(Originally published in Great Mystery and Suspense Magazine 10/06, Robin Beaudette. All rights reserved.)
(Originally published in Great Mystery and Suspense Magazine 10/06, Robin Beaudette. All rights reserved.)
White stone crushed under my feet. It was so much prettier than the usual gruesome pavement. And it fit, too. Lush landscaping lined the entrance and beyond. White- the presence of all color. Black- the absence of all color.
I passed clusters of pink daisies and yellow something and stalks of a strong purple flower on my way to the house. Didn’t know what they all were, but they were beautiful. Ornamental grasses swayed in the gentle wind which also gave the many dragon flies a lift. It was just as my friend described. I could hear her little voice in my head; “At the end of the road, across from an enormous field of corn stalks, beautiful flowers and a white driveway. You can’t miss it.” She was right.
Closer to the large, white, cottage-style home, I admired two dwarf willow trees with circular mulch around them which anchored the driveway to the house. An emerald colored, manicured lawn stretched beyond the rambling structure with a three car garage to the right and huge windows to the left. It looked like a beautiful water color painting with different hues running into each other. Even though I loved plants, I could never keep up with all this. They must have help. It was such a peaceful setting that I had no idea what I was walking into.
“They” were Pat and Jean. Or was it Jean and Pat. They were good friends of my good friend. She said she spoke to them and I could stay overnight or longer if I needed a
break during my long trip. And I did. I had planned on just stopping in to say ‘hello’ since it was on the way. But as I pulled off the interstate, my car sputtered and died. The tow truck driver, a skinny, white guy in a dark blue, dusty uniform whose iron-on name tag read ‘Mike’ in red letters, dropped me at the address I requested: 8 Lorraine Drive. He also informed me to give them a couple days to look over the car and then give them a call. If they worked as slow as he spoke, I was in trouble. Luckily, I had a place to stay.
I knocked on the plum colored front door, stepped back, pushed my hands in my pockets and waited. And waited. No one home. Oh well. They had no idea that I was coming. I didn’t have a cell phone to give them a call first. Yes, I am the only living, breathing human on the planet without a cell phone. I have to admit that on occasion it would be convenient. Like now. I guess I should reconsider.
From around the left side of the house, I heard a commotion. I went towards it. Not always the smartest choice. What I saw resembled an Alfred Hitchcock movie. There were more than a hundred birds squawking and jockeying for position on three feeders nestled under a teenage sized willow tree. Water splashed from a stone bird bath nearby. It was a chaotic harmony of landings and departures with others on nearby branches waiting on deck. Two sets of gray doves picked seeds from the ground with their companions close by, undisturbed by the energy wasted above. When I got closer, some fled, but the heartier souls continued on, untroubled that they were being watched.
On the ground next to a mulch bed, a hearty, yellow flower lay on its side, roots and dirt exposed, drying in the heat of the sun. A fresh hole waited nearby. A circular,
clay colored stone patio spread to French doors that were swung open inviting the outside in. Screens were the only thing keeping out unwanted quests. I assume they didn’t
expect to be gone long. Just to make sure, I tapped on the edge of a door. This time I got a response.
A deep bark came from a large, chocolate lab on the other side of the screen. It sat, tail still wagging, as we stared at each other for a couple of minutes. “Should I let you out?” I said out loud. It definitely looked friendly, but was it a runner like my childhood dog “Rumor”; a black and white, fluffy mutt from the pound that I spent most of my time chasing after. I bent down on one knee to look the dog in the eye. It sat back and lifted a paw into the air. That did it. He, or she, could be trusted. I let it out.
I took a seat on a fancy, black, aluminum lounge chair with a multi-colored cushion. The afternoon sun was strong and it warmed me. I called ‘Brownie’ over from beneath the feeders, who I now determined was a female after she relieved herself. Her sniffing around scared all of the birds away. The dog settled down next to me in the now quiet space. I heard nothing, not even a car passing, as I admired the tall rows of corn off in the distance.
I woke up cold. Drops of steady light rain ran down my face. The sun was gone and only wisps of light remained in the sky. Wind stirred the trees. Small outdoor lights around the patio glowed. Goosebumps ran over my skin, head to toe. The thin black t-
shirt that I was wearing offered no protection. I looked toward the house. The rain pounded the vulnerable yellow flower, draining its soil away.
Dim light streaked through the interior of what appeared to be a family room. Further in, I could see a bit of light in the kitchen peeking out from under the cabinets. I looked down and found Brownie lying on her side next to the chair. My stomach
growled causing Brownie’s ears to perk up. If I’m this hungry, you must be. Boy, did they work late…what was I to do?
