Seventy Seven

Zoe C called ahead, warning Nat and Elle that we are bringing a kid, state of mind unknown. Be cool, no stack of bodies at the door. Make sure McKenzie is with Zelda, let the child see another child, that the dog is safe.
It goes decently, the boy has been exposed to a lot nastier stuff than a big dog. He stopped when he first saw the mastiff, the dog is bigger than he is. McKenzie walked her up, Zelda sniffs, gets his scent in her memory, then sits at McKenzie’s command.
Zoe C, “That is Zelda, she is McKenzie’s guardian, all of us really. This is Elle, and this is McKenzie’s mom, Natalie. Are you hungry?”
He looks up at her and nods a yes.
McKenzie, “Feed Zelda, five, feed Zelda,” she and the dog go to the kitchen.
“You can go with them. You have to understand that McKenzie doesn’t talk much, it’s her way, she’s not being mean.”
The child follows them, we move to the office.
Zoe C explains the situation, “Mickey is a boy who identifies as a girl. Mom couldn’t handle that, or much else. No relatives, even if there were Mickey presents an extra set of concerns besides normal kid raising.”
Elle, “So, after you talk to him…her…?”
“We see what happens. Mickey is seven, we can’t know how it turns out. I think we let him tell us by his actions.”
Natalie, “What we did with McKenzie. Chef, what do you think?”
“Zoe C is right. We treat him the way he wants to be treated unless there’s something going on inside that we don’t yet know about. As long as he doesn’t start killing animals or setting things on fire, he can be Tallulah as far as I’m concerned.”
“We swim and sunbathe nude, should we suit up?”
“I think we suit him up. Zoe C, have any thoughts?”
“Everything will sort itself out, yes, a swimsuit for now.”
“Okay then, let’s not over-speculate, it’s past tea, closing in on the cocktail hour. Let’s do whatever we normally do, nothing special. Zoe C will take care of personal things, like clothes, a bedroom, working into his, her, educational status. We don’t even know if Mickey can read.”
We move to the living area, nobody here.
“Must be out with Zelda.”
Zoe C, “Bar is open, I’m taking requests.”
We opt for wine, Zoe C pops open a cabernet, Just as she finishes filling wine glasses, the two children and Zelda come across the patio. I watch while McKenzie stops, rinses off Zelda’s paws and dries them with a towel. They come inside.
McKenzie, “Hamburgers.”
I look in the refrigerator, she’s got pre-made burgers stacked on a platter covered with cling wrap. A second platter has sliced tomato and a bag of shredded cabbage.
“Thank you for thinking ahead McKenzie. We’ll grill them in an hour, do we have buns?”
“Elle,” she means Elle went to the bakery and got them.
Elle, “And a cherry crumble pie.”
Mickey, “This is a giant house. Am I going to live here?”
Zoe C, “If you want to.”
“Do I have to be a boy?”
“You don’t have to be anything you don’t want to be.”
Mickey blinks, “Really? I can be a girl?”
“Go for it, if you change your mind later, then be a boy.”
“I couldn’t wear girl clothes, or do girl things.”
“We don’t have girl things or boy things here, we do what we want to do. You will have to do lessons, I mean for education. Have you been to school?”
She shakes her head. ( Reader alert: I’m shifting to feminine for Mickey from here forward.)
“No. I went for half a year, but the kids were mean, they called me a faggot.”
“Do you know what that means?”
“They said I was a boy who liked boys, that I pretended to be a girl. They didn’t understand.”
“You won’t go to school, you will have lessons here. Everyone needs to know math, English, do you speak Spanish?”
“Un poco, I don’t like Spanish very much, only the gangs used it.”
“You don’t need to learn Spanish, or any other language unless you find one you like. McKenzie speaks Japanese, so do Chef and I, Elle knows some.”
“Japanese?”
“We like it, Zelda’s commands are all in Japanese, you at least need to learn those.”
“Will McKenzie teach me?”
