|Aldrich, Janet M.
|Allan, T. N.
|Allen, M. G.
|Ammonds, Phillip J.
|Augustyn, P. K.
|Aymar, E. A.
|Baumgartner, Jessica Marie
|Bennett, D. V.
|Bernardara, Will Jr.
|Bohem, Charlie Keys and Les
|Boyd, A. V.
|Brown, R. Thomas
|Butler, Simon Hardy
|Cameron, W. B.
|Campbell, J. J.
|Campbell, Jack Jr.
|Cooper, Malcolm Graham
|Cosby, S. A.
|Danoski, Joseph V.
|Davis, Michael D.
|de Bruler, Connor
|De France, Steve
|De La Garza, Lela Marie
|Deming, Ruth Z.
|De Neve, M. A.
|Dennehy, John W.
|Di Chellis, Peter
|Drake, Lena Judith
|Dromey, John H.
|Dubal, Paul Michael
|Dunham, T. Fox
|Dunn, Robin Wyatt
|Fisher, Miles Ryan
|Flanagan, Daniel N.
|Flanagan, Ryan Quinn
|Funk, Matthew C.
|Gardner, Cheryl Ann
|Garvey, Kevin Z.
|Gay, Sharon Frame
|Goddard, L. B.
|Greenberg, K.J. Hannah
|Gurney, Kenneth P.
|Hanson, Christopher Kenneth
|Hayes, A. J.
|Hayes, Peter W. J.
|Hockey, Matthew J.
|Hogan, Andrew J.
|Hoy, J. L.
|Huffman, A. J.
|Huguenin, Timothy G.
|Huskey, Jason L.
|Irascible, Dr. I. M.
|Jaggers, J. David
|Jones, D. S.
|Jones, Erin J.
|Kaplan, Barry Jay
|Keaton, David James
|Kevlock, Mark Joseph
|King, Michelle Ann
|Krafft, E. K.
|Lacks, Lee Todd
|La Rosa, F. Michael
|Lerner, Steven M
|Lewis, Cynthia Ruth
|Liskey, Tom Darin
|Lopez, Aurelio Rico III
|Lucas, Gregory E.
|McFarlane, Adam Beau
|Mooney, Christopher P.
|Moran, Jacqueline M.
|Morgan, Bill W.
|Moss, David Harry
|Muslim, Kristine Ong
|Neuda, M. C.
|Ogurek, Douglas J.
|Perez, Juan M.
|Perez, Robert Aguon
|Powers, M. P.
|Purfield, M. E.
|Quinlan, Joseph R.
|reutter, g emil
|Richey, John Lunar
|Robinson, John D.
|Rodgers, K. M.
|Sayles, Betty J.
|Schraeder, E. F.
|Seymour, J. E.
|Shaikh, Aftab Yusuf
|Sheagren, Gerald E.
|Shirey, D. L.
|Shore, Donald D.
|Simmler, T. Maxim
|Sinisi, J. J.
|Small, Alan Edward
|Smith, Brian J.
|Snethen, Daniel G.
|Solender, Michael J.
|Stanton, Henry G.
|Stewart, Michael S.
|Stryker, Joseph H.
|Swartz, Justin A.
|Taylor, J. M.
|Thompson, John L.
|Valent, Raymond A.
|Waldman, Dr. Mel
|Weil, Lester L.
|White, Judy Friedman
|Art by K. J. Hannah Greenberg © 2018
GUILLOTINES CAUSE PERMANENT
M.A. De Neve
“I've figured out a way out of this
job,” Ron told me.
didn't say that.”
get over here. I thought I told you to...” Jack, our boss shouted above the noise
of the presses and the huge guillotine paper cutters.
I watched Ron hurry over to where Jack stood, I wondered what he had in mind. He could
pretend he hurt his back and collect disability. Here in rural Michigan,
tree cutting and paper-mill factory jobs offered opportunities for disabling injuries,
real or imagined. Ron wouldn't be the first
person I knew who took the easy way out of a boring, low-paying job.
Ron got fired, he'd get unemployment checks for 26 weeks. Jack often threatened to fire
Rowan, but despite Jack's gripes, Ron was a good worker. Jack was NOT going to make good
on the threat, and Ron needed this job.
went back to work. Jack didn't pick on me as much as he picked on Ron, but that didn't
mean he wouldn't call me on the carpet or dock my pay or give me the worst job in the plant.
The worst job usually belonged to Ron. Sometimes he
had to run the fearsome gigantic electronic guillotine paper cutters. These machines are
as big as a small bathroom. The wicked blades
come down with the power of thousands of pounds.
that day at the punch-clock, I asked Ron, “What did you mean when you said you found
a way out of this job? Are you quitting?”
don't know. I didn't say that. Did I?”
need a ride home?” I asked. Waiting for the bus could take up to half an hour, and
Ron took the bus. On our wages, I was lucky
I could afford a car, but then my wife works. Ron is a bachelor.
shook his head. He was upset. Jack had been extra mean that day, and as usual Ron got the
worst of Jack's ugly moods.
I drove to the bar down the road and ordered a beer. I wished Ron had come with
me. I was worried about him. All that abuse he'd been taking from Jack was bound to hurt. I was finishing my second beer when I heard the
sirens. Looking put the window, I watched police cars and fire engines head toward the
Rowan stood in the
parking lot. “Was the bus late?”
