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Hannah and friends form a club for mature (read: menopausal) women, but become hostages of a disturbed gunman. Bravely repelling the invader, they discover the gardener murdered.
The group pursues the guilty from Florida to Alaska, Hannah falling for a smokin’ detective and overcoming a gut-wrenching fear of flying to save her friend from the killer. Women-on-Fire turn menopause into a launch site--and they’re off!
I’m useless, I thought, feeling my green beret tottering. I picture myself as some sort of warrior. But I won’t get on an airplane and I can’t help knock down an idiot home invader. What a laugh. No, not a laugh, a tragedy. Those kids at the Grief Center would never call me their hero again, and of course, I’d never deserved it anyhow. I shivered, tried to ignore my jitterbugging stomach. I’ve got to act, disarm him—and quickly. The man’s a psychological disaster, clearly unused to a gun, but his very inexperience makes him a ticking timebomb.
Besides, Ada’s going to lose it in the next few moments, if it really was Danny on the phone, in cahoots with this horror of a man.
When Farquar said, “Danny boy,” and snorted a cruel laugh, Ada’s eyes begin to dart quickly from the one thing to another, her lips for once clamped shut.
“Where is the godamned safe?” the man screamed into the phone. You could tell they were arguing, the person on the other end, and this madman.
Ada sank deeper into the cushions, her eyes blank, perhaps wondering how her own stepson could be helping this cruel man. She’d never known violence, had controlled most men in her life by smiling prettily. Men bent in her presence. True, I thought, she’d had her problems with Danny, the last few years, known his drugged torpor, his shrieking during the combat of withdrawal, even the cruelty of B. J.’s flaunted affairs and neglect of his son. But nothing, no one like this—creature—had ever defied her. Not in her refined, protected life.
The phone argument went on, Farquar spinning around to watch us, waving the gun in every direction.
I on the other hand, had known violence, knew the ripping apart of an ordinary life into shreds. Even outside the loss of my husband and my brother so many years ago. I’d done the police beat for years on the Courant, come close to men like Farquar with haunted eyes and unsteady hands. Sometimes even got them to talk, to open up.
“Look, everyone, let’s give the man what he wants…” I said in Ada’s direction. Would she even hear me?
Ada’s eyes popped wide and she gave a quick shake of her head.
I felt my insides sink. The stench of smoking upholstery hit my nostrils harder and the weight of Dorie leaning into me suddenly was unbearable.
“Bathroom?” Dorie whimpered.
As Farquar slammed the phone into its cradle Ada jumped up and cried, “Let me talk. Oh no, Danny…” At that moment Lu returned, clutching an opened beer, and handed over a sandwich on a plate. When she spied the mess of the Milky Way, her purse and the smoking gunshot wound to the sofa, her hand went to her mouth.
Sorry, Ada mouthed. Lucia shook her head, set her jaw, and made her hands into fists. Her color was changing, she was growing pinker by the minute. Puce, even. I waited on tenterhooks. I knew Lu’s Neapolitan temper, and hoped she’d restrain herself from doing anything too rash. I felt relief as she seemed to steel herself.
“Would you like to wash first?” she asked demurely. “You have something dark and red on your hands…”
“Shut up, get back in your seats,” Farquar shouted, slamming his plate onto the piano and grabbing for a bite of his cold pork and roast pepper sandwich.
My heart sank as Lu’s hand raised the bottle of beer with a gasp of fury coming from her lips. The attacker ducked and shoved her to the floor. The beer bottle struck the piano top on the way down and sprayed a shower of the liquid over the room. Ada screamed as Lu crumpled to a fetal position half beneath the baby grand. An intake of breath hissed from everyone of us. I hesitated before I moved, assessing the location of the gun, and Farquar’s ragged emotions.
He was clearly sweating now. I watched him wipe his forehead with the back of his gun hand. His glance darted to Lu’s unmoving figure beneath him and Ada’s petite form a few feet from his gun. “Your whacky friends haven’t helped you lady. Neither did your kid. I was going to let you off easy but now you get me the stuff in your safe by the time I count to three or…”
In that eclipsed hush after Farquar had given his ultimatum we heard the muffled roar of a high-powered vehicle in the driveway, the emphatic turn-off of an engine, a car door slamming. The man’s eyes widened, and he inched toward the window, gun trembling.
