My brother Pete
disappeared twenty years ago on Halloween night. I thought I knew right where
he was–hiding in our bedroom, waiting to scare me in his little Dracula
costume. But when I kicked open the door to scare him first, he was gone. The
only clue was a sheet of his math homework, torn out of his notebook and left
on my bed, propped up on the pillow.
The police believed Pete had been kidnapped, and that he’d
left his homework as a clue to his abductor’s identity. Naturally, they zeroed
in on his math teacher. There wasn’t any real proof, but everyone was convinced
he was guilty. The poor guy eventually left town, taking all his supposed knowledge
of the whereabouts of Pete’s body with him.
But I knew my brother. The kid was constantly forgetting
things, tripping over nothing, getting locked out of the house. He just wasn’t
quick-witted enough to leave a clue like that.
Maybe it bugged me that everyone blamed the math teacher, or
maybe I just got hooked on the excitement–whatever it was, I grew up and
became a cop.
This Halloween, we got some reports about trespassers at the
old Boys’ Home, an abandoned building in the woods behind the school. I headed
over there to make sure local kids weren’t getting into anything they shouldn’t
I’d walked the perimeter a few times, and was about to leave
when I noticed a hole in the fence, overgrown with weeds, and hidden behind a
huge oak tree. I climbed through and found an entrance to the building that
opened into a long hallway with a row of doors on the left and windows on the
right. The first door hung from its hinges. The second door was locked. I
kicked it open. It was a closet.
Inside, curled up in the corner, was a small skeleton in a
vampire costume. I knew immediately what had happened. Pete had been waiting
there to scare me. He just hadn’t expected the door to lock. Next to him was a
notebook, with a page torn out. On the page after that, there was a note:
me at the Boys’ Home for a SURPRISE! Hole in the fence behind the biggest tree,
go in, and it’s the 2nd door on the left!
I’d been wrong about
my brother. He had been clever enough to leave a clue. He’d just ripped out the