“I will. McKenzie does her own thing her own way.”
She’s thoughtful, “And I can do my thing, my way?”
“Of course.”
First grin, sweet.
I haul the burgers outside to the grill, my quiet sidekick is there with her spatula.
“You know what to do.”
She starts laying them out, Mickey alongside watching, pats Zelda while McKenzie grills. I’m inside frying potatoes she’d sliced into fat fries earlier. Mushrooms and onions sizzle on the griddle, I check the oven, in a minute I’ll slide in the buns to toast them, like French bread, separate top and bottom so the inside can get toasty too.
We eat around the patio table. A good sign, Mickey demolishes the burger. She’s not emaciated, but was getting there, I can only surmise that meals were dicey in her former life, junkie prostitutes are not know for culinary expertise.
Mickey, “That was great! McKenzie is a good cook.”
McKenzie, “Chef.”
Mickey is puzzled, Zoe C says, “We call Chef, Chef, and our other chef is McKenzie. A cook follows someone’s recipe, a chef creates recipes. Ours do both, so they are chefs.”
We don’t alter our routines, Mickey needs to settle in, not too much change beyond the fairly massive change she’s undergone just being here.
“What’s tonight’s entertainment?”
McKenzie, “Sherlock.”
“Sherlock it is, take Mickey over and show her how to fiddle with the computer to get the program you want.”
Nat and I park on the couch, watch the kids. McKenzie doesn’t explain, she demonstrates, Mickey appears to get it. By the time Elle and Zoe C join us, the two little girls are side by side sharing Zelda as a headrest.
Mickey, “The red headed league, like McKenzie, except hers is dark.”
“We call it auburn, a darker red, kind of reddish brown.”
“It’s beautiful, mine’s plain brown, can I let it grow? I couldn’t before, it had to be short.”
Zoe C, “Grow it to your butt if you want.”
Mickey giggles, “Not that long,” she stands and snugs in next to Zoe C.
She pulls Mickey’s hair through her fingers, “Your hair is thick, needs a few nutrients.”
“What’s a nuti…a what?”
“Nutrient, like good food is nutritious, healthy.”
“Oh, we ate junk when she got around to food at all.”
“That was then, there is no then, now there’s now and you will get healthy food and a few treats.”
“Like that cherry pie, that was great!”
“Yes, sometimes pie or cake, ice cream, chocolate, but not all the time. And small portions, not too much. You need good nutrition, you don’t need to get fat.”
“Yuck, no, not fat.”
“Tomorrow we get you new clothes. We’ll search through Amazon and a couple of girls clothing sites, sneakers, jeans, pullovers, dresses.”
“Really?! Cool.”
I think, this kid’s going to be okay, how resilient children are.

Seventy Eight

Three weeks of transformation. Zoe C has Mickey looking adorable. Hair is still too short but the dietary improvement and the kid’s vitamin that McKenzie also takes and she’s got another inch in length. Six months from now it’ll be shoulder length.
We’ve learned she has a voice. Taylor Swift is popular, earbuds in, phone in her pocket, she sings along. And she’s good, not squeaky, her notes are crisp and clear.
She zings around the pool on rollerblades, hands in the air, Swift lyrics that sound just like the Swift song, ‘We’re getting stronger now. Find things they never found. They might be bigger, but we’re faster and never scared.’
If I was a crier, I’d be crying. I turn, Zoe C is next to me dabbing at her eyes.
“How beautiful she is.”
“The flower didn’t take long to bloom. Maybe voice lessons?”
“No, not yet, perhaps if she asks. I don’t want to turn her natural spontaneity into a job.”
“There’s a point, good call. How about exploring an instrument?”
Zoe C brightens, “I’ll ask her.”
Later, after a day of swim and sun, we’re having tea outside as the evening creeps up and the temps drop.
Zoe C, “You have a super voice Mickey, ever wanted to play an instrument?”
“A keyboard, I can write my own songs.”
“Do you know how to play a keyboard?”
