Check out Chapter One, here
‘Guy’s Art’s Pristle’s Missing’
The Afton Road General Store was a fairly typical general store in that it had a porch, a squeaky screen door and all manner of supplies. The owners, Mr. And Mrs. Abercrombie Dunsford, were nice, gentle folk; well liked by the community. The Afton Road General Store had, like all general stores generally do, all kinds of regulars who hung around all day, playing checkers, shooting the breeze, spitting tobacco, and minding everybody’s business. The Afton Road regular regulars were Guy Maddox and Art Schprengel. On this particular day, however, Art Schprengel was not in the store, and, therefore, Guy had to play checkers by himself, guessing as to what moves Art would have made, if Art had been there. Guy was up three games to two, and about to win his fourth, when Yune Mune came into the General Store for his weekly pickup of supplies.
“Well, well, well,” said Guy, noticing the petite foreign man. “If it isn’t Yooooooon. How ya doin’, ya yellow fornicator!” Almost everybody in the area teased Yune mercilessly, either about his ethnicity, or his supposititously nefarious dalliance, or both. But Yune always seemed not to notice, and simply smiled politely, and went about his business, or, rather, Doctor Lucille Dewar’s business, with the dignity and grace his upbringing gave him.
“I’m well, thank you, Mr. Maddox,” said Yune, bowing deeply. “Where, may I ask, is your check mate, Mr. Schprengel? It is strange to see such Siamese twins as you and he separated.”
“No, you mayn’t ask!” snorted Guy, returning his focus to the game of checkers. “And who you calling Siamese? You’re the dumb foreigner, remember?” Guy hopped his red checker over two of the blacks, and swiped them off the board, laughing at Art’s careless move.
Yune bowed again. “Very good day to you, sir.” He then turned his attention to Mrs. Abercrombie Dunsford, who was standing behind the counter. “Good morning, Sarah,” he said, smiling broadly. “Is the order ready?” Yune was one of the few men who called her by her first name, and she liked him for that. Even Abe called her ‘the missus’ or some other such objectifying phrase with ‘the’ in front of it. But Yune was nice to her, and he had class and odd good looks. And she was willing to overlook his seedy reputation, even if it sometimes caused her to imagine him doing and saying unseemly things to her in the stock room when Abercrombie was away fishing or drinking with the men.
“Hello, Yune. It’s right here. I packed everything myself. I’m afraid, however,” said Sarah, as she lifted two boxes of groceries and sundries onto the counter, “that I wasn’t able to find that item on your list. Ginsing, or however you pronounce it. But, my cousin Myrtle is coming down from Toronto in two days and I phoned her and she’s gonna look for some and bring it. I’ll drop it up to you if she gets some. Ginsing? It’s a root, is it?”
“Yes. Gin Seng. For medicinal purposes. But, please, do not deliver. That is not necessary.”
“Gin Sing? I bet it’s a medicine,” yelled Guy. “My father took a medicine called whiskey-shine every night and beat the living tar out of all of us. I bet you had a stomach full of that medicine the night you grabbed that lawyer’s wife and went for an egg roll in the hay!” Guy Maddox laughed loudly at his joke, then went back to playing checkers.
“Don’t mind Guy, there,” said Sarah. “When his Art’s not around, he feels it’s his duty to be twice as cranky and mean to people coming in.”
“Where is his Art?” asked Yune.
“Didn’t you hear?” whispered Sarah, putting the final box marked Copper Acropolis on the counter and then leaning over it, in spite of the fact that such an uncompromising position might put her in jeopardy, by exposing the upper parts of her bosom, considering who she was talking to. She leaned over a little further and whispered. “Art’s daughter, Pristle, didn’t come home since Wednesday.”
“The little tramp’s probably just shacked up somewhere with that horny teacher,” yelled Guy.
Sarah ignored Guy’s comment and continued the whispering. “Three days. Art’s over at his house, hoping to hear some news. Constable Mauberly says he might be on to something.”
“No, I did not hear such horrific news,” said Yune. “That is such a shame. She was not that old a girl.”
Sarah shook her head. “Sixteen, and there’s no need to be talking in past tense. She’s not been found dead. Not yet. None of them have.” Mrs. Dunsford shook her head. “Imagine, now four teenage girls from this area have gone missing, all in the last year. I dare say all our girls have disappeared before our eyes”.
“Well, I guarantee those bastards’ll never get my Josie,” snarled Guy. “She’s practically the only girl that age left around the Afton Road, and I’m making sure she stays that way. And if they ever do lay their mitts on her, I’ll catch them and I’ll rip their flippin’ eyes out and then stuff them in their chests so they can see from the inside my knife cuttin’ out their hearts.”
“That’s right,” said Mrs. Abercrombie Dunsford, ignoring Guy’s graphic images, “you’re sending your Josie off to the mainland until this horror stops, aren’t you, Guy? That’s a smart move, considering.”
“Damn straight it’s smart. I can’t be too safe when it comes to Josie, my little sweetie pie. All the young men in the area’ll be after her once this is all through and the kidnappers get caught. She’ll be able to have the pick of the litterbugs. But until then she’s going to her Aunt Rachel’s. She’s leaving tonight on the 5:15 train.”
Mrs. Dunsford sighed and shook her head. “Well, it’s just awful that such drastic measures like that need to be done. I just hope they catch whoever’s doing this so we can all get back to our normal lives.”
Yune signed the receipt for the goods. “Do not worry, Sarah. I am sure those girls will come back in better shape than when they left. The police will figure it out and everything will be pieced together. They are not dummies.”
Just then, young Cecil McNeill burst in through the squeaky screen door of the general store.
“Heaven’s alive, Cecil,” screamed Mrs. Dunsford, “what’s all the hubbub and stir for you to be running in here like that?”
“That cheap father of his finally gave him a nickel’s allowance and he’s come here to spend it on licorice,” said Guy Maddox, laughing.
“They just found them,” panted Cecil, between breaths.
“Found who?” asked Guy, looking up from the checker board.
“All of them,” replied Cecil. “The girls. All of them.”
“My God!” screamed Mrs. Dunsford. “Where?”
Cecil bent over and put his hands on his knees, trying to get enough air.
“Where?” asked Guy, now standing up behind the checker board.
“Way down the road—by a shack, in Fullerton’s Marsh,” said Cecil. “Can I have a Coca Cola, Mrs. Dunsford? I ran all the way from Art Schprengel’s house. They left clues all along the road that led Constable Mauberly right to the marsh.”
“By Fullerton’s Marsh?” asked Guy. “What were they doing down there, by Fullerton’s Marsh?”
“No,” said Cecil, heading to the ice machine, “in Fullerton’s Marsh. They were found next to an old abandoned smelt shack in the marsh. They’re dead.”
“The police found all of them?” asked Yune Mune.
Young Cecil McNeill gulped up some more air and then breathed it out. “Pieces of all of them,” he said. “Constable Maubery said Pristle Schprengel’s heart’s been ripped clear out of her chest! And there ain’t no sign of it, neither.”
“Sweet Jesus,” said Guy, sitting back down in his chair. Then all at once, he jumped up, knocking over the checker board. “Where’s my Josie?” he cried, and ran out the door.
Mrs. Dunsford crossed herself and closed her eyes. “Those poor girls. They’ll live on in our memories.”
Yune Mune nodded his silent agreement.
Up next – Chapter Three!
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