Authors: Shirlee Lewis
By: Shirlee Lewis
Published By: Tattered Press Publishing
How far would you go to rescue the one you love? I hadn’t given much thought to the extremes I’d go to rescue the one I loved. Black cloaks surrounded him deep in the forest. Faintly, I heard my name echoing through the trees. Would I make it in time or would I be too late? Following the echo, searching the forest, I continued in the direction of the cry. Determined to reach my goal, stumbling through the forest, a black cloak stepped out in front of me. Would I run or face my fate.
My name repeated over and over before there was silence.
Chanting started and a deep voice mumbled, “The time has come.” Drums pounded with the chanting growing louder. With no time to waste, I knew I had to reach the voice.
Standing inside the screen door looking around, I wondered if William and Charlotte had the same fate. I wasn’t sure and I wasn’t going to ask. Both were out of our lives and gone forever. I wondered if they were together; where vampires go when they are destroyed. Nothing was going to stand between us or try to harm us anymore. The ordeal was over. I took a deep breath, opened the screen door and walked outside. I had never been more relaxed as I was at this very moment. Tony and I could get on with our lives.
Victor and Jennifer
had returned to England last week, confident all was well. Victor would return in a month or so to oversee the blood bank in Portland. He was having equipment shipped in from England. Tony would know a week before the equipment arrived, so he could go to Portland and organize where it needed to be set up at the blood bank. Jennifer was ecstatic about us getting married. She commented, it was about time and promised she would return for the wedding. She wasn’t going to miss it for the world.
Sighing, I smelled the air. It was clean and refreshed my lungs. The smell of pines and honeysuckle that grew wild in the forest behind my house made me smile. I knew this was going to be the best life.
Nothing else could go wrong. Not now, not ever.
The air brought a chill from the remains of snow, but I didn’t care.
Stepping off the porch, I stood on the bottom step admiring the vista of Mayville surrounding my house. Above the pine trees, the peaks of the mountains capped from the winter’s snow and the cranes were heading north. Birds’ chirping in the distance made me realize spring was around the corner. Smiling, I strolled to the middle of the yard.
The flowers in my well planter didn’t make it through winter as I had hoped
. I would plant new ones. My fence was in dire need of painting and some flowers along the base would look pretty. Irises would be a good choice. Turning, I faced the house. A few rose bushes against the front would help hide the vents. I would defiantly work on sprucing up my yard.
Walking back to the porch I turned to face the road. Hearing the screen door open I knew Tony had come outside. He wrapped his arms around me. I smiled. He kissed my neck and whispered, “Feels good not having any more worries.”
Reaching my hand up, I placed it on his neck. “It sure does.” I looked at his house which now stood empty.
Wrapped in each other’s arms, we admired the landscape that surrounded the house.
“What are you thinking?” he asked.
“Not about anything.” Slowly I turned to face him. “Actually, I was enjoying the peacefulness and listening to
the sounds of nature. Spring is almost here.” I glanced up at his face placing my hand back on his neck.
He looked into my eyes and I saw a man I could spend the rest of my life with. Nothing would ever come between us again. He was my Tony.
Tony put his forehead on mine and said, “I love you.” Before I could tell him I loved him, he kissed me passionately. His hand moved to the small of my back pressing me against him. We embraced enjoying each other. I nestled my head against his chest and wrapped my arms around him. I could never get enough of hugging him.
“What will you do with your house now that Victor and Jennifer are back in England?” I asked.
“I was thinking about renting it.”
A car turning down our street, slowed in front of Tony’s house. We watched as it stopped at the curb. A man and a woman looked the house over.
“Wonder what they want?” I asked lifting my head to look at the car.
“I haven’t a clue,” he stated releasing his hug from me.
Tony went to the end of the porch. I went to the chair and sat down. The couple looked around and spotted Tony. The man pointed at Tony and the woman turned to look at him. He pulled the car from the curb, drove the fifty yards to the house and stopped.
The man rolled his window down. “Hello, I’m Frank Holcomb. This is Mildred, my wife,” he said, nodding toward the woman beside him. He turned off the motor and
they both got out. “Would you know who owns that house?” he asked pointing toward Tony’s house.
Tony stepped off the porch and went to the car. “I’m the owner. How can I help you?”
Mildred started around the hood of the car when suddenly she stopped. Her eyebrows came together above her nose. A look of fright came on her face as she looked Tony over and went back to the passenger door. Grabbing the door handle, she started to open the car door. “Millie, come say hi,” Frank told her.
