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 The Gray-haired Avengers

 

Chapter 4

Emma huffed a sigh of frustration. "Unless he managed to get away while we were on the other side of the block, he’s gotta be here somewhere."

"You could let us out," Janelle suggested. "Muriel and I can see if we can find the car parked in one of those driveways."

"Sure are a lot of cars," Muriel said, repeating her earlier observation. "Why would there be so many cars around here?"

"Probably turned those lovely old homes into apartments," Janelle theorized.

Muriel nodded. "That makes sense. I suppose that it just takes too much to keep one of those old houses heated and cooled."

"No doubt," Emma said. She stopped the car in the middle of the street, heedless of the traffic now behind her. "You two be careful. I’m gonna find somewhere to park, where we can make a quick get-away if we need to."

Janelle and Muriel crawled out of the car, ignored the glaring stare of the driver in the SUV behind the Charger, and made their way toward the sidewalk.

Emma spied a wide, circular drive. Whipped into the entrance, oblivious to the "One Way Only" sign. Eased past the cars parked along the length of the cobblestone drive. And put the Charger directly in the center of the space. She’d be able to go whichever direction she needed, without worrying about hitting any of the cars parked along the street. She nodded with satisfaction. Then frowned as she pulled her cellphone from her pocket. She should have gotten Janelle’s number; they’d have been able to remain in contact. Giving a mental shrug, she climbed out of the car. Hurried to the street to locate her friends. There they were. Heading up that long driveway. Gave her time to make that call...

 

A A A A A A

 

Sam frowned. "According to this, Mr. Stillman isn’t receiving any more than the pay from the cable company."

Daniel was peering over her shoulder. "Look...he’s been saving money for several years. Big drop in the balance recently."

"Why?" Casey asked, trying to see past her Husband.

"Give me a second," Sam murmured. "Fertility clinics. Two of them so far."

Casey’s head angled slightly.

"Incoming," Jack muttered automatically.

"They want a baby so badly," the seer said softly. "Oh, I do hope this time it works out for them."

"This time?" Daniel asked, glancing over at his Wife.

The blonde nodded. "They’re at a fertility clinic."

"You wouldn’t happen to know where that fertility clinic is, would you?" Hammond asked hopefully.

Slender shoulders moved up and down. "Sorry, sir. Not a clue."

"General Hammond, line two. Line two for General Hammond."

Everyone looked up at the intercom as the echo of the announcement faded. The general hurried to the phone that hung on the wall, grabbed the receiver. Punched the second button. "General Hammond speaking, this is a secure line."

"Oh, general, I’m so glad I got you!"

Emma Hanks’ voice filled his ear. "Mrs. Hanks? Where are you?" He covered the mouthpiece with his hand. "Major Carter, get a trace started on this immediately!"

"Yes, sir!" Sam replied. She turned toward her computer. Sent an urgent message to Dennis Ballard. Received an affirmative reply not three seconds later. Looking over at the general, she nodded. The trace had been started.

"Oh, we’re on...um...I think it’s Roosevelt Way. Lots of lovely manner homes here. But the important thing is, I’ve followed a suspect. He broke into Daniel and Casey’s house. Muriel and Janelle are on foot, trying to locate his car. We lost it because he turned before we could get to the street. I know he’s here somewhere...I’d have seen him otherwise," the elderly woman replied.

"Mrs. Hanks, I want you to return to your home. Under no circumstances are you to approach this man, do you understand?" Hammond said firmly.

"But if he leaves-" Emma protested.

"Mrs. Hanks, do not follow him. Just return to your home," the general insisted. "I don’t believe that the man you’re following is a threat."

"But he broke into the house!"

"I have a team investigating that possibility right now," Hammond assured the woman.

"Well, if you say so...oh dear. I’d better let Janelle and Muriel know. Muriel is quite upset."

"Please do."

"Are you sure there’s nothing more I should do? I have his tag number, you should at least see if he’s linked to any criminal activity," Emma said.

"I believe Janelle Franklin passed that information on. I assure you, Mrs. Hanks, there’s nothing that the three of you ladies need to worry about," the general replied.

