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Casper and Mr. Ray MAG
The first officer is a detective from Madison – kind of makes me feel special, that he’d come all that way for me. His name is Bradish or Broadish, something like that, and I like him, but he makes me nervous. Mr. Ray had said that even if we did get caught, it wouldn’t be a big deal, which makes sense since we weren’t really stealing, technically, but if this detective came all that way, then it must be a big deal. I don’t really understand what is going on, but my palms are sweating even worse than usual, so I must be nervous. I wipe my hands on my jeans and the Bradley guy’s eyes follow my movement like a cat watching a bird, and that makes me sweat even more. I decide maybe I don’t like him after all, even though he seemed nice at first.
The second officer is Mr. Richard Limner. I know him because his family has been going to my dad’s church for as long as I can remember. He has a large moustache and chews tobacco, and I don’t like him because he’s always looked at me funny ever since Mom and Dad died, like it was my fault or something because I didn’t cry at the funeral. Of course I was sad that they were dead, but Casper was there and I couldn’t cry in front of him because he’d make fun of me.
Anyway, Mr. Richard Limner has been pretty quiet this whole time and the Braidish man has been talking, asking about me and my parents and my job and why I quit school and stuff like that. He asked about Casper and Mr. Ray, and I made sure to be real careful of what I said like Mr. Ray told me to if something happened and the cops came to me. I’m pretty sure I’ve done good so far, but they’re both still watching me close and that makes me sweat lots more, on my hands and my head and under my arms. Braidly asked about the sweating too, so I just told him what the doctor told me and he seemed like he got it, which is good because I wouldn’t want them thinking that I was sweating so much because I was scared, even if I am.
The Braudly guy is getting serious now. He asks me, “Mr. Whet, could you tell me where you were the night of the twenty-eighth?”
“You mean last Friday?” I say, just to be sure, and he nods, so this is where I have to be careful, be smooth as Casper would say.
I wipe my palms on my knees and tell him, “Well … I would’ve gotten off work about six cause it would’ve been getting too dark. Take me about a quarter of an hour to drive home. I can’t cook or nothing, but Mrs. Evans next door sometimes cooks some for me. I think I ate some leftover shepherd’s pie she’d given me a couple nights before. Friday nights they have ‘Gilligan’s Island’ on, so I would’ve watched that, and then I would’ve gone to bed at about nine-thirty.”
I force myself to talk slow and Mr. Richard Limner is writing down things I say and Braudish is nodding, eyes on me, slowly sliding a thumb along his chin. He’s like a big tomcat tail wagging all slow like before pouncing and I’ve never liked cats much ever since Mom’s old cat, Boots, scratched me down my arm for nothing. Even his eyes are kind of yellow like a cat’s and he doesn’t seem to blink very much and he makes sweat drip a little down the sides of my nose. I decide that I definitely don’t like him at all.
Mr. Richard Limner has stopped writing and he looks at Brudly. They share a glance I don’t understand, but I can tell that they know that I’ve been caught. I don’t think they know about Casper or Mr. Ray yet, so at least that’s good.
Brundish turns back to me, his lips in a thin line, straight as a railroad. “Mr. Whet, we spoke to Mrs. Evans this afternoon, and she told us that that night you did not return home until after four in the morning.”
Yeah, they definitely know and even though I know this is the wrong time for it, I can’t help but feel some shame. Whenever people treated me weird because I was so big, Mom would tell them that I’d never hurt anybody or done anything wrong my whole life, and she was real proud of that. She told me she was proud of me. Dad even used to tell people that I was blessed with a simple heart and that I didn’t feel the temptations of sins everyone else did. I guess that was true, because I never did understand what temptation felt like. I wonder if they’d hate me now, and for the first time I’m glad they’re dead and not around to see this and leave me.
“Now, Steven, if you tell us what happened, I might be able to help you out.” Branidish flicks his tongue over his lips, laying his palms flat on the table as he pauses, waiting for me to begin.
I think it out – not my best hobby as Casper always said, but Casper and Mr. Ray aren’t here to tell me what to do, so this one is up to me. Mr. Ray had said not to mention him and Casper to the police no matter what, but clearly the police know something, if not all of it.
“What do you want me to tell you?” I ask finally.
Brandy’s yellow cat eyes shine as though he just snapped a baby bird up into his mouth. “We need you to tell us about the evening of the twenty-eighth.”
The sweat is dribbling into my eyes and I try to blink it out, not scrub it away with the back of my hand. I’m going to have to tell them something, I know that much, but I’ve never been the best at lying. Casper always said I talk too fast when I lie to convince even the biggest idiot, and I don’t think this Brardly guy is that big of an idiot. But as long as I leave Casper and Mr. Ray out, they won’t get caught and get mad at me, right?
