Hey guys, here’s part two. I think this short will have one more chapter and lead into an Allie and Andre story…. Not sure how long that on’s going to be. Oh, and the Grey’s aren’t in this scene. They’re in transit.
Mckenna 2.3 minutes ago….
“Shit, it’s a diversion.”
Why it took me so long to figure out, I don’t know. Probably the brain-jarring, butt-bruising trip down the stairs slowed my synapses or maybe they’d frozen over, but for whatever reason, it took me too long to see the obvious. They were after Allie.
Wrapping the afghan around me like a sarong, I duck walked out of the tent. Ignoring the cold burn of the slush encasing my bare feet, and promising myself that after killing the sniper in a bloody and horrible fashion, I will soak in a hot tub until I shrivel, I turned around until my back was to the can, reached up and grabbed the handle. Tilting it so it rested on my back and its two wheels, I took my duck walk down the alley, pulling the can along with me for cover. All I have to do is get to the end of the house and into our backyard. He can’t shoot me through a house.
It’s slow, tedious, miserable work and I was just about to jump and run for it when three short whistles pierced the night. Lena, giving me the all clear. I throw the can aside and clumber down the alley with as much speed as the ice and gravel will allow. It ain’t much. By the time I reach the gate, my feet have fully transformed to icy hunks of lead. So my atempt at a full out hauling of the ass across my back yard was ambitious. What I achieved was something between a slide, a skid, and that dance they used to call “The Jerk”, accompanied by wild arm swinging, body twisting, and intermittant snatching at the afgahn to preserve the last shreds of my dignity. It may be frayed, faded and threadbare, but a girl has to work with what she’s got. If any of my neighbors have night-vision goggles they are getting a hell of a show.
Somehow I kept my hunks of lead under me all the way to the “darling white picket fence” framing Allie and Lena’s backyard. Thing is the gate is on the other side of the yard. Allie felt we didn’t need a gate because our houses were connected by the florida room. Grabbing the two of the posts, I propeled myself over. Not something I’ve attempted before, but I’d seen Lena do it enough times. Seemed easy enough, but I failed to factor in my wardrobe problem. A hand-knitted product with lots of holes. My body went over, maybe not gracefullly, but I landed on my lead chunks. My makeshift sarong however – well, there went the final treads of my dignity. It hung on the fence, a sodden, woolen mess.
I had no time to mourn the loss and no desire to face unknown attackers stark naked, so I took the few seconds and grabbed it back, shouting at the giant magnolia tree across from Allie’s bedroom where all the laughter came from. “Andre, what the hell? Go get her.”
“I would,” Laughter wrapped in whisky and velvet called back, “But watching your wardrobe challenge is so entertaining and if I’m not mistaken, they are coming this way.”
Finally getting myself half-way covered, I skidded across the yard and around the corner to the far side of the house and peered up at the tree to ask the man in the shadows, “How the hell do you know that?”
“It is a simple process of elimination.” Came the unruffled and elegant answer. How Andre managed to be elegant sitting in a tree in the middle of an ice storm I don’t know, but he’s always been an enigma that way. And he had it right. Why go out the front when Allie’s bedroom was on the far side of the house and that house was the last on the block. She had a balcony and a trellis under it. A trellis that was strong enough to hold three two-hundred pound men at one time. It was the most direct route of escape.
A man appeared with Allie hung over his shoulder. And there was silence. The ice and sleet had turned to snow at some point. It floated around the Magnolia tree, a whirl of winter silence. Andre was beautifully lethal; silent, deadly, and graceful. In that moment, I wished I was the one with the night vision goggles.
But before Andre separated from the shadows, death’s mournful cry sliced the air, shrill and haunting, echoing with the horror of a thousand screams. I saw a break in the drifting haze of white and a large lumbering shape swooped out of the dark.
I huddled in frozen misery, sllet ice and snow saturating me to my bones, and watched as my mid-winter night went from bizarrely bad to Alice-on-Acid freaky.
I booked it into Allie’s house through the great room and up the stairs. My bare feet stinging from the cold as they hit the hard wood.
It’s when I get into her room that I’m confronted with the full extent of the freakiness.
“What the hell?”
Two men roughly the size of tanks are laying face up on the white mohair rug in Allie’s ultra-feminine bedroom. I know those men, “Max? Bruce?”
They don’t answer.
“I didn’t know it was them.” My youngest sister is standing over them chewing on her thumbnail and swimming in one of Gavin’s old tee-shirts and Christmas leggings with the Abominable Snowman of Rudolph fame all over them. She always loved Abominable. “They came out of the attic. Gavin must have had them watching, but he didn’t tell us. I’m sorry. It should wear off in a couple minutes.”
“Oh Goddess.” I look down at Gavin’s men with a helpless shrug, “Sorry, guys.”
