Adventures of Cookie the Stray, Chapter 18
Rusty followed the patrol cars to a road they told him would lead to Eleanor’s street. The patrolman in the first car slowed and pointed out his window before they continued on. He turned and followed the road for about ten miles until he reached a smattering of houses that soon multiplied into a maze of narrow streets.
Double checking the address, he pulled into a semi-circular driveway that stretched to the front of the two-story house. A sedan that might have been new in the sixties was parked head first on one side of the Victorian structure. Eleanor sat in her favorite chair at the bay window and stood up when she saw the car pull in.
“You guys wait right here for a minute,” he said to the dogs. “I need to ask if it’s okay before I let you out.” Queenie gave him an urgent stare and glanced back at the two pups in the box behind her seat. “I’ll be back as quick as I can.”
The wind was picking up speed, whipping the trees around as the clouds rolled in. Stretching across the west horizon, an ominous looking Cumulonimbus cloud threatened to drop a load of rain on the neighborhood within a short time. Rusty hopped out, jaunted up the stairs at the front of the wrap-around porch and rang the bell. Eleanor was already standing at the open door.
“You’re Rusty, aren’t you?” He nodded and offered his hand as she pushed open the screen door. She took it, flipped it palm side up and studied his hand carefully. “I can see you’re used to hard work. Please, come on inside.”
“Ma’am, if you don’t mind too much, I’m caring for a friend’s dogs and they need to make a quick visit to the grass. I’ll clean up any of their messes,” he promised, making an X across his chest with a finger.
“Well, I don’t mind at all,” she told him. “My late husband, William, had a dog he absolutely adored.” Her face grew sad with the memory. “When that dog got lost it nearly killed him. He looked everywhere and never found it. I’m sure that’s what led to his heart attack and nobody can convince me otherwise.” She lifted her chin and gave a quick nod to affirm her stand, then, peeked across the porch and into the windows of his car.
“Let them take care of their needs, then, bring them on in. My daughter won’t mind. You certainly can’t leave them in the car with this storm heading our way.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he said. She retreated inside as Rusty ran back to the car. After fumbling with Queenie’s leash and lifting the puppies out of their box, the group went to the grass at the side yard. Business done, he carried the pups up the porch steps with Queenie leading the way knowing exactly where she was headed. Eleanor heard a light tapping at the front door and called out.
“Come on in. I’m back here in the kitchen.”
He followed the sound of her voice through the living room with its vaulted ceiling and into the formal dining room. The antique mahogany table, covered in a crocheted white tablecloth, held six straight back chairs with captain’s chairs on either end of the oval. At the rear of the dining room was an arched opening leading to a cozy eat-in kitchen with a window seat. He noticed an open book face down on the cushion with a knitted Afghan next to it. Something in the oven filled the air with the scent of cinnamon and spices.
Eleanor was at the sink filling a kettle with fresh water. She set it on the stove and lit the burner with a match she struck on a holder hanging on the wall. The stenciling on the side of the match holder was a familiar design Rusty remembered from his childhood. He had a moment of déjà vu of his mother doing the same thing.
“Are you sure about bringing the dogs in here?” Rusty asked. She pulled a sturdy mug from the cabinet for Rusty and a delicate China cup for herself and set them on a tray that held a teapot, cream and sugar and two teaspoons.
“Of course,” she answered. “What’s a house without trusted companions? Please make yourself comfortable at the table.” She pointed to a chrome and Formica dinette set with four chairs and a yellow checked tablecloth with matching placemats. She took a chair in her customary place where she could see the stove.
Queenie immediately befriended the frail senior and curled up at Eleanor’s feet. The puppies settled down on a dog cushion in the corner that looked clean but faded.
“That belonged to Roscoe,” Eleanor told them. “I never had the heart to get rid of it after he disappeared.” The kettle whistled and she poured water into the teapot and returned to her place. As she spooned sugar into her cup she said, “Now, let’s talk about the farm, shall we?”
At the precinct, Connie was taken to a small interrogation room. She glanced around at the battered walls noting the mirrored window through which she knew she was being watched. The detective left her sitting there after locking the door behind him. He returned a few minutes later with two steaming cups of coffee and sat down in the chair across from her.
“Ma’am,” he drawled, “I need you to tell me where you’ve been for the past three days.”
“Am I being charged with something?” she asked.
“Well, at the moment, you’ve been arrested for carrying a concealed weapon and for transporting merchandise that was reported stolen.” Her eyes grew wide.
She began telling him about leaving the house days earlier, taking the dogs and being on the road for several days.
“We stayed at a different motel every night since Saturday,” she said.
“Can anyone verify your whereabouts during the afternoon on Saturday?”
“Not unless the clerk at the convenience store remembers me.” Her head dropped remembering the vacant stare of the clerk where she filled up and bought snacks. “Wait a minute,” she said “I think I kept the receipts.” He passed her the purse which had already been searched. She sifted through the contents and pulled out a couple of crumpled receipts which she handed across the table.
“What about the gun?” the detective asked.
“That’s not mine,” she said. He restrained the urge to roll his eyes. He'd heard that same line from nearly every criminal he’d ever arrested.
“So whose gun is it? And how did you come to have it?” She squirmed in her chair for a moment hoping he would believe her story about finding it in her suitcase.
The Beechcraft twin engine craft started with a turn of the switch, the propellers starting slowly at first, then, picking up speed. Jeb chose a seat closest to the pilot where he could watch out of the front of the cockpit or from the portal next to his chair. He felt the plane lurch forward as a man in overalls pulled the chocks from under the wheels.
The pilot taxied to the far end of the runway and turned the plane into the wind to make the run. The noise inside the plane grew louder as he revved the engines and the plane taxied faster and faster toward takeoff.
© 2018 Peg Cole