By Steve Hollyman
By the time they found the source of the drainage problems in his garden, there’d been no sign of Frank for eight days. It wasn’t a burst pipe like they had thought. It wasn’t stormwater running off from my side, either. A lot of jargon was said. Retentive soil, compacted earth, plow pan. I understood what they were getting at.
The mood changed. The birds went from chirpy companions to solemn observers, and the metallic confabulation of shovel, pickaxe, and heavy machinery gave way to the clicking of camera lens shutters and the rustling of crime scene tape. They’d made a right mess of Frank’s garden, and they’d made a right mess of mine, too. I asked one of the forensics officers to tell me who’d be responsible for putting it right. She didn’t reply. She inflated her cheeks and made a long, low, hissing noise like air escaping from a burst seal in a rubber mattress. She was looking behind me, over my shoulder, and I turned to see what she was staring at. White-suit rustle, a stretcher, a flapping tarpaulin. They were bringing it out.
They tracked Frank down to Amsterdam. Over the following weeks, it all came out and it all made perfect sense: the absent ex-wife alluded to, but never seen; the sudden influx of heavy spending (new cars, holidays, a second and third property); the refusal to cooperate when the drainage issues started.
The body, I later found out, wasn’t really a body at all. It was a torso. The head, the arms, the legs: they never found any of them, and believe me, they looked.
I could’ve told them if they’d asked me. The previous summer, I’d watched two men in blue overalls unload a chest freezer from the back of a delivery van. It was a big, bulky one, and they struggled to get it through Frank’s front door. Days later, I’d attended, along with the rest of the neighbors, the first of Frank’s numerous barbecues. Venison, he told us, that he’d shot himself that very week. I’d never tried venison before, and I loved its rich woodiness, its slightly sanguine bitterness, and tough yet satisfying texture.
It’s still the best meat I’ve ever tasted.