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Perhaps it was a tragic chainsaw accident and someone’s finger simply launched through the air and into Miss Helen’s back garden. Or perhaps it was a lovers quarrel in which the owner of the finger pulled a Vincent van Gogh and lopped it off — ring and all — as a testament of his great love for Helen, the exotic temptress from the photos and sketches. Evelyn could not stop coming up with scenarios.
Evelyn gazed at the ring and finger bones nestled in the damp earth. Without really knowing why, she pulled out a Dairy Queen paper napkin from her pocket and folded the ring inside (and bones) to examine when she wasn’t seated in wet bottomed jeans not four feet from the snoozing Miss Helen.
With one eye fixed on Miss Helen, she dug a bit deeper into the hole and set her findings on the ground in front of her. In just a few minutes time, she’d pieced together a hand and forearm. This was not the product of an unfortunate chainsaw accident. She buried the bones, stood up, and began brushing off her jeans.
“Well, I’m off to Mrs. Heatwole’s house, Miss Clifton.” Evelyn said to the still sleeping Helen. Her lashes fluttered and caught the sunlight. Good Lord, the woman had lashes like Rita Hayworth.
“Oh, that’s just fine, Evelyn. You be sure and tell Glenda that I said hello. Won’t you? Do you need any spending money?” Helen smiled up at Evelyn from the Adirondack chair and reached for her purse. Helen, like many of the retired ladies, carried her purse everywhere.
Eveyln rattled off the usual speech about how the helpers weren’t allowed to take tips and that it was Sheltering Arms policy. Then a funny thing happened… Evelyn became very aware that tucked deep in her pocket, wrapped carefully in a crumpled paper napkin with mustard stains from lunch was the bone of a person that Helen probably knew and possibly killed.
“Is something the matter, dear? You look as though you’ve seen a ghost!” cried Helen as she reached her arms out to Evelyn as if she might crumple gracefully like in the movies.
Evelyn didn’t faint gracefully.
She fell like a tree.
Eyes like chlorine pools with golden flecks searched her face. Eyes that had her dancing across billowing grasses in flowing skirts and belting out Rogers & Hammerstein songs. If she was sleeping, she didn’t want to wake and possibly loose out on a single second of soaking him in like a pagan sun worshiper with arms outstretched and radiating heat in her veins.
“Evelyn? Honey, it’s Helen. You’ve had a bit of a fall and it’s just a lucky thing my son was coming up the walk when it happened. What’s Dean’s number? Do we need to call him?” Helen’s concerned pixie face came into view as she spoke.
As her vision cleared, Evelyn realized that she was laying on Helen’s comfy couch with her feet propped up on a stack of old magazines and the piano cover draped over her. Seated on the floor next to her was the master of those glorious eyes and on the heavily varnished coffee table perched a very worried Helen. Son? Miss Helen Clifton, the former pinup with a skeleton in her garden had a son?
Helen smiled and winked at the owner of the eyes as Evelyn sat up. “This is my son, Anthony. Won’t you have some tea with us?”
Anthony wore a brown herringbone tweed blazer and khaki pants with a blue oxford cloth shirt. Apparently he walked directly out of an L.L. Bean catalog. With that full head of dark wavy hair and just the tiniest bit gray at his temples, Evelyn knew she needed to get out of there. If her knees would support her, that is.
She somehow managed to convince them that she was fine and promised to go straight home instead of Mrs. Heatwole’s house. As she walked up the steps to her condo, she reached in her pocket for the wad of paper napkin. Finally she was away from Helen, Helen’s dreamy son, and the gossipy ladies of Sheltering Arms. Seated in her bright little kitchen with its buttercream walls, toile de jouy curtains, and cheerful potted plants, she opened the napkin with trembling hands — her mind raced with the rush of it all. She felt like a character in a poorly written mystery novel, the kind where murder victims magically appeared wherever they went and then in Jessica Fletcher fashion they solved the crime and secured a confession.
It was empty.
Evelyn searched all of her pockets and even stepped out of her jeans. She stood in her kitchen frantically shaking out dirt-stained denim, sending crumbles of earth flying with her mind turning somersaults. How?
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