“I went for a walk. There'll be another
“What happened?” I nodded toward the plant. An ambulance had followed
the police cars and emergency workers hurried inside.
shrugged. I noticed some red stains on his shirt. Ketchup? Red ink that might have leaked
from one of the presses?
Other workers crowded around us. The parking lot was blocked off, but they found
parking spaces on side streets.
“What happened?” we asked each
“We didn't have a night shift.”
in the plant?”
“Didn't everybody check out?
Kyle, Jack's assistant foreman, approached the building and talked to an officer.
I walked up closer, so I could hear what they were saying.
us a messy accident. The guy somehow got caught in the guillotine cutter. It cut his upper
body in two.”
Other workers heard the news the same time, I did.
I heard their nervous murmurs. Our guillotine cutters used to have dozens of safeguards.
Since Jack became foreman, he cared more for production than safety. Many of those safeguards
had been discarded.
“Who was it?” I asked loud enough for the officer to hear.
Jack...” the officer took a stab at pronouncing Jack's long foreign name.
ran through the crowd. None of us liked Jack very much, but no one deserved to be cut in
half in a guillotine paper cutter. When I turned to look at Ron, he grimaced. Was that
a grimace? It looked more like a smile.
crime lab cleaned up, and all of us workers got a week of unemployment insurance while
they cleaned. Back at the plant, on our next workday, Kyle called us all together.
the machine that killed Jack is gone,” he
told us. “All the other guillotines
have been serviced and they've now got safeguards on top of safeguards. If you think there's
anything to be concerned about, call me over. I'll make sure the machine is closely checked
He paused and let us murmur about machine problems. “I've put in for five
percent raises for everyone,” he said.
hurrayed and applauded and a few of us patted Kyle on the back. We'd missed chances at
raises over the years because Jack didn't think we were worth squat.
I want everyone to say 'hello' to the new assistant foreman. Ron.”
nodded at all of us. He'd get an even bigger
raise than the rest of us because he had the new job. And Jack was gone. He wouldn't be
harassed anymore. As the others made their way to their work stations. I watched Kyle and
Ron. I hadn't realized they were such good friends before.
remembered the day of the accident. Ron had been in the parking lot waiting for the bus,
and Kyle had been in the plant with Jack. What if Ron had gone back in. What if Ron and
Kyle held Jack down and...
“How are the police handling Jack's... How are they handling what happened?”
“They don't know how it happened.
Machine probably malfunctioned,” Kyle told me.
never ran that machine. What was he doing stretched inside it when the blade came down?”
turned away. He didn't want to answer the question.
back to work,” Ron told me. “And, Buddy, forget what I said about finding a
way out of the old job. I didn't mean anything.”
|Art by K.J. Hannah Greenberg © 2019
M.A. De Neve
School isn't a good
place for me. I don't like it. I don't even like recess.
see Trudie and Jeff talking. He's given her a ring.
This seems to add to the popularity of both, though we are sixth graders and most likely
their parents and our teachers don't know about the budding romance.
Trudie likes to have
things other girls don't have, like a boyfriend. She's a bit of a show-off, wearing pretty
dresses and practicing to be a cheer leader. The boys notice her. I've seen Jeff take this
snakelike thing out of his pants and show it to her in class. Being half hidden behind
the desk, he thinks no one else noticed.
walks away from her, and joins a group of boys. They
playfully punch at each other and laugh. Trudie watches the boys.
Jeff eats peanuts like
he always does. He stuffs his pockets with them. He leaves trails of peanut shells.
Back in the schoolroom,
I glance at the calendar. There're pictures of all the presidents right up to President
Eisenhower. I do like Ike. I wouldn't mind if he could run again in 1960. Some of the boys
make fun of the old-time presidents' hair styles. I Wonder
if someone will one day look at our hairstyles and giggle. I've read books about some of
those presidents, and they had lots of smarts under all that long hair.
I live 1.5 miles from
the school, so I have to walk home after school. I can take a short cut through the woods,
but I've been bushwhacked. Jeff and his older brother have knocked me down, kicked me.
This happened a few times. I've learned to avoid the paths and found my own openings in
the pines. It's hard to get lost in the trees. They're bordered by a busy highway on the
east and a railroad track on the west.
of the other kids live down this way, but they do come
into the woods. They smoke in here. Boys and girls come here. They lay down together, and
I don't want to describe what they do. Maybe I'm lucky I don't have friends.
Mama's still hung over
from last night. The guy she's living with now is even meaner than Jeff. Mama says I gotta
stay out of his way. He doesn't hang around too much, anyway.
make myself a peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwich.
I open my math book and try to concentrate. It's too boring. I open a Zane Grey book instead.
I got this one from the library. I love Zane Grey. He writes westerns.
At 6 p.m. Bronco comes
on and then Wyatt Earp. Tomorrow it's my favorite, “Wagon Train.” I daydream
about my favorite cowboy heroes showing up at school and making the other kids stop bullying
me. Boy, would the other kids be jealous if Hugh O'Brien, the actor who plays Wyatt Earp,
was my friend.
When I walk to school,
I stay close enough to the path to notice a trail of peanuts. Jeff's been here. I move
further away from the path. I don't want to run into him.
trees are my friends. I spend some time with them each
morning before I go to school. I stand in a clump of trees and take deep breaths. I imagine
them as giant protectors, warriors who will save me from the bullies.
