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As a child, I remember times where my older brother would go play with his friends. I was five at the time, but I remember these times clearly, because I was always attached to him, and I tended to miss him in times when he didn't want me tagging along. I looked up to him the way other kids look up to their parents, in a way. One day, he took off with his friends to go play in the creek. They were all around ten at the time. They liked the creek a lot, it was far enough away that they were more-or-less free from the adults, but still close enough that they could get there, play to their satisfaction, and get home before sun down. It was a nice place, from what I remember of the one or two times I went there myself. The water was as clear as glass and the trees swayed like they were dancing very slowly. I didn't go to the creek after one particular day that I remember clearer than any other.
I remember the exact day. It was August 13. My brother came downstairs in a big hurry, apparently to meet up with his friends for a trip to the creek they planned a day or two before, and brushed passed our mom. As he did so, he shouted back to her, without even turning around, that he was going to the creek with his friends, with such excitement that only a little kid could produce under any circumstance. My mom called out to him to be back before dinner, but he was gone before she was done, and he probably didn't hear her. He probably knew that he was supposed to be back anyway. I approached my mom and asked if I could go too, but she said she would want me to stay close by him on the way there, and since he was already long gone, no. So I just sat there on the front porch and watched birds or something similar for six hours. This is the only part that is a bit hazy, to be truthful.
After six hours, it was almost 8 PM. My brother should have been home by now, and dinner was getting cold. My mother was concerned, but my father stayed pretty calm. We sat down and ate dinner, just assuming he would burst in the door, covered in mud and water and grass and slog over to the table to eat. We sat there, eating, with a layer of worry blanketing the room that nobody wanted to acknowledge. My father finished his dinner, unusually quickly for him, and laid his knife and fork down on his plate, just a bit too hard for him to pass off as calm. Without saying anything, he stood up from the table and paced anxiously over to the phone. He picked it up and dialed. I gathered that it was one of my brother's friends' parents on the other end. Attempting to blanket his now-obvious concern, my father asked if the boys had gone back to their house without saying anything, as they had done a time or two. They hadn't seen any sign of them.
My father repeated this process for the parents of the other three boys. None of them had heard a word from them. Mr. Millner, one of the last parents he called, agreed to head over to the creek to check on them. My father would have gone himself, but our house was the furthest from the creek, while the Millners' were the closest. Plus, my father trusted Mr. Millner, as he was one of his closest friends, after all. He sounded confident that Mr. Millner would be able to sort this out. In the meantime, my mother patted me on the shoulder and told me it was best if I simply went to bed. I protested that I wanted to see my brother one last time before I went to bed, but she insisted. I was brought upstairs and led to my bed, where my mother sat next to me. I told her how worried I was about my brother, but she calmed my fears and told me he'd be back soon. My mother didn't lie to me, so I knew she was right. I laid in my bed and attempted to go to sleep, as my mother quietly crept back downstairs to check if she told me the truth.
I have no idea how much time passed. It felt like hours, but I doubt it was that long. I heard a lot of noise downstairs, not like a struggle, but something similar to an argument. I could hear my father's voice, in a demanding tone, yelling at somebody. I could hear another voice very vaguely, answering whatever he was saying. Curious as I was, I left my bed and opened the bedroom door to hear what was happening. The other voice was that of my brother. I was excited to know he was home and safe, and made a motion to hurry down the stairs to greet him, before my father's yelling and a sound I'm sure was my mother crying dissuaded me. I could hear what my father was saying now.
"Give me a straight answer! What happened!?" he shouted.
"I told you, I don't really remember. It was all a blur." my brother answered, unusually calm for the situation he was currently in. My father was relentless in his interrogation. I had no idea why at the time.
This argument continued for nearly an hour afterward, never going anywhere. At one point, the phone rang. I could barely hear that my mother had left the argument to answer it. My mother returned a few minutes later, sobbing uncontrollably. My father asked her what was wrong. I couldn't hear what they said. All argument stopped at this point. My father ordered my brother to his room.
"Come on, let's go upstairs." I heard my mother say. I scurried back to my bed before they made it to the steps. I was so confused. I heard hurried walking up the stairs and somebody bump into the mostly open door on the way in. A horrid smell wafted into the bedroom. I heard the rustling of the sheets on my brother's bed as he got in, and my mother sigh heavily.
"Goodnight." my mother said.
"Goodnight." my brother answered. The door was closed. Everything was silent, except for the occasional word from downstairs. I could swear I heard a few voices I didn't recognize. At one point, the door to our bedroom opened and I heard the rustling of my brother's bed again, then the door closed again. I'm still not exactly sure that was all about.
At some point, I fell asleep. I woke up early the next morning, despite how late I slept, and went downstairs to see what had happened. I didn't ask my parents about last night's events. My father and brother were nowhere to be seen. I asked my mother where they were and she said they were at the doctor's office. I figured at this point, that my brother had gotten sick at the creek and that was somehow why he was home so late last night. But why was my father so angry? Why was my mother crying the night before? Why did she still look so sad now? I concluded in my little 5-year-old brain that that couldn't be what happened. Whenever I said anything about my father or brother, my mother either stayed silent or changed the subject. She was clearly uncomfortable talking about it. At one point, I thought she was going to cry, but she didn't. We spent most of the day sitting on the couch as I played with my toy car on the floor in front of her. During this whole time, she sat there, staring off into space, occasionally breaking her obviously deep thought to say something to me. She told me she loved me a few times, and at the time, I had no idea why.
Hours later, my father and brother returned home. My brother immediately went upstairs. My father sat on the couch and said nothing. His face was blank. I didn't want to approach him. He displayed very little emotion, but I could tell he was practically distraught. I simply sat on the floor in front of him. Nobody said a word.