After again knocking on the door and getting no answer, I pushed open the screen door and let us in. The family room was well furnished with deep, cozy chairs and a wine colored tapestry upholstered couch that had thick wooden ends sitting in about the center of the room. The kitchen was separated by a large, old walnut table that sat eight. The kitchen beyond had what looked like rose and white colored granite countertops and dark cherry cabinets lining the large space. I could see the brand ‘Viking’ on the front of the six burner stove. Nothing was out of place in either room. A bowl of green apples, my favorite, sat in the center of the table. A thick wool throw lay folded on an ottoman nestled in front of the couch. It was all very nice. Not my taste, but very nice. Brownie scooted over to a lower cabinet and sniffed around. She sat back at attention and stared at the door. I took the hint. I guessed that it would be okay to feed a dog, dog food, so I pulled a cup of dry dog food out of a bag and poured it into the bowl nearby. I also gave the dog fresh water and watched her dine. Starving, I took an apple from the fruit bowl and before sitting down on the couch, I turned on an overhead light.
Was this okay? Would they come home and be upset? I wasn’t sure what I should do. If the situation was reversed, I guess I would understand coming home to someone in my house…who was invited. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
After I used the bathroom, I sat in the silence of the house until it got dark. I turned on a couple more lights and found a remote to the television. Eventually, I pulled the wool throw over me. In for a penny… A boring television analyst’s discussed the
market events of the day, suggesting which stocks to buy, which to sell. It was all lost on me. Right now, food was a good investment in my life. I turned off the TV and let the dog out into the pouring rain, then let her in. It was after . I curled up on the couch, tired and cold from a long day, which started so eventful and was now too still.
. Brownie was out cold on her dog bed in the corner of the family room. My tired eyes fixed on the clock on the side table, as if it might give me answers. Something seemed very wrong. But what should I do. Call 911? And explain that I technically did not have permission to be in the house? That I thought something was wrong with the people whose last name escaped me? There had to be an explanation. I would just have to wait.
The bird’s squawking bellowed into the house thru the screen door along with cool air. I shivered. My barely open eyes made out the clock- 5:46 am. I sat up on the couch. Nothing changed from the night before, except the sun was out. When the dog finished her breakfast, she ran over to a door that I believed to exit to the garage. But I
let her out the same way I had before. Another apple served as breakfast. Again, I sat and waited.
Convinced something was wrong, I obsessed with what to do. I really couldn’t call the police. None of this is really my business. But, I decided to poke around, just a
bit. I had over stepped so many bounds now, I wasn’t sure it mattered. I started with the first floor.
I walked through the kitchen, dining room, den, mud room. All neat. Nothing out of place. The last room I looked in was off the foyer and it appeared to be a decked
out home office. A plasma TV hung on the wall facing a large, mahogany desk centered in the room, on top of a black and wine colored oriental rug. Behind it, bookcases lined the wall. On the desk, a small pile of papers and a newspaper still rolled up with an elastic band on it were the only trace that someone had ever used the office. I decided that whoever lived here was a neat freak. Light flooded in to the foyer from a big window above the front door. I stalled at the first step to the upstairs and took a deep breathe.
I walked through three bedrooms in pristine order, before I made my way down to the other end of the hall. Even though the door was ajar, I knocked. With no answer, I pushed the knob and swung the door open. The master bedroom. Large, airy and beautiful. Skylights shined light onto a king sized wrought iron framed canopy bed. The bed was made. Cherry dressers and bureaus were closed and nothing was left out. A porcelain unicorn sat in the center of a low dresser with a mirror above it. Now that was
cute. A delicate, gold horn with chipped paint shot up into the air, so fragile yet so strong.
I retreated back downstairs and found myself standing in the kitchen. The heart of every house. I pulled open the refrigerator door and looked in. Low fat milk, soy milk (YUCK!), egg substitute, orange juice and some white leftover containers that looked like
Chinese. Nothing to make me think that they had gone away for a few days. But anyway, they would not have left their dog. I slammed the door. What was I supposed to do? Then as I swung around, I saw something that made my heart pound.
It took about 3 seconds to register. In the corner, pushed close to a wooden bread box, was a woman’s purse. Who went anywhere without their purse? I moved to it, looked around behind me, and then reached for the black bag. On top, just inside was a small, white prescription bag. The stapled label read; ‘P. Kilday.’ I pushed it aside just enough to see a wallet, car keys and a lipstick. The script could have been for either of them. So what would make a woman leave her purse, car and dog behind?
I made a frantic search of the rooms on the first floor again, running to each, looking behind furniture, in closets and around corners. I ran upstairs and disturbed each of the made beds looking underneath. With a deep breath, I pulled open each closet and fingered the clothes, pushing them aside. I checked the showers in each of the three bathrooms. Nothing. I was back in the foyer faced with only one unsearched door. The door to the garage. No sooner did I take my deep breath and place my hand on the door Brownie was at my feet, tail wagging. She thinks we’re going for a ride.
