Read an Excerpt
Confined to a wheelchair and bored out of my mind, I found watching the neighbors move in at the end of our cul-de-sac more entertaining than anything on TV. But the storm front that settled over us early this morning managed to take away even this questionable diversion. Other than the mysterious man with a limp hanging around the moving van in the middle of a downpour early on, things were pretty dull.
Once it stopped raining, I expected the action to pick up, but it didn’t. Even the people who flocked to dead end streets for the sheer joy of driving around the circle at the top stayed away. Several hours had passed since I witnessed any real activity, and what I did observe seemed, well, a little odd.
The realtor, Elsie Wilkes, came by while it was still sprinkling. She removed the For Sale sign from the yard, walked around the van a couple times, and ended up on the curb closest to my side of the street. After staring at the house she’d recently sold, she darted to her car and shoved the sign into the trunk, her head bobbing in every direction. Peculiar behavior for anyone else, but when it came to Elsie, peculiar was the norm.
Rex Stout’s visit was stranger. After parking his old white Caddy in front of my place, he walked all the way around the cul-de-sac, returned to his car, then pulled it into the driveway near the unattended van. He got out of the car, stood for a while in front of the house that once belonged to him, turned, then disappeared up the ramp and into the truck. Since then, I’d neither seen nor heard anything or anyone.
The breeze coming through the open window was fresh and clean, adding to my desire to be out of this chair and working in the yard. I hated being so sedentary. The inactivity made me feel useless. Worse, it made me feel old—and that was something I refused to be for a very long time.
With one hand still on the curtain, I turned and gazed out across the living room. There was bound to be something I could do that would make me feel useful—and keep me from this less than admirable form of diversion.
Interference from both the wheelchair and curtains stalled my attempt to move away from the window. As I struggled to untangle myself, the sound of a woman’s shriek had me back at my post in a flash.
Two burly men stood on the ramp leading down from the massive moving van. Between them lay several large carpets piled haphazardly atop one another. The upper one was partially unrolled revealing a rich forest green pattern.
I could barely see the woman beyond the giant spirea bush that edged our properties, but her voice was crystal clear. And she wasn’t happy.
“Do you have any idea what you’ve done?” She screamed. “You dropped that even after I told you to be especially careful with the rugs. Can’t you follow the simplest instructions?”
The man in the rear said something, his deep, gruff tone the only thing to carry on the breeze. His arms waved in what I perceived as a threatening manner until the other man silenced him with a look thrown over his shoulder.
When the woman disappeared, the men bent down, picked up the partially unrolled carpet, and hefted it onto their shoulders. As the man in the rear stepped over the carpets remaining on the ramp, his boot caught on the corner of one near the top. He shook himself free, then continued on his way.
A pale object protruding from the end of the rolled carpet captured my attention.
“That’s a foot.” I whispered.
I pulled back from the window, closed my eyes, took a deep breath, then looked again. Sure enough, a foot dangled out the back of the rug.
My daughter magically appeared in the doorway, hands on her hips, a frown on her pretty face. “Who was it always said we were supposed to mind our own business?” Moving past me to the window, she sighed as she shoved the wheelchair away from my post.
“Andi, you need to take a look out there. At the carpets.”
“Mama, I know you’re bored, but really, spying on the new neighbors?” She fussed with the curtain, straightening it out before turning back to me.
I found the role reversal more than a little amusing, though a bit irritating under the circumstances. I needed to get a better look at that carpet.
“I wasn’t spying,” I insisted, struggling to maneuver closer to the window. “I was just—looking. Besides, honey, you really need to take a peek out there right now.”
“You’ve been watching those people for the last three days, and while it may be fascinating, it’s not very polite.” The stern look gave way to one of curiosity. “I’ll bet they have some incredible things.”
Wasn’t that what I was trying to tell her? “Nothing as incredible as what I just saw. Please, Andi, just one look and tell me what you see.”
Frowning, she lifted the panel she’d just smoothed into place.
“Well, there’s a bunch of rolled carpets sitting on the ramp.”
“That’s all you see? Nothing sticking out the end of one of them?” Had my desire for excitement caused me to hallucinate?
“See for yourself.”
She helped me back to the window and raised the curtain for me to peer out. Just as she’d said, there were several nicely rolled carpets—no foot.
Take a deep breath, Glory. Look again.