He usually sat in the park alone, an old man surrounded by raucous pigeons.
Everyday he takes this walk, starting exactly at 2:30pm, like clockwork. He leaves his house, an old but tidy bungalow on a quiet tree lined street and walks briskly to the bakery in the village square. There he greets the lady behind the counter, an old friend. He has known her since there were children; they grew up together. She sells him day old bread at a discount price and he smiles and winks at her as he takes the brown paper bag. She blushes and sends him on his way.
"That Sam Rogers is quite the lad eh?" she says to the other customers and they all laugh and nod.
It was true; he was quite handsome in his day. Dashing, they would have said. And even now, he is still tall and straight, with a shock of silver hair and sparkling blue eyes. More than one of the older ladies in the neighbourhood fancied him and he knew it.
Whistling as he left the store, he heads straight for the park near the school. There is a special bench there, not one of those modern contraptions that you're afraid to sit on. A good solid bench, handmade of the finest red cedar. Old fashioned, just like him.
He sits there and waits for the ever hungry pigeons to notice. Without him, he is sure that they would all starve to death, especially in the winter.
It's not long before he's surrounded by what seems like dozens of these feathered rats, all loudly thankfull for his offering. The children, leaving school, are half afraid, half fascinated by the shrill quarrelling birds. The braver ones come closer and he gives them bread to share.
When the child goes missing, he is the first to come forward to the cops to help. He remembers this child, this twelve year old boy. Michael; he was one of the brave ones.
Mr. Rogers is the one who remembers the car, one of those new mini things that help save on gas. A strange colour it was too. Electric blue! No, he didn't see the boy get into the car; he just saw the car sitting there just outside the school. Waiting for something, or for someone.
That is the break the cops needed. There are only a few electric blue smart cars in the neighbourhood. They find the driver the next day; he lives only two blocks away from the school.
He is an ex con, a pedophile, the usual suspect. He swears, screams, and cries that he did nothing, that he had stopped all of that, and that he is a changed man. But it is useless, he has no alibi. He had stopped near the school just to watch, nothing else, he says. But he is a pedophile who had abused young boys before. He is convicted before he was tried.
The next day Michael's tearful parents make an appearance on TV, his mother unable to speak for sobbing, his father stoic in the beginning but breaking down in the end.
"Please give us back our boy!"
Mr. Rogers watches this broadcast in the bakery with the rest of the neighbourhood. The mood is quiet, sombre, and several people have tears running down their faces.
Mr. Rogers turns around slowly in his seat, shaking his head as he looks at his neighbours.
"What's the world coming to?" he wonders and several others echo his sentiments.
After a while, he makes his way slowly home, the spring gone from his step.
He lets himself in quietly and busies himself making tea. He wants to watch the news tonight, to see if the cops have any leads as to the location of the boy.
Putting the kettle on the stove he is suddenly startled, shoulders tightening, as he hears a noise in the basement. He grabs a snowshovel from near the door, and heads downstairs. The basement is dark and he fumbles for the light switch and turns it on.
The room is flooded with light and he blinks. He hears a muffled gasp and looks in the direction of the dark far corner where the light doesn't quite reach.
He breathes a sigh of relief. Everything is fine. The boy is fine. He looks at Michael, bound and gagged on a thin mattress and sees the fear in his eyes.
He smiles then and it's not the smile he gives to his neighbours, to the ladies in the bakery, to the cops. This is a different smile; cold and evil. His sparkling blue eyes are now hard, reptilian. He whispers, though there is no danger that he'll be overheard.
"I've got you now! No one will ever find you. The cops will never think of me."
The boy starts to cry softly and Mr. Rogers laughs, a low guttural growl of malice. The sound echoes through the basement.
Upstairs, the kettle whistles. It's time for tea.