While reading “The Anatomy of Motive” by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker I can’t help but wonder what ever happened to the “peeping tom” from my old neighborhood.
Back in the seventies, I lived in a one-bedroom duplex with three other girls on the East End. I am modest to a fault but in those days probably more so because I remember getting dressed in the bathroom. So I don’t believe I was ever a victim in this story. The duplex was tight living quarters for four girls. I slept on a mattress in the living room. The kitchen had a stove and a refrigerator. The stove had two burners that worked. I remember making my specialty – bean stew – in a crock-pot. The only reason I remember the incident of the bean soup is because we all got sick from it. Sorry, Roomies.
Late one night, one of my roommates slunk into the living room and turned off the light. “Becky,” she whispered. “I just saw a shadow on the curtain.” The other roommates were out and the two of us were alone. I glanced out the curtains and didn’t see anything. She was clutching her throat, a gesture I’d seen her do before when she was truly frightened.
I tried to reassure her. “It’s just someone trying to scare us.”
“No, I’ve seen the shadow before. But this time, I could see more. Someone was watching me undress.”
When the other roommates returned we discussed all of our options. In the seventies in Houston, calling the police would have resulted first, in the policeman calling us “little ladies” in as condescending a manner as possible, and secondly, our never actually seeing a result, a report, a follow-up, nothing. Instead, we called three guy friends who lived a street over, told them there was a “peeping tom”.
They hatched a plan that involved sitting in the bushes outside our window with a flashlight and a double-barreled shotgun.
The next evening the four of us girls couldn’t decide if we wanted to put extra curtains up or dress with the lights off when suddenly, there was a shout, and a KA-BOOM!
Outside, one of our guy friends was sitting on the stoop, with his head in his hands. He told us what had happened. The three of them were in the bushes well hidden in shadow when they saw a fourth guy stealthily slip up to the window and stretch to look. Our guy friend pointed the flashlight at the stranger’s head. The peeper turned. The guy holding the gun yelled, and apparently was so startled he pulled the trigger. Luckily, the shotgun was pointed at the sky.
The peeper took off down the street in the dark, the rest of our “watchers” after him. The shooter, our friend told us, was startled because the peeper was someone we all knew, from church.
The end of the incident went like this. They guys caught the peeper when he tripped on some railroad tracks. They took him to the elders of the church who told him if he ever peeped again they would have to ask him to leave the church, and it would be their civic duty to report him to the police.
The peeper moved away. That might be an unsatisfactory end of the story, but it wasn’t the end. The end being far more unsatisfactory.
A few years later. Still the Seventies. Same neighborhood. I was living in a little bungalow next door to another friend. Her’s was a large house converted into four apartments. She lived in the downstairs left corner apartment. The peeper, for that is how I thought of him, lived above her. One evening while relaxed in her tub, she was staring at the ceiling and saw a board slide across what she had thought was an old hole. She quickly dressed and called the police.
The police came but told her that they couldn’t do anything because the “peeper” wouldn’t answer his door. She would have to come downtown to fill out an incidence report. She did. They told her that because he hadn’t touched her, they couldn’t do anything.
A few weeks later, the girl in the apartment across the hall from the peeper, was brushing her hair and saw a movement behind her in the mirror and turns. The peeper had scaled a pole and was looking in her window.
Police said they couldn’t do anything.
The peeper moved away. All the secret passageways he had created in his old apartment included not only the crawl space between floors but holes in walls and floors of the attic.
We thought that was the end. That wasn’t the end.
Fast forward to the Eighties. I was attending a different church and was having a church spaghetti dinner at my apartment on the other side of town. It was Houston, a big town. Guess who shows up? I told the peeper if I ever caught a hint of a breath of his presence in or around that church or anyone in that church I would reveal all.
So while reading “The Anatomy of Motive” where the writer talks about the “peeping tom” being one of the early steps of a downward progression into serial rape, I wonder about the peeper I knew. Where is he now?
And while I haven’t seen anything of him in these past twenty years I wonder, has he seen me?