We left Mr. Stanley in his quiet office, and went back into the snow. We sank down in our fort.
“Why is everyone around here so grouchy?” Robby sighed. I shrugged my shoulders.
“I don’t know, Robby. There’s something strange about Mr. Stanley. Very strange,” I said.
Suddenly, the same black sedan drove into the slick parking lot. It parked in the exact spot that it was in earlier.
The lady got out carrying two bags of groceries. Robby and I watched as she pounded on the office door with her foot. The door squeaked open, and Mr. Stanley let her in.
“The rest is in the back,” she told him. Mr. Stanley headed to the sedan and opened the trunk. He grabbed three bags.
“Floretta? Come shut the trunk lid,” he called. I looked at Robby, who was bending down behind the fort walls. The look on his face told me that he was thinking the same thing I was. Floretta?
The lady mumbled and came out and shut the trunk lid. They went into the office and shut the door.
“Whose Floretta?” Robby asked.
“Robby, I think she’s Mrs. Stanley.”
“What? Mr. Stanley isn’t married,” he said.
“Who said? Did he tell you that? I think he is,” I said.
“I guess it’s possible,” Robby said, scratching his head. I smiled.
“I bet Floretta does cleaning for the people who stay here,” I said. “She probably was taking out all the laundry when we saw her,”
“Hey, that means in one of the apartments, there’s a little boy,” Robby said. “I don’t think that orange shirt would fit Mr. Stanley,” he giggled. I laughed.
“You’re probably right. I-“ I was interrupted by the squeaky office door. Mr. and Mrs. Stanley walked toward the sedan again.
“The groceries are in the back,” she said. Mr. Stanley opened the trunk again, and lifted out large brown grocery bags. He headed for the door. Suddenly, his foot slipped on a patch of ice. I shut my eyes as I heard him land on the pavement. Plunk! Food cans and boxes spilled out everywhere. The cans rolled under the sedan and boxes landed in the snow along the parking lot.
“Ben!” Floretta stood in the doorway of the office. “You’re getting the groceries wet!” she cried. She ran and started gathering the things. Robby and I jumped up from the fort and chased after some cans that had rolled away. We grabbed them, and handed them to Floretta. She snatched them and stuffed them back into the bag without saying a word. Mr. Stanley stood up. He took the stack of boxes that Robby had picked up. Muttering, they both went back inside the office and slammed the door shut.
“Well, how do you like that? We chase their canned vegetables and fruit all around the parking lot and not a word of thanks!” I exclaimed.
“There was an awful lot of groceries,” Robby said. I looked at him.
“There was, wasn’t there,” I said. Why would a couple buy so much food?
“Maybe she does shopping for the people staying here, too,” Robby suggested. I nodded my head. But something told me that wasn’t it. And I was determined to find out what was.
“Regular, vanilla, peppermint, or raspberry,” Mom said, showing us the hot chocolate flavors. I took off my hat.
“Definitely regular,” I said.
“What? Why go regular when you can get awesome flavors?” Robby asked, picking up a cup of peppermint. I ignored him and sat down at the kitchen table. We had just stepped in to warm our insides with a steaming cup of hot chocolate.
“Hey, mom?” I asked. She looked up from the cup of tea she was making for herself.
“Did a lady stop by for laundry or groceries?”
“No, dear,” she replied, sipping her steaming tea. Robby shot me a glance. I grabbed his arm and pulled him out of his chair.
“Come on, Robby,” I said, giving him a look. “Let’s take our drinks outside.” He looked at me funny, but followed me out the front door and into the bitter wind.
“It’s cold out here,” he complained. “What’s the matter?”
“Robby, I’ve had enough of this strange things around here. We’re going to find out what’s going on right now!” I was a little surprised by my tone of voice. I guess Robby was too, from the look on his face.
“Excuse me for asking, Mrs. Sherlock, but what exactly are you planning to do?” he asked.
“Follow me, Doc,” I headed briskly down the frosty sidewalk towards the office. I rounded the corner into the grass.
“Where are you going?” Robby asked, trying to balance his hot chocolate.
“To the back of the office where that apartment is,” I replied. “Surely there’s some windows.”
“Oh no.” Was Robby’s pleading reply. “You’re not going to peek in window’s, are you?” I said nothing. Maybe I shouldn’t have brought him along.
On the backside of the motel, were overgrown bushes that now were covered in snow. I spotted a window that just had to belong to the small apartment. Setting my precious, warm drink in Robby’s other hand, I stood on my very tip-toes so I could see through the window. There were clouds in the sky, and it made it hard to see in. My eyes slowly adjusted, and I saw a small room. There was a dresser, a bed, and a braided rug on the floor. I gasped. A small boy of about Robby’s age was on the floor, playing with a truck. I sunk to the grass as he turned towards the window.
“Robby!” I whispered. He bent down next to me.
“There’s a boy in there,” I exclaimed. Robby looked puzzled.
“I haven’t seen any children around,” he said. Okay. So now, I was completely and utterly confused. What was going on around here?