Saturday, October 22, 2011
Sondra spun around. “That was a gunshot!” she said. “Not far away, either.” She patted her hip. “Damn. It’s in the unit. Cody! Can you watch the oatmeal for a minute?” She, Cody, and Sara were in the parking lot, cooking breakfast for the community on the permanent grill they’d built from bricks and other construction materials. Patches of last night’s frost still lingered in shady spots, and all three stayed close to the warmth of the coals.
“Yeah, I guess.” Cody checked the pancakes, flipping several, but Sondra was already bounding up the steps. “Someone needs to get Cleve too.”
“I’ll get him,” said Sara. “Tim too. Can you cover my station too, Cody?”
“Aw, hell… I guess. If you move your griddle over here where I can keep an eye on it!”
Cody checked Sara’s griddle, flipped two pancakes, then slipped three of his onto a platter. “Damn,” he said to himself, “I guess I need to learn how to shoot, just so I don’t get stuck watchin’ the freakin’ grill whenever something happens.” He grinned. “At least I don’t have any bacon or eggs to watch out for!” He stepped over and stirred the big oatmeal pot, then scooted the pot away from the coals a little. “Slow you down a little, I won’t have to check on you so often.”
Sondra slapped down the stairs, holster slung over her shoulder, one hand on the pistol to keep it from bouncing around. “Cleve out yet?”
“Up here,” said Cleve, stepping into the open stairwell and buckling his own gunbelt. “What’s goin’ on?”
“I heard a gunshot, off that way,” said Sondra, pointing into the empty subdivision. Cody gave the pancakes a glance, flipped a few and removed two more, then turned to watch. Sara returned, took her griddle back, and checked Cody’s.
“This is how we roll,” said Cleve. “You stay back, thirty feet or better, and walk alongside the houses where you got cover. I’ll go up the street. If we got a hostile, he’ll be watching me. You get in a position to take him if you have to.”
“What’s going on?” Tim jogged out to meet them, carrying his holster.
“Sondra heard a gunshot, thinks it’s inside the fence. I guess we can use the extra backup. I’m putting Sondra on the right side of the street. You take the left.”
“Got it.” Tim buckled the holster. “Let’s go.”
“Be careful, Tim!” Sara called after him, then a little quieter, “Love you.”
Cleve waved them to a halt for a moment, kicking off his shoes. “Too much noise on the pavement.” He started off again, nearly silent in his stocking feet. Quiet, but cold, he said to himself, picking up the pace a little. They moved up the street; dormant gardens and untended houses watched them jog by. Sondra pointed the way at each intersection, hesitating a little more the deeper they went in.
Toward the back of the subdivision, Tim waved them down and motioned the others to join him at the corner of a house. “Hear that?” he whispered. The morning air carried something that sounded like humming or low singing to them.
“Yeah. Okay, show time. Lucado, you go down to the next house and come in from the far side. Petro, you go around the other side of this one. Both of you stay under cover unless there’s more shooting, or until I call you out, got it?” They nodded, and Cleve slipped his shoes back on. “Okay, do it. You got thirty seconds to get in position: now!”
Cleve slipped up the side of the house, counting seconds. He caught a glimpse of motion, and peered out. Someone was there all right, humming to himself in an overgrown backyard, kneeling on the ground. A old military-looking rifle was slung over his shoulder.
“Laurel police!” Cleve yelled, gun out. “On your feet, slow! Keep your hands where I can see ’em and turn around!”
The man jumped. “Cleve!” he yelled, standing and turning. “It’s me!” Johnny waggled his hands on either side of his head.
“Shit, Johnny!” Cleve said, holstering his pistol. “What the hell you doin’ out here, shootin’ and gettin’ everyone riled up?” He called out. “Stand down, y’all! It’s Johnny!”
“Getting us some meat!” Johnny grinned as Tim and Sondra stepped out from behind the houses, pointing at a buck lying in the grass. “A six-pointer. I was about to hang it up and start field-dressing it when you scared the living crap outta me. Laurel police? We got a force now?”
“Sure,” Cleve said. “All of us. Sounds more official, anyway. I figure if we do run into someone, it’ll stop ’em for a second. Sometimes, an extra second is all you need.”
“Yeah. Well, since you’re here, you guys wanna help me get this buck skinned and gutted? There’s enough meat here for two meals for everyone!”
“Aha,” said Sondra. “Tell you what. I’ll leave you guys to that, and let everyone know everything’s okay. Besides, Cody’s probably gonna burn the oatmeal if I don’t get back there.” She turned and jogged away.
Johnny grinned at Sondra’s hasty retreat. “You guys ever skin a buck before?” Tim and Cleve shook their heads.
“How’d that thing get in here, anyway?” Tim asked.
“I came out just before sunup. I was sittin’ up on the roof there —” Johnny pointed at a ladder at the back of the house — “and I watched this ol’ boy take a good long look at the grass over here. He stepped up on that high spot across from here, then he cleared the fence in one hop. I shot him as soon as he landed. Okay, you guys ready to do this?”
Sondra gave Cody a gentle slap on the butt as she jogged back to the grill, puffing a little from the jog. “It was Johnny,” she said. “He shot a deer in the back of the subdivision. Cleve and Tim are gonna help him gut it, I guess.”
“Great!” Cody grinned. “Fresh meat! I hope there’s enough to go around.”
“Enough to go around twice, from what Johnny said. It was pretty big.”
“It’ll be nice to have some meat that doesn’t come out of a can. Hey, maybe you oughtta teach me how to shoot, and we can all do some hunting.”
“Sure. But where?”
“How about the back yard at my old place?”