G is for Gumshoe - Page 48/98

"Me, too. I prefer 'Kinsey,' if you would. What can I do to help?"

He glanced apologetically at his wife. "We were just discussing that. I'm trying to talk Irene into staying here. She can hold down the fort while we get out and bump doors. I told the director of this two-bit establishment he'll have a lawsuit on his hands if anything's happened to Agnes…"

Irene shot him a look. "We can talk about this later," she said to him. And to me, "The nursing home has been wonderful. They feel Mother was probably confused. You know how willful she is, but I'm sure she's fine…"

"Of course she is," I said, though I had my doubts.

Clyde's expression indicated he had about as much faith as I did. "I'm just heading out if you'd care to join me," he said. "I think we should check the houses along Concorde as far as Molina and then head north."

Irene spoke up. "I want to come, Clyde. I won't stay hereby myself."

An expression of exasperation flickered briefly in his face, but he nodded agreement. Whatever opposition he may have previously voiced, he now set aside, perhaps in deference to me. He reminded me of a parent reluctant to discipline a kid in front of company. The man wanted to look good. I glanced along the street for some sign of Dietz.

Irene caught my hesitation. "Something wrong, dear? You seemed worried."

"Someone's meeting me here. I don't want to take off without leaving word."

"We can wait if you like."

Clyde gestured impatiently. "You two do what you want. I'm going on," he said. "I'll take this side and you can take that. We'll meet here in thirty minutes and see how it looks." He gave Irene's cheek a perfunctory kiss before he headed off. She stared after him anxiously. I thought she was going to say something, but she let the moment pass.

"Would you like to tell someone at the nursing home where we'll be?"

"Never mind," I said. "Dietz will figure it out."


We started with the house diagonally across from the nursing home. Like many others in the neighborhood, it was substantially constructed, probably built in the early years of the century. The facade was wide, the two-story exterior shingled in cedar tinted with a pale green wash. A prominent gabled porch sat squarely in the center, matching large bay windows reflecting blankly the sprawling branches of an overhanging oak. I thought I saw movement in an upstairs window as we came up the walk. Irene was clinging to my arm for support. Already, I could tell she was going to slow me down, but I didn't have the heart to mention it. I was hoping her anxiety would ease if she could help in the search.

I pressed the bell, which jangled harshly. Moments later, the front door opened a crack and a face appeared, an older woman. The burglar chain was still judiciously in evidence. Had I been a thug, I could have kicked the door open with a well-placed boot.


I said, "Sorry to bother you, but we're talking to everybody in the neighborhood. An elderly woman's disappeared from the nursing home across the street and we're wondering if you might have seen her. About seven this morning. We think that's when she left."

"I don't get up until eight o'clock these days. Doctor's orders. I used to get up at five, but he says that's ridiculous. I'm seventy-six. He says there's nothing going on at that hour that I need to know about."

"What about your neighbors? Have you heard anybody mention…"

She waved an impatient hand, knuckles speckled and thick. "I don't talk to them. They haven't cut that hedge in the last fifteen years. I pay the paperboy to come in once a month and trim it up. Otherwise, it'd grow clear up through the telephone wires. They have a dog comes over in my yard, too. Does his business everywhere. I can't step a foot out without getting dog doodie on my shoe. My husband's always saying, 'Pee-you, Ethel. There's dog doodie on your shoe again.' "

I took out one of my business cards, jotting the number of the nursing home on the back. "Could I leave you my card? That way if you hear anything, you can give me a call. We'd appreciate your help."

The woman took it reluctantly. It was clear she didn't have much interest in geriatric runaways. "What's this woman's name?"

"Agnes Grey."

"What's she look like? I can't very well identify someone I've never laid eyes on before."

I described Agnes briefly. With Irene standing there, I couldn't very well suggest that Agnes looked like an ostrich.