March 13th, 1969
The very next morning I spoke of it again.
“Hmm,” he mumbled from behind the morning paper.
“If I can raise the other two thousand dollars in time, will you buy that piece of land?”
“What?” he asked lowering the top half of the Sedgefield Oracle.
“You heard me.”
“Yeah, sure. You do that and I’ll buy it.”
“Yep,” he said flicking the paper upright again. “Promise.”
Now of course he had said this in a most cynical tone. After all, how could a nine-year-old find the same amount of money in a couple of weeks that it had taken him probably years to accumulate? But, he had made a promise and one never breaks a promise to a child.
I had smiled at the paper. Not at my father hidden behind it, but at the headline that would secure me the money I needed.
The main headline read:
Willow Creek Killer Strikes Again!!!
Child found murdered. The body of 8-year-old James Norton, who went missing last Wednesday, has been found in a shallow grave in the woods near Willow Creek. Evidence indicates that he was molested before being strangled with a thin wire cord.
The Norton child is now the third to have been abducted in the past two years. The disappearances of Jenny Buchannan and Andrew Francis still remain a mystery, but police are certain that all three have been the victims of a single deranged serial killer. Detective Inspector Tallis has cordoned off the area and called in a team of special dog squads to scour the rest of the woods. So far the search has proved unfruitful.
For twenty five years their searches and detective work proved unfruitful. Although several more children went missing, not another body was found. That is, not until Joaq Du Maille passed away from a serious stroke and they found evidence of his dastardly deeds.
They found his wine cellar curiously soundproofed with special padding and there were bizarre chains and manacles attached to the walls. But it was not until, under police supervision, a locksmith was brought in to open the large safe that was bolted to the floor in his bedroom closet, that the true nature of the man was revealed.
The family were hoping to find a copy of his last will and testament; instead they found the writings of a perverted killer; the declarations of a depraved maniac who believed he could find some form of redemption by confessing his sins in a diary covered in pink embroidery.
Shortly thereafter, the remains of four children were discovered, buried beneath the soil in his fancy French-design greenhouse. Records showed that the hothouse was built soon after the discovery of little James Norton’s body. Joaq had obviously considered it safer and more practical to conduct business from home.
Like Jimmy Hoffa, the bodies of the first two children were never found!
Du Maille had been a reasonably wealthy and prominent artist in the area. A genteel vegetarian who practically radiated kindness and moderation. An excellent painter and admirable gardener. Of course, no one would ever guess the nature of the special fertilizer that he used to grow his award winning squashes and marrows.
“Who would have guessed?” The people all said.
‘It’s always the quiet ones,’ became a popular expression soon after that.
Joaq Du Maille, a name that would be remembered long after his death; and yet, it had all somehow slipped my mind. Forgotten until this morning’s headlines jogged it into crystal clear clarity.
My parents had always used the disappearances as a warning to me not to talk to strangers or travel alone through Willow Creek Wood and other secluded areas.
Memory of the fear I had once felt, as they sternly cautioned me in this regard, came flooding back.
Joaq Du Maille had filled the nightmares of many of the youngsters of my day. He had also fulfilled the fears of an unfortunate few. But, now that I have the knowledge, I have the power; the power to make him feel the terror that he had once caused others. And that terror could easily wield…say…two thousand dollars…easy.