Back at the inn Maisie turned the engine off and took a few slow deep breaths. She stared at her image in the rear-view mirror where blood had congealed along small scratches on her forehead. Brushing her long fringe over the wounds, she opened the door and headed inside and upstairs to the bathroom to clean up before tea.
‘I thought I heard you come in’, Katie said before lifting the lid of the pot of stew.
‘Yes, I’m back. Can I make myself a cup of coffee?’
‘Sure, help yourself. How was your trip to town?’
With Katie busy at the stove, Maisie was relieved that they couldn’t see each other. They chatted with small talk until the coffee was ready. Reluctantly, Maisie returned to the larger kitchen and sat on a stool.
‘What happened to you?’ Katie was panicked.
Maisie touched her face where fresh blood had dribbled onto the bridge of her nose and down her cheek. ‘It’s just a scratch. I stupidly went bush-walking without planning it.’
Katie fussed over Maisie and her scratches before insisting that she didn’t go off on her own again. ‘What were you thinking? You could have been mugged or murdered.’
‘Now Katie, don’t try scaring me.’ She sighed. ‘Actually, there was someone out there. I think he just yelled at me when he caught me watching his cabin.’
Katie pulled a kitchen stool closer and sat looking at Maisie. ‘What are you saying Lass?’
Maisie told her all she did that afternoon, including the unplanned bush-walk. ‘Does someone live there?’
Katie sat in thought. ‘You have been a nosy one since you’ve arrived.’
‘I should mind my own business. Right?’
‘Well since you’re a writer, I shouldn’t be surprised.’ Katie stood and switched off the hot plate. ‘Let’s talk.’
‘There is a mystery about Kelly’s Inn. I honestly don’t know the full story but I do believe it has something to do with Stan’s youngest sister, Marjorie. I was told in no uncertain terms that I was never allowed to clean nor enter her room. I’ve been tempted believe me, especially when odd things happen around here this past week; upstairs, downstairs, in the garden, even in here.’ She looked around the room and waved her hand. ‘Things go missing. Food is taken from the refrigerator.’ She sighed again. ‘That’s why I had to return to town yesterday. My roast disappeared.’
‘Why don’t you tell the police? Or ask Tom to look around.’
‘Because I don’t want trouble. Because I want to believe it’s just a frighten homeless child or a lonely person that doesn’t know they shouldn’t steal. Whoever it is, I come to believe he or she is not dangerous.’
‘Katie, whoever comes into your home has been in my room.’
With this newest bit of information, Katie looked frightened. ‘When?’
The past few days had been quite eventful and Maisie realised that something more serious may have or may happen if Katie stays on her own in the house.
‘I think we need to find out what’s going on. First, we need to open the door to Marjorie’s room.’
Katie looked shocked but then nodded. ‘You’re right. Let me get the key.’ She stepped into the small kitchen and opened a drawer. ‘Let’s go.’ She took hold of Maisie’s hand and marched off.
Maisie grinned and marched with Katie down the hall and up the stairs before Katie defiantly put the key in the lock and flung the door open. In that instance, the curtains shifted in the gusty breeze that had begun earlier.
‘Why is the window open, Katie?’
‘I don’t know. Everything could have been ruined. We get nasty storms and heavy rains at times.’ She rushed over and closed the window.
Maisie joined her. ‘Surely it hasn’t been open for all these years.’
‘I wouldn’t think so.’ After closing the window securely, Katie check the room closely. ‘There’s nothing missing that I can see but it’s obvious that someone has slept on this bed recently and with muddy clothes.’
The two examine the bedding before locking the door again on the way out.
‘How do you suppose they got into my room?’, Maisie asked.
Well there’s more than one key. She held up the small bunch in her hand. ‘These are the spare keys for guests if they lock them self out of their room. They have always been in the drawer.’
‘Where do you keep the main keys?’
‘In my room.’
‘Okay. Let’s think. Tell me about the garden gate?’
‘It used to squeak terribly and it woke anyone who slept on that side of the house. We thought it was the wind but it was checked before bedtime. Every night until Marjorie vanish, it squeaked.’
‘It stopped…until recently.’ Katie’s eyes widened. ‘What do you think it means?’
‘I’m not sure,’ Maisie pondered. ‘But it means something.’
‘It’s getting late, Maisie. Let’s go eat some of that stew.’
While eating, both women were quiet for most of the meal.
‘What kind of food goes missing?’ Maisie finally asked.
‘Well, besides the roast, which was the biggest haul, it’s usually only leftovers really or the odd cake or loaf of bread.’
‘Katie, are you up to a bit of staking out?’
‘Steak?’ Then reality hit. ‘Oh, you mean catch them in the act?’ She shook her head slowly. ‘I don’t want anyone to get hurt.’
‘It’ll be fine.’
Later that evening, the house was locked as usual for the night; the kitchen cleaned up and the leftovers put in the usual place. The two sat in the dimness of the small kitchen, like shadows they sat still as they could; talking only in hush tones.
Katie stifled a yawn. ‘Maybe we scared them off.’
Maisie was about to answer when they both heard the distinct squeak of the gate. A few minutes later the back door opened with a creak.
Katie held her hand to her mouth and Maisie tipped-toed across the floor to see better. The refrigerator door opened, spilling light across a thin face of a woman.
‘Hello Marjorie.’ Maisie spoke clearly but not too loudly.
The woman rushed to the back door leaving the refrigerator open but Maisie and Katie stood between her and the door. Her long monk-like robe dragged along the floor; the hood on her shoulders.
‘Marjorie!’ A sob caught in Katie’s throat. ‘It is you.’
Marjorie stood staring at Maisie for a long time and then at Katie. ‘How did you know it was me?’
‘We didn’t know for sure but it was a reasonable assumption.’ Maisie had answered knowing she really didn’t know until now.
The young woman dropped to the floor and sat weeping.
Katie squatted uncomfortably beside her long-lost sister-in-law and held her while she sobbed.
Maisie switched on lights and closed the refrigerator door. Not knowing what to say next, she put the kettle on.
It was a long way past midnight and after the two Kelly’s caught up on a smidgen of their lost years, Maisie said: ‘Even this nocturnal writer needs to get some sleep.’
They looked up at her as if in a dream.
‘Will you two be OK if I go to bed?’
They both nodded.
© Chrissy Siggee – 2019
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Archived in: Short Fiction