It all started out as a simple trip to donate leftover garage sale items to Goodwill. It wasn’t dark, but it was getting stormy.
Alex noticed that the SUV parked in the neighbors’ driveway was empty, but its headlights shone on the garage door. They had SUV’s of the same make and model but two different colors. It was the gray one, the one that the traveling husband drove, that sat drawing attention to itself.
“Hey, their lights are on,” Alex said. “They’ve been on the whole time we’ve been getting ready to leave.”
His wife, Liz, struggling to buckle their son into the child seat, said, “Okay.” She pieced together the two parts of the bottom buckle and loudly snapped it into place. “Got it.”
“I’m going to go tell them they left them on,” Alex said and stepped out of the minivan.
He quickly took the five steps across the side yard to the neighbors’ driveway and peered through the vehicle’s windows. Seeing nobody inside, but the keys in the ignition, he made his way up the front walk and knocked on the door. Above it was a sticker he had seen several times before, bearing what he guessed were Hindi letters. The landlord, the home’s original resident, had Indian parents. It occurred to Alex that he never had asked what it said.
The dog wasn’t barking. Usually when he knocked, the little dog went nuts. To test his suspicions, he rang the doorbell. A moment later, after no answer from within the small house, he turned back toward the SUV.
“There’s nobody home, but the keys are in it.” he called to Liz.
With hopes there was no alarm, he lifted the driver’s door handle. He heard the whir of the climate control system and felt warm air blowing on his face. Was the engine running? Unwilling to commit to sitting in someone else’s vehicle in that situation, he leaned down and used his hand to press the accelerator.
Feeling somewhat criminal, he turned the key to the “off” position and turned off the headlights. He left the keys in the ignition and closed the door, leaving it unlocked, then made his way back across the narrow strip of grass to the minivan.
“That was weird. I hope they’re okay,” he said as he pulled his door shut.
(to be continued)