I’m real still. I don’t
want anyone thinking I am weird. I hug a giant pine, but what’s weird about that?
Someone’s coming. It’s
Trudie. I don’t want her to see me. Trudie thinks she's better than everyone else,
but especially better than me. When she talks to me, she looks at my shoes like that's
where I am.
deeper into the trees. I don’t make a sound. It’s Jeff. She smiles at him.
Then their voices get loud. They are having an argument, but I can’t make out the
words. They rush over me like violent ocean currents. Then they stop talking. I look up.
He’s tightening her scarf. She’s leaning against him and starting to fall.
He’s still tightening the scarf. I see all this, and it's like I'm watching an old
Jeff stands over
Trudie. She's on the ground. He's breathing really hard. He takes a handful of peanuts
from his bag and eats them. Then he turns away.
I am too scared to move. I silently recite the
names of songs in my record collection in alphabetical order. I have lots of records. I
am as far as “Don't Forbid Me” by Pat Boone.
Cheryl and Terry Johnson walk into the woods. They stop,
take out cigarettes, light them up and smoke.
After awhile, they
put out their cigarettes. Linda trips over Trudie's body and screams. Soon the
woods are filled with people running here and there. They haven't noticed me yet.
“What happened to her?”
“God, I don't know.”
“Is she dead?”
Other people come running. I
crawl through the bushes.
someone yells. I've been spotted. I get up and run. Someone grabs me by the ankles and
tackles me the way Green Bay Packers tackle the other team's players on television. I
go down like a cow roped and wrestled. Someone is pounding me. I smell hair grease and
peanuts. Shells cascade around me. Jeff pins me down and pummels my shoulders and head.
He's holding a rock or something hard.
When I wake up, I’m
in a jail cell. There’s a girl there with me. She’s older, but not very old.
“Your old man
beat the crap out of you?”
think I have a black eye. I can open the eye, but it
feels like there’s a big sack of pus covering it.
“I don’t have an old man.”
“You’re a skinny one.”
she observes. “What’s your name?”
“What did they catch
“I was hiding
in the bushes, and I saw Trudie Miller getting choked.”
“You choke her?”
A police officer opens
the cell and motions for me to come out. He waits for me to stand outside, and then locks
the cell door. I expect to be handcuffed. But he just nods toward a door to my right.
“Am I being
answer. I walk like a condemned convict toward the door that leads away from the cells.
Beyond that, there’s a hallway with office doors, all of them closed. The officer
points the way. I imagine an electric chair waiting. That’s the kind of imagination
He gently takes my
arm to stop me and to settle me. He opens one of the doors. I walk inside a room. I
keep my eyes on the floor. I don’t make eye contact.
you tell us what happened?” the man behind the desk asks. I look up at him or rather
I look as far as a uniform and a badge. I think he’s the sheriff.
I shake my head.
“Do you know what
know I should tell him. Maybe I have to tell him. I
don’t know what to do. It's like a dust storm rages in my head. I get confused like
this sometimes. I get angry and frustrated.
talking, but I am not paying much attention. I am too scared. “I want you to think
about this,” he says.
nod. Think about what? I missed some of what he said.
My mother comes in
then. She isn’t calm like the jailer and the sheriff. “What have you done?” she
demands of me.
“Don’t you lie to me.
How did you get beat up like that?”
“I fell down.”
I guess the sheriff
knows I’m a liar now.
“You look like
shit,” Mama says.
like she was just at the wrong place at the wrong time,” the sheriff says.
“Story of her
life,” Mama smells like the inside of one of those bottles she drinks from. “Is
she under arrest?”
but I want to talk to her again. I’m pretty sure she saw the girl's murder.”
stay out of trouble,” she says looking at me like I'm a useless knick-knack she meant
to toss out, but that instead got busted into a mess that's too much work to clean up.
There’s a mob
outside the jail house. They aren’t yelling, just murmuring. I hear some if their
words. “Crazy girl,” and “It was only a matter of time before she did something
The deputy says they’ll
have a police car stationed outside our house. He says the sheriff already issued a statement
saying I couldn’t have killed the girl.
“You sure of that?” Mama asks the
A puny thing like that couldn’t strangle a kitten.”
stronger than she looks, and she ain’t all there. Anyone can see that.”
The deputy turns
to me. “You all right with going home with your Mama?” I have nowhere else
next day Mama's sleeping and not feeling well. I hear
a knock on the door. I'm afraid to answer it. Some people still think I killed Trudie,
but I look out the window. There’s a pretty lady there. She’s wearing a nice
dress and pearls. She has a patent leather purse. She is tall and pretty like a Sears Catalog
model. I answer the door.
sick,” I tell the lady.
neighbors tell me your Mama gets sick a lot.”
I don’t see how that’s any of her
business, so I don’t say anything. I just hope she doesn't notice the empty whiskey
bottle on the counter.
take a walk?”
won’t like it,” I say, “And I have chores to do.”
“I’ll buy you lunch.
How’s that? You can have anything you like. Cheeseburger. Fries. Ice cream. All of
not hungry,” I lie. There isn’t any food in the house, and I was wondering
how I could get some money so I could buy some, but I don’t like strangers, and I
don’t know this lady.
the sheriff’s sister,” she tells me.
“Is he going to arrest me?”
