Holy cow! How had Delicious Detective Sinful guessed? Little innocent me, in the wrong place at the right time? No way.
Okay, maybe I lied.
It would serve him right. Him and Merry, huh? Turning my back on that pair, I let my sweatshirt slip a fraction more off my shoulder as I sashayed back down the sidewalk. I wiggled with each step and fluttered my hand close to the neighbor’s picket fence. In case I lost my balance. You never know what a klutz like me will do.
It wasn’t far to my bungalow, where I lived all alone now that my parents had passed after that freak accident at the Brickyard. Darn it, why was Sinful deliberately tormenting me with that reference? He knew what happened.
“Are you okay, dear?” said a tiny woman’s voice from under a Texas-sized straw hat. Widow Winnie Wilton rose from her gardening stool on the other side of the picket fence and steadied my arm through her work gloves.
“Thanks, Mrs. Wilton,” I said, leaning against the little spears of her fence. I glanced over my bare shoulder to make sure Sinful hadn’t seen my klutz moment, but luckily, he’d disappeared inside Grumpy’s house. “I’m fine. Guess I’m not so good at walking in these things yet.”
“I’ll never understand why you young folks even try.” Winnie laughed good-naturedly.
I laughed too. “I wouldn’t do it, except for…”
If I didn’t get more practice walking in these four-inchers, I’d fall flat on my face tonight. That nerdy Fred Boschman would probably never even notice, but still.
“Except for what, dear?” Widow Winnie said.
“There’s a party tonight,” I said. I don’t usually do blind dates, but a girl living on her own has got to party sometimes, right? And besides, the retro disco ball was going to be a charity fundraiser for the police department, so maybe Sinful would be there. A girl could hope. That’s the only reason why I’d agreed to go with Fred. Really.
“I’d break my neck for sure.” Winnie’s tittering laughter died, along with the reminder of death in the neighborhood. We both turned to observe the scene of flashing blue and red lights.
“Tsk, tsk,” Winnie said. “Such a shame. And his boy, Elton, just come to town for a visit. First time in a long time. He works down on an oil rig in the gulf, did you know? They say that ever since that shark attack took Mr. Fries’s leg, he and his boy never saw eye to eye. It was something to do with politics and the environment, they say.”
“Who says, Mrs. Wilton?” I asked. She’d been the neighborhood gossip for as long as I remembered, and I’d grown up on this street.
“The spirits, dear.” She winked.
I couldn’t waste anymore time prattling with my crazy neighbor, because I had plenty of work to do, if I was going to be ready for tonight. I waved goodbye, pulled off my sandals, and hurried on down the street, barefoot.
The sunlight glared, and something sparkled, blinding me as I turned up the sidewalk to my front door. Owww! I stubbed my toe against a crack, and my four-inch sandals fell from my arms one at a time, plunking into my weed-infested lawn. Darn crack! Home repairs never seemed to end, even though the bank balance kept sinking.
What had blinded me was something glittery, half sticking out of my mail slot, although it wasn’t time yet for the mail to arrive. Which reminded me of that other delivery I’d received, well past mail time. “Dear Duncan,” my ex boyfriend, Aloysius Everslam, had written, although the envelope had been addressed to me. The creep. Luckily, I’d broken it off with Alo before things had gone too far. It had been just like him to make sure I knew he was in a new relationship. Like I cared. Him and Duncan Meadows, so what?
I shivered at the memory of my close call, and ran up onto the porch, reaching to yank the paper from the slot. Glitter dripped across the plain white sheet of typing paper, forming words.
“I see you,” it read.
I sucked in my breath and glanced over my shoulder.
A dirty white van with a Saints bumper sticker parked across the street. Had its driver seen me over at Grumpy’s place earlier this morning?