“I can figure it out.”
“Then go on the internet and find what you want, McKenzie will help you figure out the descriptions.”
Mickey can read, sort of, she knows words on paper, what they mean often escapes her. She reads to Mac, who looks over her shoulder to help with pronunciation. There’s a current educational fallacy, that a child can read a paragraph is not the same as understanding the paragraph. She reads Zoe C a sentence or two at a time, then she has to explain what she read. They take an hour a day, thirty minutes for McKenzie, the rest for Zoe C.
Elle, “She’s getting much better at reading, your system works.”
Zoe C, “It would work with anyone, schools stick students in classes by age as if everyone the same age has the same capacity, the student is expected to grasp the material and move on with the rest of the class. This is absurd. Most kids plug along okay, many would do better with smaller bites of material, which takes longer but in the end they know it.”
Mickey, “Can I look right now?”
“Sure, McKenzie, help her with the search, tell you what, let’s look together, grab the laptop from the kitchen.”
They’re outside at the patio table, McKenzie searches for keyboards, geez, there are a lot of them.
“Go to Amazon, there’ll be ratings and product detail.”
They review several the one that seems best for her to learn is the RockJam RJ761-SK Key Electronic Interactive Teaching Piano Keyboard.   
Zoe C reads the blurb, ‘Compact digital keyboard with 61 full-size keys, LCD screen, record and playback functionality, 100 keyboard sounds, 100 rhythms, and 30 demo songs. Sturdy, adjustable keyboard stand is easy to move throughout the home or studio. Thick padded, adjustable stool engineered for keyboard play
Headphones let musicians practice in virtual privacy without disturbing others
Sustain pedal, to enrich your keyboard’s tone.’
Mickey, “It’s awesome.”
Zoe C orders it, “Be here in a couple of days honey.”
Mickey’s grin is almost bigger than her face, she hugs Zoe C, “Thank you.”
Zoe C bites her lip but manages to refrain from tears, “Make beautiful music.”
Zelda wants up the hill, the two girls race along behind.
“Nice move Zoe C.”
“Maybe I’ll give it a go, sounds like fun.”
Elle, “Our kiddies need lunch soon.”
Natalie, “I need lunch soon.”
“Starving lunch, or lighter?”
“Lighter, did I see you layering lasagna for dinner earlier?”
“You did, Mac’s idea, veal and vegetables. I have deli chicken and roast beef, how about finger sandwiches and chips?”
“Perfect.”
I’m in the kitchen making sandwiches, McKenzie comes in with her bud and Mickey. She rolls up a slice of roast beef and pulls it in half, gives the first bite to Zelda, she hands the other half to Mickey.
“Zelda can have a treat.”
Mickey reaches out, Zelda sniffs, ever so carefully takes the beef roll.
“She so gentle,” strokes the massive head, “it’s like she understands everything McKenzie says.”
“Zelda understands Mac better than we understand Mac. Don’t ask me how, some things have no explanation.”
Mickey, “I always wanted a cat, guess that’s not a good idea with Zelda here.”
Zoe C looks at me, we have the same thought. 
‘Look for a kitten, something interesting that likes to be around humans.’
‘I know just the breed, a great aunt had one, a Burmese. Burmese cats love to talk, they get attached to us so it’s best not to leave them alone. But they're happy with another cat or a dog. They even learn tricks and want to be the center of attention. Hers learned to sit, roll over and fetch, and followed her around everywhere. They love to explore. We'd need a cat tree, tall with lots of spaces for it to poke around and play.’

I ask, “Any of you allergic to cats?”
Nobody is.
‘Find one, it’s LA, bound to be a breeder.’
‘They’re around six hundred.’
‘Well, we got the kids free, so we can cough up for their pets.’

I did let Zoe C pay five thousand to help the woman relocate, not to buy the girl. From what I heard, she couldn’t wait to hand off the child.
I get them fed, my phone dings, go to the office and check messages. 
