The Grimolochins’ driveway was long because the house was set back from the road in the middle of an acreage. This wasn’t unusual for the area, Ferndale was a scattering of farms and ex-farms at the upstream end of a creek valley. It wasn’t quite a dead-end but when the roads went beyond the paddocks into the State Forest on the hills they turned into dirt tracks almost indistinguishable from fire breaks and, in the worst cases, were impassable by almost anything wheeled.
When Elvira pulled up outside the house there were no lights on. Tybalt Grimolochin, seated in the front passenger seat, turned to her and suggested, “It might be best if you and Joe wait here in the car while I check the house, Miss Madden. There’s probably nothing to find, but what happened to our car has me worried.”
“Of course,” Elvira smiled at him, then activated the car’s central locking when he got out and closed the door. She glanced over at Joe in the back seat, but he was far less apprehensive than he’d been in the school’s haunted house or back in the car park. They smiled at each other. Then they both watched as Tybalt walked up onto the verandah, unlocked the front door and went inside.
They could track his movement through the house by the lights going on and off. Elvira noticed two cats come out of the front door and sit beside the front door. The one on the left launched into an inelegant personal cleaning ritual. It took maybe five minutes before Tybalt re-emerged and came back to the car.
Elvira opened her door so they could talk. “It’s all clear inside so I’ll just grab Joe.” Tybalt hesitated and asked, “Would you like to come in for coffee?”
“Thank you but it’s school tomorrow but perhaps another time?” Settle down, half her mind told the other half. He did not just ask you in to see his etchings.
Joe had undone his seat belt and his father was around at the rear passenger-side door getting him out when the man straightened, paused and then leant down to speak in through the car’s doorway. “Miss Madden, I think you should grab your things, lock the car and come into the house with us. Someone’s just turned into the driveway and I’m not expecting visitors.”
This would be fairly concurrent with Complications on Halloween and is followed by Circling the Wagons.