Authors: Patricia Fry
by Patricia Fry
Author: Patricia Fry
All rights reserved
© 2015 Matilija Press
“Vannie, I can’t believe Michael let you come over tonight. Does he know why you’re here?”
Savannah laughed. “Sure, I told him it’s a girls’ night in and my aunt’s serving tea and crumpets.”
“Yeah, right,” Colbi said, “with a dollop of pepper spray.” She pulled her soft brown hair back into a loose knot. “So who else is coming?”
“Iris will be here,” Savannah said, “and my sister might make it.” She peered at Colbi. “You have pepper spray?”
“Look at me,” Colbi said, hands on hips. “I’m no lumberjack or sumo wrestler, you know. Of course I came armed!”
Margaret chuckled. “You go, girl. Whatever it takes. We want to stop that guy any way we can.”
“Or gal,” Savannah interjected. “We don’t know what gender we’re dealing with, do we?”
Margaret shook her head. “Unfortunately, no. The idiot always wears too many clothes and that darned ghoulish hood.”
“Ghoulish?” Colbi questioned.
Margaret nodded. “Yeah, you saw the videos. He looks like the grim reaper. The surveillance cameras do their job, but it’s impossible to tell whether the trespasser is a man, woman, or Martian, for that matter.”
“Yeah, or if he’s white, black, or purple,” Savannah said, laughing. She glanced up. “Oh, here’s Iris.” She called out, “Hi, girlfriend. Ready for a hen party?”
“Hen party, heck,” she said, slicing the air as if with a karate chop. “I’m ready for a rumble. Where’s that burglar? Let me at him.”
Margaret put one hand on Iris’s arm. “Just settle down, you redheaded rabble-rouser before you break one of those fake nails. We’re not going to get physical, we’re just going to…”
“We’re going to do what?” Brianna asked suspiciously, stepping into Margaret’s living room.
“Hi, Sis,” Savannah said, greeting her with a hug.
“We’re going to finally get a look at the guy; that’s what,” Margaret said. “Hi, Bri. Want a cup of coffee, tea, wine?” She glanced around at the others, motioning toward the kitchen. “The goodies are in here.”
After removing her heavy jacket, Brianna locked arms with her slightly older and much taller sister and they walked into the next room. “So how did you get out, Vannie?” she asked, shoulder-bumping her.
Savannah stopped and looked at Brianna. She pushed strands of her blond hair behind one ear. “Why does everyone keep asking me that? I’m my own woman. I don’t need a man’s permission to visit my dear aunt with my sister and best friends.”
Brianna doubled over laughing, and Savannah slapped at her. “Stop it.” When she realized that everyone else was also laughing, she frowned. “Am I really…what would it be called…rooster-pecked?”
“Rooster-pecked?” Margaret said, chuckling.
“You know, the counterpart to hen-pecked,” Savannah looked around at the other women. “Well, am I? Is that what you all think?”
“No, honey,” Iris said, squeezing Savannah to her by the shoulder. “I think you’re definitely your own woman.” Iris pulled back. “Don’t pay any attention to them. Heck, you’re here, aren’t you?”
“Yeah,” Brianna said, her brown eyes flashing with mischief, “did you sneak out after Michael went to sleep?”
“Stop it,” Margaret said. “I agree with Iris. Your sister is her own woman.” She looked at Savannah and burst out laughing. “Only, as much trouble as she gets into, I really have to wonder why Michael lets her out at all.”
“What trouble?” Savannah insisted.
“Oh, getting us lost all night and practically killed in the swamps of San Francisco, chasing through the wilderness after a horse thief, outrunning paparazzi…”
“Okay, point taken,” Savannah said, grinning sheepishly. “Actually, for your information, Michael knows what we’re doing here tonight and he was only mildly against it.” She stood tall and raised her chin. “Like Iris said, I’m here, aren’t I?” She looked around at the other women, her eyebrows raised. “Do your men know what you’re up to tonight?”
Brianna, Colbi, and Iris glanced at one another. “Not really,” Brianna said.
“Craig was out when I left,” Iris admitted. She thinned her lips. “I think it’s best that way. Otherwise, we’d all be in trouble with the detective.”
