Read The Good Neighbor Online

Authors: Kimberly A Bettes

Tags: #thriller, #suspense, #mystery, #suspicion, #serial killer, #neighbors, #killer, #pageturner, #neighborhood, #neighbor from hell, #kimberly a bettes

The Good Neighbor

BOOK: The Good Neighbor
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The Good Neighbor

By Kimberly A. Bettes

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2011 Kimberly A. Bettes

 

 

 

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

 

This ebook is licensed for your personal
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of this author.

 

1 Owen

I didn’t believe Jenson was a serial killer,
hacking up the bodies and hauling them out of his house in black
trash bags. Though his behavior was odd, and there were a lot of
bags coming out of his house, and other residents of Hewitt Street
thought he was, I didn’t believe it.

As I watched the old man struggle with his
bags, I wondered why he just didn’t put them in a can at the curb
like the rest of the world. What was in his garbage that required
him to dispose of it wherever it was that he disposed of it? I had
no idea where that was. I never followed him to see where he went
once he loaded the heavy bags in his car.

The real puzzle was why he had two different
garbage bags that he disposed of in two different ways. He had
white trash bags, which he carried to the curb once a week and
placed in a curbside trashcan.

Then, there were the black bags.

I sat on my front porch watching him,
thinking maybe I should cross the street and help him. After all,
he was in his sixties or seventies, and I was still a youthful
thirty-five. It was the polite thing to do, and certainly the
neighborly thing to do.

“What’s he doing?” someone asked. I turned to
see Andy, the neighbor to my left, standing on his porch in his
robe.

“Him? What are you doing? It’s almost
noon.”

He tilted his red head down to look at his
robe, as if seeing it for the first time. “You don’t think I rock
this ensemble?” As he spoke, he put one foot on the porch railing,
placing his elbow on his bent knee.

“Well, I do now that I see your shoes.”

“Like ‘em? Jill got ‘em for me.”

“Nice. They complement your...uh,
carrots.”

“Don’t hate the bunny shoes. You’re jealous,
I can tell.”

I laughed, turning my attention back to the
trash bag-toting senior.

Andy, seeing where my attention went, asked,
“What do you suppose is in that bag?” he asked, starting a
conversation we’d had many times before.

“I don’t know, but it definitely looks
heavy.”

“Aren’t they always heavy?”

Changing the subject, I asked, “Why are you
still in your robe?” I didn’t take my eyes off the old man.

“I’m not still in my robe. I just got in my
robe.”

“Ah, must be on the night shift this week,” I
deduced.

“Yeah. I’ll be heading to bed soon. Just
wanted to come out and see what was happening out here. I heard the
moving truck.”

I turned my attention to the truck a few
driveways down the street, where two men were carrying furniture
into the house. Two children, a boy and a girl, were running around
the yard. Occasionally, a young woman – presumably their mother –
would step onto the porch and say something to them.

Andy said. “Think she’s the mom? Or maybe the
older sister? She’s hot.” His smile broadened.

“Yeah, she’s alright. But is she hotter than,
say, Jill?”

He lost his smile. “Of course not. My wife is
the hottest woman on the planet,” he said in a robotic voice, then
smiled.

“You’re crazy,” I said, laughing at him.

“I see Jenson finally got that bag in the
trunk,” Andy said.

When I looked across the street, I saw the
old man close the lid of the trunk. I could tell from the stiffness
in his gait that he was in pain and having some difficulty getting
around. It was probably from dragging around all those heavy bags.
And age, of course. I watched as he got in his car, backed out
slowly, and then drove away.

“Wonder where he goes,” Andy said, reading my
mind. “One of these days, we should follow him. See what he does
with those bags.” He saw the look I was giving him and added, “I’m
just curious.”

“I think the word you’re looking for is
nosy.”

“So you’ve never thought about it? You don’t
wanna know what he’s got goin’ on over there?”

“Yeah, but I’d never follow him. Some states
call that stalking. They even have laws against it.”

He laughed. “It isn’t stalking if you do it
once, and just see where he goes. No big deal.”

I didn’t respond. In my mind, it was still
stalking. It was still something that would make me feel guilty, as
though I was doing something wrong. Even if it was just once.

“Well, think about it. Maybe one of these
days, we’ll go sleuthing, see what’s up. But now, me and the
bunnies here are going to turn in for the afternoon.”

“Yeah, go get some sleep. You’re losing your
charm.”

“That’s impossible. And, Owen, try to keep it
down out here. I’m tired of telling you. You’re the loudest
neighbor on Hewitt Street.” He laughed, knowing that was the
farthest thing from the truth, and then went inside.

Andy was my best friend, and I was lucky he
lived next door. He and his wife Jill had taken great care of me
when my life fell apart last year. I still hadn’t picked up all the
pieces yet, but I was a lot closer than what I would’ve been if it
hadn’t been for them. They’re the only ones who knew how bad things
had been for me.

I reluctantly went inside the house. I
couldn’t sit on the porch all day, even though I spent as much time
on the porch as I could to avoid spending time alone in the house.
There were too many memories, all of them best forgotten, that
consumed me when I was inside the house. It just hurt too much to
be in there.

However, there were things to do.

