Bouncing after her was a small, white terrier.
“Who’s that?” I asked, dreading the answer.
“Oh, didn’t I tell you about Terrance?”
She had let the dog go loose, and he was going all right, going right in the middle of the only section of lawn that had managed to achieve a pastel green.
“No, I replied weakly, “you left that part out.”
“Well,” Franny spoke into the trunk as she started dragging out suitcases and boxes, “he’s a real love and completely housebroken.”
“I can tell,” I grumbled as I looked for a shovel under the steps.
“Come out here a minute,” I motioned her.
“What!” It was not a question. I bit my lip as she slapped the screen open and stepped out onto the deck.
“Close the screen,” I coaxed, trying to sound friendly.
“What!” came that snappy voice full of impatience again and accompanied this time by a hand on one hip.
“Where are you going?” I asked, noticing suddenly the freshly shampooed and blown dried hair and detecting the scent of Charlie.
“Nowhere,” came the same irritated tone.
“Well, you look so dressed up. You really look nice. I like the shirt.” I looked closer. “In fact,” I sat forward abruptly for a clearer look, “I like the shirt so much I bought it last week.”
A slight smile curved ever so reluctantly across my daughter’s face.
“That’s my shirt, isn’t it?” I asked.
No reply. Just the smile. If it wasn’t for the fact that my daughter hadn’t smiled at me since eighth grade, I’d have lost my temper and demanded she remove the blouse that I hadn’t worn yet.
“That’s probably how the dog got out,” the sergeant said.
“But who opened the doors?” I asked, my voice full of alarm. “Were they forced open?”
“No, Ma’am,” he said. “I figured it to be the exit, not the entry. I’ll have a look around inside. My men are checking the grounds and the garage.”
The sergeant was upstairs only a few minutes. “Nothing unusual,” he reported when he returned.
I was disappointed. I’d hoped to solve the mystery. Now I’d worry.
“I thought the place was impregnable,” I said helplessly.
When he did appear, he was dressed like he had been Friday night with the impeccably pressed pants and a crisp shirt, its collar slightly up. As he turned the corner toward me, I saw the top two buttons characteristically undone.
Self consciously I straightened the wet towel around my shoulders and tried to fluff my hair which was still damp and, I hoped, springy around my face. Of all the times I’d wanted my macho neighbor to notice me, here he finally was at my door, and here I was, exhausted from lack of sleep, totally without make-up and a bit soggy.
. . . I watched him every step of the way until he was out of sight, willing him to look back at me; to return; to explain what he’d been doing in the shadows outside my house last night! But of course he only kept walking.
“Franny,” I blurted and then I started to cry. I never cry, but I was shaking from head to foot suddenly, and once the tears began there was no way to stop the sobs that followed.
Franny had her arms wrapped around me instantly and began edging us toward the front steps.
“We can’t go in there,” I croaked through my sobs.
“What’s happened?” she asked. She was so calm; so in control.
“There was a prowler . . . upstairs . . .,” I gasped. “If it hadn’t been for Terrance . . .,” I said, looking at Franny. I knew I was wild-eyed and staring dully at her like a lunatic.
I stepped back so I could grab both her shoulders. “Call Terrance, Franny,” I commanded. “See if he’s all right.”
. . . I could just go home. But my home was trashed, and I was now even afraid to be there. I had to get answers. It was my only defense.
The moon ducked behind another cloud, and I ducked through the hedge.
I was standing openly in front of the boarded houses!