Earnest Calloway had his head down as he scanned the sidewalk for treasures. From what Nita could see, it had been a productive morning for her dumpster-diving friend. On the curb, next to his book bag, were two water-logged science-fiction books and a paint brush, slightly used.

Nita picked up one of the books. “Ah, Space Lobsters II. Classic.”

Earnest straightened and glanced over her shoulder towards the porch. Earnest never looked anyone head on, his gaze was either on the ground or dreaming in the sky. But what Nita liked most about Earnest was how he said what he was thinking. In fact, he was the most honest person she knew.

Earnest nodded to the porch. “What were you talking to Earl Melvin about?”

Nita flipped through the book. She shook her head. “I’m not quite sure.”

Earnest squatted, peeling a filthy lottery ticket off the street. Nita rolled her eyes. For four years she’d known Earnest, and in those four years she’d seen him gather more trash than the city dump. Every bottle cap considered, any scratch ticket double checked. Coffee cups, receipts, magazines—even fast food bags had to be searched for coupons.

Earnest set his eye back to the curb. “I’d be careful, Nita. You know what they say about him. And your mom would kill you if she—”

“Yeah, I know,” Nita said. Again, everyone in Crawford knew about Earl Melvin and his terrible crime. But what was she supposed to do, now that he’d taken to the porch, walk right past him every day without a greeting? Rude. And those words he’d written were now pinned to the “Must Know More” corkboard in Nita’s brain.

She peeked back at the porch where Mr. Melvin was rocking away. “You know, I think,” she started, knowing she could never say what she was about to say to anyone else, “I think he might be trying to say he didn’t do it.”

“Really?” Earnest looked over at the porch, then he shielded the sun with his hand as he turned back. “Well, that would be quite the story, wouldn’t it?”

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