“It’s the goddamn ‘coons,” Maynard Threlkeld said. “That’s what’s getting in your trash.”
Jeffery Kopek smoothed back his thick, dark hair with a nervous hand. “How can you tell?” He eyed the slimy salad greens, moldy tofu, and assorted takeout containers scattered around his overturned garbage can.
“Shot plenty of the rascals back home for making a mess like this.” Maynard waved a hairy, muscled arm toward the scattered trash. “Took a while, but they got the message.”
“But how do you know it wasn’t a dog?” Jeffery asked. “Or even a cat?”
“Cat ain’t stout enough to get the lid off. And as far as a dog goes—you seen any dogs around here, hoss?”
Jeffery shook his head.
“That old Mexican down the street…what’s his name?”
“Yeah, him,” Maynard said. “He told Kara that ‘coons got into his koi pond last week, ate pretnear every one of ‘em. He restocked it and covered it with some screen wire, but it didn’t do no good. Mangy critters shoved it to one side and had themselves a fish supper.” He shook his head, scratched blond whiskers. “Saw a science show on TV the other night about raccoons coming into towns and causing all kinds of mischief. Said they ain’t got nowhere else to go ‘cause people are taking away their habitats and such.” He nudged an empty soup can with the toe of his boot. “Hate to, but if this keeps up, I might have to break out my pistol.”
Jeffery was horrified. He could just see it now, the authorities showing up at his door, wondering where the shots had come from, wondering if he was involved. They might send him back…there. “The p—police might come? Arrest someone?”
“Hadn’t thought about that.” Maynard sighed. “Sometimes forget I’m in the city now. Can’t fart without a cop showing up.”
In the distance, a big engine rumbled. Air brakes hissed. The weekly garbage truck turned into the alleyway behind the apartment complex.
Jeffery pulled a pair of latex gloves from the back pocket of his gray, pinstripe trousers and slipped them over his soft, manicured fingers. He righted his trash can. Breathing through his mouth, he began picking up the mess the raccoons or whatever had made. Maynard helped, scooping up the smelly garbage with his bare hands.
A few minutes later, the green sanitation truck pulled away from the back of the apartment building and lumbered on down the alleyway. Jeffery thanked Maynard.
“No problem, hoss.” Maynard wiped his hands on his jeans, then climbed into the cab of his red pickup. With a big grin and a wave, he was gone.
Thank God he didn’t touch me. Jeffery could imagine the germs crawling on his neighbor’s hands. He looked down at his own. The gloves had protected them, but still, he would have to go back upstairs and scrub them before he walked the five blocks to the library. He’d be late, but he couldn’t go to work with filthy hands. Maybe he should take another shower and change clothes also.
Gripping the banister for support, Jeffery climbed the stairs that led up from the alleyway to the second floor. Six-B, his apartment, lay at the end.
His stomach churned. Wavy lines of light popped and crackled in his peripheral, a migraine knocking at the door. All this stress, the scattered garbage, raccoons, he just couldn’t tolerate it. He’d have to call Miss Posey at the library, tell her he was too sick to come in today, take his medication and go back to bed. Sleep it off.
Halfway down the wide, open-air gallery that stretched the length of the apartment complex, the door to 3-B opened in front of him. Kara, beautiful, exotic, honey-skinned Kara, stepped out. And smiled.
“Good morning, Jeffery.”
Jeffery’s heart stuttered. His ears burned with heat. His eyes couldn’t focus on her; they looked up, sideways, around, before settling on down. “M—m—morning.”
“Nice day, isn’t it?” Her voice was warm, husky, like the enticing perfume that haloed her body.
He didn’t know what kind of day it was. Between the building migraine and the impact of her beauty, he couldn’t think. “Uh…yes.”
Scarlet-tipped fingers wrapped around his arm, searing his flesh through the black silk of his shirt. “Are you all right?”
Jeffery made three attempts before he could get out the word: “M—m—migraine.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry.” The fingers squeezed, then let go. “I’ll leave you alone, then. Got to get to work anyway.”
High heels click-click-clicked away.
Jeffery wanted to call her back, tell her he didn’t want to be alone, but his lips wouldn’t cooperate, wouldn’t form the words. Silently, he watched as she made her way down the steps. Ebony, shoulder-length curls bounced, long legs flexed, hips swayed beneath the navy fabric of her short skirt. From afar, he admired, he wanted, he lusted. And after she ducked inside her little black Toyota, his hungry eyes followed the car’s progress along the alley until it turned onto the street and slipped from sight.
