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The Serial Killer Next Door

by Dianne Kochenburg, editor
Clever Magazine

Dianne, the editor, is a retired sociology professor. She has been editing this magazine for over twenty years, as a hobby, along with doing some artwork, reading thrillers and managing cats.

The oddest thing about serial killers is that they usually live right next door to us and we donít have a freaking clue who they are or what horrible things they have done. Reporters always start interviewing the neighbors right after the cops perp-walk that nice old guy, who lived next door for the past 20 years, to the cop car and gruffly push him inside. No sirens, just a number of other cop cars cluttering up the scene, a regular parade of cop cars, carrying off that sort of creepy old guy from down the street. Easy arrest, horrible person.

The neighbors report that he mainly kept to himself. They tell the eager reporter, yup, he was a nice guy who kept to himself, always their exact words. The reporter has heard it before. This alleged serial killer never bothered anybody, no complaints, no barking dog, no loud parties. There was nothing to say about him. Shocking. A serial killer, really?

Thatís what got me thinking. Donít we all have a sort of weird neighbor next door to us, or just down the street? That old guy over there driving the ancient tan Toyota sedan with the balding tires and the dusty windows? He never waves when he backs his car out of the garage. And itís a rare day when he backs that car out. In fact, heís the only guy on the block who actually parks his car in the garage, now thatís odd.

Come to think of it, I've never seen him outside working in the yard. No grass to mow. Just some rocks and plants that never die. An old trellis that once might have had some grapes hanging from it. Nothing growing there now. An eyesore, but not remarkable.

Another odd thing, I never remember seeing him put his garbage out. I guess he does, but who pays attention to that? If he does put the garbage out, he always brings the bins back early in the morning before the rest of us get around to it. Never a stray bin in the street. We would have noticed that. Some kind neighbor would put it in the driveway for him, and maybe start up a conversation. Ah hah. Another clue. No conversations, ever.

Maybe he doesnít take the garbage out. Maybe itís stacked up in the spare room or in the backyard, like a hoarder would do. Maybe he only buys hungry man dinners, pot pies and fruit. Stuff that doesnít leave any stinky leftovers to bother with. Iím imagining a stack of tv dinner trays a mile high, right next to the pot pie tins. He could toss out the orange peels and just cover them up with a little dirt. Maybe burn the cardboard in the fireplace. Hence, no trash to put out. Could happen. Saves having to accidentally meet up with the neighbor and be forced to make small talk. Smiling now, Iím beginning to get interested in that old guy.

I start a list: Toyota in the garage, no yardwork, no stray garbage cans. No talking. No pets. Nobody ever gives him a thought. Iíve never seen the Fedex guy stop at his house, now that I think of it. No Amazon boxes at the door, no mail sticking out of the mailbox, no newspaper to pick up. No pizza delivery. More clues.

No parties either, or relatives, no friends parking in his driveway. No Christmas lights, even though our street is one where everybody puts up some Christmas decor. Even the Jewish neighbors hang blue lights outside at Christmas time. Now that I think of it, Iíve never seen a wreath, a candle, a tree in the window. Nothing. Nobody ever mentions it, or even wonders about it. He is definitely invisible. You walk right by the house and never give it a second look. Just overgrown shrubs to block the light and any activity that might be viewed from outside. Shrubs. Another clue.

Iím beginning to scare myself. Why doesnít anybody talk about him? Odd. Iíve never heard anybody say a word about old Mr. Brown, who drives the tan Toyota. Some little program in our heads say don't ever talk about Mr. Brown.

I wonder what he does to pass the time. Does he go to work? WFH? Nah. Too old. I have seen him back his car out occasionally, so where does he go? Should I follow him? A shiver runs down my spine. Wow. That was a scary thought. What is he doing when he goes out? Just errands, or something way more sinister?

Probably heís going to the grocery store, time to make a hungry man TV dinner run, get some of those pot pies like that fucking Virgil Flowers ate in one of John Sandfordís more memorable thrillers. I donít know for sure whether it's groceries or a dead body in his trunk because when he returns, he drives the car into the garage so we donít see him unloading anything. Even the garage door closes softly so it won't bother anybody. He's actually very sneaky, is what I'm thinking.

The grocery store, sometimes, and other times it might be to kill off another prostitute, or grab up some drunk at the local tavern, who then becomes a missing person until the end of time. For a while, there were lots of little kids going missing, their photos on milk cartons. Have you seen me? They donít return either. Victims of some anonymous serial killer out on the loose. There must be hundreds serial killers out there with us, waiting, watching for the right moment. It's a thrill for them, these serial killers, to murder innocent victims. They have their reasons, of course, but only other psychos would understand.

These days we donít hear too much about serial killers. Itís not that serial killing has gone out of fashion. According to one detective fiction writer, there are plenty of serial killers out there, the public just doesnít know about the suspicious deaths. Homicide detectives donít coordinate with other city cops about the missing or the unidentified dead because there's nobody to claim the body and make a fuss. Sometimes we hear about missing college students, or toddlers, but often other random missing persons just don't make it to radar screen. I start to wonder about how many cold cases we have in our town, how many missing persons, suspicious deaths, and unclaimed bodies.

Recently I heard that a family was redoing their backyard and dug up the patio. Found five bodies. Bingo. Some serial killer walked away scot free from that horrible scene. But once the reporters put two and two together and start asking questions, you know what they heard. Nice old guy lived in that house, he kept to himself.

There are so many clues that I'm nearly convinced that Mr. Brown is  one of those psychos. He is actually the oddest person on the block. Heís the stranger, the boogeyman, the evil presence among us, yet nobody notices just how dangerous, and maybe demented, he really is. He doesn't blend in, not at all, he's just invisible, like the eerie presence we feel when we visit the cemetery. Maybe somebody should tell the police that we have one of those creepy guys on our block. But the cops, you know, they'd laugh me out of the office, and maybe open a file on me. Maybe somebody should start stalking him, see where he goes, take some video, make a record.

We never give a thought to the serial killer next door, that old guy who keeps to himself, drives the tan Toyota and has been killing prostitutes and the homeless drifters for the past twenty years. Maybe the vics are buried out in his backyard along with the leftover hungry man dinners and the orange peels, and we are all clueless to the danger right there with us. He's not a nice guy at all! He's a serial killer!

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