The broadcaster’s deep bellowing voice echoed throughout the room, as he delivered the daily 6 o'clock news.
The television was blaring, as I dashed back and forth from the kitchen to the living room, all the while preparing my supper. I rested on the couch every so often catching the occasional news story of interest, in hopes of hearing the weather for the next day.
Earlier in the afternoon while running a few errands, my ears perked up as I vaguely remember catching the tail-end of a story which captured my attention. In a matter of minutes however, the radio announcer was doing the usual advertising segment, which I am sure, ultimately paid the station’s bills. I never really gave the story a second thought. Scurrying around the kitchen, I worked on a nice simple stir fry for my evening meal.
After removing the veggies from the crisper and dousing them under cold water, I patted them dry and began the prep work for my dish. I chopped the carrots and peppers, still keeping an ear tuned to the local happenings on the evening news station. Just at that moment, I heard the TV anchorman blurt out an all-to-familiar name from the past. My heart skipped a beat at about the same time as I sliced down on a carrot, cutting my finger with the sharp paring knife. I instinctively put my bleeding finger to my mouth, quickly grabbing a tissue and darting for the living room.
I stood wide-eye before the television, dead in my tracks, watching in disbelief as they hustled the hand-cuffed prisoner to the awaiting police car. All I could do was shake my head in disbelief, listening to the alarming words spoken by the broadcaster. Loud and clear he announced,
“The police have made an arrest. Samuel Hanes is now in police custody.”
I stayed glued to the TV screen, realizing that Samuel was barely recognizable to me. The bespectacled man with stringy, thinning blonde hair was untidy, unshaven, and now slightly overweight; a far cry from the man who I expected to see. He had aged over the years, not gracefully, and he reminded me somewhat of a vagrant who walked the streets. His hands were shackled behind his back and his ankles were in leg chains. I only caught a quick glimpse of him as they swiftly moved him out the back door of the station. The police officer placed his hand on the top of Samuel’s head, keeping it from bumping the door frame and maneuvered him into the back of the squad car.
Samuel unknowingly conjured up the past, but he was undoubtedly the young man who I remembered from many years back; a ghost who still haunts many. All of them, unsuspecting souls, easy prey, but had fallen into his grips. Their lives will never be the same.
It was the year 1993, when I first set eyes on Samuel Hanes.
Our next door neighbors, Floyd and Christine Squires had been living in the other side of the duplex for a short while, and their son, Freddy became close friends with our son, Jason. Freddy was a few years older, but much smaller in stature. Born with a heart defect, his growth was stunted and his maturity level also reflected his size. Their new family was blended, with children from different marriages, but our two boys got along famously. Jason was an athletic child, energetic and outgoing, while Freddy was a quieter, more introverted boy. That didn’t stop them from always rough-housing and as the saying goes, ‘boys will be boys’ certainly rang true .
Floyd and Christine, like many couples, were not without their fair share of problems, but when Christine’s teenage daughter came to live with them, the lives behind the Squire's walls would change forever. It wasn’t long after Sarah moved in when the problems began. The relationship between Floyd and Sarah deteriorated, along with her mood and demeanor. Our relationship was strictly on a neighborly basis, but living next door I couldn’t help but notice the constant parade of questionable characters passing through their front door. Sarah didn’t remain long next door before moving out, and returning to live with her father.
Then the unthinkable happened. Floyd was charged with sexually molestation. The victim and accuser of course was Christine’s daughter, Sarah.
Christine, as a devoted wife, stood by Floyd’s side, taking his word over her own daughter. I remember her telling me one day, “Sarah is a liar and a trouble maker, and I want nothing more to do with her.” I actually couldn’t believe what I was hearing, but that was how it would be. Floyd was charged with the crime, and before long, he was found guilty and sentenced to time behind bars. Floyd was gone to prison.
The household next door quieted down quite a bit, as Christine religiously visited Floyd in jail. She didn’t drive, so relied on her close friends Norah and Jack to make the weekly trek with her. She would spend all of her time with Norah. Her support was unwavering and she kept Christine in good spirits. Jack and Norah held true to their friendship with Floyd, also visiting him on their own during the week. There was never another word spoken about Sarah. I wondered what the truth was and how a mother could take sides against her own flesh and blood. But the Squires family proved to be a different breed, their dubious backgrounds troubled over the years.
Jason and Freddy’s friendship never changed with Floyd's absence, if anything they spent more time together. One day while housecleaning, I noticed a tall, blonde, young man in his late twenties arrive next door. I had never set eyes on him before, but I did notice that he was rather handsome, with an athletic build, much like that of a football player. In the days and weeks to follow, he would become a frequent visitor to Christine’s home, and the day came when I eventually met him in person.
We both arrived at the front doors about the same time one day, and the two boys were playing on the front porch. Freddy quickly piped up and said, “This is Samuel, he is a friend of my father’s.” I smiled at Samuel giving him a nod, hello. We exchanged in small talk, before we each entered our respective front doors. Freddy began spending a lot of time with Samuel, probably since his father was still behind bars. A ‘father figure’ is what Samuel represented to young Freddy, and Christine obviously approved and welcomed the support.
Freddy’s personality changed over the next while. He was showered with candy and gifts by Samuel, and he seemed genuinely happier this past while; or so we thought. I talked with Samuel occasionally as he had become a permanent fixture next door. I noticed Freddy always had new toys, unlike before and Samuel seemed to be filling the much needed ‘male role’ in his life. A ‘win…win’ situation all around, I thought to myself. I had no other reason to question Samuel’s motives.
It was an early spring afternoon when there was an unexpected knock at my door. I was at the kitchen sink finishing up the dishes. Grabbing the nearest dish towel, I wiped my hands and headed to see who was there. The inside wooden door was already open, allowing the sunshine to stream in. I immediately recognized the man standing on the other side of the screen door. It was only a matter of minutes before my mind started racing, knowing his familiar face was that of a police officer. I couldn’t help but wonder why he was here. We knew each other socially, but not that well. I pushed open the screen door and said, “Hello Rick, how are you. What can I do for you?” Rick’s face became grim and I could tell from his look, it must be serious. My body was feeling tense, as I nervously continued to wipe my hands on the dish towel. I was uneasy and anxious when I asked, “Is there a problem?” He didn’t answer my question, but asked, “Is your husband, Phillip here?” “Yes he is” I answered, quickly calling into the living room for him.
I invited Rick inside, and we all proceeded to pull out the chairs to sit at the kitchen table. He opened a small notepad that was in his hands, and he looked at each of us before he asked that dreaded question. Do you know the people next door? I thought the question a bit strange, but I answered, “Yes, I guess as well as I know my other neighbors.” His look became pensive, worried-like, when he said, “this might be a bit upsetting, but you have to know. “I felt my face flush, a heat wave coming over me as my body became rigid in my chair. I couldn’t fathom what we were about to hear. I looked over at Phillip, his eyes still focused on Rick. ‘Oh my god, what is he going to say’, I thought to myself. It seemed like forever, but it was only a matter of seconds before Rick cleared his throat and spoke up.
“Do you know anything about the tall, young man with blonde hair who visits next door?” I pondered his question for a few moments then apprehensively answered him.
“No Rick, I guess I don’t.”