When Harry woke the next morning, he missed the smell of coffee. Then he realized that following his conversation with Max the night before he had forgotten to fill the coffeepot and set the timer. When that was done, he collected last night’s mugs from the living room, rinsed them and left them in the sink. As soon as the coffee was ready, he filled a mug and took it with him as he walked across the lawn to the office that had once been a garage.
Placing his mug on the desk, he turned on the computer and while it was booting up, he started the coffee there. Then he sat at the desk, sipping coffee and scrolling through the overnight and early morning headlines. Nothing earth-shattering there, he thought. His next stop was a little cafe downtown that served oatmeal for breakfast. His daughter had finally convinced him that he had to start paying closer attention to his diet. This change in his morning routine replaced his previous eggs and bacon, and it was taking some getting used to, but he had promised to try. His wife had often made oatmeal, and it was only since her death that he had skipped the healthy eating habits.
Finally, he knew it was time to go check out Mr. Thompson’s place, to see if there was any truth to what Max had told him the night before.
It was a fairly quiet neighbourhood. He met several vehicles going in the opposite direction, probably people going to work. Kids of various ages were waiting at the school bus stop. An older lady was out walking two small dogs. All the usual morning activities. He drove slowly past Thompson’s place but, from the street, nothing looked out of place.
At the end of the street Harry turned his truck around and went back again. He parked just across the street from Thompson’s, before a house with a ‘FOR SALE’ sign on the lawn and took out his phone. If anyone came along, he would pretend he was talking on the phone, so no one would wonder why he was parked there. “Okay, Hogan,” he muttered. “Start talking to yourself to make it look good.”
After a while he looked at the clock in the dashboard. “Twenty minutes… no sign of life… is anyone in there or was Max dreaming?” He put the phone back in his pocket and continued watching for another 10 minutes. “Okay, time to get to the bottom of this.” He got out of the truck and strode across the empty street. There was no window in the front door and he could hear no sound coming from inside. Harry knocked on the door.
After a few minutes he could hear sounds, not exactly footsteps but more like… thump – swish, thump – swish. Well, that definitely meant someone was in there. But what the heck was going on?
He took a step backwards as the door opened abruptly. Speechless for a minute, he stared at the young woman peeking around the edge of the door. He guessed her age at probably mid-to-late thirties, a bit too young to be Thompson’s daughter. The lower half of her left leg was encased in what appeared to be fairly heavy plaster while she supported herself on two crutches. That explained the unusual sounds he had heard moments before she opened the door. He didn’t think they had ever met but there was something about her, something that told him she was intelligent and also independent.
“Can I help you?”