They parked in front of Helen’s small, stucco cottage, the front door flanked by the overgrown evergreens. The house had a forlorn look to it, gloomy. Remer led the way knocking on the door, holding his yard plan and looking around at the sun -burnt lawn. Remer banged the door knocker again, a little harder this time.
“Give her a minute.” Cannon said. “Maybe Helen’s in the kitchen.”
After a short delay, they headed around back.
Cannon went to the back porch and looked through the small glass panes. “She’s not in the kitchen.” He said glancing at Remer who walked back by the fence and stared.
Someone was in the alley.
“I don’t like this.” Cannon called. “Let’s get in.”
Remer nodded, saying something that Cannon did not catch. Cannon tapped the small glass pane by the door knob with a folding knife. The glass tinkled to the porch and he reached his hand inside, turning the deadbolt lock.
Cannon waved to Remer who was still at the fence. Cannon gently pushed open the back door, not wanting to scare the elderly lady if she were coming into the kitchen. Remer jogged over to Cannon and Remer led the way into the kitchen, where they hesitated as he called out for Helen.
All was quiet.
The two men looked at each other. They moved from the small kitchen into the dining room, then into the living room, but the house was deserted. Dust motes floated in the late morning sun. No sign of Helen.
Cannon returned to the living room and noticed a small pad on the side table, a scrawled note in uneven letters: -Remer, my diary, Warm Springs.
“Take a look at this.” Cannon called to Remer who was studying the bedroom.
Cannon took a seat on the couch where they had sat when they chatted with Helen a few days before. Remer joined him.
“I have a bad feeling. Where could Helen have gone?” Cannon asked.
“What about this?” Remer said holding up the pad.
“I think Helen wrote that to remind herself to tell you to look for her diary at Warm Springs. She must have a diary hidden in her room. Perhaps she wanted to show us what she wrote years ago, something to do with Karla and Karen.”
Remer nodded. ”When I get back to Warm Springs, I’ll take a look. Her room has been empty since she walked out almost 15 years ago.”
“Let’s look downstairs.” Cannon said, standing up.
Remer led the way down the steep, narrow steps that led into a low-ceiling basement. They paused in the dimness. Remer headed into the back bedroom, which was dimly lit by a single, narrow basement window.
Cannon paused and looked around, sensing that all was not right.
“Oh, God!” Remer exclaimed, turning to Cannon. “Quick, it’s Helen.”
Cannon dashed into the bedroom and stopped in dismay as he saw Helen in the corner of the room, hanging from the sewer pipe. Her face was distorted, her eyes bulged, and her head hung at a grotesque angle.
Remer looked away.
“Helen…” he said softly, and then left the bedroom.
Cannon noted the rope, wondering why an old lady would have thick rope around the house. He also saw a stool on its side, just below her dangling feet. Ostensibly, it looked as if she had made a noose, put it around her neck, secured the hefty rope around the pipe, and then stepped off of the stool.
Back upstairs, the two men waited in the living room after having dialed 911.
“She was fine when we were here, in good spirits.” Remer said, after hanging up the phone. “Why this?”
“Who were you talking to outside?” Cannon asked. “Who was in the back alley?”
Remer raised his eyebrows.”There was a young girl in the alley, across from Helen’s fence. She was a teen, maybe 15, in a white blouse and knee-length blue skirt, a uniform.”
Cannon sat upright, attentive. “What did she look like? What was she doing?"
“She was cute, medium height, slender, red hair in a pony tail, but she just stood staring at Helen’s house. I asked her if she needed help, and she smiled at me. It was odd, when she smiled I felt rooted. Then you called and I turned away.”
Cannon got up and hurried out of the kitchen door and crossed the back yard to the fence, but the alley was empty. Remer pointed to the spot where the girl had stood.
“Just staring…she never said anything.” Remer commented. “You’d expect a girl that age to turn away, or say something. And what a look she gave me!”
Cannon ran his hand through his hair and looked up and down the alley, but she was gone. He knew who it was. But why was Rachel here and what did she want?
Cannon sighed and led the way back toward the house.
In the distance, they could hear the police siren and the two men walked around to the front of the house and waited in the yard.
“But why this, why would Helen hang herself?” Remer asked with a confused look. “Helen was tired when we left her last week, but she was looking forward to seeing our lawn plan. Why would Helen kill herself?
“I don’t think she did.” Cannon responded.