Behind the Moon Door– Snippet #6

Behind the Moon Door: Snippet Archive

(for those of you who need to catch up!)

One,

Two,

Three,

Four,

Five.

Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

We got there at close to 4:45. She hadn’t picked up, but that wasn’t all that unusual. She was hard of hearing from all the mowing and yard work. Sheilia and her husband ran a yard keep place, servicing everywhere from the six golf courses to the many small touristy traps to even the verdant neighborhoods nestled in the forested Hills. There was a lot of territory to go around, and Shelia’s crew was the biggest, and the busiest. They refused to hire illegals, but were fine with imigrants of all colors. Her most recent hire was a West African who wanted to be a software engineer, and his best friend from Algiers. Or that’s what he said. Shelia’s mister ran everything above board, but refused to unionize. For that, even the smaller places forgave him his success.

 

NO, I don’t understand the politics there, either. But that’s how it works.

As always, Paul was gone with a crew, and though he was not wearing his John Deere hat, which was on it’s hook on the wall.
She looked up and seemed not especially surprised to see us.

“Oh, hello! I’m so glad you are here!” She’s a slight, bird like woman who is really a bit taller than you think, she just has a petite brittle presence. Her hand shook slightly, even if her face was reasonably young. Her expertly applied makeup helped, but it was a subltle thing that improved without adding lots of glitz.

Though her hair was a henaed job on darker brown hair. Here in the Hills everyone wants to be a redhead. I was really bucking tradition by keeping my mother’s straight black hair. Often I would give it a few red highlights— or streaks just to add warmth, but I bucked the system this time. She didn’t mind, but stroked the back of my head as we hugged. “You shorn your locks off, didn’t ya?” Shelia said, chipper.

She always sounded 100 years old, even if she didn’t look a day over 45.

I smiled weakly. “It’s just…easier that way.” I said.

“Well, I wish I was here for a better reason. I mean, I’ll start with the good news. I’m here, you probably heard. But you might not know that I’m here for the summer, so I’ll be by periodically to see how you are doing.”

Shelia nodded. “I heard from Phil that you were coming, and that she was going for three…whole months. But she didn’t say that you’d be staying for the duration. So I’m glad to have you as a neighbor again.” She said, eyes twinkling. We didn’t live that close, but spaces were pretty big around here, so neighbor was a generously interpreted thing.

She set her attention to making the tea. “You’d gotten here just as I’d pulled off the kettle. You are in luck… and I have scones, plugie jam, and fresh butter, and cream from the O’Mearey farm. They were at the hospitality giving stuff away. They gave some to me as charity, even though they know that Phil and I do okay.”

The O’Mearey Farm know well she also takes care of her workers, who might not always get enough work to eat regular throughout the season.

We sat down and had tea. There was even fine Irish china, this one with cabbage roses. She saved the blooming clovers for St. Patrick’s day. Oddly enough she was also Scots. It was old, a well loved family heirloom purchased a piece at a time. She primarily used her Internet to find new and interesting pieces of nice china that wasn’t worth a mint. But sometimes she got lucky on Craig’s list or eBay.

We chatted for a while, getting used to her rythm of conversation, which always started with things like the weather, and what the various people in her organization were doing. I was thinking that maybe this wasn’t the time or the place to talk, and she said,
“So what is the unfortunate event that you must inform me of?”

I blinked and parsed her speech.

“Um. Well, some unknown people attacked the graves. The new ones. Phil’s plot.” I said shortly.

Shelia stopped dishing out another scone and set the things down. She settled with the information for a bit. She leveled a glance at me. There was no going back. But she looked hard, not soft.
“Is it bad? Don’t tell me details. Just say how bad it is.”

“Shelia, it’s really bad. They smeared stuff, and Red Paint. Everything has been knocked around, and the grotto is crushed.”

Her eyes narrowed. “How big.. How deep are the holes?” Her voice sounded unreal.

It’s mostly damage. I…didn’t see big ones. Not even pot sized. More like mole sized.”

She let out the breath she was holding. “All right.” She said.

She composed her face wreathed in a serene smile.

“I will take care of it.” She said primly, her voice sounding placid and cheerful as if commenting on a sunny summer day.

That was even creepier than Sarah’s declaration of war on my behalf.

