Hope you enjoy it.
When I was growing up, I innocently believed that grandmothers were mostly round-faced, cheery women who supplied you with cookies and a bit of money when your parents weren’t looking. Sadly, despite having reached manhood with most of my delusions shattered by reality, I seemed to have clung to that naïve myth of grandmothers and cookies.
Which was probably why I was now running down the length of an overly landscaped backyard with shotgun blasts going off behind me.
It was supposed to be an easy job. When Mr. Brinkerhoff, a pleasant-looking elderly man, came into my office to ask if I would take a case, I agreed to it, thinking it would be a piece of cake. Hell, I even cut my rates down because I thought it would be a simple matter of trailing his grandmotherly, church-going wife as she ran around town one evening. He suspected that she was cheating on him, but in his heart of hearts, he didn’t believe it. Not his Adele.
Love makes a man do stupid things. I certainly wasn’t doing this for love. And the money definitely wasn’t enough to risk my life for. Mr. Brinkerhoff and I were going to have a serious talk when I got back to the office. Provided, of course, I even made it back to the office.
Branches tore at my sleeve as I pounded past a topiary. A leafy-green elephant reached up to the stars with its elegant trunk. Or at least it did before the blast of shot tore its head right off. Debris flew, and the scent of evergreen overpowered me when the tree’s resin struck my face. My cheek stung where the bush’s remains struck me, and I almost slipped before I made it to the relative safety of a large Grecian-style vase. The grass was wet from the rain, a passing deluge that had left the ground too soft to run on, and I’d gained far less distance than I wanted.
Despite what they say, it does rain in Southern California, usually when I’m trying to run away from someone shooting at me.
An ache developed in my chest, more from the twinges of panic than overexertion. Taking what cover I could from the maze of evergreens and hedges scattered about the tiered garden, I plotted my way through seemingly random brick paths, hoping I could find where I’d left my Range Rover. The scenery turned familiar as I scanned my surroundings. An overgrown morning glory nearly choked the rim of a fountain. I’d spotted that first when I’d come through the back gate to spy on Mrs. Brinkerhoff’s evening pleasures. The back gate would be nearby, and unlike when I’d arrived, I wouldn’t have to pick the lock to get in.
The high, wooden-slat fence separated me from my car. Standing nearly eight feet tall, the fence was a residential requirement to hide pools away from roaming packs of hot children looking for a watering hole to play in during the summer. I’d parked in one of the many back alleys that cut through Los Angeles’s streets. Here in the more upper-class neighborhoods, they served as a way to hide servants’ and gardeners’ cars from the street. Perfect place to park my old Rover.
Lights were starting to come on in the enormous houses around the one I’d found Mrs. Brinkerhoff in. In a few minutes, I would be enjoying the company of LA’s finest unless I got my ass in gear. Hearing the distinct click of a shotgun being reloaded gave me my incentive to scale the fence. Damn the gate, I needed to get out of there as quickly as possible before the cops were standing over my cooling body, making off-color jokes about how I got my kicks.
The wood dug splinters into my hands as I grabbed the top of the fence. My sneakers found a little purchase on the rough surface, and I pulled myself up, hooking a foot over the top. The fence edge slid against the inside of my thigh, and a shock hit me when my sac met the unforgiving wooden slats. I wanted to take a moment to breathe and get myself under some sort of control, but Mrs. Brinkerhoff had other ideas.
From my higher vantage point on the fence, it was easy to spot her white, coiffed helmet, a frosty cap of fine hair artfully arranged around her rosy cheeks and pert bow mouth. She’d been cute when she was younger. The kind of girl that men flirted with casually and dreamed about taking home to Mother. Her body was rounded into a pleasant, huggable shape that children would find a comfortable lap to sit on. It just wasn’t a body made for the leather bra and panties set, glinting with diamond studs, she wore as she hunted me across the mansion’s landscaped back lawn.
I was going to have to splash a bucket of bleach into my eyes to get rid of the sight of Mrs. Brinkerhoff and her lover frolicking around a red-velvet-curtained bed. I didn’t find women sexually attractive, so unlike most men, two women getting it on means that there’s twice as much stuff going on that I’m not interested in, but there was just something wrong about seeing mounds of infirm, pillowy flesh undulating over crimson sheets, or the sight of Mrs. Brinkerhoff’s mouth on another woman’s privates. The leather getups were an added bonus, and after taking pictures of what happened on that bed, I wasn’t going to switch to women anytime soon.
The woman moved carefully around the topiary corpse, silent on her bare feet. If I hadn’t been the one she was stalking, I’d have to give it to the old lady. She was definitely not someone to mess with. The shotgun barrel was kept pointed down, her hands gripped expertly on the stock and at the ready to pull it up if she spotted me. Any other time, I’d have applauded her hunting skills, but right now, I just wanted out of there before she filled me full of holes.
“Great,” I mumbled, watching Mrs. Brinkerhoff’s head bob up and down among the sculpted trees. “She’s on fricking safari and I’m the goddamned antelope.”
The ground seemed to be a lot farther away on the other side, built on a gentle slope that would take excess runoff and channel it toward grates set in the middle of the tight alley. Calculating the distance down, I wondered if I would break my leg when I dropped on the mold-slick cement below.
Mrs. Brinkerhoff’s head jerked up when I slid to get a better angle to fall from, and I couldn’t stop a small moan escaping between my clenched teeth as the fence dug deeper into the crux of my thighs. Her hair gleamed, a white poof of silvery cotton that made my spine tingle when I saw it. In the dim light from the floods along the side of the house, I saw her eyes squint and the pinprick of a murderous gleam form when she spotted me straddling the fence. Shadows winked away when the shotgun turned to fix on me, the watery orange of the streetlights catching on its dull metal surface.
I did what any sane man would do when a pixie-faced grandmother lined him up in her sights.
Hitting cement is never pleasant, especially after an eight-foot drop. The top of the fence exploded, going the way of Mr. Elephant’s head. It was raining wood on my head, and off in the distance, amid the echo of the shotgun blast reverberating in my ears, I heard sirens approaching. Definitely time to get into my car and speed away.
Patting at my chest, I heaved a sigh of relief. I still had the slim camera in my jacket pocket, captured evidence of Mrs. Brinkerhoff’s indiscretions and probably the source of my therapy bills for years to come. No sense nearly getting my head blown off if I wasn’t going to get paid for it. My keys were there too, even better luck since breaking into my own car wasn’t on my things-to-do-tonight list.
The Rover started up with a roar, matching the bark of Mrs. Brinkerhoff’s weapon. I gunned the engine and barreled down the alley just in time to see her pale, plump shape poke out of a gate near the end of the fence. She brought the shotgun up, nestling the barrel against her soft shoulder, and aimed. I caught sight of her in my rearview mirror, standing bare to the cold wind coming down the alley.
Take away the leather bikini get-up and shotgun, replace it with a flowered housecoat and some potholders, and I’d have that warm, sweet grandmother I’d imagined she was. Or at least that was what I was thinking when the shotgun went off again, shattering the Rover’s back window. Pebbled glass flew forward, hitting my shoulders and the back of my head.
“Shit.” The blast tore at my hearing, leaving me with a throbbing headache and a ringing that resembled the church bells from my old Catholic school. The Rover hit the street hard, its back tire jumping off the curb. Squealing to the right side of the street, I pressed the pedal down and peeled away, leaving Mrs. Brinkerhoff and her equally doughy lover behind me.