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We pulled into the empty parking lot behind the Mobil gas station next to Cote's Meat Market on Higginson Avenue. He took the keys from the ignition and got out. I sat motionless as he walked behind the car, came around to the passenger side, unlocked the door and slowly walked away. He walked in front of the car, turned left and was near the driver's front fender when I pulled open my door and jumped out. I stood in the parking lot looking straight at him, fearing what might happen if I let him out of my sight. Time stood still. I was standing on the passenger side of the car; he was standing on the driver's side, the car between us offering me five feet of safety. With his head down, never looking in my direction, he just opened the driver's door to his shitty little car and got in.
I was terrified and furious at the same time. I bent down, picked up a piece of broken cement from one of those blocks you pull up to at the front of a parking spot, and threw it against the hatchback window of the purple AMC Gremlin. I had to leave a mark. I had to be able to prove to the cops that it was this guy, in this car. The sound of shattering glass reassured me and no doubt angered him beyond rage.
All I had to do was cross Higginson Avenue, get through the bowling alley parking lot, up the hill behind the back of the building and down Middle Street, three blocks to home. I ran into traffic and kept running, never looking back, running to get away, running to get home, running away to stay alive.
Every breath was a deep breath, filling my lungs with rapid bursts of cold March air. My heart was pounding; my pulse was racing. I was scared, terrified, hysterical, crying, trembling and in pain. Every sense was heightened. Sounds were magnified. Lights were brighter. I could hear the motor on the giant rotating bowling pin as the glowing neon Lincoln Lanes sign lit up the corner of Higginson Avenue.
I ran down the sloping driveway of the bowling alley, across the parking lot and to the back of the building. This part of town was familiar and safe territory for me. My friends and I played back here. We rode our bikes up and down the hill that rose up to the dead end of Middle Street. We played one-man tennis here, hitting balls against the back of the bowling alley. We hit golf balls in the sand, the younger boys making believe we were in the world's largest sand trap, while the older guys hung out in their cars, drinking beer and rolling dice. But making it up the hill this night seemed impossible. I ran, lost my balance, tripping over my own feet, falling face first to the ground. I got up, stumbled and fell again and began crawling on my hands and knees. I had to keep moving. Moving toward home. I was losing time and distance. Had he come after me? Was he chasing me through the parking lot? Was he coming up the hill? Where was he? Who was he?
My hands were bleeding from crawling on the hard, frozen sand. I made it to the top of the hill and into Greg's back yard, but I was too ashamed and embarrassed to go to his house for help. I had to get home. I just needed to get home. I was exhausted. I ran up the street past Ricky's house and started hiding behind trees, crouching behind parked cars to rest and catch my breath. Why was it so hard to get away? Why was it taking so long to go such a short distance? Where was everybody? Why wasn't anyone who could help me on the street?
Then I heard a car. I was sure that it was him. I was sure he was looking for me, tracking me down. He must have thought he'd gotten away with what he'd done, until I broke the rear window. How was he going to explain that? It had to be him coming back to find me, to beat me, to kill me. I was being hunted in a very real game of deadly hide-and-go-seek. I had stayed alive tonight but now I was about to die on the street six houses from home. His car was coming. Use your head, I thought.
I lay on my belly and crawled under the rear bumper of a Ford Galaxie parked on Middle Street. A few more feet, and I was wedged between the rear tires. He wouldn't find me there. In a fetal position with my head resting on my right arm, I lay under the Ford, praying for the car to pass. All I could see were the tires of the approaching car. What a mistake. How was I to know if it really was the guy in the purple Gremlin or not? As the car rolled through the intersection of Meader and Middle Street, my hiding spot suddenly became suffocating. I realized I'd made a mistake crawling under this car. I wasn't safe at all. If he found me here, I'd be trapped. It was impossible to move. I could hear and feel my pulse beating in my head. The headlights were blinding: I couldn't see the car, couldn't make out whether it was the Gremlin, couldn't know for sure whether it was him or not. Did the headlights coming toward me light up the Galaxie parked on the side of the road? Could the driver see me under this car? Was it him? Does the son-of-a-bitch know I'm here? If he stops, I'm screwed.
I watched the front tires and then the back tires roll by, as the car continued north up Middle Street. Paralyzed with fear, I lay motionless under the car in the dark of the night, on the cold, frozen street.
I had to get home. A few moments after the car passed, I shimmied my body to get out from under the Galaxie. It was much more difficult getting out than it had been crawling under. Maybe the need to hide had blinded me to the reality of how difficult it was to crawl under the car just a few minutes ago. As I brushed up against the undercarriage of the Galaxie, my jacket got caught and I bumped my head hard. All I could see was the dark street underneath me. My hands hurt. It took forever, arms and legs scraping against the cold road, my head banging against the bottom of the car. I finally struggled out onto the street. I stood up and started running.