"Well, if you say so," Emma said repeated, obviously not willing to give up the chase just yet.

"If you’ll return to your home, as soon as I have a clear idea of what’s going on, I’ll let you know." Again the general covered the speaker with his hand. "Do we have a location?"

Sam grinned. "She’s on Roosevelt Way. Between Third and Fourth."

Gary was heading out the door almost before the major had finished speaking. Daniel and Casey were on his heels.

Jack watched the three for a moment, then looked from the general to Sam. "No way am I gonna miss this!" He bolted out the door as well.

Sam looked at Hammond beseechingly.

"Go," Hammond sighed.

The blonde major was out the door like a flash.

"Mrs. Hanks, I would appreciate it very much if you’d make it home in the next fifteen minutes," the general sighed.

"Well, I’ll try. I have to find Janelle and Muriel. I’ll call you back when we get back to my place."

"Thank you, Mrs. Hanks."

The line went dead.

General Hammond didn’t know whether to begin damage control now, and call the president and explain what had happened...or wait until the inevitable happened, and he had details to offer the CIC.

 

A A A A A A

 

Emma wasn’t sure that the general fully understood the situation. He said he’d dispatched a ‘team’ to check Daniel and Casey’s house. Apparently Janelle’s conversation with her nephew had seen the information about the break-in and pursuit filtered to the proper people. But to be told to go home...and to not approach this man...

Well, it could be dangerous to approach him, especially if he was a bomber. The general might not think this punk was a threat...but she’d seen enough to be suspicious. The elderly woman had no doubt that as soon as that ‘team’ reported to Hammond, he’d realize just how important it was not to let this little creep out of their sight.

She paced back and forth in front of the car, trying to catch sight of her accomplices. She needed to let Janelle and Muriel know that the general had requested...

The elderly woman paused. No, he’d ordered. Practically begged her to return home. Frowning slightly, Emma began to move up the street, in the direction she’d glimpsed her friends before making her phone call. In spite of his insistence that the man they had followed was ‘no threat’, something was up! He wanted the three of them safely tucked away before they...probably a team of special ops soldiers...confronted the suspect! Oh, lordy...maybe he really was a bomber after all!

Fearing for the safety of her friends, Emma hastened her pace, searching almost frantically for the white heads of Janelle Franklin and Muriel Jackson.

 

 

 

Bob Stillman had no idea who the two elderly women who approached him were. His attention had been on the Dodge Charger he’d noticed, parked up the street...he was certain it was the same car he’d seen in the traffic behind him on his way here...

‘How dare you!" Muriel’s blue eyes flashed with barely repressed anger. "How dare you break into my grandson’s home and leave a bomb! He’s all I have left in the world!"

"Huh?" Bob’s eyes went wide.

"We saw you!" Janelle said accusingly, pulling herself to her full height of five feet, nine inches. She fairly towered over the more diminutive Muriel.

"Lady, I have no idea what you’re talking about!"

"We’ve been following you, watching you skulking around houses, checking out the back, leaving bombs and parts for bombs-"

Sherry stopped behind her husband. "Bob, what’s going on?"

"I don’t have a clue," the cable technician replied.

"He left a bomb in my grandson’s house!" Muriel declared.

"Oh, that’s ridiculous!" Sherry snapped.

"We’ve been watching him," Janelle insisted. "He’s been doing something!"

"Janelle! Muriel!" Emma was wheezing as she nearly ran up the driveway. "We need...to go...now!"

"We’ve got the punk cornered!" Janelle protested.

Bob tried to step around the obviously deranged old women. Found himself the victim of a sudden attack when Muriel swung her leather handbag at him, catching him on the shoulder. "Hey! That hurt!"

"Don’t you move! Janelle, call the police!" Muriel demanded.

"I left my purse in the car," Janelle said.

"That’s okay," Sherry Stillman said, watching Muriel carefully. "I have my phone. I’ll call. We’ll get this all straightened out."

"Sherry-" Bob started.

"Bob, they’re elderly...a bit confused. No doubt they have family worried about where they are by now, if they’ve been following you all day," the slender woman said softly.

