ALL ALONE, Part 1
She woke with a start. The television was still on and the lamp on the end table next to her recliner lit the room making it difficult for her to know just what time it was. From the feel of her knees and left hip it was late, after midnight and she had been sleeping in the chair again. Gracie Walters scolded herself and looked across the room to her left ready to also scold her husband James but that chair was empty. James had not sat in that old beat up thing for three years. A tear almost crept out of her eye but she shook herself of the memory of him in his maple casket and grabbed at the tuner to shut off the television.
The stuffy air in the room filled her nose and she wished she could open the windows. It just wasn’t warm enough for her air conditioning to trip on. October in Sarasota was a tricky weather month, sometimes hot and sometimes a bit of dryer, cooler air swept in from the northwest. She could not bring herself to let the fresh air in. She was afraid. Alone and afraid of a lot of things outside the protection of the house she had shared with James since they retired here from Illinois.
She turned off the light and eased her frail frame out of the chair to make her way to bed guided by the dim night lights in the hall and bathroom. It didn’t take her long to change and slip into the big empty bed but sleep did not come easily. She would see him as he was years ago mowing the lawn or loading his fishing gear into the little aluminum boat behind his Jeep in the driveway. She rolled over to face the wall and relieve the pressure on her hip but it didn’t help take away the pictures.
Officer Rick Duval was bored. He was working the quiet south side of town and it was a Tuesday. Nothing ever happened on a Tuesday especially on this side of town. He was as skilled at his job as any six year veteran could be and was a training officer but his latest rookie was on her own now and he was back to patrol by himself. The bars had closed and only the all night diners and convenience stores were open. Sleep would be his enemy now. At least the air had been cleansed of the stifling summer humidity. He could always stick his head out the window if he had to.
When the sound of the crash faded her eyes were wide and she was trying to think what on earth it could be. She rolled back over to face the open bedroom door that led to the hallway of her small ranch home. Had she left a pan on the counter or had a picture come loose from the wall? Slowly she sat up and slipped her feet into the backless slippers on the floor. Her robe was on the straight back chair near the door and she put that on and peered out into the hall. Not a sound now and the list of things it could be ran through her head. She stopped breathing when she caught movement out of her left eye and turned to see, in the dim glow of the night lights, a dirty tennis shoe attached to a blue jean covered leg slide down from the small attic opening in the ceiling of the hall.