It’s tough enough to sell a house in this market without some kid messing it up. I’d had my real estate license almost ten years when the Majorsics’s house came on the market. Bank took it over when the family disappeared and defaulted on the mortgage and needed to dump it quick. Figured they’d skipped out to that European place they came from.
Had several families tour the three-bedroom two-and-a-half bath split level with basement, but no offers. I felt lucky when the Hendersons came in with two kids in tow.
“Corporate relocation,” Kevin Henderson told me. He smiled a lot, looking forward to coming to Mendham with its good schools and all. And his wife added, “Kevin’s employer is helping us—financially, which would be tough otherwise.”
They toured the place and any concerns were overcome by the attractive price. The Missus fell in love with all the closet space. Kids were thrilled to get new bedrooms. Mr. Henderson—I called him Kev to show how friendly we were in Mendham—was pleased to see a dry basement and clean furnace. He seemed knowledgeable about all the fixtures, thermostats, water filtration system and so forth. Knew more about them than I did.
“What’s that switch for?” he asked, pointing to a light switch in the kitchen near the basement door.
I flipped it and nothing happened. “Guess it’s switch for a basement light. Probably one of those extras the last owner put in and never used.”
The Hendersons closed in one month—fastest sale I’d ever made. Then I got a call two weeks later.
“It’s about that light switch,” Kev said. “Can you come over?”
I didn’t mind taking time to go make sure they were happy. Might be more corporate referrals coming in if I was super nice.
“It’s the switch,” he repeated when he got me over to the basement door. “My daughter said a neighbor kid told her it’s a demon switch. What d’you make of it?”
“I told you,” the little girl said. Kids pout a lot when their folks don’t believe them, so I tried to jolly her up a bit.
“What’s that about demons, young lady? We don’t allow them in Mendham.”
“It means I have to turn it on at night so the demons don’t come out.”
Lovely child. Wished I’d’ve had a little girl like that.
“Brianna,” Kevin said sternly, “there’s no such thing, and there are lots of nice policemen to keep any bad guys away.”
“Don’t you know?” This kid wasn’t going to give up, and she pulled her kid brother in front of her. “Richie hasn’t come into your room at night to demand a drink of water or whine that he can’t sleep.”
“Yes, dear,” Mrs. Henderson said coming in the kitchen. “He feels secure since we moved here.”
“Well,” Brianna said, “it’s ’cause I turn on the switch at night and keep the demons away. That way he can sleep at night.”
We all had a laugh at that and Kevin offered me a beer before I went back to the office.
I was having a coffee at Delia’s Café the next day when Mort Kaiser, the deputy sat down next to me at the counter.
“Remember the foreclosure you sold?” he asked. “Over on Maple Street?”
I nodded. “So?”
“So Mr. Henderson’s gone missing. Wife’s going crazy. She’s in the hospital under sedation. Kids were taken in by Youth and Family Services.”
“Henderson find a girlfriend and go to Costa Rica?” I laughed.
“Dunno about that,” Morty said. “Seems she was babbling about him locking the little girl in her room so she couldn’t turn some light switch.”
We were silent for a minute, and then I asked Morty, “What do you know about the Majorsics?”
“Immigrants. He was an engineer. Came from Serbia or somewhere. I asked him once about a sticker on the windshield of his Ford. It said something like, ‘Lord, protect this car’s occupants from demons.’ I gave him a funny look and he told me, ‘Well, I’ve never had trouble with demons since I put up the sticker.’”