I was reading electric meters the other day about 20 miles from my home in a pretty rough area. Thats my job, by the way. I don't have a really dull hobby. Anyway, I knocked on the door of a maisonette, I believe we call them. A large house that's split into 4 flats - 2 upstairs and 2 down. I waited for a minute at the door with no answer, so I started to walk away. As I reached the street I heard the door open on a big guy, maybe early 40s, unshaven and wearing a tight white womans vest that dipped to the chest and was covered in frills. As I went closer I noticed he was also wearing heavy makeup - mascara, lipstick and a little blush.
In itself, that isn't too odd. I see all sorts of people in my job and it isn't my place to judge people for what they choose to do in their own homes, even if its a little weird. The problem is this: as I was reading his meter I was sure I heard what sounded like a woman shouting for help through a gag come from a back room. I froze for a minute, not sure what to do. After all, I'm 5'9" and about 170 pounds of fluff. I haven't thrown a punch since I was 15 (I kicked ass, though). This guy looked like he could have taken me down with both hands tied behind his back, despite the outfit. So, self-preservation being the first instinct I got the hell out of there.
As I left I heard the sound of woodpigeons in the trees. They make a noise a little like owls, a kind of deep coo. They also sound very much like a woman shouting for help through a gag, if you can imagine it.
So. I got in the car and drove to the next job a few streets away, where I sat and had a quick smoke. I ran it over in my head and couldn't shake the idea that this guy was up to very bad things in there. The vest he'd been wearing had been much too small for him, and I'm thinking that if you feel more comfortable in ladies clothing while you mill around your house you'd probably buy something that fit. On the other hand, if you'd abducted a woman and tied her up in your bedroom you might dress up in her clothes even if they didn't fit. Beggars can't be choosers, after all. I decided I had to go back and take another look. I couldn't face the idea that I might open the local paper in a few weeks and read about some crazy guy butchering a girl in his house.
I was so freaked out that I called a friend and told him the story. I also gave him the address and told him that if he didn't hear from me by 5 he might want to send some police along. I'd hate to end up in several pieces stuffed into a range of jiffy bags. Boy, would my face be red.
I got back to the house and knocked again. Again, it took the guy an age to get to the door and I was sweating my ass off. I explained that my computer had crashed and I'd lost his reading so I'd have to do it again. He gave me this hard look and stepped aside. I stalled as long as possible, but couldn't hear anything. At the end of the day I had no right to barge deeper into the house and search the rooms, so I had to leave.
Huh. That was a bit of an anti-climax, wasn't it? You were waiting for the part where I saved the damsel in distress and kicked the freak's ass. Sorry, I'm not that guy. If you need someone to sit in the corner and tell jokes, I'm your guy. Stallone will be along any minute with the guns and stuff.
Here's my point, though. I'm terrified of these people. Maybe not this guy in particular, cause he may have been up to nothing more nefarious than practicing his one-man production of Romeo and Juliet, starring himself as Juliet and his right hand as Romeo. I'm terrified of unstable people. I see them every day - ranging from the innocent elderly who've just forgotten a few basic points about personal hygeine and acceptable numbers of cats per house, all the way to deviants with naked children showing on their screensavers as I walk through their house. The reason they worry me is that we have so little idea of what goes on in the human brain; what little trigger can turn an innocent old cat-lover into the kind of guy who lures kids into his house and does bad things to them behind pulled blinds.
My job puts me in constant contact with troubled people. It also makes me realise just how many of them there are in this country. Virtually every street I visit has at least one house inhabited by a crazy guy with no carpets and rotting tuna all over the place. Each one of them could be the next horror story peddled out to our kids about the dangers of taking sweets from strangers. Hell, it could just as well be one of the guys with the clean houses and fancy flat screen TVs. Its just easier to believe that our future serial killers spend their free time making effigies out of nasal hair and faeces than watching Frasier on Paramount.
In fact, I withdraw all of this. While I'm going on about crazy people in dirty homes I'm forgetting a neat and tidy little house I visited just a couple of months ago about a mile from my home. It was on a nice tree-lined street with luxury cars in the driveways, and a respectable doctor used to live there with his wife and kids. He was called Harold Shipman, and he killed probably 200 people from these parts. Screw the crazies in the hovels. I should be keeping my bead on the old guys with the BMWs.