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It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s a … What the Hell Is It?

Somewhere in 2008 …

“Yeah, and if Abe Lincoln wore a skirt, he’d a been the bearded lady,” Ramiro scoffed.  “Look, I don’t care how it got there, all I’m telling you is it wasn’t there on Tuesday.”

The three flannel clad men stood shoulder to shoulder around a five by eight foot depression in the Spanish colonial’s front courtyard. Remnants of the displaced cobblestone pavers lay at their feet, mixed in with the ring of loose dirt that lined the hole’s perimeter.

“Maybe it’s part of an old Russian satellite,” Gerry offered. “Decommissioned after the Cold War, no funding to maintain it? The news is always talking about those pieces of junk falling out of the sky.”

“That’s no satellite,” Blum replied, rubbing two day’s worth of stubble on his Popeye chin. “Where’s the hammer and the whatsamacallit?”

“Sickle, Bloomer. Hammer and sickle. If you’re feeling so smart, what is it then,” Gerry challenged.

In unison, all three leaned in for a closer look at the amber light pulsing within the small, metallic orb at the bottom of the crater.

“Meteorite, maybe? Whatever it is, that wasn’t made by any man,” Blum answered.

“I don’t care if it’s a plutonium care package from Ted Kaczynski so long as someone fixes this,” Ramiro announced, toeing the dirt as he removed his faded ball cap to run a hand through the unkempt brown hair beneath it.

“I figured out the smell. Cabbage. Smells just like microwaved cabbage,” Gerry mused. “You get a hold of your agent yet?”

“Yeah. She said there’s nothing she can do since it happened after the final walk-through.” He put the cap back on his head, snugging the visor down low over his bloodshot eyes.

“Probably doesn’t want to interrupt her afternoon bridge game,” Gerry snorted. “What about the seller?”

“Suggested I call the home warranty company,” Ramiro replied.

“Did you?”

“They claim it’s a pre-existing condition. Besides, they consider the courtyard part of the landscaping, not the house. Won‘t cover it,” Ramiro lamented.

“It could be some kind of stargate,” Blum hypothesized.

“What,” he demanded in response to their withering stares.

“Stargate for who, Darby O’Gill and the six inch Klingons? Did your parents huff Reddiwhip or something,” Gerry asked.

“Screw you, Gerald,” Blum replied, resorting to disparaging his childhood friend through the use of his formal name.

“What about your home inspector,” Gerry asked, turning back to Ramiro.

“Called him five times, left three messages. Haven’t heard back yet,” said Ramiro.

“Termite guy?”

“Yeah, because the mother of all termite colonies ate my courtyard on the day of closing,” Ramiro quipped.

“Just trying to help here, man. Of course, if you don’t need me …,” Gerry trailed off as he took the last swig of cold coffee from his Styrofoam cup and made as if to leave.

“Don’t get your underoos in a bunch, Geraldo. I’m just pissed is all,” Ramiro offered by way of an apology.

“I’ve got it,” Blum announced. “It’s the fallen sun of a tiny solar system.”

“What color is the sky in your world, Bloomer,” Gerry wondered.

“Depends,” Blum responded with a Cheshire cat’s grin. “Remind me what color the walls are in your mom’s room again?”

Gerry shook his head in exasperation and turned back to Ramiro, who had retreated even further beneath his hat.

“Looks like you’ve got yourself a real hot potato here, Ram. I’m fresh out of ideas,” Gerry confessed.

“Time capsule from the future,“ Blum proposed before shrugging his massive shoulders in similar defeat.

Ramiro looked from one to the other and nodded, coming to a decision.

“One for the money …”

“Don’t do it, Ram,” Gerry warned.

“Two for the show …”

“Don’t,” Gerry warned again.

“Three to get ready,” Ramiro continued, then jumped.

“Ramiro,“ Gerry shouted.

“And four to go,” Ramiro finished from the bottom of the crater. Determination shone in the green eyes that looked up at his aghast companions.

“Crazy SOB,” Gerry muttered, shaking his head.

“If I don’t make it out of here, tell your kids their real daddy loves them,” Ramiro instructed.

Gerry smiled, unable to deny the humor in the well-played jab.

“Oh man, oh man, oh man …” Blum mumbled as he swayed from one foot to the other.