"I am not confused, young lady," Muriel huffed.

The cable tech sighed. "Better call the police."

With a nod, Sherry dialed information, was immediately connected to the local police department. Explaining the situation as best she could, she received a promise from the dispatcher that at least two black and white units were on the way.

"Maybe we should sit down," Emma said, feeling a bit weak-in-the knees from the exertion of her near-run.

Sherry hurried to the old woman’s side. "Here, let me help you. Can you make it to the steps?"

Emma nodded, collapsed gratefully, her legs unwilling to hold her up any longer.

"Maybe I should go get one of the doctors?" Bob offered.

"Probably a good idea," Sherry said.

Janelle sat down beside Emma. "Are you all right, dear?"

"I’m fine, just a little winded. Wanted to get to you before you confronted him. The general has a team investigating everything right now," Emma replied.

"What else did he say?" Muriel asked.

"That we need to get back to my house right away. That he knows who the man is," Emma said, casting a glance at the young woman who hovered beside her. "I do hope you’re not going to find out something awful," she said kindly.

Sherry bit back her smile. "I don’t think there’s anything about Bob that I don’t already know."

The clinic door opened, and two nurses and a doctor hurried out. "What’s going on here?"

"Just a bit of a misunderstanding," Sherry said.

The doctor bent over Emma, carefully examining her face. The woman was a bit flushed, obviously overheated, and out of breath. "Bring an oxygen bottle, and some cold water," he told one of the nurses. "Ma’am, do you know your name?"

"Well of course I know my name! Do you know yours?"

Janelle snorted softly.

"Could you tell me your name, please?" the doctor asked patiently, trying not to laugh.

"Emma Hanks."

"Okay, Emma, do you know where you are?"

"Sitting on the porch of a big house, talking to an idiot."

Now Bob snickered slightly.

The sound of arriving vehicles pulled attention to the driveway, where two police cars had just parked. The officers climbed out of their respective units, walked toward the group. "What seems to be the problem?" one of the officers asked.

"These ladies seem to think my husband is a bomber," Sherry explained. "He works for the Commerce Cable company," she added quickly. "Apparently they’ve been following him today."

Bob frowned. There wouldn’t have been any confusion if he’d been in the van, he was certain of that. So that meant these deluded old biddies had started following him as soon as he’d made his first stop on the way here to the clinic. "I was in my car," he said, "my wife and I had an appointment here, and two of the drops were on the way. The boss told me it was okay to make them, even though I wasn’t in the van."

The police officers nodded. "What would make you ladies believe this man was a bomber?"

"He broke into my grandson’s house," Muriel huffed. "We saw him do it!"

All eyes swung back to the cable technician.

The frown deepened...although all parties were aware of the moment that realization dawned; it was evident in the look of understanding that covered his face. "I didn’t break it. The door was open, apparently the latch hadn’t caught properly. I left the new cable box inside, with a note explaining about the door, and then I made certain it was locked and shut tight on my way out."

"But why were you sneaking around the back?" Janelle asked.

Bob did his best not to glare at the woman. After all, he grudgingly admitted, if he’d seen the same thing, he’d have probably thought something wasn’t right about the situation as well! "If there isn’t an answer when I ring the doorbell, I find a safe place in the backyard to leave whatever piece of equipment I’m delivering. We’ve had a few of the boxes stolen right off of front porches. I always leave a note telling the homeowner where the box is located," Bob explained.

"Makes sense," the officer said.

The screech of tires against the pavement echoed loudly. Gary jumped out of his black Cadillac, and jogged up the driveway. Police. Great. They’re going to arrest the old bat. I’ll be damned if I’m posting bail!

Another vehicle came to an equally noisy halt...a bronze-colored Jeep. Four people, dressed in military BDUs, piled from it, and ran toward the group gathered around the porch of the manor house.

Casey paused, her eyes moving from Janelle to Muriel to Emma...she started to take a step, then hesitated, as if unsure which of the older women she should approach first. Catching sight of her father, she dashed forward. "You see to Aunt Janelle," she said, "just don’t go all tyrant on her, okay?" She grabbed Daniel’s hand. "You check on Grandma, and I’ll make sure Emma is okay."