They don’t respond. They can’t. Even though they are conscious and very much aware. Christy’s still holding what looks like a can of mace, but it’s full of one of her paralytics. I just hope it wasn’t of the experimental variety. Christy’s always tweaking formulas.
“Oh dear…” Allie comes in from the balcony looking no worse for her experience. Her hair perhaps a little mussed, her juicy couture sweat-suit ripped at the shoulder. It’s a fabulous look on her, “Is there an antidote?”
“Uh, not really,” Christy spoke around her thumbnail.
Shit, we’re in experimental territory.
“I grabbed the closest one. Everything happened so fast.”
It did that.
Nothing I can do here. And there was no avoiding the truth waiting on Allie’s balcony. Walking through glass doors framed in glossy black iron, I searched the balcony’s roof of creeping cedar. Seeing only the twinkling lanterns, I crept forward, weaving between two wicker chairs and a small matching table. The chill that had soaked into my bones dispelled somewhat. Allie had the space heater going. Amazingly, it made the balcony downright toasty even in the misery of January. The thick cedar vines acting as insulation. A fairytale retreat waiting for its princess. Hell, I’d been known to climb the trellis on nights sleep wouldn’t come – until its newest resident moved in.
A grumpy Barred Owl Christy had found hopping around with a broken wing. She nursed him back to health and named him Shakespeare, as in the Bard. Kinda’ cute. Or it would have been, had he healed up and flown away like a normal bird of prey, but Shakespeare decided he liked the Magnolia tree, making himself a home in there somewhere. He also claimed the balcony, though he didn’t visit often, treating it like a summer house.
Fun fact: Owls are territorial, manically so
Christy saved him, so all he does is coo like a dove when she shows up. He seems to like Allie’s presence, makes sense as he’s male. He tolerates me. He’ll get huffy with Lena, but backs down when she threatens to “fricassee his feathered ass.” Andre can get by him if he brings a dead mouse, but a stranger taking him by surprise? That guy will be lucky to still have an eye.
I peered down over the railing to see Andre standing over the would-be kidnapper.
An eye or lack thereof is the least of his problems if the angle of the neck is anything to go by. “Dead?”
“Oh yes.” Andre answered.
“Damn,” Lena’s head popped in beside me.
“Where’s our sniper?”
Oh fucking fuck. “Dammit Lena, dead men don’t talk.”
“Excuse me?” My sister flung a hand down at the body.
“I didn’t do that. The damn owl attacked him.” Said owl hooted over our heads.
Lena leaped up and slapped the roof, “Quiet up there, freak.”
“Don’t yell at Shakespeare.” Christy jumped to defend her patient, “He’s a hero. He saved Allie.”
“Yeah, yeah, and just what the hell were you doing letting the guy in anyway?” Lena stomped back inside and rounded on her twin.
“He was UPS.”
“Since when do we let UPS in the house?
“He had a big box. It was heavy.”
I had to head this off. Allie and Lena argued like a couple of marathon runners, and not those little 5 k’s, oh no, we’re talking full out Boston 26 milers “Can we please get back to the shooter.”
“What?” Lena flipped around, “I told you, he’s dead.”
“What the hell, Lena?”
“Yeah, and again I’ll say, Look. At. Yours.”
“That wasn’t my fault.”
“Well, I can’t help it that my guy didn’t have eyes in his head. Fool fell right through the hole in Miss Maddie’s roof.”
“There’s no hole in Miss Maddie’s roof.”
“There is now.”
Before I can come up with a response for that one. Two distinctly different male voices enter the fray.
A grumbly, “Mckenna what the hell are you wearing? And an amused, “Tink, what the hell did you do?”
The four of us look over to see a pissed off giant and his loyal side-kick. Gavin Ian McIntyre, six feet five inches of thorn in my side, currently my lover and who has been, since the day he plucked me form the cold grass covered in ashes and blood, as essential to my continued existence as breath. He looked pissed as usual. Beside him stood Samuel Jefferson Tyler, little shorter and leaner, but still impressive. But unlike Gavin, who always looked ready to choke somebody, namely me. Sam always seemed to be hiding a smile.
Oh boy. “Hey Gavin. Hiya’ Sam. It’s an afghan.”
“Hey yourself.” Sam lets half a grin slip past him, turning his attention to Christy, using the nickname he’d given her the night they met some ten years ago, “Tink, is this permanent?”
Gavin crossed his arms over his chest and assumed his usual grumpy expression. He’s waiting for an explanation. I wish I had one.
“Um, it should wear off uh… soonish.” Christy approached the men flat on their backs and staring, “I..um didn’t realize it was them.”
“Uh-huh.” Sam reaches up and tugs at her pony-stub, “You pack a wallup for such a tiny thing. What’d you use anyway?”
