The Mysteries of Riverside Gardens

Chapter 4: Pitfalls and Conspiracies

Paula and Frank seem to be acclimatizing to life at Riverside Gardens. But will they avoid the traps and conspiracies already present?

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

A little less than 3 years earlier…


It had already been two weeks since Paula had moved into this substitute vacation village, filled with old carcasses and unsightly bodies. It was unfortunately worse than she had imagined. The other women here were totally letting themselves go, their only passion lay in the awful and totally useless figures that populated their garden.

Paula felt incredibly alone in this residence. It was absolutely necessary that she stopped looking around and took action. But there was still some men to taste. Yes, most of the men here weren’t in great shape and unattractive, but she had spotted a few nice specimens all the same.

First of all, there was this big guy, what was his name again? Oh yes, Bruce… Well, he was married… Like all the others by the way. Oh that’s okay, she was doing a favor for their wife. Paula would make them more fulfilled, and they could quietly go back to their housewife’s skirts when she was done with them.

A husband was the last thing she was looking for. She planned to die as free as she had lived. No wedding ring, no false promises, just fun and a few sex parties.

She’d seen the pool open early. She couldn’t sleep anyway, so she might as well do something with her time. She missed her gym, and she already felt her body was getting smaller. Yes, the gym sessions in her living room weren’t enough. Maybe an hour of swimming would help.

A furtive thought flared in her mind, she thought of the handsome mover, the warmth of his caresses… She absolutely had to have a little snack. Without a doubt, this was the reason why she felt lonely. She was bored, she needed to have fun. Paula took out satin sheets, walked naked to her dresser and pulled out a beautiful red bathing suit. She put it on and then looked at her golden satin negligee. The pool was only a few minutes walk away. She stuck her feet in mules matching her bathrobe.

On the way, she saw several curtains rising in her path. The indiscreet pupils looked at her, taken aback. She could feel in their eyes the glimmer of disapproval that she had always aroused. But disapproval is often the mistress of envy. And very often men who were taken aback ended up throwing themselves into her sheets under the amazed gaze of their sweetheart. Sorry, chicks, but desire is not created in velvet dressing gowns with old floral patterns. You have to put some of your own on if you don’t want your men to be coaxed by someone else… Paula had learned over time to have no scruples. No scruples.

At last she could see the pool. Already some old cookies were nonchalantly soaking in it. Yuck, she was going to have to share the same pool. She would take a long shower when she got home, too bad.

When she entered under the verandah, the voices fell silent. Everyone was watching her, their eyes rounding out the details. She was happy to take off her satin dressing gown in slow motion. The irises of the three men lit up with a voracious glow as her body revealed itself. On the contrary, the smiles of the ladies were bitter. When she took off her negligee, she threw it with a precise gesture on the bench.

She walked around the pool slowly, rolling her hips. Her gaze swept over the three males. One was too fat and too red to her taste. The second was slightly more attractive, but not yet enough to warm her bed. On the other hand, the third was very well preserved. He had a red swimsuit that matched his. Could this be a sign?

Her feet walked down the stairs quietly, the water was pleasantly warm. It wouldn’t be ideal for swimming, but for the moment Paula had a completely different sport in mind.

Andrew turned his head when she started touching his shoulder.


Rita was looking at the mirror with a serene look on her face. She smiled at herself. Her suit still fit her, and that lavender blue hue gave her a beautiful look. Okay, she couldn’t close the buttons. But after all, hadn’t her daughter told her that the suits were now open? Modern. There, she was modern, and that’s exactly what the women and men on the committee would elect her for!

For months she had been preparing for her election, for months she had been making tons of them, preparing pastry after pastry. Yes, months that she sympathized with everyone, that she made them feel important. Of course, sometimes she was sincere. Yes, sometimes she could really empathize, really appreciate the time she spent with her future constituents. Finally, most of the time, she pretended, she pretended she was in the mood for macrame workshops, she pretended to feel sorry for herself by listening to widows talk about their late husbands.

A real political animal, she adapted to each one and made them feel that they were at the heart of her concerns. Sometimes she regretted not getting into politics sooner. After all, all we talked about here was being the chair of the committee. Her power would only extend to 300 homes, just under 500 people… But that was it. For the first time in her life, she was hungry for power. And that hunger was not going to be quenched any time soon.

