The small brick made house was a welcoming beacon to Scarlett’s eyes as she pulled into the gravel drive. Her life’s belongings were in the backseat of her Ford Mustang, a mountain bike strapped to the top.
One thing marred her return home. A news story on the radio about the murder of Danielle Murphy; whose body was found earlier this morning. Not many details were released yet, just that her car was found on a county road and her body not far from it. Danielle was one of her best friends in school, one of the few who knew Scarlet’s secret.
Danielle had always smelled of lavender, it was the woman’s favorite scent. She was fun to be around, always ready to go exploring in the woods, a softball star, with short-cut brown hair and hazel eyes. Scarlett wondered how her friend had been as an older teen. She hadn’t heard from them since moving. Her uncle and aunt let her have no communications with old friends.
Grandma’s house, so much time passed since last she’d come to the little house. Since her folks and grandma died she’d stayed with an aunt and uncle in Newkirk; Scarlett was glad to be back in Skylark, a quaint little secluded community divided by a state highway and bordered by forests. She loved the forests.
Animals could run free in the forest; she loved that. Running free was something she had not been permitted to do for what seemed an eternity, though only six years. She’d gone to Newkirk when she was 15, now she was 21.
Across the front of the house was a flower garden; assorted colorful bulbs pushed their way up from the ground. The house was well preserved by the family that rented it the past few years.
The old man on the porch swing looked at her. He wore a casual suit and leather hat. Wrinkles were carved into his flesh by time and sorrow, Mr. Plimpton, somewhere past 70; his wife some months deceased.
“Mr. Plimpton,” Scarlet said, her voice low. Her voice was always on the quiet side. “The place looks very nice.”
He gave her a bemused smile and rose to his feet, “Miss Lourdes, nice to see you again. It’s been a long time.”
“Yeah,” Scarlett said. She turned to pull some bags from her cars’ backseat.
Mr. Plimpton looked at his wife’s flowers. “I’m gonna miss this place.”
“You don’t have to leave,” Scarlett told him. “It’d be nice to have some company.” She’d never stayed alone before. The idea both frightened and thrilled her.
He opened the front door as Scarlett lugged her bags up and into the house. She deposited them in the center of the livingroom floor. Then straightened up her back and stretched.
Mr. Plimpton handed her the house keys. “You can keep the furniture, I expect you don’t have much.”
“No I don’t,” Scarlett replied and chuckled. The carpeting was nice, red velvet; plush chairs and a couch with cushions at each end. A television set was on a stand across from the couch.
“It’s an early ‘90’s model,” Mr. Plimpton said, gesturing at the television set. “I expect you’ll want a newer model.”
“Eventually maybe,” Scarlett replied.
As Mr. Plimpton sighed and looked around Scarlett saw the sadness in his eyes. Then he shrugged his shoulders and started to the door. “Well, got a retirement home in Vegas waiting for me.”
“Goodbye Mr. Plimpton.” Scarlett said. He turned back to her and gave her a hug. “Don’t spend all your money at the casinos.”
The old man laughed. He turned and headed out the door.
People told Scarlett she reminded them of a wolf. She had lots of curly hair, a dark tinted red. Her physique was an hourglass shape; her blue eyes darted around taking everything in. Her sense of smell was very acute.
Her hand traced the staircase as Scarlett walked up, the bedrooms were there. She’d now be using the one that grandma once used. Slowly she pushed the door open and stepped inside, almost expecting to see the old lady. Grandma had been a pudgy, feisty, lady in her 60’s. She wore wire-frame glasses and practiced to be a witch.
Her parents’ room was across the hall; the Plimpton’s had used it. Her own room at the end of the hall, Mr. Plimpton used it for a study. Most of her family’s belongings were stored up in the attic. Scarlett figured she might go explore them later.
As memories of grandma and her folks swept through her mind, Scarlett soon found herself looking out a window at the neatly trimmed lawn. June was always a pleasant time here, not too hot yet. The sun was out and the skies were clear, time to go into town by bicycle. She bolted from the room and headed down to the front door, pausing only to secure it behind her.
Scarlet quickly retrieved the bicycle from its securement on her car, and got on. She felt the electricity pump through her as she began spinning the pedals with her feet.
She loved the speed and the feel of the wind as it stroked past her body. Scarlett sped the bike down a windy county road. As she reached a sharp turn, she stopped, her nose catching assorted scents, one of which was lavender.
A county sheriff deputy was here, still, with some others. He turned and gave Scarlett a grave look, then walked to her. It was three years and down hill from her home.
“When did you get back in town?” Deputy and Detective James Tipton asked.
Scarlett smiled despite herself as she looked at the hunky policeman. He looked like a quarterback, blue eyes, light-blonde hair. Her best friend’s older brother; was he married? She wondered.
“So, this is where it happened?” Scarlett asked.
Grimly, James nodded his head. “Yeah, sorry. You, Trista and Danielle used to be real close.” Trista was his sister, about three-years younger than the 25 year old.
Tears started in Scarlett’s eyes, which cast down to the ground. Other scents caught her nose, but she couldn’t entirely make them out. Stetson cologne? She looked at James, that would be him; Midnight Passion? The other guy here paying, them no attention.
“What happened?” Scarlett asked, her voice soft even for her.
James’ eyes squinted, it seemed as if it took him a moment to get her words. “We think, her car ran over something, got a flat tire; when she got out to change it,” he looked at some of the bushes. “She was attacked. Her throat was slashed, among other things.”
Scarlett’s head shook, “It’s so hard to take in. And not too far from my house.”
“Oh, you staying at your grandma’s?” James asked.
Her head bounced up and down in answer, “Mr. Plimpton’s gone off to Vegas.”
James chuckled. “He’d talked about that.” He paused a moment. “Seen Trista yet?”
“No, how is she?”
“Shaken about Danielle, I expect,” James answered and crossed his arms over his chest. “Haven’t had a chance to talk with her since it happened. You know she’s a teacher now, at Skylark elementary?”
“Cool,” Scarlett replied. “I better get on, still five miles to town.”
“Hmm,” James sounded. “Be safe, and be wary.”
“I will, James.” Scarlett replied, still wondering if he was married, couldn’t see his fingers. She wasn’t about to ask him. But, she knew he was watching as she rode away.
Poor Danielle. So freaky it being so close to her house; then another frightening thought occurred to her would people think the beast did this?