Rizzoli & Isles: Listen to Me
Two Months Later
If you see something, say something. We’ve all heard that advice so many times that whenever we find a suspicious package where it shouldn’t be, or notice a stranger lurking in the neighborhood, we automatically pay attention. Certainly I do, especially since my daughter, Jane, is a cop, and my boyfriend, Vince, is a retired cop. I’ve heard all their horror stories and if I see something, you bet I’m going to say something. So it’s only second nature for me to keep an eye on my own neighborhood.
I live in the city of Revere, which strictly speaking isn’t in the city of Boston proper, but is more like Boston’s more affordable cousin to the north. Mine is a street of modest single-family homes tucked in side by side. Starter homes was what Frank (soon to be my ex-husband) called them when we moved here forty years ago, except that we never moved on to anything bigger. Neither did Agnes Kaminsky who still lives next door, or Glen Druckmeyer who died in the house across the street, which made it the opposite of a starter home for him. As the years went by, I watched families move in, then move out. The house to my right is once again vacant and for sale, waiting for the next family to cycle through. To my left lives Agnes, who used to be my best friend until I started dating Vince Korsak, which scandalized Agnes because my divorce isn’t final yet, and this made me a scarlet woman in her eyes. Even though Frank was the one who walked out of our marriage to be with another woman. A blonde. What really turned Agnes against me is the fact I enjoy myself so much now that Frank’s gone. I enjoy having a new man in my life and kissing him in my own backyard. What does Agnes think I’m supposed to do now that my husband’s left me? Drape myself in virtuous black and keep my legs crossed until everything down there dries up? She and I hardly talk anymore, but we don’t need to. I already know what she’s up to next door. The same things she’s always done: smoking her Virginia Slims, watching QVC, and overcooking her vegetables.
But that’s not for me to judge.
Across the street, starting at the corner, is the blue house owned by Larry and Lorelei Leopold, who’ve lived here for the past twenty or so years. Larry teaches English at the local high school, and while I can’t say we’re close, we do play Scrabble together every Thursday night so I’m well acquainted with the breadth of Larry’s vocabulary. Next to the Leopolds is the house where Glen Druckmeyer died, which used to be for rent. And next door to that, in the house directly across the street from me, lives Jonas, a sixty-two-year-old bachelor and former Navy SEAL who moved here six years ago. Lorelei recently invited Jonas to the Scrabble nights at my house, which should’ve been a group decision, but Jonas turned out to be an excellent addition. He always brings a bottle of Ecco Domani cabernet, he has a good vocabulary, and he doesn’t try to sneak in foreign words, which shouldn’t be allowed. Scrabble is, after all, an American game. I have to admit, he’s also a fine-looking fellow. Unfortunately he knows it, and he likes to mow his front lawn while shirtless, his chest puffed out, his biceps bulging. Naturally, I can’t help but watch him and he knows it. When he sees me at my window, he makes a point of waving to me, which makes Agnes Kaminsky think something’s going on between us, which isn’t true. I’m just everyone’s friendly neighbor, and if someone moves onto our street, I’m always the first at their door with a smile and zucchini bread. People appreciate that. They invite me into their homes, introduce their children, tell me where they’re from and what they do for a living. They ask me to recommend a plumber or a dentist. We exchange phone numbers and promises to get together soon. That’s how it’s been with all my neighbors.
Until the Greens moved in.
They are renting number 2533, the yellow house where Glen Druckmeyer died. The house has been vacant for a year and I’m glad someone is finally occupying it. It’s never good to have a house sit empty too long; it reflects on the entire street, giving it a whiff of undesirability.
On the day I see the Greens’ U-Haul truck pull up, I automatically pull a loaf of my famous zucchini bread out of the freezer. As it thaws, I stand on my porch, trying to glimpse the new neighbors. I see the husband first, as he steps out of the driver’s side: tall, blond, muscular. Not smiling. That’s the first detail that strikes me. When you arrive at your new home, shouldn’t you be smiling? Instead, he coolly surveys the neighborhood, head swiveling, eyes hidden by mirrored sunglasses.
I wave hello, but he doesn’t immediately return the greeting. He just stands looking at me for a moment. At last he raises his arm in a mechanical wave, as if the chip in his computer brain has analyzed the situation and decided the correct response is to wave back.
Well, okay, I think. Maybe the wife is friendlier.
She steps out of the passenger side of the U-Haul. Early thirties, silvery-blond hair, a slender figure in blue jeans. She too checks out the street, but with quick, darting looks, like a squirrel. I wave at her and she offers a tentative wave back.
