My Dearest Friend, Phillipe,
I hope this letter finds you in good health, you old egg. I myself have been under siege of late. But of course, that is what happens when you are forged from a different mold, as are you and I. The feeble-minded still inherit the earth, and they try to feast upon that which is greater than they. That which they do not understand.
Don’t worry. Everything has been put right in the Gables again, but I’m writing to ask if I might intrude on you for a while until things simmer down. Let me explain. You’re sure to enjoy the excitement I’ve had.
You recall that fellow I railed about in my last letter? George Duncan? Who thinks himself a regular cowboy? Well, he nearly brought the whole town to ruin this past month with his stubborn laziness. The man fancies himself a hero, and yet I’ve never seen anyone put so much effort into doing absolutely nothing.
It all started when the Davidsons moved into town. Dreadful, all of them. What a family! The father hardly bathes and lives in nothing but overalls. The wife, Cynthia, is a regular bearcat. You should hear the mouth on that woman. She hardly wears clothes. Her shorts are frayed at the bottoms. She ties her checked shirts up under her bosom. She’s well aware of what she’s doing, making it impossible not to stare. She ties her hair up in a knot with a red scarf around her head. She has a pathetic little garden of wilting tomato plants and a few buttercups, she’s always tending to no avail. I can hardly look out my window without seeing her bent over a knot of dried stalks, elbows on her thighs like a prehistoric savage, roasting and browning her fine skin in the sun. Not that I intend to look, of course. She’s right there. What can I do? I told you, dreadful. Anyways, the boy is a nuisance, too, setting off firecrackers and flying through town on that imbecilic skateboard contraption.
That’s not the worst of it. They purchased that old lot I had talked of buying myself last June when you came to visit. The one at the bottom of my hill. I thought I might put horses on it, but I couldn’t make up my mind, and beasts of another sort moved in. They parked a trailer on it, Phillipe. A trailer! Stacked up on cinder blocks. It’s an eyesore! And every morning when I sit at the breakfast nook and look out onto the Gables, that monstrosity is the first thing I see. I can see you in my mind’s eye, cringing as you read this. Imagine how I felt!
I knew the instant I saw them they were trouble. Especially the man. I watched them carefully. The father was always bringing home some new device. A TV. One of those dirt bikes. Even a sports car. All within two weeks! And that’s just what I saw. Who knows how much stolen merchandise they had in that trailer? There was no way they could afford those things.
I went to Duncan with the photo evidence. I had dates, times. Everything. Did I get a thank you? No. I got, “I’ll look into it, Mr. Greer.” The man calls himself a Sheriff. Pah!
I saw him conduct what he calls an investigation from my window. He didn’t even go inside! He just shone his flashlight around the yard once. They’d hidden the sports car somewhere. He didn’t even go around back where the bike was.
I marched right into that slob’s office the next night. I accused him of negligence, of letting crime run free in my town. He didn’t take kindly to that. But it IS my town, whether he knows it or not. Imagine the gall. I’ve been here far longer than he.
When I asked him what he planned to do about those vermin, he said, “There’s nothing to worry about Mr. Greer. The Davidsons are an ordinary, respectable family, I assure you. Everything’s on the up-and-up.”
Respectable! Those lice-ridden trailer rats, respectable! Pah!
If he wasn’t going to get to the bottom of it, I decided I would. I figured the woman, Cynthia, would be my best chance. Simple. Pliable.
I used the best of my charm, and she agreed to come calling at the plantation. She showed up at my door in one of those tube top dresses, from Walmart, no doubt. I served her dinner, trying all the while to picture her in something more suitable, and her lips loosened quickly enough. She claimed her husband was a “fix-it man.” He repaired broken machinery and sold it for a profit. She couldn’t give me a clear answer on where he obtains these items, though. “Here and there,” she said. Indeed.
She ate as though she was starving. No table manners. What a waste of fine features—bow-shaped mouth and delicate, feminine neck. I myself only had a bite; I didn’t care for the flavor.
“Sheriff” Duncan arrived three days later. I think you may get a kick out of the conversation.
“I came this morning, but you weren’t home,” he said.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said. “I was here, but I didn’t hear the bell. I sleep like the dead.”
“Ah, I see. Well, do you know why I’m here?”
He tried to make himself look bigger, as if he fancied himself a predator sizing up an adversary. Nothing more than a loud-mouthed pup in reality.
“I’m afraid I don’t,” I said, “but I’m glad you are. Have you learned something new about the Davidsons?”
“Funny you should mention them, Mr. Greer.”
“Why is that?”
“Because Cynthia Greer hasn’t been seen since Sunday night, and she left her husband a note saying she was coming to see you.”
“How dreadful! She’s missing, you say?”
“Yes. Is it true she was here?”
“Oh yes, I invited her over for dinner. I noticed she was home alone—Mr. Davidson and their son had gone to a baseball tournament, she told me—and I thought I’d give her some company. She’s my neighbor after all.”
He stroked that disgraceful, unkempt mustache of his and started waltzing around my living room, tracking mud onto that Persian rug you admire.
“And when did this dinner end?” he asked.
“Oh, around nine-thirty or so. Ten at the latest.”
“Have you seen her at all after that?”
He pointed at the painting over my mantel and stroked his mustache some more. “Is that you dressed up in all that 20’s stuff? You get that done in Gatlinburg or something? Never seen anyone get a whole painting done, just regular photos.”
“No, that’s my grandfather,” I said.
“Oh, wow, he looks just like you.” He looked at me and cocked his head. “Just like you.”
“Thank you. He was twenty-five in that picture. I’ll be thirty-five next month, so I’ll take that as a great compliment.”
“You and Mrs. Greer talk about that painting?”
I suppose that was his way of trying to throw me for a loop, as they say. I smiled at him to let him know I wasn’t frightened or taken aback in the slightest.
“No, can’t say we did.”
“What did you talk about?”
“Oh, just casual chatting.”
“Why would I argue with the woman? I hardly believe she could have a proper debate.”
“Well, it just seems odd that you’d invite her over when you’re so convinced they’re a family of criminals. Did you confront her about your suspicions? Did things get a little heated?”
I laughed. “Nothing like that. I invited her over as a purely friendly gesture. I was taking your word that everything was—how did you put it? On the up-and-up? So I decided to get to know her a little better.”
“I’m not sure I like what you’re implying, Sheriff.”
“She is a beautiful woman.”
I tried not to laugh. For certain, the woman flaunted a lot of flesh, but beautiful? Can anyone like that truly be beautiful?
I assured him I had no interest and then told him if he didn’t have any further questions, I wanted to get off to bed.
I’ll admit, I underestimated him. Or perhaps I should say, misread him. I now think he had somehow begun to blunder his way toward the truth—perhaps by a chance discovery in the local library archives—even if he didn’t know what to do with the information. I’d always known he didn’t like me. I despised him, so no matter. But I didn’t suspect that he had grown curious about my presence here. My true nature.
The lazy oaf decided the show some initiative that night. He didn’t leave, but rather snuck around the house and entered the cellar. He found her, of course. I had laid her on roses… to help with the smell, you see, nothing more. I’d cleaned her up—just freshened up her skin and brushed her hair. I suppose after I’d washed the grime of her lifestyle away, I could see what Duncan had spoken of… about her beauty. Of course, they all look more beautiful with that alabaster cast. Something about the feed makes them look so perfect. I suppose it’s the lack of blood in the veins; they aren’t dark against the white.
I had to drain him, too. A far less pleasant experience. A messy thing. My hunger had already been satiated, and he put up more of a fight than I expected. But I like surprises. They make me feel more alive.