Things to do in Freehold

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Chapter Forty-three:

Joey Grace (Morning of September 11, 1983)

There I was, yet again, getting interrogated by the police for a crime I did not commit. I knew I should’ve begged Amy to stay with me. Maybe then. I wouldn’t appear as guilty if I had her by my side. She was good with people; people liked her. Me, on the other hand, not so much. However, I knew damn well how bad it would be if the word got about her sneaking around, in the middle of the night, with me, of all people right now. I could already hear the Stepford wives, whispering about her, at the PTA meetings. Therefore, I spared her the heartache and told Grecker that it was just me, in the shack, last night.

“Could one of you shine an extra light up here?” the repairman asked, attempting to fix the light fixture in the nearly pitch-black basement. Romano stepped up to the plate, while Grecker and I stayed off to the side, by the staircase.

“So what exactly were you doing down here, in the middle of the night?” Grecker questioned, shining his flashlight directly in my face. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say he didn’t like me very much. “You don’t even live around here.”

“No, but my mom does,” I replied. “Yeah, she lives in the next neighborhood over. She’s been a real help these last couple of days, comforting me and all.”

Despite my best efforts, Grecker still didn’t seem all that convinced of my story. “So why were you in this neighborhood then? On someone else’s property, for that matter?”

“Well, I’d always hang out in the upstairs shack, with my friends, after school. It’s actually where Liv and I had our first kiss, so I wanted to check it out, for old times’ sake. The place has been abandoned for years, Sheriff. I didn’t think I’d be trespassing.”

“That is true, Sir,” Ace defended. “It’s been in this neighborhood for generations. No one’s been in or out of it, besides a bunch of kids and teens.”

“Fair enough,” Grecker said. “I guess that only leaves one question then: what urged you to go down here, to the basement of death?”

“When I found that trap door, I guess I just wanted to do some exploring,” I told the both of them. “I didn’t expect to find any dead bodies and when I did, I ran so fast up those stairs and found myself the nearest phone. That’s when I called you guys.”

“I think we’re just about done here, fellas,” the repairman interrupted. “Sheriff, could you hit that switch for me?”

Grecker took his light off of me and walked over to the wall beside us to flip on the lights. When the rest of the room was finally revealed, it’d been even worse than I thought. There were around twenty bodies in total, give or take. Most were wrapped up in blood-stained sheets, except for a few of the more recent ones.

“Holy shit,” Ace uttered. He took the words right out of my mouth.

“Romano, get the coroner on the phone,” Grecker demanded. “Tell him we’re gonna need to make a few trips.”

“Right away, sir,” Ace responded. He fleeted up those stairs as fast as he possibly could and honestly, I couldn’t blame him.

Seeing as how I no longer had a reason to stay down there, I decided to go back up as well. It was upstairs, I could see a familiar face, outside, hassling Ace as he was trying to leave. Carrie Thompson had been Liv’s nextdoor neighbor for years and despite the two growing up so close to each other, they were never really close, themselves. In fact, Liv always found her rather annoying and invasive. Frankly, so did everyone else, including me. Although, I guess those two traits are what made her into the great reporter she is today, so good for her.

“Well, this is a small town isn’t it? Joey Grace, you are just the man I’ve been wanting to see,” she said, locking her eyes on me while I exited the shack.

Shit, here we go. “What do you want, Thompson?” I asked, already irritated. I would’ve much rather been questioned by the police again.

“It’s Moretti now, actually,” she corrected as she followed me, on my way to my car. “Douglas and I finally got hitched, back in April. Can you believe it?”

“Hardly,” I murmured. Douglas, you poor bastard. Telling from her stomach that looked as if it were about to burst at any moment, the two were also expecting. That’s probably what trapped him, to be honest. “How long is this going to take, Carrie? I have a kid to get back to.”

“Right, of course. How is that going, by the way? I mean, I suppose you’d have your hands pretty full, now that Liv’s out of the picture. It’s rather interesting, don’t you think?”

“What is?” Curious as to where she was going with this, I stopped walking and turned to see her, giving me a devilish smirk.

“Oh, you know, how a man, who most likely killed his own spouse a couple of days ago, just somehow managed to stumble a basement full of dead bodies. Not only that, but said basement is also right underneath his favorite hang-out spot from when he was in highschool. Is there something you wanna get off your chest, Joe?”

I scoffed, taking steps towards her. She hardly flinched when I leaned in close, just continued to flash that cocky smile of hers. “You know what, Carrie? Fuck you. You know damn well I didn’t kill Liv or any other of these people. You just want me as your next big headline you have nothing better to do than make my life as miserable and as pathetic as yours.”

Her happy expression quickly faded as Ace marched up behind her and signaled for her to come and talk to him, privately. “Do you know if your mom’s still around?” he asked. “Grecker would like her to confirm your reasoning for being here last night.”

“I think she may have already gone to work,” I fibbed. I saw Ma’s car, still parked, in her driveway while I was wandering around earlier, waiting for the police to show up. However, considering I hadn’t actually spoken to since yesterday afternoon, I decided it’d be best to keep that to myself. The last thing I wanted was for the cops to go over there and start questioning her about an event that never actually happened.

“Alright then. She’s still a waitress at that one diner, right?”

I nodded, not knowing if she really was or not.

Ace’s feet pivoted as if he were about to leave, but then he turned back to around to face me again. “By the way, for what it’s worth, I don’t think this was you,” he said, pointing back at the shack with his hitchhiker’s thumb. “I don’t think Grecker does either. You’re just the easiest one to pin it on, right now, because you’re the sorry son of a bitch who was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“Thanks, Ace. I appreciate hearing that, I think. And as for Liv?”

He bowed his head and fiddled with his belt loop. “We’ll see when the autopsy comes in,” he responded, lifting his chin up, but still avoiding making eye contact with me.

As he walked away, I sighed and turned to the same. Getting closer to the street, I could see Carrie, standing outside of her news van. She then noticed me through the bushes. As I got into my car and started the ignition, I could feel her still glaring at me.

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