This was written for a contest with a requirement
that it had to start with the sentence: "Stop or I'll

by Xander Riley

“Stop or I’ll shoot!  I mean it!”

I had Timmy in my sights, but before I could fire, he ducked behind an old woman.  It wasn’t fair to use outsiders as a human shield.  His gun poked around
her side and he shot me, splattering paint all over my t-shirt.

“I win!  You really suck at this game, Davey!”

“So what?  It’s only a stupid game, anyway.  It’s not like we’re shooting real guns.”  Timmy and I have been best friends for as long as I can remember, but
he’s been getting on my nerves recently.  Everything is just a game to him.  He doesn’t realize that there’s more to life than just “Cops and Robbers.”

Mom says that I’m ‘outgrowing’ him.  I think he’s ‘undergrowing’ me.  Jeez, we’re almost fifteen now – and he doesn’t even like girls yet.  Sometimes it feels
like I’m two different people.  One side of me is still a kid who likes to play shoot-em-up while the other is becoming a man (or at least trying to become a

Timmy was jumping up and down, celebrating his victory.  The old woman simply smiled at the two of us before carrying another box inside.  The movers
were hauling all of the heavy furniture, but I heard her insist that she carry her ‘breakables’ personally – and she seemed to have a lot of them.  Just what
we need in this backwards town – another old lady with a collection of porcelain.  Why couldn’t it be a married couple with a hot daughter?

It was time for dinner, so I told Timmy goodbye (and good riddance!) as I ran inside.  Mom was still setting the table and Dad was watching television.  
Running up the stairs, I yelled down to Mom that the new neighbor was moving in.  I never understood why it was such a big deal to her, but Mom always
baked a pie for everyone that moved onto our street.  She says that she’s the ‘unofficial welcome wagon’.  Personally, I think she’s just nosey.

I washed my hands and put on a clean shirt for dinner.  Mom and Dad were real sticklers for that.  I was just pulling the shirt over my head when I heard Mom
call up to me.  “Davey, bring my Agatha Christie novels downstairs with you.  I want to give them to our new neighbor.”

I grabbed the books off the shelf in her room and headed down the stairs, two at a time.  “Mom, why would an old lady be interested in these mysteries?”

Open mouth, insert foot!  Standing at the foot of the stairs was our new neighbor.  She was smiling at me, but the smile didn’t reach her eyes.  It was like
being grinned at by a lion, or a tiger that was ready to devour me.  Suddenly, her eyes lit up to match her smile.  A genuine ‘grandmotherly’ smile.  Had I just
imagined the first look?

“David Carter Wainwright!  You apologize this instant!  You were raised better than that, young man!”

“Sorry, Mom.  And I’m sorry I called you an old lady, ma’am.”

“Think nothing of it.  I’ve been called much worse in my days, and I’m sure that I’ll be called even worse before I’m called to Heaven.”

I handed the novels to my mother and darted into the dining room, anxious to escape that embarrassing situation.  Dad was just sitting down.  He had that
stupid smile on his face that meant he had heard the whole thing.  You know, the look that says ‘You really stepped in it that time, son.’

Whatever!  I ignored my father and sat down, staring at my plate.  Ignoring my Dad gets easier every time I try.  He used to be cool.  Now he’s just another
old-timer that thinks he knows everything.  I wonder how they’d react if they knew I considered both of
them old, too!

Mom came through the dining room on her way to the kitchen, shooting me a look that was meant to make me feel guilty.  It worked.  Not another word was
said while she put the food on the table and we all started eating.  I knew it was too good to last.

“Davey, Mrs. Kingman is not an ‘old woman’, as you so eloquently put it.  Yes, she is retired.  And, yes, she is older than your father and I.  However, it is
quite impolite to refer to
anyone as an ‘old’ person!  Do I make myself perfectly clear?”

“Yes, ma’am.  May I go to my room now?”

“Go ahead, but don’t forget to take out the trash first!”

I was so eager to get away from my parents that I didn’t mind doing my chores for once.  I grabbed the trash bag and ran out the back door.  As I came
around the side of the house to the trashcans, I finally slowed down.

