The door was answered by an elderly woman with vibrant red hair, her smile bright and cheery despite the state of the world. “Welcome!”
“Thanks,” Carmen responded, doubt leaking into her voice a small degree. Hoping to hide her hesitation, she quickly followed with, “Did you leave the message on the police station?”
She already knew the answer to her question, but thought it was best to hear it from the woman herself.
“Heavens no, my dear,” the lady returned, her face still stuck in a smile. “I saw the note and decided to see if they could help me. When I got here, the door was ajar and no one was here anymore.”
“No one was here?”
“Yes, my dear. They were all gone.”
“Did you find anything in the store? A note or something?” Carmen was beginning to feel the apprehension pool in the pit of her stomach. The smile hadn’t left the woman’s face and there was something a little crazy behind her eyes.
“Not much. It looks like whomever was here before left fairly quickly, taking most of their supplies with them.”
“So where did all of this stuff come from?” Carmen looked around the small store, her eyes taking in the tall piles of junk that sat from floor to ceiling.
“Oh, I’ve been collecting since I came here. You never know when you’re going to need something.” The crazed look changed for a brief moment as pride took over her countenance while she surveyed her surroundings. “Would you like to help me collect more?”
“Ummm…” Carmen was at a loss at what to say. She certainly didn’t want to stick around, especially with a woman who seemed to be more than a few sandwiches short of a picnic. “We actually want to keep moving. We need to find something to protect ourselves with and then some sort of home base.”
“You could stay here.” The offer was said with a level of friendliness, but there was also a passively aggressive threat the came through in the words.
Carmen wasn’t sure what to do, knowing that a wrong answer could set her off. Deciding to play it safe, she smiled and answered, “Sure.”
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