“This is a fourteen-year-old boy named Wendell,” Old Black Maggie said. “Does he look familiar to you?”
Gary hesitated and breathed deep through his nose. “He looks enough like me to be my twin.”
Old Black Maggie smiled. “You are a handsome lad.”
“Who is he?” Gary said.
“Wendell was,” Old Black Maggie sipped her cocoa, “he is my son, but he is no more; he’s dead.”
“I’m sorry,” Gary said.
“Wendell was my cousin,” Merlin said. “We were closer than brothers.”
“Thirty years ago a young rich boy took an unusual interest in Wendell,” Old Black Maggie said. “This interest was hidden from me.”
“And it was hidden from me,” Merlin added.
“The rich young man had just lost his parents in a mysterious fire,” Old Black Maggie said. “Everything was left to him. He could now live out his fantasies and perversions without fear of his parents finding out. He was now on his own, able to live a life free of work and responsibility for any of his actions.”
“It was always thought this rich young man was responsible for his parents’ death, but it could not be proved,” Merlin said.
“This rich young man is Beez?” Gary said.
“Yes,” Old Black Maggie said.
“What happened to your son?” Gary said.
A tear rolled down her cheek. Wendell reached over and clasp Old Black Maggie’s arm.
“He was found dead,” Old Black Maggie said.
“It could never be proved,” Merlin said, “but as sure as we are sitting here it was at the hands of Beez. He was found sexually assaulted, strangled to death, and laying in an alley doorway to a downtown bar thirty years ago.”
“I was next, wasn’t I?” Gary said.
“Yeah,” Merlin said. “I was looking all night for you.”
“Did you take a leak in an alley tonight?” Beez said.
“That was me,” Merlin said.
“I was under the car next to yours,” Gary said. “What would you have done if you found me?”
“Taken you home quietly,” Merlin said.
“How did you know about me and Beez and how did you know about tonight?” Gary said.
“Beez hangs out at the drugstore,” Old Black Maggie said. “That’s where he finds his boys now. The girl behind the counter is my great-niece, Rhonda, Merlin’s youngest girl.”
“We got her job there six months ago,” Merlin said.
“What about Pot?” Gary said.
“He got drunk and fell in the river,” Merlin said. “An accident and only a coincidence related to your situation.”
“But you spit in the water at him,” Gary said to Old Black Maggie.
“Ole Pot ‘as been around for years,” Old Black Maggie said. “He tried to get fresh me a few times. He just wanted a dry place to sleep and warm food in his belly. I spit his way to let him know what I think of him.”
“I thought it was a curse,” Gary said.
“So you were running and hiding from me all along because you thought I was a witch,” Old Black Maggie said. “Imagine that,” she chuckled.
“What about tonight?” Gary said.
“I’ll drive you a couple of blocks from your place and you get back in your house the same way you got out,” Merlin said. “And that will be the end of it. Can you keep this between the three of us?”
“Yeah,” Gary said. “If my mom and dad found out what I was up to I’d never see the light of day until my 18th birthday.”
“I would be kicked from the force,” Merlin said.
“And I’d stand trial,” Old Black Maggie said.
“There’s one other thing,” Gary said. “And I don’t know if any of you can help,” Gary told them about the episode with The Gravediggers.
Merlin chuckled about the episode. “Leave them up to me,” he said. “They are not so tough. I ran two of them in for stealing cigarettes two months ago. They cried like babies all the way home. I’ll tell them you’re my nephew.”
“That would make Old Black Maggie my great aunt,” Gary said.
“Yes,” Old Black Maggie said, “that would.”
“I think I’ll call you Aunt Maggie from now on,” Gary said.
“That would be sweet,” Old Black Maggie said.
Gary picked up the photo of Old Black Maggie’s son. “You know something, If your son lived and had a boy he’d probably look like me so do you mind if I call you Grandma Maggie.”
“That would be even sweeter.”