I always thought I could just blame it on Naomi's choice of lifestyles, you know? Here today, gone tomorrow, detach with love. When I was a child, Naomi would move us from town to town. Hell, from country to country. Don't get me wrong. It was a great life. Overall. I'll always be grateful to her for those experiences.
But sometimes...it would have been nice, you know, to just stay in one place for a while. Some place where the guy she was involved with liked me for more than just a way to get to Naomi. Some place where the kids didn't smile at me and chant "fresh meat". Some place where the teachers didn't see me as some sort of an intellectual rival. Yeah, believe it or not, there were a few of those places scattered around dear ol' Mother Earth.
So the seeds were not only planted but fully rooted by the time I started Rainier. I'd chosen Anthropology (or it chose me). And it was a good choice, given my nature to be an observer. And I am a great observer.
Still...there were times when I wondered if I'm such a great observer because I was invisible.
Did you ever walk into a restaurant and sit down at a table only to have the waitresses all walk around your table, taking orders and delivering food, yet not even notice you're there?
Happened to me more than once. At first, I'd gotten irritated. I mean, nobody likes to be ignored, right? Then, the third or fourth time, I turned it into a game. I'm an observer, right? I observed why they couldn't see me. Never found an answer, though. Sometimes the waitresses would be embarassed when I brought myself to their attention. Other times, they looked surprised to see me sitting there.
I really DID wonder about the invisibility possibility.
Then, I hooked up with Jim Ellison. Trust me, nobody ignores that man when we go into a restaurant. It doesn't matter if it's Wonderburger or the classiest place in Cascade.
I wondered at first if it's because heís a Sentinel and people were subconsciously picking up on the fact heís special and different. But itís not. It's Jim. He moves and people notice. Mostly they get out of his way, but I digress.
I digress because I'm standing in front of 1872 Trent Street and wondering when we, as a species, stopped observing. I could maybe write a paper about it, but my anthropological objectivity is gone. Tossed out the window.
You see, when I was a kid, I loved taking a walk at sundown. I'd walk through whatever neighborhood we were living and look at the houses and wonder about the people inside.
Hey! Don't get the wrong idea! I wasn't a juvenile peeper!
But I'd see the lights come on inside the houses and wonder...
Is the light on in the dining room? Is the family all sitting down to dinner? Are they the Norman Rockwell type of family? Or are they more like the Osbournes? Does Daddy listen to his children as they tell what happened that day? Does he dispense fatherly wisdom and advice ala Fred McMurray? Or is he more like Al Bundy?
Is the light on in the living room? Is the family happily watching television or listening to music? Or are they arguing about whether to watch Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune? Or are the parents yelling to their kids about the type of music thatís blasting on their Walkmans?
Is Mommy happy that her family is all at home together safe and sound as the sun disappears? Or is she knocking back a couple of cocktails to help her get through the next few hours?
Is that a light on in the bedroom? Are there posters of the latest and hottest band on the walls? Britney Spears? The space shuttle? Or are there posters of darker visions on the walls? Are those posters on the walls something to dream about? Or are they there as an escape from something worse?
I remember one time when I was about ten when we were driving through this small little town in southern Ohio that had all of about four stoplights spaced every couple of blocks. Naturally, they all turned red as we approached.
It was about nine at night so there were lights in most of the houses. But what I really remember is staring out the window of Naomi's Chevy, looking at the lights in the houses. And wondering what it would be like to be in one of those houses for more than a week or month at a time.
Okay, I WAS upset at the time because Naomi had just left a guy who had treated both of us really great. He liked taking me places because he liked me for me.
But I still wondered.
It used to be that a light in the window was a beacon to travelers. People welcomed someone seeking shelter from the night and its dangers because their husband, son, father, or brother might need shelter some night. Nothing covered a window or opening so the light could be seen.
When did we start covering the light?
I'm not really digressing now. I'm just delaying coming to the point.
