The boys belong to the letter people. I don't own 'em. Couldn't afford the insurance premiums on them anyway. I only sneak in and pounce on them occasionally. Lucky I've got the judge on my side 'cause the boys are trying to get a restraining order against me.
THE NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH
Ezra sighed laying his head on the steering wheel of his jaguar. Ah truly hate jet lag. Ah will never attend another of Mutha's weddings. How dare she offer me as a sacrifice on the altar of matrimony. Ah do not care how large a portfolio comes with each of them. A man must spend some time with a wife. Spinster one had those somewhat cross-eyes. Easily overlooked if one's heart is involved but her determination to bed every male in the vicinity was just crass. Spinster two with her constant sniffling and sneezing, and her tendency to go on for hours about her ill health, not to mention the extricating detail to which she went on medical procedures. Well, it made me positively loose mah appetite. Spinster three, God help me, did everything except check mah teeth and demand a test to determine mah potency. Ezra shivered in revulsion just remembering the woman's clinging fingers. Lord, it is good to be home. An entire week of Mutha's company after a month long case is entirely too much stress. Mr. Sanchez must have been praying for me. It was an act of God getting a seat on that plane. Monte Carlo in the busy season whatever was Mutha thinking?
Standish sat up and squared his shoulders before opening the door and stepped out. Sighing in disgust Standish looked down. It would appear that son of a bitch Andre has been trespassing once again. Carefully Ezra made his way to the edge of the drive where he attempted to scrape the excrement off his shoe.
"Oh Mr. Standish, I do apologize. I was on my way to clean that up," Dorothy Cabott exclaimed in dismay.
Ezra failed to suppress a slight smile as he acknowledged the flustered little woman. Mr. Tanner is quite correct, she does bring to mind a sparrow. Calmly he studied the tiny, rotund, silver-haired woman clasping the pooper scooper in one hand and what appeared to be half a roll of wadded paper towels in the other.
"How are you this morning Ms. Dorothy?" Ezra drawled.
"Honey, you're exhausted. Now just get yourself inside and go to bed. Leave your shoe with me and I'll get it cleaned up for you," Dorothy peered up at Ezra.
"Ms. Dorothy that is unnecessary," Ezra soothed.
"Nonsense, he's my dog, young man. Now give me that shoe before I thump you with this pooper scooper." Dorothy stood tall scowling up at her neighbor.
"Please, Ms. Dorothy. I beg of you, do not assault mah person. I agree to acquiesce to your demands," Ezra widened his eyes in supposed fright. He quickly reached down and unlaced his shoe then gingerly handed it to the toe-tapping Dorothy.
"Take your sock off, no reason to ruin a good pair of socks," Dorothy ordered.
"Yes Ma'am." Ezra immediately bent to remove the sock.
"Kaiser Hans Wilhelm Friedrich Otto Sebastian Andre," an amazingly drill sargent type bellow rolled forth from the tiny woman.
Standish manfully suppressed his grin as the red tea-cup Pomeranian peeked out of one of Sylvia Oglethorpe's flower pots. Oh, dear. And the war is on. Ah must remember to take notes. These two dear old ladies take deviousness to new heights.
Hopping out of the pot the little dog seemed to drag his feet as he made his way across Ezra's tiny patch of yard.
Highly reminiscent of Mr. Tanner's most recent hospital visit. Ezra studied the slow moving Pomeranian.
"Bad dog. Look what you did." Dorothy pointed down at the mess on the drive as the Pom finally reached his owner. Promptly ducking his head and curling his tail under himself, the dog looked appropriately chastised.
"You know better than running off and making a mess on Mr. Standish's driveway," Dorothy lectured. Andre gave a soft whimper in response. "No, you need to apologize to Mr. Standish," Dorothy continued.
Ezra looked down at the soft touch on his bare foot. A tiny paw rested on his big toe. Andre gave a soft whimper and looked up pitifully.
"Mr. Cabott, please refrain from such uncivilized behavior in the future." Ezra scowled down. "Ms. Dorothy, I do believe you will be receiving a visit from Ms. Oglethorpe shortly." Ezra winced, taking in the mound of dirt still on Andre's nose.
"That's fine I need to talk to her about that demon disguised as a cat. Dar-i-us shredded Andy's new stuffed cat," Dorothy huffed. "Oh Dear! You might want to put your car in the garage. Darius is still running loose. And do be careful, Sylvia has been baking again." Dorothy warned.
