Not that I think it matters much with someone like Dane. He clearly does whatever he wants.
“Why didn’t you tell me Mae had a niece?” Connie asks.
“I didn’t know.” I unpeel her fingers from my arm so I can answer my phone.
“Kathy from the power company called to let you know that the intruder at Mae’s place is actually Mae’s great niece who inherited the property so please don’t shoot our new citizen.”
“You know me, Bev, finger’s always on the trigger.”
“It’s a good thing that Ren is on the way for cleanup then,” she says cheerfully before hanging up.
“Ren’s on the way?” Connie strains her head, looking around to see if she can spot her little brother.
“Yeah. He was worried.” Upstairs, the lights are blazing. There isn’t any danger, but I don’t feel like leaving.
“You should come in. I have fresh strawberry pie cooling on my counter.”
“Haven’t had dinner yet. Best keep that for Ren.” I should really check up on the newcomer. Don’t want to come off inhospitable and all that. I take a step toward the door but Connie’s fingers dig into my arm once again.
“Where you going?” Her voice is a tad shrill.
Gently, but with intent, I lift her hand away. “It’s none of your business, Connie. Go inside and wait for your brother.”
The woman flushes and walks inside without another word. When the door closes, I walk up the stoop and give Khloe’s door a knock. She doesn’t answer at first so I knock again, only this time louder and with a mite more force.
Her feet clip down the stairs and the door flies open. She wears a scowl on her face. “What now?”
“Thought I’d make sure your place is clear before I left,” I say as I muscle my way inside.
“What are you doing? You can’t just come in here.”
I ignore her. Since the electricity is on, I flip on the store switches. Her purse is still lying by the front door.
“See. It’s empty.” She throws out an arm.
“You shouldn’t leave valuables in front of a window or a door.” I go over and pick it up. The place smells musty from being closed up for such a long time. I should’ve had Ren or the day deputy, Marty, come over and air it out. “I’ll send someone over tomorrow to help you clean up here. You gonna run this as a clothing shop?”
“What’s it to you?”
“Just curious.” There’s no one here but a few dust mites. I turn off the lights and nod toward the stairs. “I’ll take a look upstairs for you.”
“No. No you won’t.” She pushes at my chest, but since I’ve got about a hundred pounds on her, I don’t budge. It takes a couple tries before the realization sets in that she’s not going to win this round. With a sigh, she steps back. “Fine, but you aren’t going to find anything.”
“No harm in checking.” Before I can climb the back stairs, there’s a knock on the door.
A little line appears on Khloe’s forehead. She isn’t expecting anyone.
“It’s Ren, Connie’s brother,” I tell her as I cross over to the door.
“Now how do you know that?” she wants to know.
“Cuz he was coming over to check on his sister and Connie will have told him that I’m making sure there aren’t any unwelcome guests.” I nudge her aside and crack the door open. Sure enough, Ren’s curious face peers at me from the other side.
“Connie said she’s got a new neighbor. Thought I’d introduce myself.” His hair is slicked back and he’s holding his hat between his hands. Connie must’ve told him the new neighbor was a woman.
“You can do that tomorrow.”
He cranes his head, trying to see past me. “I’m here now, though,” he protests. “Plus, Connie has a piece of pie for her.”
I take the pie and start to shut the door.
“Wait,” Ren calls.
“What is it?”
“What’s her name?”
“Tomorrow, Ren.” I shut the door and turn to Khloe. “Connie makes good pies. I’ll put it in your kitchen.” The layout of Mae’s place isn’t much different than Connie’s and since I’ve been here before, I head upstairs.
Khloe follows behind, arguing the whole way. “You can’t just barge in here and act like you own the place.”
“I’m just putting your pie away.” There’s nothing but boxes in the kitchen. I slide the pie onto a spare bit of counter and survey the rest of the place. Mae wasn’t much for that open concept living. She liked her rooms to be separate. The kitchen was made for cooking and the living room was made for living. “I can knock down a couple of these walls for you.” I pat the barrier between the living room and kitchen. “It’ll make it seem bigger here.”
“Maybe I don’t want that.”
“I think you do.” Khloe doesn’t seem like a closed-in kind of person. I make my way through the living room, which features more boxes, Mae’s ugly-ass plaid furniture, and plastic blinds covering the windows. The bathroom is clean and a couple of fresh towels have been hung on the rods. Khloe fixed up this space first. The one bedroom also smells of lemon and bleach. A white comforter is draped invitingly across the bed. “Looks nice,” I say. But it’s an understatement. I could crawl right onto that mountain of pillows and cotton and feel right at home.