Garden Grove: 7 Rusty Plowshare’s Scheme – Rusty by LV Gaudet

•January 12, 2018 • Leave a Comment

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“So, the skull wasn’t good enough, huh?  Oh, I’ve got something better than that, much better,” Rusty Plowshare muttered bitterly.

The old man nodded to himself.  His chin, white with unshaven whisker stubble, caught and held a piece of loose straw in the stubble when he came away from the stacked bales of hay he was digging between.  The straw bales were sagging with rot and greyed with age, their fibres breaking down over the years they had sat idle.

He turned away, rummaging through one pile and then moving on to another.  Rusty moved with arthritic slowness, the skin on his thin arms sagging from age and loss of the underlying muscle mass of youth.  His face, leathery from decades of working in the sun and wrinkled with age, gave him a crazy old man in the mountains look instead of wizened with age.

He was in the old barn, its interior packed with an amazing amount of clutter of every description.  It is unbelievable the old man can even move around in there, much less search the place.  The old packrat collected anything.

There are cats everywhere too, cats of every age and description, some looking very unhealthy, all feral strays that had made this barn their home.

“Now, where’d I put it?” he muttered to himself.

It wasn’t in the narrow space of a double wall between two stalls.  He moved on to search somewhere else.

“Maybe behind the loose board in the wall?”  He pried the board off and looked.

“Ah, I know, under the floorboard!”  He moved and stooped over a floorboard, pulling it up to look beneath.  Most of the barn floor is an open dirt floor.  However, one end of the barn, for reasons known only to the old man and his predecessors, has a rough floor of old two by fours that are now soggy with rot.  One part of this section, in the dark shadowed recesses of the corner, hides a small makeshift cellar dug into the ground beneath the floor, the rest of it covering part of the dirt floor that makes up most of the barn floor.  This particular floorboard covered a gouged out section of dirt just deep enough to hold its small treasures wrapped in rotting cheesecloth.

But what he is looking for is not there.

“Damn!”

“I know it’s here somewhere,” Rusty grumbled.

Noticing the carelessly dumped loose soil marking the spot where the skull had been dug up from, the old man reminded himself, “Got to stamp that down some, won’t do to have anyone finding it.”

The old skull had been buried in the barn for a very long time.  Of course, the rest of the body was there too, along with the tool used to kill the man.

It’s very possible the man buried so many years ago in the dirt of the barn was old Rusty Plowshare’s great great grandfather.

He did not really know for sure.  There was more than one body buried beneath the old barn through the generations of his family that lived here.

His great great grandmother’s husband, the man whose family name he carried, did not really know for sure either when he bludgeoned the young man to death in a jealous rage in that year after the then young couple was married.

If the rumours spread that day so long ago by a group of busybody old women making trouble where they had no business putting their noses were true, rumours of the wife’s alleged infidelity and possibly questionable pregnancy, then those were the remains of his murdered great great grandfather.

Or, the young man may have been an innocent victim of a husband’s jealousy and a bunch of busybodies making trouble where there wasn’t any.

Only his great great grandmother knew the truth.

She was buried beneath the woodshed some years later, after failing to provide her husband with an offspring that was undeniably his in his mind.  She had given birth to more children after that first boy, but her husband could not let go of his suspicions.

There are many dark secrets in his family’s history, and Rusty Plowshare knows where each one of them was buried.

It also could have been someone else.  Rusty had heard stories passed down about his great great grandfather’s violent temper.

“Ahh, there you are!” he cooed.  “Beautiful.”  He pulled out a round wrapped bundle and held it up as if presenting it to the watching eyes of the dozens of felines witnessing his moment of triumph.

“I know just what to do with you.  If you don’t stop them from digging out those woods, nothing will,” he said.

“I know just what to do with you,” he repeated happily.

 

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And  for the teens and middle years kids who like middle years/teen drama and monsters, a fantasy psychological thriller.

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25 The Woods – (Cody) Strange Events (2015) by LV Gaudet

•January 6, 2018 • Leave a Comment

1

Setting the old baseball down on the kitchen table, Cody starts putting away his purchases.  Going to the cupboard, he empties the shelves, pulling out the old tins for coffee, tea, and baking products, and putting them aside to throw out later.

Using one of the water bottles, he fills a bowl and searches through doors for a dishcloth to scrub the cupboard with.  He finds a drawer with dishcloths and tea towels, pulling a few out to inspect them.  They are yellowed with age and the fabric is brittle.

“I don’t think I can use these.”  Tossing them in the trash, he digs out sponges he bought.  Adding dish soap to the water, he scrubs the cupboard shelves.

Finished, he studies the freshly scrubbed shelves.

“Better let that dry.”

