Marge sipped coffee as she looked out the window. The new tenants were nothing like she expected. They were too quiet, too polite and too perfect. They were hiding something. Marge prided herself on picking out people who were trouble. She knew Rob Henderson was drinking and hitting his wife, didn’t she? When Betty ended up in the hospital and divorced Rob, Marge was triumphant. She warned everyone, didn’t she? Yes, the new tenants were a problem. Marge sat at the computer and began a background check on the Petersons.
Lila headed to the cashier, grocery shopping done. It was so wearing, doing these things herself. And in a small town, no less. She missed the city. Any city! Here, though, insincerity was the key to appearing friendly. “How are you today?” the cashier asked. “It’s good to see you,” she said automatically. All pathetic, but necessary.
Marge squinted at the computer screen. The background check came back. It confirmed everything the Petersons told her about their history. She looked at the application to live in the duplex. It was all arranged through email, what with them moving here from Springfield. Everything checked out. Just too perfect. She called Louise. “Those people are into something, I just know it,” she told Louise, who clucked her tongue with Marge. Marge was back at the window, watching for them.
“I hope they’re not making drugs in there,” Louise responded, fascination in her voice. She called Olive about the drug dealing couple living with Marge immediately.
Lila pulled in at the duplex. A duplex, for god’s sake! As close to a brownstone as she was likely to get again. “It could be worse,” Don kept telling her. At least her husband went out and worked. Not that she wanted to work! Hell no. Being trapped in this place, having to clean it herself, not being able to call her friends and hit the boutiques? It was all driving Lila nuts. Nosy old Marge Woodly was at the window as usual. Lila waved up to her and forced a smile. The witch. Marge was as bad as the paparazzi. Lila had a moment of missing the photographers. Pathetic. Now she was reduced to carrying the groceries in herself.
While she was putting eggs in the refrigerator, her cell rang. It showed the number as UNAVAILABLE. She knew what that meant. “What now?” she snapped.
Marshall Evers said calmly, “Someone is digging into your new background. We’re moving you again. Time to pack. Your husband is on his way home.”
“Okay, okay, so Don’s coming home.”
“Ralph is coming home, Ellie,” Evers interrupted.
“Right, sorry, Ralph,” she emphasized the name impatiently. “So we’re moving again. New names and no one can find us, right? All I have to do is testify?”
“You already know the drill. It’s not safe to talk on this phone. Tell Ralph to destroy them both and dispose of them in a dumpster while you pack,” Evers instructed. She thought she noted a hint of annoyance in the always composed voice. That was worth a genuine smile.
“Sounds good. Look forward to seeing you as always,” she said in perfect small town tone before hanging up. There wasn’t much time, but she didn’t need it. Finally, some fun! She was back and packing when Don arrived. Evers wasn’t long behind. “Bags are packed and in the bedroom,” she announced cheerfully. She walked out, leaving the cramped duplex forever.
It took only two days for Louise to call Olive. “It’s not like Marge. She didn’t call and she’s not answering her phone. I haven’t even seen her at her window.” They agreed Louise should call Sherriff Barlowe, who was none too pleased to be bothered about it. Louise never did like the Sherriff. She sure didn’t vote for her.
“I know something’s wrong, Sherriff. If she’s sick, she’s horribly sick and needs help. In any case, I’m formally requesting you send someone to check on her,” Louise told her stiffly.
Barlowe sighed. “Mickey’s on a call. Guess you’re stuck with me. I’ll go over and let you know what I find.”
“We’ll meet you there.” Louise’s excitement level suddenly raced.
When Barlowe pulled up, she found Louise and her gossipy friend, Olive, waiting. Louise waved around a key. “I found it. It was in a fake rock near the front door.”
“Stay here, ladies,” the Sherriff ordered as she entered. She was glad she did. She didn’t take five steps before the scent of decomp was in the air. Never did get used to that smell. She clicked on her radio. “Adele, call Delbert over at the funeral home. Tell him it’s a medical examiner call.”
© 2011 JC Rosen
Incorporating two #storystarters by Clifford Fryman (aka @CliffordFryman).