Every day for the past six years, 24-year-old Deborah James has walked by the same half-dug foundation next to the gas station and asked out loud, “I wonder what they’re building here?”
James says she was all by herself when she noticed the gas station down the street was for sale. “I thought they would probably sell to another gas station owner, but secretly I hoped someone would buy the property and turn it into a Walgreens, or a Wendy’s, or even one of those pop-up cat cafés, or at least a frozen yogurt place where you can do your own toppings,” recalls Deborah, who often voiced these thoughts and others out loud.
Friends say that from that moment onward, James tortured those closest to her. “She was like a detective character on one of those ‘cold case’ detective shows,” recalls James’s friend, Michelle, “except the mystery was super low-stakes and no one else cared about solving it.”
Day after day, week after week, James passed by the site, but wasn’t getting any answers. The sign on the site had the number for the construction company, but they never returned her many urgent voicemails. There was a small plexiglass window on the plywood around the site, but it looked like any other construction project. “It’s so mysterious…like, what were they hiding?” James wrote on the blog she’d created to track the development.
Her friends became concerned for her, but eventually ignored her musings about what was being built on that corner. “At first, I thought she was just a curious person, like maybe she’d make a good NPR reporter,” says former friend, Jamie. “But after weeks of, ‘Maybe it’s a TD Bank’ and, ‘Are they still building Hollywood Videos?’ I had to block her number.”
Friends, family, coworkers, and pets were on the verge of disowning her when, finally, the day came for the unveiling on the new building, which Deborah attended with unbelievable anticipation. It turned out that the commercial building is vacant and available for lease, and according to James, “It looks like it could fit another grocery store or maybe a Gap Outlet, although I don’t think the neighborhood really needs another one of those.”