It was a quiet neighbourhood, not idyllic or well to do, but quiet. We knew a couple of neighbours and like a daisy chain, that continued all the way down until a community was formed.
They were rows of semi-detached houses, far enough apart that it felt like you had one proper neighbour and then just people who lived close. Our main neighbour was an old couple, the Thatchers. I joked with them that they’d been there since it was fields, they laughed.
They kept parrots and koi, with an immaculate garden, front and back. They were sweet, and thoughtful, and kind, we liked them – they moved.
I was out in the garden when Tilly called me into the house and told me to look next door. I ran upstairs and peeked out of the front bedroom, trying to stay out of sight. A young couple were unloading a rusted van. Bin liners of clothes were strewn over the jade green grass; boxes of glass were neatly arranged by the oak front door.
The first night there was hammering and banging until 1am. By the morning, half the house appeared to be laid out on the curb. The Thatchers built in carpentry, the memories that they cherished, had been cast aside like junk.
The second, third, and fourth night was silent – as was every night after. No sooner had they appeared, they had gone. Tilly said I was being ridiculous, they probably worked nights, or away. Perhaps they were travelling for a while, or a family member was ill, a mother or father. They all seemed reasonable, but I knew something was off.
One summer everything changed and we started to see deliveries arriving; chemical hazard warnings plastered all over the side of boxes. There were smells and smoke that would emanate from windows at 3am. Scrap metal was dumped on the front lawn by the tonne, destroying the grass.
Then one morning, we woke to a 10 foot fence being erected around the front of the house. When that was completed, a tarp was draped over the lot, so nobody could see inside.
But, they left a crack – ‘look Tilly’ I said, forcing her up to the bedroom window. Through the crack, you could see clearly what they were hiding. Gold. But not in bars, but bicycle handlebars, old radiators, carburettors, scraps by the tonne all turned to gold.
That night, under the moonlight, they packed everything into that old rusty van and left. The house still stands empty, derelict, lowering the houses prices.