Judith's proclivity for spotting a bargain and stretching a dollar had brought her to the closest thing that could be called her working career: garage sale steward. She knew the business from shopper to seller. She and Gary had spent the majority of their weekends cruising garage sales and estate sales. They made special note of annual neighborhood garage sales they should remember for the next year. They regularly visited the "swap meet" up on Highway 99 between Seattle and Tacoma for bargains.
When they felt like dressing it up a bit, they went to liquidation stores and searched for the ultimate prize in bargain hunting -- new merchandise marked down to nearly free. Several years into the marriage, Gary had introduced Judith to a new twist in bargain hunting: "dumpster diving." Her task was to stay in the truck and watch for people approaching the area while Gary inspected dumpsters behind stores, looking for discarded merchandise he could take home and sell or use around the house.
Indeed, Judith had the ability to spot items on sale that she could put to use at home or easily sell at her next garage sale. Sometimes she came home with large quantities of one item like bottles of shampoo. Another time she might bring home dozens of picture frames, some in disrepair, but that was fine because she would get Gary to fix them for her.
Judith examined articles of men's clothing in a box that an acquaintance of the Ridgways had donated for her use in a garage sale. She held up a large pair of men's jeans and gave them a sniff. Yeeuck! This is disgusting. Everything in this box smells like saltwater! Well, Wally did work as a fisherman, so it made sense to her that his things would smell of the ocean. Judith decided to categorize the contents of the whole box as trash. While she disliked parting with anything useful, she knew that customers would be repelled by the odors coming off this clothing. The next box she inspected was no better than the first. This time she found clothing that had been obviously worn by a large woman. A neighbor had dropped it off as a contribution to the next garage sale. Each piece of clothing she held up had distinct wear patterns in areas where an obese woman would likely have body parts rubbing, making the fabric thin, and, in some places, the thin fabric actually gave way to holes. Judith's years of experience browsing garage sales taught her that signs of obesity such as this are a turn off to women shoppers. No. No. Garage sale shopping should be fun, and that is what she aimed to offer her customers. This box would also be added to the trash pile.
At approximately 3:00 p.m. Judith's body froze in place as she heard a distinct sound. The sound that had given her a startle was the crunching sound of tires on gravel. A car had come off the main thoroughfare, traveled down the shared, private road, turned, and was coming in the Ridgway driveway. It stopped right in front of the garage where she was sifting through boxes. The engine shut off. She heard the muffled thud of two doors slamming.
She glanced at her wristwatch. It was too soon for Gary to be home from work.