We left our house at 5:30 in the evening, right after changing our clothes from a long day at work. The driving directions were simple. Head south on 101, take the Avila exit. Take the road down to See Canyon and then to Davis Canyon. Follow the dirt road past the PG&E installation and then take a right. Simple directions are rarely simple.
The dirt road was long and unkempt. As we wound through the hills, the light was slipping away. The strangest folk seemed to live out here. A three story wood house, built like a cabin, hung on stilts in the middle of nothingness. A beat-up, old Streamline trailer, surrounded by dilapidating iron furniture and a brand new Mercedes under a tarp. The crazy woman whom Connie had warned me about, who chased Connie's car for two hundred feet screaming, "Slow down!" And, of course, Rex Allan Krebs, who kidnapped, raped, and murdered two college girls a few years ago.
Krebs used to rent an isolated lot near the end of Davis Canyon. He lived in the smaller of the two structures, a converted A-frame barn. A few years back, he had separately kidnapped the girls from the nearby college town of San Luis Obispo. He brought them to his home and tied them up in his garage. He was convicted of raping and murdering the two at his house.
After Krebs' conviction, the owners of the land tried to sell off the land, but there were few buyers. The double killings were big news in such a small community and, as I figure it, no one wanted to live with the stigma over their heads. A local environmental group purchased the land and was converting it to a conservancy. First, however, they planned on demolishing the converted barn where the murders had occurred. Indirectly, the group contacted my co-worker, Connie, and offered her anything she wanted to scavenge from the property. Since Connie's husband was injured, we offered to help.
As we slowly lowered the stove to the ground, a leg caught on an outcropping of the building that housed the water heater. The leg was about two feet below the floor I was laying on. I reached out and tried to lift the stove. It must have weighed over a hundred pounds. My wife held on to me as I reached further out. With a hard shove, the leg broke free and the rope violently jerked beneath me. The stove continued its slow descent.
I didn't know what to expect when I agreed to go to Krebs' house. I had quite a bit of apprehension. That must be natural. I didn't want to see where those heinous crimes had taken place. I didn't want to believe that such things happened in my proverbial backyard. By going there, I was somehow acknowledging the evilness of Rex Allan Krebs' actions. Even though nothing external would change, I would be accepting the fact that my world is not as safe as I once thought.
After the stove reached the ground, we continued lowering smaller objects to the forest outside. We gathered all of our tools and scavenged finds and loaded them into Connie's pickup. I took a break from the heavy lifting to appreciate the beauty around me. It was far past sunset and bats swirled around my head. The lush trees surrounded us and the croaking of frogs from the nearby pond filled the air.
What struck me most about this land was how completely normal it was. There were no pools of blood. There were no dug up shallow graves. There were no signs of a struggle. I want to believe that the land healed itself. I want to believe that this land was formerly foreign and was somehow returned to this pristine shape. I want to believe that we can tell evilness just by looking at it. The truth, however, is much uglier. Evilness looks just like you and I. Places where evilness occurs can be as beautiful as a beach sunset. We cannot tell evilness just by sight. Evilness lives in every neighborhood.
A small part of me changed that day. I acknowledged that evil does not wear horns and a cape. Evil wears a business suit, or floral dress, or shorts and a tee shirt. I acknowledged that the nice street that I live on was not a place of safety. I had always known this, but, until that day, I had never truly accepted it.