September 1, 2020
Volume 1, Issue 1
Millie knew that her husband Red was having an affair with her next-door neighbor Audrey, a widow, having recently lost her husband in the Korean War. Millie and Red lived in a new cute little cape cod bungalow with a white picket fence out front with trellises of purple clematis along the sides that kind of matched the blue-grey slate siding of their house. Audrey lived in a two-bedroom drab prefab. The houses were in a new subdivision on lots forty-eight feet wide by a hundred twenty-feet deep and sat back thirty feet from the street. Both homes had small backyards, and there was an alley in the back. Millie and Red had a garage. Audrey didn't. The developer drew up the subdivision that way, small, compact, so that he could cram in as many lots as possible. It was this closeness, this forced chumminess that Millie believed led to her husband's affair with Audrey. That and the fact that Audrey didn't have a husband anymore and was on the hunt for a new one.
This new suburbia had once been a farm owned by the Killing family, having homesteaded this land back in '38, that's 1838, not 1938. Only Clarence Killing, a widower seventy-something now, and the big old Gothic farmhouse built in 1879 that he grew up in remained of the original homestead, all the barns having been killed off by the developer when the streets were put in. Before that house was built, Clarence's father had told him that his folks lived in a log cabin where an orchard used to be. The old orchard was now part of the alley and back yards of Millie and Red, Audrey, and their adjacent neighbors.
Clarence, having been a farmer all his life, had no money, no pension, and it was necessary for him to sell the farm to support himself in his rusting years so that he didn't become a burden on his son, his only child. He knew that he could have rented his farm to a fellow farmer down the road, but the city was relentlessly creeping out toward him, and he resigned himself to the inevitable. His way of life was gone. So he sold out but retained a life estate in the house and an acre of ground around it. When he died, the house and acre would go to the developer, per their agreement, who would immediately bulldoze it and throw up a couple of prefabs.
So that's how this suburbia came into existence, and that's how Millie and Red, Red just back from Europe and WWII, came to light here and started their lives anew together in their cute cozy little new bungalow home. And that's how Audrey and James, just married out of high school, came to light here too and started their lives together in their prefab home. James, having been too young for WWII, came of age for the Korean War and was drafted. When Audrey learned that he had been killed in combat, she worried how she was going to keep up the mortgage payments now as it took both their incomes to do so. She needed a new husband and needed one fast, for she was late on last month's mortgage payment again and received a stiff warning letter from her bank. So she dolled herself up, lost some weight, was slim and trim now, not like Millie, who had put on a few pounds after she got married, and set out to get her a new man. She had to look no farther than next door.
Audrey became friendly then with Red and Millie. Both of them, feeling sorry for her and trying to get her to move on with her life, would invite her over to watch television with them. That was a big thing back then, watching TV. TV's had just come out, and not everybody could afford one. Back in '51, a TV set cost almost as much as a new car, a luxury item that few people could afford. But Red and Millie could. Millie had a good job at the County Recorder of Deeds Office, and Red worked for Minneapolis-Moline, a farm implement manufacturer there in town. He made good money, had a union job, didn't have to work that hard, and had great benefits. Between the two of them, they were sitting pretty good, financially, that is.
On the other hand, poor Audrey was a sales lady at a Woolworth store downtown. She could barely support herself on what she made, let alone keep up her house and car payments now that her husband was gone. She certainly couldn't afford a TV.
Television in their town had only two channels in those days and limited broadcasting hours. But that made no difference to Audrey. She watched Red, not the TV and didn't care which program they watched. Her time was spent reprogramming Red. She got into Red's wiring and rewired him to plug into her. It didn't take all that much effort for her to do so; after all, Red was a man, and not that smart of a man at that. That was okay with Audrey, a woman who liked that in a man, not being too smart, that is, and she made her advances accordingly.
Millie first noticed this when they were watching the Friday Night Fights, for Audrey always sat next to Red on the sofa, brushed right up against him, hip to hip. She always got up and got Red another Schlitz the second he finished his before he could ask Millie to go get one for him. Millie didn't care that much for boxing, and she'd sit there in her rocking chair rocking and pretending to read a Collier's or Look magazine with one eye on the magazine and one eye on Audrey. Millie knew what was going on, for, after all, she was a woman too. Hadn't she worked her wily womanly ways on Red to trap him? She knew that trapping him was as easy as trapping a box elder bug. And she knew Audrey dolled herself up before she came over, put on perfume, makeup, wore tight somewhat revealing clothes, and did up her hair. All that was way too much just to watch boxing.