The neighborhood around 1872 Trent Street is in the middle of what used to be called a blue-collar area. The houses are older but well kept. The population is aging, though. Ten years ago, every house was occupied. Now, as the older inhabitants die, their children (who have moved to the suburbs) are selling the houses to developers. The empty houses are torn down, and the developers wait for the next house to become empty. I'm not sure what the developers are developing. I'm not sure they know, either.
The house at 1872 Trent Street is a nice one. The front yard is small but neat. There's a larger back yard with a swing set and room for kids to play. There's no chipped paint or broken windows. It's a nice house.
Four people lived here. Father Michael Eck, aged 32, worked every day. Mother Evie Eck, aged 30, worked part-time and kept house. Daughter Jennifer Eck, aged 10 and son Alan Eck, aged 9, attended Jefferson Forest Elementary School.
And everyone in the neighborhood minded his or her own business. No one looked in the windows of 1872 Trent Street and wondered. Or did they?
I slowly walk towards the house, ignoring the yellow police tape stretched across the porch and front door. I don't need to go inside. I was inside earlier today. Once was enough, thank you very much.
Instead, I walk around the side of the house, stopping at each darkened window. If I wanted, I could look inside. But I don't. Downstairs is a small living room, a dining room, a kitchen and small laundry room. Upstairs are three bedrooms and a bathroom.
Definitely more Norman Rockwell than Ozzy Osbourne.
But appearances can be so very deceiving, can't they?
For instance, take my partner, Jim Ellison. You'd think to look at him that nothing could faze him. I mean, you'd think this man could walk through the worst of situations and keep his cool.
Well, he can; but that's not the point.
You see, it's what happens after.
I really thought Jim was going to crack a few of his teeth this time. Both his jaws were working overtime as he walked through the house. There really wasn't too much for him to do. It really was an open and shut case. Two dead bodies, one traumatized child, and the suspect in cuffs.
Two hours later, the traumatized child was with Child Protective Services, the bodies had been taken away, and the suspect (having fully confessed) was in custody.
Four hours later, Jim was in the PD gym pounding the hell out of a punching bag. He wasn't the only cop on the scene to avail themselves of the stress-reducing devices of the Cascade PD gym.
No, they don't call the gym equipment by that name. I do.
You know, I've come to know the guys at Major Crimes pretty well. And Henri Brown is one of the most easy-going people I've ever known. But when he heard the story of what happened inside 1872 Trent Street, he started cursing. And I mean real cursing. You know, the sort of inventive cursing that curdles the blood because you know this guy's fully capable of carrying it out.
Henri spent a lot of time on the PD gym's treadmill that afternoon.
The neighbors of 1872 Trent Street all said they were shocked by what happened. And they honestly were. I don't think they were lying.
They were also shocked by all the cameras and microphones that were being shoved in their faces.
The neighbors weren't too cooperative after that. The reporters seemed to insinuate they should have known what was going on inside 1872 Trent Street.
I wanted to ask one pushy reporter if she knew what happened inside HER neighbor's house. Problem was, she probably did. Wendy Hawthorne is still a nosy person.
Jim took malicious delight in sending Wendy and her fellow journalistic vultures away from the crime scene. I'm still trying to figure out how the crime scene expanded to cover three square blocks from 1872 Trent Street.
After that, the neighbors tried to answer the cops' questions as best they could.
The Eck's minister said they were a good God-fearing family who attended church every week and volunteered their time to help those less fortunate.
Michael Eck worked every day at a local garage. He was a good mechanic who often helped his older neighbors out by fixing their cars or lawn mowers for free. He planned on turning part of his backyard into a patio next summer. He didn't drink, smoke, or gamble. He said he was saving as much money as possible for his children's college education.
Evie Eck worked part-time at a nearby grocery store. Like her husband, she didn't drink, smoke, or gamble. Well, unless you counted the one scratch-and-win lottery ticket she allowed herself every two weeks. She made homemade apple pies that were to die for.
Jennifer Eck wanted to be a teacher when she grew up. She was, according to the neighbors, a sweet girl who was always willing to help her older neighbors. She always asked for a pony for Christmas.