I looked over at Pat to see how he was faring. He was delicately sipping tea just like momma taught him, pinky out and everything. Had the moment not been so tense I would have fallen over in giggles. He gave me a Mr. Bean smile. I don’t think he meant it humorously. I…don’t think.

“Shelia, I have to say, that when it comes to…cleaning up, that the family will need to be involved. I can’t just have it all go away.” I said softly.

“Oh, well, of course. But whatever is needed, I will handle.”

Outside of a general festival of old people and awkwardness, I will spare you the rest.

We got home around 8 PM, to a blaze of red and blue light that heralded the arrival of the cavalry.
Finally, I could report the vandalism, but three Sheriff’s deputies and a police van in full blaze seemed like a bit of an overreaction. I didn’t have a hostage situation… well not anymore.

I looked at Pat. “I’m so glad you are here.” I said.

He groaned. “Drama, much? I’m surprised Miranda and her primp squad aren’t here.”

I shushed him. “Don’t give her ideas.”

Miranda runs the local paper. I should say, what happened to the local paper after it collapsed and became a mostly on-line sort of arrangement. They still have prescriptions old timers can order, but the form is less newspaper, and more a stack of printouts. Now, she’s a sort of a one woman publishing house, with several understudies and lackeys who followed her around worshipfully. The only way they avoid cult status is that atheism is necessary to being a member. She gives the rest of us a bad name. I could qualify, but I bet I’m too squishy— especially now. I’d have to renounce my lying eyes. Because fiction is on the edge of legal in her moral universe— and things unseen between heaven and earth (oops, not even as a generic term for the sky!) are definate no-nos.

For all I knew there still was a sky fairy floating in my aunt’s apartment. To be fair, I had not yet had time to do the in depth philosophical hashing to shake everything out. I had to trust I was facing reality as it was happening in front of me, and give navel gazing it’s due later.

But how to explain that to the cops?

What worried me is that the vehicles were parked around the apartment. It only took them four hours to get here. One tall fellow with a fancy hat spoke loud mumblings into his megaphone, and a small squad of black clad officers with m16s were stalking the empty garage.

What if they had a shootout with the gnomes?

I realized I’d pay good money to watch that, from a safe distance. Provided my boys didn’t get hurt. Oh, now I’m starting to care for them. That’s…just great.

Some folks in the back came over to Pat’s truck, and Pat rolled downt he windows fractionally.

“What can we do for you?” Pat asked casually.

The elder officer looked at us, and reported, “We received a 911 call from this address…” he looked at his watch. His face fell. He said much more quietly, “Oh. Four hours ago.”

“Well, we could still use you. I thought I had a break-in at the apartment earlier, then I dropped my phone. It appears I will have to go into Adrian to get it fixed. Also I called you later when I discovered vandalism on Phil’s property over on Wingate Road. Tried to pass on the message it was a bum call from earlier, but… it may have been too late at that point.”

The sheriff frowned at me. “Yeah, I just received the order to stand down. I’m afraid I’ll have to bill you for all this.”

I bit my lip to keep from yelling at him. I couldn’t afford a swat team misfire. But I’d figure something out.

“It was not false reporting. I didn’t ask you to bring SWAT. I wasn’t even aware I’d completed the call. The phone exploded moments after I pressed “send.””

“When 911 receives a call that isn’t completed, we assume the worst, that you were attacked.”

What good do you think you did showing up 4 hours after the call was made? Didn’t even send an officer by to check things out?

I let it drop. I’d wind up behind bars if I kept running off at the mouth.

I once again reported the vandalism, this time with an appreciative audience. I went inside, still tired and hurting from yesterday. I wondered where Kendra went. She still hadn’t arrived.

I curled up on the couch, and Pat did my chores for me, including putting together some dinner. Sure, it was scrambled eggs, cheese, toast, and fried ham, but I wasn’t feeling that picky.

He made a big pot of coffee, too. He had materialized grounds from somewhere, and used six times as many as I did, and came up with a decent cuppa.

Despite the coffee, I wound up falling asleep very quickly, though my dreams were vivid and strange. I forgot them immediately as I woke up, but I still felt haunted, and like Id’ forgotten something important. Oh, and I woke up feeling like I was comign down with something.

Muzzily I was aware of voices in the kitchen. I wasn’t blind from light because some enlightened person had closed the curtains. The animals were making no more chattering than usual, because…someone else had fed them. I wrapped my robe closer and decided to get dressed… before I wandered in… to get breakfast.

