* * * *
The boy was buried alongside his mother under the crabapple tree, and that was also sad, but the little boy had never quite seemed part of this world in the first place, so it wasn’t as sad as when his mother died.
I’d been seeing the police chief on and off since my husband left me. Even before, if truth be told. He was sweet and was sometimes fun to be with, but mostly he wasn’t, being something of a nail-chewing worrywart by nature. I could see why his wife had left him. The fire marshal was more fun and never worried about anything, but he’d already had three wives and he said he didn’t want any more. He preferred booze to broads now, as he put it, and—more than either—the weekly football on the box. The police chief had been a senior when I was just a freshman. We did some things together back then, but I was still very young and shy, and I guess, thinking back, he was, too. He was a Catholic and I was a Lutheran, so it wouldn’t have worked out anyway. We were both still churchgoers, so nothing was going to work out now, either, but, at this time of life, that was no longer enough to keep two lonely people out of the same bed.
A few weeks after Dickie-boy died, my daughter went out to the farm one day and found Marleen sitting beside a hole in the ground under the crabapple tree, playing with a pile of bones. Marleen said that the bones were those of her stepbrother, whom her mother had cooked up in a black-beer stew, which her stepfather ate, gnawing all the little bones clean before burying them. Marleen had dug them up and was stringing together a kind of horrible life-size Halloween puppet. She was reciting a rhyme about singing bones, and then she warbled like a bird and held up the bone puppet and rattled it. That was when my daughter stopped playing with her.
There has to be a law against those sorts of things, but when I told the police chief what my daughter had said he only bit his nails and said that it was weird how kids could dream up such crazy stories. I asked him if he didn’t think it could be true, or at least partly true, and he said no, he knew the parents well, especially the girl’s mother, and such a thing could not have happened. I realized then that, like half the town’s heroes, the chief had probably been one of the Vamp’s quickies, maybe still was.