“Hi,” Mildred said, staying where she was. Her right eyebrow rose to touch her hair hanging against her forehead and a worried look came on her face. Deciding to join Tony I watched Mildred as she glanced at me then back to Tony. Standing next to Tony I watched how strange Mildred acted.
“I’m Tony Mureaux and this is Jessica, my finance.”
“Hello,” I said, with my eyes locked on Mildred.
“We would like to know if that house is for rent.” Mr. Holcomb pointed again toward Tony’s house.
“Jess and I were just discussing it and I do believe it is.”
“Would you both like to come in,” I offered.
“Sure, we’d be delighted.” Frank turned towards Mildred. “It looks like we might be living here after all.” Frank grinned.
Taking Tony’s hand, the four of us went into the house. Tony offered them a seat on the sofa. I continued to the kitchen stopping in the doorway. “Would you care for anything to drink?” I asked. Frank and Mildred had taken their seats.
“No thank you. I’m fine,” Mr. Holcomb spoke. “Millie?”
“Excuse me, I’m going to put on a pot of coffee,” I said, turning toward the kitchen. I hadn’t noticed Mildred in the kitchen until I turned toward the sink with the coffee pot. She was taking a seat at the table. From the corner of her eye, she watched as I made coffee. Not a word or a smile came from her,
just her wandering eyes. Because it was me, I couldn’t take the silence any longer.
“Where are you from?” I asked.
“What brings you to Mayville?”
“Frank decided to retire here. We passed through a couple of months ago and Frank fell in love with the scenery. He said he had never seen a place that had everything he loved like this town.”
“There isn’t much to Mayville. The community is close knit. Everyone here is very friendly. I’m sure you will fit right in.”
Mildred cocked her head toward the living room when she heard Tony laugh. Automatically, she bit her bottom lip and her forehead furrowed. Her eyes darted toward me and back to the living room. Now she had me wondering if everything was okay with her. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” she suddenly burst out. Clearing her throat she asked, “Would you mind if I see the inside?”
“That would be up to Tony and I’m sure he won’t mind. Let’s ask him,” I paused before getting myself a cup of coffee. “Would you care for a cup before we go?” I asked.
“No, thank you.” Mildred got up, paused in the doorway, and peeked around the corner before she joined Tony and Frank in the living room. Watching her, I laugh
ed silently before joining them.
Sitting on the arm of Tony’s chair, I listened as Tony and Frank talked about movies they liked. To my surprise they both loved the program about inventions. Mildred hurried to sit beside Frank on the sofa without taking her eyes off Tony. She stared at him
the whole time. Two things came to mind. One, Mildred was strange. Two, did she think Tony was handsome? To break the monotony, I looked toward Tony interrupting him asking, “Mildred would like to see the inside of the house.”
“Sure, we can go now,” Tony offered getting up. “Excuse me,” he politely stated
, going to the kitchen and retrieving the keys from the hook by the phone.
I watched Mildred’s eyes follow Tony, gazing at him
, nervously wringing her hands in her lap.
In a split second Tony returned with keys in hand. “Shall we go and have a look?”
Getting up from our seats we walked to Tony’s house. Mildred, right on Frank’s heels, held onto his arm with a tight grip. She did, however, look over her shoulder at Tony during the walk several times.
Tony opened the door, stepped aside so Frank and Mildred could look through the house. Tony started to go
inside when I grabbed his hand and gently pulled it to me. He looked at me and I motioned with my head to come with me. He followed me to the yard. “What’s up, Jess?” he asked with a half smile.
“I’ve noticed Mildred acts strange around you and can’t take her eyes off you.”
“Well, I am a handsome devil. I can understand why,” he laughed, and then winked at me.
“Tony,” I said, lightly brushing his arm with my hand. “She’s acting weird period. I don’t think I’d care for them to be our neighbor’s.”
“Jess, there is nothing to worry about,” he said, putting my hair behind my ear. “They seem like a harmless couple. Everything will be fine.”
“You’re going to rent to them?” I whispered. The last person I wanted as my neighbor was Mildred, but I didn’t really have a say in Tony’s house. I bit my bottom lip and silently hoped Tony wouldn’t.
“I don’t see why not. I’m a bit to take in at first, but once Mildred gets to know me, she’ll be alright.”
“Okay, but I am going to keep my eye on her.”
