She’s a Luddite, no doubt. Never had a computer or a personal email account. She’d had the one when she’d worked, in email’s early days. Didn’t have a cellphone and was only vaguely aware of selfies, and she didn’t have a television.

But she did have a P.O.T. – a plain old telephone – and an answering machine. When they called, though, it ringed without switching over. One day. Two. Twice on that second day, once each in the morning and afternoon, and then again twice on the morning of the third day. Official worry had launched by then. That. Was not. Like her.

Nerves coiling into a rat’s nest, they went to her house. Her car was there. The house looked normal. Sunning cats watched their investigation with narrow eyes, their ears pricked forward to hear their soft voices. Soft voices were needed in a moment like this, when you don’t know what you’ll find.

No one answered their knock.

They walked around the house. She wasn’t in the yard working, or in the shed. They checked the shed…in case.

The cats looked okay. They discussed it. How the cats looked meant nothing. A window was open for the cats to come and go. They could see a feeder half-filled with kibble inside, and a water bowl.

She kept her doors unlocked. That’s how she was. He remembered her answer to his amazement about how she lived. She said, scoffing, “I don’t think I remember where the house keys are.” They thought she was joking, but she said she wasn’t. Remembering that she didn’t lock her doors didn’t make them feel any better about the lack of connections to her.

Knocking again, they opened the door and called her name.

No reply.

Entering, they crept around, invaders of a friendly territory. It reminded him of entering a church when nothing was scheduled. It was a clean house, but not organized. That wasn’t a concern. They had other concerns, like bodies.

No bodies were on the floor. No blood. No signs of fights or struggles, as they’d seen in movies and television shows. They called her again, in bolder voices. The kitchen was clean. There was food on the refrigerator. The dishes were done. Nothing was in the sink.

They looked in all the rooms. No one was found. He went to her rotary Trimline phone and picked it up. He heard a dial tone. The answering machine was beside the phone. A red light showed it had power. Blinking showed it had messages. Maybe it was full.

Further walking around did nothing but reinforce the fact that they’d walked into another’s house without an invitation. “Let’s leave her a note,” he said. “Tell her we called and came by, and that her answering machine doesn’t seem to be working.”

They wrote the note, and left after two more minutes. They’d allowed that time in case she was out somewhere. She could return at any moment.

They closed the door behind them, and looked around again, to see what they’d missed. The sunning cats watched, and wondered who they were.


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