In a few hours, she would be elected. There was no longer any doubt. Defeat was not even an option. Her main competitor Andrews had given up a few days earlier. And only Pete, Sue’s husband, was now running against her. No one wanted someone so close to the witch as president. Sue already had enough power, so there was no question of Riverside Gardens residents giving her an empire. Rita represented everything Sue abhorred and vice versa. Rita had the sympathy of the other owners, Sue had the fear. And the village was not a Soviet republic, fear would not triumph.

Rita, smoothed one last time her skirt of the dish of her hand, grabbed her bag and went towards the entry. A last glance at its modest but tidy interior, and she cloFrsed the door. No Bruce to wish her good luck, no last moustache kiss to give her a bit of extra strength. Her man was absent.

Her big handyman was her only shadow in the picture. Since the van disappeared, he was the shadow of his former self, he was walking around in his pajamas with a crooked eye half the day. He drank, he drank more and more. Did she regret having sold the van? Yes, sometimes. When she saw him pass his bottle of bourbon from the living room to the terrace, she would bite her fingers for having done such a thing.

But did she have a choice? No, she had no choice. She would never have been elected president if everyone knew they couldn’t pay their bills. Here everything was just appearance, and the new figurines she had been able to buy for her garden had earned her many compliments. She would be elected not only for her intelligence, her ambitious projects, but also and above all for the image she projected.

No, the problem was that Bruce was starting to question her more and more. He was starting to snoop around, looking for how her van had disappeared. When he stopped drinking, it was to question the neighbors in the vacant lot, to go and harass Sue. Or he would spend hours analyzing every stone in the lot, looking for clues. He was tenacious, he suspected something. Scandal was not an option and she had to find a way to keep Bruce away from the truth.

Unfortunately, he was beginning to ask more and more pertinent questions. Questions that Rita was struggling to answer naturally. As recently as this morning, he had asked her a ton of questions about the two new stone koalas in the garden. Weren’t they broke? How could she afford the two marsupials? Where did her new finances come from for such a huge outburst? She had scuttled that it was a gift. But looking suspicious of Bruce, she knew the lie wouldn’t take long.

Her extra pounds made her walk slowly down the hall, she greeted several of the neighbors, and even stopped to chat with some of them.

In the middle of the path, she passed the new neighbor Paula. She greeted her and then lost her voice as Andrews followed her obediently with stars in his eyes. With a determined step, the nymph walked towards her house, pulling the sleeve of Andrews’ bathrobe. Her gaze had an animal glow. A shiver ran down Rita’s back. This woman was giving her a chill.


184 ! The wildcat had been heard at 184! It was necessary to go there on the spot. Franck turned to Bill and pointed to the 3 traps he had brought back from his garage. Bill looked at him with amusement, sipping his coffee.

There was no hurry, they had the whole day to take care of the cat. But Franck was right, they were going to spend hours there. The longer they set traps, the fewer hours of actual work they would have to do. Good idea, Franck.

Franck shook his head when Bill offered him a steaming cup. He wanted milk. Milk, cold, he loved it. And who else liked milk? Cats. Wild cats too. Yes they were cats and cats loved milk. Um, maybe Frank was a cat. He laughs at the thought. Well no, he wasn’t a cat, otherwise he wouldn’t be here. But maybe before? Yes before, in another life. It’s thanks to his feline spirit that he would catch them.

He was already trying for two weeks. Maybe Friday’s traps had paid off. We had to go and check. Franck could no longer hold on, he put his cap back on four times in a row. Bill, sitting on the chair at the back of the workshop, was starting to get annoyed. Yes, Franck could go and set traps and check the old ones. He would just finish his coffee and join him.

Franck smiled and started to hurriedly set the traps in the Ute. He needed a bowl, he was going to put milk in it. As he grabbed a cup from the cupboard, he turned to Bill. Traps were his department, he was used to them. Bill may not have known, but Frank was Australia’s David Crockett. Oh yes, he could catch any animal. Rabbits, rabbits, it was easy. No, possums weren’t easy, but he knew. The cage… it was the cage you had to hide, you had to put leaves all around it. And… and wait.

Bill nodded his head as he looked away. Two weeks already that the new kid was already giving him a hard time with his stories. When Franck mimed the rabbit trapped in the cage, Bill burst into a powerful laugh. Franck fell silent.

It wasn’t funny, he didn’t want to hurt the rabbit. He liked rabbits. Oh yes, rabbits and their soft fur. With their big ears, they were cute. Franck blinked several times and smiled. Bill’s voice, asking him if he was going to go now or never, brought him back to reality.

