Note from the author: The following is our fourth entry into the world of serial storytelling. Please join us each Saturday as a new chapter is released.
Okay, I will admit one thing: The Haunt wasn’t entirely bad, at least not for business. Sure, the town fell into chaos with streets empty and eerie after sundown and men pacing front porches, armed and alert. But the newspapers were selling like hotcakes. That was our silver lining.
Or my silver lining, at least.
The newspaper was a one-person job and I was that person. I called myself the editor-in-chief, especially when talking to my mother. But, in reality, I did everything, from writing the stories to fixing the leaky faucet in the bathroom. I was the editor-in-chief and the secretary and the gopher, filling the highest and lowest rungs on the corporate ladder.
A small town like Foxfield didn’t need a glamorous paper – one person really was more than enough. Everyone always complained that nothing exciting ever happened here and, before the murders, that was true.
In fact, in the year prior to the killings, the headlines weren’t exactly page-turners. Here are few of the top ones:
Hat Stuck in Tree
Mrs. Johnson Looking for Missing Parakeet
Oranges Especially Juicy this Year
School Board Meeting Runs Out of Cookies, Hunger Ensues
Weather Alert: 1/2 Inch of Snow Predicted!
Bear Spotted in Wilsonville
Wilsonville was 30 miles down the road, but sometimes I spiced things up by stealing news from adjacent jurisdictions. It was better than a headline that read: Nothing to Report Today or This Just in: Foxfield is Boring, Citizens left Snoring.
So, you can probably see how murder increased my sales. After the first killing, my profits quadrupled overnight and it just got better from there.
Of course, I milked it; that’s what the media does, right? I wrote detailed profiles on each victim, starting with the first one: Chester Goodwin.
Foxfield wasn’t home to many celebrities, or any for that matter, but Chester came closest to the glitz and stardom of Hollywood. A used car salesman who’d been in business for nearly thirty years, he was famous in his own right: Everyone knew him from his late night commercials, dripping with cheese and controversy. We’d point when we saw him out and about, sometimes even yelling his name or asking for his autograph. He once signed a napkin for me at Applebee’s. I threw it in the trash on the way out; I’m not sure why I even asked for it in the first place.
Chester was well known, but not all that well liked; his habit of selling lemons to his customers didn’t help his personal appeal. For every person asking for his autograph, there were three more yelling in the background about their raw deals. Once, Edna Constapalas even threw a glass of ice water in his face as he ate lunch outside Sully’s Sandwiches. He didn’t say a word – he just patted off his checkered jacket and took another bite of his BLT.
“I hope you choke on it,” Edna said and Chester just nodded and smiled, as if she was complimenting his new haircut or the shine of his shoes.
Still, there was more to Chester than met the eye……or so I learned. For one thing, he was a champion ping-pong player in his youth with the trophies lined up along his living room bookcase, prominently displayed where guests could see them – where guests would ask about them.
He also collected Precious Moments, which he did not display so prominently. They sat in a glass case in the corner of his bedroom, backlit, dust-free, and arranged in order of applied value: The ones he loved most made the top row.
He was once a great poker player too, dominating the underground games that filled basements on Saturday nights in the early 80s. Eventually, everyone figured out that he was usually bluffing and that turned him from an exceptional player to a mediocre one.
Chester never married, though it was rumored that he had several children he didn’t know about. Back in school, we took turns, wondering out loud if we were one of them.