Two for one sales have never been a good deal for me. Standing in the snack aisle because I went to the store hungry, the steel cage, double elimination, winner take all the cookies match inside my head had me frozen in place until the shelf-stocking guy started looking at me funny. Offering me two bags should have been a deterrent. Either way, I lose. I never had to endure an inner struggle over lettuce.
Tailing the black jag was only one bag of cookies. I deemed it in my best interest to learn more. I have never been much of a spa girl. I always felt a touch of the round peg syndrome, and there was always some woman sitting in the square hole with that certain look in her eye telegraphing the idea that people like me weren’t welcome.
I had no way of knowing what she knew of me, what I drove, where I lived. I was counting on the anonymity of my saddle tan four door sedan to be just another mostly invisible bandage on the skin of one of the ladies in the square hole.
“Excuse me, excuse me ma’am? Is everything okay?” asked the miscellaneous man in the parking lot.
“I’m just fine, thanks,” I replied.
“You know I just sort of wondered, I saw you sitting here. I was just inside the laundromat and like I said you’ve been sitting here for some time,” he said.
“Yeah, I know, I’m fine,” I said shortly.
“I know, but like I said,” he prattled on.
This was the sort of person almost guaranteed to be killed in a monster movie. The last thing the viewer would see would be his legs going straight up as presumably he was in the process of being eaten, maybe a splatter of blood for good measure and an R rating.
“Look! I said I’m fine!” I told him. “Now have a nice day,” I added.
“Oh, well, then what do you think about this?” he asked.
The man was wearing an older and somewhat tattered pair of dark gray sweatpants, so it was easy for him to pull out his penis. He touched it onto the glass of my passenger window.
I would like to visit the word mentality. Generally when we think of it, or bring it up in general conversation, some person or group’s actions or words are being brought into question by those of us who believe we have a comparatively much better grip on sanity. We can’t quite wrap our heads around the ‘mentality’ of said group or individual. Does potential proof that God is indeed a woman lie in the fact that the root of mentality is mental, and the root of mental, is men?
A shroud of anger and shame covered me. I wanted to scream but I uttered no sound. I wanted to move away, run, anything, but I couldn’t move. My mind raced to process the attack. I wondered what I had done to deserve this, why was this happening? If he would have laid his hands on me, if he had physically assaulted me, I would like to believe that my reaction would have been more immediate, and I would have killed him where he stood.
“You son-of a,” the only words I could finally manage to mutter in the heat of the moment.
I leaned towards him and popped open the glove compartment. This seemed to excite him even more, at least until I was pointing a pistol directly at his penis. He tucked it back in his pants and ran. I got out of the car as quickly as I could, still shocked and angry, I had every intention of running him down and causing him as much bodily harm as I could muster. The black Jag backing out may have saved his life.
I had officially lost all focus on the case. My tailing method was becoming questionable. Every time I checked my passenger mirror I could see a little mark on the window, like a fingerprint but not so much. It was like an accident I couldn’t look away from. I was having difficulty keeping up with her.
She had little choice but slow her roll once she happened into the warehouse district. The old brick buildings and roads were laid out to accommodate wood spoked trucks and rail cars, neither one of which moved quickly back in the day. The current trend in construction was up-cycle and re-use. New businesses were popping into ground level units like wildfire.
The corner unit with old-timey yet brand new AAPT lettering on the windows wouldn’t have been my first guess as a sketchy destination. It sported a wrought iron staircase that wound around the corner into what might have been the only worthy grass for blocks. The small green area was planted in the footprint of a long gone building between two others that survived the ages. A tin roof lean-to protected a heavily fenced area and another staircase ascending to a side entry.
A young woman leashed to a pack of dogs came out the side door, unleashed them all and let them run.
“Hell of an alarm,” I thought.
I stayed in the tan sedan, watching as she watched the dogs. The Tan Sedan was my car, my girl. It was plain, even a little rusty but it ran great, good power, good heat, air and always started in the winter. I had never heard of AAPT, but then again I never heard of a lot of things, until I had.
The dogs went inside and a few moments later Mrs. Owens came out. We headed into the post WWII housing west of downtown. Main streets were plain, with useful businesses and the occasional small grocer. The next stop looked to be an old gas station with a plain square addition and fenced area on the side. This time there was a sign. AAPT Specialty Animal Adoption Services. With double barbed wire topped fencing it looked more like a prison exercise yard than a dog park. Plastic privacy slats in the outside fence protected the privacy of the dogs.
Mrs. Owens stayed roughly the same amount of time as she had at the last location and filled her gas tank on the way home. I headed back to my office, intent on contacting Mr. Owens, billing him for my time and impolitely declining his case, then contacting her and asking for more information.
“Maybe she’s looking for a dog or something, a cat, like an office cat,” I said to myself, chuckling.
