He turned from the window and looked at me out of the side of his eye, flashing with delight, grin maniacal. Turning back, he peeped through the blind so the neighbours wouldn’t know they had a witness.
It’s skulduggery, just look! The old auntie, I saw her on Wednesday, giving that young man hell in the garden. Just giving him hell, pointing at all those prickly weeds and shaking her finger, her jowls flapping. You should have seen him, he’s got to be fifty with his hair thinning and his belly gone to pot, and he just stood there with head hung low like a naughty little boy. When she was done, he got behind her and rolled her wheelchair inside like it was just another day. Well I haven’t seen her since, they went in the house and I never saw her come out. Now there they are, digging a hole in the garden like there’s no tomorrow. Skulduggery!
I joined him at the window, peered at the goings on next door. His three middle-aged neighbours, a man and two women, all dressed in nice conservative clothes like it was a church day, had clustered around a corner of the garden. This was a wild, mature garden, the kind with enviable ancient roses growing up the sides of the house’s stone foundation, with flagstones sticking out here and there through its carpets of moss and grass. I lusted after gardens like this, ones that made my feeble attempts at cultivating my own suburban strip of sand and clay seem laughable. One of the women held a potted plant in her hands, and the other stood, hands on hips, gazing up into the maple tree. The man held a garden shovel, that infamous tool of skulduggery.
They’re planting a clematis, dad, I said.
Oh, they make it look that way, you see? I know these nefarious types. Just wait until it’s dark, then we’ll see what they really need that big hole for. His eyes gleamed, the gaps in his teeth crackling in anticipation. They’ll put the clematis in to cover up the hole. So it doesn’t look like anything’s changed, you see?
A house down the street, when they excavated to build an addition last summer, you know what they found? Bones. Human remains. Probably a hundred years old, they think, and nobody knows where they came from.
He rubbed his hands together, rifled through the clutter on his table and pulled out a newspaper clipping, brittle, slightly yellowed. He stuck it right under my nose, close, too close for my eyes to focus, and I shifted back a little just to see it right.
Just wait, one day they’re going to knock down that old house, and guess what they’ll find?