Eva had not exactly been expecting the police to show up at her door with a warrant, but she was not completely surprised, either.
“Miss Bauer. I have a warrant here to search your house for Donald Olson, or the body thereof.”
“He’s not here, in this life or the next, but you’re welcome to search. Come on in.” Eva stepped out of the way. She’d had time to clean up anything she didn’t really want the police seeing since her last encounter, two days past, with Officer Halligan and her cronies. “Watch your step; I heard one of the cats having a hairball but I haven’t found it yet.”
The officer stepped in with exaggerated care. She’d come to the front door, of course. It was a good thing Eva had cleaned all of Aunt Asta’s detritus from the front foyer last week. The front room and foyer still had a sort of prissy, maiden-Aunt sort of feel, but that was in keeping with at least one of the reputations of this house. “How long have you been living here, Miss Bauer?”
“Four months, Officer. Can I get you some tea while your team searches? And may I read the warrant?”
“No tea, thank you.” Officer Halligan passed over the warrant like she thought Eva might have cooties. Of course, if she really thought Eva was a murderer (or kidnapper, or both), that made some sense.
Eva scanned the warrant. “All right. And I see you have a cadaver dog. Do they sense mice? Because there’s been an unpleasant smell coming from one of the upstairs bedrooms all week.”
“You seem to think this is a joke, Miss Bauer.”
“No, ma’am. But I think that the idea that I might have hurt Donnie Olson is a joke. He’s a good kid. He mowed my grandmother’s lawn all last summer.”
“And now he is missing, and the concern is that he’s dead.”
“His father reported him missing?” She moved into the living room with the detective as the crime techs – and their dog – moved towards the stairs to the second floor. “Since his mother left three years ago and he doesn’t go to school regularly enough for them to make any assumptions – I have teenaged nieces and nephews, Officer, and they come here sometimes because their parents know I’m safe but I’m, well, not their parent. So I’ve heard all the gossip, and some of that involves Donnie.”
“And he mowed your grandmother’s lawn.” The officer raised her eyebrows. “You’d think with all those nieces and nephews….”
“We also have a lot of grandmothers, great-grandmothers, aunts, great-aunts, and the like. There’s more than enough lawn mowing to go around. Oh! That’s where she went.” A ginger cat streaked down the stairs and skidded under the couch. “I don’t think she likes your dog.”
“What about your lawn, Miss Bauer?”
“Mostly my nephew Stone, although sometimes his sisters Beryl or Chalce. Depends on who needs the spending money more. That was, of course, when my Aunt Asta owned the house. Since I only moved in four months ago…” She gestured at the snow outside. “There hasn’t been much call for lawn-mowing lately.”
The officer cleared her throat. “When I spoke to you last time about Donald, you told me that you hadn’t seen him, but you asked me who was asking.”
“I told you that the last time I’d seen him was a week past, then, and I asked if his father was the one who had reported him missing,” Eva corrected. “Are you in the habit of dragging abused children back to their abusers, Officer?”
“There was no evidence of abuse, no reports….” The officer glared at her. “What proof do you have?”
“And if I did have photos of a young man with his shirt off, you’d claim something else, woudlnt’ you?” Eva was finding herself growing sharp. “No. I don’t have proof. I’m just not all that surprised that he ran away and I’m not going to go out of my way to help you drag him back. But we don’t lie to the police in our family.”
They would keep things from the police, they would tell half of the truth, they would use a little bit of magic to make the police go away — but they wouldn’t lie.
“You know it’s not your job to decide who’s being abused,” the officer tried now, taking the ‘talking to a nosy neighbor’ tone that Eva had been waiting for.
“And why not? It’s the teacher’s job if it’s not the parents’, the doctor’s if not the teachers’, but when none of them are speaking up, why not his community? That’s what we are,” she added, before Officer  could say otherwise. “We shop at the same stores, his grandmother went to my church, and he goes to school with my kids. We’re his community, and yes, we should say something.”
Her very reasonable argument was derailed by the cadaver dog starting up a mad barking in the basement. When had they gone down there? What had they—
Officer  grabbed her arm. “Let’s go see, why don’t we?”
The basement of the Aunt house was a dirt floor. They didn’t keep much down there, just canning, which didn’t mind the damp too much.
And, from the looks of the techs carefully brushing dirt away, they kept bodies down there.
The tech looked between Officer  and Eva. “It’s been down here at least three years. My guess is longer than that, but we’ll need the ME to be sure.”
Three years… “Aunt Asta,” Eva whispered. “No way.” But it had to be, didn’t it? Three years, even twenty years, and it wouldn’t have been anyone but Asta in the house. “Officer,” she offered carefully, “I did not own this house three years ago. The woman who did is dead now, buried in the family cemetery. I — I really don’t think of her as the sort to bury people in her basement, but I could be wrong. ”
The cadaver dog was whining at another part of the basement. Officer  was looking at her strangely.
“But if you and your techs want to dig up the whole basement, please feel free. If this isn’t the only body, I’d rather know than live with them under my floor any longer.”
“You seem… surprised and yet not surprised. I don’t think you did this,” the officer continued, “but on the other hand, you’re not all that shocked that there are bodies in your basement.”
“Some of my ancestors had a reputation for being…” Eva cleared her throat. “…hard to get along with. And some of them had a strong enough reputation that nobody, not the police or the neighbors, messed with them.Want more?