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Thomasine Whipple was a simple woman. She lived in a small house with clapboard siding and a white picket fence on the very edge of town. In her backyard sat a small barn painted bright red with white trim.
Every morning, she would awake from her slumber at seven o’clock sharp. Every morning she would shower and put on her makeup. She would pick out one of her many old floral dresses, arranging her grey hair into a neat bun. She would walk slowly down the hall to her kitchen and pull a fresh can of cat food from the shelf.
Her cat, a large white Persian named Fluffy would be patiently waiting by her bowl.
Next Thomasine would retrieve the newspaper from where it was usually thrown out on her front porch. She would settle at her small kitchen table, her cat finishing its breakfast as Thomasine sipped at a cup of tea.
For the rest of the day, Thomasine would read an old book, watch some decades old soaps, or nap on her porch. On Tuesdays a man from town would drop off her groceries and would pick up a list for the next week. He was a business man and disliked the inconvenience of having to drive all the way out here just to deliver cat food and whatever else the elderly woman needed. But Thomasine Whipple always paid him handsomely and he needed the money. If he didn’t, the word would get out and he would be shamed for not helping out the woman.
Thomasine Whipple was 97 years old, with weak knees and a sore back. She liked to take walks along the road to work her old bones but these walks were becoming few and far between.
The town she lived in, Rosewood, was a small one and people talked. Like in most tiny towns with a population under 3000, everyone knew everything about each other. But Thomasine Whipple had only just moved in a few days prior and nobody knew anything about her so, naturally, everyone wanted to have the fresh gossip.
First of all there was Martha Lambert, town historian, treasurer, and chairman of the Rosewood Town Council. The second day Thomasine had settled into her new home Martha Lambert was walking up the sidewalk, heels clicking, jewelry flashing and one of her typical unique hats perched upon her fluffy blond hair.
Thomasine, who was doing needlework in her rocker, greeted the woman fondly, thanking her for absurdly large bowl of goulash Martha had brought from her. The woman tried to ask Thomasine where she was from but she answered vaguely.
“Here and there and everywhere.” She said, waving a frail hand, carefully gloved.
To the rest of Martha’s questions she did the same, answering kindly, always kindly, but never giving a hint as to who she was and where she came from.
When Martha Lambert finally left an hour later with a promise of more goulash, she returned to town where everyone wanted to know what she had learned. She met up with her friends in the town coffee shop, Queens of Beans.
“Nothing!” Martha Lambert shrieking, waving her hands about and nearly sending a vase of tulips flying into the air.
“She told me nothing! She dodged around all my questions smiling like a shark all the while. Mark my words, that woman is up to no good! There is something about her…”
Her friends laughed and scoffed at her distrust. “She is almost a hundred years of age, how much trouble can she get into?”
One woman pointed at the television screen. “She’s certainly not like that woman!” On the screen was a popular news station discussing a recent robbery. The young woman had broken in seven banks and two electronic corporations stealing money and Intel. She had no known identity due to the fact that she always used a different disguise. The only fact known about her true appearance was her bright red hair that had been revealed in a scuffle at a bank where her wig was ripped off.
Meanwhile, Thomasine was testing the goulash with a long wooden spoon. She grimaced and threw the spoon into the sink, dumping the goulash, container and all, unceremoniously into her garbage can.
“Too much salt.” She told Fluffy who meowed in response.
Three days later, Martha Lambert showed up again, with more goulash and this time, brownies. Thomasine invited her in and sat her down in the living room.
“I’ll go get us some tea.” She said pleasantly before going off to the kitchen, the door swinging shut behind her.
Martha waited a moment before rising from the couch and started poking about. She looked at the stack of papers on the woman’s coffee table. There was a television guide, an electricity bill and a three year old copy of “Quilting Corner”.
The living room was sparse, with not many personal effects so she moved to the stack of VHS tapes sitting on a stand next to the television.
“Fluffy’s first meow.” One read.
