This can't be considered a feel-good story although it has some romance. It is a story of a selfish, evil woman who is brought to justice by the one person that really knows her.
I had just stepped in out of the light rain and was unlocking my front door when a voice came out of the darkness that shrouded the far end of the porch. "I don't want to startle you. My name is Annie Dopkins."
The voice had a lilting quality about it that sent delicious shivers through me. "You have startled me, but just for a second. Let me get the door unlocked and get some lights turned on."
I finally got the door open and lights on in the entryway. I turned to face the woman that stood there waiting for me to bid her entry. She was tall, about five-foot-ten, I would judge. Her hair was a dark auburn. She was wearing a sort of iridescent raincoat and even in that I could see she was shapely. Her footwear consisted of a pair of suede halfboots. Her clothes exuded quality. "Come in Annie Dopkins. There are hangers for your coat and shawl there on the hall tree. I'll put some more lights on and I need coffee, so will start a pot. Would you have some?"
"That would be welcome."
I heard the front door open and close once while I was measuring the coffee. While I was waiting for her to appear, I pulled a cold roast of beef from the fridge and started to slice it. I looked up and she was standing there watching me. "There is bread in the box over there on the counter. Utensils in that drawer. Do you prefer mustard or mayonnaise? I'll have this done in a minute, and we'll have a sandwich."
A half hour later we sat finishing up our sandwiches. "Now Miss Annie, what can I do for you?"
"It is Mrs. Annie for awhile yet. I was in town and I saw your ad in the classifieds that you were looking for someone to rent a room and share the cost of the utilities. Is the room still available?"
"Yes, the room is still empty. Actually, I have two rooms to rent. I need to rent them both if I'm going to survive here. There is a three-quarter bath that goes with the two rooms, so you would have to share the bath with another tenant when I find one. As long as you are the first to answer the ad, I will let you interview the other person when he or she appears. If you object too strongly to whoever it is, I'll turn the person away and wait for someone that you think we can live with."
"How much is the rent?"
"Three hundred-fifty a month. Twenty bucks for the phone and you pay your own long distance calls. Electricity--you pay one quarter of the total. In the winter if you are still here, same percentage on the heating. You have full kitchen privileges if you wash your own dishes. I have enough dishes so they are yours to use. Where is your car? I didn't see it when I drove up."
"No car, I came by taxi. I brought my bags in off the porch and they are in the hall. You say the other room is still available. I think I will take the other room too. In fact why don't I pay you a thousand a month and my own phone bill. If I'm still here this winter, the difference should pay my share of the heat. I will not be having too much to do so I'd just as soon keep the kitchen clean and do some of the cooking. Would that meet with your approval?"
"It looks as if this is my lucky day. You are the answer to all of my prayers. If you don't have a car you can use mine for errands, etc."
"Good, I think I'm going to like living here. Let's see, you will want the first month's rent. I'll give you that and a month for a security deposit." She lifted her shoulder bag off the floor and opened her wallet. She took exactly two thousand out of one of the compartments and handed it to me. "I think that is correct for the first and last month's rent. She then took a receipt out of another compartment and had me sign it and put it back in her wallet. I was puzzled as the receipt had already been made out. Somehow she came to my door knowing not only what she was going to do, but what I was going to do as well.
I led Mrs. Annie up the stairs to show her the two rooms she had rented. I swung the door open to the room I imagined she would like to sleep in. I had slept in this one for years. I didn't go in, just standing by the door. "There are linens and blankets in the chest over there by the south wall. Do you need help making up the bed?" Annie shook her head no. "Okay, I'll bring your bags up. You must be tired. I don't usually stay out this late at night, so you had a long wait on the porch."
"Thank you Abie, I would appreciate that."
I lay in bed that night thinking about the person I was sharing my house with. The last thing she had said to me really shook me up. She called me "Abie." How in hell did she know people called me Abie? My name was Arnold Ben Brown. She knew I was going to share my house with her, even before we had come to terms. She was very liberal with her money as well, and hadn't even asked to see the rooms before we reached an agreement. That voice that gave me the shivers when she first spoke--why did that happen?
She was damned easy on the eyes though. I had noted how tall she was and when she had come into the kitchen minus her outer wrap--God what a figure! Another thing odd, we had been together talking and having our lunch and never once had she smiled. She said she was married, but I had caught that she hadn't expected to be much longer. Either she was being divorced or her husband was going to die. I drifted off to sleep.
The nightmare that came every night was with me again and I awoke at the usual time. I glanced at the clock to make sure. Yes, it was three o'clock and right on time. I pulled my robe on and sat as usual in the easy chair I had moved into this room when the nightmares first took over. I heard my housemate move around in the room directly over my head. She was up to go across the hall to the bathroom, or she couldn't sleep either.
She couldn't know what had transpired in that room four years ago, could she? Maybe the hate and rage had seeped into the walls and come out to bother the one that now occupied it. I know it bothered me when I came home after being locked up for causing great bodily harm to my wife's lover. I had found my wife Lisa in bed with a person I had counted as my best friend. I had battered him all over the room while Lisa was screaming at me to stop. I ended it when I threw him down the stairs. My former friend, Pete Patterson, never walked again.
When I came home from prison three months ago, I tried to sleep in my old bedroom. The nightmares started that night and I never stayed in the room again. In fact I hadn't even stayed the rest of that night. Did Lisa sleep in that room while I was in prison? She had stayed here in this house during the time I was sitting in jail waiting for my trial.
I shouldn't have been in jail, but I had made threats often and vocal against Pete and Lisa. The state thought I was a risk to Pete, so they put my bail so high I couldn't raise it and I stayed confined until the trial that sent me away. I divorced Lisa as soon as possible, but it took many months, and I had no actual contact with her since it had become final.
I did know that Pete's health had deteriorated and Lisa had gone to care for him and moved in with him. One of the few friends I had left in town relayed this to me when I came home. I will say Lisa had kept the house up so I had something to come back to. I don't know if she would have been awarded this place in the divorce settlement if she had asked for it. It was mine long before I met Lisa, and my lawyer said it would stay with me under those circumstances. She hadn't tried for it, but she had taken the value of it and I was almost penniless when released.
That was the reason I had to take in boarders. I had been a reporter for a newspaper and now I was trying to reestablish myself by writing articles and essays for different publications. I also had the manuscript for a book I was working on. I had planned in my mind exactly what I was going to write about over the many months I had been incarcerated, and the book was flowing right along. I could only give it so much time, though, as I needed to work at those assignments that paid.
Now I had this woman living upstairs and she seemed to be somewhat of a mystery. I needed her though. I couldn't look too hard at my new housemate, for I needed every penny to keep my home and right now she was my salvation. I dozed and I finally slept again sitting right there in my chair.
I awoke to the smell of coffee. I quickly showered and shaved and made my way to the kitchen. "Good morning Mrs. Dopkins. I smelled the coffee, and thought I'd better get out here to see if I could bum a cup while I was making my own."
"It's Annie. I'll be able to drop the Mrs. shortly anyway, as my divorce is just waiting on the final decree. If there is only the two of us living here, why don't we just split the grocery bill? I like to cook and if I make something you don't like, say so, and I'll cook something else."
"I feel as if I am taking advantage of you. I think I better return some of your money, or at least cut what we agreed on last night in half."
"Why don't we proceed like we agreed and we can talk about it sometime down the road. I get the feeling that you need what I'm paying you to get back on your feet. Money isn't that tight with me. Now, you like poached eggs I'm sure, and they are almost ready. Would you butter the toast please?"
.... There is more of this story ...