A few years ago, I came home one June day to find a TV news crew two doors away. A neighbor had been arrested on charges of indecent exposure. He’d been luring women to his house by way of Craigslist help-wanted ads, leaving a note on the door saying to come in. What it didn’t say was, “You’ll find me masturbating.” The reporter had knocked on our door; Maria had told her we had no comment.
“Heck, I’ll go talk to her,” I said.
“You will not.”
We repeated this exchange several times, suggesting one of us was being childish.
I said, “Look, I’ve seen that scumbag at the end of his driveway fetching his mail with only a bath towel around his waist. Now we know why his rear neighbor put up that Berlin Wall of a side fence: He’s like living next door to a live peep show. I’ll just talk to the reporter for a moment.”
“George Tisdale, you will not.”
“Oh yeah, little woman?” I would’ve said if I’d been braver. Instead I opted for, “OK, I won’t talk to the stupid reporter.” Because one, it’s entirely possible a given reporter could be dense, and two, I recalled that when my mother began a comment with my full name it was akin to the sound of a diamondback’s rattle.
Our pervert-neighbor’s arrest shed a disturbing light on his rental of a room to female tenants. The renter’s car would always be parked on the street by the entrance to his driveway; but after the arrest, no car parked there. Then about a year later, a small, two-door coupe began parking in the spot. One day I saw a woman driving it. God, I thought, she has no idea who she’s living with. He’s probably spying on her through hidden bedroom and bathroom peepholes. What if I were to warn her? The idea gripped me; I had to do it. A copy of a news article on his arrest would do the trick. No need to tell Maria. Obviously.
Days later, we had a moonless night. I folded a print-off of the story into a thick, playing card-sized rectangle, walked to the woman’s car, paused for a 360-scan, and wedged it into the crack between the driver’s door and the panel behind. The good deed was done; and I’d done it.
The next morning, cup of coffee in hand, I assumed the air of taking the air on our wraparound front porch so I could look down the street. The car’s brake lights were on. The woman was inside. She had to be reading—and shocked.
“What are you doing?” Maria said, from behind me, to my flinch.
I divulged all, adding, “She’ll move away now and be safe—thanks to me, your husband the hero.”
“Hmm?” I said, my eyes on the street.
“That woman doesn’t live in his house. She lives across the street.”
Had some woman mimicking Maria said that? I looked around. Just the two of us. Unfortunately. Then something struck me: I’d had my fill of the air and it was time to go inside.
“Are you sure?” I said, pausing in our doorway.
“Uh-huh. See for yourself.”
I didn’t exactly feel the need to, but Maria was doing that come-here thing with an index finger. I crept along the wall—I often do that for the sheer fun of it—and stopped where the side porch met the front to peer around the corner. The woman from the car was talking to Mr. Pervert’s across-the-street neighbor. They were walking together to the neighbor’s house where, to my utter surprise, they went in together.
“Oops,” I said.
Not long after, I retired from being a private investigator. I was about halfway to the kitchen at the time.