About a week later Magdalene was back and she and I planned an early morning walk. “Hey Magdalene,” I called and waved as I approached her. “It’s good to have you back. How was the trip?”
“Good,” she flashed her famous impish grin, “I can’t get enough of those grandkids.” We hugged then headed down the beach toward the cove, our customary walk.
“I know what you mean. Tell me what’s new with them.” As much as I wanted to dive right in on the whole Orton mystery, I needed to let Magdalene fill me in on the little ones, all of whom I’ve met over the years.
“They’re not so little anymore, Maddy,” I said when she finished. “You need to talk someone into having another baby.”
She laughed. “So, tell me what’s been going on since I’ve been gone. Anything new with you sand fleas?” She nodded down the beach toward the row of beach homes and cabins.
“Not really. But I think there’s something new with you hill people.” I looked up at the houses on the hill and nodded.
“Oh, what’s that?”
“Have you ever met Cammie Orton? She’s apparently a niece of the Orton’s and is staying at the cabin for a while.”
“Who?” She wrinkled her forehead.
“Well, that name rings a bell but I’m not sure why. I don’t think I ever met her; must have heard her name from Dale and Kathy at one time or another. She’s there now?” Magdalene lifted her brows and cocked her head to one side.
“Well, that’s funny. I didn’t see anyone there when I got home yesterday afternoon. And I didn’t notice any lights on later.” She frowned and shook her head. “I must be getting old.”
“No Maddy, you’re not getting old,” I patted her shoulder. “Something’s up with this whole thing. I’ve gone down to the beach at night three or four times in the past few weeks just to see if there were any lights on up there. I never see any signs of life at all.”
“Well then, how do you know someone’s there?”
“I run into her almost every morning walking the beach. She even stopped by for coffee one day.”
“What’s she look like? How old?”
“She’s really unusual looking. Very petite, I mean tiny, like not even quite five feet tall. And she couldn’t weigh more than a hundred pounds, if even.” Magdalene was staring at me mysteriously.
“Well, she’s beautiful; really stunning. Her hair is this rich mahogany color with gold streaks all through it and it’s super curly and out of control. It’s huge hair, nearly to her waist. And her eyes, they’re hard to explain. They’re just so intense. At first I thought she was really young but later I realized she must be at least sixty something. You’ll have to meet her yourself; she’s just hard to describe. Kind of like she’s this gorgeous old hippie.”
Magdalene had stopped walking and was staring at me with her jaw dropped.
“Magdalene…what is it?”
“I just remembered something. You need to come with me right now.” I followed her back to the path leading up to her cabin, struggling to keep up and wondering what was so urgent about what she just remembered.
“Maddy, wait up. I can hardly keep up with you.”
Magdalene was climbing up the steep path like she was running down hill.
She stopped and turned around with a glare. “Look, I need to meet her and get a good look. I remember something about a niece a long time ago. I need to just say hello to her and then go call Kathy.”
“But what’s up?”
“I’ll tell you in a bit. Right now we’re going to go to the Orton’s and you’re going to introduce me. Then you can come to my house and I’ll tell you what’s going on. I may not be right about this. In fact, it’s very likely that I’m all wrong, but…”
We were at the top of the trail now and I was right on the heels of my determined friend. We walked up Magdalene’s driveway then crossed over to the path leading next door to the Orton driveway. Magdalene had slowed to a normal pace and had a calm, casual look about her. We rounded the curve which led to the back of the house and saw that the back door was propped open with a rock. A well worn backpack, obviously stuffed full, sat on the porch floor. We heard some shuffling around inside, then suddenly Cammie Orton stepped out the back door and stood before us. Her hair was woven into a thick braid wrapped around her head, curly loose whisps framed her tiny featured face. Her eyes were bright and intense and her smile full and warm as she acknowledged us. If our unannounced visit surprised her, it didn’t show.
“Hi, Cammie,” I smiled then nervously glanced at Maddy. “This is Magdalene Connely, your neighbor over here.” I flung my arm out clumsily to indicate the cabin to the south. “She wanted to meet you.” I nodded then decided to let Maddy take it from there.
Cammie came down the three steps in tiny bare feet. Her long blue skirt flowed gently behind her and her top was an embroidered halter with ties at the neck that reached all the way down her back. She extended her hand to Magdalene. “Hello Magdalene. It’s nice to meet you. Mary Ann tells me you’re friends with my aunt and the rest of the family. I guess you knew my uncle, too.”
Magdalene held her hand just a second too long. “Yes, I am. It’s nice to meet you Cammie. I’ve known the Orton family for about forty years I’d say. I’m amazed I never met you before now.” Her smile towards Cammie was warm and sincere. I was blown away by the whole charade.
Cammie’s smile never wavered as she gently pulled her hand back from Magdalene’s grasp. “I’m afraid I was gone so much over the years. I’ve lived on the east coast since college and seldom made it home. So expensive, you know. But…I’m home now and plan to stay for a while.”
“That’s so nice,” Magdalene continued smiling. “I’m always happy to have neighbors around. Get’s kind of lonely up here sometimes. We’ll have to have coffee one morning real soon and you can catch me up on the family.”
“I’d love to do that.” Cammie agreed. “That would be very nice.” She turned and climbed the few steps to the porch then looked back to us. “I’d invite you in right now but I’m in the middle of a project. This place is getting a long overdue cleaning. Maybe in a few days you can both come back and we can have a good long visit.” She waved goodbye as she stepped inside and closed the door softly behind her.
To Be Continued