The Autumn of Alamo Heights

In San Antonio’s most genteel neighborhood, the only frightening sound is the ticking of the clock.

Lucie Keblinger Whitehead, octogenarian widow of ten years, sat musing over a bowl of Cream of Wheat in the kitchen of her elegant two-story home in Alamo Heights. The room was chilly; it was late November, and a norther had howled into San Antonio overnight. A tiny woman with a wrinkled face and thinning gray hair pulled into a knot in back, Lucie drew her robe tighter about her frail shoulders and wished that Bill Talley, her gardener, would arrive and build a fire in the living room. The furnace was on, of course, but Lucie liked heat from the fireplace. Mabel Eggleston, the housekeeper and driver, would soon be here, too. Bill and Mabel came early each morning and left at midafternoon.

Lucie scowled at her Cream of Wheat. She didn’t like breakfast. She had gone for decades without it and ate it now only because she needed food with the Hydro-Diuril she took every morning for her blood pressure. She wished she could take medicine for her eyes. Throughout the day, her vision blurred, cleared, blurred again. Her peripheral vision was good. But retina damage made it hard for her to read, dangerous for her to drive. She had stopped driving, although she still had a license. She had once flown to Johns Hopkins to see some doctors about her eyes, and the doctors, thank God, had assured her she would never be blind.

Lucie liked to think of herself as someone who refused to worry. She did worry—she worried a lot—but she preferred to call it being concerned. Today she was concerned that not one of her two daughters and two nephews had called or written for a while; they customarily called every weekend. (She had thought of the nephews as her sons. She had raised both after her sister, Mary, had died while giving birth to the younger.) Lucie needed to know once and for all who would be

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