"Baking? May God have mercy," Ezra hurriedly made his way back to his car carefully avoiding the mess on the drive. Quickly, he raised the garage door and slid the jaguar into its den, leaving no sign of his presence.
Standish climbed out of the jaguar once more. Grumbling to himself he reached in to recover his keys that still dangled from the ignition.
Pay attention, Mr. Standish. Such lapses can cause your demise. No matter how exhausted, one must keep up appearances. HUH?Open the damn trunk and get out your luggage. Come on, Ez. It'll wait. I wanna bath and bed. Once I am within I have no intention of seeing this vehicle until Monday morning. Besides which, if I am recalling correctly I am out of clean undergarments.
Ezra hit the trunk release then shuffled back to get his cases. The toes on his bare foot wriggled in pleasure at their freedom.
Perhaps I should consider professional assistance? Not only am I conversing with mahself but I am answering as well and using a vernacular far more suitable to Mr. Dunne.
Ezra sat down on the lid of his laundry hamper while the washer started filling. Lifting his foot he removed the remaining shoe and sock giving a long sigh of relief as he wriggled his bare toes. "Heaven, pure heaven," Ezra whispered.
Ezra tensed and scowled noting signs of having an intruder. Ezra Standish you are most definitely losing your mind. No one is going to burgle your home and steal your soiled boxers.
Rising cautiously Ezra drew his automatic and began a careful search of the premises. Reholstering his weapon, a rueful smile lit his tired face as he registered the watering can sitting prominently on his kitchen counter. It appears I have been visited by an angel of mercy, one of the Texas variety. Standish chuckled as he picked up the plastic wrapped spork which had been laid out along with a bottle of honey, a teacup, saucer, a canister containing a selection of his favorite teas. One of these days I must give Vin a key. Ezra smirked and shook his head. No Mr. Tanner derives such pleasure from pointing out the ineptitude of my security company.
"He didn't! That . . . flea bitten Texas rat," Ezra fumed. Throwing open the kitchen door he stomped across the patio to glare at his ravaged and mutilated bush. "I should have him up on charges!"
"I've been admiring your new topiary," Mortimer Oglethorpe's soft voice carried over the fence separating their yards. "It's very realistic."
Standish spluttered wordlessly.
"Sh, sh get inside Sylvia's coming and she made muffins," Mortimer hissed sharply.
Spinning around Ezra dove through the kitchen door shutting it silently behind him.
Fuming to himself Ezra fixed a cup of tea. Why am I looking in the refrigerator? I've been gone over a month if I had left anything in there it would be well beyond consumption. Shaking his head at his own behavior Ezra opened the door anyway. To his amazement a quart of fresh milk, an assortment of fresh vegetables, as well as some yogurt graced the shelves.
Damn that Vin Tanner he's making it extraordinarily hard to stay angry with him. This does not mean ah will not retaliate for that monstrosity in mah yard. Besides which my undergarments are still missing. He wouldn't have? Cautiously Ezra opened the freezer door to peer within. Praline ice cream Mr. Tanner you are a saint. Ah should have known better Mr. Tanner rarely repeats himself. Mr. Wilmington shouldn't have been carrying on so about being . . . hot. Ezra began to giggle hysterically at the memory. I do hope he wore gloves while handling Mr. Wilmington's unmentionables no telling what might be lurking in the fabrics. Each pair had been care fully soaked then frozen into an icy block which had been neatly fitted into the freezer compartment.
Ezra fixed himself a small bowl of ice cream appeasing his empty stomach momentarily. Now perhaps I might rest undisturbed. Shower first Ah can't endure mah own scent any longer. Eighteen hours on airplanes or in airports plays hob with ones hygiene.
Grasping the banister tightly Standish made his way up the stairs to the master bedroom. Just a little longer Ezra then you can sleep. I will just purchase new undergarments later if I am unable to recover the ones Mr. Tanner has absconded with.
Entering the bedroom Ezra smiled faintly. He will break into mah home. Water mah plants, stock the refrigerator, molest mah shrubbery, do mah laundry, but finds himself incapable of invading mah privacy by opening a closet or dresser drawer. A neatly stacked laundry basket containing clean clothing sat beside the bed and neatly pressed shirts and trousers hung on hangers lined up on a broom handle propped up between the dresser and a chair.
Very thoughtful of him to remove them from the laundry service's covers so that they might air out. Ezra wandered over and stared at the shirts. Maybe I won't have to find a new service after all. They didn't starch them into the consistency of cardboard this time. Amazing, they managed to remove that blood stain as well. Ezra began to place the clean garments into his closet.
