I was twelve and my older sister and I were home alone for the weekend.

I was waiting for a friend to pick me up, and getting restless.

There was a knock on the door, thinking it was her I ran to answer it without checking through the peephole.

A man was standing there with a clipboard and said he needed to check our gas meter. I was entrenched in the disappointment of my friend still not having arrived so just told him “Yah, sure, whatever you need to do.”

I didn’t notice at the time, but he wasn’t dressed as a city official. He had on a green and purple shirt with bold stripes like the host of Blues Clues.

He came in and immediately went up the stairs to where our bedrooms were and walked into the open door of my room, the typical girly girl room with pink and glitter.

Thank God, my sister came down the stairs at almost that exact moment. She said “Oh, is that Daphne’s Dad? Why is he going upstairs?”

And I complained about how Daphne wasn’t here and was going on about how unreliable she was when my sister cut me off. “Wait, wait, if Daphne isn’t here who is that?” I said “He’s here to read the gas meters.”

Her face turned white. She flung open the front door and dragged me out, hand clamped over my protesting mouth. She said “Our gas meters are outside.”

Neither of us had a cellphone (it was the 60’s) and obviously weren’t going back in the house to call authorities on the land line phone.

Then my ever resourceful sister had a stroke of genius. A man was walking right by our house and she motioned him over. She called, loudly, into the house “OH DAD, IT’S GOOD YOUR HOME. A MAN FROM THE CITY IS HERE TO READ THE GAS METERS UPSTAIRS.”

And just like she’d hoped, this man on the street said “What are you talking about?”

The man in the striped shirt bolted out of the house.

The man on street asked us repeatedly if we were okay, if we needed him to stay and wait in the yard with us until our parents came home, he was very sweet. We were so startled that we barely thanked him before slamming and locking the doors and windows.

As irate as my sister was that I let someone in the house, she begged me not to call the authorities, because my parents left her in charge and she worried she’d be in trouble. I didn’t want to catch any heat from carelessly allowing some guy in, so I was on the same page.

Three weeks later a girl in our community went missing. Same M.O. she was home alone and authorities found the door open and no signs of forced entry.

My sister and I discussed our options but deep down knew we had no choice but to come clean.

We told the police everything, I don’t know if it ever helped, but they did tell us they had reason to believe it was the same man. They also tracked down the man who helped us on the street. Turns out we already knew him, he worked in the butcher shop, we just didn’t recognize him. He was lifelong friends with the family after that.

Our parents were mortified. They weren’t angry with us, just glad we were okay, though they did review all the rules of caution and didn’t leave us home alone for a while.

They found the girl and say she’d been held for a few days and then burned alive.

They never caught the man, but fear not, he was in what appeared to be his early thirties in the 1960’s so in any case he has to be dead by now.

I just thank God every day for my sister’s resourcefulness and quick action. False meter reader, let’s not meet.

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