gravelly voice that made hair I hadn't grown yet stand up.     At first he was just some vagrant who had taken up residence in our garage, scaring me half to death when he spoke from the shadows where he was lying on a ratty, soiled blanket, wearing his dark military jacket and his red hunting cap. “I seen him do it,” he told me before the sound of my own screaming drowned out his voice.
    I had run back into the house and straight to my room. By the time my father pushed back the heavy folding garage doors on their rusting tracks, he was gone, of course. I watched the end of the drama play out from my bedroom window, not certain what would happen next, as frightened for my father as I had been for myself, wondering why he didn't call the police instead of going cautiously into that garage with a length of pipe.
    I had heard my father's voice on the stairs around the corner from the kitchen when he returned full of bravado and reassurance.
    “The boy does have a vivid imagination.”



     “You heard the scream,” my mother said.
   “Yes, you're right. It might have been a vagrant. Anyway, he's gone, if he ever existed.”
    Oh, he existed all right. No one bothered trying to deny that after the letter arrived two days later, postmarked Covington, Kentucky, across the river. I looked at the envelope and wondered why some kid was writing to my father. It was thick with only the single, folded page that my father pulled from it.
    The curse he uttered was the first and last profanity ever to cross his lips in my presence. His hand tightened on the paper, and he crumpled it when my mother reached out for it. Her face was ashen with worry over the effect this unexpected stress was having on his irregular heartbeat, there being no way of knowing that his crippled pump would not let him down for another forty-six years.
    Adults were entitled to many secrets back then. Their world  was a  place  where  children were merely special


Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine


March 1995