The Mystery of the Nightly Walk
The old woman with the large-brimmed hat turned the corner and headed up the cul-de-sac, just as she did every other night at nine pm.
“It’s just odd, Jack. That’s all,” I said, pulling the curtains closed. “Sandy and I invited her to come with us on our seven o’clock walk and she turned us down flat.”
My husband didn’t think it was strange. “Maybe she’s not social. Or maybe she's busy at seven. Besides. The only thing the two of you talk about since you've both started dieting is calories. I know I'd be bored with the conversation.” He obviously sympathized with Deloris.
“But she has those men over three times a week, and they aren’t her sons because they don’t look anything like her. They aren't even the same ethnicity.”
“Maybe they’re adopted.”
“And what about the hat? Why is she wearing a hat at night?”
Jack folded his newspaper. “Maybe she’s bald. Or had a bad hair day.”
For the last three weeks, our new neighbor walked the streets of Mountain View Estates every evening at the same time and always wearing the same large-brimmed hat that left her face in shadow.
When she moved in last month, I’d tried to say hello over the rose bushes that divided our backyards, but she ducked her head and went back inside. Maybe she was shy.
She looked like somebody’s grandmother. She dressed her plump figure in polyester outfits and her hands were covered with age spots. But I hadn’t seen any grandkids drop by. The only visitors she had were four middle-aged men who dropped by three times a week after her walk.
“Maybe I’m on edge because of the break-ins.” Several houses had been ransacked while the owners were out. The Petersons had been on vacation, while the Sorge family had only been at the movies. Cathy Sorge was still shaken up, worried what might have happened had they walked out of the awful film as her husband had suggested and returned home early.
“Leave the worrying to the professionals,” Jack joked, and he went upstairs to change out of his uniform having just finished his shift at the Lakewood Police Department.
The next evening, Jack worked late. Right on schedule, Delores came out her front door and headed up the street. This time, I followed at a distance, ready to find out what my neighbor was up to.
The old woman walked at a slow pace, pausing to take in her surroundings. She leaned over a hydrangea bush in front of the Danko house and inhaled, enjoying the sweet sent from the flowers. I followed suit when I got to that spot. Maybe it was my allergies, but I couldn't smell a thing. I looked up and Mrs. Danko stared at me through her living room window. I gave a sheepish wave and she pulled the drapes closed.
Deloris repeated her performance in front of every home, sometimes admiring the bushes, other times stopping to tie her laces or take an irritant out of her shoe.
Feeling like a fool, I picked up my pace and caught up to her.
“Nice evening,” I said.
She started in surprise, Even then, she only nodded a greeting.
“Are your sons stopping over again tonight?” I asked, trying to encourage her to talk.
“Those are friends of mine,” she finally said.
“They must be good friends. They see you every night.” A slight exaggeration. "You must run out of things to talk about."
“We play cards.”
At first she was reluctant to hold up her side of the conversation, but after I congratulated her on having a hobby and told her how thinking games like cards can keep your brain young, she finally opened up.
"Do you play?"
"What? Cards?" I laughed. "I wouldn't know a straight from a whatchamacallit."
“My late husband enjoyed Texas Hold-em. In fact, I always used to joke that Harold looked like the king of hearts. He had the same regal mustache and beard. I’m convinced he thought he was royalty,” she chuckled.
By the time we got to my house, I thanked her for sharing her walk with me. I couldn’t wait to boast of my success to Jack when he got home.
His response was not the one I expected. He kissed me on the forehead and made me promise to stay away from Deloris.
One week later, Jack received an accommodation and Granny Hardcastle and the Hardcastle Gang were behind bars.
“What tipped you off?” I asked after a big kiss of congratulations.
Deloris “Granny” Hardcastle said that she had played cards for years. In fact, her husband resembled the King of Hearts. Someone who plays cards three times a week would know that the King of Hearts is the only king without a beard.