‘i am busybody neighbor that has watched young men go into the house across the street one house down they never come out i do sleep so it is possible they leave late and i don’t see them can you investigate’
I reply, ‘Did you speak to the police? Do they all arrive in the same car, or always the neighbor’s car? How long has it been since you noticed it? Provide all detail you can, send photos of vehicle, name of the owner if you know it, address including zip code.’
Zoe C is over my shoulder, “Think there’s anything to it?”
“I don’t know. Guy picks up a guy, brings him home, they do whatever, he takes them back to wherever. If they drive themselves it makes no sense, there would be cars on the street.”
“Maybe he gets their keys and moves the car.”
“Possible, we can only wait until busybody replies.”
“Do you even know where this came from? I mean city?”
“Not a clue, we don’t track contacts, they either tell us where they are or we forget it.”
“Did you give anymore thought to the guy who hurt Zelda, how Mac managed to overcome his Qi, if that’s what it was?”
“Nope, we got sidetracked with Mickey and the rest of our lives. For people who have only marginal day jobs, we stay occupied. Natalie busy setting up her company, the rest of us mostly float along.”
“Until some asshole needs to be altered. Besides, most office jobs are about two or three hours of work and four hours of fuck off.”
I laugh, “Got me there. And our work is far more interesting than a cubicle drone.”
“It’s nearing tea time, we missed yesterday and you and I have an hour of mind to mind after tea we skipped as well.”
I get up, shut down the site, when she’s right, she’s right. We go find the family.
McKenzie is dealing with tea, “Black and green, find snacks.”
I dig into the pantry, no good, look in the refrigerator, apples, I pull out a half dozen, and cheese, a nice soft Havarti, perfect.
“McKenzie, you want to arrange the platter, sliced apples and cheese, I’ll finish up tea and serve.”
She grabs the paring knife, slices the apples in half, then very carefully cuts the halves into quarter, then eighths, cut away the core and arranges them on a platter, starts in on the cheese. I bring the pots outside with the cups, McKenzie brings the platter of nibbles.
Mickey, “Look how beautiful McKenzie made the apples and cheese.”
Apple slices surround the cut cheese, which is stacked, pieces leaning against each other like a teepee. If one apple slice is bigger or smaller than another, I can’t tell.
Elle, “Damn, how’s she do it?”
McKenzie feeds a hunk of cheese to Zelda, Zoe C puts apple slices and havarti on a plate for Mickey, fixes one for herself. The rest make a small plate, sip tea.
Mickey, “This is my favorite part of the day…well, except for McKenzie’s breakfasts, and Chef’s dinners, and swimming, and hiking around with Zelda and McKenzie,” she giggles, “all day is my favorite part of the day.”
We’re quiet, Mickey asks if she said something wrong.
Zoe C strokes her hair and kisses her cheek, “No angel, you said exactly what the rest of us are thinking, and you said it beautifully.”

Seventy Nine

The Burmese was supposed to be expensive, Zoe C found a lady giving them away. Might not be pure bred, the woman said they were but offered no evidence,  the cat has the distinctive eyes and head and coat of a Burmese. Not that we care, we aren’t breeding her, she’s been fixed already.
In one corner of the living area is a giant cat tree. The ceiling in this part of the house is fifteen feet up, the tree is twelve, with hiding spots and holes to peer through.
Mickey is thrilled, almost more thrilled that Zelda appears to like the company. The meeting is tender and funny. Zelda pulls up short when she spots the kitten. Mickey put her on the floor and damned if Zelda didn’t lay flat so the cat could approach.
The Burmese bounds up to Zelda’s snout, stops short, dances backwards, actually hops, then approaches again. This time she gets close, raises one tiny paw and ever so slowly lowers it until she touches Zelda’s snout. She slow motion pats, moves closer, snuggles against Zelda’s ear and goes to sleep purring.
Zelda’s eyes roll up to McKenzie, like she’s saying, ‘now what?’