Tasting his own foul breath, he sniffs at his armpit and makes a disgusted face.

“My first order of business is cleaning myself up.”

Grabbing another water bottle and a washcloth and bath towel, he goes to the living room in search of his toiletry bag.  In the bathroom he does a perfunctory job of cleaning himself up.

Returning to the kitchen, he puts away his coffee and food and leaves the boxes with the rest of his supplies in a corner.

Cody looks around with a sigh.

“I’m not really sure what to do here.  Where do I start?”

A jangling ringing sound interrupts. It’s a weak warbling of a jangling ring, like a very old alarm or phone that’s almost surprising itself with its own ability to still make a sound.

He turns.

It rings again.  Brrrrddddiing.

“Was that from the other room?”

Brrrrddddiing.

“It sure sounds like it’s in the house.”

He follows the sickly ringing to the kitchen.

He stares in surprise at the old tan rotary dial phone hanging on the wall near the kitchen table.  The phone is coated in an undisturbed layer of dust.  The old curled cord stringing the hand piece to the phone dangles motionlessly; its cord having lost much of its bounce long ago.  It still holds maybe half its original curl.

“I forgot that’s even there.”

Brrrrddddiing.

He almost jumps at the sound of the jangling ring, half disbelieving it’s even ringing and half at the sudden volume of the ringing right next to him.

“Weird.  How is it working?  There can’t still be phone service.  Who’d be paying the bills?”

He walks over to it, watching the phone as it rings again and again.

Curious, drawn by that inane trained need to answer the phone, he picks it up and holds the receiver to his ear.  He listens for a few heartbeats and hears nothing.  Maybe he hears the almost indiscernible static hiss of a live line that you can only hear in the absolute silence of a house with no electricity humming through a multitude of appliances.  Or maybe it’s that trick your ears play on you when you think you hear the distant hissing of the sea in the seashell you hold to your ear.

“Hello,” he says into the phone.  He is met with silence.  “Hello?”  Still nothing.

He tries joggling the hang up button.

“Hello?”  Nothing but silence.  He hangs up.  The house is filled with only dead silence.

He starts second guessing himself.

“Did I imagine it?”  He frowns at the phone and picks up the receiver again. Nothing but silence.  He doesn’t even hear that too faint almost nonexistent silent hissing he thought he might have heard.  It is lifeless plastic, devoid of power or service to give the line life.

 

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And  for the teens and middle years kids who like middle years/teen drama and monsters, a fantasy psychological thriller.

 

Garden Grove: 6 Vandals Strike Again – Stanley by LV Gaudet

•January 5, 2018 • Leave a Comment

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When Stanley returned to Garden Grove he went directly to the trailer office.  Pinching the padlock loop just above the block shaped lock mechanism between the blades of the lock cutter; he squeezed the lock cutter arms together angrily with more force than was needed.  With a little resistance, the blades pinched and cut through the lock, and the lock clattered to the ground.

He picked it up, removed the loop that still held the door latched, and went inside.

His snarl of outrage could be heard across the jobsite.

Inside the trailer was clear evidence someone had gained entry and gone through files.  Files and papers had been scattered everywhere.

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15 Absolutely Terrifying Things You Had No Idea Existed – TheRichest

•January 1, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Real or fake?

http://www.therichest.com/shocking/15-absolutely-terrifying-things-you-had-no-idea-existed/?utm_source=TR-FB-B&utm_medium=Facebook-Distribution&utm_campaign=TR-FB-B&view=list

24 The Woods – Kevin and Jesse (1985) by LV Gaudet

•December 30, 2017 • Leave a Comment

1

Kevin and Jesse run, pushing the bike through the snow, counting to five together and skidding to a stop just before the invisible barrier between their yard and the rest of the world.  They release the bike at the last moment and its momentum takes it from there.  It doesn’t get far, the snow slowing it down.  It falls to the ground just inside the barrier.

“That didn’t work,” Jesse says, puffing out his cheeks.

“I know.”  Kevin sounds more annoyed than he means to.  He is frustrated and lost.

“What do we do now?”

“I don’t know.  Let me think.”

“Maybe-.”

Kevin cuts him off.  “Just let me think!”

Jesse shrugs and starts stomping his feet.

“What are you doing?  That’s distracting and I can’t think,” Kevin complains.

“I’m stomping down the snow so the bike can go further.”

“That’s dumb,” Kevin is about to say, but stops himself.  “No, that’s really a good idea,” he thinks, nodding.

“Good idea,” he says and Jesse grins.

Together the boys stomp down a path for the bike.

“Okay, that’s good.  Let’s try this again.”

They pick up the bike, taking it back to their starting point.  Bracing themselves, they roll it back and forth a few times in the belief this will give it more momentum.