That’s all the invitation I need. I walk across the street and say, “May I be the first to welcome you to the neighborhood!”
“It’s nice to meet you,” she says. She glances at her husband, as if seeking permission to say more. My antennae twitch because there’s something going on between this couple. They don’t seem comfortable together, and my mind goes straight to all the ways a marriage can go wrong. I should know.
“I’m Angela Rizzoli,” I tell them. “And you are?”
“I’m, um, Carrie. And this is Matt.” The answer comes out in stutters, as if she has to think about each word before she says it.
“I’ve lived on this street for forty years, so if you need to know anything at all about the area, you know who to ask.”
“Tell us about our neighbors,” Matt says. He glances at number 2535, the blue house next door. “What are they like?”
“Oh, that’s the Leopolds. Larry and Lorelei. Larry teaches English at the public high school and Lorelei’s a housewife. See how nicely they keep up their yard? Larry’s good that way, never lets a weed grow in his garden. They don’t have kids, so they’re nice, quiet neighbors. On the other side of you is Jonas. He’s retired from the Navy SEALs, and boy does he have tales to tell about it. And on my side of the street, right next door to my house, is Agnes Kaminsky. Her husband died ages ago and she never remarried. I guess she likes things just fine the way they are. We used to be best friends, until my husband—” I realize I’m rambling and pause. They don’t need to hear how Agnes and I fell out. I’m sure they’ll be hearing about it from her. “So do you have kids?” I ask.
It’s a simple question, but once again Carrie glances at her husband, as if needing permission to answer.
“No,” he says. “Not yet.”
“Then you won’t need babysitter referrals. It’s getting harder and harder to find them anyway.” I turn to Carrie. “Say, I’ve got a nice loaf of zucchini bread defrosting in my kitchen. I’m famous for my recipe, even if I do say so myself. I’ll bring it right over.”
He answers for them both. “That’s kind, but no thank you. We’re allergic.”
“To gluten. No wheat products.” He places a hand on his wife’s shoulder and nudges her toward the house. “Well, we’ve got to get settled. See you around, ma’am.” They both walk into their house and shut the door.
I look at the U-Haul, which they haven’t even opened yet. Wouldn’t any other couple be anxious to move their stuff into the house? The first thing I’d do is unpack my coffeemaker and teakettle. But no, Carrie and Matt Green have left everything in the moving truck.
All afternoon their U-Haul stays parked on the street, locked up tight.
It’s not until after dark when I hear the clatter of metal, and I peer across the street to see the husband’s silhouette standing at the rear of the vehicle. Matt climbs inside and a moment later backs down the ramp, wheeling a dolly loaded with boxes. Why did he wait until dark to unload the U-Haul? What doesn’t he want the neighbors to see? There must not be very much in the truck, as it takes him only ten minutes to finish the job. He locks the truck and retreats into the house. Inside, the lights are on, but I can’t see a thing because they’ve closed the blinds.
During my four decades on this street I have had as neighbors alcoholics and adulterers and a wife beater. Maybe two. I’ve never met any couple as standoffish as Carrie and Matt Green. Maybe I was too pushy. Maybe they’re having marital problems and they just can’t deal with an inquisitive neighbor right now. It may be entirely my fault that we didn’t hit it off.
I will have to give them some space.
But the next day, and the next, and the next, I can’t help watching number 2533. I see Larry Leopold leave for his job at the high school. I see Jonas, shirtless, mowing his lawn. I see my nemesis, Agnes, puffing on a cigarette on her twice-daily march of disapproval past my house.
But the Greens? They manage to slip by me like wraiths. I catch only the briefest glimpse of him behind the wheel of a black Toyota as he pulls into the garage. I spy him hanging venetian blinds in the upstairs windows. I see FedEx deliver a box to their home, which the driver tells me was shipped from BH Photo in New York City. (It never hurts to know that your neighborhood FedEx driver is crazy about zucchini bread.) What I don’t see is any sign that these people have jobs. They live irregular lives, coming and going without any apparent schedule, acting as if they’re retired. I ask the Leopolds and Jonas about them, but they don’t know any more than I do. The Greens are a mystery to us all.
All this I’ve explained over the phone to my daughter, Jane, who you’d think would be as curious about this as I am. She points out there’s nothing criminal about wanting to stay away from the neighborhood snoop. She’s proud of her instincts as a cop, proud of being able to sense when something’s not right, but she has no regard for a mother’s instincts. When I call her for the third time about the Greens, she finally loses her patience.
“Call me when something actually happens,” she snaps at me.
A week later, sixteen-year-old Tricia Talley disappears.
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