Mom and Dad always talk to me like I’m still a little kid.  I’m not stupid – I know that it’s not polite to call someone ‘old’.  I only said it because I was in
.  What was the old biddy doing in my house, anyway?  The new neighbor is supposed to stay in their own home, while the rest of the neighborhood

The damned trash can was full.  Now I had to go all the way back around the damn house to get the second damn can.  I may not be allowed to say ‘damn’,
but I sure could think it if I wanted to!  No way that Mom or Dad could yell at me for that!

I left the trash bag by the damn curb and headed back for the other can, muttering ‘Damn’ over and over (under my breath, of course).  Just as I reached
the back corner of the house, a flash of light from next door caught my attention.  It was like the flash bulb on a camera, only much brighter.  
Great!  It wasn’t
bad enough that was she an old lady.  Was she a pervert, too?  Taking pictures of the kid next door?

There was no one in the window, so I tiptoed over to her house and peeked inside.  I was looking into one of the guest bedrooms.  There were boxes
stacked everywhere, but no furniture yet.  Just row after row of boxes – all of them marked ‘fragile’, ‘breakable’, or ‘personal’.  I guess she didn’t expect to
have much company since she didn’t have a bed for them to sleep in.

Suddenly, the entire side of the house lit up all at once.  Spotlights glared from each corner of the house.  It looked like the backyard was also as bright as
daytime.  I ran back to grab the trash can and hauled it to the front yard, feeling guilty even though nobody had seen me peeking in her window.

Once the trash was set out by the curb, I took my time wandering back around the house.  The spotlights had been turned off and the crickets had started
chirping again.  Mrs. Kingman’s front door opened and a man stepped out onto the porch.  I ducked behind a bush to listen.

“Well, that takes care of your system, Mrs. Kingman.  Everything’s up and running smoothly.  I don’t see why you need such an elaborate security system in
a neighborhood like this, though.”

“Thank you so much for all your help, young man.  I know it will probably sound like I’m a crazy old woman, but I feel safer with a security system.  I used to
work at a correctional facility as a nurse.  Most of the inmates were nice young men, but there were a few that truly scared me.  I’m always afraid that they
may come after me once they’re released.”

“That explains a lot, ma’am.  You won’t have to worry now that this system is protecting you.  Hopefully, you’ll find that it was just a waste of money – that you’
ll never need it.”

The man drove away, leaving Mrs. Kingman standing alone on the porch.  She just stood there, looking up and down the street like she didn’t have a care in
the world.  After what seemed like hours (but was probably only minutes), she walked back inside – but not before glancing directly at the bush I was hiding

I may be reading too much into it, but I suddenly had the feeling that her entire conversation had been for my benefit.  It was not humanly possible for her to
see me in the dark, but I felt as if she had stared straight into my eyes.  There was something different about this old woman.  I decided that I would uncover
the truth about her – no matter what happened.

“Davey!  Where are you, Davey?  Come back inside – it’s getting late!  And you have school in the morning.”

I suppose my spying would have to wait until tomorrow.  After school.


I nearly forgot about old Mrs. Werewolf/Creepy/Whatever when I met Penny, a new student from Chicago.  I first saw her at the parent’s drop-off spot,
getting out of an old station wagon.  She was wearing a sleeveless pink shirt and red pants.  The wind caught her long blond hair, blowing it all around.  As
she raised her arm to brush it away from her face, I had a perfect view of her breasts from the side.  Well, actually it was her bra, but that was close enough
for me!  It was amazing, a view I would definitely remember tonight when I went to sleep.  I’m sure that my mouth was hanging open when I walked right into
Principal Spindle.  Not just walked into, I almost walked
through him.

“Davey Wainwright!  This is a school, not a peepshow!  Pay more attention to where you’re going and less attention to the young lady.”

Absolutely perfect!  How could this possibly be any more humiliating?  He saw me staring at her.  I closed my eyes and prayed that she hadn’t heard him.  
Please, please, please let her be">I took a deep breath and opened one eye.  Then the other.  She was not standing there.  I finally exhaled.  For once,
something had worked out in my favor.  Now, if my luck would just hold up for the rest of the day.  I turned toward the building to head for class.  She was
standing right there, waiting for me to notice her.  Damn!  My luck didn’t even last for a minute!

