Billy Was A Strange Boy
The lady invited Billy to sit on a plastic covered couch. She sat in a clothe recliner. It was a neatly arranged home with many old mementos and family pictures.
“What did you say your name was?” She said.
“Billy Smith,” Billy said. “and yours.”
“Ruth,” she said. “My husband’s name is Cy. He’s resting right now.”
“Is your husband well?” Billy said.
“No,” Ruth said. “It was nice of you to ask.” She forced a smile. “But that’s not why you’re here.”
“No, Ruth,” Billy said. “I’m only here for what I stated.”
“There was a murder here,” Ruth said. “At least that’s what I call it and so did everybody else, but there was no proof of a murder.”
“Did it involve someone named Smith?” Billy asked.
“Yes,” Ruth said.
“What happened?” Billy said.
“You are the young man that lived there aren’t you?” Ruth said.
“I suppose I am,” Billy said.
“And you don’t remember?” Ruth said.
“No,” Billy said. “It seems I have blocked several tragedies from my mind. This happens to be one of them. I know that something terrible must have happened over there. If I know what happened it may help me find out who I really am.”
“You were a quiet young man,” Ruth said. “You mowed lawns and had a paper route. You were strange. I hope that doesn’t offend you.”
“No, ma’am,” Billy said, “at least I was something, even if strange.”
“Who were my parents?” Billy said.
“Their names were Howard and Marcel Smith,” Ruth said.
“Did you know them well?” Billy said.
“We socialized with them,” Ruth said.
“So they were friends?” Billy said.
“Yes,” Ruth said.
“Close friends?” Billy said.
“Sort of off and on,” Ruth said. “They were strange.”
“How do you mean that?” Billy said.
“Just as we were getting close they would suddenly pull away,” Ruth said.
“Why do you think that was?” Billy said.
“We had a girl your age,” Ruth smiled. “She was pretty and we always talked about how wonderful it would be if you two married when you grew up. It was all in fun, nothing serious. So I would tell things about…”
“Alicia,” Billy interrupted.
“Yes!” Ruth said. “You remember her.”
“The name popped into my thoughts,” Billy said. “That’s it. Do you have a photo of her at let’s say 14?”
“There was no 14 for Alicia,” Ruth said.
“What happened? Billy said
“I will not tell you,” Ruth said.
“Did I have anything to do with it,” Billy said fearfully.
“No, Billy,” Ruth said. “I will tell you this, you and your mother departed without a trace.”
“Do you know where my mother is?” Billy said. “Is she alive.”
“California is a big state, Billy,“ Ruth said. “People can get lost. There’s a Mobil home park in Vinton, lot 3.”
“How do you know where she lives?” Billy said. “My husband was an insurance investigator. He is very resourceful. A week before you and your mother disappeared she had a car accident. She was supposed to receive a settlement. She originally moved to Auburn, Sacramento, Yuba City and finally Vinton. After she reached Auburn she contacted the insurance company to have the check sent to her. She‘s been easy to follow from there.”
“I’m sorry for your loss of Alicia,” Billy said.
“Thank you, Billy,” Ruth said. “I’m so glad to see you. I often wondered about you.”
“Thank you, Ma’am,” Billy said.
“You best go now,” Ruth said. “She is in bad health, cigarettes. And by the way, her name is now, Liz Gentry.”
Billy smiled and stood. “Thank you, ma’am.” He slowly walked toward the door. He pondered and turned to Ruth. “How did Alicia die?”
“That’s for another time,” Ruth said. “Not right now.”
Billy smiled. Ruth held the door. Billy patted her hand that rested on the door knob. “How was I strange.”
“You had a secret,” Ruth said. “People who hold secrets are holding a heavy load. You always acted like you were holding something too heavy to carry, but too afraid to share.”