A drop of sweat rolls onto my lip and I lick it away before starting. “Well, I needed money ’cause … uh, well, my job hasn’t been paying enough for the bills lately. I heard that Mr. Monty had died and … I remembered him saying that his gold teeth were solid, you know? And he had at least 12 of them, maybe more, I don’t know. And he was always talking about how expensive that’d been, so I figured that they had to be worth something. And since he was dead and all, he didn’t need them anymore. And Mr. Monty always liked me – he told me so – so I figured he wouldn’t mind if I took them, since I … needed the money.”
“So you decided to dig up his grave,” Brawdish says, cutting in. It’s not really a question, I can tell, so maybe he is just getting impatient. I hesitate, but they practically already know, so I decide I might as well admit to the crime and nod.
“So, I got off work about six‚ and I bought a shovel in the town I was working at, since it would’ve been … more suspicious if I bought one here. I had a few drinks before leaving to drive home. I have keys to all of the locks at church because my dad used to work there, so I had the key to the cemetery. I found Mr. Monty’s grave and … since it was pretty far in back and getting dark, I figured no one would see me. So I started digging.”
Brawly’s eyebrows are raised in what I think is mock surprise, but I’m not sure. “By yourself? You dug up an entire grave by yourself?”
I can’t ignore the sweat falling in my eyes any longer, so I reach up and wipe it away, trying my hardest not too look nervous, but I am nervous, so it is very hard. I try to explain, “Well, I dug for a while. He was buried pretty recently, so the dirt wasn’t too hard. Plus, I’m pretty strong from working construction ….”
“I see,” he looks at Mr. Richard Limner again, and Mr. Richard Limner isn’t writing anymore, just giving me that look that I don’t like. “Go on.”
“Uh … well, it took a long time. I used the shovel to break the lock on the casket. They shut Mr. Monty’s mouth, so I had to kind of … tear it open. And then I pulled out his gold teeth.”
“How?” Brannly is leaning forward, placing his hands on the table, and he looks just like Boots wagging his tail real slow before reaching out to scratch me. “How did you remove the teeth? What tool did you use?”
I feel as though someone has stuck me on the back of my head. Sweat inches down my neck to my collar and my hands seem to be leaking. “Uh … it was a … well ….”
“Mr. Whet – Steven,” Brokish sighs, folding his hands. “That is enough. I think we understand what happened. Perhaps you can help us in another matter? You mentioned that you are close with Casper Blak and his uncle, Ray Dugbit.”
Oh, God. They do know. They know everything. Mr. Ray never told me what to do if this happened, and my panic makes me honest. “I’ve been best friends with Casper since elementary school. He works with me at the construction company. And Mr. Ray has kind of … watched out for me since Mom and Dad’s accident.”
“And Ray Dugbit is the town dentist, correct?” Brankish turns to Mr. Richard Limner and he nods. Brankly turns back to me, raising his hand to rub his chin like a cat licks its whiskers after a snack. “Well, you see, Steven, we have been trying to get into contact with Mr. Dugbit and Mr. Blak, but we’ve been completely unsuccessful. Perhaps you could tell us when you last saw them?”
I knew I couldn’t do this. I always screw things up. It’s always my fault. Never Casper’s or anyone else’s, just stupid me. The detective has me, his claws have sunk into my arm. I can’t bring myself to look at him, just hang my head and wipe my sweaty palms on my jeans as I admit, “I don’t know, I haven’t seen them in a few days.” What else am I supposed to say? Should I tell them that they left town, that they are probably in Chicago now pawning the teeth and splitting the money, maybe even laughing at how stupid I was to have agreed to this horrible crime just like they always laughed when I did something stupid. Tell them that I never wanted to take anything from Mr. Monty because he was one of the few people who was kind to me? But Casper and Mr. Ray needed my help. How could I say no?
“Steven,” Mr. Richard Limner says, and it is the first time he has spoken to me since he knocked on my door and said I had to come to the police station. “We know that digging up Mr. Monty’s grave was not your idea.” He’s giving me that look, and I’m wondering if it is the kind of look you give a stray dog or a child who has lost something precious. He hesitates and glances at the Bramly guy, and says, “I know that Casper and Dugbit are important to you, but you’ve got to understand … you aren’t important to them. There’s no point protecting them. They aren’t coming back for you.”
Brandish has folded his hands and is staring at me over them. Mr. Richard Limner’s eyes are watching me closely, as close as they’ve always been since my parent’s funeral. I can’t stop sweating. Casper and Mr. Ray aren’t coming back just like Mom and Dad aren’t coming back, and I’m all alone, really, truly, all alone … and I wonder if perhaps I do know just what to tell them after all.