Chapter 4 – Restart
ALLISON WADDED UP the last of the used newspaper and tossed it in the trash. Unpacking had been easier than she anticipated. The house was in crap shape, but at least it had a working kitchen.
“Time for some wine,” she told herself and pulled down a bottle of red. “Randy, want to share some wine with me?”
No answer, but she was hardly surprised. It was after five; time for Randy to lose himself in Resident Evil. So much for restarting their relationship. She turned to the painting of the girl she had Randy carry up from the basement. “I guess it’s just you and me, kid.”
Allison didn’t know much about art, but it looked like a quality piece. The girl sat on a large chair, puppy in hand, her hair in long, perfectly formed rag curls. “What’s your name, I wonder?” Allison muttered as she poured her wine. “I think you look like a Francesca.”
“Her name was Millicent, actually,” a woman answered.
“What the hell?” Allison spun around, boxcutter in hand. “Who are you and why are you in my house?”
Standing in the doorway was a tall, ridiculously thin woman, dressed in a long skirt, white shirt, and tailored jacket. Her hair was slicked back into a perfect chignon, and the only color on her pale face was her brilliant red lipstick. A small smile toyed on her lips. “I’m sorry. I’ve startled you. Randy let me in. I’m Pearl.”
Allison stared at her shoes. They were extremely high. Home invaders wouldn’t wear such high heels, would they? “I’m sorry. You said Pearl?”
The woman nodded. “I live next door. I thought I’d drop by to introduce myself.” She glanced at the boxcutter. “If it’s a bad time – ”
“No. Of course not. I’m Allison.” She hastily slammed the boxcutter in a drawer. “Would you like a glass of wine?”
“No, thank you.” The woman turned her attention to the painting. “She was lovely, wasn’t she?”
“Very.” Allison reached for her wine. “You said her name was Millicent?”
The woman nodded. “Old fashioned, I know. The oldest of three girls. Such a shame what happened to them.”
Not going to ask. Allison took a long drink of wine.
“You’re quite brave for moving here.” The woman turned to her with a fixed smile. “I’d thought about buying it a time or two myself, but I have a nervous disposition. Anyway. I’ll let myself out. Stop by if you need anything.”
Allison nearly snorted. Nervous disposition? Please. Gary had bodyguards who weren’t that cool. “Where’s your house again?”
The woman breezed out the door without bothering to answer. Only the slam of the screen door. Hello, rudeness. Figures, she’d have a next door neighbor that was rude and didn’t drink. Allison took another deep drink of wine.
“Hey, baby.” Randy came bouncing into the kitchen. “Thinking about dinner yet?”
Allison rolled her eyes. “Give me a minute. And thanks for the heads up, by the way.” She shoved him aside and pulled out a package of ground beef. “Pearl seems like a delight.”
Allison glanced at him. “Pearl. Our neighbor. Tall woman, super skinny? She said you let her in.”
Randy gave her a look, then started laughing. “Oh, I get it. You’re messing with me!” He slapped her on the butt and slid onto a bar stool. “Naughty, naughty.”
Allison’s stomach twisted. “I’m not messing with you, Randy. A woman named Pearl was here. She said you let her in.”
Randy’s smile faded. “Baby, I didn’t let anybody in. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”