Friday, February 07, 2014

The Black Cane

Dowager Diaries: Book 1
Mystery, 355 pages
Cover art by Richard Stroud
The decision to help one small boy turns eight elderly women's lives upside-down.  Danger becomes a way of life.  If the women are going to save the boy and stay alive, they are going to have to use skills that have been dormant way too long.

She'd walked almost to the end of the alley and could see that it dead-ended not far ahead before she heard the sound again. So she hadn't been mistaken. Peering behind dumpsters and walking carefully between splotches of gore she didn't want to identify, she made a beeline for the last dumpster. The sound had to be coming from there. Walking to the side of the dumpster and peering around to the back, it took her a moment to make out the small human form mixed in with the trash. Amelia was unable to tell if the figure was male or female, but she was certain it was a child. Holding out her hand, she said. “Come out here and let me take a look at you. Are you hurt or just scared?”

What emerged from the trash was a filthy boy about ten years old. He said, “I hope you have a plan for getting us out of here or else we're both dead.”

She was impressed by the lack of fear in the child's voice. It had been a long time since a youngster had treated her as a peer, and she was fascinated. She looked around for some viable means of escape, both to prove her worth to the small critic and because the noises she was hearing back at the entrance to the alley were alarming her. There were three or four delivery doors along the alley. Reading the names printed on the doors, she discovered that the closest one read Clothes Closet Basics. This was a name she recognized. She had purchased many items from them, and they knew her well. Taking the boy's hand and saying only, “Come,” she hurried to the door and turned the knob. It was locked, but as she stood trying to think what to do next, an employee she knew came barreling through the door with a huge stack of boxes for the dumpster. The collision knocked the girl on her rump and sent the boxes flying in all directions. Amelia only avoided falling with the help of her cane.

During this confusion, two men were working their way down the alley checking each dumpster. Amelia snatched up the boy, stuffed him in one of the boxes, and covered him with brown paper scraps from another box. She whispered, “Whatever happens, keep your mouth shut, and no snuffling.”

Amelia finally remembered that the employee's name was Melissa. By then she had dug herself out from under the boxes and dragged herself to her feet. She was so self-absorbed that she hadn't even noticed the boy. She said, “Mrs. Armstrong! What in the world are you doing back here?”

Amelia said, “It's a long story, but I seemed to have gotten turned around somehow. When I saw your sign on the door, I was so relieved that I tried to come in. I'm so sorry about the collision! Are you all right?”

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