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See No Evil
COUNTRY LIVING HELD NO INTEREST FOR ZELDA, but she changed her mind after meeting Harvey. A red-haired free spirit, she jumped at the chance to attend a party with the well-to-do stranger. Well, they had crashed grocery carts and he apologized by buying her a coffee. Now, the idea was nothing but hard work.
No rain for months, dust stole inside though Zelda had wound the windows tight. Lost was not a place she liked. The gasoline level in the Dodge Dart hovered around a quarter tank. Where was that fancy house Harvey said to meet him at the party?
A thermos empty of water lay on the passenger’s side of the car’s bench seat. Her small purse leaned against it. A white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel numbed her hands but she paid no attention. Where were the farmers or cows? The only living creatures soared overhead. What were they? Buzzards? No, not large enough. Crows? Why so many and nothing else around?
Zelda passed a dilapidated shack. Hope flared. She slowed. Nobody. Nothing moved in the crushing heat. Parched and sweating, she swallowed to work up saliva without success. The crows swarmed lower, beady eyes scanning the interior of the car as if on a mission.
An enormous lump in her throat brought tears to her eyes. She unpeeled her grasp on the steering wheel and pounded it with the heel of her palm. Had she taken the wrong country road? What if she ran out of gas? A mere three or four hours of daylight remained. What if the crows surrounded her car? Creepy.
Like a shimmering mirage, women in long summer gowns dotted an expanse of velvet green lawn straight ahead. Men in black ties and fancy suits bent an ear to them, swirling filled glasses. A smile as broad as Saturday night replaced Zelda’s earlier sagged cheeks. A Victorian-themed party.
Zelda beeped the horn and turned into the long drive. No one took notice. Puzzled she beeped again, catching a glimpse of her glistening forehead and frizzy hair. She drove to the back of the mansion. Where were the cars? Too hot to think, she snatched the white purse and headed to the trunk for her luggage. “Whoa.”
A David Niven character studied her movements as if memorizing each one. Hands deep in his pockets, his eyes were sharp as a bird’s.
“Harvey. That you? Thought I’d taken a wrong turn. What is this place? Where are the other houses?”
Knees limp as cooked noodles, she remembered his slow smile from the one other time they had met. He snatched her bag. “Come. It’s cooler inside. Freshen up and we’ll dance your cares away.”
And how they danced, he the perfect partner, self-assured and charming. She did not remember how the night ended.
~ ~ ~
By morning, the air had cooled. Zelda’s body ached in all the wrong places. The urge to stretch overcame her before she opened her eyes. She screamed but what came out was the yowl of an angry cat. She noted with horror how she itched from the scratchy grass where she had slept. Outside? In the grass? A compulsion to groom gripped her. She choked on her own black fur. Fur? But it does shine. I’ve gone mad, haven’t I? Where is the mansion?
The rattles and clicks of a hundred crows swooping and calling to each other broke the silence. To the uninitiated ear, it sounded like raucous laughter over a private joke. One called to another and they plunged like bullets for the skulking black cat in the overgrown field.
“Zelda. Come back. Has no one told you the love of money is the root of all evil?”
A mansion had existed one hundred years before. One sad night a meeting of magicians had pushed their luck too far. Someone changed a famous woman named Lady Noir to a black cat and no one knew how to change her back. The magicians dispersed. When asked, they had no knowledge of the lady’s whereabouts.
Every summer afterward, a handsome man invited an attractive woman to a party where the mansion once stood and she too disappeared.
© 2017 Tess and How the Cookie Crumbles
Images courtesy of Pixabay