Rushing in to fill the void left by Kara’s departure, the migraine slammed into Jeffery’s skull. The boards under his feet teetered one way, then the other. Nausea rolled in on a wave of black spots.
Got to lie down before…
Inside, on automatic pilot, he set the door lock, engaged the deadbolt, slid home the chain, and braced a kitchen chair beneath the doorknob. Then and only then, he swallowed his medication and flopped down on his bed, fully clothed and unwashed. And as the pills were tucking him beneath a soothing blanket of unconsciousness, a stray thought poked out its head: The raccoons hadn’t bothered anyone’s trash but his.
Morning bled into afternoon. The sun dropped behind the row of townhouses that dotted the alleyway opposite the apartment complex. Inside the darkened bedroom of apartment 6-B, Jeffery slept, his eyes roaming restlessly behind bruised-looking lids, his mind a fragile boat bobbing on a churning sea of terror.
Jeffery was seven.
Alone in his bed on the third floor of the thirty-two-room mansion he lived in with his mother and household staff, he lay awake listening to the faint bumps and thumps coming from his closet. He was scared. He wanted to get out of bed and run to Mommy, but she was a long way off, down the hall, down the stairs, and down another hall, then behind a closed and sometimes locked door. He was afraid that whatever was in his closet would get him if he got out of bed. So he huddled beneath the spread of laughing Mickeys and curtsying Minnies, muscles rigid, stomach knotted, heart racing.
The noises issuing from the closet grew louder. An occasional grunt or snort that sounded like a pig huffed from behind the door.
Jeffery’s clenched jaws ached. His cramped fingers twisted the covers.
A meaty shoulder thunked against the closet door.
Jeffery wailed and bolted upright.
Another thunk. The door shuddered.
On his knees now, Jeffery’s wail escalated to a high-pitched keening.
Another thunk. The closet door banged open, and bathed in the faint glow cast by the Mickey Mouse nightlight, a hog-sized, bloated creature shambled out. But it wasn’t a pig; it was a huge rat, all red eyes and pointy teeth and long, naked tail.
Jeffery’s bladder emptied. Screaming, he ran from his room, a trail of urine marking his passing.
Jeffery’s eyes snapped open and darted about the shadowy bedroom, focusing on familiar objects: the cheap bureau and dresser, the desk and computer, the glowing monitor almost hidden behind stacks of books, the narrow window covered by faux-wood blinds. Then to the closet door he always kept wide open. Gradually, his pounding heart slowed.
I’m not in that house, in that room anymore. I’m safe.
But he remembered…
Later, after his mother had calmed him, she brought him back to his room. She looked in the closet, under the bed, behind the drapes. Nothing. She told him he’d had a bad dream, there was no such thing as a pig-sized rat, and that he was a big boy now and ought to know the difference between what was real and what was a dream.
When Jeffery burst into her room the following night, she was furious. She marched him back to his room and told him not to bother her anymore, or he would be in trouble. Jeffery didn’t like being in trouble; it involved a belt and him having to strip naked and get hit.
So he tried, he really, really tried to stay in his bed when the big rat-pig shuffled from the closet two nights later. But when it turned those red eyes on him, smiled a pointy-teeth smile, and rasped: “Jeffery…” he ran. When his mother tried to drag him back into his room, something happened in his head, and he went away.
That was the first time the doctors in the hospital shocked him.
Jeffery was dreaming again. He knew it had to be a dream because Kara was with him and they were having dinner, and he wasn’t all tongue-tied. They were talking and laughing and having the most wonderful time.
Then there was ringing, and a black telephone appeared on the table next to the basket of rolls.
“Aren’t you going to answer that?” Kara asked.
Something about that phone…
Jeffery didn’t want to answer it.
Pulling him out of his dream.
Kara faded out of existence, replaced by a swirling chocolate fog the color of her eyes.
Jeffery’s eyes opened. The phone on the nightstand jangled, drilling into his temples, sending up crimson migraine flares. He grabbed the receiver. “Hello.”
“Jeffery, are you all right?” His mother’s anxious voice. “How’s your headache? Did you take your medication?”
Miss Posey must have called her. “Yes, I took my medication.”
“Do you need me to come over?”
“No, Mother, I’m fine now.”
