Her first visit was to Shirley, the self-appointed town gossip. As soon as Shirley spotted her walking in, she hung up the phone. Who had she been talking to? And why hadn’t she wanted her conversation to be overheard?
Approaching Shirley’s desk, apologized, “You didn’t have to hang up just because of me. I only came over to gossip since business is slow today.”
“I was finishing up anyway. What can I help you with? Come sit with me on the couch.” She led Linda to the pretty flowered couch under the green-tinted front window, while she settled into the large matching armchair.
“Have you been invited to the party at End House on Friday night?” questioned Linda as she attempted to get comfortable in the mound of pillows scattered around her.
“No, of course not—only the young people of Oasis have been invited,” explained Shirley—as if this were obvious to everyone. She was looking down as she spoke…busy straightening her blouse and smoothing the pleats in her skirt. Shirley was always adjusting some piece of clothing.
Even Shirley was giving vague answers to her straightforward questions.
“Why?” she prompted Shirley.
“Hank and I don’t fit in with the younger crowd…We’re too old and our spouses have already passed on.” As she spoke her shoulders began to droop, causing Linda to wonder if she did that on purpose just to appear older and frailer.
“Both of you look so young.”
“No. We’re in our seventies.”
Unnerved by this unexpected answer, Linda stood up and bid Shirley goodbye.


This picture inspires stories.<br /> I could dream up a horror story from one glance.<br /> Should we go down to the basement?<br /> Would that be a good idea?<br /> No, of course not.<br /> But in every horror story, the characters always chose to walk down those dreaded stairs.<br /> I’m guilty of this!<br /> In my book, they trudge down the dark stairs.<br /> Nothing good lies ahead for them.</p> <p>

This picture inspires stories.

I could dream up a horror story from one glance.

Should we go down to the basement?

Would that be a good idea?

No, of course not.

But in every horror story, the characters always chose to walk down those dreaded stairs.

I’m guilty of this!

In my book, they trudge down the dark stairs.

Nothing good lies ahead for them.



Chapter 4

The grey sky mirrored the uneasy feeling Linda woke with the next morning as conflicted thoughts raced through her mind. She wanted to know why only certain people were invited to the party and why the owner of the house chose to remain a mystery. Was there a sinister purpose to the gathering? Or was it just a way to welcome the newer residents to town? On the other hand, Gregg, Ryan, Judy, and Todd—who had lived in town all their lives and didn’t need to be welcomed—had also received invitations.
After finishing with the lunch crowd, she decided to visit the other store owners to see if they could provide her with any useful information about the party. She left Patty—the college student whom she’d recently hired—in charge of the store. She was nervous about leaving her alone, but she knew that she had to start trusting people at some point. She couldn’t spend every minute of every day watching over her store. And what harm could Patty do to her store, anyway?