“Va-room,” Ramon said, hopping from one foot to the other, then flitting to his swing. “Va-room.”
“What? A goddamned cop car. Which one of you bitches…” He switched the gun to his left hand and yanked Ada up close, spinning her around until her back was to him and he had wrapped his arm around her neck.
My God, it’s Meg, I thought. Thank God. Meg here to join the club. Driving the Assistant State Medical Examiner’s car she hadn’t yet returned. The car with lights on the roof.
Ada’s head wobbled on her neck, her body sank in feigned surrender. Farquar struggled to hold her up.
This, I knew, was the moment to act, this thin little crevice in the rock wall of our entrapment. I sucked in a breath, watched Farquar consider options, his glance scudding to every corner of the room, and to Lu’s motionless body at his feet.
Cornered, ready to do something drastic.
I had to do it. Now.
In one jagged motion I reached into my own open and tattered Gucci bag and yanked out the silver cylinder. In the same moment as I flicked off the cap, I leaped from the seat so quickly I felt Dorie slump behind me. The armed gunman spun toward me exactly as my forefinger plunged the button on the hair spray can I’d purchased at my semi-annual hairdo day.
Direct hit, eyes doused.
“Eeeeuw!” screamed Farquar, arms flailing upward. The gun in his hand flew from his grip and, airborne, struck Ada’s portrait on the far wall.
“Eeeeuw!” Ramon answered, rattling the cage.
At the same moment Lucia grabbed the crook’s ankles and Ada helped her wrestle him to the ground. Lu jerked upward like a bobbing vessel, and kept him there with her three-inch stiletto heel in his back. The doorbell rang, and Dorie, roused from her faint, screamed at the top of her lungs.
It was that scream, we all agreed later, that had accomplished the deed. Farquar fought for his footing, all elbows and knees, toppling Ada onto her side. As he started moving, his glance grazed the floor for the missing weapon but Lu kicked him where he’d least want to be kicked, and he groaned and struggled upright. But the trail of four women, one in lethal high heels, one in a flaming feathered scarf and one in a goddamn green beret began pursuit, snatching at his clothes, his hair, the skin at the back of his neck. Sticking like glue.
He ran, shouting and wriggling to disengage us, through the hall and into the kitchen. We pounded his back and ripped off his jacket, screeching, until he squirmed past the counters, slid across the tile floor to the back door and threw himself out into the yard. Dorie was excited enough to start following him out the door, then snapped to and realized she was the only one in the doorway. She collapsed on the kitchen floor, tangled in her boa.
“Very nice. Goodbye,” screeched Ramon, left alone in the living room.
Seeking reinforcements, Ada ran to the front door and opened it for Meg, whose habitually dour expression exploded into mirth when she saw the remnants of the current liberation exercise. We rushed to wrap our arms around her and give her a loud and mixed-up account of what had happened.
That changed her reaction fast.
Once she secured the gun from beneath Ada’s portrait, dangling it from a pen, and began to really hear their garbled story, Meg’s severe features assumed their usual cynical expression. But there was a fantastic analytical brain at work behind that look; I’d depended on it too many times in the past not to be impressed.
“Thank God you’re still driving your cop car with the little blue light on top,” Dorie gushed, draped weakly over Lucia.
“And that you’re here to guide us through this mess,” I said. My heart was racing. I tried to convince myself the whole escapade had been amusing, even in its terror. But then, I had always been the Queen of De-nial. When I noticed I was still shaking it dawned on me: my God, it would make a story—the one I’d hoped and prayed for, a free-lanced something I could sell to the paper’s Northern Magazine, thereby earning enough to fly Kevin and his family home here for a visit. Or at least to buy a train ride for myself out west. And here I was, right on top of it.
Now if Farquar could be caught.
Eleanor Sullo writes a food and spirituality column and gardens voraciously all-year-round. Between traveling and writing, she directs programs for families and adults and spends enough time with strong women to feel their inspiration and support, along with that of her terrific husband and extended family who all live on a self-sufficient family farm in rural Connecticut. Her ongoing commitment to help others face life’s trials and grow has evolved from her training as teacher and spiritual guide. As with the besieged characters in The Moonrakers, and in Menopause Murders, so often love is the answer, says Ms. Sullo, while faith and trust, and a sense of humor, put the frosting on the cake!
Book Publisher: Wings ePress
No. of Pages: 398
Paper Weight (lb): 16.6
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