“I can be there in twenty minutes. I’ll fix hot cocoa, and we can watch an old movie, maybe something with Doris Day.”
Jeffery didn’t want to look at pale, blonde Doris Day. He didn’t want hot cocoa. And he most definitely didn’t want to watch TV with his mother, her cold, blue eyes on him more than the screen, evaluating, judging. “I’m fine, really. All I want to do is sleep.”
“Well, if you’re sure…” Jeffery could see her slender finger tipped in pink polish twisting a platinum-blonde curl.
“I’m sure, Mother. Now, goodnight.” And he hung up the phone. Seconds after his head hit the pillow, the tug of the migraine medication settled him beneath a veil of drugged sleep.
Jeffery’s eyes popped open. His gaze drifted around the bedroom, coming to rest on the glowing dial of the alarm clock. Four AM. Three hours yet before he had to get up. With a sigh, he flipped over onto his side and closed his eyes. But sleep eluded him.
His mouth tasted like sour milk. His clothes twisted uncomfortably about his thin body, and his shoes pinched his feet. Jeffery felt unkempt, dirty. He couldn’t possibly go back to sleep in such a state. He had to brush his teeth, shower.
He reached for the lamp switch—and something clanged outside. His hand froze. Another clang, then rattle-rattle-rattle, followed by a crash.
Jeffery drew back his hand. His movements slow and deliberate, he swung his legs out of bed and made his way across the room to the window. He eased up a slat on the blinds and peeked through the narrow opening. Looked down.
In the glow of the single security light illuminating the parking lot, Jeffery saw his trash can lying prone, the one fallen domino in a line of metal containers. And then, oh God, and then a shadow moving across the back of the townhouses, and not just any shadow, but its shadow! Pointy ears, snout, distended body, whip-like tail. The rat-pig! It had found him!
Jeffery’s heart faltered, then switched into overdrive. Fear clawed up out of his stomach and lodged in his throat.
A soft moan escaped his lips. He backed away from the window, arms outstretched behind him, feeling his way across the small bedroom. He slid along the wall to the bathroom and stumbled inside. Locked the door. And there he stayed, curled in the far corner, his eyes glued to the door until dawn painted the eastern sky in swatches of orange and purple.
When Jeffery emerged from his apartment a few hours later, he found Maynard righting the trash can that now sported a big dent on its side, crunching the spray-painted 6-B.
“Looks like them rascals paid another visit last night.” Maynard picked up the lid and snapped it on. “Damn ‘coons.”
In the peaceful, golden light of a new day, with a gentle breeze sighing through the glossy leaves and long beans crowning the row of catalpa trees lining the alleyway, Jeffery could almost believe the rat-pig didn’t exist, that last night, all of last night, had been a bad dream. A dream. Just like they had assured him at Serenity Springs when night after night, he had looked out the barred window and seen the rat-pig staring up at him, its eyes burning, red coals.
“You okay, hoss?” Maynard asked. “You look a little peaked.”
“I’m fine. Just a touch of a headache left over from yesterday.”
“Yes.” Jeffery’s temples pulsed, pain lying in wait. He passed a shaky hand over his eyes.
Maynard’s eyes filled with compassion. His beefy hand squeezed Jeffery’s shoulder. “Tell you what, I’ll build a trap. We’ll catch them goddamn ‘coons, get them out of your hair.”
Tears pricked Jeffery’s eyes. He looked down at his polished wingtips. “Thank you.”
And he almost believed.
No rat-pig. Plain, ordinary raccoons. Nothing more.
That afternoon, Jeffery’s migraine rolled back in like a bank of storm clouds, heavy, hot, and oppressive. The pain made it hard to concentrate.
“Why don’t you go on home,” Miss Posey said after he had dropped yet another stack of books. “I can handle things here.”
Jeffery squatted and began gathering the scattered volumes. “I’ll get them.” But they defied him, slipping through his fingers.
Knees popping, Miss Posey lowered her ample frame beside him. Pudgy hands scooped up the books. “Go home, Jeffery.” Her steel gray eyes regarded him over half-frame glasses. “Now.”
Jeffery was in no shape to argue. This migraine, it just wouldn’t go away. With a mumbled, “Thank you,” he stood.
Outside, the sun blazed, its white-hot glare piercing his brain like hundreds of red-hot needles. Vaguely, he remembered how nice those same warm rays had felt just that morning.
