“Maybe I’ve been hitting the bricks myself.” He paused long enough to crook his index finger under my chin.
While I struggled to get my blood pressure out of the stratosphere he continued in a voice so soft I nearly missed his words over the pounding in my ears, “You’ve heard of the Brickyard?”
“But that’s, but, that in…” I sputtered like a cold engine on a frigid morning. “Indianapolis.”
He tapped the tip of my nose with his finger, winked, and said, “Smart girl. Tell me if you think of anything else.” Then he turned and walked toward Grumpy’s house.
Taking my life, and maybe my liberty, in my hands again, I leaned as far over the dratted tape as I dared. He’d touched me. Twice. And I swore never to wash that particular spot on my nose or chin again.
A shiver coursed through me and I remembered the first and last time I’d met the stellar Sterling Spreadbury. It was the night I’d gotten the strange letter from my ex Aloysius Everslam. I’d just sat at my computer, promised myself I’d dump the jerk via the Bill Gates express when the letter slot in the door jangled. I mean, it was ten at night. Who gets mail at ten at night? Well, there it was, a letter in his bold, upright, thrusting, handwriting. I slit the thing open with a steak knife. The words that met my eyes meant for someone else. The salutation read Dear…
“You okay, Persephone? You shivered?”
Pulled from the swirl of my memories I recognized my neighbor standing next to me, the one who made the late delivery. I hadn’t heard her approach. What else had I missed? “Sorry, I…”
“That cop will do it to you. What a hunk.” Merry Goosebury sighed. “Remember how he got to the bottom of that horrible letter? The one in the envelope addressed to you?” At my nod, she gave me a knowing look, poked my shoulder, and said, “Yummy.”
Merry’s poke nearly toppled me from the perch atop my shoes. “You coulda had him then. Don’t miss out this time.” She jerked her chin over her shoulder. “Check out the great car. Bet he catches all the speeders. Think they give him a cut of the ticket fees?”
That was a road I didn’t want to travel. I drew myself up to my full height, plus four inches, and said, “Poor Mr. Fries. Did you hear anything suspicious? I can’t believe this could happen in our neighborhood. And two shoes? What a mystery.”
The look in her eyes tipped me off. Something was going on. Something important. Had I missed something slaving away over my deadline while my neighbor died? Did I deserve to be the last one to know?
“There was an odd sound last night, and a roar. It woke me. Like a rocket ship landing or something.” Merry gave a dismissive wave and wiped a trickle of perspiration from her face with a tissue she pulled from her sleeve. “It was probably nothing. Since they changed the flight path for the Snodgrass International Airport. We’ve even had sonic booms.”
The roar, that was Merry’s rocket ship landing. It was so hot last night I had the window open. I’d heard it too. It pulled me out of my deadline-induced semi-coma. It annoyed me. Here I was trying to get my words right and some idiot with a glasspack muffler was turning my street into a race course… my head slewed around so fast I nearly got whiplash and my sweatshirt slid the full way down to my elbow revealing more of Persephone than I felt comfortable with.
What did that hot red Maserati sound like on acceleration?