When I was seventeen, a friend of mine and I impulsively set out on a walk on a summer’s night. It was meant to be an hour to a nearby cemetery. Two haunted young women, chasing ghosts.
We kept walking that night, wandering our city. Strangely empowered by the company of each other in a world that had repeatedly insisted we were not safe in the darkness, we wandered through neighbourhoods and strolled main drags. We bought snacks in gas station kiosks, stared awestruck at coyotes the news had warned of, but we’d never seen. We sang songs and found ourselves halfway across the city at 6am, bone-weary and delirious.
We boarded a bus, a thirty-minute drive home, where we iced our feet and blasted Veruca Salt’s “Earthcrosser”. We declared it the anthem of the night, screamed for our lip gloss with Nina Gordon in the light we’d walked to find.
Nearly twenty years later, I find myself on a winter street in another city after a concert, pairing off friends as they walk to parking lots. We are in kindergarten once more, and this is the buddy system. The streets are whispering of a new predator, one the news speaks not of. But we speak it. We know.
Months later, the predator is behind bars, but I still make my friends text me when they get home. My lip gloss is no longer a celebration. It is an armor. It deflects the unease in the marrow of my bones.
I first began reading true crime stories at the tender age of eight.
Blame the college reading level that left me voracious at the Scholastic Book Fair. Blame parents who allowed my maturity to dictate my reading, instead of my age. My first taste was an anthology of Max Haines columns, a ragged, dog-eared copy I still possess. The Yorkshire Ripper and more tales of blood and mayhem awaited me, in Haines’ trademark pulpy style. I devoured them, unafraid. The Boogeyman wasn’t real. It was just a story. A history lesson.
I moved on to Unsolved Mysteries and America’s Most Wanted by age ten. I was determined to solve a crime. I figured I was keen enough to do it. I would study mug shots and age enhancements, certain that someday, I would spy an embezzler, a kidnapped child, a murderer. I haven’t yet, but I’m still on the hunt.
My fascination soon become profiling. My favourite question has always been why and profilers base their work frequently on that very query. Why do people do what they do? How do we interpret the why from the who and what before us? I devoured documentaries and books, not to sensationalize, but to understand. Why had Kitty Genovese perished? Why had Ted Bundy acted as he had, but managed relationships with Liz and his family? Why had police missed the signs with Bernardo? How could we prevent loss and pain?
In reflecting anew on a new predator, I returned to that question. Why was a community ignored? Why had a predator evaded capture so thoroughly for so long, despite so many red flags? I felt like I was reading a bad novel, an implausible one. And in reflecting on the why, I remembered my frustration and fear and understood that I was tired of pulpy tales of gore.
I wanted to capture a mood, and honour it. I wanted to honour the feelings and fears of many cities, many towns, living beneath the shadow of the so-called Boogeyman lurking out of sight. The Boogeyman is not just a story, not just a Netflix film starring a Dad-bod hottie. He is also not a monster, nor is he worthy of our focus.
Those who persevere in those shadows, and those lost to them, are where my interests lie.
A streetlight turns on, a halo of jaundiced yellow spotlighting a sidewalk. It’s good to be back, and I have stories to tell. Earth to cross, in the dark night.
I’m taking the streets back, one page at a time. Welcome to the world of Another Light Missing.