Joan’s relaxing in the guest bedroom. I glance out front at the muddy Honda station wagon that’s arrived with her this time from somewhere in the cosmos and smile. Joan would surely know her carbon footprint. I hear her stir and stand in the hallway outside the bedroom door, waiting.
“God, you scared me!” she says as she opens the door. Even paper dolls get spooked sometimes.
I laugh. “Ha – got you!”
I follow her to the kitchen, where she opens my cupboard and removes a box of loose green tea. She pulls a small tea bell with chain from her sweatshirt pocket, fills the bell, latches it, then drops it in a mug of hot water. She repeats the process and we two sit down at the table.
“Have you talked with Dan?” Joan asks, eyes averted as her hands wrap round her mug.
“I’m waiting to get the police records.” I respond.
“No need to wait. He’s waiting for you to call. I told him you would.” She reaches for some strands of hair to twirl, forgetting it’s all in a braid down her back. The hand returns to the mug. Our eyes meet. “You know, Dan and I had a pact that the first of us to die would try to contact the other person from wherever we were. I tried calling Dan for a long time — it’s hard to know how long when you’re out here but I’m gonna guess it was like 10 years of time there — and he never picked up. I finally gave up. You know, I had things to do…”
“You did? Like what?” I asked, intrigued.
“Like stuff I’ll tell you about later. Anyway, a few years ago as you were finishing up Approaching Neverland, I knew it was only a matter of time before you took the leap,” her hand caressed the back of her head as it searched for her braid. Finding it, she pulled off the rubber band from the end and ran her fingers through to unleash her hair so she could twirl the ends.
“To try and figure out who killed me. Aren’t you gonna just ask me who did it?”
“Can you tell me?”
“You’re such a brat!” I yelled as we both burst into laughter. You’re gonna make me figure this out even though you know, aren’t you?”
“You need to understand the dark side.”
“And you’re going to lead me there?”
How is it that 30 years past your murder and 50 years after you took my hand as we skated to the corner I still feel your fingers wrapped around mine?
I walk her to her car. As she drives away, the sign on her back window comes into view: I sleep with dogs.