Here was a quandary. I wanted the money order Patty was all but waving under my nose, but the idea of escorting this stranger through this scene of a disrupted life went against my grain. Curiously, a grain I didn’t know I had because, frankly, I’d go through Abigail’s rooms in a heartbeat if I were alone. But the difference is I’d go through to look for her, the woman who had called me for help. The neighbor who had died all alone. Patty just wanted to supplant her.
“You know, I just don’t feel right,” I said, turning to go. “I can certainly call you the minute her family clears out her things.”
She pouted at this and would have argued, I’m sure, but didn’t have to. Susan was back at the townhouse and standing at the front door fumbling, once again, with the key I had given her.
“Hello,” I said, trying to usher Patty out the Baker front door and away.
“Merry Christmas!” cried Patty. When I looked at her reproachfully, she ignored me, thrusting her hand out toward Susan’s. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” she said, her look showed real contrition. “I heard about your poor sister and I just want to say I am so sorry. I’m just here looking at this nice place next door. Are you going to live here? We would be neighbors. I’m Patty Appleton. If you’re not moving in, I’d sure love to look at this place because I just think an end unit is really the best, don’t you?”
And then she hugged her!
Holy crap, I thought. My usefulness ended there.
Susan’s genetically driven good manners kicked in, as I’m sure Patty had counted on.
“Would you like to come in?” she asked.
“Oh, would it be too much trouble? Thanks!” She turned to me and winked broadly. I could do nothing but follow.