So Millie put a stop to this neighborly TV watching when she accidentally broke a tube in the exposed back of the TV one day when she was dusting, for some reason or other, behind the TV of all places. She told Red that anyway.
A TV repairman wasn't cheap back then either, and when he came over and gave them an estimate for parts and labor, Millie told him she'd get back to him. She never did. She kept putting it off, telling Red they didn't have the money for it just now. But they did.
But Audrey had other ways to get her hooks into Red and get him on her turf, not Millie's. The broken TV was a blessing in disguise to Audrey and a curse to Millie. For after that, something at Audrey's house suddenly always needed fixing, and Red was just the handy handyman to fix it. Just the handyman to mow and trim her lawn. Just the handyman to fix her leaky sink. Just the handyman for this, just the handyman for that, just her personal service handyman.
There was no fence between their properties, but Millie soon had Red, the handyman, install one for her. She hoped this would restrict Red's free flow of services. Furthermore, it was a solid wood six feet high fence, and that way, Red couldn't ogle Audrey sunbathing out there in her bikini in her backyard anymore. To counter, Red put a gate in the fence. It was just for convenience; he told his wife. Besides, it could be kept locked from both sides so one could always lock the other out. This fried Millie's eggs. And burnt her toast too.
Red told her the fence was a waste of money that could have been better spent repairing the TV. Millie told Red the money was well spent since they needed that fence to keep that cat of theirs from running at large all over the neighborhood. That was a pretty lame excuse as far as Red was concerned. He wasn't that dumb. He knew why she wanted that fence, and that's why he put in the gate.
The cat Millie was supposedly worried about she found at her back door one morning when they first moved in. She took it in just like the way she found and took in Red. It was a descendant of the farm cats of Clarence's. Millie fell in love with it at first sight, just like she had with Red. She named the cat Tom since it was a tomcat. That and the fact that it was reddish-orange in color just like Red, the Red whose given name just happened to be Thomas. The cat was an un-neutered adult male always on the prowl, kind of like Red. That fence couldn't keep him in.
The cat got out. Red had left the gate open on purpose, of course, hoping it would run away. And it did. And Red got out and ran off with Audrey. He'd had enough of Millie. When Millie got home from work that Friday, Red wasn't there, but there was a note for her. It simply said that he didn't love her anymore. That he loved Audrey, and they were going to Vegas so that he could get a quickie divorce, and they could get married. Good riddance to bad rubbish thought Millie. From the start, she knew she couldn't stop this inevitable train wreck from happening, and now she didn't care. Besides, she knew she could manage without him. The mortgage payment was really nothing, and the car was paid for. Furthermore, Millie had the car. They ran off in Audrey's car. Audrey was behind on her payments, and this way, the bank couldn't repossess it if it were in Vegas now could they.
Millie went to her bank first thing Saturday morning, closed out the checking and savings account in both of their names, and opened new ones in her name alone. Red never drained them, though he did withdraw a substantial sum from each before he left, and she knew why. It was because he had a savings account in his name alone, an inheritance that he had received from his mother last year of about $3,000. That was a small fortune back in '51. There were only about a hundred dollars left in their two accounts. So nice of him to leave her that.
Everybody in the neighborhood knew what had happened, Audrey and Red running off like that. It was common knowledge. They all could see it coming just like Millie did.
Audrey had a sister there in town, and she went over on Sunday to Audrey's house to check on it for her, water her plants, help herself to whatever. Millie saw her, and the two of them talked. Millie found out from her that Red had to live in the state of Nevada so many days before he could get a divorce as a legal resident of the state. But even a couple of weeks wasn't soon enough as far a Millie was concerned. She told Audrey's sister that Audrey could have him. She wouldn't fight the divorce. She was glad he flew the coop. She was going to divorce him anyway, she told her.
But Red chickened out and came home with the cows to roost. He told Audrey that he needed to fly back for a couple of days to get Millie to sign some papers the Nevada attorney gave him. That was a lie. Soon as that was done, he'd be right back, he said. That was a lie. But she bought it.
It's one thing to have an affair with someone and another to live with them. After a couple of days living with Audrey, Red found out what an old nag she was, constantly hovering over him, never letting him out of her sight. Like when they took in a couple of shows, and he ogled those tightly dressed, scantily clad showgirls with their udders almost falling out, and their legs all the way up to their butts. After that, Audrey put the kibosh on their going to any other such shows. She was worse than Millie. Millie became the lesser of two evils. Red cashed in his chips with Audrey and rolled back to Millie like the bad penny he was. He was waiting with bated breath for her to let him in when she came home from work that night. She had changed the locks.
