We were supposed to go to the park after lunch but that never happened. The clouds came and grey colored everything. Later the rain came as a cold guard, thunder, its nightstick. We cleaned the kids bedrooms, bagged a surplus of toys to throw away and rearranged furniture. I took apart the baby’s crib. She’ll sleep in the toddler bed now. I thought nothing of it as I took it apart. I thought nothing of it when I walked it to the garage with Andres.
But then I put her to sleep and realized we will no longer need the crib. I told Saraphina
You’re a big girl now.
You’re almost three.
Stay in your bed.
Jesus loves you.
Then I kissed Lucia to sleep and thought if it storms again like it did earlier, no doubt she’ll be asking for admittance into our bed, frightened by the thunder and wind, protected by mommy and daddy.
We lived on Seville Drive in the duplexes in front of Alicia Reyes before the days of Alicia Reyes. I don’t remember how old I was. All I knew was that I would feel better sleeping on the ground next to my parents. I did this for months and they never seemed to ask me why. My dad watched the news a lot: KTVU, KMPH, a Spanish channel out of Fresno or Modesto. I knew English and Spanish so the news in English I would later hear in Spanish, vice versa. And during those days, everyone was watching the news.
I wasn’t stupid. I was well aware that Merced was in between San Francisco and Los Angeles. I reasoned
What if this guy stops in Merced?
What if he breaks into my room?
I had a friend in school who would always talk about him.
“Did you hear? He got another one. That’s 13.”
Like I wanted to hear that.
“He’s killing everyone, moms and dads too.”
I had a mom and dad.
Thinking of their mortality made my little lips quiver. I forced the thought away and tried to sleep on the hard ground with blankets I wished I still had today. Was I there protecting them or did I need protecting?
When the police released sketches of him, it made things worse. Without a face, he was a myth like El Cucuy. When I closed my eyes to sleep, there he was: wide eyed, thin, curly hair. A killer.
They caught The Night Stalker in August of 1985. Residents of an East Los Angeles neighborhood beat him up as he tried to car jack two vehicles. I slept better that night I’m sure as did the entire state of California. Whether I slept in my parents room that night, I don’t remember.