Connie Mellon was my sister's best friend in New York.
They both worked for Random House. Last summer, my sister called to say that Connie was moving to Washington. In fact, she had gotten a job with Time-Life in Alexandria a few blocks from our house in Old Town.
We were excited when Connie arrived. We showed her around, drew her a map with little notes on good restaurants. Dry cleaners. Doctors. She was excited, too. We told her to rent a town house in Alexandria. They're so charming, we said. Wouldn't it be nice to have a woman friend nearby, I thought.
One night, after dinner at our house, she said she would walk back to the Holiday Inn where she was temporarily housed. We said, no, let us drive you. She laughed at our paranoia. After all, she had lived in Manhattan for 12 years. We drove her anyway. We wanted to see the town house she would be moving to in another week.
Ten days later, Connie Mellon was dead. They found her body in the bedroom. She had been shot once in the head. Her hands were tied behind her. She had moved into the house on Saturday. That night, a young woman neighbor heard a loud radio coming from Connie's house. The neighbor knocked on Connie's door. No answer. The next morning, she left a note on Connie's door. The Sunday paper was still on the doorstep.
The police think she was killed sometime Saturday night, but they don't know for sure. We talked to her family. They were told not to say anything. We went to South Royal Street and glimpsed the young woman neighbor behind her screen door. She wouldn't say anything.
"I don't blame her," I said. "She's probably petrified."
We sat in the living room that night, numb with shock and sorrow. I had to call my sister with the news. We both cried. For days after that, we spoke often of Connie. Remembering little things. Remembering her.
Weeks passed and the police had no suspects. A "For Sale" sign went up outside the tiny house. A "For Sale" sign went up on the house next door. "God, I'd move too," I remember thinking. We took to driving a different route to the supermarket and back to avoid looking at Connie's last address.
As months went by, our initial shock turned to a quiet sense of fear. We began to hear strange noises in the night. We jumped when a tree branch scraped against the window. We talked of getting a burglar alarm. We tried not to think about it.
Several months later, a young woman moved in next door to us. She was a pleasant woman with a large sheep dog. I couldn't look at her without thinking of Connie. I hoped she was careful. I hoped she kept her door locked. I even thought about telling her about Connie once or twice, but decided not to. I didn't want to scare her.
Recently, we went to a restaurant in Old Town. Standing by the door was our neighbor.
"What a coincidence!" I laughed.
We sat down at a table and ordered drinks. We had never formally introduced ourselves. It turned out she had lived in Old Town for the past four years. Her name was Kathy. I liked her instantly. Wouldn't it be nice to have a woman friend nearby, I thought. We laughed and talked for a few minutes. I asked where she had lived before. She took a sip of her drink, and looked away in fear and sadness.
It was on South Royal Street, she said. "Do you remember reading about that woman Connie Mellon who was murdered? I was her neighbor"