Ah yes, the wildcat. The traps. Franck rushed to the van, and started off in a hurry under Bill’s amazed gaze. Decidedly he was going to have to get used to this strange character.

Franck almost ran over a couple coming out of the pool, they looked naughty. They were going to do some dirty things, they were going to do some dirty things. Wild cats were also naughty. The mating season lasted a month longer than for other mammals. If he caught it, he would take it home. Between cats, they might get along well. He would imagine the faces of his neighbors if he walked with his feral cat. His laughter resumed.

157, yesterday’s trap was there! He had placed it between the two houses. He came out of the Ute and ran almost to where the trap was. No trap on the horizon ! But uh, finally. It was at 157, he was sure of it. Or maybe it was… Oh yes, it was maybe 175, yes it was definitely 175. He rushed back to the Ute and made the tires squeal as he started.

He jumped out of the vehicle, without even bothering to turn off the engine. Ah, his trap was there, he was silent, no noise. No mewing. Disappointed, he approached the metal cage, he put his head inside. Still no cat. Roh, he thought he was going to catch it this time. We had to move the trap. We needed milk.

With the trap in his hand, he went to the ute. He was about to throw it in the back of the vehicle, when he noticed on the corner of the trap several drops of blood. Instinctively, he let go of the cage and examined his hands and arms. There was no sign of injury.

So, if it wasn’t his blood… it must have been the blood of the wild cat.


Sue grabbed the wad of bills from her drawer and placed it at the bottom of her bag. She closed the zipper on the leather pouch. Her bare feet searched for her pumps by the tips of her toes and put them on, not without regret. Once standing, she checked her pants for creases, closed one of the buttons on her blouse and left the office.

Time was running out, the letter said, “If you don’t want everything to be discovered, put $500 in small bills every Friday under the air vent in the lobby. ». At first, she had laughed about it. She had blamed Rita. After all, this woman had sold her husband’s van behind his back, so extorting a little more money from him was probably in her blood. But she and Rita were bound by secrecy, and if hers was discovered, Rita’s would follow in a moment.

So if it wasn’t Rita, who was it? For now, we had to buy time and give her the 500 dollars. But there was no question of letting herself be extorted every week. She was going to have to find out who was behind all this.

As she left the front desk, she bumped into Bruce’s heavy figure. Oh no, him again? Since his van had disappeared, he came to the news every day. No, the police hadn’t found him. They hadn’t looked for him, but she wouldn’t tell him that. No, the footage from that day wasn’t available. No, no and no, he couldn’t look at them.

She apologized, walked around it and ran outside. With a quick step, she headed towards the electric carts. She settled down, put her bag on the bench. Her eyes lingered for a moment on the piece of leather, how had she got there? She took her mind off the dark thoughts and drove off.

She almost hit the new resident Paula. With disdain, she detailed her satin negligee, and grinned a smile and a hello. But she barely noticed her, she was pulling the sleeve of the bathrobe with her manicured hand… from Andrews. Yes, the handsome man, as if hypnotized, followed her docilely.

Sue stopped for a long time, she watched the two figures move away. She had to tell Martha. Or maybe… Maybe that was her way out. Maybe she could blackmail Andrews to help her get her hands on the blackmailer! Yes, that was her solution. Thank you, God. He had placed before her eyes the key to solving all her problems.

With a slightly lighter heart, she walked towards the hall. She went in, checked that no one was there and placed the wad of bills under the air vent.

As she left the hall, she looked for the slightest sign of life. Not a living soul. She withdrew.


As Susan took the casserole out of the oven, she heard the ringing of her phone messages. Her daughter had shown her how to set a different ring tone for each person. Ting Ting Ting, it was Rita.

Rita was still angry at her for not being there for his coronation. Sorry, her election. But it was just as well. Rita had been exhilarated by the power. She had been pursuing the presidency for months. Oh, it had been fun for Susan at first. They were both plotting. Susan was advising her, encouraging her. It was fun to use her kindness to influence people in Rita’s favour.

Honestly, she believed in Rita. Her friend had a good head on her shoulders, she had good ideas and enough energy to turn the entire residence upside down. She would make a perfect president, there was no doubt about it.