Red asked Millie to forgive him, to take him back.
She told him she'd have to think about it. He could stay with her while she did, so she told him, but he had to sleep on the couch. She said this leading him on into her trap. Red agreed.
Millie now was on the horns of a dilemma. The dilemma of which was, should I divorce him, or should I kill him? She decided to do both.
Next morning Millie laid down the law to Red for her to take him back. First, Red would sign over the house and car title to her. Second, he added her name to his inheritance account from his mother's estate. That way, if Red died first, she, as a joint tenant, would become the sole owner. Red agreed. They went to a notary, and Red signed off on the house and car. Millie worked at the Recorder's Office. She drew the deed. They went to the bank, and Red added Millie's name to the account that he had gotten from his mother.
Audrey's sister came back for more stuff that evening and to see Red. Audrey had phoned her and told her that Red would be back and be staying at her place while he wrapped up some things with Millie and got some of his personal possessions. Audrey's sister knew that he hadn't stayed the night at Audrey's. She knew that he had spent the night with Millie when she saw him come out of Millie's. Red hem and hawed and told Audrey's sister that everything was fine, that he had slept on the couch last night falling asleep while watching the fights, and that he'd be flying back to Vegas tomorrow night.
Millie heard this. She was there with him the whole time, keeping him on a short leash. After Audrey's sister left, Red told her that he was lying to her, that he wasn't going anywhere, that he was staying with her, that he just said all that to lead Audrey on.
When she was at work the next morning, Millie checked with the airport just to make sure Red wasn't leaving and going back to Audrey. Red wasn't booked on any flight. That's what she wanted to hear. She had another plan for Red's departure. During her lunch hour, she drove to the airport and got him a ticket to Vegas that evening. She never gave it to him. She burned it.
That night she killed Red around ten o'clock. Clubbed him a good one on the back of his head with her meat pounder as he slept; and pounded him a couple of times more just for good measure. Red never knew what hit him, all six times. She dragged him down the basement, put him under the shower they had down there, and proceeded to carve and chop him up, bones included, up into small manageable little pieces that would be easy to bury, small little bones which if ever were found, no one would recognize them as human bones and would assume them to be animal bones of some kind or other. She sacked Red up in three plastic garbage bags, washed up, and scrubbed down the shower area with bleach and hauled Red upstairs to the back door. She knew where she was going to plant him, plant the evidence that is, in Audrey's flower garden.
Audrey had a flower garden in her backyard next to the alley. It had mostly tulips and irises which were done blooming, their leaves now brown and wilted, and some other plants likewise done blooming. The garden was about ten feet long by three feet wide—more than enough space to lay to rest the dead Red.
Around midnight, when she thought everything was safe, and no one would see her, the neighbors all having gone to bed, she carried the three garbage bags of Red out her back door, went through the gate Red had so conveniently built for her, and deposited Red in Audrey's trash cans next to the alley. Then she went and got her shovel out of her garage, came back through the gate again, and went to Audrey's garden. She checked around to make sure the coast was clear, retrieved the trash bags, and began burying the evidence. When she was done, she replaced the irises, tulips, and other dead flowers that she had dug up, back just the way they were before so that it looked like nothing had been disturbed. Red's flesh and bones were buried only a half foot deep at the most.
It started to rain when she was done at about one. That was good because the rain would wash away any loose soil. Millie smiled to herself. She had committed the perfect murder. No one would ever look on Audrey's property for Red now would they? She wouldn't kill him. After all, Audrey was in love with Red.
But then someone hollered at her, "Millie, what in the blue blazes are you doing out here at this hour of the night in the rain?" The street light around the corner gave off just enough light for her neighbor across the alley to see her. She recognized his voice.
Millie had to say something, say it fast, and say something believable. Her answer suddenly appeared before her as if it was a gift from the deus ex machina. That damn tomcat Tom.
"Just looking for that darn cat of mine," Millie replied. "Red left the gate open again. He always forgets to close it, you know. He's down the other end of the street looking for him too." The neighbor knew of course that Red was back and thought that the two of them had patched things up.
"Oh, here he is," said Millie, and she went over and scooped up the cat in her right hand, her left hand holding a plastic garbage bag, the other two bags crammed inside it.
"Cat get out of the bag, did he?" joked the neighbor.
"Yeah," answered Millie, "the cat got out of the bag. Tell Red if you see him, I found him. Good night."
"Good night," echoed the neighbor, "but I ain't waiting around for Red. I'm going back to bed." With that said, he slammed the door shut.