Then, he didn’t think, only hurt. Somehow he made it back to his apartment without passing out, engaged the locks, propped the chair, and took his pills.
Jeffery’s consciousness swam up out of a nightmare, broke the surface, and breathed in the darkness. He gasped and sat up in the rumpled, sweat-soaked bed, his heart slamming inside his chest.
Not there. I’m not there, in that house. I’m in The Phoenix Apartments, number 6-B. I’m safe.
The clock ticked off the seconds. The ceiling fan lisped overhead. The computer’s cooling mechanism whooshed softly. And outside the apartment, silence, blessed silence, cocooned the yellow stucco walls.
Gradually, his pounding heart slowed. The perspiration evaporated off his heated body. He looked at the clock; the lighted face showed 11:45.
And Jeffery was wide awake.
He padded across the floor to the window, separated the slats and looked down upon the alley. Everything was in order, the trash cans lined up as if they were soldiers in formation. No shadows, no raccoons. And no rat-pig.
Only a dream.
Dr. Kramer’s calming voice wafted through his brain. The mind is a fragile, complex organ. It can confuse reality with the imagined. But you now know the rat-pig doesn’t exist, don’t you, Jeffery?
“The rat-pig doesn’t exist,” Jeffery repeated the mantra. “It isn’t real. Therefore it can’t harm me.”
Twin beams of light pierced the darkness. Kara’s little car zipped up the alley and pulled into its designated spot beside the security light. The door opened, and her long legs swung out. Then the rest of her. Spangly little lights flashed on her short dress.
She had been out on a date, probably dancing.
Jealousy stabbed Jeffery’s heart. He should be the one dancing with her, and not at some stupid rave held in a decrepit warehouse down by the river, but at a nice place where the musicians played something soft and slow, and the couples danced close.
But that would never happen. Not if he didn’t ask. And he couldn’t ask, because every time he was around her his tongue twisted and his heart raced, and he couldn’t think straight.
So he only watched.
Kara shut the car door. She strode across the pavement, shoulders back, confident in her beauty even though there was no one around to admire it.
He sighed, laid his forehead against the cool glass—and there it was, behind her, slinking from the inky blackness between two of the townhouses!
Her name tore up out of his chest: “Kara!” Then he was running, jerking the chair from under the doorknob, fingers fumbling with the locks—Why did there have to be so many?—then running again, down the length of the gallery. And there she was at the top of the stairs, safe and sound.
Her eyes widened. “Jeffery, what’s wrong?”
Jeffery craned his neck, looking around her. The stairs were empty. The parking lot as well.
He swiped damp, limp hair from his face, and tried to meet her eyes. Couldn’t. “I…uh…saw you out the window. And something…uh….else.”
“You were watching me?” She stepped around Jeffery.
His gaze brushed Kara’s, saw a hint of fear in her brown eyes. And he realized how he must look, all wrinkled and sweaty and scared.
“No, I was just…I couldn’t sleep…and I saw…”
“I’m going to bed now.” A quiver in her voice. “Goodnight, Jeffery.”
She backed up a few steps, then turned and hurried away. She fitted the key into the lock on her apartment door, glanced back at Jeffery, then went inside. Click.
He had scared her. Now she would never go out with him.
Jeffery’s eyes swept the parking lot, the alley. Nothing. Nada. He’d frightened Kara, and for what? A figment of his imagination? A waking nightmare? A rat-pig that didn’t exist?
The whole mess was starting up again. If he didn’t get control of himself, stop these foolish hallucinations, he was going to wind up back at Serenity Springs with the needles and the shocks and the—
In the inky shadows between the brick walls of the townhouses, two red orbs blinked on. All the air whooshed out of Jeffery’s lungs, pushing out a single, anguished: “No…” He rubbed his eyes, took a second look. Still there.
The rat-pig was real. And it had found him.
Keeping his gaze locked on the evil, glowing eyes, he backpedaled along the gallery, stumbled into his apartment, engaged the myriad locks, and propped the chair under the doorknob.
And prayed they would keep him safe.
Jeffery heard the rapping, but it seemed as if it were coming from a continent away, a world away. Nothing to concern him. But it grew louder, harder to ignore, an insistence embedded in its rhythmic thumps. He forced open his grainy eyes.
Tap tap tap.
“Jeffery, are you all right?” His mother’s razor-sharp voice. It sliced through his brain, cutting away what was left of his somnolent state. “Open this door!”