A month or so later, school had started. I began kindergarten and met all my new classmates. Things remained quiet in the time between then and that night. My brother never went to the creek again, and despite only hanging around our house, interacted very little with me. He mostly kept to himself now. When I finally got up the nerve to ask my father what happened that night, weeks later, he refused to tell me. He told me vague things, like that I was too young to understand, or that it was nothing. I never saw any of my brother's friends again. My father and Mr. Millner lost contact with each other very quickly.
In kindergarten, I made friends with a boy I vaguely remembered meeting before, but couldn't exactly recall from where. In November, I pieced together that he was the younger Beare boy, the younger brother of one of my brother's friends. I must have met him one time when I was younger and simply forgot about it. Shortly after I made this connection, I asked him the question that had been on my mind since that night: What happened? He immediately began crying. Our teacher came over and asked him what was the matter, but he didn't say anything. I shied away, to avoid blame.
The day after, I went to school again, as normal. That day, my friend approached me at recess. He told me, in our very blunt, childlike manner, what had happened. He told me that that night, back in August, my brother and his friends had gone to the creek. They were gone for hours, and my brother is the only one that ever came back. When my brother returned to the house that night, he had blood splattered on his clothing and was covered in mud. When Mr. Millner reached the creek, he found the other four boys, butchered, dismembered, their severed body parts strewn about the creek and parts of the field next to it. He said that the Schumer boy was found cut in half, his intestines connecting the two halves, and strewn up in a large bush, the way people do with toilet paper on Mischief Night. The older Beare son's head was never recovered, apparently washed downstream by the creek's waters. My father took my brother to the police station that night, to be questioned on what happened. He told a story of a giant, brutal man with a machete, appearing from nowhere and cutting down his friends. According to my brother's story, he escaped, but was lost in the woods on the way home. My brother gave a description of the man, who barely passed as human, and wanted posters were hung all over town. My brother was taken to the hospital for any possible injuries the day after, and psychologically screened, turning up normal.
When the bell rang to end recess, he added one last note: the police found no evidence that anybody besides the boys had ever been at the creek that night. I asked him later on how he knew all this stuff, he said he overheard his mom talking to another one of the boys' mothers about it. I tried to wrap my head around what this meant. If there was nobody besides my brother and his friends there that night, then who did it? Who could have killed them? In truth, none of this dawned on me immediately. I thought about it for a few minutes before realizing later what it all meant. If the police had really never found any evidence that a psycho killer had ever been there, then that only left one witness who could have done it.
I didn't accept this. My brother was close with his friends. My brother liked his friends more than me. How could he do something like that to them? There was no way. But with the fact that there was apparently no other possible culprits, I was forced to think about the idea that he really had. But how? My brother wasn't a very violent person. Besides, my brother was a 10-year-old boy. How could he possibly do to four other 10-year-old boys what had apparently been done to them? My mind swirled like this. I couldn't stop thinking about the fact that there was nobody else who could have done it, but the only one left wasn't able, physically or otherwise, of doing what was done.
I went home that night. I kept glancing over at my brother during dinner, but neither of us said anything. A lull had fallen over the home, a sort of bland awkwardness that prevented anybody from saying much of anything. We went to bed that night, quietly. I laid in my bed, quietly. My brother laid in his bed, quietly. I'd been able to sleep pretty peacefully since that night, knowing that my brother was home and safe, but tonight I was lost in thought. Something kept me awake. I started glancing around the room at various objects, the bookshelf with the books obscured by the shadow of the shelf above them, the dresser with all its drawers closed up tight, the bedroom door, also closed up tight, my brother. My brother.
As I looked at my brother, I saw his eyes open, locked onto me. Staring. Realizing I'd seen him, he closed his eyes and pretended to sleep. Why had he been staring at me? I thought about what the Beare boy told me and wracked my brain again.
I never slept comfortably in the same room as my brother again. I'd spend hours watching him before passing out unwillingly. Every once in a while, I would catch him staring at me again.
Years later, I was nine and my brother was 14. My brother moved out of this bedroom and into his own. For the first time in years, I was able to sleep peacefully. In the meantime, Mr. Millner was brought up on charges of killing the boys, being the only one besides my brother who could have done it. He was acquitted because he had a solid alibi and there was no evidence that he was involved in any way besides the fact that he discovered the bodies. Most of the parents of the dead kids fell into depression, the mother of the Franklin boy committed suicide seven months after the event. My brother was accused of killing the boys, but since he was only ten, the police never really got involved or took it seriously.
My brother and I were never on the terms we once were. I don't know if it was because he was so withdrawn, or because I was now wary around him. I still can't make up my mind on that one. I still can't comprehend how he could've done what the evidence says he did. They never even found a murder weapon. The boys were clearly murdered using a machete, but a machete was never found. Be
sides, at the time, machetes were not the kind of thing people would just have laying around. Where would my brother get a machete?
When he was 18, my brother moved out. He didn't go to college or get a job. One day, he just got in his car with all of his stuff, drove off, and never came back. Neither me, nor my parents, have had any contact with him since then. To be honest, I think that's probably for the better.
It's been nearly 60 years since that day. I never went down to the creek. I didn't want to. I didn't want to see any evidence of the crime, or any evidence of what I'm afraid happened actually did. I continued, even to the point where it became silly, where enough time had passed that any possible evidence of the murders had been washed away by time. Silly as it may be, there are some places that you will just never go to willingly.
I moved away from home when I was 18, got a job, got married, had kids. My life was as normal as it could have been. Perhaps it wasn't perfectly normal, since I will always remember what happened that day, and it will always haunt me.