Gary barely grunted his acknowledgment of his daughter’s comment. Daniel nodded, heading toward his grandmother.

Janelle rose to her feet. Gary was absolutely livid, every movement he made proclaimed that fact. She was certain she’d see the fire of that anger in his blue eyes when he was close enough.

Muriel was surprised to see Daniel and Casey hurrying toward up the long driveway...Jack and Sam right behind them. "Daniel?"

"Grandma, are you all right?" Daniel asked as soon as he was close enough.

"I’m fine, honey," Muriel replied.

Casey jogged to Emma’s side, knelt down beside her. "Emma, what happened?"

The octogenarian rolled her eyes, pushed aside the mask that the doctor was holding over her face. "Just got a bit winded. I’m fine," she added, noting the worry in Casey’s green eyes.

The doctor, who had been quietly administering a bit of oxygen to Emma, turned the handle on the tank, stopping the flow. "I think you’ll be all right. Just take it easy for the rest of the day. And stop following cable repairmen around town."

Emma gave a loud ‘harrumph’. "We didn’t know that’s what he was! He was acting suspiciously!"

"Why didn’t you just call the police, ma’am?" the second officer asked.

"Because I was working under orders from the general in charge of the Air Force base."

Jack snorted...snickered...tried to pretend he was coughing when all eyes turned toward him. "Actually officer, there is a bit of truth to that."

"You’re kidding," the police officer replied.

"If you’ll call General Hammond at NORAD, I’m certain he can straighten this out. Are the ladies in any trouble?"

"Not that I’m aware of," the officer said.

Muriel gave Bob a sheepish glance. "Officer, I’d like to turn myself in. I did hit him. But in my defense, I thought he’d left a bomb in my grandson’s home!"

The police officer turned to the cable technician. "Do you want to press charges?"

Bob shook his head. "Absolutely not. I never stopped to think about how it would look if I wasn’t in my uniform and the company van. If anything, I owe these ladies an apology for scaring them."

"There is the little matter of them following you," Gary growled, glaring at Janelle.

"Not a problem," Bob insisted.

"Well, if everyone is okay, and it seems no laws have been broken, we’ll be on our way," the first officer said. He turned around to walk toward his car. Noticed the red Dodge Charger in the driveway just up the street...parked facing the wrong way. "Guess we get to write a ticket..." he paused, turned back to look at the three elderly women. "That red Charger wouldn’t happen to belong to one of you, would it?"

Emma rose to her feet. "It’s mine," she declared.

"Ma’am, you entered that driveway from the wrong direction."

"I did? Well, I’m sure sorry about that," Emma replied.

"Can I see your driver’s license please?"

"Well, I left my purse in the car," Emma said, beginning to feel the first pangs of panic.

"Uh huh. Well, I’ll just walk over there with you."

Jack stepped forward. "Officer, if I were to offer to drive that car home, would that take care of any problems?"

The two men studied one another for a moment. The officer let just the faintest of smiles touch his lips. "This time. If I see that car on the street being driven by anyone with white hair, I’ll throw the book at them."

"I believe we can avoid that," Jack replied.

Casey walked toward the couple who were now standing off to the side...the cable technician and his wife. Cocked her head sideways, the grinned from ear to ear. "It’s going to work," she said softly. "This time next year, you’ll be up to your ears in diapers and bottles."

The two exchanged startled glances. "Excuse me?" Bob asked, tightening his arm around his wife’s shoulders.

"I’m a seer," Casey explained. "And...I see that this visit is going to get the results you’ve wanted for so long."

"How can you be certain?"

Daniel chuckled. "Casey’s predictions have never failed to come true."

"She hasn’t been wrong yet," Sam added

Bob and Sherry looked at one another, the hope they’d felt after talking with the doctor swelling even more. "Thank you," Sherry said, beaming a smile at the group.

"Janelle, it’s time to go," Gary said, wrapping his hand around his aunt’s arm.

"But Emma and Muriel-" Janelle started. The look her nephew gave her had the older woman snapping her mouth closed.