I had intended to discard this one. Its cuff is torn and the button is missing. Standish blinked in disbelief examining the shirt's cuff. Ezra mah boy your choo-choo has jumped its track. You're a brick shy of a load. Completely balmy. It happens to all the Standish's great-aunt Hortense took great pleasure in informing me of that bit of family history when I was ten. Shaking fingers examined the shirt cuff closely. No I'm not coo-coo it has been mended. What tiny stitches this is exquisite work. Ezra mused in amazement. Hanging up the shirt he paused, leaning forward Standish delicately sniffed the fabric. Mah word this is Vin's laundry detergent. Did that uncouth, scruffy, wrinkled blight upon fashion wash and press these himself? I am simply overly tired. Ezra finished hanging the shirts in his closet.
Wandering over to his bed he turned back the hand made quilt and comforter. What? These aren't my sheets I would never own something so crass. Ezra scowled down at the sky blue sheets covered with small sheep cavorting about with smug little smirks on their little faces. I will simply beat Vin Tanner later. Hesitantly Standish lifted the pillows checking for booby traps. Lifting the covers he checked to make sure the bed hadn't been short sheeted. Lavender! The conman gasped and took a short step back from the bed. He did remember. He was drugged out of his mind when I returned him to his bed and told him about how peacefully I slept in Grandmere Marie's bed and how it always smelled of lavender. Flannel? Such a mundane fabric. It is so very soft. Standish stroked the top sheet with sensitive fingers. I'd wager they're warm as well. You have done everything but sing lullabies and rock me trying to insure I rest well haven't you my friend. Ezra you're home at last.
Bath, I simply can not endure my stench any longer. Ezra's feet drug as he turned toward the spotless haven of civilization. Dropping his soiled garments into a laundry hamper Standish sighed deeply as his shirt fell to the bathroom floor instead. If I attempt to pick that up I will simply join it on the floor and sleep there. I'll pick up later. A deep moan was uttered as Ezra stepped under the warm spray. Heaven on earth. Long minutes later Standish turned off the cooling spray. I must have fallen asleep standing up. Stepping out into the humid room he pulled a huge bath towel off the rod wrapping it around his hips. Pulling another towel over his head he half-heartedly dried his hair before dropping the towel to puddle on the floor next to the shirt. Mah bed is calling.
What evil god have I offended? Ezra flinched as he spotted the large fuzzy calico Persian cat luxuriating on his bed deliberately shedding mounds of hair. Darius narrowed his eyes and unsheathed his claws. Deadly implements of destruction as attested to by numerous shoes, pants legs and defenseless ankles. Standish, this is your home drive that demon out before he takes possession.
"Your protector is not here. I will shave your fuzzy butt if you do not retreat from the premise post haste," Standish snarled. Darius growled threateningly back.
Bless you Vin Tanner. Ezra snatched up the hanger rod/broom and advanced upon his nemeses.
Slowly coming to his feet Darius fluffed his fur. Yellow green eyes locked on emerald green for a moment before the large tom cat decided the human was serious and would retaliate if attacked this time. Sniffing derisively he sauntered out of the bedroom and regally descended the stairs with Ezra trailing along still clutching his broom. Stalking through the kitchen Darius made his way to the slightly ajar door to the back yard. Breathing a sigh of relief Standish let down his guard a moment to soon. The big tom spun around and sunk his teeth into the big toe of the human's left foot. A pained screech filled the air followed by a yowl of shock as Darius dodged the swatting broom. The feline charged out the door with Ezra in hot pursuit.
The two women stood in their own yards fussing over the fences with Ezra's small back garden between them, while Mortimer Oglethorpe simply puttered in the yard ignoring the almost daily ritual. Ms. Dorothy and Ms. Sylvia's heated but ever so polite debate broke off as Darius raced across the patch of yard and over the fence taking sanctuary in his dotting owner's arms. Bare legs flashed as the conman charged after the nefarious feline. In an attempt to prevent Darius from breaking back and reentering his home Ezra slammed the kitchen door, thereby reengaging the alarm system and trapping his towel in the process. Ezra had taken several steps and thrilled gasps filled the air before it registered with Standish that his towel had neglected to remain with him.
Blushing wildly at his unintended display Ezra dropped the broom and sought reentry to his domain. "SUGAH!" Standish rattled the door knob assuring himself that indeed the negligent door was now locked. Leaning his forehead against the glass he attempted to make his aching brain function.
"Muffin, Mr. Standish?" Sylvia offered sweetly.