“Ready, set, GO!” Kevin cries.

They run with the bike, going as fast as they can.

“Ready, let go!  Let go!  Jesse!”

Kevin drops the bike, leaping and reaching for Jesse, his grasping fingers just missing his jacket.

Jesse lets go a moment too late.  He and the bike move over the invisible barrier.

Kevin blinks away the tears burning his eyes.  His throat is gripped in a vice-like claw.

Jesse and the bike are gone.

Kevin looks around in a panic.

“Jesse!”  He calls again and again.  “JESSE!!”

“Jesse, where are you?” he whimpers. “I have to look after you.  Mom will never forgive me if I don’t get us both back safe…  I’ll never forgive me.”

Kevin stares at the spot Jesse was just a scattering of heartbeats ago.  He moves as if to take those few steps forward.

“If I step through at the same place I should end up wherever Jesse is.”

He swallows hard.  He can’t do it.

Pasty and pale, shivering and sweating despite the chill air, Kevin feels sick.

He turns and runs, racing for the edge of the back yard bordering onto the woods behind the house.  He stops at that invisible barrier where the snow covered mowed grass stops and the tangle of barren branches of bushes and trees begins.

“He has to be there.”  Kevin’s breath is coming faster, billowing on the chill air, as much from panic as from his short run.

He peers through the naked branches of trees and bushes.  Their twisted spindly splayed out branches seem to be tangled together as if they are creating an impenetrable barrier to stop him.

“To stop me from what?  From going into the woods?  From finding Jesse?”

“You won’t stop me!” Kevin yells into the empty woods.  He can see the stump through the trees, barely, the twisted branches mostly blocking his view of it.

“Jesse!” he screams.  “Jesse, where are you?”

Kevin stares at that old stump hard as if that will somehow make it more visible. He imagines it standing defiant and threatening despite its soft rot of decay, beyond the fallen tree lying on the ground slowly being consumed by the plants and insects.

There is no sign of Jesse.

“I’m going to have to get closer to see if he’s there.”

Weak with dread, Kevin takes that first hesitant step across the threshold into the woods.  Each step takes him that little bit closer to that stump, and a step further from the imagined safety of his yard.

Kevin reaches the fallen tree.  He stops and stares at it.  He can still see where Jesse and he clawed at the ground and tree, trying to dig him out when he suddenly found himself trapped beneath it.

“Dumb old tree,” he complains sullenly.  “I shouldn’t have dared Jesse to go to it.  I shouldn’t have dared him to go into the woods.  We weren’t supposed to leave the yard.”

Kevin feels sick with dread at the knowledge he has to go past the tree … alone.

He steps forward; placing his hands on the dead tree, and leans his weight on it as he climbs over it.  He feels its sponginess beneath him and for a moment pictures the tree caving in, sucking him into its rotting cavity amid the slithering insects slowly devouring it from the inside.

In his imagination, the inside of that old tree is putrid flesh, not wood, and the insects are corpse white worms, not ants or termites.  He pushes the nauseating image from his mind and looks around.

“Jesse!” he calls.  He calls three more times.  The world seems muted, not even his voice echoing off the sky.

“He has to be here somewhere.”

Kevin can see the old stump now, soft and crumbling with rot; the sharp jagged points of shattered wood sticking up as though waiting to impale any foolish boy who tries to climb it and falls.

“You are lying you dumb old stump,” he says insolently, walking the rest of the way to it.  He stops and stands there, studying it.  He reaches out and picks at the jagged points of wood that have softened with years of rot.

“You can’t impale anything now.  You’re too soft.  Soft and rotting.”

Decayed.  The thought lingers in his mind.

He looks around.

“Where’s the rest of you?  Huh?  Where’s the rest of the tree?  Rotten to nothing, I bet.”

He looks around again, still seeing no sign of his brother. Cupping his hands to his mouth to make his voice louder, he calls again, “JESSE!”

Kevin stops and listens.  There is no sound.  Not a single bird or squirrel, not the wind.  Absolute, utter, total and desolate silence.

“What have you done with him?” he whispers.

“Do I go back to the house?”  He looks through the bare branches to the house.  “Every time we tried to leave we ended up back in the woods.  Maybe it worked.  Maybe Jesse got out.”

He frowns.  “That would mean I’m still trapped here… alone.”

He shakes his head.  “I don’t think the woods will give up that easily.  He has to be here somewhere.”

His shoulders hunched against the cold fear gripping him, Kevin does what he did not want to do; he starts making his way deeper into the woods.

“Jesse!” he calls every now and then.

“Kevin!”

Kevin stops, listening.

“Jesse, where are you?”

“Kevin!”  Jesse’s voice cries out again.  He can hear the panic in the younger boy’s voice.

