A Young Readers' Mystery

By Rick Magers

Mickey McKettrick’s morning routine at his grandfather’s cabin in the mountains finally paid off. Kinda. It was the twelve-year-old boy’s first time there. It was actually the first time he’d been farther from Yonkers than his visits to his other grandparents in White Plains.

He was still excited after five days. He set his Simpsons alarm clock with the big yellow hand pointing straight up, and the small one at the number five. After shutting it off on the sixth morning he dressed, got his two peanut butter and jelly breakfast sandwiches, grabbed a Pepsi, and slipped out the rear door ready for adventure, or whatever came his way.

Mickey was only a short distance from the cabin when he spotted a faint light in the distance on the other side of the small lake. A moment later he heard the distinct report of a gun. It all happened before his second sandwich was gone. He picked up his pace as he downed the last bite and washed the gooey mess from his mouth with the last of the Pepsi.

His dress code was the same every morning: dark pants, dark shirt, dark socks, dark brown sneakers, dark stretch hat pulled down over his hair to his ears.

Mickey loved the re-runs of Columbo, which he watched whenever he could find them on TV. One of his favorites was when the detective was in the mountains on a case. He wore dark clothing to catch the bad guy, just like Mickey wore now.

By the time Mickey was near enough for the full moon to let him see, the old man dumped the body from his shoulder at the rear of a small log cabin the boy had noticed a few days earlier. Oh my God, Mickey thought, a killer.

He stood in the distance and watched as the man grabbed the body by the legs and dragged it down the steps into the basement. When the door closed and the light came on Mickey waited a half-hour trying to get his nerve up. His legs were shaking and he wanted badly to run for his grandfather's cabin. But his curiosity won. He slipped quietly from behind the tree and approached the window.

It was just above ground level so he had to get down on his hands and knees to hear what the man inside was saying. "I told you I’d get you if you kept coming around." A shiver ran down Mickey’s spine when he heard the killer laugh. "Ha-ha-ha-heh-heh, you ain’t gonna get a chance to try to fool me again, hee-hee-hee."

Mickey couldn’t see through the dirty little square glass panels until he very quietly wiped a spot. When he squinted and looked in he almost screamed. His lips were trembling so bad he had to squeeze them tight to keep his teeth from chattering. Oh no! He’s gonna grind up the evidence, he thought as he watched the grizzled old man cutting chunks from the body and putting them in a huge meat grinder standing near the wood bench he had the body on.

When the old man flipped the switch, Mickey watched as blood ran from the meat as it came out of the holes. He moved quietly away from the window and ran toward his grandfather’s cabin as hard as his legs had ever carried him. Running fast might also keep him from throwing up.

Once safely inside he thought a moment about waking his grandfather. Better not, he thought when he remembered how cranky he was when awakened before ten o’clock. He picked up the phone and dialed the police number written on the front of the little phone book.

Mickey met the patrol car when the two officers drove up ten minutes later. They listened to his story then looked at each other. "Would you be willing to go with us and show us where it is?" the older of the two asked.

"Sure." His heart was pounding so hard he was sure they would hear it.

"The light’s still on," he said and pointed as they walked toward the old cabin.

The older policeman said quietly, "Stay right here by this tree because this could get nasty, son." Mickey watched as the older guy motioned for the huge young policeman to go ahead.

Mickey held his breath as they both drew their pistols, then the big guy leaned way back and gave the basement door one kick. He rushed in with the older officer right behind him. He moved behind the tree as they brought the old man out in handcuffs.

The big guy held the old killer’s hands as they all returned to the patrol car. The policeman turned to Mickey and said, "Son, we’ve been trying to catch this old deer poacher for a long time. No tellin’ how many deer he killed and ground up out of season over the years. Your grandpa’s gonna be real proud of you."

The old killer turned toward Mickey in the near dawn light and said, "Nosy city brats."