McKenzie sits next to her, strokes her head, down her back, “Zelda takes care of everyone.”
Mickey, “Burma, that’s her name, Burma the Burmese,” she sits on the other side of the mastiff, two hands strokes the soft fur. Zelda seems to be in doggie nirvana surrounded by her little friends.
My phone tells me there’s a message, I go to the office with Zoe C.
‘cops did not do anything, think i am old crank no other cars they come with the man five that I know about included license plate picture of car and house and address do not know his name’
I reply, ‘will investigate,’ I click off.
“He’s in Arizona, Flagstaff. Search the neighborhood, get his name from the DMV, I should have asked if he comes and goes on a schedule, like a day job.”
“No sweat, we’ll find out.”
I leave her to make calls, we have contacts at the DMV, the name will be forthcoming even with an Arizona plate. Then she’ll Google him and see if he shows up someplace.
While I prep dinner, fried catfish, mac and cheese, baked beans, Mickey watches her new pal climb through the cat tree. After twenty, Burma descends and hops into Mickey’s lap. McKenzie and Zelda return from the hike around the property. 
Elle is having a glass of wine at the kitchen island, “We need to seal off the screen or there’ll be a missing kitty eventually. Zelda can’t get through the fence, but the cat can.”
I’m flouring filets and stacking them for frying, “Good point, I’ll figure something out. Not too worried about local critters, Zelda’s scent keeps them away, by now she’s peed all over the place and she generally goes near the fence. Once Burma has bonded with the family, I don’t think she’d go far on her own, the food’s here, her friends are here.”
“How about a fence inside the fence, can we put up something that she can’t leap over or climb?”
“See what’s on the internet.”
She surfs, “This is cool, it’s like a regular metal fence, but curved inwards at the top, if she climbs she can only go so far before she’s upside down. It won’t obstruct any views but it will keep her in and varmints out in case Zelda’s scent doesn’t discourage them.”
“Good, and just as well, we haven’t had animals wandering through, but it could happen if they see a small cat. Until the fence is installed tell McKenzie to let Zelda in and out, keep the patio and other exits closed. And get a chip for Burma, so we can find her with GPS like we did with Zelda.”
Zoe C comes from the office, “Reggie Congreve, minimally successful lawyer, he does divorce and criminal work, no scruples, like that TV thing, the spinoff from Breaking Bad.”
“Better Call Saul?”
“Yeah, that’s it, a legal lowlife. Get this, the house is a rental, he lives in a more upscale neighborhood. His personal car is top of the line Beemer, the car she spotted is a second car registered to a dead guy, Franklin Moss.”
“How’d you get his name then?”
“He owns the property but rents it, so the paperwork says.”
“So maybe it’s the tenant, not him.”
“The tenant is the dead guy.”
“That would make it difficult to bring home boyfriends.”
“Well, maybe, but the men don’t know Moss is no longer a rolling stone, the last five years he’s gathered moss.”
Mickey is sitting on the stool next to Elle, Burma in her lap, “What’s that mean, moss, rolling stone?”
“There’s an adage that goes ‘a rolling stone gathers no moss’, if someone is dead they aren’t rolling anymore.”
Mickey giggles, “Burma won’t gather moss, she’s all over the place.”
McKenzie comes in with her XXX size dog.
“You want to fry the fish, the other stuff is in the oven already. The oil is hot, just ease in a few pieces at a time, flip them, when they’re brown, use the slotted spoon to take them out, put them on the platter,” I have a big platter covered with several layers of paper towels.
She climbs a stool, eases the slices of fish into the oil. I use a deep pot to keep the splatter from going all over. While she works, I set the dining table, add condiments and napkins.
“I have frozen mugs, beer seems right with fried fish.”
Zelda gets her hunk of fish, Burma gets a smaller piece, both treats disappear instantly. Zelda goes to her bed on the mat, Burma follows her and nudges her way between Zelda’s forelegs and naps.
Natalie, “That’s totally adorable.”
