At the age of 13 I was very fond of my little dog and would often ride down to the park on my bike with her in the saddle bag. She would hang her head over the side and pant in the wind, just as she would when riding in the car with the window down.
In the summer of 1993 something happened that changed all of that - and taught me at an early age not to trust people. It's no secret life hadn't been a barrel of monkeys for me up to that point, but I had somehow managed to live a naieve and innocent existance. Kidnappings and murders didn't happen in my corner of the world. They happened to other people in far off places. I never had to go hungry, my parents always made sure there was food enough for us all, even if they went to bed still hungry themselves. We were greatly protected from the dangers of the outside world. I didn't know what the "Cold War" was in the 80's and I don't remember the day Ted Bundy was arrested. I didn't even know what he had done. I was, by all accounts, completely innocent.
I also looked very young for my age. I was 13 that summer. I had put my dog Cookie in the saddle bag and was peddling my way to the park when I noticed that my back tire was starting to feel a bit low. Once to the park, I pulled my bike to the side of the empty parking lot, let my dog out to go do her business and inspected my back tire. As I thought, it was completely flat.
A car crunched up the driveway behind me but I didn't pay much attention to it. I was still messing with my back tire. It was a nice neighborhood and one of the High School teachers lived right next to the park. I felt perfectly safe. I didn't have anything to worry about.
I heard the car pull up next to me and a door open. Suddenly startled, I stepped around to the other side of my bike and snapped my fingers. The snap was a command my dogs knew well. Cookie came running over and used my leg as a ramp to get up into the saddle bag. As she was running over I was surveying the situation and trying to figure out who this person was in the car. Was it someone I knew? Was it someone asking for directions?
A greasy haired man slid over to the missle of the bench seat in the front of his car. His hand was still on the door handle on the open passenger side only a matter of feet from where I stood, my bike between us. He had a mole above his lip in a medium brown color. I remember thinking that I thought most moles were black, like Marilyn Monroe's mole. His was much larger than hers was though, and I remember focusing on two or three hairs sticking out of it. He had dark brown wavy hair; dark like my mom's. He had a tall body and long arms - and I was terrified of him instantly.
At the time I didn't think I would ever forget what he said to me, and for years I couldn't no matter how hard I tried. Now I can't remember no matter how many times I start this blog to tell the story to all the parents out there. All I remember was him making a refference to candy and every hair on the back of my neck standing up on end.
I remember odd details, like the fact I was wearing a purple "Beauty and the Beast" Disney t-shirt. It was one of my favorites at the time, and I didn't dare wear it to school so I only wore it around the house or out to ride my bike. The jeans I had on that day already had a rip in them from having them caught in the chains of my bike. I looked much younger than I was.
With my dog safely tucked into her spot, I started to run as fast as I could while pushing my bike hard and fast. I knew I wasn't going to get away on foot, and as soon as I started to hear the tires moving behind me I lept over the center pole of the bike and landed on the foot pedals and seat. With a completley flat tire, riding on the rim and peddaling as hard as I ever have through a boost of adrenaline and fear, I never looked back. I kept on going. I had an advantage over the car I assumed was following me. I could cut through the yards and trees while the vehicle was confined to roads. I tried to go to a friends house, but when I saw there were no cars outside I knew better than to stop. I kept right on going.
I got to the house and dumped the bike as I ran for the front door. My dog was brilliant. She always seemed to know what I was going to do before I did. She had made a flying leap away from the bike before I even let go of the handle bars and beat me to the door. I flung the door open, scrambled inside and slammed it shut behind me. Then I screamed for my mother.
She came around the corner laughing and smiling at first, but as soon as she saw me her face grew stern and serious. She could tell something was wrong with me. Dad wasn't too far behind her. I told them what had hapened and what the stranger had said and she immediately went to call the police.
That night I told the story no less than 3 or 4 times and had to give a written statement. Even then I wanted to be a writer, and I'm sure it was one of the most creatively written statements the Riverdale UT Police Department have on file. Mom defended me and stated that I loved to write and for the police to please not dismiss my statement because of it.
"Oh, don't worry about that, Ma'am." He said to her. "He fits the description of someone we've been looking for now for a while."
Please don't EVER think that you live in a safe area or know good people or think it only happens to other people. It nearly happened to me when I was only 13 years old. Years and years later I saw a news bulletin with an old familiar mole on a mans face. It sent familiar chills down my spine, and at the age of 24 I relived the entire ordeal again as though it were yesterday. The man had been picked up for not only pediophilia, but murder of several young children, as well as being a suspect in several other missing children. He was found in Idaho in 2004 and for all those years he had been completley free.
It can happen to anyone at any time. Please, make sure your kids know what to do in every situation. I didn't know what to do, but somehow I survived to tell my story. The next kid was not so lucky.