In early December of '96, I was raking the blanket of leaves under a maple, getting the property ready for winter.
"Don't pick the leaves up, please," JonBenét begged me. "Leave them for me to play with."
Well, I'm thinking, no way. My job is to pick them up, and that's what I'm going to do.
"Last year my dad and I did that."
And then she said quietly; "I really miss him. I wish he was around more."
"Where does he go?"
"I don't know. But sometimes he goes away for a long time."
"You really miss him?" I asked.
"Yeah, I really miss him a lot."
Then she started to cry, tears rolling down her cheeks.
I didn't know what to say--didn't know enough about the situation, didn't want to intrude or play counselor. It wasn't my place. I changed the subject and started to rake up the leaves.
A moment later, I saw JonBenét was scooping up the leaves from the top of the barrel and hurling them over her head into the wind. "Hey! Stop that!" I yelled.
"No, I want to play in 'em." She was being kind of bratty. She had a bit of smart aleck in her.
I grabbed the barrel and started running toward the compost pile. She chased after me, not about to give up her fun. I set the barrel down, and she dumped all the leaves out. That made me angry--almost. But before long I made a game out of it--it was fun for both of us.
That evening I left a big pile of leaves out front by the gutter for her to play with.
That was probably the last time I spoke to JonBenét. Six weeks later I took the morning paper from my front steps and saw it. I don't even remember now what the headlines said.
I wanted to go over to the Ramseys'. Later that day, I did drive by. It was crazy--media, police, yellow tape going all around the house. Just totally crazy. I didn't even try to go in. I kept driving.
Perfect Murder, Perfect Town. Copyright (c) 1999 by Lawrence Schiller. Reprinted with permission from HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.
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