T is for Trespass - Page 30/144

To all appearances, she was of a similar economic status. Two months before, one of her brothers had given her a banged-up convertible he was eager to junk. The car she’d been driving had thrown a rod, and the mechanic told her the repair bill would be two thousand dollars, which was more than the car was worth. At the time, she had no cash to spare, and when her brother offered her the 1972 Chevrolet, she’d accepted-though not without a certain sense of humiliation. Clearly, he thought the junker was good enough for her. She’d had her eye on a better car and she’d even been tempted to take on the hefty payments, but good sense prevailed. Now she was grateful she’d settled for the secondhand Chevrolet, which resembled so many other cars parked along the street. A newer model would have sent the wrong message. No one was interested in hiring help who appeared to be more prosperous than they.

So far she had no information about the patient beyond the brief clues in the ad. It was good he was eighty-nine years old and tottery enough to fall and hurt himself. His need for outside help suggested there weren’t any close relatives willing to pitch in. These days, people were self-centered-impatient about anything that interfered with their own comfort or convenience. From her perspective, this was good. From the patient’s, not so much. If he were surrounded by loving kids and grandkids, he’d be no use to her at all.

What worried her was his ability to pay for the in-home care. She couldn’t bill through Medicare or Medicaid because she’d never survive official scrutiny, and the chances of his having adequate private insurance didn’t look good. So many of the elderly made no provision for long-term disability. They drifted into their twilight years as though by mistake, surprised to discover themselves with limited resources, unable to cover the monstrous medical bills that accrued in the wake of acute, chronic, or catastrophic illness. Did they think the necessary funds would fall from the sky? Who did they imagine would shoulder the burden for their lack of planning? Fortunately, the last patient she’d taken on had ample means, which Solana had put to good use. The job had ended on a sour note, but she’d learned a valuable lesson. The mistake she’d made there was one she wouldn’t make again.

She debated the wisdom of inquiring about a job in such a modest neighborhood, but finally decided she could at least knock on the door and introduce herself. Since she’d driven in from Colgate, she might as well explore the possibility. She knew certain wealthy types took pride in maintaining a humble facade. This fellow might be one. Just two days before, she’d read an article in the paper about an elderly woman who’d died and left two million dollars to an animal shelter, of all things. Friends and neighbors had been stunned because the woman had lived like a pauper, and no one suspected she had so much money tucked away. Her prime concern was for her six ancient cats, which the estate attorney had ordered euthanized before the woman was even cold in her grave. This freed up thousands of dollars to pay the subsequent legal bills.

Solana checked her reflection in the rearview mirror. She was wearing her new glasses, a cheap pair she’d found that were a close match to the glasses on the Other’s driver’s license. With her hair dyed dark, the resemblance between them was passable. Her own face was thinner, but she wasn’t worried about that. Anyone comparing her face to the photo would simply think she’d lost weight. The dress she’d chosen for the occasion was a crisply ironed cotton that made a comforting rustling sound when she walked. It wasn’t a uniform per se, but it had the same simple lines and it smelled of spray starch. The only jewelry she wore was a watch with big numbers on the face and a sweeping second hand. A watch like that implied a quick and professional attention to vital signs. She took out her compact and powdered her nose. She looked good. Her complexion was clear and she liked her hair in this new darker shade. She tucked her compact away, satisfied that she looked the part-faithful companion to the old. She got out of her car and locked it behind her, then crossed the street.

The woman who answered the door was in her thirties and had a gaudy look about her-bright red lipstick, dark red hair. Her skin was pale, as though she seldom exerted herself and never went outdoors. She was definitely not a California type, especially with those eyebrows plucked to thin arches and darkened with pencil. She wore black boots and a narrow black wool skirt that hit her midcalf. Neither the shape nor the length was flattering, but Solana knew it was the current rage, as were the dark red nails. The woman probably thought she had an eye for high fashion, which wasn’t the case. She’d picked up the “look” from the latest magazines. Everything she wore would be dated and out of style before the new year rolled around. Solana smiled to herself. Anyone who had so little self-awareness would be easy to manipulate.