A whole dime store’s worth of silence fell between them.
“Uh, can I help you?”
“I’m sorry! I’m terribly sorry!” She turned and fled the scene.
He ran after her. “Wait!” He caught up to her and grabbed her arm.
“I’m really sorry. Please don’t clobber me. I didn’t mean to catch you—Oh! What happened? You’re hurt.”
The phrase “It’s just a scratch” came to mind. He killed it before he could even try to say it out loud. After all, a puncture would was nothing like a scratch. “Altercation.”
She smiled. “That’s a good word. Doesn’t tell me anything, though. I’m looking for Elsie Vansing. The desk clerk at the police station told me her mother lived here. Apparently, she called 911 a couple of years ago and they still had it listed in their computer system. I had no idea the police had access to that kind of information.”
“Why are you looking for Elsie?”
“Because I need her help.”
He frowned. “You barged into her house.”
“Well, I rang the doorbell, but I don’t think it works right.”
“But you just barged into her house.”
“Because this is important.”
“Who are you?”
“Is Elsie even here?”
“No, she out dress shopping—Wait. Why am I telling you this? Who are you? Why are you looking for her?”
She sighed. “Then, she isn’t here.”
“Who are you?”
“You don’t have to be so tense. I’m not going to kill her or something.”
He released her arm. “Sorry.”
“I’m Barbara Addleston. The man I love is in grave danger. He’s been captured and hauled away to a horrible place. A place where he’s going to be neglected and uncared for. I can’t let that happen to him. I tried to stop them from taking him. I tried my best. But it wasn’t enough. If she can’t help me, can you?”
She’s a damsel in distress.
He felt bad for thinking it, but he just couldn’t help it. With her untucked hair and woebegone expression, the words just came naturally to his mind. “I wouldn’t be a gentleman of any worth if I refused to help someone like you.”
“Thank you so much.”
“Not a problem. If you don’t mind my asking, what’s the lucky fellow’s name?”