Savannah cringed. “No doubt!” “What about you, Colbi…did you tell Damon where you were going?”
“Uh, well, he’s on assignment for the newspaper,” Colbi said. “I didn’t…actually have a chance to talk to him, but I’ll tell him about it when I get home.”
“Where’s Max?” Savannah asked her aunt.
“Um, he’s in Chicago,” Margaret said meekly.
“Chicago?” Savannah questioned.
“Yeah, a sort of reunion with some of his culinary buddies.” In an attempt to get the focus off herself, Margaret cleared her throat and asked, “Okay, who wants wine, coffee?” She motioned toward a plate of cookies. “I took these out of the freezer this afternoon. Max made them last week.”
Colbi licked her lips. “Mmm, oatmeal-raisin.” She took a cookie, then asked, “So what’s the plan? When do you expect this dude to show up? Why tonight?”
“He seems to have a pattern,” Margaret explained. “We’re usually hit some time between ten and midnight on weekdays—a couple of times on a Tuesday.” She looked sheepish. “Plus, Max is gone tonight.”
The other women laughed.
“That’s pretty precise, there, Maggie,” Iris said, as she poured herself a glass of red wine. How do you know that?” She took a sip. “…I mean that he strikes on certain days at certain times?”
“Well, it’s obvious what nights he’s been here and the camera records the time. Even though we can’t see his…or her face, we see him doing the deed and it’s usually between ten and midnight.”
“Your cameras record the time?” Iris asked. “That’s cool.” She glanced at the others. “So what time is it?”
“I have nine twenty-five, so we’ll have to down our drinks and get in position, say in about fifteen minutes,” Margaret suggested.
“Then what?” Brianna asked, appearing a little apprehensive. “What do you want us to do if we see him?”
Margaret looked around at everyone. “Well, Colbi has pepper spray, so she should be closest to where we think he’ll strike.”
The petite woman held one hand up in front of her and shook her head while swallowing a swig of her tea. “Oh no, I’ll happily hand over my spray to someone else. Put me in the back row, please.”
After joining the others in laughter, Iris asked, “So we have stations?”
“I think so. I have it all planned,” Margaret said, pulling out a piece of paper. She laid it on the kitchen table in front of the others and pointed. “Colbi, we’ll put you here alongside the far wall; Savannah, you’ll be here,” she said, pointing at a spot between two large cat pens. “I’ll sit on the bench over here facing the pathway into this area, and Iris and Brianna, you can hide around the corner over there.” She looked up at the women. “Everyone brought dark-colored jackets, right?”
Iris responded in a disgusted huff, “I had to look high and low for something drab and dark to wear. As you can imagine, there’s nothing like that in
wardrobe,” she said, gesturing dramatically toward her dark-green jeans with rhinestones sprinkled across the pockets and ankles, and her multi-colored off-the-shoulder sweater.
“So did you find something dark?” Margaret asked.
Iris’s face brightened as she announced, “Yes, I finally found a black trench coat in Craig’s closet.”
“So we’re hiding in the dark? Is that it?” Brianna asked.
Margaret nodded. “Oh yes,” she said pointing again at the diagram. “What he seems to want is here.” She glanced up at the others. “I put some of them in there—the rest are hidden from view, so we need to focus just on that one spot.”
Brianna chuckled. “This is all pretty well-planned, Auntie. Looks like you spent a lot of time figuring it out.”
She nodded. “Yeah, your sister and I actually did a practice run. She helped me pick out the hiding places.”
“All right,” Colbi said, “and when we see him, what do we do?”
“Get out your pepper spray, girl,” Iris suggested.
“Oh, no. I’m only using it as a last resort. Heck, I might asphyxiate all of us with this stuff.”
“Do you have weapons for the rest of us?” Brianna asked. “What will
do as a last resort?”
Yeah, how big is this guy, anyway?” Iris asked.
“It’s hard to tell…but maybe kinda tall, actually,” Margaret said. “Anyway, with yours and Savannah’s height and strength and Brianna’s and my bulk, we could probably knock him down and hold him while Colbi calls the sheriff.”
“My job is to call the police?” Colbi whined. “That’s all?”
Savannah chuckled. “You can take a picture and write up the story for your newspaper.”
