As I knew him, Montgomery Little was a frightened man. It wasn’t his demeanor that struck me as such, for that was perfectly calm, even placid. See, Montgomery Little was excessively peaceful, so serene I knew something had to be sour.
That’s a feeling I don’t often have, not weekly or anything of the sort. If I had to count now, I’d say I’ve met five people in my life that tasted really sour. Not one to leave well enough alone, I consistently ignored this fact for the first three of my encounters, and regretted it immensely.
Montgomery was the fourth, I suppose, and I wanted to know what was going on, you know, I’d read a lot of Freud and Descartes and such and I knew a thing or two about two things; people and gardening.
It might be suffice, you would think, to say that Mr. Little fell into the first of these categories, but you would be mistaken in your thinking. Montgomery was a talented gardener, taught me many of the things I know now about the art. His vegetables took prizes, his flowers took breath, and generally his botanical knowledge was unsurpassed by any in our astoundingly average place of residence.
It was his calmness, you see, and the gardening, it drove me a little mad. Yes, a touch batty, but I’m over it, I assure you, I quite think it’s alright now. We were working together in my garden, a service he provided, placidly, for free. It was a Tuesday, we always worked on Tuesdays. I was engaged in some pruning, dead-heading some roses, perhaps, and Montgomery was mixing fertilizer. He always said the key wasn’t just in the mixture of soils, but of the air mixed with the soils.
I thought this might mean something, you know. Like, metaphorically he’s saying that life, at least his, is a mixture of the extant and the absent, like he wasn’t all there, emotionally, or something. I read something about that.
He said that the key, too, to getting good compost was the microbial population of the decomposing matter, that keeping the blend of air and soil and vegetation regular was key to sustaining that population, and thusly key to producing healthy soil with which to further mix with air and grow things in.
It was from this seemingly innocent gardening advice that I knew, certainly, that Montgomery Little was an unrepentant murderer.
The facts, as you can see, were fairly obvious, I thought so, or, rather, I knew so.
I began faxing the things he was saying to the police station, not wanting to seem like a rat. They, surely, would infer what I had. Surely, there was some poor soul composting away, transforming into healthy eggplants. This madman, I thought, had to be stopped.
Soon, I received response to my Tuesday faxes. The nerve of those in our office of the law, I simply couldn’t comprehend. They had not at all understood the intent of my missives, they had entirely missed the obvious correlation latent in the mannerisms of my dearest neighbor Montgomery. Tragic, surely, surely, but not the end of my hope in the matter.
I started, then, to offer my help in Montgomery’s own garden, on Thursdays, so as to not spend too long a given duration with the madman. I kept my guard up, and my wits continually sharpened with eight regular hours of sleep, and an equal number of glasses of whole milk. It felt ravishing, the chase! Soon enough in his garden I would find the very evidence of my deductions.
I dug his compost, for free, and placidly, when I knew he wasn’t looking I would take strands I found in the soil to later analyze them, if they were found to be human hair, I thought, my search was homing in on the location, or previous location, of his prey. Alas, only fibrous roots were present in the compost pit he left in the open.
Thinking as rationally as I could in the fervor of detective work now consuming me, I told him that I was to be out of town that weekend, and asked if he would be willing to tend to my garden in the time I was gone.
Montgomery Little agreed, he would be there, he said, between 2:00PM and 5:00PM on Saturday. He asked me, as if such a sociopath could muster the will, to enjoy my Holiday.
The following day I made my preparations. I filled my car with excavation equipment and fresh clothes, and checked into the motel on Bullruck St.
The day had come, my fateful Saturday. I had three hours to examine thoroughly the woods immediately behind Montgomery Little’s sublime garden. It was cooler than normal, I gripped the trowel tight, the time was too slight to bring a full spade, hiding that would be a near impossibility.
The forest was dark, hidden, and full of dense packed needles, what all I needed was to find an area of different composition, disturbed soil, undergrowth unhindered by the acrid soil and low light, something fresh. I stepped lightly about here, not wishing to make my presence known to him later, as he would surely examine the scene of his crimes, he was a thorough man, Montgomery was.
I came, finally, upon a patch of young grass, growing strongly where it oughtn’t. The soil here must have been particularly airy. Perhaps the microbial population was splendorous. Whatever it was, the grass was different, and underneath was trapped some poor soul waiting for eternal peace.
Disturbing the grass, though, could be signing my own death wish. Dare I? Could I ably lay the sod back in its place at the base of the sordid arboreal tombstone? If I didn’t, could I forgive myself for leaving this poor corpse to haunt this wood?
I dug in, to peel back the grass from its roots. The trowel was no help now, it was just my hands in the earth, doing my kind of justice, bringing peace to the victims of the pacifier. Grave-digging, yes, but only in the best of ways.
The carpet of sod gave way, started lifting up from the rich soil underneath. It was awfully airy, I thought, and it smelled of the must of microbes, particularly populous microbes. It couldn’t be anyplace but here.
“Just what in the hell do you think you’re doing?”
Blast! I checked my watch, it was 5:15, I was too late, I’d been found out. I had, somehow, to escape without making my identity known to him. Never before had I so feared for my life.
Off I went, sprinting, running hard, breathing harder, pounding in my utterly inadequate shoes through the forest. I was free, for now. I would make my way back to the hotel and get a grip on my thoughts there. I would have to see him on Tuesday. Would he come if he knew it was I? Would I be next below the Western Red Cedars and Douglas Fir?
Tuesday rolled around, and so did Montgomery Little, as calm and serene and downright sickeningly mellow as ever. I thought he would be able to see the fear in my eyes, or smell it. I hear they can do that, sociopathic killers. They become attuned to human hormones to make up for their lack of conception of other’s emotion. I read it somewhere.
We made small talk, about the weather, and the geraniums, and the garter snakes this time of year, then, Mr. Montgomery Wallace Little had the most extraordinary thing to say;
“You know, just the other day I thought I saw something back in my stand of trees. I went on out to check what the matter was, and some mushroom hunter was poaching my crop! You know, it’s hard enough to grow those damn things for myself, but once any uppity collector finds out about them I’m liable to be robbed dry!”
“Oh?” I said, taken very much aback.
“Yeah!” He said, adding- “And that’s not all the end of it. There’s more growing back there, if you know what I mean.”
He winked at me, and I almost vomited.