“MAGGIE'S GHOST” – book excerpt

Quickly the woman turned, ran up the driveway and ducked into the heavy shrubbery enclosing the cottage’s yard. She peered out from this leafy bower to see if she’d been followed. Seeing no one, she sat down in the middle of the foliage, happy to be well hidden. The woman leaned back and lay down to rest for a few minutes. Her heart pounded roughly inside her chest and she took deep breaths to give it a chance to quiet.

The woman lay quietly for a long time, drifting into a sort of twilight sleep. She was feeling more and more relaxed. Suddenly she came fully awake and sat up with a jerk, head swimming. What was that? She looked around her green shelter and saw nothing. Only leaves. Green leaves surrounding her, dried ones under her. She sat quietly, listening, wishing she had six extra ears. Nothing. She got to her feet and stood swaying, feeling dizzy. The leaves blurred and became fuzzy. She shook her head, hoping to clear her vision. Mustn’t let that happen. Need to keep my wits about me.

She realized she’d had nothing to eat for hours except the three muffins Peter had made for her yesterday. She opened her purse and checked to see if there were any left. Nothing. She wadded the empty plastic bag and stuffed it back into the depths of her purse. For a moment her mind cleared. Good of Peter to make the muffins, tasty as well. She hadn’t seen him for over a year. At first they’d argued, some harebrained scheme he had. Just like his dad, crazy as a June bug, both of them. But since the deaths of her parents, he was the only family she had left and she’d desperately needed help. After they got past the argument, he’d turned nice, made dinner and gave her a place to sleep. Good of him to store her car. Should give it to him, a thank you for his help.

Carefully she peered out from her leafy shelter. The gray early morning light showed only the little house with its faded blue paint, standing alone and apparently empty. Peter said no one was living there. Maybe she could get in and take a little rest. They wouldn’t look for her there. She stood and staggered. Queasy. She’d been running all night. Exhausted. Slowly she pushed aside the foliage and stepped out of her shelter.

Dragging the heavy purse behind her she climbed the low rise, keeping close to the lush greenery, ready to drop back into it if necessary. In the back yard, again she took shelter in the heavy shrubbery and sat down. Need to find that key she thought fuzzily. She peered inside the purse and found the small zippered compartment. Deep in it she found a key, one solitary key on a worn keyring that held a tiny enameled dog.

Cross my fingers they didn’t change the locks. Clutching the key, she stood uncertainly, squinted to clear her vision and walked drunkenly toward the side door near the garage. She sighed as the key opened the door. When she started to enter, her shirt caught on the protruding key still in the lock. Confused, she jerked it out and looked at it sitting so innocently in her hand. With a drunken shrug she tossed it back into the grass and went inside.

Maggie's Ghost, a Maggie McGill Mystery Series book by Sharon Burch Toner
 
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