“Jess, you went through quiet an ordeal with, well, you know and you’re still on edge about it. Don’t worry, I’ll be right here, okay,” he said, then kissed my cheek. “They seem okay to me.”
“I trust your judgment,” I said, looking at the house.
Soon Frank and Mildred came out on the porch. “We love it,” Frank said. “How much are you asking?”
Tony let go of my hand and went over to them. I stayed in the yard. I watched Mildre
d watch Tony. She moved behind Frank and to the side of him when Tony stepped up on the porch.
“How does five hundred a month sound,” Tony said.
“Sounds good to me,” Frank said, shaking Tony’s hand. “We’ll be moving in, in about a month then. Several trips should do.”
As soon as we got back to our house, Mildred went straight to the car. I saw her lock the door with her eyes on Tony. As Tony and Frank talked, I went to the porch and sat down. Mildred glanced at me then back to Tony. She was the only one acting strange and seemed really nervous. I hoped once they moved in and she got to know us then she would relax and the strangeness would cease. All I could do, I thought, would be to offer a helping hand with the unpacking, and then hopefully that would help her relax a little.
Frank and Tony shook hands again. I saw him hand Tony money for the rent. Frank got into the driver’s side of the car, started the car and backed out of the driveway. Mildred’s eyes stayed on Tony the entire time.
Tony grinned from ear to ear as he stepped up on the porch. “He paid first and last month’s rent with a deposit,” he said, going into the house.
I watched them drive slowly by the house, look at it, turn onto the highway and disappear. I got up and went inside.
Tony went to the bedroom. I went to the kitchen getting another cup of cof
fee. Sitting down at the table, I couldn’t keep from wondering why Mildred acted the way she did. Maybe, she acted this way around people she didn’t know or she did think Tony was too handsome and couldn’t take her eyes off of him. Thought after thought roamed in my mind until I decided I’d give her the benefit of doubt. After all, she was new to Mayville. Sighing and taking a drink, I decided, I’ll just be the best neighbor and drop my suspiciousness.
“Jess,” Tony called from the bedroom.
I got up from the table and went toward the bedroom. Rounding the corner, I saw Tony on his hands and knees looking under the bed. “What is it?” I asked.
“Have you seen the safe?”
“I put it in the spare bedroom closet. Be right back.”
I went back to the bedroom with the safe and sat it on the bed. Tony opened the safe. An envelope fell out. I picked it up and on the front written in bold letters, ‘Matthew and Margie (Holcomb) Mureaux’. Looking at the envelope, then at Tony, I wondered if Frank could be a distant relative of his. He was busy putting the money in an envelope and writing on the front.
“What is this?” I asked, handing the envelope to him.
“It’s a copy of the last will and testament of my grandparents, why?”
“Look at Margie’s maiden name,” I said, pointing to the name. “You don’t think Frank is related to you, do you?”
“I don’t know. Next time I see him, I’ll be sure to ask.”
Tony took the envelopes and put them in the safe. Locking the safe, he slid it under the bed. Tony went back to the living room, sat in his recliner and turned the volume up on the television. I went to the kitchen, getting my cup from the table, and then went over to Tony’s chair. He looked up at me. “I believe we have a dinner and bowling date,” I said.
He sat me in his lap. “I’ll go with you to dinner, but bowling I’m not sure about. I don’t think I would like to do that again. One time was enough for me,” he said.
“You didn’t have fun?”
“Not really, but being with you was the best.”
“How about we go see a movie?”
“I would, but tonight I’d rather stay home.” Tony intertwined our fingers and continued, “Maybe tomorrow night we’ll go have dinner. I have to be in Portland anyway. Some equipment is arriving and I have to be there. I have to show the delivery guys whe
re father instructed me to put it.”
Tony turned back to the television to finish watching his program. I started thinking of our wedding. I needed a bridesmaid. Malinda came to mind. Looking at the clock on the DVD player I decided there was no time like the present to ask her. “Do you mind if I go visit Malinda at the diner?”
“I don’t mind at all.”
I kissed Tony, and then left for the diner. Malinda hadn’t come on duty when I arrived. Gillian, an elderly lady, was a new waitress on duty. The diner was known for hiring young waitress
’ but they never lasted long. I was guessing they wanted a waitress who could work longer than a month.
“What can I get you to drink, honey?” she asked.
