I took Harry's proffered smoke and lit up deeply inhaling the cigarette. I felt a bit less shaking with the familiar motion and lack of being touched. Both of us smoking now, I walked with Harry down the sidewalk in the opposite direction we had gone late last night. He asked, "You doing ok?"
"I guess," blowing out the smoke I felt more of the chilled wind whip around us. My eyes followed the dissipating wisps of gray and I looked back to see that he had stopped on the sidewalk after asking me how I was doing. Standing there looking at him it struck me how good looking he really was. Shaking my head to dispel that notion I shrugged my shoulders and said, "What?"
Harry smiled slightly and replied, "You are a strong woman, Gwendolyn. You know this right?" I shook my head again and answered, "Sure, so what did you want to ask me?"
"Don't dismiss that comment so quickly. I mean it. You found your mom and have dealt with this extremely well all things considered." His tone was serious. I took another puff and processed his comment.
I regarded him again then slowly offered, "Not much else I could do. I know I didn't kill her and I could tell she hadn't committed suicide so somewhere out here we have a killer. If you and your agent can find this person that would be absolutely great. Doesn't really matter because if not, I still have to live here. Do my daily life and just pick up and deal with it all. Not like anyone is going to come along and save me." That was the most I had said to him in a single conversation. I wasn't much into words when actions could do. Besides my ears had been talked off for the past few hours and it was pretty funny to hear my own voice again. I took another long drag off my cigarette and tried to keep a calm look on my face. I was still worried about what he wanted to ask me or show me. The idea that Bobby had found something that made Erika excited made me nervous.
Harry gave me a wry smile and agreed with me, "Yes, that is true, Gwendolyn. Nobody runs in to save the day as a rule. But still you're handling this extremely maturely and with no real support. Margie and Cinda are nice folks but limited."
I didn't know what to say back to that compliment hidden within the insult of my friend and her mother. I picked my usual path and remained quiet. Turning back the way we had begun to walk I quickened my pace and let Harry catch up when he figured out I was not going back.
"That didn't come out right," he tried to explain away the rudeness towards the Carmichaels. Why he bothered I don't know but I thought it curious.
I nodded and took another puff from the cigarette while briskly continuing down the main street. We had maybe four more buildings then we would end up in the town square area. I kept with my nervous fast pace across the concrete and Harry effortlessly quickened his step to draw along side of me. The town business area was then behind us and we were at the older part of the homes and larger estates that made up the town proper. The town forefathers carved out the area making big plots of land available to the rich merchants and politicians decades ago. The mayor's house was two houses further down the way and if we kept journeying to just outside the town limits we would hit the road that led back to my home. I had no intentions of going that far but kept walking.
Harry stopped me with a soft touch to my forearm. The crescent shaped marks from my encounter with Miss Carter were slowly fading and his touch was cold which was fitting given the wind blown weather. Chilled and disturbed at being touched again I slowed and stopped dead at the corner of the recently buried mayor's property. In the distance we could see there were four people standing in the driveway near the entrance of the Hunter residence. They were standing under the porch light so it took me a minute before I could see it was Kelly Ann with a man I vaguely recognized from around town. I figured it must be the missing husband, Hank Jacobs. I hadn't seen him in many years and those years had worn poorly on him. His cough was rough and he spit a gob of something down next to the walkway leading to the front door. Then as Barbie and Ken moved into the light next to the man their squabbling could be heard quite easily from our vantage point on the sidewalk.
"Dad, they are right." She cleared up my wondering while slowly entering into my range of view, "Besides you heard us tell you about all those men saying that Mom is the best one to step into right Grandpa's job. Nobody would object and after all grandma has no desire to be a mayor," Barbie was pleading while looking up batting her eyes at her father. He shook his head and said, "But honey, your mom is just a housewife. Nobody in their right mind would give over a town to her." His voice was gravelly and mean. Kelly Ann had picked a winner alright. His face was narrow and extremely suspicious. Barbie and Ken did not have a nice daddy that was obvious.
"Dad," Ken was trying to sound adult but his voice was puny and weak to my ears, "Mom can do it. These old guys want her in charge. Why not give it a whirl? Like you care if mom screws up this town?" It seemed he was still a tad bitter from the news of having shared a girlfriend with dear old grandpa I thought to myself. Then I watched Hank casually backhanded Ken across his mouth with an audible smack. From the way his head snapped back and he didn't utter a sound it obvious that this sort of hands on response was a normal occurrence in the Jacobs household. Kelly Ann snarled, "Knock that off, Hank. Someone might see us."
