Row after row of trailers slid along, their reflection distorted against the sleek lines of the freshly-polished Mercedes SUV. The woman inside wore darkly-tinted shades and a gauzey silk scarf.
She swung the wheel of the powerful machine around with an expert hand, and slid it into a narrow strip of driveway next to a gleaming red Ferrari.
The car was at strange odds with the faded teal trailer house next to it, but some people have their priorities straight in their own mind, whether they make sense to others or not.
Though a woman of a different social class, Melinda Moast didn't pass any judgment as her footsteps creaked up the wooden steps to the front door. She reached out to press the doorbell, but her finger was snatched out of the air by a meaty paw.
"Don' wanna be touchin' that now, dearie."
Melinda looked down at the pudgy form of the old Bible Study (and Special Forces) veteran Ms McCready. She must have heard the deck creaking. In fact, it may even be the reason why she maintained a creaky deck.
"W-why not?" Melinda asked, surprised in spite of her dealings with the strange Irishwoman.
"Just heard some ol' friends o' mine are in town. Got 'er wired up to 110 volts in case they decide to try anythin'."
"Old friends?" Melinda asked, her gaze fixed on the small silver button, imagining how bad it would have hurt to touch it.
"Guerrillas, mostly. We helped put 'em in power, but they botched it and might blame us." She hesitated. Looking Melinda up and down she added, "Well, enough o' that. No sense standin' out here on the porch, listnin' to an old woman go on about the good ole days. Come on in. I got a kettle on the stove and a scone with yer name on it."
Melinda took up the invitation and was soon seated on an old couch with a crocheted orange afghan, still trying to wrap her mind around how some kind of jungle warfare translated into 'the good ole days'.
She tried to bring up the reason for her visit, but her hostess wouldn't hear of it until tea and scones were served in proper fashion.
"Baked these mesself." she announced proudly as she offered a plate of raisin scones. "T'aint as easy as field-strippin' an AK-47, but it's what old, retired people are s'posed to do."
Then she looked Melinda deep in the eye. "I am still retired, right?"
Melinda tried to wave the insinuation away and gave a smile that didn't come off nearly as positive as she was trying for. "Of course, of course."
Ms McCready raised an eyebrow.
In response, Melinda hastened to explain, "It's just that Michael is out of town and he needs help hunting down clues for this new kind of weapon somebody is building..."
The skeptical look remained.
"No, it's not what you think. He wants me to join him in the project. What we really need is somebody to check up on our new recruits while we're away. They're in the middle of a cultural tour of Europe and, well, I got this message this morning..."
Melinda lifted the phone she already held. A quick flick of her index finger started the recording, while her thumb held the [Vol +] until it reached a sufficient level.
"...should about do it." came Jack's voice in the background.
"Hello? Hello?" said Misty. "This is a message for Melinda Moast. We tried Michael's phone first, but couldn't get through."
The trail end of the sentence was warped and disappeared in a burst of static. It picked back up again a moment later.
"... to build his own private army, but we stopped him! No we're in the middle of..."
More static. Longer this time.
"... completely destroyed! We're in way over our heads here. Please send help."
An electrical sounding snap was heard and Jack shouted, but his cry of pain was cut off by the sound of a relay click and a dialtone.
"Well, go figure on that 'un..." Ms McCready said. She stood, and paced the floor, lost in thought.
As she passed a tacky full-length mirror she paused and looked at herself in it. She shook her head at what she saw.
"You sure I'm still retired if'n I do this?" she asked.
Melinda nodded. "Of course. All it is is a little outing. Fly out, see what they need, fly home. You can be back to baking before Wednesday."
"Good. I feel better about tha'." Ms McCready replied.
She reached up and pressed the corner of the mirror. A magnetic catch released and the whole thing swung aside to reveal a small arsenal.
She snatched up one of her favorite semiautomatic rifles, squinted into the chamber with one eye, and then, satisfied, let it snap shut.
Now it was Melinda's turn to be apprehensive.
NEXT CHAPTER ... COMING SOON!