Marty peeked over the fence again, then ducked down before Old Man Seeger saw him. "Nah, it's just watermelon juice," he reported. "I'm pretty sure."
"Nuh uh," Greg said from his position atop the slide. "It's blood 'cause he killed a guy. And then he cut the body up an' threw the parts in the creek. I saw 'im."
"You didn't see nothin', Greg Morrison," Terry replied scornfully. "You saw someone walkin' around by the creek, an' then you found somethin' that mighta been a guy's leg all rotted up but was prolly a dead raccoon."
"It was a leg," Greg said for about the tenth time. "I could see the little toe-bones."
"Because there for sure aren't any little bones in a raccoon," Terry concluded triumphantly. She was a year older than the rest of th em, and tolerated despite her know-it-all nature (and her status as Marty's big sister) primarily because she was the only one of them who could always think of something fun to do. It had been her idea to start using the old Catholic school playground, even though nobody else really did anymore. Brookhurst Elementary's playground was better, really, but since St. Clare's had closed two years back, its swings and slides went basically unused. Unless Old Man Seeger came over from next door and used them, that was.
Greg launched himself down the slide, then climbed back up its curving surface. "Nobody uses a knife that big just to eat watermelon," he argued. "So even if the stuff on his knife is just juice, Seeger's still a crazy killer. A completely crazy killer who stabs guys in their sleep." He sounded rather chipper about the matter.
Throughout all this Pat had been listening silently, idly tracking one sneakered foot through the dirt as he twisted back and forth on a swing. He laughed now, and the sound cut across the quiet spring evening. "Bet you ten dollars you can't go up to Ol' Man Seeg's and knock on the door," he said to Marty.
"No way!" Marty scrambled away from the fence separating the playground from Seeger's yard as if the old man himself might come leaping over at any second. "I don't think he's a murderer, but he's still all creepy."
Pat grinned. "Anyone?" He rooted around in his pocket for a few seconds, at last extracting a grimy ten-dollar bill. "Just go up to his door an' knock, an' if he answers, say somethin' to him." He wiggled the bill at them.
"I'll do it," Greg answered. He came down the slide again, walked over to Pat, and held out his hand. "I'll ask 'im if he's seen my dog."
Terry looked doubtful. "I don't think that's a good idea, Greg. I mean, he is creepy. And it's getting late."
"Yeah, Greg, it's almost dark," Pat added mockingly. "Ain't you scared?"
"No way!" Greg shouted, and snatched the money out of Pat's hand. "You wait right here, an' I'll prove it!"
None of them moved much as he stalked off the playground, headed for the house next door. When eventually Marty thought to peek over the fence to try to see what was going on, the house was still. Neither Greg nor Old Man Seeger was in evidence. They waited maybe half an hour more, and then Terry's watch beeped. "Eight o'clock," she announced softly. "Time for me an' Marty to go home."
"Yeah, me too," Pat replied. He glanced again toward the Seeger house. "I bet he just took my money an' ran," he added, with little conviction. "Sure. Just took it an' went right home."
"I hope so," Terry said.
Pat went on to his home, and Terry and Marty to theirs. Sometime after midnight, a dark figure dumped something by the creek, but no one was there to see it.