“Good evening, sir,” said the pale man in black coat at my front door.
“Hello. You are…?”
“Call me Mackey, sir.”
“Ah, Mr. Mackey, you’re a day early,” I said, clutching my robe against the chill. “But come in, come in. Awfully cold this time of year, isn’t it?”
“Excuse my outfit. I was expecting you tomorrow and got into my pajamas quite early.”
“Your wife’s missing, sir?”
“Yes, yes. She’s been gone almost a month. Well, three weeks, no, maybe just 18 days. Seems like forever and the police aren’t interested. Women disappear all the time in our town and they can’t keep up. You’re familiar with this sort of thing?”
“Can you tell me what’s happening?”
“Possibly. No guarantees.”
“Oh, no! I worked in the city and recently retired to write my memoirs. I never thought children would fit my lifestyle and my wife seemed to accept my decision early on.”
“Your wife work, sir?”
“She rarely got out of her bathrobe and was on the computer all day.”
“Yes, this way.”
We walked through the living room where a flat screen TV faced my recliner beside a small table holding a full ashtray and empty bottle of Jack Daniels.
“Those walls of shelves once held my collections of German beer steins, Japanese netsukes, Civil War buckles, Pez dispensers and Isaac Asimov first editions.”
“You don’t say.”
“I probably should pull all these nails out of the walls. She sold my photos of world-famous cathedrals and framed motivational posters that were extremely valuable.”
We walked through the dining room that had neither table nor chairs and down the hall past three closed doors to my wife’s office.
“Anything been moved, sir?”
“No. She didn’t like anyone in here touching her things. The boxes and bubble wrap are where she left them. Those tables against the wall were always full of what she called eclectic tchotchkes that people would buy for the right price.”
“She shipped a lot and that red-headed mailman would show up in the driveway almost every day to load his truck with a dozen boxes or more. She’d stand out there in bare feet and bathrobe smoking and laughing with him.”
“Her computer, sir?”
“Gone. She must have taken it with her. Or sold it.”
We checked the bathroom where towel racks had been removed. There was nothing in the spare bedroom, not even a window shade. My bedroom had a mattress and alarm clock on the floor, a few clothes in the closet, a sheet over the window.
“She sold all my ties to a private boys’ school and laughed about sending my Red Sox jacket to a man in New York.”
“Yes, this way. Sorry, the light’s out.”
“No problem,” said Mr. Mackey as he glided down the steep stairs and disappeared into the darkness.
“Nothing’s left there!” I shouted down to him. “Just furnace and water heater! She got rid of everything. Washer. Dryer. Tools. Plastic containers full of my collections of rocks, stamps, coins, baseball cards. My action figures. Matchbox cars. Vinyl records. My assorted…”
I was startled by Mr. Mackey’s sudden appearance on the top step.
“Ah, yes. No. She got rid of my Oldsmobile the day I walked into town for a haircut and lunch. I was so angry I could have…”
I unclenched my fists and led Mr. Mackey into the kitchen.
“Observe the bare cupboards. She was relentless, you know. Heartless. First things to go were my mother’s wigs and stuffed birds I’d stored in glass jars. She refused to polish my mother’s silver and sold her tea set and tureen and tray.”
“I noticed what was going on but had my own interests and we didn’t talk much, you see. I continued collecting things, wheat pennies, mostly… a few garden gnomes… some hood ornaments… but she said it was all junk and the clutter depressed her. She insisted we cut down and clean up.”
“Anything of hers gone, sir?”
“No, I can’t think… she didn’t have a lot.”
“Every hour of every day she was holed up in her office selling my possessions on that evil predatory auction site, eGunc. She gutted this place and sucked the blood out of my life!”
“She said when it was over there’d be nothing left but a grease spot on the kitchen floor.”
“Like that one, sir?” Mr. Mackey pointed toward the corner by the back door.
“What could that be?”
I leaned over the large spot splattered on the tiles. It had a rainbow oil-on-water sheen and an odd shape that looked like an angry face.
Mr. Mackey grabbed me from behind.
“The price was right, sir, and your wife offered free local pick up.”
I felt his cold breath and fangs on my neck and screamed…
Mary K. Curran writes and declutters in the Shenandoah Valley where she lives with husband and two cats.