“Yes, Mother.” He staggered to his feet. “I’m coming.” Wobbly legs carried him from the bedroom, down the short hallway into the living room, and over to the locked and bolted and braced door.
He moved the chair, slid this, turned that, and opened the door.
His mother’s eyes widened, her artificially inflated lips ooed. “My God, Jeffery, are you ill?”
“No, I’m fine. I just—”
“You didn’t go to work.” Her body, all bones and rangy muscles, moved in on him.
Jeffery backed up. “Well, I…uh…”
“Miss Posey called, said you left work early yesterday.”
“I had a migraine, Mother, I—”
“And you didn’t come in this morning. Didn’t call either.”
She frowned, pulling the taut skin of her face even tighter. “Have you been taking your meds properly?”
“Yes, Mother,” Jeffery said, even though he wasn’t sure.
“Getting enough sleep?”
“You haven’t been forgetting to eat, have you?”
“You know if you skip meals it’ll trigger a migraine.”
“You look like you could use a shower.”
Like a big cat, the migraine stalked the grassy savannah of his mind, back and forth, back and forth, relentless, waiting for an opportune time to make its kill.
“I’ll lay out some clean clothes, draw a bath.” She started to move around him.
Jeffery grabbed her arm. “I’m not a child, Mother. I can take care of myself.”
Her puffy lips twisted. A smile? A frown? Jeffery wasn’t sure. “I was only trying to help.”
“I know you were, but what I really need is more sleep.”
More scrunching of the mouth. Definitely a frown. “You’re not getting depressed again, are you? You used to sleep all the time when—”
The lion hunkered down. Its powerful muscles twitched. And it sprang, claws and teeth sinking deep into his brain.
She shook off his hand. “All right, then.” Anger in her voice, but Jeffery didn’t care; he hurt too much to care.
She wheeled through the door and yanked it shut behind her, the slam a knife driven into the top of his head. The thin blade joined the feasting lion.
Jeffery engaged the locks and braced the chair beneath the doorknob, then tottered to the bathroom. He fumbled with the prescription bottles littering the countertop, shook out pills, some landing in his hand, some falling into the sink, and dry swallowed the colorful assortment.
Then he was in bed.
He fell asleep while the lion licked its bloody paws.
Jeffery’s eyes opened to darkness. Immediately, he realized that the migraine was gone. Completely gone. His brain felt refreshed, clean, like the atmosphere following a violent thunderstorm, washed by the rain and scoured with lightning.
But would the clarity last?
He was sure he was on the road to another nervous breakdown. The rat-pig was driving him crazy. Again.
He didn’t want to go back to Serenity Springs. He liked it here, liked his neighbors, liked his job at the library. Why wouldn’t the thing leave him in peace?
Where had it come from? Why did it stalk him? And what did it want from him?
Jeffery was no closer to an answer than he had been when he was seven years old and the rat-pig had emerged from his closet for the first time.
He sat up on the side of the bed and dropped his head into his hands. Tears leaked from his closed eyes, wetting his palms.
And what about Kara? For the first time, the rat-pig had shown an interest in someone other than him. Did it know how he felt about her? Did it intend to harm her?
He couldn’t allow that. He had to get rid of it, once and for all. He would kill it, or it would kill him. Either way, Kara would be safe, and he wouldn’t have to return to Serenity Springs.
Jeffery stood, wiped away the tears. His stride sure and confident, he entered the tiny kitchen and rummaged through the utensil drawer. He pulled out the biggest knife. The ten-inch blade wasn’t very sharp, but the tip was pointy. Good for stabbing.
Back in the bedroom, he rolled the desk chair over to the window and pulled up the blinds. He eased his slight frame down on the seat, knife clasped in his lap, and peered down into the night.
A light mist fogged the air. The damp asphalt glistened. A dark, wet world void of sound or movement.
But Jeffery knew the rat-pig would eventually show itself. And when it did, he’d be ready.
Throughout the night, he kept watch. He saw the rain turn into a downpour, then back to sprinkles, and as dawn neared, settle into a steady drizzle. He saw his neighbors get into their vehicles and leave for work, Kara among them, a beautiful rainbow in a sea of monochromatic sameness.
No rat-pig, though.
