Wood and I watched, from the Princess’s cozy confines, a patrol car cruise slowly past us. Fighting the instinct to hunker down, I sucked on my slightly scorched index finger while fastening my seatbelt with the other. Much to our mutual relief, the cruiser turned the corner, crawl by the park, then thankfully roll out sight.
The appearance of the police at the site of our Moon Bathing soiree, after the Beagle and his Human, tootled past us on one last jaunt around the block, is probably pure coincidence. Undoubtedly the one-man watch missed the eerie flickering blue flames of the Snapdragon dish…
…that could possibly be seen from space due to an inadvertently heavy-handed pour from the bottle of apple brandy. (The fact we were laughing like an asylum of loons while popping bits of fire into our mouths – I’m sure escaped his notice as well.)
Pondering the question, should we count this as a close shave with the boys in blue, I turned towards the Princess’s passenger seat for a second opinion. Only to find an unsmiling Wood staring at the space up the street Sarah’s car had occupied up until a few minutes ago.
Me (using a hankie to wipe the drool off my sore finger): “You think Sarah’s doing okay?”
Wood: “Can you drive past the park for me? Slowly?”
Me (incredulous and yet still turning the engine over): “You want me to follow the cop car?”
Wood: “I’ll explain in a minute.”
Shrugging, I depressed the handbrake, pulled the Princess into non-existent traffic, and followed the police car’s line around the corner. Instead of taking one last gander at the scene of our misdemeanor, Wood stared intently at the opposite side of the street then lapsed into a pensive silence.
Concentrating on the distant tail lights, trying to divine which way the officer would turn, I let Wood follow his train of thought in peace. I even refrained from letting out a whoop of delight when the police cruiser decided to turn the opposite direction of Nevermore.
Wood (breaking his own silence): “This isn’t the way home.”
Me: “We’ve one more stop to make.”
Wood (falling back into his thoughts): “Okay.”
Me (glancing over): “You going to tell me what’s going on, or do I need to start pulling teeth?”
Wood (frowning): “I think I’ve got a pretty good idea why Sarah was acting so weird.”
Wood (slowly): “A couple of minutes after you stopped shouting in the gazebo and I said goodnight to Laney, the front door of that big brick house across the way opened. All I could see were silhouettes, so I started playing ‘What Are They Saying?’ in my head.”
Me (looking for a parking spot): “Always fun.”
Wood (nodding): “Eventually, without any hugs, kisses, or handshakes, one outline went back inside, and the other walked towards the street.”
Me (carefully pulling the Princess between two huge SUVs): “An inevitable outcome at a front door.”
Wood (flicking my leg for interrupting again): “I lost interest in the scene until I heard a woman’s voice call out, ‘Sarah! Wait!’. That’s when I saw our Sarah standing under a street lamp across the way, a second later another woman jogged up and handed her something.”
Me (shutting down the Princess’s engine): “Okay…”
Wood: “Morticia, I’m seventy-five percent certain the other woman was Josie Reville.”
Me (jaw involuntarily dropping): “You’re kidding. The Brownie Stealing Bench? Did you know they knew each other?”
Wood (half laughing at the end of his sentence): “No, I didn’t, but if Sarah were hanging out with Josie tonight, it would explain why she was so weird at first. The bad blood between you two is NOT a secret.”
Silently my mind whirred, churning out rational reasons why Sarah might intentionally spend time in The Brownie Stealing Bench’s company. Unfortunately, since I couldn’t fathom spending more than two minutes together with her, my imagination quickly went into overdrive. Spinning out one improbable possibility after another.
Wood (nudging me): “I might be wrong. That’s why I asked you to drive by the house, I was trying to see if her name was on the letterbox, which of course it wasn’t.”
Me (drumming my fingers against the steering wheel): “The obvious way to prove you right or wrong is to knock on the front door. But that’s not going to happen. The Beagle’s Human is far too nosey for a successful stakeout, even if we used your car….”
Wood (splitting a spare cookie in two and holding half out to me): “Are you really that worried about it?”
Me (around my bite of cookie): “Maybe.”
Wood pursed his lips at me.
Me (rolling my eyes): “Alright, I’ll be an adult and let it lie. There’s no accounting for taste. In any case, I don’t suppose you’d be willing to hang out here while I pop into Nevermore for a second?”
Wood (unbuckling his seatbelt): “Not a chance.”
Me: “It was worth a try.”