Barb's Bed and Breakfast
Someone must have seen her last night, because the police were at her door.
“Can I help you, officer?” She said, willing herself to use her sweetest Grandma voice. A voice that says, come inside, I have cookies. It wouldn’t be hard to keep up this facade--her gray hair and wrinkles spoke volumes for her, and bright blue eyes that contrasted her pale skin just enough to be unsettling.
She smiled at him and fought back a shiver as the freezing December breeze swept into her cabin. The police officer, who looked far too young to be any kind of officer, Barbara thought, had told her that an investigation was taking place in town, and that they would be searching the property next to her home. He asked her if she had seen anything suspicious in the area.
Swallowing hard and focusing on her own body language, Barbara said, “Have I seen anything suspicious?” She scoffed as the words came out of her mouth. “I don’t see much of anything around here these days.”
Barbara wasn’t lying about that. Northwater was a very small village, in which she lived far from any of the residents. She made her monthly trek into town to the local grocery store where she would see some people she thought she recognized, but she could not be sure. Barbara spent most of her time trying not to be recognized, anyway.
The policeman stood still for a moment, eyeing her intensely. Barbara tried to read his expression, but she couldn't make out anything as she was trying to shield her eyes from the snow that was now blowing into her cabin. “Do you know if anyone lives there, ma’am?” He said, pointing halfway across the property to a bigger cabin than the one she occupied.
“Oh, no one lives there. That’s my BnB. I rent it out to travelers occasionally. Mostly couples, people looking for an overnight stay on their way into the city.”
“When’s the last time you rented it out?” The officer asked, and Barbara felt her body contract. She knew she hadn’t said anything incriminating, or anything that would leave the officer to believe she wasn’t being truthful, but being berated with questions was enough to make anyone wary of what they said.
She paused for a second before answering. “Not for a few months.”
In the silence that followed, Barbara felt her heart rate quicken, and her palms begin to perspire despite the freezing temperatures. She thought she saw the officer glance past her into her cabin, but she could have imagined it.
The officer sighed. “Well, if you see anything suspicious or unordinary in the next few days, please call us.”
“You betcha.” Barbara smiled at him, showing off her dentures. As she shut the wooden door, she let out the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. Quickly, she shut off all the lights and peered out of the window through the blinds, trying to conceal herself from the police. She watched as the officer she had just spoken to trudged back to his group, his boots leaving footprints in the blanket of snow.
Barbara sighed in relief when the officer led his team away from her property. She felt her heart rate quicken, her shaky hand resting on the frigid steel of the doorknob. She replayed the conversation in her mind, wondering if she had said anything wrong. Maybe she looked at him the wrong way. She didn’t think she did, she was pretty good at lying, but still, she was worried. What if he was trained to read body language? They teach officers that these days, she saw it on Dateline. What if he saw something in the cabin? What if he could tell she was being dishonest? What if they issue a search warrant for her cabin?
Her last thought frightened her so much, she felt her breath catch in her throat. She had her story set straight, she always did, but she had to be sure. Getting up from her crouched position under the window, she went down to the cellar where her guests would be waiting. As she walked down the stairs, she wondered if they had figured it out yet: her plan. Probably not, she thinks, they never figure it out.
As Barbara reached the final step, she gripped the handle to the cellar door. Reading the sign scribbled in her own, old-lady handwriting, she giggled to herself. Barb’s Bed and Breakfast, it read.
“Hello again.” She said to her guests as she stepped inside. “You two are a lucky bunch. I don’t normally do this this early, but recent events have caused a change in plans.” Barbara chuckled. She watched as her guests, a married couple in their mid-thirties, stared back at her, terrified.
When she was done with her work, she meticulously washed the gasoline off her hands and the ash from under her fingernails. The police would never know what happened, she assured herself. Of course, there were no official records of any Bed and Breakfast in Northwater. Barbara wasn’t naive enough to do that. And even if they did get a search warrant, what would they find? A little old lady living all alone, with only herself to keep company. A few Golden Girls DVDs, sure, but definitely not the bodies of two missing people. How could an elderly woman do something like that anyway?
As she sat down at her kitchen table with a glass of pinot grigio after the day’s events, she felt a sense of pride. Not necessarily in her actions, but in how she knew she was smart enough to get away with it. She regretted doubting herself even for a second. Let them search, she thought.
Shayna Griffith is a junior at the University of St. Francis, majoring in Communication and Media Arts with a minor in writing. Shayna has experience editing and managing The Encounter, USF’s student-run magazine. She has the most experience writing non-fiction hard and soft local news for the Joliet, Illinois area. She aspires to achieve a career in investigative journalism.