"Did you have lunch, or were you too busy acting like a deranged old broad?"

Her lips twitched. "We had lunch. But a piece of pie would be nice."

"And I suppose I’m the lucky sucker who gets to take you for that piece of pie?"

"Let me get my purse, and you can take us somewhere for pie, and we'll tell you how we managed to keep the suspect in sight without him knowing we were there. We were as good as those detectives on television! And Emma should be a stunt driver. Why, I’ve never seen anyone who could spin around a corner the way she can!"

"Old woman, I’m not in the mood," Gary warned.

"It all started when Emma was going to make a fresh pot of coffee, and she saw that man messing around the door of Daniel and Casey’s house," Janelle continued.

Gary stopped walking. "You’re going to give me a blow by blow account of this, aren’t you?"

"Over pie," Janelle retorted.

He couldn’t stop the grin that spread over his face. "One day, you’re going to wind up in jail. And when you do, I’m not going to do a damned thing about it."

"Oh, bull. You’ll be there with a camera," Janelle shot back.

Gary laughed. "Video camera. I’ll post it on Youtube."

"You’ll do what where?"

"Come on, you old battleaxe, I’ll explain it to you, after you tell me about your adventure."

Jack tucked Emma’s hand into the crook of his arm. "C’mon, Starsky. I’ll take you and Hutch home."

"Gibbs and Dinozzo," Muriel said, grinning.

"Who?" Jack asked, slightly confused.

"Don’t you watch NCIS?" Muriel asked.

"Can’t say that I do."

Muriel tucked her hand into the crook of his other arm. "It’s the best show on television! It’s all about Navy investigators. They’re called in whenever there’s a death involving military personnel. Gibbs is the team leader...the boss. Tony Dinozzo, he’s a hot-shot young investigator...I think he’s just like Gibbs must have been when he was young," the old woman confided.

Daniel watched as Jack escorted the two elderly women to the waiting Charger. "I’ll follow them, to make sure they get home safely," he told the police officers who had continued to watch the group.

The first officer nodded his understanding. "Have a good day, sir."

"You, too, officer."

His arm around Casey’s shoulders, Sam walking close to his other side, Daniel led the two back to the Jeep. The day had been full of...unusual...events. Jack apologizing for a situation that had happened two-and-a-half years earlier. His grandmother involved in a chase...spurred by his neighbor, who believed she was acting on orders from General Hammond. "This has got to be one of the weirdest days we’ve ever had."

"Oh, I dunno, I’ll bet we could think of one or two that would top this," Sam teased.

"At the very least. Although, I have the feeling we came close to having to bail those three out of jail," Casey said.

"With those three, it could still happen," Daniel snorted.

"Yeah, well, at least they’ll have something exciting to tell their friends. I mean, how many folks at the retirement center have chased a bomber around town?" Casey grinned.

Daniel chuckled. "My biggest worry is that the next time, you’ll be with them."

"That could be fun!"

He rolled his eyes. No doubt she’d have a blast. He, however, would probably keel over from heart failure worrying about her. "I thought you had enough adventure in your life," he said.

"Well, there’s always room for a little more," she teased.

"I suppose someone should call General Hammond, and let him know that everything is okay, and that the ‘mad bomber’ has been dealt with," Sam chortled, reaching for her cellphone.

 

 

 

In his office in the SGC, General George Hammond sighed with relief to know that there had been no fights, shooting, or arrests. And determined that he was going to have another little talk with Emma Hanks. One in which he would very carefully...and precisely...outline what he did and did not, want her to do. In spite of the day’s ‘excitement’, he still felt that having the elderly neighbor of Daniel and Casey Jackson keeping an eye open for strangers was a good idea. His gut was insisting that the NID was up to something. His gut was seldom wrong.

 

 

 

Bob explained what had happened to his boss. The two agreed that given the circumstances, all repair calls would be made in uniform, using the large white vans with the company logo. And new ID badges would be issued as well. Just so there was no confusion between cable technicians and potential bombers. Or at least so that little old ladies wouldn’t confuse the two.

THE END


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