Millie went into her garage, put the cat in the bag, tied it shut, and threw it on the floor with a sickening forceful whump. In the pitch-black darkness of the garage, she beat the cat to death with her shovel. Then she put the dead cat bag in Audrey's trash can for tomorrow's pickup.
Millie went to work the next morning and the next morning, but not the next.
Audrey's sister had called the cops when Audrey told her Red never came back.
The cops paid Millie a visit that morning before she went to work. She told them the truth, kind of. Told them that Red was here alright, that he wanted to make up, do right by her. Yes, she had taken him back, forgave him. Yes, she still loved him. Yes, he had signed over the car and house title to her as part of the get back together deal. Yes, she drew up the deed and recorded it; after all, she worked at the Recorder of Deeds office now didn't she. Yes, they were notarized by their insurance agent. She told them to check it out. They did. Their agent confirmed that. Confirmed that the two of them were getting along just fine when they were in his office, that they had gotten back together, that they acted like a pair of love doves.
Millie asked the cops if they had talked to Audrey. They said they would. They called her in Vegas. Audrey told them she had talked to her sister, who told her Red was flying back. That she had tried to confirm this by calling Red at her place where he was staying, but no one answered. No, she told them she did not know where Red was. No, she told them she did not know why Red had not come back. Talk to my sister again if you don't believe me, she told the cops. They did. Her sister repeated the same story that Audrey had and told them that Millie said she was planning on divorcing Red.
The cops called the airline. Someone there told them Red had a ticket for Vegas but never showed up. Things weren't adding up for the cops.
They went back to Millie to take a second crack at her. "What's this about you saying you were going to divorce Red?" they asked. "Well, I was, but I decided to take him back. Everyone knows that," she told them. "Just ask my neighbors." They did. All the neighbors confirmed that she and Red were back together, that they had seen them together happy as hogs in a wallow. Everyone knew Red was staying with Millie, not at Audrey's, they all said.
The cops then focused their attention back on Audrey as the scorned woman. Hell hath no fury like a scorned woman. It never occurred to the cops that Millie could be the scorned woman.
The cops called Audrey again, no answer. She wasn't at that motel anymore; they were told. She had flown the coop, disappeared in a vanishing act from Vegas.
The cops called her sister then and wanted to know where Audrey was. Her sister claimed she didn't know and couldn't help them. The case went cold.
Audrey never made any more mortgage payments on her house. It went into foreclosure, and it took quite some time because the bank's attorneys' didn't know where she was to serve her with foreclosure papers. They finally found her in Bangor, Maine, of all places and got her served there. The foreclosure drug on for almost a year.
Millie's divorce didn't. It took only about three months. She played dumb and called Red's Vegas attorney and told him that she had signed the papers and asked him if he had been in contact with Red. He told her no. She told him then that she was going to file for a divorce here. She did. Her attorney published a notice in the local paper to get jurisdiction over the marriage. The court dissolved the marriage, and since there was no personal service on Red, the attorney told her the judge couldn't rule on the distribution of any property. Millie didn't care. She had already taken care of that. She already had the house and car in her name and her name on Red's inheritance account as the surviving joint tenant.
Millie knew how to get Red's inheritance money. After the statutory period of being a missing person had expired, she'd have Red declared legally dead, get a death certificate, and then take his account as surviving joint tenant. She didn't need the money now. This was just her little additional nest egg for her retirement. Red had blown some of his inheritance money going to and from Vegas, the balance being $2,674.07 now. No one would suspect her of killing him for that sum. It might be a tidy sum, but it was too small a tidy sum to kill for. Besides, there was no life insurance. No spouse kills their spouse now do they unless there's life insurance.
It was almost two years before the bank sold Audrey's house, finally having gotten the title through foreclosure and having it on the market for over six months before they realized they weren't going to recoup their loss. A single young man bought it. He was a gear head and had to have a big two-car garage to work on his cars, cars as in plural. He got his mortgage from the bank that had foreclosed and a second mortgage from them too to build a two-car garage. Two weeks after the closing, the contractor arrived with his equipment to dig the foundation.
Millie wasn't home that day. She was at work. Clarence Killing was home. He was always at home looking out the window. He saw them unload the backhoe. His son was there that day, checking on him. Clarence's son always checked on his father every day now since he was eighty, in a wheelchair, and getting forgetful.
"Look," said Clarence to his son, "they're unloading a backhoe at that house. There's going to be some digging. Wheel me outside so I can get a better look."
"What do you need a better look for?" his son asked.
"Cause I know where the bodies are buried. That's why."