“Jesse!”  Kevin looks around, moving in circles, searching for him.

“Kevin!  Help!”

Finally, Kevin spots a waving hand.

“Come out of there,” Kevin calls.  “Why are you standing behind the tree?”

He arrives at the tree, walking around it.

“Jessie?”

“Here.”  Jesse’s hand grabs his pant leg.

Kevin looks down.  Jesse’s hand is coming from inside the tree.

“What?”  Kevin looks in disbelief, circling the tree again.  It’s a large fat old tree.  Its top half broke off years ago in a storm.  The branches that remain are smooth and barren of the twigs that live leaves would grow from in summer.  The ragged top is scorched and split, possibly from being struck by lightning.  Some distance away, what may be the top half lays on the ground amid the bush growing around and up through it, trying to fuse it back into the ground.

The tree is long dead.

Kevin stops where Jesse’s hand is sticking out from a hole in the tree.

“How did you get in there?”

“I don’t know.”  Jessie’s voice is small and cracking with fear.

Kevin turns at a sudden cracking sound.

“What’s that?” Jesse whimpers.

“I don’t know.”

The sound repeats and Kevin looks up in time to see the bicycle slipping from the branch holding it above in a nearby tree.  The falling bike catches on the branches below it with a bounce of the branches recoiling from the sudden weight pushing them down.

The branches give beneath the bike’s weight with another crack and the bike falls, almost hitting Kevin right next to Jesse’s tree.  It hits the ground with a dull thud and the breaking sound of the bushes beneath it made brittle from drying out.  The bike settles, one wheel spinning as if it too is determine to escape.

“Kevin?”  Jesse’s quiet whimper brings his attention back.

“It’s just the bike.  It fell out of a tree.”

“H-how did it get up there?”

“Same way you got in there, I guess.  Let’s get you out.  Can you move?”

“No.  It’s too tight.”

Kevin inspects the hole Jessie’s hand is sticking out of.  It looks like an old knothole or maybe a hole dug out by some animal that made the dead tree its home.

“How do you even fit in there?  It’s a bloody tree.”

“No cussing Kevin.”

Kevin blinks at him.  “At a time like this you’re worried about cussing?”

“It’s all hollow inside here,” Jesse says, wriggling and feeling around inside his wooden prison.  “I think something must have been living in here.  The wood feels soft too.”

Jesse pulls his hand back inside and starts clawing at the hole.

“Maybe I can dig out,” he whimpers hopefully.

Kevin starts clawing at the hole from the outside, grabbing the edges and trying to break chunks off.  When he makes little headway, he looks around for a stick.  Finding a thick one, he tests it for sturdiness.  He uses the stick as a tool, gouging at the hole and jamming it into the soft rotting wood to use it as a lever to break it apart.

It’s taking a long time with little success.

“Get me out of here,” Jesse cries, clawing frantically at the wood in a panic.

“We’ll get you out,” Kevin huffs, breathing harder from the effort.  “It’s just going to take some time.”  He increases his efforts, even kicking at the tree to try to free Jesse.

“Come on,” Jesse sobs, trying to squirm out the still too small hole, “let me go you stupid tree.”

“Stop it Jesse, I can’t get my hands in there to break pieces off.”

Whimpering, Jesse stops trying to force himself out and watches Kevin grab at the hole with both hands, pulling and managing to break a chunk off.  He goes to work on it again with the sturdy stick until it breaks, then looks for another.  He finds two.

He hands one to Jesse.  “Here, dig at it from the inside if you can.”

Jesse does his best, unable to move very much in the cramped space.

Softened with disease, rot, and insects, the wood gives a little at a time.  The hole slowly grows larger; Kevin attacking it harder when he sees what he thinks is a weak spot.

They finally make a hole big enough for Jesse to squeeze out.  He squeezes through with Kevin pulling from the other side, and falls to the ground.  He lays there panting as much from stress as from the exertion.

Jesse’s dirty face is streaked with tears and his eyes have a hollowed out look like a piece of his soul was taken by the trauma.

Kevin sticks his head inside the tree, examining the space.  He whistles a low whistle.

“How did you get in there?”  He turns to Jesse.  “Let’s go back to the house.”

Looking pale and weak with shock, Jesse nods. Kevin helps him up and they start their way back through the woods to their yard.

The reach the yard and pause.

“Kevin,” Jesse whimpers.

“Yes, I know.  It’s spring.  The snow is melting.”

“So why does it look like fall?”

“I don’t know.  I think it’s messing with us.”

“What is?”

“The woods.”

They hurry across the yard.  The lighting is as muted as the sounds are.  The dry leaves barely crackle under their feet and the color of everything is off.