Christy flipped through her notepad and proceeded to explain her latest tweaks to the experimental paralytic. I don’t think Sam understood a word of it, but he listened just the same. He always has.
Gavin’s still silent. Still grumpy. And still waiting.
I fumbled around in my weary half-frozen mind for a 1,2,3 bullet-point explanation of the last five minutes, but Christmas is over. I’m not five years old and, unlike 34th street, miracles are scarce around here. “It’s a long story.”
The thundercloud broke, “I’ll bet.” Short and dry, but I saw the seeds of humor sprout in his eyes, tiny and buried deep, but I’d take it.
“Well,” Lena walked back over to the balcony, looking out into the night and stowing her gun in one of half-dozen secret compartments she outfitted herself with. I wonder sometimes where she gets her clothes. Maybe there’s a “Bad Ass Bitches “R” Us”. “You better make it quick. Cause you know at least one of our well-meaning, nosy-assed neighbors called the cops.”
The words are no sooner out of her mouth than I hear the siren and see the red and blue lights reflected in the balcony doors.
Perfect. I’ve got one dead guy on the ground and another one across the street, an attack owl on the balcony, a stone cold killer up a tree, a couple of petrified goons on the floor. The cops are on the way and I’m wearing an afghan. “I am. Too sober. For this shit.”
“Damn straight.” Lena agreed, rubbing her face.
I shove my weariness aside. I’ll pass out later. Right now, we had to circle the wagons, “Allie, get the door. Andre, stay hidden. Christy, round up the owl. Lena, get your story straight.”
“Dammit Mac, I didn’t kill him. He fell through the roof.”
“Good, yeah. That’ll work.” I head out of the room, “Gavin, keep your men out of sight.”
“And what are doing?” He called after me.
“I’m getting clothes and alcohol.” And not necessarily in that order.
“So I’m just going to start at the beginning.”
“Go for it, slick.” I toasted Detective Wallace with my giant glass of Merlot from my favorite chair, by the real wood fire going full blast in the hearth. I’d donned velour sweats and thick socks and then wrapped up in an electric heated throw and flipped that bitch on high.
We gathered my living room while outside, our entire street is a circus of red and blue lights, chalk lines, and yellow tape.
Detective Wallace was a surprise. He’d shown up right behind the first responder, saying he’d heard it being called in, recognized the address as Allie’s and was concerned. Of course he was. He held genuine fondness for her, but he made me nervous. The man was smart. The kind of smart you don’t see often. A combination of common sense, intelligence and an ability to read people. We McGoverns don’t care for that kind of scrutiny, but this night was such a circus there wasn’t much his powers of observation could do for him. Of course, it could be the Merlot was making me careless, but after the last seventy-two hours of bodies and wood chippers and winter storms I couldn’t find it in me to care.
Lena was in the same camp. She sat on the arm of my sofa, downing shots of bourbon. Allie was was holding up beautifully, sipping the cider she’d made for eveyone from a copper cup, having handed out the fragrant steaming drink to the officers when they’d arrived. Christy was so proud of Shakespeare’s accomplishments she was glowing, drinking the tea she’d brewed for me earlier. Gavin was wasn’t drinking anything. He was doing what he did best. Standing in the background. Silent as a shadow, but still a very present…presence. I was more than happy to trust him to keep this conversation where it needed to be.
“Uh,” The uniformed first responder leaned towards the detective, but didn’t bother lowering his voice, “Should they be drinking?”
And the looming shadow in the background spoke for the first time, “You want to try and take it away from ‘em?”
The sweet little patrolman in his neat blue uniform looked from me to Lena and took two instinctive steps back, stumbled into Gavin, jumped to the right and stuttered, “Yeah, I mean, no….I mean, I see your point.”
Fight or flight in action.
Wallace cleared his throat, sent the patrolman a glance that warned him not to interrupt again and started in with the epic Tale of Two Townhouses, “You went to take out the trash…” He pointed at me with his pen.
“And someone shot at you.”
“But the bullet went through the turban on your head.”
“It was a towel. It was tied like a turban.”
“Rght, and then what?”
“I fell down the steps.”
“Wintry mix. Cement steps.”
“Damn, that was funny.” Lena cackled into her shot glass. She was sitting on the arm of the sofa, close enough to shove. I shoved her. She slid off the arm and flopped into the couch without spilling a drop.
“Lena,” Allie scolded from the kitchen, where she was ladling up more cider, “Mac could have been seriously hurt.”
“Please, I saw you snicker, Miss Prissy Britches. It was fucking hilarious. Her feet in those big fuzzy slippers flew out from under her like some ugly-ass birds taking flight and Boom boom boom” Lena slammed her hand down on the coffee table with every boom, threw back her shot and poured another, “It was classic. “
“You do know I’m a freaky genius and could plan the perfect murder, right?”