"No I don't believe so at this time Ms. Sylvia," Ezra responded faintly. "Would one of you dear ladies please call . . . Mistah Tannah and request his presence for me?"
"Do we have to?" Dorothy giggled looking across the fences at the widely smiling Sylvia.
"Please?" Ezra asked ever so sweetly.
"I'll call," Mortimer said calmly as he headed into the house.
"Spoil sport," Dorothy sniffed.
"A bit cool don't you think Mr. Standish," Sylvia purred.
"Why yes I do believe so Ms. Sylvia. How are you this morning?" Ezra groaned.
"The day is looking better all the time Mr. Standish," Sylvia noted. "Don't you agree Dorothy?"
"Oh my yes, Why it's been years since things looked this good." She chortled.
"Ladies you are being . . . ," Ezra trailed off unable to wrap his mind around a word to cover his particular situation.
"Admiring," Dorothy offered sweetly.
"A blanket would be most appreciated," Ezra suggested.
"Why certainly Mr. Standish you walk right on over here and I'll be happy to loan you one," Dorothy giggled.
"Sylvia dear did you ever learn how to use the digital camera?" Dorothy asked curiously.
"Certainly," Sylvia huffed.
"Mortimer, be a dear and bring my camera when you come," Sylvia called.
"Oh Gawd!" Ezra thumped his head on the door.
"The bridge club of course. And Catherine Smother's, her and her pool boy indeed," Dorothy began listing.
"Abigail Lewis has been so depressed since she moved into the nursing home. A few pictures should brighten up her day," Sylvia suggested.
"Mr. Standish would you sign a release for the garden club's calendar?" Dorothy asked.
"Certainly not," Ezra snapped. Obviously it will do no good to ask for a bobby pin or wire so I might pick the lock.
A long twenty minutes passed while Ezra . . . visited with the neighbor ladies. A relieved look filled his eyes as Vin Tanner appeared in his kitchen and hurried over to open the door for him.
"Darn!" Sylvia hissed. "Mortimer still hasn't found batteries for the camera."
"Oh what a shame," Dorothy sighed and returned to her weeding.
"Ez, ya all right?" Vin blushed before snatching up the no longer trapped towel and tossing it at the conman. Shutting the door firmly behind Ezra, Tanner pulled the shades down preventing the two peeping Tammys from seeing in.
"No I am not alright," Ezra snarled. Struggling for composure Standish wrapped the towel snuggly around himself. "Thank you for rescuing me, again."
"Yer makin' a habit of this. I put a key ta tha house in yer bush out back," Vin said with a suppressed snicker.
"That monstrosity you created?" Ezra growled.
"Hey Mortimer thinks it looks fine. It's a nice little donkey," Vin protested
"Where pray tell is said key located?" Ezra demanded with a sinking feeling in his gut.
"Yeah don' need to worry it's hid good," Vin grinned widely. "Yah got ta raise his tail ta find it.
"Where by I would have been arrested and sent to a psychiatritic facility for evaluation for molesting the shrubbery." Ezra groaned.
"Mighta looked bad you out there bare-assed feeling up the bushes." Vin sniggered.
Ezra began to giggle hysterically.
"Whatcha done to yer toe?" Tanner commented looking at the man's bare feet.
"Darius," Ezra shook his head in resignation.
"Guess that explains a lot. Best git it fixed. Come on Nate left a medical kit in yer downstair bathroom," Tanner ordered leading the way.
Vin gently cleaned the bite and covered it with a bandaid. "Least we know he's had his shots.
"Bedtime, Ez." Vin smiled warmly and steered Ezra up the stairs and into his room. Pulling down the shades Vin turned. Tanner shook his head and pulled the blankets up over the soundly sleeping Standish. "Glad ta have yah home, Ez." Vin whispered before tucking him in.
"Darn!" Sylvia hissed. "Mortimer still hasn't found batteries for the camera."
"Oh what a shame," Dorothy sighed and returned to her weeding.
"I think I'm getting Mortimer a membership to a health club for his birthday," Sylvia announced.
"Sylvia dear, Mortimer never looked like that boy," Dorothy giggled.
"I know, maybe we could join?" Sylvia smirked. "No harm in looking. It would be good for our hearts. All those sweaty young men," Sylvia removed her hat and used it as a fan to cool her face.
"OH MY!" Dorothy blurted. "Sylvia dear Mortimer wants some company. Hurry Dear, at our age he might change his mind. For a man his age he still has a fine . . ."
"Dorothy find your own . . . Morty is mine," Sylvia charged toward the house and her waiting spouse.