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Strangers with candy. It happened. Today. To us.

Today we were out for a typical Saturday afternoon with the kids. We walked along Oriental Parade. Emory was riding his bike for the first time in a long while. Jasper was in awe of his big brother cruising at seemingly break neck speeds. We headed back towards mid city to get some coffee and do a few errands.

We were walking along the relatively bustling sidewalks of downtown Wellington, right past my office. Emory was trailing behind us, as he does. I turn to look where he was. I didn't see him.

Then Emory caught up to us and said, "A stranger just offered me lollies."

I was caught off guard, "What? Where?"

As I was turning around to look a hand reached down to Emory's face and put a candy bar under his chin, "Here...you want some lollies?"

I looked up at the person. At first glance he looked like maybe a homeless person or a drunk. But he was neither.

He had a look in his eyes that I will never forget. He was a predator. He had a victim locked in his sights.

I grabbed Emory and yelled at the guy in an angry voice, "No thank you! Please!"

WTF? God, tell me why, in the face of pure evil, I have to be polite?

He was surprised and taken off guard by my presence, as if he didn't realize I was standing there when he approached Emory. I suspect that he was so focused on what he was after that he could see nothing else.

He bitterly barked back at me, "I was only trying to give him lollies!"

He gave me a menacing leer and then quickly started walking away, but with his head twisted around looking back at us the whole time.

With Hadley pushing Jasper in the stroller, I grabbed Emory's handle bars and pulled him across the street.

When we got to the other side I got out my phone and called 111. While I was standing with the boys I explained to the emergency dispatcher what happened. Hadley started tailing the guy from our side of the street.

After some confusion we lost the guy. He was ducking in and out of shops all along the street. Then we saw him again. The operator told me to follow him and not let him out of my sight.

As I was following him I saw a police car drive down the street to where Hadley and the kids were. Just then I lost sight of the guy. I started heading down the nearest cross street and saw him again. As I got closer I think he saw me. He quickly ducked into a cheap jewelery shop. I was still on the phone with the operator when a police car drove up in front of me.

Two cops got out and I ended the call. The cops asked me where the guy was and then wanted me to explain to them what had happened. After I briefly explained to them what happened they went into the shop to question the guy and told me to stay by the police car.

A few seconds later they came out with the guy, questioning him. The guy looked across the street at me and he was looking distressed.

One of the cops came over, pulled out his note pad and asked me to give him a full account. As we were going over my statement the guy was being put into the back of the police car. The guy shot a few nasty glances at me.

After I signed the statement, I asked the cop if they could contact me to let me know what happens. I said I wasn't sure if there was anything they could do, but I thought that if the guy had a record or is a known child predator then maybe they could do something. He said they would take him in to be questioned by a detective and that we did exactly the right thing.

I walked back to Hadley and the boys. As I explained what happened, the police car drove past, stopping right behind us at the traffic light, before it disappeared.

At the time, I was pretty cool headed about the whole thing. I was mostly relieved that we "got" the guy. Now, a few hours later, it's really sinking in what happened. It's shocking how text book it was. We've told Emory many, many times that there are bad people that will offer him candy, who will try to take him away from us. We've always questioned ourselves if it's a little too much, wondered if we're a little too paranoid, or if we are exposing him to something too heavy. But we've always trusted ourselves. And Emory. It's not a pleasant thing to have to tell a small child, but it's a deadly important thing to talk about.

I hope this gives us more credibility in Emory's eyes. To really listen when we tell him these things. I'm a little worried that Emory just sees it all as a little excitement, like a TV show that, as always, has a happy ending where the good guy is saved and the bad guy gets caught. I don't want him to be terrorized by this incident, but I do hope it sinks in for him too.

August 8, 2004 in Emory, family, Life | Permalink

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Comments

That's a really terrifying story, but I'm impressed that you acted and made something happen, rather than just feeling like this was a near miss that's now a bad memory.

I often feel guilty that I don't make eye contact or smile at strangers. My mom (single in LA) raised me with total paranoia of strangers with candy. My husband, on the other hand, raised in suburban Florida, tends to wave at strangers we pass in cars, cause that's how they do it in FL.

Ok, I came to your site to look for the list of boys names. 50% chance we're having one of those in 10 weeks and I need to be ready.

Posted by: Whitney Moss at Aug 10, 2004 3:23:02 PM