Contact-Free Delivery

Stephanie liked the new place. It was set back from the road so that you didn’t even hear the traffic. It was gated, too, which they’d told her was a good idea, at least for now. She didn’t care much for feeling walled in, but it was safer, and at least when she was on the property, she could sit on her balcony or go outside without feeling like she was in prison. Nathan liked it, too. It had been a big change for both of them after living in the city for so long, but things seemed to be working out. And Nathan had been great about it all.

“You’ll be OK, right?” Nathan always checked on Stephanie before he went anywhere. “I’m just going to the Homeowners’ Association meeting. It’s probably not going to run really late, since it’s just updates this time and not any changes to the regulations.”
Stephanie smiled at him. “I’ll be fine. Besides, Gina’s coming over. She wants me to check her résumé before she sends it out, and I said I would. We’re getting some Chinese food.”
“Sounds like fun. Save me some?”
“Of course.” She kissed Nathan and when he’d gone, she went online to order dinner.

Half an hour later, Gina arrived. Stephanie knew who was at the door, but she followed all of the procedures anyway. She’d asked Gina to text when she got to the building, and now, she pulled the living room curtain back just enough so that she could see Gina getting out of her car. Then she looked through the peephole before she opened the door.
“Hey,” Gina said as she came in. Then, after looking around, “This is nice. I’ve never been in this community before, but I like your place. It looks nice from the outside, too.”
“Thanks,” Stephanie gestured towards the dining room. “I thought we’d sit at the table if that’s OK. Dinner will be getting here soon, and we can eat while we talk.”
“Sounds good. Oh, I brought wine.” Gina held up the bottle she’d been carrying.
“That’s great! Thanks. I’ll just get some glasses.” Stephanie went into the kitchen and was back in a moment with two glasses and a corkscrew.

“I really appreciate this, Lisa,” Gina said. Stephanie had to remind herself that that was her name now. That was one of the hardest things about being in this program. You had to remember a different name, different background the whole thing. You even had to be careful who you talked to, and most especially, who came to your home. One slip could ruin everything. Oh, well, Molnar’s trial was coming up in a few weeks, and then this nightmare would be over. At least she hoped it would. Now she forced herself to pay attention to her guest.

“Not a problem. I really hope you get that job.” Stephanie held her hand out for the résumé and started to read it. She was glad that Gina was a safe person. She missed her old friends, and it was hard to make new ones. But she’d met Gina at the book club she’d joined, and the two had clicked right away. They’d met for weekend lunches a few times, and they’d had some good email conversations. She wished she could confide in Gina, but it was best not to. Not now, anyway. Maybe after the trial, but possibly not even then.

“So, what do you think?” Gina shrugged a little and chewed at her bottom lip.
“It’s great,” Stephanie reassured her. “I really like it. I didn’t even know you had such an interesting background.”
“Really? You like it?”
“I do. There’s only one or two suggestions I have.” Stephanie pushed the paper towards Gina to point out her ideas.

Benjy was all ready to go. They’d told him the place was gated, but that wasn’t a problem. All he had to do was pull in behind someone who lived there. And it didn’t take long. When the gate swung open, he drove in behind the other car and then pulled over. He put on his GrubHub hat and glanced over at the seat next to him where the food bag holding the gun was waiting. It had been worth the money to get the hat and bag online. Who ever pays attention to a delivery guy? He’d get the job done in no time at all and be out of here before anyone noticed anything.

After he’d made sure he had the right place, Benjy parked his car in a guest spot, picked up the bag, and walked towards the building. There was a guy taking trash out, and a couple getting out of another car. Nobody even looked at him. He got to the door, glanced around quickly, and knocked.
“Oh, that’s the Chinese food,” Stephanie said. “They confirmed my order just a little while ago.”
“I’ll get it,” Gina stood up and went to the door. Sure enough, it was a guy wearing a GrubHub hat and carrying a bag.

Stephanie heard the shot from the dining room. She raced over just in time to see a man running out the door, his cap flying off his head as he went. Almost on auto-pilot, Stephanie called 9-1-1. Then she got a paper towel, walked outside, and picked up the cap. It wasn’t much, but it might be helpful.

Eric Molnar was watching the local news. His mouth gaped open when he saw the lead story. What the hell? They were talking about a woman named Gina Temple who’d been shot. It was in the right place, but that wasn’t the right woman. The woman in the picture they showed was too short, too heavy, and too young to be the right one. Had Benjy gone to the wrong building or something? Molnar’s mouth went dry as he grabbed his telephone.

Stephanie sat next to Nathan at the police station, gripping his arm for security. “You can do this,” Nathan murmured as he patted her shoulder. “You can get that bastard.”
“You’re damned right I will.” Stephanie clutched the plastic bag holding the cap. She damned well would get that bastard.

6 thoughts on “Contact-Free Delivery

  1. Oh, Margot, poor Gina! How could you? I think it was Graham Greene who said that writers have a splinter of ice in the heart . . .


    1. Oh, I know, Christine! I feel terrible about Gina, too! I only wish my characters didn’t have agency, but they do what they do whether I want them to or not. I tried to tell Benjy not to go through with it, but did he listen?


  2. I also feel sorry for Gina. Poor girl! All she wanted was to get her resume checked. And perhaps in these days, it’d be better for all of us to cook at home:)


    1. Cooking at home does make a lot of sense, Neeru. And I agree about Gina. I feel very sorry for her. That’s the thing about writing. Sometimes, you have to kill your darlings…


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