He had it coming to him, alright.
Everyone in the neighborhood agreed that Marty Polks deserved whatever he got. He yelled at the kids who ran onto his lawn to retrieve stray soccer balls. He harrumphed the neighborhood moms who waved to him when he came out to get his paper every morning. His wife hurried in and out of the house after arguments, ashen face inscribed with abuse and neglect.
“I heard he’s been beating his wife for years,” Tilda McHuen said, half-covering her mouth so as to appear concerned with not being perceived a gossip.
Mary Holt leaned over the caution tape wrapped around the perimeter to get a better look at the nondescript tract house, adding, “Do you remember that time the police came? There was yelling and screaming, and Tom finally called it in.”
Everyone remembered. In a town like this, sirens flashing provided conversation for years.
Little Sasha Holt, chubby young hand clutching her mother’s, wanted to participate, too. “He’s mean to all us kids! Bobby Rikers told me he puts spells on anyone who goes in his yard.”
Mary bent down to reprimand her daughter for interrupting the adult conversation, but young Sergio Sanchez already overheard and piped in, “Nah-uh! That’s witches that do that. Witches are girls, everybody knows!”
The adults looked at each other knowingly. Best not to get involved in this one.
Still, no one put it past him…
The strange lights coming from the workshop out back after dark. The overgrown pumpkin patch in the backyard, which June Phillips could see from her second story bathroom window. The suppressed shrieks coming from 201 Garrety Drive, always at strange hours.
Something weird was definitely going on in the Polks household.
The chatter around the yellow crime scene tape grew another decibel, speculating about the possibility of murder.
“Do you think she finally got the best of him?”
“No, didn’t you hear? I think, I mean, I heard she was the dead one.”
“Well, I heard it was neither of `em. I heard they found them missing boys buried out back in the shed.”
“In the shed?”
“Yep. `Neath the concrete.”
“Naw, I heard he was the one who killed Claudette.” Claudette was the neighborhood stray, a scruffy looking dog who belonged to nobody and everybody. Buddy Jeffries didn’t want to admit it, but he cried actual tears upon first encountering the mangled dog in the gutter.
After another half-hour of back-and-forth volleyed among the crowd, movement could finally be detected in the doorway. The coroner wheeled out first one body, then another, both in pitch colored body bags like the ones they saw on TV.
“What happened?” a muttering chorus went through the crowd, increasing in volume as they received no answer from anyone in uniform. Pretty soon the murmuring grew to a dull roar.
“What happened?” they yelled.
Officer Bolton wandered out of the house to face the crowd, thumbs hooked in his belt until he lifted both hands up in a universal shushing gesture.
“Now folks, settle down, settle down here.” Everyone looked at him expectantly.
“I’m not authorized to disclose anything yet, and we have a lot of cleaning up to do here, so why don’t you folks just go on home now.”
A collective grumbling rolled through the crowd, but nobody made as if to leave yet. Officer Bolton turned and went back into the house, and the regular din of chatter resumed.
While they all continued guessing and spreading harmless little white lies, no one noticed the tiny boy with hair in his eyes squeezing through the crowd. He clutched at the yellow tape with blood-stained fingertips, staring at the house with wide brown eyes through his too-long hair. Though he stood there for a good five minutes or so no one saw him.
No one saw him turn and leave, either, disappearing through the crowd as stealthily as he had appeared. In fact, after the double homicide became common knowledge throughout town, no one ever stopped to wonder about the boy they hadn’t seen…
…though they should have.
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