Summer Short from Catherine Astolfo

Coulda Bin A Barclay

As we approach the house, we see several cars parked in the driveway and out front. This is normal.

My sister is a magnet for family and friends. She lives in a neighborhood of interesting, funny people, not to mention that they’re a short walk from the beach.

Today I’m arriving with my grandchildren. So far we’ve had a great mini-vacation, visiting other family and a resort in between. Now we look forward to beach time and a campfire and lots of other family at Kim’s Place.

When we knock on the door, there is no answer.

“Maybe they’re out back,” Ben says.

I try the door and it’s unlocked.

“That’s probably it,” I respond.

The house is dark and cool and deathly quiet.

Other relatives have obviously arrived; they’ve left their mark everywhere – portable high chair, baby clothes, jackets for later. A cell phone sits abandoned on the table.

We walk toward the sun room. Like a school without students, the party place is eerily absent of music and laughter.

In fact it’s so quiet that we can hear birds complaining in the trees, squirrels arguing back.

We traipse out to the backyard. Only the ashes from a recent fire occupy the area.

We scan the neighborhood. No one is around. No funny, interesting people. No people at all.

“Maybe they’re at the beach,” Catey says.

“That’s probably it,” I respond.

We walk down to the beach. It’s not a good omen for lake activity today, at least for us. The wind is very high. Waves pummel the sand. An intrepid sailboat with colorful wings flies over the water and into the air. We stand and watch for a moment, in awe.

Up and down the boardwalk, there are very few people. Certainly no signs of our family.

I send Kim a text message, but get no answer. This is very unlike her.

“If this were a Linwood Barclay novel,” I inform Ben and Cate, “the whole family would have disappeared except us.”

As the grandchildren of a not-as-famous-except-in-the-family crime writer, they are into it immediately.

“Even Kim’s cell phone was on the table,” Catey says. “And she never goes anywhere without it.”

“Maybe they were kidnapped,” Ben offers.

“Yes and they’ve been taken into another time dimension.” I decide to get fancy – or is that fantasy – like a Melodie Campbell novel.

We walk back to Kim’s place powered by our imaginations.

“A space ship lands in the backyard and lets them go!” Catey adds. Now we’re into Robert J. Sawyer.

“And we go off in their places!”

“Or - we walk back into the house and it finally occurs to us. We’re in the wrong house!” Ben says, ruining the fantasy altogether.

The house is still deserted and far too silent. For a fraction of a moment, we’re just a little worried.

Then I notice the text message. They’re on their way home from the park.

As Louis C.K. would say, of course we’re relieved and happy.

On the other hand, it coulda been a Barclay.

Catherine Astolfo is an Arthur Ellis winning author of short stories. Five novels and a novella are published by Imajin Books and have been optioned for film by Sisbro & Co. Inc. A Derrick Murdoch award winner, she is a Past President of Crime Writers of Canada, and a member of both Mesdames of Mayhem and Sisters in Crime. Find all the stories and links right here: