I've mentioned how I have wonderful neighbours, and I do. They've helped in countless ways, allowing me to borrow trailers to load up brush to take to the dump (which is mulched and recycled), or to pick up a load of coal. They've ploughed my driveway or have showed up with a front-end loader to move snow. Kind-hearted up-the-street neighbour Bob has removed more than one kill the cats brought me that I couldn't deal with very well (I've since improved, and most of the slower or dumber ones have been caught and killed, so until the snow melts, I think i'll have little to worry about there).
I do not live in a large community, and during winter, its population diminishes as many go south for warmer climes.
So, when glancing over the paper and reading the police beat news, it's easy to find names of people you know. Many of the offences are menial, speeding or driving with expired licence plates (there is no notification from the Department of Motor Vehicles here; you are expected to look at the tags every so often and realize when it's time to renew them). Some are a bit more nefarious, drug trafficking, or breaking and entering.
And there are crimes that people can forgive readily: someone going 6 miles over the limit, or forgetting to renew their licence plate sticker doesn't ruffle a lot of feathers. And then there are other crimes that people never forget, chiefly the ones dealing with abuse or killing.
We had a shake-up recently when a stalwart figure next town over was found to have bilked monies from a local charity. He'd been doing it for years, and over the last decade or so ended up with quite a tidy sum. His name is now mud and anyone who was friends with him have done what they can to distance themselves, in no small part i'm sure, to show they're not like him.
I knew of this man, but as i'm not so well connected, it wasn't personally meaningful. I felt anger at the idea of the many working folks who gladly gave to this charity to help out those in the area less fortunate now finding that so much of their gifts ended up in this man's pocket. I'm sure it's also affected people giving to other local charities, or looking far more closely.
But just this week, I read something in the paper about one of my neighbours, someone who has helped me time and again. Someone caring, nice, stable, reliable. The list can go on and on. The last time we chatted, I saw that this neighbour was a bit distracted, but everybody was. It was after that horrific early November snowstorm we had, and it unseated a lot of people's confidence. So, I noticed the furtive look, and wondered about it, but said nothing, knowing that there was some illness in the family, and perhaps that weighed on the family's conscience.
One of the things I like about my neighbours is we don't pry into each other's business. We show concern and help out as we can, but we don't infringe on someone's private life.
And so, this week, when glancing over the paper at the police report and court cases, I was stunned to see that this neighbour pled guilty to a crime that did not fit the person I had come to know. A crime that many would never forgive and even fewer would forget. It explained the furtive look because I saw that the paper also published more details about it near the back, and the arrest occurred several months back, and the accused was out on bail. That would explain the furtive look.
I didn't see it coming. I would never have guessed this in a thousand years.
I thought back to my banking days. This was a thousand years ago, when many were still paid with weekly paycheques, and although debit cards were used often at automatic teller machines (ATMs), the debit card to be swiped at the store was a very new thing, so people still wanted to have cash on hand. And any number of times, several people from the same company would pile into one car and either come into the bank or go to the drive through and get their money, make their deposits. One man I remember well was Dennis. He had dark eyes that gleamed, a killer smile, and infectious laugh. He'd often come to the drive through with three other colleagues, all women, and they'd joke and talk while the teller processed their deposits or cashed their checks. Dennis was married to Sherri, although they split up not long after I started at the bank. It was a small town where most everyone knew most everyone else, and heads shook sadly. Pity it didn't work out. Sherri came in the bank one day, pretty excited. She and Dennis were going to have a date, and she was hopeful, because she never wanted the relationship to end.
Although I didn't see them as a couple, in some ways they just didn't go together in my mind, I wished her well. It was clear she was still crazy about him.
They went out on their date, went back to her place, and he killed her. Blood was spattered all over, one fireman told us who knew someone who went to the scene.
It gave me the chills because I had seen Dennis a day or two before, looking as dashing as ever, and never an inkling that this was on the horizon.
He was found out, of course, tried, and convicted. Found guilty and got the death penalty.
All of us were dumbfounded. None of us had a clue that their relationship had a violent past until afterwards. We talked of people we knew as bank customers and how some people made you feel uncomfortable, you just knew something wasn't right, and you didn't feel safe. But how could not one of us not pick up something about this man?
I'm unsure how things will go with my neighbour. The conviction carries a period of imprisonment followed by probation.
In the swindler-next-town-over situation, I feel a detached anger. In this case, I feel very sad for everyone involved.
Do we really want to know what goes on behind closed doors? If we did, would we be able to avert some of these things from happening, or would we be simply impotent witnesses? I know I can make compelling arguments for both sides and be right.