Naughty Follies: Short Stories

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Shady Grove Ch. 4

The following morning, Abigail was tending to a small garden plot she had claimed in front of Building Four when Quinn stepped through the door in her running attire. They eyed each other, waiting for the other to speak. “Well…” Quinn finally said, raising her eyebrows.

Abigail saw a sparkle in Quinn’s eyes. “Marty’s going to be very upset when all the complaints come in,” Abigail said through the side of her mouth. Quinn nodded in agreement. “You’re a young woman, Quinn. Surely you must have some…suspects in mind?”

“Actually, I don’t. I don’t really socialize all that much these days.”

“Oh? And why is that? Beautiful young woman like you—”

“It’s…complicated, Ms. Dupont.”

“Then that makes two of us,” Abigail said with a laugh. “And call me Abby. Anyway, it’s probably better we don’t know, don’t you think?”

“Yes. I couldn’t agree more.”

“I just closed my windows and turned up the TV. Problem solved.”

“Me too,” Quinn said, smiling, before saying goodbye and heading off on her run.

A short time later, Marty crossed the courtyard with Penny. “Good morning, Abby.”

“Morning, Marty. I guess you heard the commotion last night?”

Marty nodded slowly. “What happened to basic decency, Abby? Do you ever recall this sort of thing happening when we were young?” Abigail’s eyes drifted into the distance, recalling a memory of walking through a drive-in theater and seeing every other car rocking like an earthquake had struck.

“Never,” she said, remembering how, on that night, she climbed into the backseat of Dale Simpson’s Chevy, where they nearly broke its shock absorbers. “Any suspects?”

“Yeah, a few…so far. No hard evidence as of yet,” Marty said, suddenly having to pull Penny from the spray of a garden hose. “Gerald!” he shouted to the groundskeeper, who was wearing full-sized earphones. “Be careful with that thing!”

Gerald swung his garden hose toward a nearby dogwood, smiled and waved.

“That guy’s pretty useless,” Marty whispered. “I’d get rid of him if it were up to me, but management likes him.”

Abigail shrugged, having no opinion of Gerald. “So, who’s on your list?”

Marty said his number one suspect was Claire Winston, and insisted it wasn’t because of her tattoos. “Mr. Davis is a complainer, but he could be right this time.” Besides Claire, he suspected a flight attendant named Carmella. “Several people have reported she doesn’t close her blinds and walks around in the nude, so a girl like that—”

“Oh, Marty, that doesn’t mean anything. Besides, doesn’t she live in your building?” Marty nodded, knowing how flimsy his investigation had been so far. He announced his third suspect carefully, measuring Abigail’s reaction: “Madeleine Embers.”

Abigail laughed so hard she choked. “I’m friends with Maddy!” she said, still laughing. Marty knew they were friends. “She’s almost fifty, Marty. No way. I promise you.” Marty played his poker face, trying to make her think he knew something Abigail didn’t. “So, Marty, what you’re saying is…you have nothing.”

“We’ll see,” Marty bluffed, “we shall see.” When it was clear nothing else was to be said, Marty said farewell and turned to go. But he stopped suddenly, and said, “Did you find anything strange about the young girl who came to the meeting?”

“Shame on you, Marty!” Abigail exclaimed.

“I’m not saying that…I mean…I don’t think she’s the—”

Abigail was indignant. “She’s a teenager, Marty! How dare you—” Marty’s eyes dropped sheepishly. “Just because she speaks her mind…quite confidently, I might add…and stands up to El Presidenté doesn’t mean she’s a tramp.”

“You’re right, Abby. I apologize for saying it. I’ll take her off my list.”

“You had her on your list? It’s time for you to go now, Marty.”

Like Abigail a floor below, Quinn spent the next three nights with the TV off, picking up her ears every time she heard a sound of any kind. On the fourth night, well after midnight, Quinn was unable to sleep, tossing fitfully in the humid air. She slipped on shorts, a T-shirt and flip-flops and headed outside in search of cooler air. Now that the new lamp posts had been installed, Quinn felt safer walking through the complex at night. She crossed the courtyard and, after passing between Buildings Five and Six, followed a path toward Building Seven, where she was stopped in her tracks by the sound of creaking bed springs.

Quinn felt conspicuous under the bright lights, but was absolutely certain of what she was hearing. But it was only bed springs, which meant just about anyone could be squeaking them. As much as she wanted to linger, she slowly moved on, until a groan raised the hair on her arms. Quinn casually turned and retraced her steps toward where the sound came from, stopping when she heard the rhythmic thump of what she guessed was a headboard against a wall, and the staccato moans that accompanied it. She backpedaled until it grew louder, certain it was happening right over her head. The only open window was on the third floor.

The moaning continued, and with no end in sight, so to speak, Quinn slowly drifted away from Building Seven, repeating to herself, “Building seven, apartment three-B.” Why does that sound familiar? Quinn thought. By the time she reached her own building, Quinn remembered the girl from the meeting stating it as her address. Now too riled to sleep, she kept walking and circled the entire complex a few times before allowing herself to pass by the window she stood under earlier. All was now quiet. Quinn finally sighed with fatigue and headed to her apartment.

Crossing the courtyard, Quinn slowed upon seeing another figure crossing the lawn in her direction, with a glowing cigarette in hand. Unless Quinn changed directions, they’d encounter one another in seconds. Quinn didn’t veer.

“Crystal?” she said, once she knew who she was seeing.

The girl looked back suspiciously. “Oh, hi. You were at that meeting, right? Thanks for taking my side.”

“Sure, don’t mention it,” Quinn said, her mind racing, remembering how the girl said that sex was “no big deal” at the emergency T&A meeting.

“It’s two in the morning, Crystal, is…everything okay?”

Crystal took a drag and flicked the burning butt lazily to the ground. She smiled unnaturally as she said, “Yeah. Everything’s great. See you around.”

After the girl walked off, Quinn’s stomach churned as she tried hard not to connect the dots, but her mind had already done so: What was this girl doing out at this hour? Enough time had passed that it was possible for Crystal and a boyfriend—someone her age, Quinn hoped—to have had sex, and then for Crystal to…to what? she wondered. Walk this boy home?

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