Looking at the mirror, at the spot, reminded me of the laundromat again, and how in the world I could have forgotten to clean my window. Outside my office I approached the spot but suddenly using my sleeve repulsed me. Inside I was sure there was glass cleaner in the cabinet. The idea of using some sort of chemical seemed like the proper course of action.
As I put the key into the lock, my office door opened just a little too easily. It was unlocked, and as sure as I need coffee in the morning, I don’t leave my office door unlocked. Looking both ways in the hallway I took my pistol from the back of my belt and slowly pushed open the door. I swung left, then right, eyes level behind the gun. Where the barrel looked, I looked. I moved into the room. I heard it before I saw it, growling lightly in the lower left corner of my peripheral. It lunged at me throwing paws with wild and amazing speed. I fired as it hit my arm, blowing the glass in my door into a million pieces, sending my pistol flying across the room.
I felt its claws cut through my shirt and skin as the attack flung me onto and over my desk. I gained my bearings to face it, the gears in my head slowly clicking in order to process what I was seeing. Her teeth were flared, she was dipped on her front haunches, crawling in my direction, ready to strike again. I pulled my top drawer out of the desk and bounced it off her rock-hard head. She let out the kind of noise that told me it hurt, but now she was pissed. I made for the door.
Usually when you shoot a gun inside of an office building, even an old, broken down and crooked office building, during daylight hours, someone is going to hear.
“You okay in there Ms. Maximine?” asked Carl, the building superintendent.
He was outside my office door, leaning in my direction, hiding behind the safety of a large cart of cleaning supplies, brandishing a mop with a brand-new head. I can be sure he never expected me to come out headfirst through the window hole.
“Run!” I screamed.
I barely made it to my feet before the puma followed me through the window.
“Go, go, she’s coming!” I yelled.
I could hear her claws scratching for purchase on the wood floor. I was gaining on Carl to the point where I thought he might very well be a dead man. Just as we made it to the door leading outside at the end of the hallway, he fell. Determined not to trip over another old man, I flung myself into the wall, hoping to carom off into the push handle of the door. Just as I had, the lion apparently jumped, at least that’s what Carl told me. What nobody could have predicted was as Carl fell, instead of playing dead, or even trying to get back up, he stuck the mop in the air like a medieval knight hoping the dragon would fall onto his sword.
Because mops don’t pierce the bellies of mountain lions, it instead acted like a catapult. Coupled with my keen timing and a little bit of luck we were fortunate enough to send her flying right out the door.
“What the hell was that?” Carl yelled.
“That? That was a mountain lion, or puma I guess, depends on where your from,” I said, panting like the lion that just attacked me.
“What the hell was it doing… Hey, are you ok?” he asked.
I was clutching the claw cuts on my arm, my shirt sleeve soaked in blood.
“Um, no, I don’t think so. I’m getting a little woozy,” I said.
I leaned back against the wall and let myself slide down into a seated position on the floor.
“I’m going to call for help,” Carl said.
“Yeah, thanks,” I said as Carl hurried down the hall.
“Hey Carl! My office door is open,” I yelled to him jokingly.
“By the way, how’d you know it was a girl? And where the hell did it come from?” Carl asked.
“Because she had a pink collar, and I wish I knew, I wish I knew,” I said.
Those were the last words I could remember. I passed out a few moments later and woke up in the hospital, again. For a moment, when I opened my eyes I was back in Ely, I felt the relief of finally being safe from the grasp of Darlene. Then I remembered the lion, and relief turned into anger.
“Nurse? Nurse?” I yelled.
“Hello Ms. Maximine,” he said as he walked into the room.
“Hey flatfoot, get me the nurse would ya?” I said.
“I wish you wouldn’t call me that,” he said.
“Call you what? Flatfoot? How about the fuzz? The man? Here piggy, piggy,” I taunted.
“How about detective, or maybe even Tom, and let’s not do this whole act like you don’t know me thing, I have a lot to do,” he said.
“Yeah, yeah, okay Mr. Tom, what can I do for you?” I asked.
“For starters you can tell me about the lion, you know the one you shot at? When you could have killed somebody?” he said.
“Gimme a break Mr. Tom, what the hell was I supposed to do? It was a friggin’ lion, ya know? You got it?” I asked.
“You know what, now hand it over please?” I said sitting up in bed.
Detective Tom took in a deep sigh, reached into his inside coat pocket and slapped my semi auto pistol into my outstretched hand.
“Here. Now, about the lion,” he said.
“I don’t know Tom, I don’t know. But I can promise you I’m going to find out,” I said.
Back at my office the window had already been replaced, lettering would have to wait.
Looking at the carnage that once was my office, two thoughts occurred to me. The first was I was most definitely going to take Mason Owens up on his offer just as soon as I could put my phone back together and parlay a dial tone. Secondly, after this last experience, I was thinking I might just need an office cat after all, and I had a pretty good idea of where I could get one. That, and another bag of cookies.