“No. He’s issued a
statement that you definitely did not kill that girl, and he’s got a cruiser right
down there, to make sure no one hurts you.” She pauses. “You’ve been hurt
Is she talking about
the swollen eye and the bruises from when Jeff tackled me?
look like someone carrying lots of pain,” she says.
I touch my eye. “It don't hurt much,”
call you Little Professor. They say you read books all the time, and you know about the
lives of historical characters like General Lafayette and Wild Bill Hickok and lots of
do well in school,” I admit.
“I was the
same way when I was in school. I devoured information. I learned conversational French
and German before I was ten years old.”
“You must be
she tells me. “I was too just bored by school to get good grades. You remind me of
“Let’s have that
cheeseburger.” Her smile is real nice.
Large fires. Double
burger. Chocolate malt. She orders for me.
“So tell me
about your classmates,” she says.
do you want to know? I can tell you all their names.”
“What else do you know about your classmates?”
Not much, but I don't
want to admit it.
describe any of them as bullies?”
do you mean?”
“You know what
a bully is,” she tells me.
“Every school has its
share of bullies. Who are the bullies in your school?”
food arrives, and I take a big bite of the burger. I’m
real hungry. She eats her salad slowly and watches me.
Finally she says, “I used to get bullied
when I was in school. Thank heavens I had a big brother. He saved me from more than one
Her brother is the
sheriff, so I guessed that bullies had to leave her alone.
you do get bullied. Don't you?”
don’t want to talk about it.”
“That because you’re
hurt. You don’t have many friends and you think that’s your fault.”
“Who says I don't have any friends?”
“You don’t know
much about your classmates, so I guess you can't be good friends.”
“They're just kids,
“What was Trudie
Miller like? Did she have lots of friends?”
She dressed better than the other girls,”
I say. “She had a boyfriend.”
that have been?”
wouldn't be tattling if I told her Trudie liked Jeff,
would it? I keep eating for a while. I know she wants me to say something. She's waiting
for me to say something.
I'm autistic and I think you are too. Like I told you, I was just like you when I was a
kid. We’re not weird. Or maybe we are. We're different. We’re people who don’t
make eye contact naturally. Is that so bad? If we find something boring, we find a
way not to do it. But we’re smart and very focused. Sometimes we get blamed for things
other people do. We’re often loners, so that makes us easy targets of bullies. You
and me, Mandy, we’re both autistic. You’d have to be evaluated, and I can arrange
that, but the sheriff noticed it right away. You reminded him of me, his autistic baby
autistic people unable to function?”
Some of us are high-functioning.”
said we were weird. I thought maybe I could grow up to be rich and famous, but if I'm always
going to be weird.... I don't know. How do we get people to like us?”
start by you telling me who killed that girl.”
“He’s popular. The kids
don’t like me. They'll believe him, and they'll hate me for accusing him.”
“Do you think he should get away with murder?”
probably knows you saw him. He could come after you
and Bobby, that's my brother, can't justify having a cruiser follow you around forever.”
“He won't do anything.
It'll be my word against his. He'll say I'm lying.”
probably increase the bullying. Or arrange for you to have a bad accident. He already killed
doesn't think enough of me to kill me.” I finish
my chocolate malt and thank her.
don't want Jeff to get away with this, but what can
I do? The other kids hate me enough as it is. No one will believe me. They never believe
I think all that
food upset my stomach and then I realize, it isn't the food. I'm scared.
The cruiser has left. Mama says it scares her
friends away. Her friends are guys she picks up in bars. The latest boyfriend moved out.
I think all that attention scared him. He might be wanted by the cops. Mama said he had
a police record.
People watch me now.
They think I am even more of a freak, than they thought I was before. Someone spray painted
“FREAK” across the front of our house. They spray painted KILLER on the sidewalk.
“You can't stay out of
trouble, can you, girl?” Mama said when she noticed the writings. She's pretty upset
about the boyfriend moving out.
I think about skipping
school and going to the library to read, but someone will tattle on me. I walk around the
woods. The trees and the paths scare me after what happened to Trudie. Suddenly Jeff is
walking beside me. He gives me a shove that almost knocks me down. “Hey Fleabag,”
“My name is
is dirtbag.” He shoves me again. “Don't talk back to me. You're a dirtbag.
You got that? Say it. I'm a dirtbag.”
“And a snoop.
What were you doing watching Trudie and me? You some kind of a pervert stalker?”
“I catch you snooping again, I'll ring
that ugly neck of yours. You understand?”
I tell him. He gives me a good shove and walks away.
I don't think he'll
kill me. I'm not worth the bother. But if I'm not worth the bother of killing,
then why am I worth the bother of bullying? He knows no one will believe me. But
if I do tell, he'll at least be suspected. I am a danger to him.
The nice lady, the
sheriff's sister, said Jeff might arrange for me to have a bad accident.
I think about television.
What would Wyatt Earp or Cheyenne do? Wyatt Earp locks up bullies and Cheyenne punches
them until they stay down. I don't have those options.
I think about last
week's Sugarfoot episode. Sugarfoot hid in a tree and jumped on top of the bad
I'm not good at
climbing. But I could do it. At least I'll be safe up in the tree tops. No, I
won't be safe there either. Jeff can climb better than I can.
I think about running fast behind him, and knocking
What good would any
of that do?
He'd just beat me
up. I can't think of any way to stop Jeff or other bullies.
