Cadaverous Ch. 01 Pt. 01bydrdirty8©
"Ricky Joe! Ricky Joe!"
The voice seemed to be coming from out of thin air, but Ricky Joe Burns had no idea how.
"Ricky Joe!" The voice seemed to be getting closer, but each time he turned, Burns saw no one addressing him.
He finally stopped walking and turned one last time, noticing a small boy rounding a corner he had just passed. The boy, out of breath, grabbed the man he'd been chasing by the arm.
"My mama says to tell you that there's been some strange man sneakin' around our place and she's been smellin' foul smells lately."
Ricky Burns, a little annoyed, smirked before responding, "Kid, I'm off duty right now. I was headin' out to Johnson's Bend to do some fishin'. Go to the station and tell somebody there."
The kid, a bit bewildered shook his head from side to side violently, looking as if he were a rag doll about to be torn to pieces.
"No, Sir, Ricky Joe! My mama says to come get you and bring you out to our house and not take no for an answer! She's real sure about this, Ricky Joe. There's a strange man that keeps comin' 'round almost every night here in the last week, and ever since then, there's been real bad smells. Mama says they been makin' her sick... real sick."
The deputy, more than perturbed, sighing in disbelief that his one day off in a month had to be ruined by this pestering little boy. "Alright, Bobby. I'm gonna be out by ya'all's place in about maybe half an hour here or so. You run on home and tell your mama."
The little boy turned back the way he came and headed down the narrow road leading toward his house, which stood nearly a mile out of town down a winding dirt road. Burns noticed the boy's pants were starting to sag as he ran and that his shoes, torn and tattered, were nearly falling off. The sight was too comical to allow any resistance to laughter.
At the aforementioned time, the deputy arrived at Bobby Miller's country estate, as it were, a little shack that rested on a little less than fifty acres of mostly woods and pasture. The lone Miller cow grazed in the one fenced in portion of the place, eating the sparse grass that remained there.
Deputy Burns had no more than pulled his pickup truck up in front of the Miller home when Mrs. Miller, Bobby's quickly aging widowed mother stepped out to greet him.
"About damn time there, Ricky. You know, we coulda all been dead by the time it took you to get your ass over here."
"Hey there, Mrs. Miller. I got here as fast as I could, the time I told your son I would be."
"Yeah, well, I needed you out here sooner," retorted the snide woman, crossing her arms and giving a look that spelled out just how angry she really was.
"Ma'am, you know... I wasn't near my house to get my truck. It took me a good ten minutes just to get home, and I had to put up my fishin' gear cuz your son interrupted me as I was headin' out to enjoy the first day off I've had in a long time. It took me all this time. Trust me. I ain't joshin' ya none." Ricky was still very annoyed, but he was raised to never back talk a woman, especially one older than he.
"Ricky Joe Burns! You know damn good and well it don't take no ten minutes to walk to your house from where you was at, and it don't take no more than another five to drive here from there. You don't dare backtalk me or try pullin' one over on me. And don't make me tell your mama. I know'd you since you was littler than Bobby."
"Ma'am, we could stand here arguin' all day or we could get to what it is you brung me here for. Maybe I did stop in the house a little longer than I realized but not much. I swear to you, Ma'am, that's the god's honest truth. I ain't never lied to you, Mrs. Miller, and I ain't gonna start now." Ricky was still a little unsure as to whether or not he should exit his truck. He had one foot still in the cab with the other dangling out, one arm stooped over the top of his door, and the other resting on the truck top."
"Ok then, Ricky. I reckon you'uns should come on in. That means you, too, Bobby!" Mrs. Miller snapped her fingers at her young son, saying more than enough. Bobby did not dare disobey a direct order from his mother, as he greatly feared the consequences and had also been taught that a good Christian boy was always to honor his parents, even the one that slept in the ground near the barn.
Ricky and Bobby followed June Miller into the house, followed by a slamming screen door that banged off of its frame, seeming as if it would bust its hinges each time it hit.
Taking a seat at the kitchen table, Ricky sat deadfaced, staring at the woman who so clearly owned his time, his only time he would know for a while of any kind of enjoyment, at least, as it had been for a moment.
This ephemeral day was turning out to be some real work, much more than had been anticipated. It wasn't supposed to be like this. Ricky was supposed to be at Johnson's Bend catching some catfish. He hadn't had a good mess of catfish in months. The river had been particularly dry this summer, and the streamlet to which he was to go hadn't received much in the way of swimming things.
