12.11.2007

The vigilantes are here

Morning window

When I found out about this I went through a fair spectrum of negative emotion. The most dominating one was fear. What had Steve done to get 16 years? The rumor on the estate is it had something to do with disfigurement. What did the girl look like now? Suddenly he changed from being the inconsiderate DIY fanatic to being a sinister figure of violence.

But mostly the fear wasn't from him directly. Our neighborhood isn't a Guardian reading middle class party. It's more working class, the types that gladly take justice into their own hands. I could almost hear the rallying cries around me from last Tuesday. Though they may be friends with thieves and drug dealers, they aren't rapists. And rapists are different.

We thought we'd made it through the worst. It's been a week since we had a note slipped to us from a friend about what he is. Since then the police park outside our flat a lot. It comforts and scares us. I'm not used to such a high police presence. We thought they came to check up on Steve, make sure he was where he said he was and not because of any external threat. What we didn't anticipate is vigilante-ism can start quietly.

Last night was a literal breaking point. I was playing Civ IV and listening to Have I got news for you. I've had difficulty unwinding at home lately, I need a lot of distraction to relax. And just as I fended off the barbarian hordes an almighty crash shook the floor. We hoped it was just stupidity from downstairs. It's common enough for our neighbor to fall on something or knock down a shelf. He enjoys DIY projects, but isn't particularly graceful about them. When he tried to hack into a tree in our backyard he broke his collarbone. We looked out the window and saw nothing but an empty street and our neighbor across the road peering out of his window. It's that kind of place.

From our angle we couldn't see anything wrong. My first concern was our car. It sat directly in front of his door. But it looked fine, the evening frost was undisturbed. A little while later I saw headlights shine on the small brick water building next to our block of flats. A policeman got out and went downstairs.

We investigated and found two large holes in our neighbor's windows. He was bricked. A clear message for him to get out. The police officer came to our flat and suggested that though this kind of violence against him is kind of satisfying, we're in danger. I know. Our consolation at this point is we haven't received any kind of threatening letters or phone calls. The footprints in the grass suggested they'd come close enough to aim accurately. They know who they're after and it isn't us.

What concerns me anyway is we might get caught in the crossfire. The more this escalates, the more perilous living in our home becomes. The more fearful I become. But not because of what the man downstairs did, because of the people trying to do good by driving him out. I'm sure that's what they want. It's what I want too. I just wish there was a way to make that happen with out endangering innocent people. Like me.

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