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He turned to the older woman next to him who wore a red Trail Blazers stocking cap. She was tall and bent with age, but animation filled her narrow face as she scanned the street. She yapped on her cell phone, gushing in amazement that a murder had happened across the street.

“Did you know the deceased?” He liked the word deceased. It sounded professional. According to the phony badge clipped to his coat, he was Jeff Thomas and worked for the Portland Tribune weekly newspaper. He gave her a warm smile.

She frowned at his question, annoyed at the interruption, but she glanced at his credentials, his ready pen and notepad. Her eyes grew greedy and she thawed under his interested gaze.

“Gotta go, Shirl. The press wants to talk to me.” She slipped the phone in the pocket of the velvet bathrobe she wore beneath her bulky ski jacket and gave him her full attention.

“Did you know Richard Buck?” He repeated the question and watched the woman’s eyes sparkle with the need to gossip. What a nice guy. Someone should give him a medal for making the senior’s day.

“Of course I did. I’ve lived across the street from him for years.” She pointed at her mini-mansion with the seven birdbaths spotting the front yard. He blinked as he noticed each one had the snow cleaned out and had been filled with fresh water. How’d she keep the water from freezing? Brightly colored bird feeders dangled from every branch of her birch trees.

She noticed his stare. “Someone’s gotta feed the birds when it snows. They don’t all fly south for the winter, you know,” she said sharply.

He doubted she took the feeders down in the summer.

Her ritzy neighbors must love her. The homeowners’ association apparently forgot to add a clause about bird feeders and bad taste.

He turned back to her and showed his perfect teeth. “That’s very kind of you. Did you hear or see anything unusual in the last twelve hours?”

“Twelve hours ago? Is that when it happened?”

He caught his breath at the slip. “I overheard a cop mention the time frame.” He shrugged a shoulder. “I don’t know how accurate it is.” Yes, he did.

“Nope, didn’t hear a thing. Did see the UPS man ring the bell early this morning. He dropped off that package and left.” She pointed across the street at the cops swarming the mansion. The UPS box still sat near the door. Nearby, two detectives were having a heated discussion, gesturing at the box, their faces tense.

He remembered hearing the doorbell ring. It’d startled him for the briefest moment. He’d peeked through the upstairs blinds and seen the familiar brown truck, its driver jogging back to his vehicle in the icy cold. He’d finished his work and slipped out of the house minutes later.

His source kept talking. “Buck worked on some big cases over the years. He defended that serial killer down in Corvallis. You know, the one who killed all those college girls. He did a good job in that one. Got that murdering ass dumped in prison.” She cackled.

He took a second look at the two arguing detectives and recognized them from the previous body discoveries. He made a mental note to get their names and send them a gift for all their hard work. That’s what a good citizen would do. The police were vastly underappreciated.

“They say Buck’s legs were broken. Just like that old cop the other day and the other murdered lawyer from that same serial killer case.” She leaned close and whispered, eyes darting about to check for eavesdroppers. “Somebody’s taking revenge for putting that killer in prison.” She nodded emphatically.

“Yes, that’s what I’m starting to think too.” How had the broken legs information spread so fast? As far as he could tell, the police weren’t divulging a word about the body to the crowd on the street, but gory details had a way of jumping from mouth to ear.

His chest puffed out and he straightened his back. This was perfect. Exactly what he’d planned. The public was getting sucked in and the police were clueless. He wondered when the fishing supplies would become part of the public’s knowledge.

Hard to kill someone with a fishing rod, but he liked to use something close to the victim, something that reflected their livelihood or favorite hobby. He’d done the best he could with the rod and tried to be creative with the fishhooks. Earlier he’d seen three green-faced cops stumble out the front door and heave in the bushes, so he figured he’d done pretty well. He eyed the detectives on the porch who were still gesturing at the box. They probably thought it was a bomb.

Hmmm. He hadn’t fiddled with packaged explosives in a long time. At one time he’d been fascinated with them. Mix a few things together, package it just right, and KABOOM. What a rush. Stumps, mailboxes, and even a couple of cats had been victims of his exploding experiments. As he remembered his last explosives victim, his gut churned woozily.

It had been that teenage bitch’s fault. The one who’d laughed in his face in high school when he’d offered to help her with a science project. He’d known she was failing the course and thought she’d be grateful for help from the class genius. How wrong he’d been. She’d recoiled from him like she feared catching his nerdiness. Then she’d laughed at him. And told her friends, who laughed. High school sluts. They always were strutting around, flashing hints of their bras and panties through their clothing, and then they’d snub and scorn anyone caught by their trampy lures.

He’d planted the explosive on her front porch. It’d been a work of art. He’d been so proud of it and he’d spent hours meticulously putting it together. The goal had been to pay her back for the laughter, scare her a little, that’s all. He hadn’t known the house would catch fire and her baby sister would die. The slut never came back to school. The rumors said her parents had moved as far away as possible from the memories. Kids at school had whispered behind their hands and given him a wide berth for months afterward. Some had known he experimented with explosives. All knew she’d humiliated him.