I smelled sweet baked goods. Pancakes? Blinzes? Coffee cake? All three?

I ran through the shower, feeling somewhat better, then dressed so I was presentable. I maintained my slippers then shuffled out to meet the world, however inadaquate I felt.

Pat and Kendra were chatting at the table like old flames. Sorta. I blinked a few times. Ken always seemed to flirt with everyone she talked to, without really doing so. Pat was warm, but not overly familiar. I was disconcerted, feeling somewhat proprietary about Pat without having any claim but virtue.

I came out to see desert to be— French toast, scrambled tofu with nuts and bean sprouts, and some kind of pseudo-bacon made with thinly sliced slabs of something slathered with teriaki sauce and nutritional yeast.

At least the toast looked reasonably civilized. I had a few chunks of that slathered with current jelly, some French toast, and a micro portion of pseudo-bacon, just to prove I was not a bigot.

“You look like you’ve had a bad 24 hours.” Kendra greeted me.
“Tell me about it.” I said. “You don’t know the half of it yet.”

She snorted. “What’d you do, piss off the brownies?”

“Um, unless you mean pint sized girl-scouts, I have no idea what you mean.”

“Phil’s little helpers have gone on strike!” Kendra explained, without really explaining.

“That’s nice. Maybe they all got a free trip to Africa with her, so they could help load, take care of George, and shoot micro-skeet. At least her security team seems civil, after a rough start.” Figuring I could get away with that much.

“Seriously, what do you DO to people, Grace? I think you’d make more friends if you shot first and asked questions later!”

“Must be my scintillating personality.” I said caustically. “Please, don’t call me that. It’s what Dad called me.” I said tiredly.

We rehashed everything, and I re-coperated for a bit.

If they were going to do something, I stayed out of their way. I liked Pat, though, but Ken was loose. For her sex was a casual thing, and I thought it was something like trading underwear for a hobby.

You only do that with someone you really trust and plan on spending more than just a few pleasant days shacking up with.

But I’m a crank and nobody loves me.

ONce I was finally up to walking the property without tiring out, things went back to normal, and Pat back to his mom’s place. He was home for the summer, too. But he had to work at the golf course, though that was only part time. He was saving up for school in the fall.

I received my data dump from the little gnomes, a nicely printed scroll written by a Tolkein fanatic. Except English. It was complete with illustrations, about how the Queen of Two lands had disappeared, right around the time that Phil had decided to gallivant off to Africa. Interesting. I wondered if the TSA had seen her in Phil’s bags, and she was just tired of ruler-ship.
Sadly, that’d make a pretty boring story.

Then the green truck with the boarding house logo on it pulled into the driveway and honked it’s horn. We all went out side. There was Sarah, gunrack loaded, with her two other sons in the cab.
“We’re heading out to The Pit, folks! Be there or be square!”

I got into Pat’s truck, and Kendra squeezed in next to me. I was sitting right next to him. He drove looking very serious. I felt like I was en route to a reckoning.

She sighed. “Do we have to take guns?” she asked.

Pat grinned. “Yup. Because troublemakers already have guns. Gotta even the odds somehow. They don’t just follow the rules like normal folks.”

She looked away from the gun rack. I shrugged. I didn’t want to go without something. I felt good about having some security.

When we got to the lot, there was already a white van parked in the service drive— the maintance road that went round back and used to service the park. That wasn’t the cop van, or any van I’d seen. It had a script filled round logo I hadn’t seen before, and couldn’t read. The parking tags came from Monroe. Sarah pulled around it, and we got to the gate that led to the Pit property. That used to be the property where the Stephensons used to live. The estate rented it out, and the renters burned it down. There wasn’t much money left in the estate, and the insurance didn’t cover an under water property. The lot was sold before long.

Sarah’s two boys got out. Sarah gestured to them. “You go and walk the line. Make sure there’s no breach.” She said. She summoned Pat, Kendra and myself. “Go check out The Pit proper. I figger you’re smart enough not to fall in.”

“What about the van?” Kendra asked.

“I got that, and the CB, my baby mossberg, and an emergency station the cops listen to. You got a cell phone, at least Ken and Pat do. So we’re covered.”

So we got picked to go into the area around the burned down house. Where criminal types have been known to party down. Lovely.
“So gang types really like coming here to party?” I asked.

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