Jacob looked at the body, trying to figure out what to do. He couldn’t tell anyone, of course he couldn’t. It was an accident but no one would believe that. He’d just be so angry, so goddamned angry. It was always the same ones too, the same kids with their cocky smirks as he yelled at them. They knew they wouldn’t get in trouble, their parents didn’t care, once their kid was out of their way they were happy. And the little shits kept doing it. Over and over again. At first it wasn’t too bad. They’d cut through his backyard, he didn’t mind so much, but then they started trampling his flowers, the ones that Doris loved. He’d yelled then, told them to get out of his yard and be more goddamned careful. The kids had run, he had frightened them and he thought that would be the end of it. The next morning all those flowers had been pulled up and strewn about the garden. He knew who did it too, but no one could do anything. So he built a fence. It wasn’t a big fence, but big enough to get the idea of “keep out” across. They just hopped over it and cut through. At this point he knew there would be no reasoning with them. They were doing it purely out of spite. It took perhaps twenty, thirty seconds off their journey, not enough that going around was a big hassle. They destroyed his flowers, broke branches off his trees and bushes. There was no reasoning with them, their parents were no help. So he started to watch, watch and wait. Every time they cut through he’d come out and yell at them, threaten and scream and the kids would run away, laughing. It was a game to them. That was all, a stupid little game to play to break up the day. They didn’t care that he was a person, that they were destroying his property. No one cared. The cops did nothing, told him to put up some signs and shrugged when he pointed out that if the fence wouldn’t stop them, what good would a sign do?
He couldn’t set any kind of trap, that was illegal, not to mention dangerous. What if some unsuspecting person accidently set it off? No it wouldn’t be right at all. He knew that he couldn’t spend all day every day looking out for them cutting through. The only reasonable thing to do would be to put in some prickly bushes. It would soon stop them, and there would be no dander to anyone else. He’d just need to get some thick gloves for pruning the bushes and everything would be perfect.
It was late evening before he could start planting them. Digging the holes had taken him much, much longer than he had expected. It had been a while since he’d done anything other than prune and pull weeds and even at that, it was always done under Doris’ instructions. She was the one with the green thumb and had been in charge of the gardens before she left him. In the beginning he kept up the garden in the hopes that she would return and he could show her how well he had kept things, but as time went on he fell into doing it out of habit.
He was planting the trees when the boy hopped the fence, landing awkwardly in the hole that had been dug. The boy let out a startled yell and tried to jump away from him. Jacob was thrilled, he’d grab the arm of the little delinquent and march him right up to his parents and tear them a new one. But the boy struggled and Jacobs grip slipped, the boy fell backwards, there was a loud thud, then silence. The boy didn’t move, he wasn’t breathing. Jacob shook the boys shoulder, there was no response. He rolled the boy over and saw the damage the rock had done, more damage than he would have expected. Who would believe him that it was an accident? The rock was sitting on the ground, it wasn’t buried, he was wearing gloves, they’d think he used the rock to brain the kid. They’d never believe him, not after all the fuss he made about them going into his garden. He looked around, it was getting dark, no one else was out, no one had seen. He looked at the hole, it wasn’t deep enough, but he could make it deeper.
Jacob started to dig.
It was long, tiring work, but he had to do the job properly. When it was finally deep enough he rolled the boy into the hole, checking his pockets for a mobile phone, but they were empty apart from a few coins. Jacob put them back. He had no need for them. He buried the boy, then he planted the bushes. He had told some neighbours he was going to do it. He could wait a year or two, then maybe pour some concrete on top, build some kind of shed or something.
They searched for the boy for months. Bradley Kerman. Thirteen years old. Sometimes Jacob thought about letting the boys family know, sending them a letter, but he knew it would be a stupid thing to do, it was a sure-fire way to get caught. All he had to do was keep his head down and his mouth shut. No one suspected him of anything. Why would they? Apparently someone had seen a man driving around the streets a few days before and all the focus went on him.
The bushes grew quickly, creating a thorny barrier. The kids had stopped coming over his wall now. They’d seemed to have decided to leave him alone. He put the thought of it out his mind, it wasn’t his fault after all. The kid had been trespassing and Jacob had told them before to stay off his property. It wasn’t his fault the kid tripped. There was nothing that could have been done for him anyway. Sometimes Jacob woke up covered in sweat, his eyes wide, what if the kid had still been breathing? Barely clinging to life? But he knew that wasn’t the case. The kid had been dead the moment his head had hit that rock. There was nothing Jacob or anyone else could have done to help him.
He still saw the boys mother on the streets, giving out fliers, asking anyone and everyone if they saw something. Jacob always took a flier and promised he’d call the police if he thought of anything, anything at all, even if it didn’t seem important. He would always walk with it in his hand for a little bit, until he was out of sight of the woman, then he would throw it in the bin. There was nothing he could do to help her. Nothing at all.