Billy and Buck had been best friends since the day got into a knock-down-drag-out fight to claim ownership of the cubby at the far-east corner of Miss Pendleton’s kindergarten classroom.
Both boys were born in March of 1984, with only thirteen days in between their respective introductions to the world. Now ten years old, the boys had spent every day of the last five years together (with the exception of the two weeks Buck went down south to visit his grandparents each year).
This summer of 1994 was the first Buck hadn’t gone south; Grandma was getting a hip replacement.
It had been a week since Buck and Billy watched the fireworks over Brewster Park from Billy’s rooftop. Summer was nearly half over.
Over the past couple of weeks, the boys had been engaging in rousing games of prank phone-calling. It started innocently enough. Billy told a few people to go catch their running refrigerators. Buck surveyed a few neighbors on whether or not they shared their residence with a man named Seymour Butts.
Two nights ago, Billy got an idea to pinpoint Lawrence Kelly in the white pages and tease him with an unprovoked threat.
“I saw you Lawrence. I know what you did. And if you want your secret to stay a secret, you will put twenty bucks in a yellow envelope and leave it in the trash can down at the corner of Higley and Halstead. You have until four PM.”
It turned out Lawrence Kelly did have a secret, and his guilty conscience treated Billy and Buck to a burger and Slurpee apiece.
Phillip Welling and Alicia McCaffrey were hiding something too.
And Billy and Buck were taking in movies and sharing pizzas.
Brenda Fitzgerald wasn’t hiding anything; she wasn’t donating either.
Tonight: Allistair Guillory.
“I saw you Allistair. I know what you did. And if you want your secret to stay a secret, you will put twenty bucks in a yellow envelope and leave it in the trash can down at the corner of Higley and Halstead. You have until seven PM.”
On their way out the door, Buck and Billy were commissioned by Billy’s mother to help clean up some leaves in the yard so that she could plant her garden the next day. This detour of interest assured that Billy and Buck would not get to their usual spot in the bushes in time to snicker to each other while they watched Allistair Guillory leave his offering.
When they finally reached the trash can at the corner of Higley and Halstead, Billy reached in with glee and pulled out a yellow envelope that was now brown. Wet and warm. It was fatter than normal.
Billy opened the flap and went sick at the sight of what was inside.
A heart. Human? That of a dog or a cat?
Billy and Buck fled the scene in such a hurry, Buck’s red Angels cap flew off his head and onto ground next to that trash can at the corner of Higley and Halstead.
The boys returned to Billy’s and combed the pages for Allistair Guillory’s listing. They knew they had to go to the police.
Billy’s phone rang. He answered without thinking.
“I saw you Billy. And you know what I did. I suggest you keep a secret unless you want to end up in that trash can at Higley and Halstead. Piece. By. Piece.”
Billy knew the voice was that of Allistair Guillory.
The thought of going to the police had run cold upon receipt of Allistair’s threat.
Buck went home around nine PM. When he stepped onto his driveway, his stomach fell as his eyes locked with something on the front porch.
His red Angels cap.
There was a note next to it.
“I saw you, too, Buck.”