I'm real scared. When I go to bed, I don't sleep.
I think every noise is Jeff coming to get me.
I have to stand up to him. I must do it where
there are witnesses. I can't let him kill me or anyone else. He killed Trudie. She was
mean to me. They all are, but I can't let him kill anyone else.
In class, I'm really
scared. I hate to speak up because the other kids make fun of me if I have the
wrong answer. Even if I have the right answer, they make fun of me. They don't
is talking about the Revolutionary War. Those Boston Sons of Liberty had little
chance of winning a war against Britain, the most powerful nation on earth. I
wonder if Paul Revere and Dr. Warren were scared.
know I have to speak up. I swallow and feel the lump
in my throat. I have to go to the bathroom. It's almost recess time.
I stand up. “If you
have something to say Mandy, raise your hand,” Mrs. Stallmaster tells me.
I stare at her. I
am not sure my voice will come out.
stands up. “Tell her to sit down, Mrs. Stallmaster,”
he tells the teacher. She likes him. She'll listen to him, but not to me.
“He…he, he,” I begin.
“What are you
a donkey or something?” Jeff asks me. The other kids giggle.
her,” I say. “Jeff killed Trudie.”
“She's lying,” Jeff says.
“I think you should sit
down, Mandy.” Mrs. Stallmaster says.
bet they found peanut shells under the body,”
I say. “He's always eating peanuts. He was eating peanuts when he killed her.”
Jeff gives me a hard push. I
fall right over my desk and I hit the floor hard. He runs out the door.
The kids are saying.
“She's lying.” and “She's making it up.”
Mrs. Stallman sends the others out to recess.
“Are you making up stories, Mandy?”
is such a good boy.”
“No. he isn't.”
call your mother, and have her take you home.”
“I can get home on my
own,” I say.
to Jeff tomorrow in class.”
I say. I say it louder than I intended. I walk out
Going home, I move
slowly, Jeff could be hiding in trees. He could come out of nowhere and kill
me. There's no one else around. I'm still scared. Just as scared as I was in
I think, he could
be waiting for me. He could be in my house.
check each room. Mama's asleep in her room, but no one
else is in the house. Then I call the sheriff's office. I tell the sheriff what happened.
Then I sit on the couch and cry.
has been arrested for Trudie's murder, and he's headed
for reform school and maybe prison after that. The nice lady, the sheriff's sister, says
he'll discover a whole new level of bullying there. The coroner had wondered about peanut
shells on and around the body. Mystery solved. The other kids still don't like me much,
but they know I told the truth. And sometimes I see expressions of respect on their
|Art by Lonni Lees © 2019
by M.A. De Neve
People Helping Animals in Need.” I told the caller. “How may I help you.”
Calls to the cat rescue where I volunteer are routed to my home phone during the day.
how are you?” the caller didn’t wait for me to answer. “I want to report
animal abuse. There’s this woman who lives near me. She must have at least a dozen
“You need to report animal abuse to the
police,” I told her.
“I did. They told me to call you.”
“What seems to be the problem?”
“She’s got too many cats.”
does she live? Some areas don’t put restrictions on the number of animals people
“That doesn’t make it right.”
“So you think this person you are calling about is a collector?”
“Someone who takes in more animals than
she can care for. It’s what we call a collector.”
“Yes, that’s what she’s doing.
She needs to be arrested.”
“We’re a rescue
group,” I told her. “We rescue animals; we don’t arrest people.”
you can get the police involved. That’s what I need you to do.”
sighed. “What’s the address of this lady with too many cats?”
rattled off an address.
“Thank you for calling PRAIN,” I hung
up. That caller lives across the street, and she’s been trying to get me in
trouble for taking care of too many cats. Maybe she doesn't know that I work with a rescue
group, but why doesn't she come over here and talk to me? Why is she always trying to get
me in trouble?
Neighbors. I got up to pour myself another
cup of coffee.
The PRAIN line telephone rang again.
Sergeant Lisa Patterson
of the police department told me she had a complaint.
neighbor again. She keeps calling PRAIN expecting me to investigate myself.”
laughed. “Hey, we know you’re a legitimate rescue. This one’s different.
A lady over on Parkview has over two dozen cats. At least that’s the complaint.”
got me beat.”
“Thought you’d like to know there’s
another crazy cat lady out there. Think you can drive over there and check it
out? See if you can help her?”
“Sure, give me the address.”
put a light sweater on over my “Crazy Cat Lady’ t-shirt and walked to my car.
The drive was a short one. I pulled in at the address Sergeant Lisa had given me. I rang
the door bell. No answer. But I heard scurrying inside. Maybe the sound of the doorbell
scared the cats. It sounded like there were several cats inside. I noticed a cat nervously
peeking at me through the window. After a few minutes, I knocked instead of using the
door bell. No sense disturbing the pride.
Again, I got no answer;
I walked around to the backyard. A boy, seventeen or eighteen, sat at a patio table some
distance from the house. He wasn’t moving. Maybe he was sleeping. “Hello,”
I called. He didn’t answer.
A woman came out of the
house, “Go away, just go away.”
Are you the lady who lives here? I just wanted to talk to you about
“I don’t have any cats.”
kitchen window, several cats stared at me. They looked frightened. Something was off here.
What was it? “I’m not here to judge. I rescue cats myself, so I keep several
in my home. I’ve got ten now.”