Alan Eck couldn't decide if he wanted to be a fireman or the next Indiana Jones. But since his parents insisted he needed a college education for whatever he planned to do with his life, he was leaning more and more towards Indiana Jones.
The neighbors said that Jennifer and Alan loved to play outside. If they weren't playing in their yard, they were bicycling or roller blading around the neighborhood, often until dark and their mother called for them to come inside.
Talk about a Norman Rockwell existence. The neighbors thought it was an example of how good children could be if they had the right upbringing.
Inside the house at 1872 Trent Street.
Wandering into the backyard, I ask myself what I think I'll find. Sitting in the swing, I hope it will bear my weight. The metal groans but holds up. Leaning my cheek against the cool chain, I stare at the house.
The two upstairs windows opened into each of the children's bedrooms. Shaking my head, I realize no one could see inside. The lights would have given nothing away.
Looking up at the full moon, I have an epiphany. No one looks through windows because no one wants to be labeled as a pervert and peeper. No one wants someone looking through their windows.
So the sanctity of 1872 Trent Street remained inviolate.
Until 10:17 am today.
That's the time of the 911 call. A childís voice, begging for help.
That's when the Eck family secrets were laid bare to the world. Story at 6. Film at 11. Commentaries to follow. The front page of all the newspapers in Cascade tomorrow will have every detail available.
We've even made CNN. Bet the Cascade Chamber of Commerce loves THAT.
Michael and Evie Eck were loving parents. Everybody says so. Their neighbors and minister keep repeating it.
Michael & Evie Eck had loved their daughter for years. Every night they'd taken her to their bed and loved her. Then they'd put her in her own bed and restrained her with leather straps. They'd tied her down spread-eagled just in case they woke up and wanted to love her a little more during the night.
Alan said his parents told him that was how every parent loved their child. He said Jennifer didn't understand why he was upset when Michael and Evie decided to love their son the same way they loved their daughter.
Alan said his father told him he would understand.
But Alan already understood. So when his father took his arm and began to drag him upstairs, Alan fought back.
Alan said he kicked his father hard enough that Michael let go. He then ran into the living room where his father kept a .38 revolver.
Alan put one bullet through his father's head at close range. Evie tried to take the gun away and got a bullet in her chest for her trouble. Jennifer screamed and threw herself across her mother's body. Alan then put the gun down on the couch and called 911.
The nine-year old boy who'd shot and killed his parents gave a very detailed statement to the cops. They were scared for the kid so they loosely cuffed him before putting him in a squad car and taking him to Juvenile.
Jim checked on him later. He's in a room on the Pediatric floor of Cascade General Hospital under a suicide watch. Jennifer's just down the hall. She hasn't said a word since the shooting.
Sighing, I stand up. There are no answers to be found here. There are no answers at all.
There are no answers as to why two people are dead. Two people who loved their children. Two people who, according to the boy who shot them, didn't see anything wrong with sexually abusing their children. And calling it love.
But tonight two people are dead and their secrets are no longer secrets.
A ten-year old girl accepted their abuse as love and encouraged her brother to accept it as well. She lies in a hospital traumatized and catatonic.
A nine-year old boy shot the parents who said they only wanted to love him. He lies in a hospital no less traumatized than his sister.
Shit happens. I just hate observing it, you know?
Walking back around the side of the house, I know Jim's waiting for me even before I see him leaning against his truck. We each deal with stuff in our own way. But I've never just taken off and left him alone to deal with something like this. Or left him behind while I try to deal with something like this.
I wonder how he knew where to find me. Maybe it's a Sentinel thing. Or is it a best friend thing?
Maybe he also came here to find answers that don't exist.
Jim just watches me as I walk towards him. He leans against the front of the truck with his arms crossed over his chest. But he doesn't say anything.
I finally stop and stare up at him. Knowing the answer, I still ask the question.
"I don't know, Chief. I wish I did."
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