“Hi, I’m Penny.  My family just moved here from Chicago.  What’s your name?”

“Davey.  I mean, David.  David Wainwright.”

“Well, David Wainwright, you can walk me to class gone when I open my eyes.

Okay, so maybe my luck was still holding out.

“That is, if you’re finished looking inside my blouse.”

Ka-boom!  Bye-bye luck.


I ran up to my room as soon as I got home from school.  Timmy wanted to play some ninja computer game, but I had other things on my mind.  Penny, to be
exact.  We ended up spending most of the day together.  She was in every one of my classes except Phys Ed and History.  We even had the same lunch

Penny wasn’t embarrassed at all by me staring at her.  She seemed to like it, actually.  After our last class, I walked her out to the parent’s pickup area.  She
was meeting her father and I had to walk home in the other direction.  When her dad’s car pulled up to the curb, I said goodbye and turned to walk home.  
She grabbed my arm, stopping me in my tracks.  Her lips brushed my cheek.  Then she asked me out on a date.  
She asked ME!  

My first date!  Okay, it was only going to the mall with her and her mother, but it was a start.  We’d be alone while her mom shopped - maybe I’d treat her to
a burger in the food court.  I had just enough saved for two meals.  Anything past that, I would need some more cash.  It was time to ask Mom for an
increase in my allowance.

Nothing is ever as easy as it should be.  Instead of an increase in my allowance, I got a lecture about responsibility and finances.  She even suggested that I
work for the money!  Hasn’t she ever heard of child labor laws?  Wait a minute – what happened to ‘becoming a man’?  Shit!  Why is it that you can never
be a kid when you want to?

Reluctantly, I agreed to earn my own money by mowing lawns in the neighborhood.  Mom even suggested that I start with Mrs. Kingman next door.  
Apparently, they had already talked about it without even asking me.  I was expected to start this weekend.  
What good is being an adult if you have to
spend all your time working?

At least my parents didn’t argue about me going on a date.  It probably had something to do with the phone call Mom got earlier this afternoon.  Sure
enough, Penny told me later that her mother had called my mother to make sure it was all right.  My parents didn’t really consider it a date since her mom
was going with us.  
So much for manhood!

Our date turned out great.  Her mother left us alone most of the time (although we caught her a few times watching us from around corners).  Penny ignored
her, so I did the same.  We laughed, we held hands, and we even stole a quick kiss.  The kiss would have been longer if the security guard had minded his
own business.

When I went to bed that night, I was still flying high from that kiss.


I didn’t see Timmy at all that week.  He did call – a lot.  I was never home, though.  Penny and I spent all our free time together, either at her house or at
mine.  I was so glad that she liked Star Wars as much as I did!  We had a lot in common.

Our first separation was going to be over the weekend.  Her parents were taking her to visit her Great-Aunt Angela in Langton and they would be gone the
whole weekend.  I was crushed, but it would give me time to earn some dough with my ‘mowing business.’

Saturday morning came too soon for me.  I like to sleep in since Dad has to work and Mom is always at one of her meetings.  PTA, book club, knitting circle,
bingo, and cooking classes take up most of her time.  I swear she finds things to do just so she won’t have to sit down.  Anyway, with an empty house, I like
to stay in bed as long as I can.  But today was different.  Today was my first day of work.

Mrs. Kingman was already up and working in her garden at the front of the house.  She didn’t even look up when I walked up behind her; she gestured
toward the garage and said, “The mower’s in there.  So’s the rake, and the trash bags are on the shelf to the right.  Extra gasoline is in the can next to the
freezer.  Lemonade is on the front porch.”

After her speech, I ceased to exist to her.  I shrugged my shoulders, stuck out my tongue at the back of her head, and headed for the garage.

“Don’t think I didn’t see that, young man!  You should know by now that all mothers have eyes in the back of their heads.”