Once I’d finished my chores and ran my
errands, I stopped off and grabbed some dinner. I wasn’t much of a
cook, so I ate a lot of take out. A couple times a week, Jill made
more than enough food just so she would have an excuse to feed me.
This wasn’t one of those nights.

I sat on the porch, my feet propped up on
what was supposed to be a table. It suited me better as a
footstool. I held my burger in one hand and scooped fries from a
bag on my lap with the other.

It was funny how I didn’t mind the silence of
being alone when I was outside. Inside, I wanted to scream.
Outside, I was fine. I knew the reason. I hated the reason. I
struggled every second of every day to not think about the
reason.

Inside reminded me of her. Inside is where
she lived and loved me. I had no memories of her out here on the
porch. But as soon as I walked through the door, I was engulfed
with her smell, the sound of her laughter – though it was only in
my mind, and everything she’d touched. Her things were still in the
house where she’d left them. Things she’d bought or gifts she’d
received. Everything was as it had been. Everywhere I looked, there
was a reminder. A reminder of what had been, what I’d had, and what
I’d lost.

At first, those reminders saved me. They
comforted me. They were all I had to hold onto. Now, they taunted
me. It was all I could do to let go. Holding on to the memories
wasn’t saving me anymore. It was killing me.

It wasn’t a lie or an exaggeration to say
Andy and Jill had taken great care of me. They were there from the
beginning. They stood by my side as I fell apart. Andy stayed with
me the first few days and nights. Jill kept me eating, even though
it was an absolute job to do so, for both of us. They made me keep
up my hygiene, even though there was no reason to. They made me get
out of bed and quit wallowing in my pity. If they hadn’t, I’d have
laid there, in the fetal position, and died.

But the one thing they couldn’t do was make
me quit missing her. She was everything to me. She always had been.
She was the only woman I’d ever loved and that had ever loved me.
And then she was gone, vanished from my life. The only evidence
that she’d ever even existed was the very things in my house that I
could no longer stand to look at.

Thinking of her now brought images to my
mind. I could see her dark hair, her brown eyes, and her warm smile
as if she were standing in front of me now. I could almost hear her
voice. As was always the case when I dared to let myself think of
her, I couldn’t help but wonder what I had done to make her want to
leave.

I had to force down the mouthful of
cheeseburger I’d been chewing. It just couldn’t seem to find its
way around the lump that had suddenly appeared in my throat. I knew
there’d be no way I could finish the meal now. Not with thoughts of
Holly on my mind. I’d lost my appetite.

I looked around for the dog that roamed the
neighborhood, planning to give him the remnants, but I didn’t see
him. I set the food on the table, also known as my footstool. I
leaned forward in the chair, putting my elbows on my knees, unsure
what to do now. I had a restless feeling. It was the same
restlessness that always came when I thought of Holly. And with
Andy working night shift, I had no one to take my mind off her.

I hated when Andy worked nights. It meant I
had to sit on the porch alone, until it was late enough to go to
bed without feeling guilty that I’d turned in too early. There had
been many nights where I’d given up and gone to bed before the sun
had set. I felt as though I’d wasted valuable, nonrefundable time
out of my life by doing so, but I was just unable to continue
dragging myself through the day. The loneliness, the emptiness, the
hollowness that had become my life was sometimes just too much to
bear. There were days when I didn’t want to get out of bed at all,
but I forced myself. I knew that the amount of time that had passed
since Holly had disappeared from my life was appropriate for me to
move on. But somehow, I still couldn’t manage to do so. Though
things had gotten a lot better for me, my wounds were still not
completely healed. There wasn’t an open wound now, but there wasn’t
a scar either. It was more of a scab. I was close to being healed,
but not quite there yet.

I sighed deeply and closed my eyes, listening
to the crickets chirp. The sound of a door closing snapped them
open.

“You still out here?” Andy asked as he came
out of his house.

“I’m not still out here. I’m out here again,”
I said, referring to what he’d said this morning about his
bathrobe.

“You need a hobby, my friend.”

“I see you’ve decided to shed the robe for a
night on the grind. I’m sure your co-workers will appreciate that.
Do they know how awesome you dress while at home?” I teased.

“They’ve heard stories.” Andy indicated the
house across the street from me when he said, “Quiet at Jenson’s
place tonight, huh?”

“I guess so.”

“Thought you were against all forms of
stalking,” he said, furrowing his brow with feigned suspicion and
folding his arms across his chest.

“Is it stalking when I never have to leave my
front porch?”

Andy laughed. “Guess not.”

Suddenly, the peaceful sound of a quiet night
was shattered. Andy’s head jerked abruptly and I shot out of my
chair as if my ass were on fire.

“Was that a scream?” he asked in a loud
whisper.

I could only nod. We ran off our porches
simultaneously, in search of the sound. Both of us stood on our
lawns, heads tilted, scanning the street, listening for another
sound. Finally it came.

Andy breathed a huge sigh of relief. “Damn,”
he said. “That scared the hell out of me.”

“Me too,” I said. My nerves were tingling.
The sudden rush of adrenaline had brought everything to life in me
that had been dormant for so long. My heart raced. I enjoyed the
feeling. It reminded me that I was alive. Something I’d seemed to
have forgotten. I couldn’t help but smile.

BOOK: The Good Neighbor
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