AMATEUR SLEUTH MYSTERY
AMATEUR SLEUTH MYSTERY
TOO LATE FOR ANGELS
The woman who stood on her porch would never see sixty again, Lucy Nan Pilgrim thought. Then she smiled. This was one of Ellis's pranks. Her friend had teased her about advertising a room to rent in yesterday's paper. "No telling what kind of loonies you'll attract," she'd warned.
"I'm looking for my mama." The woman spoke again, this time in a tiny, childlike voice almost plaintive in its urgency.
Lucy stepped closer, keeping a firm grip on the doorknob. There was no one about except for a car at the stop sign on the corner. She watched as it moved on. "I'm afraid she's not here," she said softly.
"Where is she?"
"I'm sorry. I don't know." Lucy smiled. The poor woman was clearly distraught. Now a lone tear began a start-and-stop path down her rose-tinged cheek. "I believe you have the wrong house," Lucy said.
"No, I don't!" The stranger straightened, grasping the strap of her pocketbook in one hand while smoothing the collar of her blue cotton dress with the other. "This is my house - Mama's house. She's here. I know she's here!"
She looked past Lucy and frowned, her gaze taking in the grandfather clock in the corner, the Windsor chair across from it. Both had come from Lucy's grandmother, to her mother, to her.
"Mama!" she hollered again, and pushed past her to stand looking about with such a frantic expresssion, Lucy began to fear for her own safety. The woman's boldness has taken her by surprise and she wasn't prepared to deal with her.
"Mama, I'm home!"
"No, wait...don't go back there!" Too late. Her desperate visitor had already started down the hallway that led to the back of the house. Now she turned and smiled. "Why, I'll bet she's in the kitchen - in the kitchen with Martha."
Oh, Lordy! Why is this happening to me? Lucy thought. And who in tarnation is Martha? The woman seemed harmless enough and looked to be at least seventy, a good fifteen years older than Lucy, but she was obviously delusional. And what if she had a knife or something in that huge pocketbook she carried?
Since the stranger seemed to have reverted to her childhood, maybe she should use the maternal approach, Lucy thought.
"Why don't we sit down and have a glass of lemonade while I see if I can find her?" she called out sweetly. She was sure she still had that can of frozen concentrate stuck back somewhere in the freezer.
But the visitor stood transfixed in the kitchen doorway, still smoothing the collar of her dress. Although her clothing seemed to be of good quality, the woman's dress was wrinkled and the front spotted with stains, but her hair looked as if she'd made a recent visit to a beauty parlor and still smelled faintly of apricot shampoo. Now and then she fingered two large rings she wore on her left hand,slipping them off and on. One was set with a glassy red stone about the size of a marble. The other was green and rectangular. Both looked
"The big table's gone," she said. "Where's the big table? Where's Martha?" Stepping forward, she reached out to touch the back of an oak-stained captain's chair, one of six Lucy had bought at an estate sale. "This isn't my chair," she whimpered. "Mine has a pretty pillow on it."
Lucy Nan Pilgrim took a deep breath and tried not to sigh out loud. She wouldn't have been surprised if the three bears returned from their woodsy walk at any moment.