The door has an unreal feel to it as Kevin opens it. He holds it open for Jesse so he doesn’t have to touch it.  He looks back at the door as he closes it behind them.

Inside the house, Jesse turns to Kevin.  He glances at the door as if worried they were followed and something might be eavesdropping.

“I think there’s only one way to get back home.  We have to try to trick the woods.”

Kevin studies him for a moment, weighing his words.

“How?”

 

Available on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon:

Garden Grove Cover - McNally - front cover

The McAllister Series

where the bodies are

 

Where the Bodies Are

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]

 

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Hunting Michael Underwood

 

 

the-latchkey-kids

And  for the teens and middle years kids who like middle years/teen drama and monsters, a fantasy psychological thriller.

 

Garden Grove: 6 Vandals Strike Again – Dave by LV Gaudet

•December 29, 2017 • Leave a Comment

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At the hospital, Dave McCormack and a few of the other poisoned workers are being discharged.  Being the slow process that it is, the discharges ran over the span of a number of hours.

As the men left one by one, they stopped in to wave a goodbye and crack the usual jokes about hospital food to the other men sitting in their rooms dressed to go home with their hospital issue plastic bags holding their personal effects of cards, well wishes, and stuff that was supposed to entertain them during their temporary hospital incarceration.  They made their rounds of the men who would still be in the hospital for a few more days or weeks, the ones who were allowed visitors anyway.

Dave was one of the earlier releases.  He made his rounds with his worried wife at his side fussing over him and looking like she was going to cry over every man they visited who couldn’t go home just yet.

Dave almost cried himself while he visited some of the men he’d worked with, spending long hours labouring and joking, the casual after work Friday beers shared, and now looking like death hovered within reach.

Two men who were supposed to go home in a few days had worsened and were moved into intensive care.  It isn’t looking good for either of them.

One of the men originally in intensive care had been moved to a regular hospital bed after improving considerably.

Another was taken off life support, his quality of life ruined and showing little brain activity.  But his body is still too stubborn to pass away.  His heart kept ticking, his lungs feebly collapsing and expanding.  The doctors are sure he will not survive.

Dave walked out of the hospital into the bright cool afternoon with an exhilarating feeling of release mixed with a heavy heart.  He feels like he has just been released from a prison, although he’d never actually had the prison experience to compare his feelings to.

He also walked with the weight of an entire injured crew on his shoulders.

He isn’t the foreman.  It is the foreman’s job to take responsibility for the safety of the men on the crew.  But he feels the guilt just the same.  He is the most senior man on the crew after the foreman.  He feels just as responsible for the men’s safety, especially the green ones.

 

GARDEN GROVE IS AVAILABLE ON KINDLE AND IN PAPERBACK ON AMAZON

 

 

Available on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon:

Garden Grove Cover - McNally - front cover

The McAllister Series

where the bodies are

 

Where the Bodies Are

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]

 

The McAllister Farm

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Hunting Michael Underwood

 

 

the-latchkey-kids

And  for the teens and middle years kids who like middle years/teen drama and monsters, a fantasy psychological thriller.

23 The Woods – Henry and June (1985) by LV Gaudet

•December 23, 2017 • Leave a Comment

1

June wakes up feeling foggy and sore.  She blinks the fuzziness from her eyes and rolls over, looking miserably at the open bedroom door.  She feels like she hasn’t slept all night.

“I woke from the worst dream,” she thinks.  “I dreamt Jesse and Kevin were missing.”

Henry is still snoring next to her.  Getting up, she puts on her housecoat and goes to the kitchen to make coffee.

June steps into the kitchen to see two cereal bowls on the table. She is about to call out to the boys, Kevin and Jesse, over the bowls left on the table, but she stops.  The reality of the past two days crashes down on her like a sledgehammer, making her stagger and nearly fall with sorrow and loss.  Her knees weak, she starts trembling, her eyes burning with the tears that fill them.

She looks at the bowls in confusion, a puzzled frown replacing her anguish as she struggles to compose herself.

“I don’t remember anyone being here,” she thinks, wondering how the bowls got there.

Unable to put the thought out of her head, June starts the coffee brewing and washes the bowls, putting them away.  Feeling lost, she stands there staring out the kitchen window at the ruined trampled snow of the back yard.  There is no longer any tract of her boys’ footsteps. Somehow, that opens up an empty spot inside her that threatens to swallow her up.

“How did you sleep, June?” Henry asks, coming into the kitchen.

June turns and he takes in the strain that seems to have visibly sapped a part of her away.

“As well as I could have I guess,” she says.  June can’t help the urge to glance at the table where the bowls had sat moments ago.

Seeing that she hasn’t poured herself a coffee, Henry goes to the cupboard, getting two cups and pouring them both a coffee.