I made it one block. Then it happened again. This time at the corner of South Street and Middle Street. A different car or the same car? Had the first car doubled back? Was it a neighbor coming home or the asshole in the Gremlin looking to find me, to silence me, to kill me? Hiding under the Galaxie, I'd learned that I needed to see what was going on, to move, to run, to fight. I wasn't going to make the same mistake again.
The large old house on the corner of Middle and South Street had a big back yard and beautiful hedges lining the property. I crawled under the hedge to hide while the car came toward me. I was one house away from home, burrowing deep into the base of the hedge like an animal, eyes wide open, pulse racing, heart pounding, trying to blend in with the bushes and the darkness of the night. It was cold, the ground was frozen, and sticks from the hedge were scratching and cutting my face. Pressing my body to the ground, and deep into the hedge, I had good cover. I was out of sight, but I could see. I was stationary but could get up and move, run, fight if I needed to. Again, I heard a silent scream in my head. Where is everybody? Why isn't there anyone on the street who can help me?
I was terrified. All alone. Filled with fear. Sweating in the winter cold. The car stopped at the intersection, just out of view to my right. "Jesus Christ, when will this end?" I whispered. I wasn't swearing. I was a Catholic boy praying. Heart pounding, I watched the wood-paneled Ford LTD station wagon roll through the intersection heading east on South Street. Thank God.
It was March 1, 1974, around 8:00 in the evening. I was fourteen years old and weighed 110 pounds. Over the past hour and a half, I had been abducted, beaten and raped by a total stranger. But I was home now and I was alive.
He went home to the rented first floor apartment he shared with his wife in the two-story tenement. As he walked up the porch steps, the twin eight year old boys who lived on the second floor, innocent and unaware of his obsession, playfully ran past him, up the stairs and into their apartment. He was filled with anger, anxiety, worry, concern, apprehension, angst and fear. The son-of-a-bitch broke my rear window, he thought to himself. How would he explain being late and the broken hatchback window to his wife? Fuck her, I don't owe her an explanation.
He came in the house, mumbled something about working late and that someone broke the hatchback window of his car. He moped around the apartment for a few minutes, then locked himself in a bedroom.
Why did I do it again, he asked himself as he sat on their bed. Why can't I stop? He was aware of the risk, the danger, the inevitable knock on the door by the police, the embarrassing flashing red lights in front of his house, the condescending interrogation by the detectives, followed by jail, bail, court and the threat of prison. It was only a matter of time.
His wife sensed something was terribly wrong, and she had a strong suspicion that he had hurt another boy. His behavior was the same each time. He was brooding again, visibly agitated and angry. He came home, said nothing, took a shower and washed his clothes. It was the only time he did his own laundry.
The first time it happened, he didn't bother her. The cops came and he simply walked out the front door of their modest apartment with his hands cuffed behind his back. When she suspected he had done it again, the second time, she questioned him. He answered her questions by punching her in the face, a closed left fist leaving her with a black eye and a cut on her right cheek.
The third time, he didn't wait for her questions. When the cops pulled up and knocked on their door, he began beating her as if she was responsible for what he had done. The cops broke through the door and pulled him off, throwing him a beating as they cuffed him and dragged him out onto the porch and into the cruiser.
She didn't want to be home when the cops came this time; it was the only way she'd be safe. She had to leave before he became violent toward her again. She left the apartment silently, without saying anything to her boy-raping husband and walked down Washington Street to a friend's apartment.
When he was last released from prison he swore to himself, his wife and his attorney that he'd change. Yet in less than four months, he did it again. He didn't change, he wouldn't change, he couldn't change. He was compelled to repeat his despicable, criminal sexual behavior. There was no stopping the overwhelming, uncontrollable compulsion that drove him to hunt, beat and sexually assault young boys, not even the threat of prison.
The thought of prison was all encompassing and oppressive. He began breathing deeply as the initial stages of a panic attack came over him. He couldn't go back to prison. If the kid went to the cops and they came for him, it would be inevitable, only a matter of time, perhaps a few months at most, before he was back doing time. The overcrowded cells, the smell of urine, the lack of privacy, the beatings, the sex, the screams, the sleeplessness, the sense of powerlessness, forced obedience to others, being dominated by older, stronger prisoners and prison guards, the dreadful foodit was too much. Prison was unbearable. Going back was unthinkable. His breathing became increasingly labored as thoughts of prison raced through his head. I can't go back to the ACI. I should have killed the kid.