Early in the morning on Halloween, I crawled out of my dumpster shelter and went to a pay phone. Yes, there was still an actual pay phone for the oldsters outside the pharmacy next to the assisted living place; I guess it was there for nostalgic reasons.
“My parents were murdered,” I told the 9-1-1 operator, “Last night.” I explained about Aaron and the car chase and gave her our address.
“This a Halloween prank?” she asked.
I heard what I thought was a sigh, so I wasn’t sure she believed me.
Then she prompted, “And your name is?”
I dithered for a minute about whether to tell her. She said, “Honey, I can see you’re at the pay phone outside the SaveRite pharmacy. Stay in the booth. I’ll send an officer to help you.”
The thought that she knew where I was and was sending the police propelled me into panic mode again. After slamming down the phone, I snuck back to my neighborhood and crept through the back yard across the street. I sat behind the neighbors’ wood fence and peeked through a knothole at my house.
On our front lawn was a real estate sign with a huge SOLD notice draped across it. A moving van filled the driveway. I watched two hairy guys lug out a huge roll of carpet and stash it inside the van, then add a couple of overflowing boxes.
Our neighbor, Mrs. Talston, watched from her yard next door. Joker pawed at one of the round rocks that bordered the driveway until she called him and made him sit down beside her. She gave him a pat on the head. He licked her hand.
I was glad to see Joker alive and with her. She’d always liked our dog and taken care of him when we were out of town.
Where had Joker been last night? I didn’t remember a single bark from our house. Maybe the ninjas darted him or locked him up somewhere.
A patrol car rolled into our driveway, blocking the moving truck. An officer got out. He talked to the workers and then disappeared into the house. After a minute, he came back out with one of the movers. They were both actually laughing.
The policeman had a quick conversation with Mrs. Talston. I couldn’t hear a word from my hiding place, but she shook her head. He nodded his, and then jotted down something on a little pad he was carrying. As he pulled open the door to his cruiser, one of the moving guys came out carrying a box. He yelled, “Happy Halloween!” to the cop, who waved and drove away. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
A few more boxes and a rolled rug, and the loading was finished. As the moving truck disappeared down the street, Mrs. Talston spotted a book at the edge of our driveway. When she picked it up, I noticed it had a black tire mark on it from the moving van. Mrs. Talston took a quick look inside. Joker whined and pawed at her pants leg. She shook her head again, pulled up the lid of our garbage can, and dropped the book inside. She wiped her hands on her jeans before she and Joker went back into her house. I thought about crossing the street to look into our windows, but then I spotted the black SUV parked down the street, half-hidden in the dappled shade of a big fir tree.
I waited until after midnight to risk slinking into my own back yard. A glance through the dark windows confirmed what I suspected—our house had been completely cleaned out.
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