” Kelvin asked.
“Because I felt my life was in danger.”
“You were in danger?”
The man shrugged. “So, I ran into the house and did what anyone would do.”
“You called the police?”
The man nodded.
Bray stepped forward, shaking his head. “You broke into my house and called the cops on yourself?”
“I didn’t break-in,” the man said. “The back door was open.”
Bray reeled back in embarrassment. He could have sworn he checked both of the doors before going to bed just before midnight.
Officer Kelvin crouched and looked the man in the eye. “What’s your name, sir?”
“Dalton Thompson Webb,” he replied. “Everyone calls me DT though.”
“OK, DT,” Officer Kelvin said. “Why did you feel you were in danger?”
“I was being followed,” DT said. His voice remained calm and clear. Bray was not a cop, but he believed he could tell when someone was telling the truth.
The older cop nodded. “You were followed by whom?”
DT laughed out loud. His shoulders settled into a deep, unsettled shiver.
“I don’t know what’s so funny,” Kelvin continued.
“Nothing is funny,” DT said. “Believe me.”
“You were being followed by whom?”
“You mean by what, officer,” DT replied.
Officer Kelvin shook his head. “OK. You were being followed by what?”
DT nodded. His eyes narrowed.
“Mister Webb, I’m asking you a question…”
“I’m tired.” Webb’s voice flattened. “I’m tired of running.”
Bray collapsed on the bottom step. The officers exchanged befuddled expressions. Just then, a third officer who had been standing out on the street ran inside, teeth chattering, rubbing his arms.
Kelvin startled. “What is it, Officer Dell?”
“I don’t know... but it’s suddenly cold as hell out there.”
In an instant, DT threw himself at the officers, wrists extended, begging for handcuffs.
“Take me now, quickly,” he said. “Quickly, damn it, before it finds its way in here.”