“Coffee, black thanks,” I said, and turned my head to look out the window. I was thinking of the first time I saw Tony sitting in the booth in front of mine. So handsome and never taking his eyes off me. I couldn’t keep from smiling. Now we were going to be married.
Finishing two cups of coffee, Malinda’s car pulled into her usual parking place in front of the diner. She came in, looked around the diner, sat her purse on the counter and turned towards me. “Jess, what brings you here this late?”
“I need to talk to you, if you have a minute.”
“Sure, let me get things ready for my shift and I’ll be right there.”
Gillian flipped a switch and the lights over the bar dimmed. The bell rang, over the door, to say a patron had entered. Naturally, I thought of Tony. The patron, a heavy set man, unshaven, with his hair hung below his shoulders took a seat at the bar. Tuning back to the window, I noticed a semi running in the parking lot with dim lights. “Any hotels here?” he asked Malinda.
“At the edge of town we have a small one. It’s on the highway heading to Portland,” Malinda said, setting a cup down in front of him.
The man nodded and then took a sip of the drink. Gillian headed out the door, and Malinda joined me at the booth. “What’s going on?” she asked.
“Tony rented his house today,” I said, softly. “The people he rented to, have the same last name as his grandmother.”
“Are they related to him?”
“We don’t know yet. Tony will talk to Mr. Holcomb when he gets a chance.”
“If they are, Tony would have some relatives close by.”
“True, but Mildred, Frank’s wife, acts strange around Tony. I don’t know why,” I said, glancing down at my cup.
“How strange does she act?”
“For starters, she acts like she’s scared to death of him. Afraid he might attack her or something.”
“Tony is, after all, a very handsome man. Maybe, she’s just admiring his beauty,” Malinda said with a huge grin.
“I don’t think so. She stares at him with a worried expression.”
“Just come out and ask her. There has to be some kind of explanation.”
“I can’t just come out and ask. I thought, I would watch her and hope she eases up around him. You don’t find Tony frightening, do you?”
“Heavens no, Jess. He is always the perfect gentlemen when I’m around.”
“He is that, isn’t he,” I said, with a huge grin.
“I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about,” Malinda said, getting up. “I need to start my shift.”
“Oh, I almost forgot why I came. I need to ask you a question.”
Malinda came back to the table. “What Jess?”
“As you know, Tony and I are getting married. I wanted to know...”
“Of course, I will,” Malinda squealed, interrupting me.
“You don’t know what I’m going to ask.”
“Of course, I do. You want to know if I’ll be your bridesmaid,” she said, beaming.
“Well, yes I was.”
“You didn’t have to ask. You know I will.”
“It’s settled then. You are my bridesmaid.”
Malinda hugged me and danced back behind the counter. Stopping at the counter to pay for my coffee, Malinda said, “Jess, it’s on the house.”
“Thanks,” I said putting on my jacket. “I’ll let you know the details later.”
Malinda grinned from ear to ear. I went to my car.
Heading back to the house, I wondered what Mildred really thought. If anyone acted strange it was her. Tony was the most considerate and understanding person I had ever met or knew. Surely, Mildred would have to see that. Shrugging the thought of Mildred from my mind, I smiled when the street light hit my ring. I had a wedding to think about, instead of worrying how someone acted around Tony. I had to find a best man for Tony.
The semi I saw at the diner turned onto the highway toward Portland. The police car sat at the Gas-n-Go in front of the gas pumps. Turning onto the highway I noticed the police lights come on and started out into the highway in the opposite direction from me. A horn sounded. I
looked in my rearview mirror. The semi applied its brakes, black smoke came from the tires, and the smell of burnt rubber filled the air. In my rearview mirror, I saw the semi broadside the police car. My mouth fell open and I whipped the car around to get to the accident.
The semi driver exited the cab of his truck heading to the front. Sitting in the front seat, Detective Cooke moaned trying to unfasten his seat belt. Lacerations covered his face. His forehead oozing blood with glass embedded in the gash. Running back to my car, I grabbed my cell phone and called the police station. “We need an ambulance at the corner of Highway and Second Street. Detective Cooke is involved in an accident,” I told the dispatcher going back to the police car.
“I didn’t know he was going to pull out in front of me,” the semi driver said. “It happened so fast, I didn’t have time to stop before I hit him.”
“Help me with this door?”
We pried on the driver’s door which wasn’t going to budge. In the distance I heard two sets of sirens. Detective Sean and the ambulance pulled up at the same time.
