“Yes, dear. What can I do for you?”
“We need to talk.”
Edna smiled into the phone and thought to herself, “Here we go again.”
“I think it's time we called the sheriff.”
“You know very well who I'm talking about,” Martha replied, then lowered her voice. “Those Arabs.”
“They aren't hooligans, Martha,” Edna responded straining to keep her annoyance out of her voice.
“How can you be sure?”
“Denny had them over for a barbecue the weekend after they moved in.”
“Denny,” Martha shot back with a harrumph.
“...and they've gotten together with his gang several times since.”
Martha muttered something indecipherable.
“What?” Edna responded.
“Denny and 'his gang' are all hooligans, too.”
Edna shook her head without saying anything.
“We should call the sheriff about them, too.”
“They're all troublemakers, them and their so called 'militia'.”
“No, Martha, don't excite yourself. We've talked about this before. Denny and the militia have put in a lot of time, not to mention their own money, organizing and training to protect our neighborhood.”
“That's what we have the sheriff for,” Martha retorted.
Edna sucked in a deep breath and counted to three. She and Martha had had this discussion before, several times in fact.
“Why don't you come over for some tea,” Edna offered.
Martha harrumphed several more times before accepting the invitation. She arrived about a half hour later bringing her knitting basket with her. Edna had tea and cookies arranged on a platter on the front porch by the time Martha arrived. Edna noted with a smile that her neighbor had her cordless phone perched on top of the sweater she was knitting.
The two women had just settled in with their tea and cookies when Denny arrived with one of “those Arabs”. Martha shot a look at Edna and then pretended to focus on the cup and saucer on her lap; however, everyone could see that her focus was on the two men.
Denny smiled broadly and addressed Martha directly. “Edna says that you want to call the sheriff. What're your concerns?”
Martha shot another look at Edna and planted her chin on her chest. Her breathing became labored as a red stain spread across her neck and cheeks. The others waited patiently for her response until Martha was forced to conclude that she couldn't escape without making some sort of answer.
Denny smiled again and let her off the hook. “You don't have to worry, Martha. Our new neighbors are good folk.”
“How do you know that?” Martha shot back. She looked at each of the others in turn before continuing. “Isn't that always what happens? Every time there's some... some incident, the neighbors are always surprised. 'They seemed so nice',” she concluded in a sing song voice.
Denny shrugged. “That's true,” he conceded, “but, most people don't know what to look for.”
“And you do?” Martha retorted.
“Actually, yes,” Denny answered calmly. “The militia...”
“The militia!” Martha interrupted.
“Our group has been trained,” Denny continued, “in identifying terrorist threats.”
Martha harrumphed again.
“It's true,” Denny persisted. “Ned Jones, from down the street, served in Army Intelligence. He's been conducting classes.”
“Ned's part of your mob?”
Denny chuckled at the reference and Edna clucked. The new neighbor simply tipped his head to one side and kept silent.
“Yes,” Denny replied, “and so is Mohamed,” he added indicating the other man. “He joined last Saturday.”
Martha's eyes widened as she looked directly at the new neighbor for the first time.
“We're lucky to have him,” Denny continued. “He's an Army Reservist, just released from active duty. He served two tours in Afghanistan.”
“That's supposed to make me feel better?” Martha challenged. “Great! As if it isn't bad enough there's a bunch of ruffians playing with guns in the neighborhood, now...” Martha let her thought trail away and then continued on another tack. “Well, if there's any real trouble, I'll call the sheriffs. I trust them.”
“Go right ahead,” Denny responded. “We'll take care of things until they get here.”
Martha challenged him with her eyes only.
Denny waited just a moment before continuing his explanation. “The sheriff's response time here is at least ten minutes. Remember when the Jacobson's boy set fire to their shed?”
Martha shrugged as though refusing to concede the point.
“And, if there's serious trouble,” Denny continued, “something widespread, they might not get to us for hours or days. Hell, the county is on the verge of bankruptcy and they might not get here at all.”
“Well, we can depend on the federal government.”
The others on the porch joined in laughter.
“I don't think you remember Katrina,” Edna interjected.
“Or Boston,” Denny added.
“Well, excuse me,” Martha huffed, “but if there's any trouble, I'm calling nine-one-one.”
It was Denny's turn to shrug. “Go right ahead,” he invited, “and you'll still get us.”
“What?” Martha reacted.
Denny pulled out a flat credential holder, flipped it open, and held it up for Martha's benefit. It contained a deputy sheriff's badge and identity card. “Each member of the militia is being deputized,” he explained, “as they complete the training. Mohamed starts next week. It allows us to carry concealed and keep weapons and ammunition that federal law allows only to police officers. Nine-One-One operators have instructions to call us if there's an incident in our neighborhood.”
Martha studied the credentials and shook her head sadly. “What is the world coming to,” she said.
“More than you might expect,” Edna snickered and pulled her knitting aside to reveal her leather credential holder and .38 special revolver in the bottom of her basket. She smiled as a look of shock spread across her neighbor's face.
Denny gave her a minute to recover and then asked, “Are you interested in joining us?”
“Sure,” Denny responded. “We need observers, neighborhood watchers like you. You're already doing it.”
“What would I do?”
“What you're already doing. Just keep an eye out for trouble. Call us if you suspect anything.”
“Like I suspected your friend here, Mohamed?”
“Absolutely,” Denny replied. “We're not going to do anything rash.”
“I don't know,” Martha said. “I think that I'd prefer waiting for the 'real law'.”
Edna smiled and reached out to touch her neighbor's hand. “Martha,” she said softly, “we the people are the 'real law'.”