“Sorry, ma’am.  It won’t happen again, I promise.”

She’s one creepy old hag!  Did she have mirrors on her sunglasses?  I raised my hand to flip her a bird (from safely inside the garage), but decided to play
it safe.  God only knows what she would do if she saw

As crazy as the old bag may be, she had good taste.  The lawn mower was brand new – a very expensive machine.  
Too bad it’s not a riding mower.  That
would make things a lot easier today.
 In fact, all of her lawn equipment was new.  So was the gasoline can.  The freezer was one of those deep freeze units
like Mom always wanted.  It was also new.  And empty.  I guess Mrs. Creepy hadn’t been to the store yet.

I was almost finished with the front yard when Mr. Taldonz pulled into his driveway across the street.  He waved at me as he went inside.  Adults are strange;
Mr. Taldonz never used to acknowledge me at all.  Now that I was working, I was suddenly worth noticing.  Maybe it was because he knew that his yard was
next on my list.  Mrs. Taldonz hired me as soon as my mother told her book club that I was available.  
Thanks a lot, Mom.  I was lost in my thoughts when I
felt a hand on my shoulder.  After jumping a foot in the air, I shut off the mower so I could hear Mrs. Creepy.

“Davey, I have to go upstairs to lie down for a while.  All this work in my garden has simply tuckered me out.  When you’re finished, ring the bell and I’ll bring
you your money.”

“Yes, ma’am.  It’ll be about another half hour.”

Funny how the sun suddenly seemed brighter once she went inside.


Nearly an hour later, I headed for her front door.  It had taken longer than I expected – cleaning the blades, hauling out the bags of grass, and locking up
the garage.  I was completely exhausted.  To make matters worse, I still had the Taldonz and Carmine yards to finish before sunset.  
Was Penny really worth
all this effort?  The correct answer is: Of course.

Old Mrs. Kingman didn’t answer the doorbell when I rang.  I pushed the button again, longer this time.  She probably fell asleep.  This time, the door opened,
but I only heard her voice as she hurried back up the stairs.

“Come on in, Davey.  Your money is on the kitchen table.  I’m sorry, but I’m…  I’m having a…  ‘feminine problem’ at the moment.  You can let yourself out.  
Thank you for all your hard work.”

Ewwww!  Why did she have to tell me that?  I decided to grab my money and get out of her house as fast as my legs could carry me.  It’s bad enough to
hear about ‘feminine problems’ when it’s a good-looking girl, but when it’s an old wrinkled lady…

There was an envelope on the table with more cash than she had promised me.  She overpaid me by thirty bucks!  I was thrilled at first.  Then I noticed the
note on the back of the envelope.


So, now I was her glorified slave?  I looked at the list she left me – it was only a few small items that would only cost about ten dollars, so I could keep the
extra twenty.  
Not too bad of a deal!  Okay, if she wanted an assistant, I would give her an assistant.

One of the items on her list was milk, but she didn’t tell me what kind of milk.  I know that Mom only drinks that 2% watered-down stuff and my grandparents
buy goat milk.  I didn’t want to get her the wrong kind, so I checked her refrigerator to see what kind she drank.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t a carton in the
fridge.  There wasn’t much of anything in there – just a lot of cola and a couple six-packs of beer.  
Beer!  Maybe she wasn’t such an old fogey after all.

Well, it was possible that she had just finished off the last of her milk, so I checked her trashcan for an empty carton.  Success!  It was regular milk, just like I
drink.  As I placed the carton back in the trashcan, I noticed all the shredded paper beneath it.  Mrs. Kingman must be really cautious about her mail!  My
parents shred anything that has their name and address on it, but it looked like Mrs. K. shredded a lot more than that.

That feeling came back again.  The feeling that there was something ‘not right’ about the old lady.  Beer, shredded papers, security systems – not to
mention all the strange looks she gave me.  And, come to think of it, Grandma Wainwright once told me that she was too old to have those ‘feminine
problems’ anymore.  Mrs. Kingman was older than Grandma, so she shouldn’t have those issues, either.  Right?  But why would she lie to me?  What was
really doing upstairs?

