“They look like…scarecrows,” I said. They were more detailed, sure, and wearing newer clothes, but I could see bits of straw poking out here and there and traces of the wire armature holding the whole thing up.

“Yep, that’s what they are, more or less,” said Sandra. “Do you remember Abby Woodman?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Quiet girl. Real religious. Didn’t she move away after high school?”

“Was an accountant for a while, or so I hear,” Sandra said. She turned the car onto Sycamore, passing several more posed dummies including one that looked like it was waiting in the old bus stop for a service that had been discontinued for 10 years. “Came back to Deerton to take care of her parents. The farm out on US 13, remember?”

“Yeah, that’s right,” I said, still looking at the scarecrow out of the corner of my eye as we passed it. “The Baptist Church used to use their cart and crop for hay rides.”

“Well, there wasn’t much for Abby to do when she got home, other than look after her folks,” Sandra said. “So she decided to try planting a few crops to sell in the farmer’s market over in Cascadia. The scarecrow part of that you can probably figure out for yourself.”

“Well, yeah,” I said. We were driving past the site of the old Quick Stop gas station, which had been abandoned and boarded up with snacks and magazines still on its shelves. Through dusty and cracked windows, I could see a scarecrow-employee behind the desk and a scarecrow-customer opposite them. “But it’s a long way from there to putting them up everywhere.”

“Well, you know how it’s been in Deerton. Every year more of the young people move away and more of the old folks die. Abby thought the old McGruder place next door to her seemed lonely, so she made a scarecrow to liven it up. Dressed it in some of Earl McGruder’s old things from their attic. Before you know it, she was putting them everywhere.”

“Did people…pay her for them?” I said with a shudder.

“Some did. I know that the bank bought a bunch to put in foreclosed houses at night with light timers to try and cut down on Cascadia punks coming in and wrecking up the place. But a lot of them Abby just made herself. She got pretty good with the paper-mache, a lot of the scarecrow heads look just like the people that used to live there.”

We passed another group of scarecrows, this one in front of the old firehouse. “Well, Abby’s sure been busy,” I said. “I’d like to have a chat with her about all this.”

“Well, that can be arranged. But don’t expect too much of a response, since she’s dead.”

“What?” I cried.

“Yeah. Two months back. Cerebral hemorrhage, or so they say.”

I looked back out the window. “She must have been at it right until she died,” I said sadly. “How long have those firefighters been there?”

Sandra licked her lips. “A week.”

“What?” I said. “You mean she made them before she died, and someone else put them there?”

“A week,” Sandra said again, firmly. “Which is why you and I needed to have a talk.”

Inspired by this news story.

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