“Come sit and have a coffee June.”  He tries to hide the worry he feels when he looks at her.

He goes to the table with his coffee, picking up the paper he set there when he entered the kitchen and starts reading.

June moves, her body detached from her mind, finding herself sitting at the table with Henry.  She looks at the coffee cup in front of her like she’s not quite sure how it got there, then looks up at Henry.

“Did you leave cereal bowls on the table?”

“No.”  Henry looks from his newspaper to the table, not seeing any bowls.  “There’s no bowls there now.”

“I cleaned them up.”

Henry goes back to his newspaper and coffee, thinking that’s the end of it.

June looks at her coffee.  She sits there in silence for a while.  The bowls are bothering her.  She looks at Henry reading his newspaper, back at her coffee, and frowns.

“Was someone here after I went to bed?”

Henry grunts.

“I don’t remember the bowls being there yesterday,” June persists.  “They were right there on the table this morning.  No one was here after I went to bed that I know about.  Who was here Henry?”

“Nobody was here,” he says, still reading.

“Do you remember anyone using the bowls?  I don’t remember anyone using bowls.”

Henry looks up from his newspaper.  “I don’t remember anyone using bowls.  But if they were there, then someone must have used them.”

“I guess so,” June cedes.

Henry continues reading through his newspaper and drinking his coffee, while June sits there quietly, barely touching hers as it cools.

Finished, Henry folds his newspaper and gets up, putting his cup in the sink.

“I’m going to the recreation center to see how the search for the boys is going.”

June looks at him with a look bordering on alarm.  She can’t help the thought that rings through her head, “What if he doesn’t come back?  What if he disappears like my boys?”

“I should come with you,” June says.

Henry almost changes his mind, remembering June’s breakdown the day before.  “I can’t bring her there,” he thinks.  “Junie isn’t ready to handle it and I don’t think any of them are ready to handle her.”

“I think you should stay here,” he says.  “Someone might come by if they find anything.  Someone should be here.”

He wants to say, “In case the boys come home,” but doesn’t.  He doesn’t want to get her hopes up for nothing.

June has an urge to scream at him.  To tell him she isn’t broken, that those are her boys lost somewhere out there too. “I know why you really want me to stay home,” she thinks.

“Fine,” she says.

Feeling guilty leaving her, Henry nods and leaves.

Left alone, June gets up and pours herself another coffee.

“I should have made Henry breakfast before he went.”

June feels no hunger or interest in eating herself.

“The boys must be so hungry.”  She wipes away a tear.

With little else to do and no interest in drinking her coffee, June starts going through the motions of cleaning the house.  She gets a rag and starts with dusting.

“Why is there so much dust?”

With the large number of people coming and going since the boys vanished, June would have expected the house to be bordering in chaos.  But when everyone left, it was like they had never been there, except for the fridge and freezer overflowing with meals brought by well-meaning neighbours as if someone had died.

June pushes the thought away, and with it the abandoning herself to debilitating grief that she is forever a heartbeat away from.  “My boys are not dead.”

There are no toys to clean up.  The absence of boys’ clutter is an empty spot inside her.  She has to find something else to clean up.  She moves on to tidying the already tidy front closet.

June starts straightening the shoes and stops, studying them with a puzzled frown.  One of the pairs is missing a shoe.

“It must be here somewhere.”

June searches the closet without turning up the missing shoe.  She stops, standing in the living room and looking around, thinking. The only things out of place are the discarded comic book and socks on the floor where they had been left after her earlier insistence they must stay where the boys’ left them.

June starts searching the house for the missing shoe.  When the search turns up nothing, she finds herself in the kitchen, staring at the kitchen table.  It is still set for supper for four.  She could not bring herself to put the settings away.

“They must be so hungry.”  She stares at the spot the cereal bowls had been.

It’ not the first time she has noticed things out of place.  She finds herself searching the house for these little things.  They make her feel like the boys are close, right there in the same room even.  She looks around sadly, tears welling at her eyes.  They burn with the salt of her tears as much as from the pressure of her sorrow pushing out at her eyes and her temple, threatening to explode her head with her deep feeling of loss.

“Where are you?  Kevin, Jesse, where are you?” she whispers, looking down at the new object she found.

She had found a stick on Jesse’s bed.  It is Y shaped and just the right size to make a slingshot with.  The bark had been peeled off, leaving the smoother wood beneath.  The ends had been cut amateurishly to the right lengths.  It is exactly the kind of thing Jesse would do.

Detail a few other small oddities she’s noticed since the boys vanished, tie them in with their actions.

