Something about the stranger’s interest made me cautious. After passing the Dahl’s
place, I pulled off the gravel road onto a two-
A black Hummer sat in my driveway. The man I’d seen in town was doing as I’d done the day before, circling the house and peering in the windows. I tried to recall if I’d left any sign of my presence, but I didn’t think so. I hadn’t been inside that long. There were tire tracks in the drive, of course, but the house still looked abandoned.
Looking for one of Marta’s foster children, he’d said. A female. Was he a reporter who’d trailed me all the way from Richmond? Probably not. His license plate said he was from West Virginia.
As he came back around to the front of the house, I saw his face clearly. He looked
like an outdoorsman, the kind who’s confident he can handle whatever Nature throws
at him. He was handsome, his face deeply sun-
For some minutes the man surveyed the yard, as if taking in details of the closed outbuildings and the unbroken quiet. His gaze swept the tree line, and I froze as it seemed to stop at the spot where I stood. No, I told myself. He didn’t see you, and if you keep still, he won’t. It was hard to fight the urge to run, to avoid trouble, whatever this particular sort of trouble was. Beth urged calm, but Loser wanted to turn and flee, to keep running until she found anonymity in a big city with a park for sleeping and alleys for hiding.
In the end, Beth won, or maybe she delayed action long enough that it became unnecessary. The man made a move that signalled decision, pushing himself away from the porch post and heading for his vehicle. He drove onto the lawn to turn around rather than backing down the driveway. His tires spun ruts in the grass as he accelerated and then disappeared from sight.
I waited until the dust cloud he’d made settled and then turned back, making my way quietly through the trees until I reached my car. I sat in it for a while, wondering who the man had been looking for. If it was me, I couldn’t think of a reason. All of Marta’s foster children were at least a decade gone. What had brought a stranger to the little town of Beulah and beyond it, to my front door?