Half a mile away his watch vibrated a warning. He punched the code for specifics-- intruder outside attempting illegal entry, caller at the front door, observer on the street . . .
Police? Or a criminal gang?
He trotted to the next corner . . . The observer was a gray haired woman looking anxiously up at the out-jutting rock cliff between his house and the nearest neighboring house.
"Hold on Honey! We'll get you down!"
And stranded just below his fence, a young woman hanging on to the rough rock face. She looked around and grinned happily, let go of a hand grip and waved. "Red and Brown!"
"Oh . . ." Definitely not police.
A man galloped down the steps of Axel's home. "There's no one home! I'll have to try to . . ." His gaze shifted to Axel, as he strode across the street.
"I'm almost home. Come on." He trotted up the steps. "Home again." Heard the clicks of the locks and shoved the door open. Dropped his groceries on the way up the stairs and out the door to the second floor patio.
The girl waved. "Red and Brown!"
Axel shucked his suit coat and hopped to belly-up on the fence. One shove and my splattered brains on the rocks below will be a regrettable accident.
A strong grip on his legs. "Can you reach her?"
"I'd better." Because even as he said it the girl let go with both hands, and teetering on her toeholds, reached for him.
He avoided her grab, and closed his hands around her upper arms and heaved. Swung her up and around, onto the fence, got an arm loose, grabbed her leg and tumbled her over onto his neglected lawn.
One of the grips on his legs disappeared, as the old guy grabbed his belt and pulled Axel off the fence. He staggered back and landed on his butt.
The young woman bounced to her feet and danced around. "Red and Brown!" And dashed off.
Axel took the proffered hand and made it to his feet. Dusted off his ass.
"Thank you so much . . . my daughter's not . . ."
"Very. Almost enough to institutionalize her . . ." The old man looked bleakly over the fence. "We may have to. Sooner than we'd thought."
"Perhaps," Axel leaned to look, and could see a corner of a patio jutting out. "Did she climb from your patio? Perhaps replace the fence with a high plex barrier?"
"That might work. She's never done this before. Umm, I'm Mitty."
"A . . ." he caught a flash of movement, high up in the windows. "Oh, she likes heights, doesn't she?" he strode inside. A glance at the front door where the grey-haired woman dithered. "C'mon up, I think she's upstairs." And hopefully not climbing up from my patio . . .
He charged up the steps and headed for the door on the other side . . . reversed course when he spotted her. Dancing around his desk, wine bottle in hand.
Oh shit. Please tell me she didn't drink any of it!
She had the cork in her other hand, and took a big swig.
I'm dead. D. E. D. Dead.
"Red and brown! I love you!"
She threw herself at Axel and planted a big wine-tasting kiss on his lips.
He disentangled her arms and pried the wine bottle from her right hand, the cork from her left and fighting off attempts to re-grab him, fighting to not grab back, because she was luscious armful . . . corked the bottle and set it back on the credenza.
"I think you've had enough, Miss." Holy . . . If your father wasn't right here . . . I'd be doing something I'd feel guilty about later!
"I should think so!" The father sounded shocked. "I'm so sorry . . . Dina! Stop . . . hugging the poor man."
Axel gave up and ducked, grabbed, and lifted the young woman over his shoulder. "Let's go find your mother, shall we?"
At least Dina was a lightweight. Her appalled and frantic father preceded him down the stairs, her mother, halfway up the first flight, scurried back down. Dina giggled.
"Sorry."Axel tried to not laugh at the pure absurdity of it all. "I had a bottle of wine out, and she must have been thirsty."
"Oh, and she didn't hardly eat lunch . . ."
Axel set Dina down and she leaned on him. Giving him big-eyed hungry looks.
"Miss Dina, you are a cheap drunk, and what you need is some ice cream." He grabbed his abandoned grocery sack, and managed to untangle Dina and get her on a stool and himself around the counter in the kitchen. He grabbed four bowls, spoons and scooped ice cream and got Dina giggling and eating instead of looking like she wanted to climb over the counter and grab him again.
"I'm so sorry, we're trespassing on your home and, and . . . we're eating all your ice cream." The mother looked a little lost.
Axel shook his head. "I was having a horrible day, and not looking forward to the next several. Decided I needed a drink . . . then decided that drunk was a really bad way to face the rest of the week, and that an ice cream binge was probably a better idea. I thank you for distracting me, and adding an actual high point to my day."
"Oh dear! Umm . . ." Mother eyed her daughter, licking her bowl . . . and eyeing Axel like he was next. "I think I'd better get Dina home. Thank you for rescuing her, and the ice cream, and . . . being so nice about it."
She didn't quite have to manhandle the girl out.
The guy, had he said Mitty? Started apologizing. Axel couldn't help it and started laughing. "I'm sorry, this is all so absurd on top of too little sleep and too much bad news. I tried to remember the last time a pretty young woman threw herself at me, and realized it's never happened before. So even through she was drunk, and dammit, one of the tragedies of modern life . . . Don't apologize."
Axel thought that over. "Actually, you'll probably curse me for that ice cream when the hangover hits."
Mitty laughed, they shook hands.
Axel closed the door behind him, and slid down to the floor. Laughing a little.
Realizing how much trouble he was in. If that little sample I snuck past the Inquisitor and dropped in the wine bottle works . . . Dead. Meat.
And I need a cold shower.
And to get back to the house.
After I finish the ice cream.