Dorothy Faye Owen stood under the marquee of the Rex Theater and looked at her wristwatch. It was 7:12 and they’d missed the newsreel and half the previews. If she doesn’t show up in the next three minutes, Dorothy Faye thought, I’m going inside and taking my seat. She glanced up and down the street, absentmindedly eating the popcorn she’d purchased already. It was harvest time and the influx of cotton buyers and workers had caused Endurance’s ranks to swell considerably. The place was bustling with folks headed to one of the dining establishments or to the traveling tent show on the edge of town. Dorothy Faye spotted many familiar faces in the crowd but not one of them belonged to her best friend.
“Dorothy Faye,” Velma Banks called from inside the ticket booth, “you’d better get inside. It’s about to start. Leave Lorraine’s ticket with me and I’ll give it to her when she gets here. Trust me, you don’t want to miss a minute of this one. But I’m warning you–you won’t sleep a wink tonight!”
Dorothy Faye sighed. “You’re right, Velma. I don’t want to miss any of the movie.” She pushed the ticket under the glass to Velma. “Everyone at the drugstore has been talking about how suspenseful it is.” A frown crossed her face. “Lorraine was so excited to see it; she loves thrillers and scary movies more than anyone I know. I can’t believe she wasn’t the first one in line tonight.” She smiled at Velma. “Well, tell her I’ll be in our usual spot. I’ve already saved our seats.”
Velma and the crowd at the drugstore had been right about the movie; Shadow of a Doubt was eerie and chilling. As soon as the lights came up, Dorothy Faye looked around but there was still no sign of her friend. She picked up the cardigan she’d draped over the seat next to hers and exited with the rest of the crowd. Since it was Friday night, there was one more showing of the movie, so Velma was still working the booth. Dorothy Faye waved and got the ticket seller’s attention. Velma shook her head and shrugged her shoulders, indicating she hadn’t seen Lorraine.
Instead of going home, Dorothy Faye headed two blocks north to Mimosa Street. Once there, she turned right and walked toward Miss Meacham’s Boarding House. Lorraine had lived at Miss Meacham’s ever since moving out of her parent’s house. Lorraine’s corner room on the second floor was dark, which told Dorothy Faye she wasn’t home. Miss Meacham and her sister, Helen Schrift–a retired nurse from Temple and another boarding house resident–were sitting on the front porch. Perhaps they could shed some light on Lorraine’s whereabouts.
“Hello, Miss Meacham,” Dorothy Faye said as she approached the porch. “Hello, Mrs. Schrift.”
“Evening, Dorothy Faye,” Miss Meacham hollered, a little too loudly. Miss Meacham’s hearing wasn’t what it once was and she spoke as if everyone else had the same affliction. “Did you and Lorraine enjoy the movie?” she asked.
Dorothy Faye walked up the porch steps and addressed the older woman loudly. “Well, that’s why I’m here. Lorraine didn’t show up at the movie. I thought she might be home.”
“No, dear,” Miss Meacham responded, looking bewildered. “We haven’t seen her since she left this morning.” She turned to her rocking companion. “Isn’t that right, Helen?”
“That’s right, Dorothy Faye,” Helen Schrift agreed. “She told us at breakfast not to expect her until late. She said the two of you were seeing a movie and maybe having a bite to eat afterward at Shorty’s Cafe or The Mexican Inn.”
“Well, that was the plan.” Dorothy Faye said, looking anxiously toward the street, hoping to see some sign of her friend. Dorothy Faye wasn’t the sort to panic but something felt off. Perhaps she was overreacting because of the nature of the movie she’d just seen, but she didn’t think so.
“She was at work today, wasn’t she?” Helen asked. “She left here at the normal time.”
“She was,” Dorothy Faye confirmed, “but Fridays are her half day, so she left at 1:00. I assumed she came back here.”
“I believe she usually does,” Helen Schrift said, worry creeping into her voice.
Miss Meacham sat forward in her chair and looked at the Dorothy Faye and Helen with alarm. “Friday’s are her half day,” she shouted, unaware the subject had already been discussed. “She always comes back here, now that I think about it. Helps me with the ironing, most weeks. But not today.” The older woman shook her head. “Lorraine’s a good girl. Reliable. This sort of behavior isn’t like her.” She lowered her voice to a normal level and fixed the other two women with a significant look. “Mark my words, there’s something peculiar going on. Something’s not right.”
Dorothy Faye started shivering despite the warmth of the Indian summer evening. She put on her cardigan but the chill remained, along with the echo of Miss Meacham’s pronouncement. The old woman was correct–something wasn’t right.
(to be continued)
Categories: Story in Progress