Hickory Dickory Dead - Chapter One Sneak Peek
At ten minutes past three in the morning a shrill, hair-raising scream woke seventy-year-old Maisie Fezzwig from a semi-sound sleep. Over the last half hour she’d drifted in and out of consciousness, trying to get some shut-eye while the male counterpart sleeping next to her sounded off like a wheezy, broken-down foghorn. It wasn’t his fault, of course. It was hers. She accepted the blame. After all, she’d broken rule number one: never, ever, under any circumstances, allow a man she was sleeping with to stay the night. Up to now, Maisie had never broken that rule, but after one too many glasses of red wine, she’d lost track of time and dozed off unintentionally.
To rectify her mistake, Maisie decided swift action was the perfect remedy. She switched on the lamp next to her, and, using two fingers to remove the arm her date had draped over her chest, she lifted the hand cupping her right breast and deposited it back on Daniel’s chest. When the gesture didn’t wake him, yawned loud enough for the neighbors to hear. And when that didn’t wake him, she stabbed his shoulder repeatedly with her finger, aligned her mouth with his ear, and said, “Daniel, wake up!”
Daniel partially lifted one eye, closed it, and rolled onto his other side. “What is it, Maisie? I’m trying to sleep.”
“Did you hear that noise?”
“It sounded like someone screamed.”
“Maybe you should turn off the TV.”
Maisie looked at the flat screen on the wall, failing to see why he didn’t see what she saw. The television wasn’t on. It was off. “The noise didn’t come from inside the house. It came from outside.”
“If you really want me to get up and look around, I’ll do it.”
Although the offer had been made, he made no attempt to get up, which suited Maisie just fine. She didn’t need him to do the dirty work. She was more than happy to do it herself.
Maisie rose from bed, walked to the dresser, and opened the top drawer. She pulled out a pair of binoculars, walked to the window, and peeked through them, canvassing each house in her neighborhood.
Daniel propped himself up on one arm, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. “What in the hell are you doing, Maisie?”
She shooed a hand in his direction. “Shh. Stop talking. I’m trying to concentrate.”
“There’s no need to get snippy with me. Come on now. Come back to bed.”
Come back to bed?
He’d said the words like it was an order, as if the lackluster moment of passion they’d shared an hour before gave him permission to treat her like they were more familiar than they were. It was the very reason rule number one wasn’t meant to be broken.
Maisie set the binoculars down, picked Daniel’s pants up off the floor, and hurled them in his direction. She attempted a smile, but felt certain it wasn’t very convincing. “Time for you to leave.”
“What are you talking about?” He patted the side of the bed she’d just risen from. “Come on, baby. I could go for another round? Whadd’ya say?”
A word she hadn’t been called in some time.
A word that was just eww for a woman of her age.
They’d only been together twice. Both times his bedroom prowess had been mediocre at best. “You need to go, Daniel.”
Maisie pointed toward her living room door. “Out.”
Daniel stood, taking his time pulling his pants back on like he was giving her a minute to change her mind. “I like you. We have a good things going here. Can I at least see you again?”
“Your fifty. I’m seventy. It was nice, but let’s call it what it was, shall we?”
He scratched his head. “What was it?”
“A one night stand. A bootie call. A hook up as the teenagers say.”
His eyes widened. “You’re not serious?”
She escorted him to the front door, opened it, and kissed him on the cheek. “You’re very sweet, Daniel. Thanks for a nice night. Goodbye.”
Daniel stood with his arms crossed in front of him, dumfounded and confused, making it all the more awkward for her to look him in the eye, so she didn’t. She offered the same smile she’d offered before and closed the door. As soon as his Subaru backed out of the driveway, she scurried back to the binoculars again, scanning the neighborhood a little longer than she had the first time. All was quiet now. Everything appeared normal except for one thing: Sylvia Frazier’s house was black, and Sylvia never retired to bed without switching the front porch light on.
Maisie threw a robe over her short silk nightie, a coat over the robe, slipped into a pair of rubber-soled slippers, and opened the top drawer of her dresser once again. Besides the binoculars, the velvet-lined drawer also contained several relics left to her after her late husband passed five years earlier. Once such relic was a revolver. And not just any revolver. A Smith & Wesson 500 Magnum.
After completing a bullet check, Maisie scampered across the street to Sylvia’s place. Finding the front door unlocked, Maisie walked in, letting the revolver in her outstretched hand lead the way.
“Sylvia? Are you there? I’m coming in!”
As someone who’d familiarized herself with all of her neighbors, Maisie knew the layout of each house on the block. She paused for about ten seconds. When there was no reply, she flipped on the hall light and showed herself to Sylvia’s bedroom. Halfway down the hall it occurred to Maisie that Sylvia might not have replied when she’d called her name because Sylvia was sleeping. It further occurred to her that Sylvia may have forgotten to illuminate the porch light this one time. If true, the appearance of a gun-toting neighbor in the wee hours of the morning was likely to give the eighty-four-year-old woman a heart attack. Adversely, the lack of an illuminated front porch light was one thing; an unlocked front door was quite another.
Maisie entered Sylvia’s room, feeling her way up the wall until she felt the light switch. She flicked it on. A terrified Sylvia sat straight up in bed, yanking her blanket over her face like if Maisie was an intruder, she believed she could protect herself with it.
Sylvia looked at Maisie then the revolver. “Maisie? What the hell are you doing here? And what are you doing with a gun?”
Maisie lowered her weapon. “I apologize, Sylvia. I thought you needed help.”
“I’m in bed. Sleeping. What help could I possibly need?”
“I heard someone scream earlier, and when I saw your front porch light wasn’t on, I thought it may have been you. I called your name when I came in. You must not have heard me.”
Sylvia inserted her fingers into her ears, pulling out a pair of plugs. “I’m wearing these tonight. I don’t hear anything. My nephew’s staying here this week. He blasts the television. Without ear plugs, I don’t get any sleep.”
Maisie assumed Sylvia’s nephew was also to blame for the front porch light being off as well as the unlocked door. “I suppose it wasn’t you who screamed then.”
She sighed. “Of course it wasn’t. And, by the way, you can’t just walk into my house whenever you want without knocking.”
“The front door was unlocked.”
“That’s not the point. This isn’t your house.”
Maisie stuffed the revolver into her jacket pocket and turned. “You should tell that nephew of yours to lock the front door.”
Sylvia grunted an inaudible reply.
She walked back down the hall confused. She had heard what sounded like a woman’s scream, and not just any scream; a desperate cry for help.
Stepping outside again, the air seemed staler tonight, like the atmosphere had sucked it all in and zipped it up tight.
Maisie may have been wrong about Sylvia, but someone, somewhere was in trouble.
She didn’t know how she knew.
She just knew it.