“You can work your way between my arms anytime you want.”
Nat smiles.
My guess is good, they go through a dozen bottles of Sapporo while laying waste to the stack of crispy fish, bubbly mac and sweet baked beans with onion.
“McKenzie, did you save some of the fish?”
“In the oven, no heat, tomorrow for breakfast.”
Mickey, “You have fish for breakfast?”
“Japanese people have fish for breakfast all the time. McKenzie is making us a special dish though. You can see in the morning, actually mid-morning. I’ll have a light wake up breakfast, then we’ll have her dish around eleven, kind of late breakfast and early lunch.”
Mickey, “Living here is fun, she sings a few notes of ‘A little help from my friends’, not the Beatles smarmy pop, the anthem cover by Joe Cocker.
Natalie, “How do you manage to sound like Joe Cocker?”
“I heard it on youtube, it’s a great song.”
“Can you do the whole thing?”
“Not yet. I’m working on it with my keyboard, McKenzie learned to play it and she’s showing me.”
Natalie looks at me, “Did you know any of this?”
I shake my head, “We said we’d leave them to discover themselves, sounds like this is that.”
Her head bobs from side to side, “I’ll back off the mommy bit.”
“Don’t even think it, Mac loves your mommy bit, not that it’s easy to tell, but we can tell. Let them surprise us once in a while, like how Mac has warmed to both you and Mickey.”

Eighty

While McKenzie follows red green or black stock prices, and Mickey hones her keyboard skills, Zoe C and I are on a surveillance mission in Flagstaff. It’s an easy flight, hour and fifteen. We have lightweight weapons, two Glock 39s, which use .357 rounds, and a drone, our quad-copter, which has video of course, and Zoe C has rigged a listening device to it that draws on a separate battery. Blue Sky, the private flight service we use also got us the Nissan Pathfinder we’re in now. We’re booked at Springhill Suites, it’s only quarter to eleven, a few hours before check-in.
“Let’s find the house and start snooping.”
“Okay, Flagstaff isn’t that big, the rental is on the other side of town, past downtown.”
We stop at a drive-thru coffee kiosk called Wicked Coffee. Whoever owns it has figured out that cute college girls attract business. 
Zoe C, “Damn, they were both hot. Good town for it, NAU is here, lots of coeds to select from.”
“I should have paid attention to the baristas instead of my phone.”
“I paid enough attention for both of us. Two miles up, left, right, this should be the place,” she checks the address, “yep, the woman who contacted us must be the house over there.”
“Good, let’s remember she’s a busybody, we can’t do much from this street, keep going.”
We need to find a place to launch the drone, but later, in the protective dark of night.
A half mile farther, “What about here?”
I scan the area, “Good, defunct body shop, nothing behind, hedges and trees on one side, flat nothing on the other. In the dark, we’ll be practically invisible if you pull to the rear. Now take the street behind the house, check out the back.”
House directly behind is occupied, left side another place, right side appears vacant but there’s no for sale sign.
“Could be a second home, Flagstaff has skiing, maybe the owner only comes in during the season.”
In any case, the target house is surrounded on three sides by an eight foot board fence and the interior side of the fence bumps up against thick hedges. In short, we can’t see jack of the rear or the backyard.
“Let’s find a burger or something, nothing for us here until this evening.” 
Zoe C, “Coming up I noticed a diner called The Place, just before the railroad bridge.”
“Sounds good. Oh, pay attention to the railroad tracks and signals. Sixty trains come through here every day and they don’t slow down. Get caught on the tracks, you can kiss your ass goodbye.”
In fact we’re moving along Milton Road with a mile long freight train barreling through town like it was empty prairie.
“Damn Chef, you’re right, they just power through, look, there’s the diner.”
She pulls into the small parking area, it’s one, the lunch crowd has dwindled, tables are taken. There are empty seats at the counter, awe opt for two of those.
They serve breakfast all day, well, all day until two, then they close. It’s a breakfast and lunch place. I see mega biscuits going out with plates.