“That was not there before.”  Her voice has a new edge to it.  She knows the stick was not there.  She had been in the boys’ rooms every day.  She can’t help it.  She just has to check, just in case.
June goes to Kevin’s room, looking for anything out of place.  His baseball bat and mitt are where they should be, the baseball still conspicuously missing.  She tries to pull up the memory of the last time she saw it.  Was it lost before they went missing?

She moves on to Jesse’s room.  Nothing else is out of place there either that she cannot be certain was not moved before.  She moves on, making another search through the house, looking for any little thing that might be wrong.

In the living room, a few of the books in the bookcase had been shifted, leaning now when she is sure they were straight before.  June straightens them.

She goes to her bedroom, looking around.  She stops, staring, stunned.

June takes those few steps towards the dresser like a woman knowingly walking to her doom.  She stares down at the stuff on the dresser.

“Someone was here.  Someone moved things on my dresser.”

She reaches out, tentatively picking up an action figure and staring at it in shock.  She is sure it wasn’t there before.

“Jesse?  Kevin?”  She whispers their names, an icy chill creeping up her back.

“Are these messages?  Does that mean you are dead?  Are you sending me messages from the grave?”

She shakes her head.  “No, it doesn’t feel right.  You’re alive.  I can feel it.  We’ll find you.  I’ll find you.”

She looks around hopelessly.  There are no answers here.  “How can I let them know that I’m still looking for them?  That I haven’t given up?

 

Henry parks in the recreation center parking lot. He sits there for a moment, not ready yet to step inside the building and face his neighbours’ pity.  He’s not sure which is worse, the pity over his missing boys, or over his wife’s apparent inability to deal with the situation.

With a heavy sigh, he finally moves to get out.  The heaviness of the situation weighs him down as he makes the short walk to the doors.

He reaches out one hand, grasping the door handle, and pauses again.  A small smile creases his lips up at the corners.  It is not a smirk of amusement or pleasure, but rather one of pain and trying unsuccessfully to control that pain.  His eyes burn with the tears that threaten to come.  Henry pushes them and all thoughts of his boys away, forcing his mind to go blank; his feelings numb.

Feeling like he regained control enough, Henry shakes his head in a slow sad motion and opens the door, stepping inside.

The redness in his eyes gives him away.

In the recreation center, long worn wooden folding tables are still set out, just as they were on his last visit.  Four are pushed together to make a large rectangle table.  A large map is spread out and held down by partially drank Styrofoam coffee cups. The cups are new.  Someone had picked up some disposable cups.  Before, they were ceramic cups.

Two tables pushed together end to end still hold an assortment of small tea sandwiches made into small triangles, lady fingers, and pinwheels.  There are platters of assorted dainties, and large industrial sized pots of coffee and tea.

Other tables with worn out old folding chairs are scattered for people to sit at.

A couple of elderly men sit at one having their coffee and sandwiches, talking about the old days.  Days when it was safe to let the young ones play outside and roam the town and surrounding rural roads and woods without worrying they would disappear.

A group of searchers on a break are just finishing gathering coffee and sandwiches, and are slowly making their way to a few of the scattered tables.

The police sergeant stands over the large map, staring down at it with a frown; going over in his mind who searched where and what the next step should be.  Scattered other people are there, either visiting or looking busy.

“It’s a party that never ends,” Henry muses, feeling empty and desolate at the sight.

He moves deeper into the open room of the hall.

Henry is at the snack table, a plate of sandwiches and dainties on the table before him while he drops sugar cubes into his black coffee, before anyone notices him.

He is frowning down at the film growing over the cream that sat out too long when a hand claps him on the back, resting with a heavy weight on his shoulder.

“Henry,” the older man says.  His voice is weighted with the seriousness of the moment.

Henry turns to look at the neighbour, a man he barely knows despite growing up here with that same neighbour living in that same house up the road on the street he grew up on.  They had never really talked before.

Henry nods acknowledgement of the man’s offer of support.

“How are you and June holding up?”

“We’re managing,” Henry says.

The look in the other man’s eyes answers the question, which is worse.

“It’s good to see you getting out of the house for a bit.  Is June alone at the house?  I could send the wife over to keep an eye on her.”

Henry shakes his head.  “That’s not necessary.  June needs a little time to herself just now.”

The other man lowers his head, the pitying look deepening as he glances at Henry then turns away to look somewhere else.

“And there it is,” Henry thinks, “the pity look over Junie.  They don’t think she’s strong enough to handle this.  My Junie will surprise them.  She’s stronger than they think.  She’s stronger than she thinks.”

Two more neighbours join them.

“Why don’t you come sit with us Henry?”

Henry reluctantly lets them pull him away after pouring the cream into his coffee and stirring it, if only to escape that pitying look from a near stranger, who can’t even look him in the eye.  The older neighbour watches them go with relief.

