Another snippet from my ongoing novel at NaNoWriMo…
Whew! Pass the coffee!
He walked toward the closest house and I followed, surveying the older structure with interest. It was a typical inner city place, fading red brick with a spacious front porch, two stories, with an attic under the sloped roof. It was set back from the sidewalk by a succession of concrete steps, with a landing halfway up. The yard, although taken care of, was not professionally landscaped. Hedges bordered the property, and three scraggly bushes were planted in front of the porch. They looked like rose bushes, but I wasn't certain. This was the yard where that older fellow usually waved to us during our comings and goings. Strange he wasn't out today. I thought I'd seen him when we pulled up, but now he was nowhere to be found.
Tim knocked on the door. We waited. Nothing. He pounded harder a second time as I glanced in the picture window to see a shadowy figure hovering near the threshold. With a click, the door opened. The grisly faced man stared out at us in silence.
"Hi! Good to see you!" Tim said.
The fellow nodded but eyed us warily.
"We wanted to ask you a few questions." The man didn't respond, so Tim added, "about your neighbor, Rachel Fitzsimmons. I'm Inspector McNair." He flashed his badge.
An awkward silence stood between him and us, until he finally opened the door wider to let us in. In a gravelly voice, he invited us to sit on the living room sofa, settling across from us in a faded recliner. I glanced around the room with interest. The furnishings were aged and dull from years of use–a mismatched sofa and chair, ornate end tables like I'd seen in my grandmother's house with elegant legs and curlicue designs. The lamps had curved shades and flower designs on their bases, indicating at some point there was a feminine influence. Tiny Hummel figurines lined up on the mantel indicated a further womanly touch.
"What's your name, sir?" Tim asked.
"Barney…Barney Smith," came the reply. So far, so good.
"Did you know Rachel Fitzsimmons very well?" Tim asked.
I gazed at the fellow. I noticed when we walked in, he was short, only a couple inches taller than me. Several days growth of gray stubble decorated his chin and cheeks while his hair, scraggly being the kindest description, hung down to his back and shoulders. A flannel shirt and jeans with a hole in the knee completed his ensemble.
"Did you know her?" Tim repeated.
He darted his eyes away from our glances in a fearful fashion, tapping his foot while squirming in his seat. Next he looked back to us with a confounded expression. "Yeah," he answered.
"Good. What can you tell us about her?"
The hesitancy again. Finally, he stumbled out, "She was pretty."
"Yes, yes, she was pretty." Tim paused. "Did she have many people visit her?"
The foot tapping continued. "No, just neighbors."
"I see. No other people? Dates? Relatives? Anyone else?"
"I don't know."
"I see. Did you speak to her much?"
I shifted in my seat. The fellow's economy of words was getting to me, wearing on my patience. Was he evading our questions, or was he mentally challenged, I wondered.
"What can you tell me about her?"
Tim shot me a glance, closed his notebook, and rose to go. "Well, sir. I guess we are finished."
Copyright 2005 JO Janoski