Detective Sean hurried to the passenger side of the police car. “Did you see what happened, Jess?” he asked.
“The semi hit the car as it was coming out of the Gas-n-Go,” I said, going to the passenger side of the car. Detective Sean, helped me get Detective Cooke out of the car, and gently laid him on the concrete. Detective Cooke stopped breathing. Detective Sean looked at me. The EMT’s had the defibrillator ready. I started chest compressions hoping I’d do some good. Detective Cooke didn’t start breathing. The defibrillator didn’t help. Detective Cooke passed away.
The EMT’s placed him on the stretcher, covered him with a sheet, strapped him to the gurney and loaded him in the back of the ambulance. My eyes started tearing up as I watched the ambulance slowly head to the hospital. I hadn’t encounter
ed death since I quit working at the hospital. Tonight, seeing Detective Cooke chocked me up.
“Jess, thank you for all your help,” Detective Sean said, leading me to my car.
I looked at him with such sadness. He knew there were no words. Detective Sean opened my car door, and I got in. I headed home with tears streaming down my cheeks. Detective Cooke had been on the police force before I was born. All the town people thought the world of him and it wasn’t going to be the same without him.
Pulling into the driveway, I didn’t want Tony seeing me upset so I wiped my tears and took several deep breaths before getting out of the car. Slowly, I opened the front door to see Tony’s recliner empty. All the lights were on and the television was turned down. I turned off the television and the lights. As I turned to go down the hall, I saw Tony standing in the doorway of the kitchen.
“Did you have a nice time?” he asked, taking a drink from his flask.
Hoping the tears were dried up, I looked up at Tony.
“I saw a semi hit Detective Cooke’s patrol car.”
“What?” Tony asked. “Is he okay?”
I couldn’t say anything. I stood looking at Tony with tears starting again. He pulled me to him, hugged me tight because he knew the answer when I didn’t say anything.
“Let’s go to bed,” I softly whispered.
Tony released his hug. He took his flask to the refrigerator. Heading down the hall, I stopped in the doorway of the spare bedroom. Wiping the tears from my eyes, I remembered Charlotte. She was never going to be standing in the window with red eyes again.
Tony walked up behind me putting his hand on my shoulder. “Jess, I’m sorry about Detective Cooke. He was a fine Detective.”
I nodded and went to the bedroom. I undressed and slid under the covers. Tony slipped in next to me hugging me tight. In the comfort of Tony’s arms, he kissed my neck. “I love you,” he whispered.
“I love you too,” I whispered back.
It wasn’t long before I forget about everything and fell asleep.
In the morning, I woke up to the phone ringing. Thinking Tony would get it, I closed my eyes. Soon the ringing stopped, but then the ringing started again. Sluggishly, I crawled out of bed and answered the phone.
“Hello,” I said, into the receiver.
“Jess, its Mr. King. I have some questions regarding some paperwork from when you worked here. Could you come to the hospital this afternoon and help me sort this out?” he asked.
“Sure, I will see you this afternoon.”
“Thank you, Jess.”
Hanging up the receiver, I couldn’t imagine what paperwork could possibly have questions. “Tony,
” I called looking at the recliner. “Where is he?” I went to the garage, he wasn’t there. “Hmm,” I shrugged. It wasn’t like him to leave without telling me. Heading back into the house, I heard a vehicle backfire. I went to the front door to see where the noise came from.
A moving truck pulled
up in front of Tony’s house. Frank got out of the truck and headed to the back. Mildred grabbed a box from the cab and headed to the house. Frank and Mildred were moving in. Sitting the box on the porch, she went to the back of the truck. Mildred carried a box into the house. After all the boxes were unloaded, Frank and Mildred drove away. Tony’s car wasn’t in the driveway. “Where could he have gone?”
After lunch, I dressed in blue jeans and my sweatshirt. Before I closed the front door, I remembered a manila envelope that needed to be dropped off at the post office. Victor had sent Tony papers for his signature regarding the blood bank he had purchased in Portland.
Arriving at the hospital, I went straight to the elevator. When the doors opened, Doctor Hynes was already on the elevator. He was the medical examiner for County Hospital. I pushed the button for ten. “Is Detective Cooke in the basement?” I asked in a quiet voice.
“Yes, he is.”
“Have you performed the autopsy?”
“We will start the autopsy today.” The elevator stopped at the basement. Doctor Hynes exited and headed down the corridor to the autopsy room. I pushed the close door button so the elevator would take me to ten.