“Well I do
have cats, but that's none of your business, now is it?”
want to see if you need any help. We can provide spay or neuter operations and shots.”
don’t need any of that.’
expensive, and help is out there.”
“I said I don’t
need help. I have some income and Social Security. My cats are adults and they’ve
all been altered. I got help from Animals And Us.”
a good rescue group,” I told her. “I know them.”
then the kid at the picnic table toppled over and I noticed the knife in his back. “Oh
my god,” I hurried over to check his pulse. “Call 911,” I shouted.
didn’t do it. I didn’t do it.” she said. “I found him like that
He was dead and ice cold. I took my cell phone
from my purse, and I made the call.
Sergeant Lisa Patterson showed up after
the ambulance. We talked. “It's not the neighbors,” Lisa told me. “Some kids
called the police several times about her cats.”
been in the house, but the cats I've seen look well-cared for. She was working with another
rescue. Her pets are up-to-date on shots and they're all spayed or neutered.” I had
already called Animals And Us to check her out. She seemed to be a middle-aged cat lady
“It's a case of kids trying to get an old
lady in trouble.” Lisa sighed.
“Don't I know about that. What was he
doing in her yard?” I nodded toward where the body had been.
“Officers are talking to the neighbors
and to the boy's parents. We've just begun the investigation.”
“She wouldn't kill anyone unless she or her cats were threatened.”
“And you know this because...”
“It takes a
crazy cat lady to know one. But the boy looks athletic.”
player on the varsity team.”
probably sixty something. And where did she get the knife? It's the kind of knife a hunter
or a kid would have.”
“Anyone can buy a utility knife. Check
out Amazon and eBay,” Lisa said.
“But the buyers
are outdoorsmen, not little old ladies.”
“Look, I don't
think she did it either,” Lisa began.
“I know she
didn't do it.” I told her.
“The kid was
probably a bully and she felt threatened. Self-defense?”
If the kid was
a bully, I wondered who else he victimized.
When I went into
the house to talk to the cat lady who lived there, I saw a girl of about 15 scooping poop
from a large litter pan. “Do you live here?” I asked her.
but I like Mrs, Avery, and I like her cats. My dad won't let me have another cat after
I lost my Rizzo. She was so pretty, a calico. So I come over here and help Mrs. Avery's
“Did you know the victim?”
Bobby? He goes to the same school that I do.”
a nice-looking young man. I bet a lot of girls liked him.”
me. I don't like anyone who hates cats.”
“How do you
know he hated cats?”
“He did things to
cats. Tormented them. Hurt them.”
Did you witness some of the things he did?”
show off. He'd show us videos of cats he hurt. He...He...” Tears flooded her eyes,
and she couldn't say more.
“You should have reported him.”
“I did. His parents laughed and said, 'boys will be boys.'
Lot of good talking to them did.”
“You could have gone to the police,” I
told her. But I realized that if he was torturing cats and video taping it, he
wouldn't have been showing the pictures to parents or police. “I'm sorry,” I
said. “Seeing those pictures must have been awful. And the cats...” I could
barely think about what that boy might have done to different cats.
The girl shrugged. “Is Mrs. Avery going to be arrested?”
“I don't think so. You knew this boy,
this Bobby, from school. Do you know anyone—besides cat lovers—who might have
wanted to hurt him?
“He's popular. The other kids like him.”
didn't know what he did to neighborhood cats?”
popular and good looking. People like that get away with things. He was giving Mrs. Avery
a tough time about her cats. He wanted to get her in trouble.”
he do things like that to other people?”
did he cause trouble?”
said he had my cat Rizzo. She ran away, and and...” the girl sobbed. “He had
this video... and... So this morning, one of Mrs. Avery's cats was out on the lawn and
Bobby...Bobby was going to... I couldn't let him do it.” She sobbed. “He hurt
my Rizzo and I couldn't let him hurt another cat.”
I didn't ask
her if she killed him. I didn't have to. I couldn't imagine what seeing a video of her
beloved cat being tortured might have done to her. And if he was threatening another cat...
“Are you going to tell?” she asked me.
“No,” I said. I hoped Mrs. Avery wouldn't tell either.
I was sure she wouldn't. We crazy cat ladies are not the kind of people who get other people
We aren't tattle tales.
|Art by Ann Marie Rhiel © 2019
ORDER UP: ONE ALIBI TO GO
By M.A. De Neve
My customers at Country Kitchen Cafe wear their business
name on the backs of shirts and jackets. First names are embroidered above the
pocket on the front of the shirt. I start learning about them as soon as I meet them.
Joe from the heating and cooling company has three kids. He shows me their school pictures.
Debbie is substitute teacher and Weight Watcher. Bill is a retired cop. Amy works at Subway.
Susie is a widow. She needs to get out more, do things and
meet new people. She tells me everywhere
she goes, she’s reminded of her husband Denny. “We used to do so many things
“He wouldn’t want you sitting at home every night watching
television,” I tell her.
“There are just too many reminders everywhere,” she signs
and looks into her coffee cup as if she can see her late husband in there.
need to get far away. Go on an exotic vacation to Africa or China.”