I didn’t have the guts to go upstairs to spy on her.  
Besides, what if she really was doing something ‘private’?  Yet, now that my suspicions were adding up, I
could use this time to find out more about her.  I started looking around her home.

There were lots of pictures everywhere – on the mantle, the fridge, every table, and on every wall.  All of them were photos of younger people, her children
and grandchildren, I assumed.  She wasn’t in any of the photographs.  My mother’s novels were on her bookshelf.  The other books were all old – a lot of
what my Mom calls ‘classics’.  

The living room was extremely neat and tidy.  It was exactly what you would expect for an old woman living alone.  Old pictures, books, a knitting bag, an
afghan over the back of the sofa, and a rocking chair in the corner.  The only thing missing was a collection of porcelain figurines and a few cats roaming

Porcelain!  There were no ‘breakables’ anywhere in sight.  So, what was in all those boxes she insisted that she carry by herself?  I saw them stacked in the
guest bedroom when I peeked in her window.  Could it be that she hadn’t unpacked them yet?  Or was it something more sinister?  My curiosity was running

After listening for any sign that she was coming back downstairs, I slipped down the hallway to the back bedrooms and went to the door of the room where I
saw the boxes stored.  It was locked!  Nothing could have made me more suspicious.

Her house was built just like our house.  I knew that we had keys to our downstairs rooms, but we never used them.  They were kept on a ring in a kitchen
drawer.  Maybe Mrs. Secrecy kept hers there, too.  I quietly searched the drawers in her kitchen, but didn’t find any keychain.  What I
did find was a gun.

Now, I had to get into that room no matter what!  It was one thing to have a crazy old lady next door, but I couldn’t accept a neighbor with a gun.  Especially
when it was kept in such an easy place to reach.  I didn’t care if she needed it to protect herself from those inmates she used to nurse.  It only made me
madder that she could move next door to my family and put us all in danger.

I continued my search for the keys.  My next stop was the living room, but there was no place that would be a good hiding spot.  I returned to the hallway to
stare at the door.  There had to be some logical place to hide the keys.  Then my eyes settled on the hall closet.  When we moved into our house, the
realtor left the keys on the edge of the top shelf.  Could it be that easy?  Could Mrs. Kingman have left the keys hidden in the same place?

She did - almost.  The shelf was empty, but there was a hook inside the door with a coat hanging on it.  On the hook and under the coat was a keychain.  I
very carefully tried the keys in the lock, one at a time.  The third key worked.  I eased open the door and peeked inside, expecting to see a dead body or
someone tied up in a chair.  What I saw was a room full of computer equipment that would make Bill Gates’ mouth water.  My opinion of old Mrs. Kingman
changed once again.

“Davey!  Are you still down there?  I never heard the front door shut.”

Oh, shit!  Caught with my pants down (so to speak).  I eased the door closed, locked it, and ran back to the kitchen before yelling back to her, “Yes ma’am, I’
m still here.  I hope you don’t mind, but I’m really thirsty and just wanted another glass of lemonade.”

Thank God that I could think fast on my feet!  I poured a glass from the pitcher to cover my lie.  My butt had just hit the chair when she walked into the
kitchen.  She took one look around the room and then settled her gaze on me.  I felt like I was being catalogued, but I guess I passed her examination.  Her
face relaxed.  
Actually, her whole body seemed to relax.  She smiled at me and sat in the chair directly across from mine.

“No problem at all, Davey.  Drink as much as you like.  Did you get the money?  And my note?”

“Yes, ma’am.  It’s no big deal – I’d be happy to run to the store for you.  I have a question, though: what kind of milk do you want me to buy?  There’s so
many kinds – and I know my grandma has to drink some sort of special goat’s milk.”

Her eyes gave me the once-over again before she answered.  “I can still drink the regular kind of milk, but thank you so much for asking.  Is that enough
money to pay for everything on the list?”

“Yes ma’am, it is.  It’s more than enough.  This list should only cost…”

She cut me off in mid-sentence.  “It doesn’t matter as long as I gave you enough to pay for it all, and enough for a tip - for your time and effort.  Are you
finished with your drink yet?”

