“Get your fuckin’ dog off my lawn!” Pete Hudgins threw a rock at his neighbor’s fence. It plinked off of it.
Bart Washington backed up, hands in the air in a sign of truce. “Mr. Hudgins, my dog was not in your yard. He can’t clear the fence.” He nodded to the 4’ tall picket fence and glanced down at the little pug beside him.
“It was his shit! I know it was.” He growled and stormed back into his house.
Bart shook his head. This interaction went on nearly every evening with this angry retired neighbor. He’d move out but he got he house for a song. Now, he knew why. He looked up and saw the neighbor on the other side of Mr. Hudgin’s yard. The man had just climbed from his black car with its black tinted windows. He nodded to Bart but, as usual, made no friendly gesture of greeting. It was just as well. He shrugged and turned back to his house, his trusty dog chasing his heels.
Pete tossed his frozen meal box into the trash and stalked over to the front windows, pacing the row as he usually did as the sunlight was blanketed by the night. He squinted at the creepy neighbor’s car and harrumphed. “Bastard can’t use a garage. I have to look out at that nasty car? How many times did I warn him about it?”
He stalked through the house and out back. In his quiet dark lawn, he padded over to the 6’ wooden wall and stepped onto his overturned pot to get a glimpse into the man’s yard. Every night, the man came home and dug in his backyard. At least, he had for the past two nights. Pete had a theory the creepy man was burying bodies. He was determined to catch him in the act and hand him in. His neighbors wouldn’t think he was a retired busybody anymore. They’d thank him and have him to supper. They better be meat-eaters, the damned yuppies!
The lean man was dressed in jeans and a dark shirt like some kind of coffee house beatnik. Pete never saw his face, but the man had long stringy dark hair that didn’t suit the nice house and car. Something about him just didn’t jive with the neighborhood.
The sound of a shovel cutting into moist healthy soil caught Pete’s attention. He ducked down a bit and peered over as the man who’s back was to him, continued to dig a fairly deep hole. A fairly long hole.
A person-sized hole!
Pete’s fingers tensed as he tried to peer past a bush to see just what the man was doing. The stupid bastard didn’t even use a light to work from. Just when he thought that, the man turned on a lantern at his feet and the small area was aglow in a soft light. The shovel continued to cut, scoop, and drop dirt into a nice tall pile.
Shaking his head, Pete climbed down from his perch. He followed the fencing to the back corner near the shed where he knew there was an opening. He knew because the last damn owners dog used to sneak through it. They moved away before Pete could make them fix it. He wasn’t about to do it. It wasn’t his hole. It was the new owner’s responsibility, but the hermit didn’t seem to have any pets, so he’d let it slide, for now…
Ducking down to slip his way through the opening, Pete was excited by his find. He could get a closer look. The man was busy with his digging and the sounds covered up the faint sounds of Pete skirting behind the row of hedges along the wall to get a better view. He stood up to peer over the bush, alerted by the silence which meant the man was no longer digging. All of a sudden he felt a hard whack and for a split second Pete thought he’d surely struck his head on something he hadn’t seen in the dark.
When he came-to, Pete shook his head. It didn’t hurt. He must have hit it in just the right place. Damn! He’d been out a while. The man was no longer there. He crept in the darkened yard towards the pit only to find it filled in. The mounds of dirt had been pounded out smoothly, the shovel stuck in the ground nearby, the lantern gone.
Pete looked to the dark house and waited a moment. When it seemed like no one was coming and the curtains were drawn inside, he went to his knees and started to dig at the dirt. It came loose easily between his fingers and surprisingly he was able to go a good three feet in no time. When his finger caught on something, he slowed down, carefully removing the dirt from around the object. The more he cleared the dirt from the lumpy object, the more it became apparent.
This is a goddamned body!
Hyperventilating, he dug at more and more dirt until the top of half of the body was exposed. He worked the dirt from the face, fingers trembling violently. He squinted down at the dirty white shirt and the thin wisps of hair.
“Holy God!” He shook his head with excitement. “Got you now, you stupid bastard!” His glee was apparent in his voice as he cherished the moment of righteous proof.
Just then, the huge spotlight on the back of the house flicked on. Pete was poised in shock. Just as the light washed over the hole, he glanced down quickly and his mind went blank. The long narrow nose, the thin lips, the hollow cheeks, the gray tufts of hair, the white shirt with the neatly pressed collar.
The homeowner came outside and searched the area. He walked over to the uncovered hole and then peered into the darkness around. Urgently, he picked up the shovel and began to cover the body again, huffing and puffing frantically.
“Stay where I put you, you little bastard.” He growled at the soil. “Your neighbors paid good money for this and I’m getting free rent. You take orders from me now!” He snickered.