She laughs. “Don’t I wish I could afford it.”
the waitress. I like my customers; I talk to them, draw them out, find out as much as I
can about what’s going on in their lives. We’re family.
day this expensive woman came in. I don’t know much about purse
and shoe designers, but I know quality and this woman was
wearing expensive everything. Her nails were a pale pink, but perfectly shaped; her hair
was an auburn halo. She must go to those salons that charge hundreds of dollars for haircuts.
“Someone must have struck the lottery,” Barb, the other
I nodded. We have a few professional women customers. They
rely on easier styles, and wear comfortable clothes. Unless they
work in sales, they don’t walk around on five-inch
heels all day. Betty, the sales lady, takes
off her heels and wears sneakers in here. Maybe this woman didn’t win the lottery,
but she’d either been born into great wealth or she married money. I decided she must be married to a king or something.
This is a working-class cafe. The lady stood out. But why
was she here?
She ignored Barb whose turn it was to take a customer; she
used her index finger to summon me to her table. I hate it when people do that.
She ordered coffee and then after I brought it to her table, she told me to sit
am I? A dog? I figured I’d get a good tip, so I sat down opposite her.
She asked me questions about me. How long had I worked
there? Did I like waitressing? Did I
have a family living close by? Did I have a roommate? Strange. Few customers are
interested in the waitress. Usually they don’t even want to know my name unless they
want to complain.
she got my name, age and educational background, all before she took a sip of the coffee.
I was surprised she didn’t ask for my Social Security numbers.
“Do you have a boyfriend?” she asked.
It was time to turn the conversation. “You know somebody?”
“I know lots of people. I’m looking to hire a smart
girl. Someone like you to come work for
“To do what?”
“Travel. Make some money.”
“I’ll need more of a job description?”
handed me a business card, the fancy kind in two bold colors orange and black - and with
raised letters. “I want you to be there tomorrow. What time do you get off work here?”
“I need to know a little more before I make
appointments. Just what are you inviting
me into here?”
“I can use you.”
“I don’t doubt you can - use me.” People use each other all
the time. It’s a fact of life. “It
says here you’re an entertainment specialist. What kind of entertainment? It isn’t
what they call adult entertainment, is it? Kinky?”
She laughed. “No, this is not so-called adult
entertainment or anything so crass. I work with rock bands. Actors. Movie
what would I be doing with all these rock bands and movie stars?”
“You’d be making money.” she told me. She left a hundred-dollar
bill on the table and left. She hadn’t
finished her coffee and the bill didn’t even come a whole five dollars. I paid for
her coffee from my tips. I pocketed the hundred and the business card. Her name
was Luella Janice Thurman. On my way home from work, I stopped at the library
and looked her up.
No wonder she could afford such great-looking,
expensive clothes. She might make a good employer. But why me? I figured I’d play along for a while. What did I have to lose?
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to her office the
next day. She was just exiting the
building when I arrived. “My car’s over here,” she said. “We have some
She walked toward a new black Mercedes. I stood on the
“Mrs. Thurman…” I began
“Oh get in.” she
said. “We’ve got work to do. And call me Lou.”
exactly do you want me to do?”
“Get in the car, and I’ll tell you.”
hour later I still had no idea what she wanted me for, but I was having a great time. She
drove me to a beauty parlor. A shampoo girl whose only job was to shampoo rich ladies’
hair massaged my scalp with something that smelled like apricots. Then I was getting a
fresh color rinsed in my hair and a cut. I looked great when they were finished. I looked as good as Mrs. Thurman - Lou.
At the next stop I got a pedicure and a manicure.
This was decadent. Surely she wasn’t still tipping
me for the coffee that she didn’t even drink.
“Why are you doing this?” I asked Lou as she paid my bill
and generously tipped the nail stylist. I
still hadn’t gotten any answers. “Isn’t
it obvious? You need the right look if you are going to work for me.”
drove me a cosmetic shop and bought me new makeup. “Honestly, what is this about?”
go to my apartment next. You can wear my clothes.”
“I can? Why? For what?”
When we got to her apartment, she threw open the doors to a
long walk in closet. You’re going on a Caribbean Cruise.”
out what you want to bring with you.”
“I need to know more about what I’m getting into,” I said.
“What is this about?”
“We’re about the same height and very close in weight. Now
our hair is almost exactly the same color and it has the same cut. You could
pass for me.” She explained.
“Why would I want to?”
“Famous people have doubles.” she said. “You will be my
“Why do you need a double?”
“All sorts of reasons. Are you in or not?”
not an actress.”
“You don’t need to be. People don’t scrutinize me that
much. I’m wealthy and outside of my profession, I am not famous. Smile, be
courteous and remember that you are me.”
“That’s all I have to do is smile and be courteous?”
I wasn’t sure I wanted to go on this cruise, but I picked
out a few items from her wardrobe just for the fun of it. I could always give them
back. Trying things on was fun. She handed me a package bulging with new bras,
nylon stockings and panties.
“These should fit,” she told me.
“That bra,” she nodded toward my chest,
“doesn’t do much for you.”
Darn, it was one of the more expensive bras at the dollar
store, and I always thought I looked good in it. (If you’ve
never been to a dollar store, you might not know that
some items cost more than a dollar. I buy bras at Big Dollar
on Maple and actually pay up to five dollars. I’m a big spender.)
She handed me a copy of her driver’s license, a copy of her
passport, and a credit card. “There’s a thousand-dollar limit on it,” she
explained. “Don’t overdo the shopping.”
“I won’t need to buy anything.”
