2nd person: You knew him, didn’t you?

You knew him, didn’t you?

That’s what people asked you Tuesday when it came on the news. You went to the same church, right? With the family whose house blew up in Scottsdale, the Fishers?

You’re Dan Adair, and your son, Tyler, was Bobby’s best friend.

Your wife was a friend of Mary, whose body was found, along with her children’s, after the fire.

You watch the news, too, and a couple days later, they’re saying the explosion may have been intentional. And the police are saying that Mary and Bobby, 10, and Brittney, 13, were dead before something ignited the gas and blew their brick house apart.

Your boy slept there just a few nights ago. He had a great time. You knew Bobby, too, funny kid, a goofball who made up words and phrases. He’d always choose the car token when he played Monopoly. What was that he said all the time? Funky monkey. For no reason at all.

You knew the father, Bob. Went to a couple Diamondbacks games with him. Can’t figure it out. Where is Bob, anyway? A good man. Loved the Lord, taught his children to love the Lord. Infused with the Spirit.

A good man.

So many questions. Everyone has questions. The congregation has questions, asks them of each other, asks them of themselves. The same questions, over and over. So what happened?

There is the evidence. Mary’s 4Runner is missing. So is Bob. He wasn’t at work the next day. A good man, loved the Lord. Going camping with the kids, talked a lot about that. Loved his kids, bragged about them.

Two days after the explosion, on a hot, breezy Thursday morning, Tyler wants to go to the house. He’s been there once already, made a sign to hang on the fence. Wants to go again, to take pictures in front of the shrine going up in front of the house.

You go. And you stand back away from the monument and look at the news people with their cameras and notepads and the neighbors with their sidelong resentful glances, and you just think.

You don’t even have an opinion. You don’t even know what to think. Your wife thought highly of the family; she’s taking it hard. Son cried at church last night whenever Bobby’s name was mentioned, but he seems better today.

What do you know? What do you really know? In a letter from the Scottsdale Baptist Church’s assistant pastor, you find out that on the last Saturday of Brittney’s life, she purposely disabled her pinewood car so she wouldn’t beat a younger competitor in the church’s youth group Grand Prix race.

You think about Bob again. Tall. Worked out a lot. Stood erect. Couldn’t turn his neck real well because of an old injury. Good guy. Sense of humor. Helped the man in the wheelchair down the street. Always was nice to your kids.

What do you really know?

Even the pastor is speculating — how could he not? — but his answers are as vague and murky as any his congregants are coming up with. And even the best answers he comes up with don’t make any sense.

The best-case scenario is still an awful case. Bob comes rolling up the street in the 4Runner from an impromptu fishing trip and sees his family’s home destroyed.

It could happen that way. Right? Who knows?

No one.

It’s a scary thing, a person you live near, your kid sleeps over at their house, and suddenly they’re dead or missing or both.

How do you reconcile it? Mary’s family on TV pleading for you not to believe the rumors. He was a good man and a good father.

Police call him a suspect, the only one they’ve named. You hope he didn’t do it. But what do you know, really? How can you get into someone’s heart or in their head and really know them?

Stand in front of a burnt-up house and wonder about that. A good man’s missing. A Godly man is missing.

You knew him. Didn’t you?

The Arizona Republic
April 16, 2001