Snap-pop, three times in quick succession. The right tire on Doris’ squad car blew. “I warned you…” Doris snapped off a shot, followed by three evenly spaced ones, about three seconds apart. She started out high, taking out the window in a shower of glass, wood and ancient putty. The second and third would have been about head high had there been anybody still standing in the house. The fourth went into the wall through the window about shoulder high, embedding itself in the three-quarter inch sheet-rock.
Mort was as fast as he’d always claimed. He was halfway across the lawn by the time the second shot came, the burlap sack over his back. He was at the side of the house by shot three. From there, he kept low and made his way to the nearer of the three windows on that side.
The sill hit Mort about the middle of the chest and he took a quick look inside. There was an open doorway, which he figured opened onto the hall connecting to the front room. Mort grabbed the window and unsurprisingly, found that it was locked. He shifted the now gently squirming sack to his left hand and pulled out his baton. It was but a second’s work to smash in the window and he dropped the baton and grabbed the sack with his other hand.
He hoisted it with a grunt; whatever was in there was not happy and squirming around in a most muscular way. Mort managed to get it on the sill, lifted it further and then chucked the sack onto a bed a couple of feet away and where it paused for a second before tumbling off on the other side.
He could hear Doris yelling. “Hear that, Mary? I want you to meet Martha, Jerry Swann’s good friend and pet. She’s a bit unhappy about getting thrown into the house, though, so you might want to come out now. She’s really very sweet tempered for a reticulated python, all ten –”
“Eleven,” Jerry amended.
“—eleven feet of her.”
Then an agonized, terrified scream as Doris slouched back against the car. Jerry looked at her. Doris shrugged. “Mary’s not partial to snakes.”
There was a crash and then a medium height, rather muscular looking woman with wild and frizzy black hair rolled on the grass, still screaming occasionally. She made it to her feet, was across the street and dove across the hood of Doris’ squad car, slid off at speed and landed in a heap up against an arborvitae hedge.
Jerry looked at the panicked woman for a moment and then patted his pockets, pulled out two Camel Filter cigarettes in a thankfully crush-proof box and handed one to Mary. He lit hers and then his and the three of them just kind of sat there looking at each other.
“Why couldn’t you just have waited for me to show up and referee, like the time before last,” Doris asked. She regarded the woman for a moment and then muttered, “You’ve been working out, I see.”
“Yeah, but I still smoke and got no wind. Owen can still take me in a fair fight.”
Jerry nodded sagely. He had that problem himself.
Mort had watched almost three of yards of sleek snake meander into the hallway with mounting thankfulness that he had had no idea he’d been toting around a gunny sack of snake, rather than Idaho potatoes. Like Mary, he was less than partial to snakes in general and possibly this one in particular, which explained why he was currently leaning against the sill and holding on for dear life. The ground seemed to want to suck him right down.
Jimmy heard the racket break out, correctly identifying the breaking of window panes and then had no trouble recognizing the sincerity of the screaming that ensued. Once he heard what sounded like a dull thud on the ground, followed by rapid footsteps and then a swooshing sound ending in grunts of panicked pain, he entered the backyard and looked in through screen door into the kitchen.
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