Mrs. Miller, with her arms once again crossed, began the conversation. "Ricky Joe, there's been this real strange fella lurkin' about these parts. I catch him some nights when I'm watchin' my stories, peekin' in that window over there. He stares for a good while, dressed in black, with a hat hidin' his face. I don't chased him off with a shotgun once or twice or other times with me shoutin' at him out the door. I seen him one night skidaddle way off in them woods. Every time I see him, about a good fifteen minutes or so after he's gone, there's a real terrible odor comin' through the house, and it makes me sick, awful sick. I been throwin' up lots. Bobby woke up one of the nights. I phoned the station, and they said it ain't nothin' and not to bother 'em with crazy stories no more after the pranks Bobby done pulled on 'em."
Ricky, looking perplexed, did not know where to begin his questioning. Strumming up a little courage, he decided to at least humor his hostess. "Mrs. Miller, I ain't sayin' I don't believe you, but why'd you wait until now, in the daytime?"
"It happened again last night, and that's when I called it in. I finally went to bed, but I laid there all night, sicker than that ol' hound we used to have. You know, the one that was with cancer? I laid there all night, tossin' and turnin'. I was sick somethin' awful. I was still sick this mornin', and so was Bobby here. He got feelin' better enough, and I told him to come find you cuz you was the only one I figured might do somethin' for us. You gotta catch this son of a... Bobby, close your ears."
Bobby, hesitantly did as his mother bade him, covering his ears with his hands.
Mrs. Miller continued, "This son of a bitch, Ricky, is a devil, a mean, no good, rotten devil! And you better sure as shit catch him or you ain't never getting' no peace from me, Ricky! You do what you have to. You take you some fingerprints or pictures or whatever."
"Mrs. Miller," Ricky shot back, biting his lip a bit, not wanting to be the bearer of bad news. "I... I ain't sure I can do anything. I mean, this man came and went, and if he was wearin' a hat and dark clothes, I doubt he left clean prints. He woulda worn gloves. And peekin' ain't nothin' but a misdemeanor. If I could prove he did somethin' to make ya'all sick, I might have somethin'."
"Ricky Joe Burns! You best be getting' on this! I got your mama's number memorized. Me and her has know'd each other many years. She wasn't but a couple of years ahead of me in school, and we was pretty good friends then... still are. I know'd you since before you can remember. You know you and your mama's about the only family we got left, even if ya ain't really kin."
Rubbing his eyes in disbelief, Ricky offered a bit of consolation, stating that he would do all that he could. This seemed to satisfy Mrs. Miller a little, causing her to finally uncross her arms and almost form a slight, curled up smile.
Ricky said his farewells and headed back to his truck, speeding off down the road, hoping to still get in some fishing that day. He flew to his house, grabbed his fishing gear as fast as he could, and left. He made it to Johnson's bend around two P.M. and almost ran to the water, what little there was. The creek was unbelievably dry, but there was still enough water that Ricky figured a few fish would be present, not to mention that in his mind, a bad day of fishing beat a good day of work any time.
Barely more than he had cast his line in, Ricky heard a noise behind him. He spun around fast, just in time to see Buck Johnson, Glenn Johnson being his real name, the owner of the creek, though it wasn't named after him but after his great-grandfather.
"Howdy there, Buck," exclaimed Ricky, always glad to see a friend.
"Howdy," responded the old man, carrying his own rod in his hand. "Mind if I join ya there, young Mr. Burns?"
"Hell, Buck. You know I ain't one to ever say no to you. Me and you's known each other since I came out the womb. Besides, this here's your place, so what right do I have to refuse?"
"Good point," came the old man's retort. "Anyways, you hear about what's been goin' out at June Miller's stead?"
"Yeah," replied Ricky, finding renewed annoyance at the mention of his recent adversary. "I just came from out that way. What of it?"
"I don't know... just figured you'd know somethin'. I heard she's been gettin' visits from some fella in a black hat, likes to sneak up on her window and peep her. Hell, can't say as I blame him. June Miller's always been a hell of a looker, even if the years are takin' a bit of a toll on them looks." With this, the old man let out a howl of a laugh, throwing his head back.
Ricky, not wanting to discuss the matter anymore, resumed his focus on the water... still no bite, but at least it took his mind off of work.
The two men sat on the bank of the creek, talking about anything and everything that came to mind, Deputy Burns trying desperately to avoid anything dealing with the Millers, his childhood, his mother, peeping toms, or anything else mentioned by June.
Night soon began to creep in, the sun slowly setting lower and lower behind the men. Ricky decided not to stay any longer, as he had no lantern, leaving the owner of the place to himself. Ricky knew that June Miller was going to be upset with him whether he investigated or not, so he planned to go home and spend the last few hours of his day off relaxing in his chair in front of the t.v., maybe even enjoy a few cold beers.
Little did Ricky know that that night would be particularly bad for the Millers, which would only make matters much worse for himself.