I’D MUTTERED, “SO far, so good,” low into my full-length mink coat collar seconds before, more angry than frightened. Jonathan, what a jerk! I’d grabbed my coat and fled; patting my right pocket to be sure the keys were there. They were.
Jonathan had taken my silver-plated thirty-eight special away from me, a gift from a former boyfriend, a cop I’d dated. Dear boy convinced me to take it, unsafe world and all, but not the guy for me. I’m choosy. He wouldn’t take it back when he left for good.
He said, “Nah, you keep it. Someday you may need it, you never know.”
I thanked him and put it into my nightstand drawer, right where it would be when I needed it. Sure, right! Only, Jonathan took it away easily. He must have been very confident, because in my opinion men can be so stupid when they’re thinking macho.
Oh, the stupid? Yeah, then he actually let me out of his sight to go to the bathroom.
“Jonathan, I’m going to throw up. Please, it’s here or in the john.” I gagged for effect.
“Go!” he said. The gun rested in his hand on the bed.
I went straight to the bathroom, crouched over and fast, closing the door with a slam! The glass on both sides shivered. I made all the disgusting sounds a frightened woman vomiting should make. Could have taken time to feel proud of myself for consummate acting, but the truth is, although I might have been somewhat frightened at the turn of events, he didn’t frighten me that much.
Thinking all the time, I waited for a few seconds quietly before flushing the toilet. After a bit I let him hear more retching. Then I made my move.
Silently I exited the bathroom through its second door, the one into the living room foyer, thankful that I’d had this built with a door at both ends as an accommodation. At the time I hadn’t wanted to stand the expense of two bathrooms. The door into the bedroom had been an afterthought of the builder.
“I maka door here, too,” he had said, long years ago, one hand on his chin as he appraised the situation, “so you havada master bedroom suite, okay, Missus Delehanty?”
I loved that man’s delightful Italian accent. An excellent workman, he had built me a solid house on a hillside overlooking the L.A. basin.
I’d said yes. Obviously a convenience, I remember thinking about how in my house such an access would only be used by my husband and me, whenever I managed to land one. I told Mr. Fratelli to disguise the doorway so that guests wouldn’t think of another entrance and would feel comfortable while about their business. He made it look like a full-length mirror. To leave from inside, I push the mirror and a latch clicks and the door swings open. Mr. Fratelli even thought to etch the mirror’s perimeter so it wouldn’t show fingerprints.
This is crazy. I could die and here I am thinking about my beautiful house. Jonathan is definitely not husband material. Now I’ve got to stay alive and get to the police! Fact is; I know too much.
Now outside, I looked up. I stepped out from the overhang and noticed the unusually cold air. I caught the steely glint of something on the railing. Evidently last nights rain had turned to ice. Some freak cold front must have come through. Didn’t think that happened in southern California. First time in my memory and a really bad time to be wrong! I ought to listen to the radio sometimes.
“Rats!” I said it vehemently, purposefully, because Jonathan couldn’t hear me now.
I couldn’t have known. I stood for a moment. I had to get away, but how? I couldn’t leap the balustrade. I looked down thirty feet to the bushes below and how the hillside sloped sharply down from there. I thought Jonathan would hear. I’d hurt myself anyway. Not a good choice.
I wasn’t quite ready for him to know where I’d gone. He wouldn’t be suspicious yet. Lucky for me the main access door had recently been oiled to get rid of an annoying squeak.
I faced the thirty-seven stairs with trepidation. I could see ice on the steps as well as the wrought iron railing. Bunny slippers, why did I wear them instead of my mountain boots? Of course, I knew why. No time! The blow-up occurred much too quickly, my fault, too.
Couldn’t keep my mouth shut. Had to tell him what I thought of him and the crooked deals, I’d learned about quite by accident last week.
Couldn’t believe it, a gangster in my house, and I had even given thought to marrying the jerk! Some gangsters are smooth.
Better try to get out of this without dying. Either way, this is the rock or hard place people always talk about in mundane conversations about finances or their kids on drugs or whatever.
I looked at the surround deck. It went past the floor-to-ceiling picture windows that provided the living and day rooms their spectacular views of the normally smog-filled basin that opened out beneath me. Last night’s weather took care of the smog for today, anyway. Wouldn’t be long…
Okay, so Jonathan could see me if he’s gotten off the bed. Can’t try for the back of the house. Not much cover in the scrub; bad idea.
Got to get to the garage. Got to get the car. Got to get away. Too many things against me! I began to feel real fright.
The door to the garage sat to the right at the bottom of the brick stairway. I leave it open most of the time. Living in this particular community had proved safe and I have felt secure enough to ignore the news that filters out of L.A., you know, crime running rampant, lock your doors and all of that.
Well, I do lock my doors. I’m not that careless, but the garage has no access to anywhere and my Lexus is fully protected, so why bother? Good thing today. The noise of raising the door would surely bring Jonathan running and it would help me gain that extra few seconds I needed to get away from a dangerous man. That’s all I could think of. But first, how to get down these stairs?
I inspected them in a manner I had never done before. They were flat with a slightly raised lip. With care, I could negotiate them. I couldn’t be slow about it, either; seconds were ticking away. Close to a minute since I’d eased out the bathroom door. Jonathan had guts and I hadn’t seen any fear in the man. He’d be antsy now. A minute of silence is too long in a situation like this.
“Margie, what you doing in there? Get back in here!” I couldn’t hear him from the outside, but I would bet a lot that’s dear he’d just said it angrily toward my bathroom door.
Get going, girl, I told myself. I grabbed the railing, thanking my lucky stars I had stayed in shape. Keeping my body straight, balancing everything like a cork standing upright in a puddle of water, I eased down the stairs. In a couple of steps I had it down pat and moved more quickly. I’d made it halfway down, all the way to the landing where the stairway turned when I heard the latch behind me click.
The door opened suddenly. “Come back here, Margie!” Jonathan said. I heard death in his voice.
Grabbing the rail with an iron grip, I turned. “Come and get me, Jonathan. Better not use that gun out here. This place is patrolled.”
The man hesitated for a short moment, made a decision and quickly headed down the stairs. Intent on me, he didn’t see the ice. His feet went out from under and with a yell, Jonathan tumbled down, totally out of control. He grabbed at the railing but ice provided no grip. With a satisfying crack – to me anyway – his head hit the railing at the turn where I stood. I had to move quickly to the side to avoid getting struck, almost losing it in the process.
Silence followed for a few moments and then my gun hit the driveway below…and went off with a loud “Crack!”
That ought to bring the neighbors, I thought gleefully. Jonathan was out cold. Blood started to well on his forehead. Somehow that didn’t bother me a bit.
In a couple of minutes two Security men came racing up the hill. George from next door evidently called them. I explained what had happened and how frightened I’d been and told them how wonderful I felt to have brave men like them watching over the residents of Pine Vista Acres.
They looked grim and oh so masterful and took over. They patched Jonathan up and took him to the hospital, assuring me that the police would meet them there, and “Not to worry, Ms. Delehanty, we’ll take care of everything.”
Later that morning the L.A. police came up and took my statement and would I testify against this man they’d taken into custody.
“I certainly will,” I replied.
When they checked my permit for the gun, “Just routine,” they said, I told them that I’d made a mess of defending myself, happy at least that it went off by itself.
The policemen laughed.
Oh, and one more thing. The ice surprised them, even here in the hills. One of them, the cute one said, “That’s one of the better ways to ice a guy in L. A.”
We all laughed at that one. And speaking of ice, with all the attention I got from our Security and the L.A. police, I figured my day couldn’t get any better!
Like icing on a cake!