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Birthdays, Old Age, Retirement and Remembrance

Retirement is creeping into my thoughts. Not that I fear it. I look forward to the day that I can sit in front of my computer for hours at a time to write out my stories for a living versus grading papers and outlining a perfectly timed lesson to have it smashed by an untimely fire drill or a breech in the schedule. That is life. A part of what I do, and I choose to accept it with a smile as complaining just brings worry and worry brings wrinkles and I have enough of those thanks to time stomping on my face.

Retirement has already invited the love of my life into the arms of workless days as he sits home, watching television pondering what shall be for dinner. His big event of the day; going to the post office and other effortless errands. Now the life change is beckoning my attention as our son is graduating high school this year, and thanks to a generous scholarship he will be attending college in the Fall close enough to where he can stay home for just enough years for us, the aging adults to get our life lined up. Our new life of semi-old age that is.

My husband dreams of moving to East Texas. Where the air is cooler, the people are friendlier, and life’s dance is a waltz. I dream of living in an old house, at least a hundred years or so, surrounded by trees. A complete forest if I had my way, but not so deep that the internet connection vanishes. Internet is a must. So, I can write my books and then travel to the surrounding small towns where many of my characters live and do signings at adorable little bookstores that offer coffee and a quaint selection of baked goods. The dream goes on. As life goes on, even though time is gently slapping us with dim reality.

Back to my 100-year-old house. Living with the fascination of old things I get notices on aging houses on Zillow. A lovely way to waste an evening scrolling of dreams that are about to come true. One evening an address catches my attention. It seemed familiar; 2020 Lamar Drive in Pasadena.

I know that address. How do I know it? Not sure. I did not go to school around there. I click on it and see how the quaint small house is restored, with new countertops, a roof, carpet, and floors that give it a nice fresh clean look. Yet, a cloud films over my mind so I quickly give the place a google and there it is. The murder house of 1973. The dozens of stories of murdered teenage boys that spend their last moments in that place of torture floods the screen. Images of the dead man shot down by one of his accomplices in the hallway, his grotesque confession, “yall better get out here, I just killed a man.” Like it was a heroic thing to do. But he was no hero.

Dean Corll, (the last time I will use his real name) persuaded two teens, Wayne Henley and David Brooks into luring young males between the ages of thirteen to early twenties to his house so that thing could so call play with them. His version of play involved rape, torture in the most and unimaginable grotesque of ways while they were attached to a plyboard with convenient knotholes that he could use to handcuff the victims too. Sometimes he would end the fun by strangling the last breath of life from the helpless teens. Other times, he would ask his boys, his grave diggers, his rat collection men, as he saw them to end the job. Which they did, with a bullet. The thought of having your life ended execution style is nightmarish enough, but by a childhood friend. That is a hard one to swallow.

These victims were kids that the henchmen went to school with, attended parties with, graduated kindergarten with. Kids that thought that Henley and Brooks were their friends. Henley had the nerve to continue to refer to them as friends in interviews after he took the monster’s life one August morning in 1973. And you, as a potential homeowner can have all this history for a mere a $184.000. Talk about a conversation piece.

The house on Lamar Drive was placed on the market November of 2021 and since then has had six offers. Including one pending now. Perhaps the sixth time will be the charm. Being a horror writer that loosely toys with historical fiction, this seemed like a prime topic to have at the Easter family dinner. My husband, my son, his lovely girlfriend, all of whom are used to my brand of weird at the supper table participated in a lively chat. Through the conversation however, what caught my attention was that my husband who lived near that area at the time that victims had gone missing, listed by officials as runaways unfortunately, was dangerously in that age range. How easily could he have been one of them. If he would have just been on the wrong street at the wrong time, he too could have been one of those lost boys. His mother and father pacing the living room floor wandering where their vibrant child was. Arguing with the police that my boy would not have left home like that. My dear man was just a few streets away from untimely death that he young innocence would have have imagined.

The house sale may go through this time. Who knows? I’ll be watching as I do have a morbid curiosity about it. I am currently working on yet another horror book where the murders discussed is loosely based off the crimes of that monster. It would be a relief if that place was torn down. Although in the house itself, only a few deaths happened as he had not lived there for very long, meaning that many of his murders took place in apartments around the Heights area. Yet, the neighborhood, the scene, the house itself is haunted by the memory of the crimes and torture that did occur in there, as well as the ghost of history.

Thank God, my husband was not one of those victims. One of those ghosts. As the wrong choice, the wrong step on one street would have returned an alternate reality. One without my glorious son. I suppose one will argue that I simply would have fallen in love with someone else. That the last thirty years of my life would have produce a different reality. Perhaps my career would have been more successful. Perhaps I would have been rich and sought after. What ifs, however, are a mystery that I do not want to explore.

Today is my husband’s sixtieth birthday. He made it through all the stupid stunts he performed as a child, thirty-five years as a police officer in a city that boasts its share of violent crime. He is in good health and blessed with a hearty since of humor. He has made it to this age because of right choices and vigilant guardian angels. Yet, in the world not so far from here, there are many birthdays that were only celebrated with tears of grief. The fractured reminders of the Houston mass murders; marked by a house for sale on Lamar Drive. The only remembrance of those boys are gravestones that are less and less visited as relatives die off in the once booming oil town that has forgotten its dark past.

Today, as I light my husband’s birthday candles, someone may be lighting a candle in remembrance. And for them, I will pray.

The Pied Pipers’ Prince is currently a work in progress

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