The Detective cleared his throat again, “So you fell down the steps….”
“And crawled over to the trash cans. They were full.”
“And I went to see who was shooting.” Lena jumped in again.
“You didn’t call the police?”
“Why would I do that?”
Carson paused a moment, then slowly, “There was someone shooting.”
“Oh,” Lena waved that off, “You guys get enough nuisance calls.” The good detective absorbed that with a blink and a good deal of suspicion. “So, anyway,” Lena takes up her story while he’s is still trying to figure out if she’s for real or jerking his chain, “He’s over on Miss Maddie’s roof. So I climbed up to have a look.”
“That would be Madeline Goode, the owner of the house.” Carson clarified.
“Yeah, she was at choir practice.” Lena said.
That had been fortunate. I’d called Nigel, my business partner, who asked no questions when I asked him to pick her up and take her to his home. Nigel has been my partner in the bakery for five years. He’s used to us.
“And I was making tea.” Christy jumped in. Good idea. Going into details about Lena’s time on the roof couldn’t lead to anything good.
“But Mac wanted cider.” Allie said.
“I can see why.” The detective took a sip of the cider, “It’s delicious.”
“Isn’t it?” Allie graced him with her warmest smile, “Mac says it’s the cider, but I think it’s the Mulling spices they’re instant. They dissolve right away. So I went to our house…”
“You went through the breezeway…there?” Carson flicked his pen at the French doors leading to the Florida room.
“Yes,” Allie nodded.
“How did you get the city to agree to that?”
“I don’t understand.” Allie’s forehead wrinkled.
“Connecting the two houses, I would think that would be difficult to get approved.”
“Oh, no, not at all.” Allie assured him, “Charles Price was extremely helpful.”
The detective’s hand froze, “Charles Price, the city manager?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
Carson blinked once, shook his head, and let it go.
I knew what he was thinking. I’d dealt with Price before, a grumpier curmudgeon you’ve never met. Look up bitter old man in Webster’s and there he’d be. Then Allie walked into his office. That day is a legend around the City. People still talk about it. The day Sour-Puss Price actually smiled.
“Anyway, that’s when the doorbell rang.” Allie picked up the tale, “It was UPS and the man had a big box. He offered to bring it inside and then he grabbed me. He had a gun. I knew he wouldn’t make it past Shakespeare, so I didn’t’ fight him when he dragged me up the stairs.
“An owl Christy rescued. He had a broken wing. It healed up.” Maybe if I used short concise statements it wouldn’t sound insane, “He lives in the Magnolia tree across from Allie’s window. He swooped in and fought the kidnapper for his territory. The kidnapper lost.”
“What the fuck? “ The Patrolman forgot he was supposed to keep his mouth shut.
The Detective was too busy blinking and gaping to notice, finally he came up with, “You’re not serious.”
Concise was a crash and burn. Good to know.
“Owls are territorial.” Christy was all proud Mama, “And Shakespeare is very protective.”
“Territorial.” The detective repeated and looked down at his little notebook. The hand holding his pen moved to his forehead his fingers massaging over his brows and leaving a smear of blue over his nose.
I picked the story back up, “The owl dive-bombed the guy, talons first, and those talons can do serious damage. Think ten razor blades coming at you from the sky.
“Freddy Krueger with wings.” Lena set down her shot glass long enough to curve her fingers and claw the air.
“He dropped Allie and in the struggle to beat him off, fell over the railing. Landed wrong. Broke his neck.”
Wallace stood there absorbing this for maybe a minute, then turned to Lena, “Okay, and what happened on the roof?”
“Well he was on Miss Maddie’s roof see, and she needs a new one. We were waiting until spring, but the guy must have hit the weak spot.” Lena grimaced, “Dude went right through… sort of.”
“Sort of?” The detective asked, not like he wanted the answer so much as he was dreading it.
“He fell wonky, you know?” Lena made bizarre, Alvin Ailey motions with her arms, “And got caught up in the rafters. He flipped off one, flopped off another, and fell through to the attic, but Miss Maddie has some old iron fencing up there and well, he got himself impaled.”
“Oh dear.” Allie clutched her heart.
“Ew!” Christy wrinkled her nose.
I refilled my glass. Impaled. Not a death of a thousand screams, but it’d have to do.
The Detective stood there holding his little notepad and pen.
Finally he spoke, “So to summarize, while the man shooting at you” The pen pointed in my direction, “Fell through the roof and impaled himself. The man attempting to kidnap you” The pen spun to Allie, “Got attacked by an owl, fell off a balcony, and broke his neck.”
Oh Dear Goddess, “Yes, that sounds about right.”
”Shit the boot.”