That did it. I open sluggy eyes to slits. I wish I hadn’t, see. A wrinkly, black-haired skinny old woman wearing a purple mumu two sizes too big, a purple cape, and a purple turban, stands at the foot of my bed. Grandma Barlowe? Beads are everywhere. I hear them dropping to the floor every time I move my head. I smell something vile. Incense? Where the heaven am I? Must be having a nightmare. I blink my eyes several times. Nope, she’s still there. Only a little blurrier. I rasp out, “Water, I need water.” That doesn’t generate any action. I croak, “Help . . . I need . . . help!”
Grandma abruptly disappears. I hear chanting, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, Oh ye Gods of Light and Sun and Love . . . Thank you, thank you, I will forever be in your debt . . . but you remember I’m on the installment plan, right? Thank you, this is Hetty Barlowe signing off.”
“What are you doing here, Grandma?” Warm, soft hands suddenly grip mine.
“Now, now, Marnie . . . stay calm, dearie.”
“It’s Mamie, Grandma.” Maybe being dead might have been the better option.
“Marnie, Mamie, what’s the difference? I brought you back to life, sweetums.” She starts to grind my forehead with . . . sandpaper? I jerk my head away. “Ouch. What are you doing?”
She chants, “Out with the bad . . . in with the good . . . The portal where all things good and bad enter is through the forehead.” She beams. “I’m widening the opening for all things good.”
“It works both ways, Grandma.”
“Meh . . . the good will outweigh the bad. At least in your case, dearie. It’s a gamble I know . . . but what choice do I have?”
I struggle to sit up. Pain knocks me back down. “Ok, where’s the nurse? I’m thirsty.”
“She’s resting in the bathroom, dearie. She’ll be good to go soon.”
“WHAT?” My voice is back to normal. Despite the pain, I glare at the old woman. “WHY?”
“I had to do the ritual, Marnie. To bring you back. And it worked!” My Grandma grins like a hyena about to eat a good meal.
“Oh, for the love of heaven . . . Where’s Mother Barlowe?”
“I sent her off on a mission. To buy you delicates, sweetums. You aren’t wearing any.”
I feel my backside. She’s right. But that isn’t important now. “Grandma, you are in major trouble with the law, see. Where’s Chill? I need to speak to him.” A few seconds go by. The increasing light in Grandma’s eyes blinds me. I look at the ceiling. “Ok, where is he?”
A shrug. From Grandma that means trouble with a capital T, see. Now here comes the kind of lie that mixes in with the truth, like a dye job gone real bad.
“I don’t know, sweetums. Haven’t seen him lately.”
“We gotta get out of here.” I test the floor with my feet, and groan. Broken rib or two feels like.
“Good idea, sweetums. I figured you’d want to escape, see. But we have to be quick. Nurse Busybody wake up soon.” Short pause. Means confession time. “And your mother’s probably still stuck in the parking lot. She might get mad and come yell at me.”
I stare hard at Grandma. “I don’t want to know what you did.” That’s not true, see. And Grandma knows it. She giggles.
“Hatpin. I always carry a hatpin, dearie.”
How can an old lady look so happy? Easy. Daughter-in-law and mother-in-law fight like two scarecrows over a crop circle, see. “Where are my clothes?”
“Here.” Grandma reaches under the bed. “Don’t ask me why.”
I hold my breath as I slowly get dressed. Grandma tries to help. She makes it worse, see. She even helps me fall back onto the bed. I want to scream in pain. But I don’t, see. I’m tougher than a nutcracker dancing in an S & M parlor. “Where’s my Kevlar vest?”
“Oh that. I put it on, dearie. Didn’t want that thing lying around. Might give the wrong impression.” She pulls off the mumu in short order. And you don’t want to know what’s underneath, see. I turn my head away. She takes the vest off and hands it over. “Heavy. Flattens my bosoms like a bad tire. But I don’t mind the sacrifice, dearie. At my age, they hang like rotting eggplants.” Sometimes, Grandma Barlowe speaks the absolute truth.
I hear moaning noises in the bathroom. “Ok, Grandma, you go distract the nurses out in the hallway. I’ll slip out in the confusion.”
Her eyes light up. “Perfect plan, sweetums. I know exactly what to do.” And she was gone, see.
This could sour fast. Grandma never knows what to do. But then I hear wailing. Like a banshee, see. I understand there may be a whole new side to Grandma Barlowe. Only problem? Subverting the purposes of Section 5150 for personal gain is against the laws of karma. But it’s smart thinking. Might get her off on the assault charge. I’m impressed. She’s good at crazy.
I slip unnoticed into the elevator. But I’m breathless. The Vest saved my life, but it cost me plenty in pain, see. I reach the car. As I drive out of the parking lot, there’s an older woman sitting on a parking bumper. She’s reading one of those electronic devices. Looks a bit like Mother Barlowe. I catch a glimpse of a tow truck. At least she’s getting help.
I have other fish to fry, see; like finding a certain female “clent” who hired me to do that cheating job in the first place; like finding Billy The Chimp, who is approximately three feet tall, hatless and bootless, and wearing blue jeans with a custom made Triple K Double drop holster belted rig drawn through the loops, a pearl-studded blue-plaid shirt, and a red-kerchief around his neck. Apparently, Billy is also carrying one, .22 caliber 1960 Colt Frontier Scout with great Cowboy action. I got that much before he shot me.
But here’s the deal, see. Billy needs an apartment at the zoo like I need a knocker job. Sable won’t let him go without a fight. Yeah, he’s one of Sable’s boys. And one of the most vicious chimps I’ve ever encountered. But did he shoot Mick the Creep and his girlfriend? That’s the ten thousand dollar question, see. I’m heading down Emerald Boulevard to get me some answers. I take out my cell phone and call Chill Tornado. I wait for him to pickup, then look in the rear-view mirror. Headlights are speeding toward me like a football headed for the ol’ breadbasket. Only I’m not in the mood to play catch, see. I toss the phone down. Time to take evasive action. When the headlights reflect off my rear bumper, I step on the brakes, and swerve a 180. The classic car following me almost rides up my tookus. Shots are fired. Two. Both missed by a football field. From, guess who? Yeah, that’s who. The other car squeals like a pig porking in a pumpkin patch before it vamooses. I park my car to the side of the road. The pain in my chest is so bad, I take out my cell and text Sable: get glasseds u dum twiy!
An almost instant reply. Sable’s good about that, see: u wisg. eet mi snoy. What? I decode the message by checking the alpha pad on my phone. Then I laugh so hard the pain jumps to a twenty. I keel over and think about my bucket list. First up, send Sable a $12 pair of glasses from Value mart!