Conversations drop to a whisper and looks are exchanged as they pass others.  It makes Henry feel like an outsider, not someone who grew up in this town.  Someone not privileged to be included in the secret, the object of town gossip.

He hears June’s name whispered accompanied by sidelong glances from two middle-aged women and knows what they are talking about.

They settle him at another table, purposely out of earshot of the two women, and surround him.

“Here to see how the search is going?”

“Yes,” Henry says, contemplating the plate of food he really doesn’t feel like eating and does not know why he even took.  He turns his attention to his coffee instead.

The police sergeant looks up, noticing Henry, and comes to stand over the three men.

“How are you holding up, Henry?”

Henry looks up at him, nodding.  “We’re holding up.”

It does not escape him that the officer did not include June.  “He doesn’t think she’s holding up either,” he thinks.

“Come to the map table, I’ll show you where we’re at.”

Reluctantly abandoning his coffee and unwanted snack with a small pang of loss, Henry obediently gets up and follows.

They stop and stare down at the map as if it might somehow reveal the boys’ whereabouts.

The officer points, moving his hand to gesture as he talks.

“We’ve covered this area here up to here.  I’ve got search teams here, here, and here.  We expect to have this area covered by nightfall.”

“We already searched there,” Henry says, feeling empty.  He knows the reasoning, but can’t help but feel the futility of having search teams keep searching the same areas.

The officer nods.

“We are covering new ground too, but if those boys are alive they could be moving about, trying to find their way home.  It’s making the job much bigger, but we have to keep searching the same places too, just in case they made their way back there.”

“You have found no signs of them at all,” Henry’s voice is flat.

The officer shakes his head again.  He drops his voice.  “We are going to want to talk to Mrs. Bennett again, see if there is anything she missed.  Maybe she forgot to tell us something.  If it’s easier for you, I can have a couple of officers come by the house later to talk to her,  instead of,” he pauses, “you know, having to bring her in.”

The use of the formal “Mrs. Bennett” sends a cold chill down Henry’s back.

“They’re suspicious of her,” he thinks, quickly pushing the thought away as ridiculous.  June would never hurt those boys.

“That will be fine.  After dinner.”

“We have another search crew getting ready to leave in about ten minutes, if you want to join them,” the sergeant says, indicating the group of searchers who are now visiting and joking over their coffees.

“That will be good,” Henry says with an appreciative nod.

Twenty minutes later, Henry is squeezed into the front seat of a car with two other searchers, heading for the other side of the woods his boys vanished into.  Their start point will be a farm there with a number of abandoned out buildings, just the kind boys would be curious about investigating.
The group Henry was with had searched the out buildings thoroughly.  They did find signs that suggested some local kids use the buildings to hang out, but the evidence pointed to older kids.  There are a few parents who will be keeping a closer watch on their daughters from here on.

The car pulls up in front of the house, letting Henry out.

“You hang in there Henry,” the driver waves as Henry closes the car door.  Henry waves them off and the car pulls away.  He enters the house, calling for June as he takes off his coat and shoes.

“June?” Henry calls again.  He is in the living room looking down the hall towards the bedrooms. He calls again, listening for an answer.  There is none.

He starts towards the bedrooms, stopping when he passes the kitchen doorway.  He looks in.

June is in the kitchen.  Her body language is stiff and anxious.  He goes into the kitchen.

Upset, June pulls out the bowl and measuring cup, setting them on the countertop. She gets out the wooden spoon and puts it with the bowl. Then she pulls out the bags of flour and sugar.

Henry watches silently at first.

“What are you doing, June?”

“I shouldn’t have made the cake. I’m fixing it.”

“Fixing what? It’s done. The cake is made.”

She turns to him.

“The boys, they knew I was going to make a cake after supper. It needs to be the same way when they come home.”

“They knew, but they won’t be bothered that you made it already.”

She turns back to the baking items, fussing over them. They need to be exactly like they were. “I have to be ready. They know I am going to make a cake.”

“June, put it away. The cake is already made.”

She stops, the items placed as she wants. She does not add anything more to the cake ingredients set out. It is exactly as it was when the boys left to play outside.

Shaking his head and worried for June, Henry turns to walk out of the kitchen and leave her to her crazy.  He pauses, staring down at the cake dumped in the open garbage.

“If the boys see that I’m still waiting to make the cake, they will know I’m still waiting for them to come home,” June says quietly to herself.

 

Available on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon:

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The McAllister Series

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Where the Bodies Are

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The McAllister Farm

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Hunting Michael Underwood

 

 

the-latchkey-kids

And  for the teens and middle years kids who like middle years/teen drama and monsters, a fantasy psychological thriller.

 

 
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