Are You Haunted (part eight)
Lois, though possibly another cousin, was not dark or wiry of build, but somewhat doughy, auburn-haired and freckled. Her eyelashes, and her age, were indistinguishable. Powell looked across to the door where Alfin’s father, having lingered with the car, entered at last, bringing two more chairs.
The older man nodded. “Hello there…Kenzie, is it?”
Powell was much relieved when Isobel tapped Lois on the shoulder and ushered her into the kitchen. He’d spent the hours from late afternoon to sundown taking orders from Isobel, silence between them, as Tovey paced in and out. The house was swept and scrubbed, Mrs. Lessing’s dishes rinsed of dust and stacked on a clean countertop.
He had five guests, and could now offer them four seats. He followed the women, loitered in a corner, unstacked a bowl when the others had shuffled past, and after backing himself three times to the end of the line. Then, from Isobel’s buffet choosing two halves of a deviled egg, Powell dropped over these a handful of pretzels, a chicken leg, a spoonful of fruit salad…guessing this would just have to mix its way in. Once he’d emptied his bowl, he would need it for cake. Returning to the parlor, he chose a place, as a host short of chairs ought to, on the floor.
“Age before beauty, old Dad. You sit yourself here. I don’t mind the floor, if Powell don’t.” Alfin, with an arm thrown round his father’s shoulders, steered him to a chair. But he shot a glance at Tovey, who was already perched on one of the others, holding the bottle between his knees.
Tovey drank, then leaned with the bottle still between his lips to tap Powell. Powell took his turn, timing his swig to match the length of Tovey’s. No one had asked for glasses. He passed the bottle up to Alfin’s father. When it came Lois’s turn, she dropped this, hands slack, into Alfin’s alert grasp. Her eyes widened, as Summers stepped into the parlor.
“So he’s got himself inside, after all. Is that right, ma’am?”
“He wouldn’t say a word to me,” Isobel told Summers. “I’ll go up with you, though, again.”
“Now I’m assuming,” Summers said, crossing as she rose, to hover a hand under her elbow, “you taking it calm, like you are, Miss Gilshannon, that you found Mr. Rohdl…well, I don’t know if safe is the word. Not in need of medical help, let me put it that way.”
Isobel, last to come in from the kitchen, had briefly been off her feet. Powell thought she looked tired, wilted now at the end of this long day.
“That’s hard to say, isn’t it? The point where someone stops holding up? It’s as I tell you, Mr. Summers. He doesn’t speak. But I left a plate with him…if Mr. Rohdl’s been starving, a bite could have brought him round. I suppose, for your purposes, he’s all right.”
Are You Haunted
(2016, Stephanie Foster)