Waiting for the tenth floor, I thought back to the accident of the semi and Detective Cooke. The driver’s door hadn’t crushed him when the semi hit the car. Now I wondered if something else had caused his death, maybe a heart attack.
The doors to the elevator opened at ten. Just as I was getting off the elevator, Mr. King opened the door to his office. “Hi Jess, it’s good to see you. Please come in,” Mr. King said, with a smile.
Mr. King had paperwork from when I worked there lying on his desk. Mrs. Johnson’s chart didn’t have the time of death. It was something I must have overlooked at the time. I vaguely remembered, but I was sure of the time.
“Do you happen to remember the time of death for Mrs. Johnson?” Mr. King asked.
“I do believe it was 11:15 am. My shift had just started when Tim ran down the hall to get me.”
“Are you ready to come back?” Mr. King asked writing the time on the chart.
“I do miss it, but I’m getting married soon.”
“Congratulations Jess. When is the big day?” he asked getting up. He came around the desk and hugged me.
I hugged him back. “We haven’t decided yet. It will be soon.”
“Don’t forget to invite me,” he laughed.
“Mr. King, of course I’ll invite you. Is there anything else you needed?”
“No, that was all.”
I wanted to visit with Ginger. Getting off the elevator at the fourth floor, Ginger wasn’t at the nurse desk. Looking at the clock, I knew she must be at lunch. Stopping at the cafeteria, I noticed the table where I used to sit in front of the window was empty. The mountain peaks in the background had looming, gray clouds with a promise of rain today. Looking around the cafeteria, it was full of new faces I didn’t recognize. I didn’t see Ginger, so I went to my car.
Sitting in my car, I stared at the hospital. I missed it. I missed coming to work and taking care of my patients on the tenth floor. Someday I might come back, but for now I had a wedding to plan and help Tony with the blood bank for opening day. Stopping at the post office, I mailed the manila envelope back to Victor, and then headed home.
For several weeks, I watched the moving van make several trips to Tony’s house. Frank and Mildred would unload the truck, and then leave. Surely they didn’t have many more trips. Watching them, reminded me when Tony and I moved from his house to mine after rebuilding from the fire.
At the end of the month, Frank and Mildred
had completely moved into the house. I hadn’t seen Mildred get into the moving van when it headed back to the highway. I decided to see if she needed any help. The front door was open. Before I knocked, I saw Mildred coming from the kitchen. She smiled and came to the front door. Her demeanor was normal, unlike the first time I met her.
“Hi Jessica, please come in.” She smiled opening the door.
“Is there anything I can do to help?” I asked looking at all the boxes in the living room.
“I have a lot of things to put away in the kitchen. Sure you don’t mind helping?”
“Not at all, that’s why I’m here,” I said, enthusiastically. I went to the kitchen. Sitting on the floor were four huge boxes. Before I put anything away, I opened the boxes and looked inside. All the kitchen appliances, pot and pans, and dishes where in each one. “Any particular place you would like for me to put these?”
“No particular place. Where ever you find an empty space will be fine.”
“Okay.” Remembering where Tony had his dishes, I put Mildred’s in the same place. After the boxes were empty, I went to see if Mildred needed any help in the living room. Coming around the corner of the kitchen Mildred was standing at the front door looking toward my house. “Is everything okay?”
Mildred jumped when I spoke. “Sure,” she said, but kept looking toward my house.
“Mildred, are you worried about something? Is it Tony?” I couldn’t fathom why she was looking at my house because Tony wasn’t even home.
“I don’t mean to stare, but Tony seems odd to me,” she said, turning around.
The only one I thought odd was her, but I had to ask anyway, “Odd, what do you mean?”
“I don’t want you to be upset with me, but he doesn’t seem to be
“What makes you say that?” I asked. I thought back to when we first met Mildred and Frank. I couldn’t think of anything Tony did or said to make her think that.
Mildred moved a box out of the armchair and offered me a seat. I sat down and Mildred went back to the door. “I’ll try to explain what I mean.” She cleared her throat, while I looked at her. “I met some people from Italy that looked a lot like Tony and they were not human. They seemed to follow a person dressed in black.”
“Follow?” I couldn’t imagine anyone following anyone. “What do you mean?”