I looked at my empty glass and realized that I had been drinking constantly to avoid eye contact with her.  “Yes, ma’am.  I guess I should get going now.  I’ll
be back later with your groceries.”

“Just leave them on the front porch and ring the bell.  I’ll come down and bring them in.  I’m not completely familiar with that fancy alarm system yet, so it may
take me a while to disarm it.  Thank you again for being so helpful.”

I stood up and walked to the sink to rinse out my glass, but she held out her hand to do it herself.  That was fine by me – all I wanted was to get out of the
house as quick as I could.  I was down the front steps and halfway up the street before my mind started working properly again.  
How could she have trouble
learning the security system while she had all that complicated computer equipment?

Another thought came to me and I skidded to a halt in the middle of the street.  Did I close the drawer with the gun in it?

Panicked, I looked back towards her house.  Mrs. Kingman was standing on her front porch, watching me.  Oh, shit!

I waved at her like I didn’t have a care in the world.  Then I continued running to the store, my brain working through all the explanations I could make for the
open drawer –
if (and that was a big IF) I left it open.


The walk back to her house with the groceries was the longest walk ever!  I had decided to play it casual if she asked me about the gun.  I would just say
that I was looking for some packets of sugar for the lemonade because it wasn’t sweet enough for me.  I would pretend that the gun was no big deal to me.  I
could even ask her (very excitedly) if she would let me shoot it sometime.  Hopefully, she would accept that explanation and I would just have to suffer a
lecture about safety and one of those “Don’t tell anyone” speeches.  That would be much better than lying about it.

It turned out that I had nothing to worry about.  She opened the door as I walked up the steps.  I handed her the groceries, she thanked me, and I left.  Not a
word about the drawer or the gun.

I hurried across the street to mow the Taldonz yard, mentally thanking God that I had the good sense to close the drawer.  Mr. Taldonz limped out the front
door to meet me.  It looked funny when he walked, but I guess he must have been hurt in a war or something.  He told me once that he injured his leg by
jumping out of a plane.  Maybe it wasn’t a war, but my mind had conjured up all kinds of images where he parachuted into enemy territory.  Either way, the
cool story more than made up for the funny limp.

Once the Taldonz property was mowed, trimmed, and pruned, I moved on to the Carmine’s yard.  The whole time I was working, I was also trying to figure out
what Mrs. Kingman might be up to.  By sunset, I still had no reasonable explanation that made sense.

That’s not entirely true.  The only plausible reason I worked out was that she was a spy, but that didn’t really make sense because of her age.  Yet, it would
explain the gun, the computer equipment, the security system, and the shredded paper in her waste bin.  It also explained her reactions towards me when I
was close to her ‘secrets’.  But even if she was a spy, I could not figure out what she was doing in our neighborhood.

Timmy stopped by my house, wanting to play some new video game he just bought.  I couldn’t concentrate on the game, so he beat me three times in a
row.  Finally, I told him I was too tired and wanted to go to bed early.  He didn’t want to leave.  After using every excuse he could think of to stay, he gave up
when I started yawning.  A few minutes later, he was yawning too.  
Thank God that yawns are contagious!

Mom and Dad were shocked that I was voluntarily going to bed without them pressuring me.  Well, Mom was shocked.  Dad just gave me a look that said it
all – “All worn out from working for a change?  Now you know the way I feel every day.”

I pulled off my shirt on the way upstairs and tossed it on the chair in my room.  My belt joined the shirt next, and then my pants, followed by a clattering
sound – I must have left something in my pocket.  
Holy shit!  The keychain for Mrs. Kingman’s locked room!  I’m a dead man.


Sleep never came that night.  Every noise outside pulled me to the window, thinking that the old battle-axe was coming after me.  I was still wide awake at
three in the morning – and I wasn’t the only one.

Across the street, the Taldonz family was busy loading a moving van.  At first, I couldn’t figure out why they would wait until the middle of the night to move.  
Then I remembered Mrs. Kingman.  She was always outside, working in her garden during the day.  Then she got all ‘tuckered out’ and went up to her
bedroom – always right after Mr. Taldonz pulled in the driveway from work.

