“Alice King?” Evelyn said, her voice clear and strong like a river.
The middle aged woman at the door smiled with the corners of her mouth, gentle lines of old skin pulling and folding, making her face ripple out in waves. Opaque shadows clouded her green eyes and she looked slightly confused to hear her own name.
“May I help you, young lady?”
“Yes, my name is Evelyn Stone, and this is,” Evelyn said, turning her head to the left and right to find that Finian had stayed a few steps away from the door. Evelyn reached out and pulled him up next to her bodily. “This is Finian Kelley.” Evelyn was staring hard into the side of his face, daring him to take a step back. Turning back to face Alice King, Evelyn continued with a sigh, “we would like to ask you a few questions about your son.”
Alice King’s tired eyes began to blink rapidly and she raised her feathery eyebrows.
“Son? I don’t have a son,” Alice King said, clutching her hands to her breast and popping her knuckles as she did so.
Evelyn watched as the two sides of Alice King’s nature began to battle. The brittle old woman she wore as an exterior struggled to maintain control but the hardened warrior who had lost her most prized possession was fighting to get loose. The white streaks of flyaway hair that framed Alice King’s face fell into her eyes and her smile slackened.
“I am sorry, you must be mistaken.” Alice King said in a voice as cold and sharp as folded steel.
Evelyn licked her lips slowly. Alice King wanted to play hardball. Evelyn was battening down her own hatches while Finian, on the other hand, was pulling at her sleeve and trying to whisper into her ear.
“Evie, maybe I was wrong about her. Let’s just go. I don’t think she want’s to talk with us. Besides,” he added, “I am allergic to cats.”
“I don’t have any cats,” Alice King said, puzzled.
“She doesn’t have a cat, Finian,” Evelyn repeated, never looking away from Alice King.
Finian rolled his eyes and moved closer to Evelyn. “Look at this woman, Evie. If she doesn’t have a cat then she’s just the crazy lady. At least being ‘the crazy cat lady’ makes you sound cute. People can sympathise with a cat owner.”
Evelyn shook her head in a mixture of disgust and frustration. Finian would either follow her lead or go home. She had no time to humour him further.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. King, but my friend is a little strange.”
“Really? I’m not the one trying to strike up a dialogue with Mrs. Coo-Coo for CoCo Puffs,” Finian whispered rather too loudly into Evelyn’s ear.
“Finian!” Evelyn shouted, finally turning to glare him into silence.
“Mrs. King, I am sorry once again for my friend’s mouth. He can’t always seem to control it.”
“It’s quite alright my dear,” Alice King said.
“As I was saying, we’ve come to ask you a few questions about your son. I am sure this is a sensitive subject and I know that we are strangers but I assure you we are very interested in anything you might be able to tell us about his disappearance.”
Alice King blinked several times and took a deep breath. She was wrestling again. Her smiled returned again, only wider, and crows feet spread from the corners of her eyes like talons.
“As I told you before, young lady, I don’t have a son.”
Evelyn finally caught on to the game of semantics Alice King was playing.
“Of course. You don’t have a son because he was taken. You did have one before though, didn’t you?”
Alice King’s knuckles cracked again.
“Young lady, I really think this conversation has become inappropriate and I am going to have to ask you to leave. I have been as patient as I can be with complete strangers.”
Alice King made to close the door on them and Evelyn put her hand out to stop it. She would not be so easily dismissed.
“Mrs. King, please. We need to see the album. We need to know what you remember. It might help us! We’ve lost loved ones too!” By the end Evelyn was shouting in the woman’s face.
“Lower your voice,” Alice King rasped, her eyes flashing hawklike. “Your shouting will draw it out!”
“Draw what out?” Finian shouted.
A chair was thrown from Alice King’s house. It exploded from the front window near where Finian was standing in a shower of glass. Finian ducked behind Evelyn and she instinctively put her arm out to shield him. Alice King tried to use the distraction to slam the door shut but Evelyn was too fast. She got her foot into the gap before it closed and then used her youthful strength to shoulder the door back. Alice King went sprawling onto the hard tile floor with Evelyn and Finian tripping into the room behind her.
A glass frame came whizzing from a neighbouring room and smashed into the wall above Finian’s head. He let out a high pitched squeal and dropped to the floor with his hands over his head.
“What in great holy hell was that, Evie!”
Evelyn was looking around for their attacker and found nothing. Then a glass vase was lifted from before her eyes and there was no hand holding it. Whatever doubts she had before she entered this house were blown out like a candle in a high wind. It was all true.
The vase came pelting toward her and smashed into her face. She had been so awestruck by it that she did not even raise her hands to defend herself. Evelyn dropped to the floor on top of Finian in a shower of glass, violets, baby’s breath and cascading water. The last thoughts she had before blacking out where of her brother and knowing that she had been right all along.
He was alive and she was going to find him.