Clarence went on to explain that his grandparents, his son's great grandparents, were buried somewhere there because the cemetery down the road didn't exist back when they died. Clarence told his son that back in the old days they used to bury people in the orchards because orchards were a peaceful quiet place. And also that way they would always be near their loved ones. That's where his grandparents were buried; he told his son. Somewhere there, he said, in the orchard that used to be there.
His son asked why he hadn't disclosed this before. Clarence told him that if he had, he wouldn't have gotten as much for the land as he did. People are reluctant to buy a burial ground because of all the governmental red tape and regulations that go with something like that. Besides, he didn't think from the proposed plans that the developer had shown him that the bodies would ever be disturbed.
Clarence admitted though that he didn't exactly know where the bodies were buried, having been told all that by his father when he was just a little kid. The wooden markers, having long ago rotted out, disintegrated, and disappeared before Clarence was born. That was why he wanted to be there now in case they dug them up, his grandparents, that is.
They dug up Clarence's grandparents that day. The footings had to be below the frost line, and thus they dug a little more than three feet deep. When the first scoop of dirt at that level was dumped out, bones were visible to all. The crew foreman brought everything to a screeching halt and called the police. The police came. They were interested. Though Red's disappearance had remained unsolved for almost two years now and had become a cold case, bones found here of all places, on what was once Audrey's property, next door to Millie's property, warmed the case back up and brought it back to life from the grave.
Clarence fessed up and told the cops the truth, that those bones were those of his grandparents, that he knew for a fact his grandparents and maybe a couple of their young children were buried there too. The cops stopped any further construction work and told the foreman not to do anything further until they got back to him and took the bones in for testing. They put up yellow crime scene tape, keeping everyone away. The bones came back as the bones of a male, bones that had been in the ground for some time, and thus they couldn't possibly be the bones of Red. Clarence asked for the bones to bury at the family plot at the cemetery down the road. After a lot of governmental bureaucratic red tape hoopla and hoop-jumping and additional falderal, just for good measure, he was granted ownership of the bones and any other bones found thereafter on the property provided he checked with the cops first.
The yellow tape came down. The construction crew went back to work. Found some more bones. But the foreman had them finish digging the footings first this time before they told the cops about them. There had already been too much delay on this project as far as he was concerned. He needed to get it done. That's why he had them finish before tape went up again. These bones were tested, and they were determined to be of an adult female dead now for some time. The cops gave the bones to Clarence, figuring they were his grandmother's bones. The tape came down again. Cops told the crew chief if they found any more bones just to give them to Clarence and not to bother them anymore.
Audrey's old flower garden was right in the middle of where the garage floor was to be. The foundation work having been completed, the ground on the inside of the garage needed to be leveled, graded, and poured. In the leveling process, the bones of Red popped up. Since the cops had already authorized any further bones found to be given to Clarence, the construction crew foreman just sacked them up in plastic garbage bags and gave them to him. These bones were smaller in length than the adult bones previously found there, and therefore Clarence just assumed that these were the bones of the infant children his father had told him about. All the bones were reburied at the cemetery down the road in the Killing family plot. Clarence sprang a stone with the names and dates for his grandparents. As to the two infant children, Clarence had never been told their names and ages, so their stones simply read: Infant Child Of, and then his grandparents' names followed.
Millie, the whole time this was going on, ignored it all, not wanting to call attention to herself by appearing nosy. She went about her business as nonchalantly as she could. But it was driving her crazy as to what had happened here. She had to know. So when it was all over, and things had quieted down some, she got Clarence to spill the beans. He told her he forgot his grandparents were buried there since it was such a long time ago and that his memory was starting to go some. She told him that she was so glad for him that his grandparents had finally found peace, a final resting place with the other Killings down the road now, and left it at that.
Things got back to normal in the neighborhood after a while. Millie got on with her life. The clematis did fine that year, lots of purple blooms. She gave the white picket fence in front of her house a fresh coat of paint. She put up with her new neighbor roaring the engine of that old hot rod jalopy of his in his new garage since it was kind of a blessing in disguise for her. She got the TV fixed but didn't watch the Friday Night Fights anymore. No, she watched I've Got a Secret, What's My Line, Truth or Consequences. She liked game shows. You Bet Your Life was her favorite.
Eventually, enough time passed that she got Red declared legally dead. Then as surviving joint tenant on his inheritance account, she got that money. She bought a new car with it, a Desoto Adventurer. After that, she started saving her money for one of these new-fangled color TV's that had just come out.
And as to Red, well, she was the only one who knew where that body was buried.
B. Craig Grafton has had seventy some stories appear in online magazines, print magazines, and book anthologies. He is looking for a publisher and or an agent to get them printed in a collection. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.