May 20, 1964
Jocie Brooke here reporting from Main Street, Hollyhill, Kentucky.
A stranger checked into the Hollyhill hotel last week. So what’s so strange about that? The only person to check into that hotel in my lifetime is Bill Jackson who moved into one of the rooms ten years ago after his mother died. Bill’s neck is too long for his head and he must have had polio or something because he sort of drags one of his feet. I know he can’t help how he looks, but the man could star in a scary movie except that he knows everybody in town and is the nicest guy.
He didn’t rent but one room but Mr. Hastings, who owns the hotel and prefers Florida to Hollyhill, lets him have the run of the rest of the hotel as long as he keeps it clean. I guess he also has the job of desk clerk if any passer-throughs see the hotel sign and stop for the night since it turns out that it wasn’t that you couldn’t rent rooms there. It was that nobody wanted to rent a room there. People go to a fancy hotel in the next town or rent a room at the little motel out on the outskirts of Hollyhill.
Nobody knows why Mr. Whitlow is here. Not even Bill Jackson, but Bill’s the kind of fellow who doesn’t ask questions. He says if somebody wants you to know something, they’ll tell you. But the stranger has been eating down at the Grill so Lorraine there will be knowing everything about him in nothing flat. She’s already told people he puts ketchup on his scrambled eggs and likes his toast lightly browned, no jelly. When I bought a shake there Saturday, Lorraine went on and on about how nice looking Mr. Whitlow is. Compared to Bill Jackson maybe, I told her, but she just said I’m too young to know what I’m talking about. So I took a closer look next time I saw Mr. Whitlow. He’s old, at least forty. He wears his hat pulled down low over his face like he doesn’t want anybody looking too close. You think he might be hiding out here in Hollyhill? Maybe he’s running from the law. I decided that the next time I was at the Post Office I’d check the wanted posters there. You never know.
But if he’s trying to hide out here, he doesn’t know much about small towns. Folks here have got their eyes on him. And guess whose eyes are on him biggest of all? Zella’s. I caught her the other day standing inside the front window peering through an old pair of binoculars up the street. She got all flustered when I asked what she was looking at. She sputtered something about Red being missing. We had to shorten Cat’s name to Red. Red Spot is a great Jupiter name, but too hard to say. Red, what Wes says is Cat’s first name anyway, works fine. He’s a Red kind of cat.
But Zella wasn’t looking for Red any more than I was. She just said the first thing that popped into her head even though she’s always onto me if I even try to pull the truth out into a more interesting shape. She just let out a little huff when Red came out from under her desk and began winding around her legs. Turns out Red must think Zella wears catnip for perfume. He’s always hanging around her desk and Zella definitely wasn’t looking for him through those binoculars. She was watching Mr. Whitlow. I peered around her out the window and saw him headed up the street to the Post Office. Probably to check the wanted posters there and figure a way to get rid of any with his picture on them. I should have been quicker checking them out.
Wes tells me to stop letting my imagination go wild. That folks looked at him the same way when he first came to Hollyhill from Jupiter and that Mr. Whitlow is probably just from Venus or Mars. Nothing at all to worry about. But there’s something odd about the man. I’ll be watching him. Between Zella, Lorraine and me, we’ll know what he’s up to soon enough.
Why do you think he’s come to Hollyhill?