FIESTA, CALIFORNIA | 1889
Night came to the valley around six o’clock in the early fall, turning the wide sky a brilliant salmon pink, then purple, then black as the inside of a boot. Lucette showed promptly a half-an-hour later, as prompt as if she owned a pocket watch, which, of course, she did not.
The Gilliam home was a typical Central Valley one-story wooden house with a large front porch that was a measure of refuge in the heat of the valley summers and was situated to catch any evening breezes that might have lost their way searching for the coast.
Philomena’s father, as one of the few members of the local business class, had procured one of the larger clapboard palaces for his small family. As a result, Philomena was lucky enough to have her own room, a room with a window low enough to climb out of when the mood and opportunity arose.
“Phil!” Lucette called out under her friend’s bedroom window, looking around to take note of anyone that might later be called on as a witness for the prosecution, although the entire town of Fiesta looked deserted.
“Quiet,” a subdued voice answered back from the dark interior. “My folks haven’t left yet. I was sure they would have been gone by now. We’ll have to wait until they take off.”
“Darn it,” Lucette complained. “I don’t want to be missing any hoodoo, especially snake hoodoo.”
“I wouldn’t worry,” Philomena answered. “These things are kind of like a train, slow to get going, but once they’re up to steam, they don’t stop for anything or anybody.”
“Well, give me a hand up, I’m not going to lurk out here all night. The mosquitoes haven’t got the word that summer’s over.”
“How did you get out, anyway?” Philomena asked as she reached out and hauled her friend up and over the sill.
“Are you kidding?” Lucette asked with genuine incredulity. “You do know that there are six more at home that look exactly like me, right? My folks couldn’t say with any certainty that I’m not there.”