Harry tugged me unresistingly to nestle with him behind one of the oak trees that was buried along the street from one of the many city plantings done throughout the years. His breath was softly tickling the back of my neck and I was aware of him more than I had been at any time. Harry was not someone easily ignored. And as we stayed in the shadows of the large oak nearest that made up the canopy of limbs lining the street I found that I couldn't see the family. Lucky for us it was large enough to block them from view and in turn we were afforded a safe haven for the moment. Keeping my focus I tried to see what was going on but was unable to peak around the bark since Harry kept close to me and restricted my movements. Nevertheless I heard the front door open and clearly slam shut from behind the oak that had sheltered us. No more words carried to our ears and a minute later Harry gestured for me to walk back the way we had come. I felt somehow this whole little walk had been preplanned by Harry and that he knew I would witness that confrontation and wanted me to see how things were in the town. Not exactly great news but something I hadn't known before I had to admit to myself about the scene that had unfolded in front of us. I could share all this with Cinda if I wanted but knew I would keep what I observed to myself for now. There was more at play than a simple walk and I had some thinking to do. Was the mayor's death somehow linked to my mom's murder?
As we continued on in silence I waited to hear what Harry had come to ask me. The doorway to the shop drew closer and he simply said, "I thank you for your time. I will see you soon."
With that he left me standing there with my mouth agape. He had no intention of asking me anything. He must have heard I was being visited by every person in the town. It was nice of him to do that but still I wondered why. I had lots to puzzle over that was for sure.
I pushed open the door to reenter the beauty shop and heard the conversation stop. Cinda came running to me and asked, "What did the FBI want with you?" in an overly loud voice.
"Just making sure I hadn't remembered anything new and letting me know that they were looking for leads," I answered softly trying to avoid the public scene being played out.
I then looked at Cinda. Her mom had finished the hair style. I gulped and tried to keep my face still. She had this huge head of hair whipped into an elaborate design with whirls and curls everywhere. Not something I would ever let someone do to me but then that was something Cinda had to deal with being the daughter of a hair dresser. Cinda's moss green eye met mine solidly and she winked. She felt the same way about the hair that I did but let her mom do it for me to sit around and be fish food for the ladies. I smiled nicely and tried to keep happy thoughts in my brain.
Cinda nodded and said softer, "Want to head upstairs now?"
"First let me get a smoke, okay?" I was itching to get out of the beauty shop before her mom did something evil like that to me. She gathered up her purse and we said bye to everyone while sneaking out the back door.
We leaned against the brick wall outside the shop and I took a drag while waiting to see what Cinda had on her mind. She rarely let me out of the limelight when she was having fun. She must have finally realized my life was pretty much turned upside down. I was relieved to only have her as my current audience. Being the focus of so many people's attention and gossip was horrible as far as I could see.
"Lynn, I have to tell you something pretty strange," Cinda softly spoke. She seemed hesitant but firm. Whatever it was she really wanted me to know was making her nervous and edgy. She must have something important to tell me. With that I sucked on my cigarette and mentally ran through my past week. I didn't think anything she said was going to top all that.
"Okay," I said while watching the smoke drift away. I was worn out. I doubted I would find anything strange in what Cinda told me. She was usually pretty out there so it would be a challenge. She met that challenge.
"There are odd things happening in our town. I keep getting pulled into dreams that are not right. I see people that are not there and find myself watching crazy dreams of local town folks being killed and slaughtered in horrible ways. Lynn, something evil is here. I know your mom was murdered but I keep seeing her saying things to me in my dreams like take care of you and make sure I don't let you go far. Lynn, I am not always asleep when I see this stuff. It happens all the time. When you went out with Harry I kept seeing the mayor screaming at me to run away. I am scared." Then Cinda did something completely out of character. She reached over and took the cigarette from my fingers. She puffed slowly, but didn't cough, and exhaled saying in a rough voice, "Life has gotten pretty weird lately."
Cinda turned and handed me back my cigarette. I met her eyes and it was all I could do not to say something. Her moss green eye was luminescent. I had never seen it glowing quite that shade of glassy green before and I was disturbed by the depth of it. It was and yet it wasn't her eye. There was another person behind it. That person was far more intelligent than Cinda ever had been and mocking me to tell her. Suddenly it dawn on me that Cinda was truly something different than the average person. I was humbled by that realization and yet fearful of what it could mean.
Cinda retrieved my cigarette from my lifeless fingers and finished off my smoke. I had yet to utter a word and I was waiting to see what she was going to add. I was on the brink of something beyond my normal worldview and was awed by the feelings running through me.
Her voice was pitched slower than her normal tone when she finally spoke again, "Gwendolyn."
Damn it wasn't Cinda talking to me but someone coming through her. After all I had been dealing with Cinda's voice not being Cinda's and calling me by my full name spelled out to me in huge red letters that life had definitely shifted out of the normal range into the bizarre to say the least. I held my tongue and nodded to the glowing eye.
"Not everyone is as they seem. You need to guard against the night and listen. The walls are falling and soon nobody will escape."
Cinda blinked and added, "So like can we go upstairs now?" She was completely unaware of having said anything odd to me. Her face took on a puzzled expression and she said, "Lynn, you need to blow your smoke away from me! I taste like a mouthful of ashes. Eww."
I offered her a stick of gum wordlessly while still running the conversation over inside my brain. Cinda was not Cinda at times it seemed. And there definitely was something wrong with my town. God, I hated weirdness. The night was deep and I glanced up at the star filled sky and felt chilled. The purple black backdrop to the stars was distant and I was so alone. So even the night was not to be my salvation was what danced through my head as we went upstairs in silence.
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