She kept pigeons on the roof. Hundreds of them. They cooed and gurgled like underwater engines, burbling delight from being given too much food and attention. This, naturally, was a bad thing for Mary and Rick; seven days a week they cleaned and brought up seeds.
What worried Rick is that they also had to bring ground beef. Pounds of it, raw, swimming in blood. They left it to the side for Ms. Krenshaw to deal with. There was never any left the next day.
They also had to clean her apartment, and the seven other apartments she was in charge of; or had squatted. They were always dirty. Great mounds of dirty dishes, questionable pools of liquid on the linoleum, and always the scurry of the small things that fed in that filth. The mystery tenants were never there, thankfully.
Ms. Krenshaw grudgingly let them go to school. Probably, Rick thought, because a truant officer would bring unwanted attention.
At school they heard whispers about Ms. Krenshaw. That she had had past wards. That she had never had children. That she always had wards. That she ate them all. That she did have children, but they ran away, were sold to Turkish slave traders, eaten. Of all the stories, they all seemed to disappear on the same day, January 13th.
“All your cares taken care of... just send..” The bold letterings still burned in Rick's mind. It was from an ad in a comic book left by one of the elusive tenants. It shouted 'fraud' and snickered 'sucker'. The fonts were bold, the colouring garish, and the claims were a few shades past hyperbole. Rick thought he was a sensible kid who would never fall for that sort of thing. But they had spent almost a year with Ms. Krenshaw.
It was already January 7th.
“How, though.” Mary gave him her usual cautious air. A tight lipped thoughtfulness that had learned not let on how much it knew. She stared at the ad.
Rick smiled. It was good of her not to blurt how stupid his idea was. “Who knows? What have we got to lose?”
He looked at her, both of them covered in pigeon droppings, their hair plastered with sweat. “Oh, I think we are well beyond that, don't you?”