The upside about driving for FLYT? My black uniform doubles as ninja gear or perhaps cat burglar attire, either way, I am tough to see at night (I prefer ninja btw). When Ben gave me my walking papers, he was so intent on wresting my cottage keys from my fingers he forgot about my ring of skeleton keys to Nevermore. Since old habits die hard, I never leave home without them, fortuitous in this case since I need to make one more stop tonight.
The Princess’s tires rolled quietly over the pavement away from Mr. Grindle’s house towards Ash and Second – unofficially known as the Nevermore Crossroads.
The bane of my professional existence.
Well, when my professional title included the word caretaker in it. Why? High schoolers insist on scaling the walls for the thrill (and bragging rites) of drinking atop the moldering bones of notorious criminals sent to the gallows and the poor souls who died by their own hand (when they started defacing the graves, I actively started discouraged them). Fortunately for me, the next foray by these teenage hooligans would be soon – the streetlight on the crossroads was out – thickening the shadows on both sides of the wall by a factor of ten. Which, at this moment, suited me just fine.
After parking the Princess two streets down, I hugged the shadows (which was ridiculously easy) until I reached the Crossroads’ gates, where I used my master key to open the West one (the South one tended to squeak) and slipped thru. The moon, obscured by clouds, didn’t illuminate much tonight. So I pulled a small flashlight out of my purse and turned it on then started following the perimeter wall north.
I felt the probability of my discovery pretty low. Little Ben loathed this corner of the property, even during the day, claiming it unsettled him, meaning he would not step foot here at night on patrol. Since the high school hooligans found another spot for their shenanigans this evening, they wouldn’t rat me out either. So unless some weird cult decided to take up residence in the past week, my trusty flashlight and I were fine. Plus I needed it to navigate, graveyards at night and obstacle courses share many painful similarities – only one has more atmosphere.
Pretty soon the cheap concrete markers of the condemned gave way to the more conventional marble ones of Rye’s working class. Just on the other side of this invisible border, I spied Joseph leaning against a headstone, the brim of his fedora giving him away (no statue in the entirety of Nevermore wore more than garland on their heads). And because my focus wavered from the ground level obstacles for a split second too long, my toe found the edge of one of the aforementioned marble headstones. On the upside, my foot forgot where Mr. Grindle had stepped on it repeatedly a half hour earlier. By the time I’d finished whisper yelling ‘Ow!’ and clutching my poor toes Joseph stood next to me.
Joseph (amusement coloring his voice): “You rang?”
Me (trying hard not to put too much weight on my injured foot): “Hardy har har.”
Joseph (his hands hovering near my elbow): “You should sit, give your foot a rest.”
Me: “No, I can’t stay that long.”
Joseph (sensing the tone): “Alright. What’s the news?”
Me (gingerly standing upright again): “Stalker.”
Joseph, his full attention on me, waited for more words.
Me: I happened on her tonight while driving a fare. She claimed to have injured Mr. Grindle and was able to shift her gaze for a moment.
Joseph (looking up at the stars): “You questioned her.”
Me: Yes, circuitously. I needed more information than just my fare’s name and address.
Joseph shook his head and started on a rant I knew would not paint me with flattering colors. I cut him off.
Me: “Look, I needed information, and I got what I needed. She is so focused on him she’ll forget me by tomorrow.”
Joseph (obviously not happy): “What’s next?”
Me (wishing I could’ve burned that pink slip): “Spread the word among the Residents, no one wanders east of my new apartment or into downtown proper until I get this fixed.”
Joseph: “No problem.”
He turned and started walking away. I knew his unhappiness stemmed from the risk I took engaging Miss 80’s glam. Drat.
Me (trying for levity): “Thanks, Joseph. Oh, and tell the Residents I am also looking into this Farm nonsense Ben is starting.”
Joseph touched the brim of his hat and disappeared from the circle of light from my flashlight.
Home again, home again jiggety jig.