She left her apartment and started power walking along the outdoor block-long corridor. Once she reached the stairs, she’d still have to walk several minutes across the complex to Melvin’s office at the clubhouse. “My new friends are zany but are straight shooters and caring. I love them,” Celia had explained to her daughter, Allison, during one of their many awkward calls. “Zany? Does that mean loony tunes?” Allison didn’t call again fortwo weeks.
The piercing sound of the phone startled Celia Ewing awake. With a feeling of dread, she fumbled for her cell on the night table. “Celia.” A female voice squeaked like a trapped mouse. “Marcy? What’s going on?” Celia propped herself up on an elbow and checked the clock on her nightstand. It was nearly 3:00 a.m. “Um, big problem here. I need help.” Marcy’s voice sounded squished. Celia heard a wheezing intake of breath, and a guttural outtake. “Marcy, honey, should I call 911?” “No, no. Please. Just get over here. Just … but …” Then a hissing sound. “Not home.” Celia rubbed her half-closed eyes, then blinked them wide open. “Where are you?” “Get Deb. Come to Melvin’s office. Door lock … broken … something blocking.” Marcy started her sentences like a fully inflated balloon, slowly diminishing till the air rushed out in a big whoosh. “Both … push door. Can’t get up.” “Should I get help? A security guard? I don’t think …” “No help, damn it! No outsiders. Don’t think! Get here pronto.” Celia heard a loud grunt before Marcy hung up. What in the world had Marcy gotten herself into, Celia wondered. This wasn’t her beloved, vivacious friend’s first call for help, but Marcy had never sounded this dire. Celia speed-dialed their friend Deb, jumped up, and switched on the light above her queen sized bed. No answer from Deb, who suffered from full-blown rheumatoid arthritis and took sleeping pills every night. Deb and Marcy were the only good friends she’d made in Boca Pelicano Palms, Florida, the fifty-five-and-over retirement community where she’d moved two years ago. The longest street was Pelican Way, which they all lived on.