Mrs. Edith Smoot (widowed) lived in a tiny brick house on the edge of town. She had lived there as long as anyone can remember, along with a malevolent ginger cat she called Mr. Truffles. The local children called her a witch and sometimes played pranks on her or stole fruit from the small orchard at the back of the house, but the rest of the town knew her as the quiet old lady who brought wonderful quince pies to the town fete. She has few friends or even contacts and seemed happy to live out her days quietly, with Mr. Truffles as her only companion.
The mysterious disappearance of Edith Smoot has been the talk of the town the past week.
Matty Carlson swears up and down that he'd seen her in the woods with a mysterious stranger. He says that when he'd called out to her, she and the stranger had vanished in a puff of smoke, leaving only two sets of cloven-hoofed footprints behind. Folks are disinclined to believe him, on account of his having a grudge against the old lady for firing him. He'd been her on-again, off-again handyman for a while, but he was known to like the bottle and things had a tendency to vanish when he had been working, only to turn up again at Mr. Braun's pawn shop (which was why Mrs. Smoot had fired him in the end, she'd caught him red-handed taking her late husband's books).
Some whisper that perhaps Matty Carlson had gotten his revenge on her in a more permanent way. The sheriff investigated, but Carlson had an alibi in the form of several drinking companions down at the local tavern and a lady with a less than savoury reputation who testified she'd put him to bed too drunk to remove his own pants that night.
Jemma Moss, the foundling taken in by Mrs. Smoot's neighbours, the Cartwrights, says that she saw Mrs. Smoot "taken to heaven by the angels". Jemma is known as being a sweet girl, but a bit touched in the head, and has a tendency to make up stories. She did take in Mr. Truffles, who was found half-starved in the house after the disappearance, Jemma being the only one who could touch the beast without coming away bloody.
Sheriff Jed Bartlett searched the whole house and garden, in case the old lady had fallen somewhere. Word is, especial attention was paid to her neighbour's pig yard; everyone knows those critters will eat anything.
Joe at the train station says a young lady arrived in town that afternoon and asked for directions to Mrs. Smoot's house. No luggage, just the clothes she stood up in and her hand bag. No-one else seems to recall seeing her, though, and she would have had to go through the whole town to reach Mrs. Smoot's place.
The rumours abound, but the truth is, no-one knows what happened to old Mrs. Smoot. One day she was there, the next, gone, only a little old house and a cranky cat left behind. Could be one day someone will solve this little mystery, but for now, folk are content to speculate. Since that's what folk do, right?