Chapter Ten, Part One




TEN
 
The House of White
 
    “Actually, sir,” Dave said as he stood on my doorstep, “my name is Melvin. Can I come in?”
    Reggie bolted out of the kitchen.
    “Melvin,” he shouted. “Melvin White?”
    “Shhhhh!” he said. “Yeah. Can I come in and close the door? My stepmom is next door.”
    I pulled Melvin White inside, and stuck my head out. I could see Patty White’s Escalade parked at the hair salon. I did not know why I felt the need to insure the missing child remained hidden from his stepmother, but as I looked at him I saw beneath his beard and greasy hair the frightened, shaking countenance of a kid in distress.
    “Sophia said I could trust you two,” he said, taking the chair I offered him.
    “Absotively,” Reggie said.
    “That’s not a word, Reginald,” I said.
    “Irregardless,” Reggie said, “you can trust us.” He sniffed the air. “Did you and Sophia—?” He left the question unfinished.
    “Well, I—” he said. “We—”
    “Don’t go into detail.” Reggie waved his hand. “You’ve been turned, though?”
    “Yes,” the boy replied.
    “What?” I asked. “Sophia bit him?”
    “Sam,” Reggie said through gritted teeth, “do you recall the discussion we had about ‘exchange of bodily fluids’?”
    “What kind of bodily— oh! You mean?”
    Melvin turned scarlet underneath his thick beard.
    “Thank you, Mr. Sensitive,” Reggie said. Melvin reached up to his head and pulled on his greasy brown hair, which came off in his hand. A wig.
    “The beard’s real,” he said, shrugging. “I couldn’t grow one before. Now shaving’s practically useless!” Reggie nodded at him.
    “So,” Reggie said, “you’ve been hiding out with the protesters.”
    “Yeah,” Melvin said.
    “Why?”
    “I— Well, I guess if anyone will believe me, you will, Mr. LaKino.”
    “You can call me Reggie.”
    “Thanks,” Melvin said. “Sophia and I came home from Mexico, and we found out Noah had gone missing a couple days before. I, well, you see before I’d gone to Mexico, I’d found this book of my Dad’s. It’s kind of a family journal, going back to the Civil War. All about some ‘curse.’ And how we’re supposed to hate the Renards. Because they’re werewolves. And I wouldn’t have believed any of it except that Sophia told me it was true. Or, at least, plausible. She told me about her family, about werefoxes. Anyway, we didn’t know that she could turn me— that way.”
    “Let’s hear it for abstinence education!” Reggie said.
    Melvin’s face reached a deep burgundy.
    “So we got back,” he went on, “and I looked around and I found the book again, and the whole thing is full of confessions and warnings about how each generation of White children ends up killing the previous one, and I never liked my grandfather anyway, so I didn’t really care that much but—” he took a breath. “But while I was in Mexico my dad had added something. He said he and Mr. Salazar had agreed that dad would lure Noah out to our chicken farm to shoot a fox who’d been at our chickens and that while he was out there they were gonna—” He took another breath. “Gonna, gonna kill him! So I told Patty, my stepmom, and she told me we should talk about it later. Out of the house.”
    “So what happened next?” Reggie asked.
    “Well, I was in pain. I was sick.”
    “Because you were turning.”
    “Yeah,” Melvin said. “But I went out by the big sink hole on our property anyway, and waited. All of a sudden someone was shooting at me! She must have told Dad. A bullet went right through my shoulder. It hurt. I fell into the hole, crawled down as far as I could, and stayed there until morning.”
    “You didn’t know if you could trust anyone,” Reggie said. “I know how that feels. So you hid with the activists?”
    “Yeah,” Melvin answered. “Until the full moon came. Then I had to sneak out, and Sophia and I hid in an old shed on Dad’s property. I kept going back and staying with the protesters during the day at first. And when I thought I was safe from the moon I went to try to talk to Patty again, but she got scared and called my dad’s security on me. I didn’t want to get my new friends in trouble, so I’ve just been hiding in the shed now.”
    “You say your dad confessed to Noah’s murder?” Reggie asked.
    “It’s all in the book,” Melvin said.
    “I’m sure he’s destroyed that by now,” I said. “With everyone poking around.”
    “He hasn’t,” Melvin said, smiling. “I’ve got it in the shed.”
    “Sam, will you poke your head out and see if Patty’s still next door?” Reggie asked. I nodded, and rose from my seat, as Reggie continued talking. “Now, Melvin, I have one last question before we go. Do you remember your older brother? The one who died?”
    “Packey?” Melvin said.
    “Precisely,” Reggie said, grinning.
 
    We drove with Melvin out to his dad’s property. As the evening sun sank in the distance, it dipped below the dark western clouds, and I slammed on the breaks, narrowly missing the bottomless sink hole we’d seen earlier that week. The road we were on ran through a playa: a vast area of fine dust and sand that was at one time a lake bed. As we wound through the rangeland I was sure the unmaintained dirt roads would ruin my car’s suspension.
    The sun was setting and the clouds were close upon us by the time we stopped at an abandoned tool shed next to a stock pond. The wind, strong out here, made Reggie’s hair dance, and almost succeeded in forcing it all to sweep in one direction. The boarded up shed was about twice again as big as an outhouse. One of those was nearby, too. An old path that led from the shed to the john was fading slowly into grass and saltbush. As Reggie, Melvin, and I left the car the sun was still red in the sky, but the shadows all around us were very long.
    “I like this shed,” Melvin said. “There’s not much left of the old ranch anymore. Patty redid the whole place right after granddad died.”
    Melvin opened the door and lit a candle. Reggie and I followed him inside. As my eyes adjusted to the candlelight I could see a Marmot sleeping bag, a card table, a folding chair, some dishes, and the molded remnants of a meal. The candle itself, which was purple, smelled of lavender. I suspected Sophia had brought it.
    Reggie went right for the large book that lay on the table.
    The volume was old, leather bound, and handwritten. It was, as Melvin had said, some kind of journal. Reggie flipped it to the beginning, and I could see that inside the front cover was scrawled the names of many people, each in a different hand. The first page of the tome was written shakily, with many ink splatters, and dated 1881. It is set forth below: