Edited Excerpt from "Mrs. Odboddy - Home Town Patriot" (Amazon $3.99 e-book)
Decked out in comfortable walking shoes, a chic white blouse and a blue serge calf-length skirt, Agnes carried a tray of oatmeal cookies to her 1930 Model A Coupe. She turned the key, tapped the dashboard dials to check the fluids, pulled the timing lever down, pushed the starter button on the floor, and gave it a little gas. The engine rattled to life. That was easy! Not like in the old days.
During WWI, she had to hand crank the engine, then jump into the driver’s seat before it died again. With all the ruts in the road, most assignments included a blown tire. Jacking up the car and changing a tire while wearing an ankle length skirt and a corset took perseverance. Like dancing backwards in high heels, everything in life was harder, thanks to costume issues.
Old Nelly rattled off down the street. Water dribbled down inside the window. Agnes peered into the gloom. Rain sloshed against the windshield, blurring the images alongside the road.
Agnes slowed to 35-mph, the speed limit set by the government to save fuel and tires. Not that she would have driven any faster anyway, but adhering to the speed limit made her a law abiding citizen.
The sky darkened and the rain sluiced down. Panic crept across Agnes’s chest as she reached the narrow road along the ocean. She swallowed a lump in her throat. I should have canceled tonight. She pulled the car off the road and stared into the rain. Should I go home? She hated to disappoint the boys at the USO, but local volunteers who didn’t have to risk their life along a crooked ocean road would be there.
A large black Packard roared up behind her.
“Fool! At this rate, he’ll end up in the ocean.” She gazed through the rain, squinting at the pinprick of the Packard’s tail lights blinking on and off as the vehicle dipped out of sight and appeared again where the road rose up. And then the tail lights stopped, somewhere near Brighton’s Landing.
“Why am I sitting here in the rain? Turn around and go home before you run off the cliff road and kill yourself." Her gaze moved across the black sea. There, far off the coast, a light flashed, barely visible through the mist and rain. And up ahead, the Packard still sat on the beach. Its headlights blinked. Once. Twice. Three times.
Agnes gasped. “Call me a suspicious old woman, but if that Packard isn’t signaling to a Japanese submarine, my name isn’t Agnes Agatha Odboddy.”
Now what? Rush back to town and call the authorities? By the time they got here, the Packard and the submarine would be long gone. She wasn’t exactly equipped to take on a spy ring alone. There was a day she might have given it more thought, but in reality, time and an additional 40 pounds had taken its toll. On the other hand, she wasn’t about to let the spy get away with his nefarious deeds. She could at least get closer, record the license number and report it to the authorities.
Agnes clicked off her headlights, released the hand brake, jammed the Ford into gear and chugged down the road through the darkness. Anxiety surged through her chest. What might happen if they caught her, alone, out there on the beach? She shuddered. Best not think about that. Her heart pounded and her pulse quickened, just like in the old days. Any red-blooded ex-under-cover government agent would feel the same, right?
Agnes’s Model A rolled up on Brighton’s Landing. The rain stopped and from the light of the quarter moon, she could see the Packard, but from this angle, the submarine was not visible. Likely the spy was already rowing out to deliver his contraband to the Japanese captain.
Agnes got out of the car. She drew off her shoes and crept toward the Packard, running in short spurts between clumps of ocean grass and driftwood logs blackened by lover’s bonfires.
The moon slid behind a cloud, preventing a good view of the license plate. She crept closer, her breath burning in her throat. Not since WWI had she experienced an adrenalin rush such as swept through her body.
Her chest rattled with short, raspy breaths. She paused. It wouldn’t do to rush headlong and do something foolish and get caught. One thousand one, one thousand two… Her breathing eased. One thousand three…
She crept closer. The moon slid out from behind a cloud. The numbers on the license plate were easily visible. 6X2358
Agnes’s heart lurched. She threw herself face down into the sand. A signal to the submarine? Or had they seen her?
Tiny shells bit into her cheek. She spit sand and wiped her hand across her mouth. The door on the Packard creaked. If they catch me, I’m dead!
Agnes closed her eyes. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.
Psalms. Good to remember, but doubtful the Archangel Michael would be hovering on the beach tonight after she had knowingly put herself under the shadow of death on purpose.
Thoughts of home almost made her weep. Was there still time to back away and leave before someone discovered her?
Best peek at that license once more before she left. The moon had passed from behind the clouds. There sat the Packard, quaking and creaking under the full moon, the squeak of the springs loud in the stillness. Steam clouded its windows. Soft moans came from inside the car.
"What the Sam Hill? Could they be…? They were."
Even reaching back into her distant memories, creaking springs and fogged up windows could only mean… “Oh!”
Agnes scooted backwards through the sand. She stood, brushed the twigs from her skirt and tiptoed to her car. Not far off shore a fishing boat drifted from a fogbank. Its engines churned and running lights blinked until it disappeared into another fogbank.
"OK. Guess I’ll go home, turn on the radio and go to bed."
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This is an excerpt from the novel Mrs. Odboddy - Hometown Patriot, available at Amazon in e-book for $3.99. Written without extreme violence, explicit sex or profanity, it is suitable for teens or adults.