I order three eggs over easy, crisp bacon, country potatoes and the biscuit. Zoe C has a breakfast steak, two scrambled, no potatoes and two pancakes.
Food delivered, “Dang, that’s a hunk of steak for a thirteen buck entrée, you take a piece.”
“Chop off what you don’t want and stick it on my plate. If I may, I’ll sneak a bit of pancake, you can have half this biscuit, it looks like a softball.”
“That is a huge biscuit.”
I slice a piece of sirloin, “Steak’s good,” I dig into my eggs and bacon, fifteen minutes and a coffee refill later we’re well fed, pay the tab and go check into the hotel.
Zoe C, “Nice, separate sitting area, king bed…a fireplace.”
My room is next door, a standard room, Zoe C gets the suite because…I don’t know, just because.
“What time do we take off?”
“Seven will do, it will be dark enough by the time we drive back and get the drone in the air. I’m for a nap,” I go to my room, wash up, strip to boxers and lay on top of the comforter.
Next thing I hear is my phone, “It’s five thirty, I made coffee.”
“Be over in a sec.”
She’s got the coffee poured, I park on the couch, “If he’s got men, boys, whatever, going to the house with him and they don’t leave…”
“Then they are still there. I doubt he’s building a basketball team and the woman said she’d seen men go in five times…only Congreve comes out.”
“If he’s murdered them, first, he has a disposal problem, although his backyard is well concealed, no two story houses next to his.”
“I don’t suppose he has them frozen, like the guy we read about that captured women and put them in a freezer, it was actually a truck that delivered ice and dry ice, then he watched them die.”
“Yeah, he had a window or something. so he could see inside. What then, oh, he hung them from tree branches in the wilderness. Gruesome.”
“Freezing to death extremely painful in the beginning, until the nerves freeze, then hallucinations, lose consciousness finally and the organs begin to shut down. I read up on it after I saw the news.”
“Yuck.”
Time to set up. 
In place at the left rear of the empty body shop, Zoe C launches the drone, we watch the screen as she guides it over houses, pauses over Congreve’s car, then down near the edge of the roof. She backs it up so we can see the door to the patio. 
“He’s not a backyard barbeque type, there’s nothing out there, not so much as a lawn chair.”
The blinds are closed across the patio door, typical sliding door thing.
She flies around looking for an open window, open in the sense that there’s no blind or curtain. No luck, he’s got it locked up tight. We can see shadowy movement, it looks like only one person.
“Drop the microphone, let’s see if he talks to himself.”
She does, he doesn’t. The TV is on low, we can hear kitchen sounds, clank of a pot, clink of utensils.
“While we’re stuck with nothing, cruise the yard and turn on the spotlight.”
Congreve may have shut the interior off but from his perspective he’s also shut off the outside. The drone has a penlight, not enough to attract attention but enough so we can see the ground. The light shows stubbly grass, patches of dirt, more grass.
“Stop, back up a couple of feet, slowly.”
“Is that what I think it is?”
“Either he’s turned the dirt for a spring garden or it’s a grave.”
“This is not a gardening guy, only hedges in back, the front has a tree and a few bushes, no flower bed.”
“Go back to searching.”
In the end, there are either three undeveloped flower beds or three something else’s.
“We should add a shovel to the drone.”
I laugh, “Make it simpler wouldn’t it?”
“What now?”
“We buy a shovel.”
“You’re kidding.”
“Find a store, Home Depot, Ace Hardware, doesn’t matter, even Walmart.”
“There’s a Walmart the way we came, open twenty four hours.”
Bring in the drone, thirty minute round trip, I’m the proud owner of a spade. We’re back in our spot.
“You want the drone up again?”
“Yeah, no light, just use the mic to monitor the house, if it seems like someone is about to come out, get in my head so I can bolt.”
“I can’t believe you’re going over the fence, through the hedges to dig up…whatever.”
“Faith, keep the faith.”
Out I go.

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