“Just be sure to get my good side,” Iris said, primping a little.
Brianna nudged Iris with one elbow. “You have weapons right there. Look at those killer stilettos you’re wearing.”
“Are you kidding?” Iris complained. “Damage these shoes by clobbering someone over the head with them? I don’t think so.”
“Do we even want to be armed?” Savannah asked.
is?” Brianna suggested. “Auntie, did your cameras ever show him with a gun or anything?”
Margaret shook her head. “Could have been concealed, though.”
“I doubt it,” Savannah said. “I mean, it’s not like he’s taking the family jewels.”
“No, it seems that he has one thing in mind and one purpose, but why he does it, I just can’t imagine.” The room grew silent and Margaret added, “Well, shall we take our places? Now bundle up everyone; it’s cold out there.”
“You don’t heat it?” Savannah asked.
“Sure, areas are heated, but the larger space where we’ll be hiding can get kinda chilly.” She motioned toward a stack of dark-colored blankets. “I brought these out in case anyone needs them.”
“Yeah, I’ll take one,” Brianna said. She turned quickly toward her aunt. “Actually, maybe one of us should stay in here just in case he decides to come inside tonight.”
“What would you do if he did?” Savannah asked, grinning.
“Oh, well, I guess that isn’t such a good idea. Okay, give me a blanket. Where’s my jacket?”
“So you want me here?” Savannah asked, when the women stepped into the large enclosure.
“Yes,” Margaret said. “Now sit down there. He’ll have a flashlight, but if you sit quietly, he probably won’t see you.”
“I’m still not clear about what we do when…or if he shows up,” Colbi said.
Iris faced the others. “Yeah, me neither.”
“Well, I think we’ll have to play it by ear,” Margaret said. “It sorta depends on what
Maggie, I think we could all jump him, don’t you?” Iris suggested. “…and hold him down, like you said. Colbi do you have your phone handy?”
She nodded. “Do you have your stilettos ready…just in case?” she asked Iris.
“Hey, we don’t have much time. Get in position,” Margaret hissed. As an afterthought, she said, “Now if he runs, we should go in pursuit.” She looked down at Iris’s feet. “Iris, you’ll do us no good in those shoes if we have to go after him. What size do you wear? Maybe you should put on some of my walking shoes.”
Iris looked down at Margaret’s feet. “I don’t think so, sistah. I’d never get these size tens into your minuscule shoes.”
Margaret let out a sigh and said in a loud whisper, “Okay then; positions. I’m turning off the lights. Now everyone be still.”
Savannah edged herself into the space between two cat pens and sat down as comfortably as she could, pulling her dark navy-blue hood over her highlighted blond hair. “Ready,” she called out. Once she’d heard the others chime in, she smiled and shook her head.
I can’t believe we’re doing this,
she thought. …
that it has even come to this…citizens taking the law into their own hands… I mean, really, I just hope this little activity of ours doesn’t blow up in our faces. But what are we to do when the local sheriff’s department is too busy to go after what they call a “nuisance criminal.” Well, he’s more than a nuisance to Auntie and Max, that’s for sure. I mean, it’s not like this guy’s stealing fruit out of our orchard.
She chuckled to herself
. In fact, authorities might be more inclined to act on that sort of crime than the one poor Auntie and Max are dealing with.
She thought back to the day it all started.
It was a Sunday in late November. Savannah and Michael sat in the kitchen of their spacious turn-of-the-century home discussing plans for their daughter’s first birthday party, when they heard a loud rap.
“Auntie, Max, hi,” Savannah said, opening the kitchen door. “What brings you two out on this brisk morning?”
“Catastrophe,” Margaret said, “with a capital C-A-T.” She tossed back the hood of her purple jacket, saying angrily, “Oh Vannie, I’m so upset.”
“What happened?” Savannah asked, looking from her aunt to Max. Before they could speak, she said, “Come and sit down. Want coffee?”
“No coffee for me,” Margaret said, shaking her dark-brown bobbed hair into place. “…not while I hold this little one. Come here, sweetie,” she crooned, lifting Lily out of her high chair. Margaret eased into a straight-back chair next to Michael and placed the baby on her lap. Max pulled out a chair across from her, hung his jacket on the back of it and sat down.