“Fluffy’s first trip to the vet” another was labeled.
She read all the way down to “Fluffy’s first taste of milk” before Thomasine reentered the room, catching Martha by the surprise.
“Admiring my tapes?” she asked, with a touch of displeasure to her voice.
“Oh yes!” Martha squeaked, not sure of what else to say. She had noticed that Fluffy was sitting by Thomasine’s feet staring at her intently.
“You sure do love your cat!” she said weakly before informing Thomasine Whipple that she had to leave because of urgent Rosewood Council business.
“Come back anytime!” Thomasine called as the woman hurried down the walk so fast her hat, a big pink taffeta affair slipped off the top of her hair and nearly landing into a puddle by the road.
“Shoot,” Thomasine muttered, as the hat fell just shy of the murky mess.
Martha returned to the coffee shop and met up with her friends who were already there, gossiping about how the start time of congregation that Sunday had changed from nine to ten.
When Martha Lambert sat down at the large table they all turned to ask how her second meeting had went.
“So is she up to no good? Does she have pickled brains in her kitchen cabinets?” one friend teased. Martha shook her head. “I suppose I was wrong about her. There wasn’t anything peculiar other than an unhealthy obsession with her cat…”
One friend laughed, “See! You were just over reacting!”
Martha agreed, blaming the odd feeling about Thomasine Whipple on the fact that they rarely saw newcomers in Rosewood.
Thomasine tasted the brownies (which were a touch too sweet) and didn’t bother tasting the goulash before dumping them both in the trash. She checked to make sure that Martha Lambert hadn’t looked in any of her VHS cases before she exited the house through the back door and made her way out to the barn. She eased open the door and turned on the lights. On the outside, the barn appeared to be dilapidated and run down, but the interior was the latter.
The small barn previously had three stalls and a section to store extra tools. Now, the stalls had been ripped away and outdoor carpeting had been spread across the floor. Computer modules and laptops and television screens lined one wall, showing various security camera footages.
On a large folding desk several blueprints had been marked with arrows and notes that said “motion sensor” and “blind spot.”
On the opposite wall were a sink and a huge vanity with its own set of lights. Thomasine went here first and stripped off her gloves revealing slender and youthful hands. Next she reached up and pulled off her grey wig, settling it onto a mannequin sitting on the vanity. Her natural hair fell away from under it in its long red locks. The last part to come off was the latex mask of sorts she used to cover her young face. She ran cool water over her skin and cleaned off any remaining latex before crossing the room to the blue prints and computer screens to get to work.
A month later, Rosewood National Bank was robbed of a grand total of $132,000. It turns out that Martha Lambert and her husband had a great deal of money stashed away in some safety deposit boxes.
After Martha recovered from the shock of losing all her savings she tried to visit Thomasine Whipple once more, another vat of goulash under her arm. This time she discovered a young woman with red hair packing the VHS tapes into the side seat of a vintage yellow Volkswagen Beetle.
“Excuse me,” Martha said.
The young woman whirled around in surprise. Martha noticed that the girl was only in her twenties and looked a lot like Thomasine. They were even about the same height.
“Where is Thomasine Whipple? I was dropping by to give her some more goulash…”
The young woman smiled and stuck out her hand. “My name is Scarlett Whipple and I’m her granddaughter. My grandmother passed away last week. It was something she ate.”
Martha did her best to look sincere, clutching her container of goulash a little tighter so her side. “I’m so sorry, my condolences to you and your family!”
Martha hurried off before the young woman could get into a conversation. Once Martha was out of sight, Scarlett finished packing the last of the VHS tapes into the car. She opened one of the cases up to gaze down on the contents, to reassure herself that it was all there.
The crisp green bills packed together with paper bands seemed to gleam in the sunlight momentarily before she shut the lid and lifted Fluffy, closed securely in a cat carrier, on top of the boxes of VHS containers.
Martha returned to her home and took a taste of the goulash before throwing it into the garbage can.
“I always did use too much salt.” She remarked.