Last night I started reading Patricia Cornwell's latest release, Dust. I was home alone. I'm in the midst of moving and between houses, currently staying at my mom's for a few weeks. I distinctly remember the last time I read a Patricia Cornwell novel at my mom's house.
It was the late 1990s and I had just recently discovered Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta series and was reading her backlist. I lived in Charlotte, NC back then and was visiting my mom for the holidays.
On one particular evening I'd been out Christmas shopping and returned to an empty house. My mom lives in a far western suburb of Chicago where there's some breathing space between houses, but they're close enough that people can hear you scream.
I popped a frozen pizza in the oven and then stood at the living room window watching the snow fall. It was coming down fast, the first big snow of the season.
And it's dark out there, the way a heavy snow or rain diminishes ambient lighting. There's also a big field and woods to one side of my mom's house, but by the lone street light on her block I can tell there are already a few inches on the ground.
The oven timer goes off.
After eating some pizza I go down stairs to read in the family room. There I sit with a belly full of pizza, happily reading a creepy Patricia Cornwell novel while the gusts of wind grow stronger. I hear the occasional noise outside.
Wait, was that inside? My mom's cat gives me no comfort. He turns his head and stares in the direction of each sound.
But, no, the wind just knocked something over in the yard. I read a few more pages. Hmm, that sounds like something—or someone—brushed against the side of the house. It's probably just a branch.
And then the lights go out and I am in complete darkness.
I don't miss a beat. I fling myself over the back of the couch cop style and am up the stairs and out the front door in three seconds flat.
If you're a woman home alone reading a Patricia Cornwell novel, you know better than to just sit there in the dark while the serial killer moves in. Ain't nobody gonna come rescue you, sweet cheeks.
So while I'm not a sitting duck on the couch, I find myself standing in the middle of the street out front of my mother's house in a snow storm wearing only sneakers, jeans, and a sweatshirt.
What to do?
I notice the lights are on in the house across the street. That's not a good sign, but maybe I should go there for help. Then I turn and realize the houses to the left and right of my mom's place are pitchblack, too.
Okay, it must be a power outage.
But is it really? Should I go back inside? Alone? Could someone have slipped through the front door behind me as I made my mad dash to the street?
As I'm thinking these thoughts snow starts to melt on my scalp and I notice I'm getting cold. But then I see head lights coming from the direction of the field. A car rounds the bend and I'm relieved to see it's my mom.
I wave, she smiles but shakes her head, wondering what her youngest is doing outside with snow accumulation on her head and shoulders. She pulls into the driveway and asks what I'm doing.
Oh nothing, I say, just checking out the snow.
Do you have a scary book reading memory?
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