At first, even with the door open, I could see very little. Tiny windows atop the electric doors only let in bits of light from the shady side of the house. I could make out the shiny hoods of two silver vehicles. I patted around the inside of the wall and
switched on a light. Bright fluorescent lights snapped on and the darkness was spread out in front of me. Brownie ran ahead, stepping through the large puddle of blood that had drained from the side of the man’s head. Graying, black hair was caked up with dried
Brown, blood as the body lay on its side next to a vehicle speckled with blood. Pieces of his shirt remained white, insinuating that it was once a nicely starched, business shirt, but
most of it was now stained. A faint odor filled the garage. The dog stood next to the body wagging her tail.
I pressed my hands to my mouth holding in the scream that couldn’t have come out anyway. I couldn’t breathe. I had no air. I ran back to the kitchen and leaned against a counter. Within a couple of minutes, Brownie trotted back to me, leaving a trail behind her of prints, the sight of which made my stomach turn. I forced myself back to the door and without looking, I slammed it shut. The orderly, serene white house was now a grotesque morgue, holding at least one body. But where was the other? I jumped back. The phone rang.
An answering machine on the kitchen wall clicked and took a message. I heard nothing. In a minute, there was another call and another click. It didn’t matter what the message was. There was no one here to get it. Feeling my heart in my throat, I sought refuge on the couch where I spent the night, far from the closed door. I wrapped up in
the throw and shook. When I could feel myself breathing again, I knew that I had to call for help, but my body just froze up as if I didn’t have control over it. In my mind I yelled, louder and louder, more frustrated with each attempt, but I couldn’t get any part of myself to move.
It was the doorbell ringing that gave me the electric jolt that brought me back. I felt control of fingers, arms and then my legs. I rose and walked to the door, still with the
wool throw over my shoulders. Sweat beaded up on my forehead and ran down the back of my neck. Ants ran through my veins and my blood felt like it boiled. I would get help and this would all be over.
A policeman in a dark uniform with shiny brass buttons stood at the front when I opened it. Inside my head, I screamed for help, but nothing came out. I had to try and breathe and calm down.
“Good morning. I’m Officer Scipp. Are you Mrs. Kilday?” he said. Before I could answer, I noticed him look over my disheveled hair, the bags under my eyes and my wrinkled and soiled clothes.
I let out a sound and then cleared my throat. “No. I’m a guest.”
“I’m looking for Mr. Kilday. Is he at home?” Before I could answer, he threw another question at me. “Are you okay?” He angled his head down closer to my face.
“No…I need help,” I managed to mutter.
“May I come in?” he asked. I stepped away from the door and let the officer pass. He stepped by the foyer, and poked his head into all of the rooms. All rooms but the dark one. Within a moment, he returned to me. I felt Brownie by my side.
“Mr. Kilday’s office is worried. He was supposed to be in
“No. I mean yes…he’s in there. I think.” I pointed to the dark room where the light seeped under the door.
The young, brown haired officer reached for his revolver and pulled it out of the holster. He pushed me back and then opened the door. I couldn’t see the body this time, but I could smell the faint odor. “Do you know where Mrs. Kilday is?”
“No,” I said.
The brown haired officer led me back to the safe couch. With his gun in one hand, he pressed a radio on his collar and spoke into it. Fast. I didn’t make out all of the words. Sweat poured off of me and I felt dizzy. Nauseous. My mind drifted and I struggled to maintain myself.
Several officers arrived. With hair pasted to my head from sweat, I told the brown haired officer all that happened and why I was here. Even though I knew it was all hard to believe, I felt like he was at least trying to. He stopped briefly to confer with other officers.
“Do you have any identification?” he asked, returning his attention to me.
“No,” I said.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
I tried to respond, but I couldn’t think straight.
“You look pale. Would you like a glass of water?” he asked.
Then I realized how dehydrated I must be and maybe why I felt so ill. “Yes,” I answered.
I watched him walk to the kitchen and heard the water run. He returned with a glass full of water and the purse from the kitchen in his hand. He handed me the glass and turned his attention to the purse.
“Is this yours?”
I shook my head ‘no.’
He pulled out a wallet and looked through it. He fixed on something and then lifted his head. He began to speak.
Another officer came into the room and interrupted him. He held up two clear bags; one with a large, clawed garden tool inside and the other held a blue, long-sleeved shirt in the other. “We found these in the field across the street. Both have blood on them. Looks like the murder weapon. And we got hold of Mike at the garage in town. He said that he towed a car here maybe a month ago.” Both officers turned their eyes to me. Officer Scipp held up the license in his hand for me to see.
“This is you. You’re Mrs. Patricia Kilday.”
I held the license in both my hands, cupping it, studying the stranger in the picture. This was a picture of a middle-aged woman with wrinkles on her face that
I sat in front of the two officers, hearing their voices in the distance, trying to figure out where I was.