“There was a rumor about a cult in the forest of Italy. On certain nights you could hear drums and chanting. Soon people would disappear, never to be seen again. The one dressed in black was the leader. He gave orders and they were obeyed.” Mildred shuddered when she thought back to this time.
“Did you ever see this place?”
“No, but Frank and I vacationed near there a few years ago and I did hear the drums. Thinking it was a wild party and some locals having fun, I didn’t think anymore about it. Later that morning, at the local market, I overheard the clerk saying something about ‘another one disappeared last night: Cilia’s youngest son’. A search party was organized, but the boy was never found.” She paused from the memory, and then continued. “Frank and I were hiking in the general vicinity of the old ancient ruins just outside of Parma. We stumbled upon a man, but he was no ordinary man. His complexion was dark. His eyes were wild. He stood in front of a hut with a large spear across his chest. He looked to be protecting something inside the hut.”
“How do you know this?”
“The man’s mother came out of the hut. He watched her every movement. For one second if he thought she was going too far, he immediately went to stand beside her. I got the impression he
protecting her. She told us to move on because her husband would return home soon. He didn’t allow strangers and it wouldn’t be good if we hung around.”
“Out of the clear blue she told you this?”
“Yes,” Mildred paused. “Before we left, we caught a glimpse of the woman’s husband. Pale and red eyes, but the man guarding the hut had green eyes. The woman looked at us with fright and mouthed for us to leave. Her son looked toward the cliffs behind them, then back to us. Tanned skin, she repeated.
“That doesn’t mean anything. Isn’t everyone in Italy tan
“I guess,” she shrugged.
“Tony is as normal as you and me,” I said, sounding offended. “Once you get to know him, you’ll see.”
“I’m sorry. Tony reminds
me of those people, I met,” tapping her finger on her chin. Mildred looked at me, and then went straight to a box. She rummaged through the box until she found some sheets.
Mildred didn’t say another
word about her experience in Italy. I watched her face change from serious back to subtle as she continued to unpack. After a few minutes she said, “Frank and I are hoping tonight is our first night here.”
“Well, that is why I’m here, to help.”
Over by the door leading to the room at the north end of the house was a box marked bathroom. I carried the box to the bathroom, unpacked the towels and wash cloths. Coming back to the living room, Mildred was standing at
the front door again looking toward my house again with a smile on her face.
Why does she keep looking at my house?
Before Mildred turned around, I retrieved another box and carried it to the spare bedroom, the room I recuperated in from three years ago. Mildred passed the doorway on her way to her bedroom. Tip-toeing to the doorway, I saw she was busy putting her bed together. I went to the front door, looked at my house and Tony’s car was still gone. I went back to work clearing the living room of the boxes.
Mildred and I worked all afternoon getting everything away. It was beginning to look like a home. Exhausting, but at least she would feel at home this evening.
We were unpacking the last box. A truck back fired. Mildred and I went to see Frank returning with another load. Frank got out of the moving van, kicked the tire followed by a few choice words. Mildred and I laughed and then went outside to help unload the van.
“I’ve never had a vehicle give me
trouble as this one,” Frank said, opening the back of the van. “I’d been here hours ago, if I didn’t have to stop every few miles to check the engine. The darn light stayed on and the gears were grinding.”
“This is the last trip, right?” Mildred asked.
“I have one more and then I’ll be finished. I’m not going to use this piece of junk,” Frank said, kicking the tire again.
Mildred and I both laughed. The truck had a few items in the back consisting of furniture, a washer and dryer, and refrigerator. We managed to get them inside the house
thanks to the lift attached to the back, and a dolly attached to the inside wall. After helping with the big things, I said, “I need to get home. If you still need my help tomorrow, let me know. I’ll be more than happy to help,” and then headed back to my house.
“I’ll do that
, Jessica. Thanks for all you’ve done,” Mildred said.
Tony’s car wasn’t in the driveway when I started for the house. He was good about telling me where he was going. I didn’t worry much because the blood bank was taking up most of his time anyway. Victor was pushing for a grand opening in a couple of months. I was worn out from helping Mildred and decided a hot bubble bath would be relaxing. Settling into the bubbles, I had forgotten how much it took out of you to get settled into a home. Closing my eyes, I thought of Mildred’s encounter in Italy. I laughed it off thinking Mildred was just trying to scare me. The only thing she had proved to me so far was she was a tad bit on the nutty side.
After my bath, I went to the front door and looked toward Tony’s house. His car came around the corner with the trunk half open.