When I got back to the house, having made my phone calls, I knocked at the front door. I didn’t know whether it had locked behind me when I’d left, but I was suddenly aware that I was a guest. I didn’t feel comfortable just walking in.
It was early evening by then. The walk across the bridge to the city had been pleasant, but the walk back had been quite chilly, with a sharp breeze coming off the water. I hadn’t minded the length of the walk; I’d had a lot to think about.
And now I was tired. Physical exertion was one factor, I’m sure — I don’t usually get a lot of exercise (I planned to go through my entire college career without ever setting foot in the gym).
I knocked again. Of course, if Sharon and Will were still upstairs asleep, who was going to let me in?
“Who is it?” boomed a voice from inside.
“It’s Michael?” I called with some trepidation. “Mike?”
The door opened and Ron, Jan Sleet’s daughter, looked at me. After a moment she said, “Come on in. I’m making dinner.”
In the kitchen, I made a gesture to convey that I could help with the food preparation. She made a gesture that pretty clearly said I should sit at the table and try not to get in her way.
She chopped tomatoes for a moment, then she asked over her shoulder, “So, you’re what, like, a guy?”
I said yes, though not with as much conviction as I’d intended.
“Hm,” she replied.
She shifted to grating cheese.
“Do you know how Mr. Bostwick’s family is going to find out?” she asked after a moment. “About him being dead?”
“I called them,” I said. “That’s where I was — I walked to a pay phone in the city.” She grunted. “I talked to the daughter — Barbara — and she said she’d call her brother.”
“How’d she take it? Did she act suspicious?”
“Well, at first she seemed pretty calm, that he was dead, but then I explained that he’d been murdered, violently, and she got upset.”
Ron nodded sagely. She opened the oven and took out a small frying pan. “I’m making omelettes,” she said. “That’s what I make.” She turned to face me. “How did you leave it with the suspect?”
I almost asked who she was talking about. “She was pretty upset. I told her I’d call her again on Monday morning. To give her a chance to–“
“She’s gonna want to do her own funeral thing. Well, my mother will figure it out. She’s coming back in the morning, with somebody to open that door upstairs.” She turned on the stove, then she said quickly over her shoulder, “You get to go and wake them up.”
This was not an unreasonable request, particularly since she was doing everything else, but as I went out to the hall, I had a hunch about why Ron didn’t want to do this herself.
And I was right. Sharon and Will were lying on their bed, together, wrapped around each other. The position seemed very familiar, though I had never seen it from the outside before. Climbing the stairs, I’d suddenly wondered if they’d be naked, but they were still dressed, except for their matching sneakers, which were in a neat row at the foot of the bed.
I stood next to the bed for a moment, looking down. Their eyes flickered open and they smiled, smiles which gradually faded as they apparently remembered what had happened.
It was a little awkward, since of course I wanted to console Sharon, my girlfriend, my lover, but Will was just as bereaved and I barely knew him.
We ended up standing and hugging, all three of us.
“Ron is downstairs,” I said after a moment.
“That’s what she makes.”
I made a face. “I don’t think she likes me.”
We broke our embrace, and Sharon and Will looked like they were agreeing and disagreeing at the same time.
“You make her uncomfortable,”
“as many things do,”
“but also the situation…”
“Her sister was murdered,”
“here in U-town, years ago, and…”
“they didn’t get along–“
“Ron hated her sister, so she never mourned,”
“but she feels conflicted about it…”
I found that their way of speaking was already starting to seem normal to me.
Downstairs, we sat around the table in the kitchen as Ron made omelettes and served them, one by one. Will got the first one, then Sharon, then me, and then Ron served herself.
The omelettes were very good, and I made a point of saying so. Ron’s grunt of acknowledgement would have horrified my mother, but I was already learning her ways.
As we ate, we compared notes about funerals. Even by pooling our information, we still had some big gaps. We came up with the forlorn hope that, somewhere in his will, Mr. Bostwick might have left some detailed instructions that we could follow.
Ron left pretty quickly after dinner, and I was aware of the next question, which was whether Sharon would sleep with me that night, or with her brother. I was trying to figure out some suave way of bringing this up when Will said, “I’ll do the dishes. Why don’t you two go up to bed?”
As we climbed the stairs, holding hands, Sharon suddenly turned and looked at me, frowning. I gestured with my head toward our room. When we were inside, she said, “You’ve learned something. When you were in the city…”
I nodded. “It’s not the answer about who killed them, but… well, I don’t want to blow it up into more than it is, so I want to see what Miss Sleet thinks about it.”
She hugged me and rested her head on my shoulder, and I stroked her hair. Either she was saying she trusted my judgement, or she was reading my mind to find out the answer. I’ve never asked which it was.
Hours later, I half woke and realized that there were more limbs wrapped around me than usual, and one extra body was pressed against mine. I found I was fine with this, and went back to sleep.