In the previous episode, Mark sees elderly Mrs. Conlon staring into the woods. She tells him she has seen something go in there, and that it was no man. The sheriff tells Mark not to come with him to collect Tim’s remains. Tim’s funeral is attended by almost everyone in Rivertown, with one notable absence. Readers voted that the person was a thirteen year old boy who disappeared while delivering newspapers.
Everybody attended Tim Flynn’s funeral except thirteen-year-old Emmett Manley, but that couldn’t be held against him since he was almost certainly dead by then, though no one knew it yet.
It was Emmett’s bad luck to have picked up my paper route the previous springtime, when I was hired at Giuletta’s Fruit Market. That route took him right up to the houses that bordered the woods.
I stood at Mrs. Flynn’s elbow while the people of the town passed by, spoke condolences. Tim’s stepfather put up with about an hour of this then sat in their car, an amber bottle raised to his lips.
The sheriff was there, spreading the word that one of his men took down a bear about a mile into the woods. Big one.
“It’s all over folks. We got ‘im,” he told everyone, but I noticed he wouldn’t make eye-contact with my father.
That night, I heard my father arguing with him in low whispers over the telephone, late into the night.
It wasn’t my idea to go back to the Fruit Market to work the day after. Mom pestered Dad until he insisted on it.
Mr. Giuletta scheduled me with Bill Davis, a high school senior with flaming orange hair and a laugh that echoed off the hills around us.
Business had been slow, so around dinner time Bill grabbed a basket of peaches with bad spots, dragging me outside by my arm.
He split the peaches evenly between us and named the goal, pointing below the store, past the train tracks to where a lone sassafras tree leaned over the river’s edge.
“There,” he said. “That’s it, little man. If I hit it first, you have to sweep the lot by yourself.”
Sweeping the lot was the lowest-ranking task of our night. I focused every wish and muscle on that tree, pulled back my arm and–
“Aw, shit! Is that what I think it is?”
Bill was pointing over to the market’s overturned garbage cans. We dropped our peaches, walking. Rotting produce, slimy bags and boxes were now decorating the ground behind the store.
“Some ‘raccoon-proof cans,’ ” I snorted.
“Shit,” Bill said again, and I agreed. Sweeping the lot would be the least of our worries tonight. We cleaned until the store’s telephone rang. Probably Mr. Giuletta.
Bill laughed, pushed me aside and made a dash for the store. Normally I’d race him, but a flash of something among the trees between the river and the train tracks caught my eye just then.
There was a lean-to down there. A shelter of sorts. Hobo, I guessed.
I looked back at the mess of food something had dug through and wondered if it had been someone instead.
And I wondered if that someone had been out in my cave a few days ago.
And I wondered if that someone knew for sure what happened to Tim.
I looked back at the store. Bill was still on the phone. Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.