First published in Kings River Life
The note said, "Meet me on the corner of Walnut and 14th this Saturday at 8:00 p.m." and was signed Emily. Someone had left it scotch taped to the front door. I looked around and didn't see anyone suspicious.
"Who is Emily?" my wife asked, peeking around my shoulder.
I shrugged. "I haven't known anyone named Emily since high school."
"An old girlfriend?" Her eyes narrowed. "Why is she contacting you now, and why not just ring the bell?"
"There's no way this could be the same Emily." I reread the note.
"How do you know?" Karen stood, hands on hips, her nose raised. Her bathrobe fell open exposing the short, yellow nightie. She either didn't notice or didn't care.
I wadded up the note.
"Don't do that." Emily grabbed the mangled paper and smoothed it out.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"Meeting Emily Saturday night."
After ten years of marriage, I knew better than to argue with the look on Karen's face.
I saw the bag sitting on the bench at the bus stop. I didn't notice my name printed on the brown paper until we reached the corner.
"Billy?" Karen said. "I thought you didn't like being called Billy." She reached for the bag. "Is that what Emily called you in high school?" She glared in my direction. "Billy." It was more of a grunt than a statement. I grabbed the bag out of her hands.
"This is ridiculous. We're going home." I started toward the car.
"No, we're not," Karen said and took the bag back. She ripped it open. A piece of paper fell to the ground. She picked it up and walked to the street lamp. "It says to go to the Shop and Save on 14th and Maple." Before I could respond, she headed west on 14th.
Six blocks later we stood on an deserted street corner, looking into a store that was empty except for the Arab clerk standing behind the counter reading a magazine.
"This is stupid," I said. "Let's get back to the car and go home. It's getting cold." I hugged myself to emphasize my point.
This time it was Karen who eyed our surroundings. No one magically appeared. "I guess you're right. This was probably some neighborhood kid's prank. They like to do that to teachers."
"Oh? How do you know that?" I cocked my head to one side and smiled.
We arrived home an hour and a half after we'd left to a dark house.
"Did you turn off the living room light?" Karen asked.
"It's on a timer. I rarely go near it."
Karen bit a knuckle and hooked her other hand in my arm.
"We should call the police," I said, reaching into my pocket. "Damn, I must have left my cell home." Our closest neighbors were all attending a party across town, so they couldn't help. "Did you bring yours?"
She shook her head, her mouth frozen in position. I felt her body shiver. I was certain it wasn't because she was cold.
"I haven't seen any movement since we got here," Karen said. "Maybe the bulb blew is all." Her face told me she didn't think that was what happened.
She pulled my arm, and we crept up the sidewalk. A board squeaked as I stepped on the porch. We froze for a few seconds. Nothing. I unlocked the door and inched into the foyer. A noise emanated from the living room. I reached around the corner and flipped the switch. When I did, a dozen bodies leapt out of their hiding places.
I turned to Karen and held out my hands, as if to choke her.
"Gotcha," she mouthed.
She was right, but her birthday was in two months. I'd get even.