But then, since the announcement of… CANCER, Susan’s heart was up in her chest, she needed Rita the friend, not the candidate. Her confidant had deserted to take care of the affairs of the entire planet Riverside Gardens. She didn’t have time to listen to her anymore. Susan had been trying to tell her about Rick for days, trying in vain to get advice on how to tell her children. No Rita. It was going to have to be done alone.

The casserole was perfect. It was the first time she hadn’t burned a dish. She usually stayed in the living room with everybody when she got her family together. She took advantage of her three children and could play for hours with her four grandchildren. But not today. Today, she didn’t have the heart to laugh, she didn’t have the heart to pretend.

In a few minutes, she was going to have to take on the role of mother again. She was going to have to reassure them, caress their hair, and tell them that everything would be fine. No, Dad wasn’t going to die, he was going to struggle and we would continue to have lunches like this for years. She didn’t have the strength. She was paralyzed with anguish, her instincts had never failed her and she knew, she knew Rick was going to die from this cancer.

Susan got her strength from Rick, she couldn’t be the rock of the family once he was gone. She would love to be able to carry her family at arm’s length, but her feverish hands could barely lift the dish off the plate. Yes, she was the one who would have to be spooned out.

She carried the dish at arm’s length and left the kitchen. Everybody was sitting at the table, their serious air was not in doubt. Rick had had to start the news without a preamble. The faces were empty of emotion, everyone seemed to be digesting the news. She put the dish on the table, turned her eyes full of tears towards the window.

Andrews walked out of the hall with an envelope in his hand.


The whisky fumes did not prevent him from having a clear mind. Sue was hiding something, she was running away from it. She probably knew what had happened to his van. Bruce wouldn’t give up, he was going to find out who had taken his jewelry and he would make him regret it!

He had often seen Sue’s husband Pete roaming around the vacant lot. Ah, he wouldn’t be surprised if the old bastard was the perpetrator. He couldn’t stand the fact that someone else had ten fingers better than he did. To marry a witch like that, you had to be pretty stupid.

That being said, he would have liked Pete to win the election. Rita had changed lately. He didn’t recognize her anymore. She was so caring, so considerate of him, she barely took the time to massage his feet before going to bed. Unbelievable.

Yes, she was changing. She thought she was the Queen of England, and she didn’t have the crown yet. But Bruce wasn’t a first lady and political correctness wasn’t his department. Why did he help her get the damn presidency?

It seemed to make her so happy. When he learned one night about Andrews’ illegal activities, it didn’t take more than ten minutes to convince him to drop the nomination. You should have seen the smiling smile on Rita’s face when the announcement was made that his competitor was dropping out. He couldn’t have made her happier.

If only Rita hadn’t let herself be blinded by power… With her new figurines coming out of nowhere, he wondered if Rita, too, wouldn’t be involved in something that wasn’t very clear.

Well, he had to stop confusing people’s minds. He was there for the van. And if Sue was out on the road, he couldn’t find a better opportunity. He looked at Alison, who was guarding the reception. The woman in her sixties breathed melancholy and despair. He gave her a charming smile.

Her eyes panicked, she was looking for an escape, a way out. Impossible, Bruce was already walking to her desk. He planted his eyes in hers. “I want to see the videos from the day my van disappeared ! ». She babbled, police, nothing here. But Bruce wouldn’t let go. He knew instinctively that the videos were still in the control room.

He wouldn’t say anything, he just wanted to see if he recognized the perpetrator. His voice softened, after the fear, the pity. He was willing to do anything to see his recordings. He told him of his sorrow, his van was his whole life, for his last trip. Alison nodded her head. He took back a hard voice, the soft way or the strong way, she would have to choose. Then in a soft voice, he added “It will be our little secret. ».

He was right. After surrendering, Alison led him to the control monitor. Bruce sat down in front of the computer. He wasn’t familiar with this type of technology. He was familiar with saws, drills and sanding machines, his department. Alison showed him the different files on the screen. September 20, 2017, there it was. He clicked on the video of the entrance gate.

A tall man entered around 7pm with a hooded sweatshirt on his back. Impossible to see his face. However, about thirty minutes later, his van passed the gates. He shouted to Alison to rewind, to pause. Damn, how did that work. Feverishly, she did so, and rewound for a few seconds. As the van passed the gates, she pressed pause.

Bruce’s eyes blurred. His eyes were wide open, he couldn’t believe what was happening in front of his eyes. He would have recognized this face in a thousand. His son, Mickael.

More next week…

Leave a Reply