Was the computer equipment part of some sort of surveillance system?  Maybe she was watching Mr. Taldonz – listening to him, if she had his house
bugged.  It was too much to be coincidental – her bedroom was on the front of the house, directly facing the Taldonz home.

What did I really know about the Taldonz family, anyway?  One, he was hurt by jumping out of a plane.  Two, they moved here about a year ago.  Three,
they never had any visitors and they didn’t have any kids.  Four, well, there was no Four.  That was all I knew about my neighbors.

Heaving a sigh that felt like it came from my toes, I pulled on my shirt and pants again.  There was only one way to find out the truth – play spy and
eavesdrop on them.  My parents would be asleep, but their room was between my room and the top of the staircase.  I would have to sneak out the window.  
Unfortunately, the drop to the ground was too far for me to jump.  My best bet was the bathroom window – it had a tree right outside.

All the war games with Timmy finally paid off.  Without a sound, I climbed out the window and worked my way down the tree.  It may have been overkill, but I
crawled on my belly across the street and into the yard next door to the Taldonz house.  Then it was only a quick dash to the moving van.

From my vantage point, I could see that the garage was already empty.  The open door into the house showed that it was nearly empty, too.  Apparently,
they had already moved most of their belongings.  That suggested that they had planned the move ahead of time.  
So, why didn’t they tell their friends and
neighbors that they were leaving?  Probably because they had something to hide.  And I intended to find out what it was.

Mr. Taldonz came out the front door with another box.  I hopped up on the side of the truck, holding on to the door handle.  I did not want him to notice my
feet beneath the truck.  I held my breath as he placed the box in the back of the truck.

Mrs. Taldonz joined him a moment later.  “Honey, this is the last of the office files.  The only things left inside are your briefcase, your laptop, and your… uh,
your weapons bag.”

“Thanks, hon.  I’ll grab them and then we can get the hell out of here before that bitch wakes up.”

That was enough for me!  Time for Super-Davey to save the day.  I could only hope that I was choosing the right side to stand by.  What if the Taldonzes
were the good guys and Mrs. Kingman was the crook?  Somehow, I just couldn’t believe that.  She may be creepy, but at least she wasn’t sneaking around
at night with a weapons bag!

I waited until Mr. Taldonz walked back inside before I leapt off the truck and hauled ass across the street to the Kingman house.  As I ran, I realized that I
would be too late.  By the time she woke up and answered the doorbell, the Taldonz family would be gone.  In fact, they had turned off the lights and were
getting in the truck as I reached the front door.  Well, there was only one way to get her attention fast enough.

Using my elbow, I broke the front window.  Blood drained down my arm and bits of glass clung to my skin, but I would have to worry about that later.  The
alarm went off and that was all that mattered.

Mrs. Kingman was downstairs in record time.  
For an old broad, she could really move!  I wasn’t surprised at all to see the gun in her hand – aimed at my
head.  This was it – there was no turning back now.

“Mrs. Kingman!  They’re getting away!  They loaded up their truck and now they’re about to drive off!”

As if in response to my story, the truck engine started and there was a screech as it accelerated out of the driveway.  The alarm must have caught them off
guard for a moment or two – just enough to slow down their escape.

Mrs. Kingman’s eyes darted back and forth, first the truck and then me.  Confusion showed on her face for a split second.  She ran out to the front porch
with me, but was too late to get a clear shot at the van.  Luckily, three unmarked cars (with red and blue lights flashing on the dashboard) raced around the
corner at the other end of the street.  I guess they were responding to the alarm.  Mrs. Kingman motioned for them to follow the van, but only two cars took
off in pursuit.  The third car pulled into her driveway.

The man who had been driving looked like Sylvester Stallone.  Maybe that was just because of his size, but he made me feel like I was in one of those old
Rocky movies.  When he spoke, it destroyed the Stallone image – he sounded more like Pee-Wee Herman.

“GK, what the hell is going on here?”

GK?  Okay, I get the Kingman part – but what did the “G” stand for?

