by Diana Killian
The echo of that scream still lingered on the breeze as I pelted back across the lawn towards the house.
.....As I crested the swell of a small hill I could see a woman standing in the drive beside a Ford V-8 Roadster. She was alone.
.....I pushed through the shrubbery, the twigs pulling at my uniform and scratching my arms, and stumbled out onto the pavement.
....."I'm so sorry, I do apologize," she said before I had breath enough to speak.
....."That was you? You screamed?" My cap was askew, and I took it off and shoved it in my pocket.
....."I'm afraid I did." I glanced at the house. No sign of alarm or even interest. Maybe no one had heard her yell. Or maybe they thought it was one of the peacocks. Or me. The Jane said apologetically, "He startled me, you see."
....."A man. A man with a limp."
....."Are you kidding me?"
.....Her chin lifted at my tone. "A strange man. Swarthy. Malevolent-looking. He ran off into the bushes." She pointed a few feet from where I was standing.
.....I stared at the bushes and then gave her the up-and-down. She was blonde and well-turned out in one of those man-tailored Hudder coats in a cocoa color. She wore a matching brown hat with a black band. Smart and sensible looking.
....."What was this swarthy doing when you saw him?"
.....She hesitated, and then said, "He seemed to be spying on the house. He had aa spyglass, I think. He put it away when he saw me and ran off."
....."You mean limped off?"
.....Her wide gray eyes grew wintery. "It's not a matter for jest."
.....Maybe yes, maybe no. I didn't reply; too busy trying to work it out. How come the man with the spyglass hadn't noticed her tooling up in her big Flivver and run away before she spotted him? Why wait around?
.....Did he want to be seen?
....."Naturally not." She gave me the once over and said, "You must be the nurse David hired."
....."That's right. Nurse Kelly. And you are-?"
....."Gloria Klehm. I'm a friend of the family."
.....Friend-of-the-family Gloria who had seen the hocus pocus with the flowers, but didn't want to admit it. I studied her with greater interest.
.....It began to rain, hard drops peppering down, pattering on the shrubbery leaves. Raindrops bounced on the drive shining like Egyptian glass beads. Gloria gasped and put a hand to her hat, trotting towards the house.
.....I tagged along, saying, "Did you recognize the man you saw?"
.....Another one of those little pauses. "Only from Evadne--Mrs. Beauchamp's--description."
.....As we reached the shelter of the front portico she put a hand on my arm and said, "I think it would be best, Nurse Kelly, if you didn't mention this incident in front of Mrs. Beauchamp. She's liable to make far too much of it."
.....That was easy since wild horses wouldn't have dragged it out of me. "Of course, Mrs. Klehm," I said.
....."Thank you. And it's Miss Klehm."
.....So the rock on her left hand was an engagement ring, not a wedding ring. Nice work if you can get it.
.....Betsy let us in, with a certain look for me. Not that I blamed her. What with the leaves in my hair and my dirty uniform it probably looked like the inmates had taken over the asylum.
.....We went straight upstairs to Evadne's room. Sally was laying a selection of fashionable frocks on the bed. Gloria sailed right in without introduction, and was greeted with Evadne's usual vague enthusiasm. It appeared that Miss Klehm was staying for dinner. She volunteered to help Evadne dress for the evening's festivities, and Sally and I were dismissed.
.....Sally seemed inclined to make a fight, but I scrammed, making a beeline for David Beauchamp's bedroom. I tapped on the door.
.....I slipped inside and went into the dressing room which adjoined Evadne's rooms, which I'd noticed earlier that day. I planted myself against the door to Evadne's side, peering through the keyhole.
.....Gloria was partially blocking my view. Her voice carried clearly. "She's very young, isn't she? Did David find her?" She moved towards the bed.
....."Maybe the agency sent her," Evadne murmured. She was seated at her dressing table trying on a pair of earrings, turning her beautiful head this way and that, and eyeing the result indifferently. She added, "She's a little odd."
.....I nearly choked.
.....After that they chatted about clothes, and then about people I had never heard of, and then about the clothes of the people I had never heard of, which seemed to cheer Evadne up some.
.....My knees were going to sleep. I shifted position cautiously. The rain was drumming down now.
.....Kneeling in the deepening shadows, surrounded by the ghostly scent of Evadne's hanging clothes, I watching through the keyhole as Gloria held up a blue beaded sheath and admired herself in the oval mirror.
.....I was surprised that Evadne didn't tell her about the dead turtledoves. Gloria didn't seem to notice the missing cage.
.....At last she stopped trying on Evadne's clothes, sat down on the pink satin bed and said earnestly, "Evie, about Jones-"
.....As I leaned closer the door behind me opened and the overhead light came on.
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by Diana Killian, exceopt where otherwise noted.