Rich rode his bike toward Slabtown. He looked over his shoulder across the fields of sprouting corn and soybeans. In the distance stood his home.
He thought, “Why can’t that home be like others? Why can’t I find peace and comfort there? Why is there so much hatred and anger? Is Dad’s life that bad? Why can’t I just grow and be normal? Why can’t I? Maybe it is me. I’m the problem. Chet’s solution was to die and Lilly’s was to leave.”
He peddled and cried.
A driver in a car passed and looked at him strangely.
Rich tried wiping away the tears, but it became worse. He stopped and laid his head on the handlebars. A car slowed and pulled to a stop behind Rich.
It was a red ‘62 Plymouth convertible. It belonged to the township constable, Monty Bender. He was the only law enforcement officer in the state with a convertible. He was one of a kind.
Monty stepped from his car.
His uniform was always neat. He had a thin mustache that gave him an Errol Flynn look. He pressed his hat tight on his head and tossed his sunglasses in the car. He had a swagger about him as he approached Rich.
Rich hurriedly wiped more tears away and tried to compose himself.
“What’s wrong, son?” Monty asked.
“Just some trouble at home,” Rich said.
“Somthin’ I can help ya with?” Monty said.
“No, just me and my dad,” Rich said.
“That ole man of yers is a real son-of-a-gun,” Monty said. “Quite a character in his day. They still tell stories about him.”
“Yeah,” Rich said. “I hear them all the time.”
He grabbed hold of Rich’s upper arm and squeezed. “I think we have a problem.”
Rich looked at Monty, startled, and his heart started pounding. He wondered if he knew or what he knew.
“It’s about Chet Winters,” Monty said.
“I can’t tell you anything,” Rich said.
“That’s good, cause neither can I,” Monty said.
Rich thought it was a trick to get him to talk.
“You see I got a letter a couple of days ago. It was from Chet Winters,” Monty said.
Rich glanced at him suspiciously and looked away.
Monty smiled. “I know ya don’t believe me. Ya probably think I’m just trying to solve a case, but I know about the body.”
“How?” Rich said.
“It’s all in the letter,” Monty assured. “You see, Vic Jorgenson was my great uncle on my mom’s side. Lilly’s sudden disappearance was whispered about in the family for years. My mother was also a victim of Ole Uncle Vic. In case yer wonderin’, my dad and his brothers had a strange, but effective sense of justice. It seems that Vic Jorgenson fell from atop his silo to his death.” He chuckled. “Dad never did tell me how the heck they got him up there. My personal opinion is that he was dead before they got him to the top. So ya see, son, little ole Slabtown is full of secrets and yer one of the special ones to keep one of them.”
“Nobody will find out, I swear,” Rich said.
“No, boy, don’t do that. There may come a time, like now, and ya don’t lie under oath,” Monty said.
Rich smiled, suddenly a weight was lifted. He breathed deep and his body felt fresh. He did not hold back his joy. He cried again.
“You sure got a lot on ya, son,” Monty said. “Yer sure doin’ an awful lot of growin’ up.”
Rich cried harder. Monty handed him a handkerchief. Soon the tears passed.
“Ya hungry, son?” Monty asked.
“Sure,” Rich said, “Kinda.”
“Let’s throw yer bike in the trunk of my car and get a steak,” Monty said. “Ya like steak don’t ya?”
“Sure,” Rich said.
“Ya ever been to the Range Steak House?” Monty said.
“No, but I’ve heard about it,” Rich said.
“Then let’s go!” Monte said motioning with his head.
It was a fine meal and Rich enjoyed Monty’s company. He showed Rich how to cut a steak and use the correct fork. During the meal, Rich told him where the body was buried and Monty said he would try to have it moved to a proper burial site.
On the way back home, they drove by Carpenter’s Market.
“Can you pull up here?” Rich asked Monty pointing to Carpenter’s.
Monty pulled into the gravel parking lot.
Rich got out of the car and ran up to the north/west corner of the building. He tugged on the second board from the bottom. A ring dropped out on to the ground. He ran back to the car with the ring in hand.
He handed it to Monty and said, “Can you see that this is returned to Lilly.”
“Yer a good man, Rich,” Monty said.
At that, a strange feeling came over Rich; Monty said he was a man.