Monday, April 30, 2007

The Mystery, Unearthed

So where were we? Ah, yes. That Arctic-icy voice: “Just what are you doing?”

I glared back at the green-eyed woman. “We’re digging up Mrs. Dubuque, if you don’t mind.”

Green Eyes jabbed a green-nailed forefinger at me. “How can you do that – when I’m Mrs. Dubuque?”

I launched into a derisive HA! – only to stop. Just before the exclamation mark, to be exact.

Because Green Eyes’s face did look familiar, on closer examination. I’ve seen that face, a much more ample version of it, that is, on a plump body puttering about the garden. And over a large bowl of Snickers on Hallowe’en night, accompanied by the buttery-voice words, Help yourself. Hee hee. I know I do!

“Mrs. … Dubuque?” I venture, with an uneasy sensation similar to the time I was gobbling up tomatoes from our neighbours the Rinaldis’ garden, when I thought the Rinaldis were safely far away – but weren’t.

“Mrs. Weight-Loss-Retreat Dubuque, IF you don’t mind.” Green Eyes, a.k.a. the transformed Mrs. Dubuque preened in her triumphant new thinness. “Not only did I shed fifty pounds, I dyed my hair a romantic raven-black, and got green contact lenses. You see, Dinah, my favourite song has always been Green Eyes. A delightful 1940s instrumental. Perhaps you’ve heard of it?”

“Er – yes,” I stammered. “But the things that were buried. I mean,” I gulped, trying desperately to salvage the situation, “think of Hitchcock film Rear Window (see sinister photo, above). When Raymond Burr digs in his garden, it’s not to plant tulip bulbs. He’s knocked off the missus. Naturally,” I finished, with what I hoped was a winning laugh, “I thought … ”

“At my request, Mr. Dubuque was burying XX-large-size dresses to motivate me to never, but never, indulge in so many sweets again!"

Constable Dassios snapped her notebook shut. “I think we can pronounce Case Closed on this particular mystery, Dinah.”

Mr. Dubuque, beefy face red with anger, stomped over like a one-man herd of elephants. “Causing me trouble again, eh, Dinah? Wasn’t it offensive enough that you hid on our roof last Hallowe’en pretending to be a raccoon? Oh yes,” our neighbour laughed bitterly. “I figured out it was you. I’m not stupid, you know.”
A shocked, melodramatic gasp from Pantelli. “You did what, Di? You mean, you trespassed?”

Pantelli has a shovel-like quality to him: that is to say, always ready to offload blame. As I recalled quite well from that particular The Man in the Moonstone incident, Pantelli had been just as culpable as I.

Which is why, swivelling, I started after Pantelli.

“Wait,” shouted Mr. Dubuque. “I haven’t done with reaming you out!”

“Wait,” his wife echoed. “I haven’t done with describing my makeover to you!”

But I was speeding after the fleeing Pantelli. I followed him through a brambly hedge, into the overgrown garden of a skulking, graystone house – a sinister, unkempt place we’d always thought of as haunted.