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PART EIGHTY-TWO

Caleb reached beyond Skylar’s shoulder and rang the doorbell a second time. A single bulb by the entryway flashed on and the curtains in the pane of glass to the right of the door fluttered. The door opened narrowly and a pair of eyes, a nose and mouth appeared beneath tightly permed silver locks in the narrow crack. “Yes?” the woman inquired, “May I help ya?”

Caleb plastered his most convincing grin to his face, tilted his head to the side and said, “Mrs. McNutt? Caleb Morse. Karla’s husband? I was just bringing Skylar home and wanted to introduce myself,” he declared, extending his right hand.

Mrs. McNutt’s brows drew together as she opened the door wide enough to turtle her head out, her hands clasping one another rather than reaching for Caleb’s offered introductory shake. “Karla’s husband?” she asked, “Why did I think Karla was a widow?”

“Pardon?!” Caleb responded with a chuckle. “Well, as somebody once said, ‘News of my demise has been greatly exaggerated.’ I’m alive and kicking and just wanted to say hey. Karla’s not in there with you, is she? I picked Skylar up from a friend’s and was dropping her off here but there ain’t nobody home, so I figured maybe Karla was over here visiting. She in there?”

“Why, no,” Mrs. McNutt replied, stepping out onto the stoop but keeping the door wedged to her side. “She’s not. Have you tried calling her?”

“Not yet. I guess I will. I just need to drop Skylar off and be on my way. Got work to do, you know? Shoot. Now I don’t know what to do.”

“Well,” the woman said, holding the door open with one arm and motioning toward her with the other, “you’d best come in then. Mosquitoes will up and carry you away if you stay out here much longer.”

“Oh! Are you sure?” he asked, swatting at the back of his neck. “I sure don’t want to be no trouble.”

“Trouble? Don’t be silly. That Karla and Skylar of yours are simply treasures. Just treasures. Now, don’t be silly. Come in, come in,” she reiterated waving her hand toward the house’s interior.

“Well, yes ma’am. I sure will,” Caleb said, gently grabbing Skylar’s arm and pushing her through the doorway ahead of him. “Thank you so much!”

Inside the house Caleb pulled the door closed, looked around the dimly lit, worn and overstuffed interior, declaring, “Why your house is a reminder of my grandparents’ home. So filled with memories. Guess I best call Karla,” he added. Reaching his left hand to his back, he pulled the knife from its sheath and pushed Skylar just hard enough to send her stumbling into Mrs. McNutt, causing the two to fall in a heap.

“Lord, I am so sorry, Mrs. McNutt,” Caleb declared contritely, “but I’m afraid I’ve entered under false pretenses.” Holding Skylar with one hand while strategically placing a knee in the old woman’s back he whispered, “Shh, shh, shh, shh. Please don’t struggle. You seem a fine Christian woman and the last thing I want to do is hurt you,” he said, pulling the duct-tape from the knife handle and taping her hands together behind her back. “I just need a place to attend to a little business while I wait on Karla.”