The Grimwoods by Matt Mann by Matt Mann - Read Online

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The Grimwoods - Matt Mann

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It should have been the best weekend ever. Jessie’s parents were going out of town, her little sister was sleeping over at a friend’s house, and her big brother was driving several hundred miles away to a concert. She was going to have the house to herself and invite people to a party.

Then her sister’s friend came down with some sort of stomach flu, her brother crashed his car, and her parents decided to hire a creepy old bag to babysit them.

Worst. Weekend. Ever.

Then her brother killed the babysitter.

I didn’t kill her, Ryan said, looking down at the old white-haired woman lying at the bottom of the staircase.

The babysitter stared up at them, her lips drawn back in a frozen snarl. The ornamental top of a newel post lay next to her.

I told you not to use that kindergarten paste to fix the post, Jessie said, taking her eyes off the babysitter’s accusing glare.

It was the only glue I could find.

Check her pulse.

Ryan made a face. You check her pulse.

I’m not the one who killed her.

If you hadn’t pushed me against the post it wouldn’t be broken in the first place!

Just check if she’s got a pulse.

Ryan groaned and crouched beside the old woman. After a few tentative pokes generated no response, he felt at her throat and shook his head. Nothing.

You sure you’re doing it right?

He stood up and wiped his hand on his pants. So…I guess we call an ambulance or something?

God, Mom and Dad are gonna be so pissed.

And they’ll have to come straight home, which is gonna make ’em doubly pissed.

Ryan and Jessie looked at each other.

You thinking what I’m thinking? Jessie asked.

Chop her up and bury the parts in the backyard?

No—what? Jesus…no. We get her into her car and drive her across town somewhere. Then we make an anonymous call to report a dead body.

Ryan nodded slowly. Yeah, I guess that could work too.

We just tell them she took off. Couldn’t deal with us.

Wouldn’t be the first time.

They were quiet for a moment, staring down at the babysitter.

Jessie glanced at Ryan. If it’s traced back to us, it’s gonna look pretty bad.

Well, it’s either that or tell Mom and Dad.

I’ll take her legs.

Jessie opened the front door and peered outside. A full moon shone down on Butternut Street. The babysitter’s black, old-fashioned Cadillac was parked in their driveway. There were no people in sight.

Clear, she said.

They carried the babysitter out the front door, Ryan holding her under her arms and Jessie struggling with her legs. For a tiny, frail-looking woman, she was surprisingly heavy.

Ryan, watch her—thunk!—head.

Ryan’s eyes went wide. Jesus.

Her hair had come off after the knock against the doorjamb. Under the wig, she was totally bald.

Come on, Jessie whispered.

Huffing with exertion, they dragged the old woman across the concrete to the Caddie, which turned out to have no back doors. Jessie, having rifled through the old woman’s cardigan pockets for the car keys, unlocked the driver’s-side door and leaned the seat forward so they could get her into the back and prop her upright.

Ryan hurried back to the front door and, grimacing, picked up the fallen wig. He returned and placed it back on her head, where it sat askew. Jessie grabbed a pair of oversized sunglasses from the dashboard and set them on the babysitter’s nose.

Closing the car door, Jessie scanned the street again, saw no one, and said, Okay, let’s get her stuff from upstairs.

They went up to the guest bedroom, where the babysitter’s carry-on-sized suitcase lay on top of the bed.

Looks like she didn’t even unpack, Ryan said.

What’s going on…? a sleepy voice said.

Jessie turned and stepped out of the room. Down the hall, her little sister, Kentucky, wearing PJs and a black cape, stood in her bedroom door.

Nothing, Jessie said. Go back to bed.


Back to bed. Now.

Kentucky stuck her tongue out at Jessie and slammed her bedroom door.

Jessie stepped back into the babysitter’s room. Ryan was sitting on the bed, holding the suitcase lid halfway open with his left hand. In his right was a knife.

Um, Sis…?

C’mon, c’mon. Let’s go already.

First, you gotta take a look at this.

What? It’s a knife. She looked at him impatiently.

No… Ryan opened the suitcase fully and turned it toward her.

Jessie strode across the room to peer at the contents. She stared blankly at the sight. Inside the suitcase, knives of all sizes could be seen under different-colored wigs and a black address book. Two large meat cleavers were strapped to the inside of the lid. The hell…?

And check this out. Ryan opened the black address book, and several driver’s licenses fell out.

He picked them up and handed them to her one by one. Ethel Phillips from Florida. Gertrude Burns from California. Meredith Bergman from here in Aurora, Illinois. But they’re all her.

They were. The photos on the IDs were all definitely her. Meredith Bergman was the name she’d called herself to their family.

What do you think it means? All these knives…What if… He looked at his sister. You think she was planning to kill us?

Ryan, she was a hundred and fifty years old.

Yeah, but what kind of babysitter brings a suitcase full of knives and fake IDs?

Whatever she was doing, it doesn’t matter now. She’s dead. Jessie handed him back the IDs. Let’s just put all this stuff in the car and let whoever finds her figure it out.


They crept back down the stairs and out to the Caddie, and Ryan put the suitcase into the backseat next to the babysitter. Jessie was just walking around to the passenger seat when the front door to the house opened.

Where are you going? Kentucky asked.

Jessie moved toward her, shushing her with a finger. Shhhh! We’ll be right back.

I want to come with.

Be quiet.

Where’s the babysitter lady?

Jessie sighed. Okay, come here. You can come with us. Just be quiet.

Kentucky turned, grabbed her black witch’s hat from the table in the entry hall, and stepped outside. She grinned as she tugged the tall, pointy hat on. Where are we going? she asked excitedly.

Ryan crammed the babysitter’s suitcase up onto the parcel shelf in the back of the Caddie so that Kentucky could get into the seat next to the old lady.

As Ryan pulled out of the driveway, Jessie turned and saw Kentucky staring at the sunglass-wearing babysitter.

Are you all right, Mrs. Babysitter? You don’t look so good.

She’s fine. She’s just sleeping. Leave her alone.

Kentucky looked dubiously at the old woman for a moment longer. So where are we going? I’m hungry.

Yeah. Me too, Ryan said.

Jessie shot him a warning look.

He shrugged. "Where are we going?"