Prologue

There is no security on this earth. There is only opportunity. General Douglas Macarthur (1880 - 1964)

To describe the Petersons, the word 'faultless' can be used. But the words 'fortunate,' 'charming,' 'superlative,' and 'grand' are also suitable. Or, you can just combine them all back to the utmost simplicity: perfect. Because, to everyone outside the family, that's what they were. The father owned API International, a million-dollar import and exporting company. The mother was a model for the Frederica Lawrence line. No one could produce more cold, hard cash than that couple. Daniel and Olivia Peterson were gorgeous people, above all. Moving to Oregon from California hadn't dampened their blonde hair or fair complexions. Daniel was handsome and strong, but a gentle and loving father. Olivia, although prying at times, loved her family dearly. Perfect, at this time, comes to mind again, doesn't it?
The children were beautiful, too, of course sharing their parent's good looks. They were the "standard, Hollywood, family" all with platinum blonde hair and enchanting smiles. There were four of them, a little boy, Matthiew, who was just under three years of age. He would be the simplest to fool, such a little boy with no sense of good judgment. Small children can be so very easy to deceive.
Then there were the twins, Ronald and Claire. Not your basic, run-of- the-mill, ten year olds. Both quiet, going about their days with enthralling grace. Claire was a good two inches taller than her brother but she was shy and insecure. Another easy victim.
Ronald held no higher honor than his twin, he was neither headstrong nor stubborn but he was smart. Everyone knows knowledge can be the tool to save you when nothing else can. Much, much too smart for a child who had only been living for ten years.
Then, there was the oldest daughter, almost fifteen. She was not like the rest of them, although beautiful just the same. Her way of thinking was different; she looked not by knowledge or gentleness but by courage. Courage and force. She would be hard, harder than the rest of them. Her courage presented a whole new game, the game of fighting back. We had never had this kind of girl in the family before; we couldn't taste the victory on the tips of our tongues as we could with the others.
But we would overcome her nonetheless.

We watched. We waited. And, from close enough to touch, we researched and recorded this family's every move. We were the shoppers, casually brushing shoulders with them in the local supermarket. We were the kindly strangers who stopped them in the store and told them what absolutely gorgeous children they had. We were the homeless sleeping on a park bench and cautiously watching the children play from afar. We were everywhere and, yet, they did not see us. How could they? We were masters of the manipulation of the eye. We could change forms and faces in seconds; we were too fast for them to recognize that we were stalking their every move.
We rented an old duplex off Sandy Boulevard; it was yellow and peeling but cheap. I set up a dark room in the laundry room where I developed my own pictures. The many corkboards, magnetic and chalkboards we had replaced pictures of ourselves. A picture of us in the Grand Canyon was replaced with a picture of them at Niagara Falls. A picture of us standing in front of a limousine on our way to the prom was replaced with a photo of Ellie and her first date. Our dog, Molly, was replaced with their dog, Lucy.
It was almost like we were stepping into another life.
The office space was clearly devoted to this family, pictures and biographies, videotapes and criminal records. The files on the computer were labeled, "Daniel," "Olivia," "Ellie," "Ronald," "Claire" and, "Matthiew." Each was a fully documented report on each member's entire life. There were photocopies and photocopies of everything from Olivia's shopping list to Claire's field trip permission form. Birthday cards hand- made by the very artistic Aunt Kate, first day of school notes from the children's lunch boxes, and wrapping paper scraps from several Christmases past. This mother was a pack rat. That was why we chose her, it made things much easier to figure out.
We proceeded to break into their home while they were away on vacation. This was the time we search for birth certificates, scrapbooks, photo albums, diaries, and other personal items. We wanted to be as accurate as possible on our exodus.
Ellie's journal was especially interesting. I found that her worst fear was the city at night. She was in love with a boy named Jake Petrie, described as, "adorable," "gorgeous" and, "perfect" many times over. Ellie also felt that her mother was too prying and that her father never had any time to spend with the family, he was always away on business, making deals in the far corners of the United States. The fact that her mother was a model embarrassed her, especially when someone pointed out in an ad, "Hey, Ellie, isn't that your mom?" Ellie described her feelings as, "I wanted to dig a hole and jump into it. Or better yet, throw my mother into it."
Then there were the smaller details, the fillers. Olivia had gotten two speeding tickets in the last six months. Ronald had once participated in a boxcar race and had been disqualified for cheating. Matthiew had refused to obey his pre-school teacher when she told him it was time to clean up, on the first day of school. And Ellie had gotten a D- on an English test, the same English test that her parents apparently got the impression she obtained an A on.
If you look beyond the perfect family and dig deeper and deeper still into the very core of their insecurities, you find they are far from perfect. Even the most beautiful families have flaws, although most don't see or recognize them. The smaller details, the ways we treat our peers or the ways we reach our goals, these are the ways in which we define ourselves. In a way, the small details define us. You cannot always judge a book by the cover, title page, or table of contents. You have to read between the lines.
Within four years of hard, hard work we were ready. Of course, we could never be all the way ready, but we were on the threshold of ready and that was as ready as we'd ever get. Next came the hard part, the part in which I have no view, no right to feel for, and no emotion. You'd have to see this part from another point of view but, as no one noticed a change, there is no other point of view.
And I would not want to spoil the surprise.