He left his seat in front of the window long enough to call Miss Posey and tell her he wouldn’t be coming in for a few days, then it was back into position. No sooner had he sat down than his mother called. He assured her he was doing fine, that he just needed a few days rest. Then back to the window.
He slept. He watched. Slept. Watched. Day gave way to night, night to day, and back again.
For what seemed like the thousandth time, Jeffery jerked awake. Gripping the knife, he leaned forward, his gaze sweeping the parking lot, the alleyway, the deep, black pockets between the townhouses where the light of the full moon riding overhead was turned back. Nothing out of the ordinary.
His body relaxed. His eyes glazed over. Small tremors danced underneath the skin of his hands.
Again Jeffery startled. His eyes shot open. Below, headlights winked off. A car. Her car.
Jeffery sprang from the chair. His eyes darted about, scanning the night-shrouded landscape, then returned to the Toyota, to Kara stepping out.
Looking, looking, trying to watch everywhere. Back to Kara, walking across the parking lot. Between cars, the alley. Back to Kara, dropping her keys, bending over. The pitch-black spaces between the townhouses—no red eyes. Back to Kara who was halfway to the stairs.
Directly below where he stood, a grayish blur of movement streaked out onto the parking lot. Jeffery recognized the size, the shape: the rat-pig.
The thing had tricked him, had hidden where Jeffery couldn’t see it from his window. It had lain in wait for Kara. It wanted Kara!
Jeffery’s fists rose, slammed against the windowpanes. “Noooo!” The glass shattered, jagged pieces plummeting to the pavement below. “Kara, look out!”
She stopped. Her startled face turned up to Jeffery.
It was almost on her!
Then she saw it, barreling toward her from the side—Jeffery had no idea it could move so fast—and for a tiny fraction of time, she just stood there as if she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. When the beast was close enough to swamp her with its fetid breath, she finally turned to flee.
Too late, too late.
The vile creature was upon her, knocking her down, crawling over her prone form, slashing with its front claws.
A strangled cry reached his ears. It broke the paralysis that gripped him, tightened his hold on the knife, moved his feet through the apartment to the front door, and guided his hands as they moved the chair and released the locks. He rushed the length of the gallery, clattered down the stairs, and…
Jeffery’s steps slowed.
Kara lay unmoving upon the wet asphalt. And the rat-pig was nowhere in sight.
Anguish wrapped its cold fingers around Jeffery’s heart and squeezed. “No, please God, no…”
He plodded toward her, feet dragging. He knew what he would find when he reached her. He wanted to delay it as long as he could, wanted to pretend there was still hope, that someday he would muster up the courage to ask her out, and she would say yes, and she would grow to love him as much as he loved her.
The soles of Jeffery’s bare feet made contact with the spreading pool of warm blood surrounding Kara’s body. He looked down at her staring eyes and beloved face, the gashed skin and bloody rivulets marking her body. He and he alone was the cause of her death. And not just because he’d failed to save her, but—
Where I go, so goes the rat-pig.
He sank down upon the pavement beside her, the knife slipping from his fingers. He laid his head upon her shredded chest. “I’m sorry, Kara.” For so many things. “I’m sorry.” His arms clutched at her cooling body. “I’m sorry.”
Jeffery felt a hand on his shoulder. “What’s going on, hoss?” And looked up. Maynard Threlkeld hovered over him. “What happened?”
Behind Maynard, more residents of The Phoenix Apartments huddled in a nervous group. Jeffery saw the looks on their faces, the shock and disgust and condemnation wrote there. They knew he was guilty.
He turned his face up to the uncaring stars. “I’m sorry!”
“Sir, you knew Jeffery Kopek, the man arrested in connection with the brutal murder that happened here earlier tonight. What was your impression of him?” The skinny, blonde reporter stuck a microphone in Maynard’s face.
“Well, he seemed like a nice enough guy,” Maynard said, the blue and red lights of emergency vehicles strobing the darkness behind him. “Had a lot of headaches.”
“Did you think he was mentally unbalanced?”
“A little, I reckon. Didn’t figure him for no killer, though.” Maynard rubbed his whiskers. “Guess the damned ‘coons pushed him over the edge.”
“Can you elaborate on that, sir?”
“I kind of liked the little guy.”
The reporter rolled her eyes. “Sir, can you elaborate on your previous statement?”
Maynard looked down, shook his head. “Naw, I don’t think so.”
“Sir, did you say raccoons?”
He turned and walked away.
©2019 KT Workman