Wrote this one for a writer’s group. It sounds like it could be a true story, but it’s not. Enjoy! Growing up in a small town, where everyone was friendly and knew everybody else, it was easy to feel that it was a safe and happy place to be.
The main street was lined with local shops, and small neighborhood houses wrapped right around it. Out past the houses was farmland and dusty country roads.
Nowadays most of the shops are closed, except for the barber shop and the butcher shop. People still seem to come from miles around to go to that butcher shop, for some reason. For the award-winning sausage, they say. Most of the houses in town are rentals, and some of the farmland has been turned into developments with suburban-style houses.
Back in 1978, when I was eight years old, Evelyn Jensen, who lived on the outskirts of town, died suddenly. She was around seventy years old. They didn’t call it a murder, but it was always discussed as “under mysterious circumstances.” We had a police force of two people, which also covered a smaller town to the north, and they didn’t have the technology or the time to figure it out completely.
Millard Jensen lived with his mother Evelyn at the time of the murder, and did all the farming on his mother’s land. He was fifty-one years old, never married, and whenever we would see him in town, he would always be telling stories about World War II and how many Nazis he killed. How, if he found them alive, he would slit their throats or shoot them in the head.
The year that followed his mother’s death, Millard became a recluse and didn’t really talk to anyone. When he did show up in town, he would quickly get what he needed and get back to his farm. My father worked at the feed lot, and when Millard would bring in his corn to get feed ground, he wouldn’t talk to anyone for the entire hour he was there.
Many rumors started spreading about how Millard had murdered his mother, and then other tales about him murdering his father and a younger sister who had died when she was six. The police tried to tell everyone it wasn’t true, but they couldn’t stop the stories.
It was the fall of 1979 and school had just started when I and three other kids from school decided to ride our bikes past Millard’s farm. As we got closer, I got a chill of fear, even though all my experiences of Millard before his mother’s death had been pretty positive. Except for the scary war stories, he was always nice and friendly.
We decided to dare our friend Tim to run up and touch the pump house that was to the left of the farm house. The buildings were probably a quarter mile from the main road. Tim was never one to turn down a dare, so we watched as he ran toward the house around a bank of trees, touched the pump house, gave us a two-handed wave, and then did a little dance. We all started laughing.
All of a sudden Tim’s smile turned to a grimace of terror as he sprinted back to us. We saw Millard by the side of the house with what looked like an axe in his hand, starting out running toward Tim. Luckily, Tim was much faster, and as we all rode away, Tim got on his bike and caught up with us in no time at all.
We decided to ride to the police station and tell them what had happened, mainly the axe and running after part, and leaving out the trespassing.
They decided to go up to Millard’s house and question him, and that is when the town was turned upside down. One of the police officers had noticed some bones on a table in the pump house. They were small and looked like animal bones, but when questioned about them, Millard had a strange answer: “There are no more bones in there.”
They were able to get a search warrant from the county judge and started some digging around in the dirt floor of the pump house. After all the excavation, they found the bones of around forty small animals, mostly cats and dogs—and three sets of human remains. The human remains were tracked to three women who had gone missing from towns that ranged from thirty miles away to a hundred and fifty.
After more investigation, they discovered he had murdered his mother as well. The rumors and stories got worse—maybe he had killed the rest of his family too, maybe because they had found out about the other murders.
It was around that time we decided to leave that little town and move to the suburbs of Minneapolis. People said we were crazy to move because of the “city crime,” even though they had a murderer in their own backyard.