Chase was breathing hard after thirty seconds. He’d tried quitting smoking when he left Boulder, but apparently a week wasn’t enough to clear the lungs out. He kept at it though. He began to slow down, his arms feeling like he was punching through water and his legs growing heavy.
“Fuck it,” Chase muttered. He checked his watch. Two minutes and forty seconds to go. He hadn’t even made it halfway. He turned the timer off and stopped, leaning over to catch his breath.
He’d get back in shape, he promised himself. Then he wondered about the promise; what did he have to get in shape for?
He was retired.
Chase straightened and went over to the two by four. He hit it at half speed and power. Knuckles, knife edge, open palm. All the striking surfaces. The calluses he’d built up over the years had sustained better than his wind. His hands tingled, but he didn’t break skin.
When he started coughing, he surrendered. Sweat was running down his bare chest in rivulets and steam rose off his body. He noticed that Chelsea was gone. He hopped up over the sea wall and headed for the sliding door he’d left open. As he entered, Chelsea began barking; not at him, but at the front door, hackles raised.
Chase figured the doorbell was broken, along with a lot of other things here. He paused to pick up a small rubber ball, a hand cruncher, and he began absently working it with one hand as he went to the door. He pushed a knee against Chelsea, trying to edge her out of the way, not an easy task.
As Chelsea continued to bark, Chase opened the door. He tossed the cruncher aside as he held on to Chelsea’s collar with that hand. Two men. One in a khaki uniform, Smoky the Bear hat, aviator sunglasses, and a belt festooned with pistol, taser, pepper spray, cuffs, baton, extra ammo clips; enough crap that Chase figured the guy was compensating for something. The other, older man was wearing a lightweight white sports coat and slacks, with a pale blue silk shirt underneath. He was a whip-thin, wiry man, and his graying flat-top haircut screamed former military service. He had a badge on his belt, and an automatic in a supple leather holster clipped on his right hip. There were two cars behind them. A patrol car with Spanish Wells Security stenciled on the side, and an un-marked, obvious cop car.
“Yes?” Chase asked.
The plainclothes spoke, his voice carrying the slow rhythm and accent of the low-country. “Good day, sir. Sorry to interrupt. Were you in the middle of something?” he added, taking in the lack of shirt and abundance of sweat.
“Just doing a workout.”
“Always good to keep one’s self fit,” the plainclothes said, with enough lack of enthusiasm to indicate what he really thought of working out. “I’m Lieutenant Parsons from the Beaufort Sheriff’s office. This here is Officer Graves from Spanish Wells Security. We have a report that a man living hereabouts pointed a gun at his neighbor.”
“You received bad information,” Chase corrected. “The man living there”—he pointed with his free hand to the neighbor’s mansion—“pointed a gun at me.”
“That’s most strange, sir,” Parsons said with a frown, “because Mister Rollins, who lives yonder, he be the one who called in the report. Y’all mind if we come in?” He was already moving forward, but Chase didn’t yield his position, Chelsea at his side.
Parsons stopped, raised an eyebrow, and glanced at Graves, then back at Chase. “You be new to the island, ain’t you, son?”
Chase figured Parsons had less than a decade on him, and didn’t appreciate the ‘son’ comment. “I’ve been here before.”
“Do you know who Mister Rollins is?” Parsons asked.
“The man who pointed a gun at me.”
Graves finally spoke, his broad face red and a vein throbbing in his forehead. “That’s not what Mister Rollins says.” Chelsea growled and Graves glared down at her, his hand hovering over the automatic strapped to his belt. “You better control your dog.”
Chase hadn’t seen this many trigger-happy people since Afghanistan. He checked that thought: Colorado had been pretty damn bloody. “I am controlling her, and you are not welcome in my home.” It was the first time he’d said those last two words, and he liked the way it sounded, too.
Parsons shook his head. “Son, we can do this easy or we can do this hard. Seems like you want hard. May I please see some identification? And perhaps you might want to put a shirt on?”
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Genre – Thriller
Rating – PG