“I want you to buy some things. The credit card receipts
Here’s the deal she offered me. I was going on a Caribbean
cruise, all expenses paid. I was to be seen only enough to establish my
presence or rather her presence. I’d get five thousand dollars cash before I
went and another five thousand when the job was done.
“Don’t call attention to yourself,” she instructed. “Just be there. Order room service and sign
for it. Use my name. We’ll practice my signature, Wear sunglasses as much as
you can when you are outdoors. Our eyes are different.”
am I doing this?”
“That’s my business,” she told me.
“It’s my business if… if…. You aren’t doing anything
illegal are you?”
“Of course not. All famous people have doubles. It lets us go incognito sometimes. It’ll give
I wanted to remind her that she wasn’t famous, but I decided
to play along. I needed a vacation. As
far as staying in my room and doing little more than making my presence known
with small purchases, I wasn’t going to do that. She wanted
me to establish location. That’s what I’d
bought a new iPhone with some of my advance money, not that I had anyone I wanted to call. I was interested in its camera.
I had a blast. I met the captain and as many other
passengers as I could. I kept my real driver’s license and a credit card with
my real name on it sewed inside one of my new bras.
Back home I unloaded my purchases in my real apartment. I
barely got in the door and my phone was ringing. “Very good job,” Mrs. Thurman
said. “You made enough purchases to establish my identity. Very good. I take it
you kept a low profile.”
did she define low profile? I hadn’t put a lamp on my head or danced naked on
the tables. As far as I knew she had no reason to complain about my
performance. I’d already returned the credit card and copies of the driver’s
license and passport per her instructions.
“You’ll find a money order for five thousand dollars cash
in your mailbox,” she told me. “I know
I can count on your discretion.”
“Of course,” I agreed. I didn’t add that my discretion
depended on what she’d been up to while I was gone.
When I went back to work at the restaurant, my customers
asked how I’d liked visiting my family. I don’t have a family; I’m divorced and
I haven’t seen my ex-husband in over five years; my parents were killed in an
automobile accident when I was still a teenager. But a home visit had been my
excuse for taking two weeks off.
When I got my break, I found a discarded tabloid magazine
someone had left behind. Johnny Mick the rock singer was dead, murdered, shot
to death inside his apartment. I opened the magazine and started reading the details.
He must have known his killer. He’d let someone inside the apartment. There were
no signs of a struggle.
After I finished reading the article, I folded the magazine
and placed it under the counter. We had an unusually busy lunch rush that day,
but Barb and I managed to get everyone served.
When Bill, the retired cop, came in, I sat at the counter
beside him. “I have a story to tell you,” I began. “I was involved in Johnny
“I assassinated JFK,” he said. “I stood at that window at
the school book depository building and I …”
“I’m serious,” I pulled out the tabloid magazine and
pointed to the article on Johnny Mick. “His marriage was on the rocks. He was
getting a divorce.”
“You read this trash?”
“It’s all true. His wife, Louella Thurman, would be a
suspect, but she was on a Caribbean cruise.”
“If she was on a cruise, she got an alibi. Of course, she
could have hired the job out.”
“She hired the job out, all right.
She hired me.” I took out my iPhone and
showed him my pictures. “Here’s me putt-putting at a miniature golf course on
the ship. Here’s me at Guy’s Burgers. Here’s me…” I showed him picture after
picture. I showed him the picture of Johnny’s Mick’s wife in the tabloid. “She
looks like me. Notice the manicure. I held my hands in front of him. “She paid
“So what,” Bill said. “You look like Johnny Mick’s wife.
Nice haircut, by the way. You went on a cruise the same time she did.”
quite a coincidence, isn’t it? I wasn’t supposed to do anything in my own name,
but I didn’t follow orders. I made credit card purchases, a dozen of them using my
own card. It’s called ‘establishing location.’ ” I had transferred
some of the cash she gave me into my account before I left.
“It still don’t prove she wasn’t on the cruise with you.”
“No, but someone else was on the cruise with me.”
that moment Susie came in. I’d called her and asked her to come to the restaurant. I showed Bill my pictures again. Susie, the widow
from a few blocks over, was there with me in several photos.
Susie came over and sat with us. “We had such a good
time. She’s been after me to go out and
have fun again. Thank you, for paying my way,” Susie smiled.
took us to the police station and we talked to detectives. Mrs. Thurman or should I say
Mrs. Mick denied my charges, but I knew the captain’s name. She didn’t. She
really should have researched better. I also had Susie my witness who’d been with
me for the entire cruise. She had watched me sign Louella Thurman’s name to receipts
for room service and for small purchases. Lou Thurman Mick hadn’t specified that
I take no one with me. And I really did keep a low profile. I did the same things other
was grateful. She met a nice businessman on the trip and they’re engaged to be married
now. He’s offered me a job working for his company. I’ll make over twice as
much as I did as a waitress.
I got to keep all the money and the clothes Mrs. Thurman
gave me and all the purchases I’d made. I also got money from the tabloids for
telling my story.
Crime does pay. At least it did for me and Susie.
M. A. De Neve holds a
master’s degree in English and taught college-level writing for over twenty
years. M. A. wrote two novels, both available on Amazon, and has published
articles in many newspapers and magazines, including Over My Dead Body
and Mysterical-E. M. A. volunteers with an animal rescue group in Michigan.
In Association with Fossil Publications