“What are you reading, kid?” I asked.
“The paper,” he answered without looking up. His dirty brown hair hung down over his forehead and hid his eyes from view.
“I can see that. Aren’t you a little young to be reading anything but the funnies?” I lit my cigarette and tucked my lighter back into my coat pocket. The kid didn’t answer.
“Say, does that paper cover the Reynolds case?” I asked.
“Listen, kid, I’ll give you a quarter for it.”
“Go find your own newspaper,” he responded. “There is a box on every street from here to the post office, Oak Street, Linden Street, and Magnolia. Take your pick, but leave me alone.”
“How old are you?” I asked, a little incredulous at the boy’s manners.
He folded the paper and smoothed it across his lap like an old grandpa finally resigning to his grandson’s incessant questions. “I’m twelve.”
“You have a job?”
“Yeah. A paper route.”
“Shit, you run a paper route and you won’t sell me one newspaper? I just want to see the latest on the Reynolds–” The kid cut me off.
“It’s a messy divorce. Jim Reynolds still says that his wife stole a hundred thousand dollars worth of art from their mansion, and now she claims that he’s been cheating on her. Says she even hired a private detective who found proof.”
“Kind of grim stuff for a twelve year old to follow,” I said, taking a drag on my cigarette. “Who did she hire? Was it Bosworth? That sucker has out-maneuvered me at every turn. It’s not my fault though; he’s well connected.”
“Paper didn’t say who she hired.”
“I’ve been following the case, trying to get in on the action. I’m a private eye myself. There’s just one thing I don’t understand. If Bosworth was hired to scrape dirt on Jim, why didn’t he call to rub it in my face? There aren’t many private investigators in this town; I usually would have heard if there was a big fish on the market like Sally Reynolds.”
“I don’t know, mister. I’m just the paper boy.”
“Say, do you know when Sally made her statement to the reporter?”
“Not for sure. Ed Finch, who writes most of the articles on the Reynolds, told me that this case has been developing so fast he’s had to talk to his sources in the morning just so that he can get his piece in by the afternoon deadline.”
“If that’s true, then Sally would have had to make that statement yesterday morning. Jim Reynolds has been out of town on business for a week. He just got back in town late last night. I’ll bet Sally Reynolds never even hired a private investigator. It’s possible she hired someone from out of town, but I think she’s trying to bluff him out. If she can make him nervous about losing even more in the divorce, he might settle the case and drop his theft charges. She’s no dummy.”
“Doesn’t matter now,” the kid said, looking westward, down the street.
“What do you mean?”
“He’s dead. Jim Reynolds is dead.”
“What the hell!” I said in surprise. “Jim Reynolds isn’t dead.”
“Give me that paper,” I said, snatching it from the boy’s lap. He didn’t try to stop me; he just looked off down the street again like he wished that he were anywhere but there.
I read the short article where Sally claimed to have proof of her husband’s infidelity. It said nothing about Jim Reynolds croaking. “He’s not dead. It doesn’t say anything about Jim being dead,” I said, as I thumbed over to the obituaries. “Where did you read that?”
“Didn’t read it. I saw it.”
I put the paper down and tried to look the boy in the eye. He was staring off down that street trying his best not to look at me. There was a glistening drop of moisture precipitating at the corner of his eye.
“I saw it while I was on my paper route this morning,” he continued. “You know how they have those big glass windows in their bedroom? I was about to throw the paper from my bike when I heard yelling. I’ve been keeping tabs on the case, so I thought if I could get close enough to see, I might learn something nobody else did. Maybe even get my name in one of Ed Finch’s crime columns.” The tear couldn’t stay put any longer; it rolled down his cheek, and he smeared it away with his wrist.
He heaved a deep breath and then carried on with the story. “I walked up to the house with their paper in my hands. Saw that there was some movement in the bedroom window, so I crept over there, hidden by the bushes. I saw her, Sally Reynolds; she was laughing at him. She said that she had caught him with his pants down, and that she would get half of everything now. Then he called her a bitch and threw her on the bed, tried to strangle her. But she kept on laughing. It scared me, mister. Honest to God, that laugh scared me worse than anything I’ve ever seen at the horror pictures.” The boy breathed in silence for a few moments.
“Go on, kid.” I said, nursing the last shreds of nicotine from my cigarette. “What happened next?”
“Well, he was standing over her, trying to choke her to death. And his eyes were all closed shut while he was strangling her, as if he didn’t want to look at what he was doing. She was still laughing like a banshee. Finally, she reached under the pillow and pulled out a gun. Blew his head open.” The boy started crying. I put my hand on his shoulder and his sobs intensified.
“I don’t want to be in Ed Finch’s column. I don’t.” He said between sobs. “I just want to forget I was there.”
“You don’t have to talk to any reporters,” I said. “You don’t have to do any of that. It’s ok.” I kept my hand on his shoulder and pitched my cigarette into the street.
“She knew he was going to try to kill her. She was ready for it.” He said as he wiped his tears away, and started to regain his composure. “Why would she do that? Wasn’t one hundred thousand dollars worth of art enough? Did she really have to kill him for the rest of it?” He closed his eyes and rubbed them one last time. “She’s going to tell the police it was self defense; she certainly let him put the strangle marks all over her neck. I guess I’ll have to go down to the station too, make my own statement.” He looked like the most world-weary private eye I had ever seen, and he was only twelve years old.
“Kid, you’d make one hell of a detective.” I said.
“I don’t know about that,” he replied. “When I saw what happened, I froze up. Forgot to leave their newspaper on their porch; I just kept on clutching it tight in my hands, all the way back here where you found me.”
Thanks for reading, I welcome all feedback and constructive criticism.