“Sir, the Taldonz couple is running.  We’re not sure what spooked them.  They would have escaped unnoticed, due to my negligence.  I was made aware of
their actions by this boy.”

“You can deal with him later, GK.  Forget about the perps – you’ll be assigned to a new case now.  Meet me in my office tomorrow morning with a complete
report.  And make sure you tie up any loose ends here.”

Gulp!  Was I a “loose end”?  In that case, I’ll never play hero again!  On second thought, I may not be alive to play hero again!

The Stallone clone (pun and rhyme intended) returned to his car and drove off after the van, lights still flashing.  The street was silent again, but not
deserted.  All the action had attracted quite a crowd – every house was lit up and people were milling around in their front yards.  It was kind of fun to be on
this side of the action for a change.

My parents ran outside as soon as they realized that I was the one in the middle of all the commotion.  Mrs. Kingman grabbed my shoulder and whispered in
my ear mere seconds before Mom swept me up in her arms.  “Mom, put me down!  I’m too big for this!”

I turned back to Mrs. Kingman, knowing that I couldn’t answer her question in front of all these people.  She had simply asked me, “How did you know?”

I reached into my pocket and pulled out her keychain.  “Sorry, Mrs. Kingman.  I didn’t realize I still had these in my pocket when I left earlier.  Oh, and you
should really consider fixing that kitchen drawer – it sticks when you open it.”

Keys: $2.25
Keychain: $1.19
The look on a spy’s face when she has been ‘outed’ by a fourteen-year-old:


The following day was a beehive of activity on our street.  There was an army of men searching every inch of the Taldonz house while another army loaded
Mrs. Kingman’s belongings into yet another moving van.  Timmy and I sat on my front steps, watching the hustle and bustle all around us.

I endured question after question from Timmy, but didn’t tell him anything that he couldn’t find out on the local news.  Nobody had warned me to keep silent,
but I felt that it was the right thing to do.  Even Mom and Dad were in the dark about what had happened.

A dark blue sedan pulled up in the Kingman driveway and out stepped Mrs. Kingman (G.K.).  She took one look at me and walked straight over.  “Timmy
Evans, would you mind if I had a few private words with Davey?”

One look from her and Timmy was high-tailing it out of there.  He never even looked back.

“So, Mr. Wainwright, it seems that you have been quite busy recently.  Care to tell me anything?”

“Not really, ma’am.  I just figured that you were keeping an eye on Mr. Taldonz.  You know, with all that computer equipment and all.  You always seemed to
‘get tuckered out’ when he got home from work.  And the gun made me think you might be a cop or something.  So, when I saw him moving out in the middle
of the night, I figured you would want to know.  That’s why I set off your alarm.”

“Well, Davey, you were right.  Mr. Taldonz got away – this time.  But we know where he’s headed and there will be someone else watching him this time

She stared at me for a long moment before speaking again.  I was being examined, or maybe x-rayed by her eyes.  I guess that I passed her exam once
again because she finally relaxed a little.

“Did you tell anyone about any of this?”

“Of course not!  I’m not stupid - just young.  And I don’t want to be a ‘Loose End’ - I can keep quiet forever if I need to.”

“Okay, okay.  Calm down.  I gave my word that you could be trusted.  Nobody will bother you about this again.  And one more thing, Mr. Wainwright….”

Great, here it comes - the full lecture.  Just get it over with, already!  She walked over and hugged me.  “Good job, young man.”


After that night, I became a local hero.  All the kids at school wanted to hang around with me.  My teachers treated me different, too.  I became Mr.
Popularity – all because of Mrs. Creepy.

Penny loved every minute of the attention.  Somehow, I had become her boyfriend without even knowing it had happened.  She probably just wanted to be a
celebrity for a while, but I didn’t care – I just wanted to be with her.

My parents were over-protective for the next few months, Timmy suddenly discovered girls, and I had more customers for lawn work than I could handle.  But
all of that paled to Mrs. Kingman’s final words to me: a business card with only a phone number on it.  Handwritten on the back of the card was:


© Copyright 2008 Xander Riley
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