Ramiro stretched one hesitant hand towards the glowing anomaly. Everything stopped as his index finger hovered a scant two inches from its smooth surface.

“I wouldn’t touch that if I were you,” a stern voice from topside advised.

Ramiro looked up to see an unfamiliar figure sandwiched between his friends. Eight pounds of yipping terrier strained at the other end of the pink leash he held. Electrical crackling and popping drew his gaze back to the now vibrating orb. The yellow glow had morphed into a deep, angry red.

“What the hell is it,” he called to the creased face that loomed over him.

“Nasty business, that’s what. You’ve got yourself a recent sales comp there, son.”

“Sales comp,” Ramiro mouthed, reflexively withdrawing his hand. “But I just closed yesterday?”

The old man pointed at something Ramiro couldn’t see from his vantage point as his friends dropped their cups and ran for their lives.

“Cowards,” Ramiro called after them.

“The Peters place … or the Peters place before the bank took it back, I should say. Just closed this morning.”

“How much,” Ramiro asked.

“Two fifty,” the old man answered.

“Two fifty?! That’s ten thousand less than I paid!”

“Oh, cry me a river, son,” the old man stiffened, “I’ve been getting pelted with these things for the past eighteen months. Last one took out my master addition. One before that got my kitchen remodel. Too many more direct hits and my retirement goes on indefinite hiatus.”

“So what do I do with it,” Ramiro asked.

“Nothing,” the old man replied.

“Nothing?”

“Nothing. The HOA board will be by with the space suits and shovels to fill in the holes this weekend. We bury our own in these parts,” he explained.

“But it will still be here,” Ramiro objected. “Shouldn’t we dig it up and get rid of it or something? I don‘t want this thing in my neighborhood!”

Steam began rising off the shuddering orb as a high pitched warble sent the cowering dog between its master’s legs.

The old man chuckled, extending a leathery mitt into the void.

“Fool’s errand, son. Like trying to drink your way out of the ocean. Dig up one just in time for two more to hit. They’ve started hammering us so hard that all we can do is bury them as best we can and pray the appraisers don’t find’em.”

“Yeah, swell,” Ramiro replied as he was pulled out of one hole and into another. “I think they bussed in a nearsighted cyclops from Calcutta to do mine.”

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The Poltergeist Home Inspection Report

Date: 12/17/10

Location: 666 S. Hanson LN, Scottsdale, AZ 85258

Client: Scheptich, Myron

Present At Time of Inspection: Buyer, Buyer’s Agent, Malevolent Spirit(s)

Time of Inspection: 1:57 PM MST

Weather Conditions: 72F degrees, clear skies, light winds out of the SE.

Note: Findings limited to visible observations of property condition at the time of inspection. Lemonbusters, LLC not responsible for property deficiencies discovered subsequent to the date noted on line 1 of this report. Damages for errors and omissions limited to the cost of inspection.

Grounds

Distinguishing Lot Characteristic: Hillside

SW corner of property bisected by natural arroyo. Recommend additional investigation to determine if designated flood plain.

Possible earth fissure detected in east side yard between garden and block wall along property line.

Front and rear sprinkler systems detected, but not tested.

Note: Homesite familiar to inspector – believes his great aunt Stella may have been buried in the atrium. Possible explanation for faulty grade present at that location.

Exterior Structure

Heaving to concrete slab of front sidewalk and separations at the north stem wall of the home indicate possible settling issues. Recommend further investigation by structural engineer to determine presence of expansive soil and extent of damage to foundation.

Main Roof

Concrete tile applied over underlayment. Noted three (3) cracked tiles on southern slope (photos 1a & 1b). Vent stack penetrations require resealing. Improper flashing in valleys. Recommend evaluation and repair by licensed roofer.

Garage

Standard two-car stall with attached utility room. Slight discoloration in concrete noted, likely motor oil.

Attic access limited by ectoplasmic resin. Ominous thumping and disembodied caterwauling in crawlspace between trusses not inspected.

Water heater functional, but nearing the end of its useful life. Manufacturer’s label indicates 13 years old. Unit speaks indecipherable dead language not recognized by Western civilization at the time of this inspection.

Interior – Kitchen

Vent stack from fan hood terminates in the attic, resulting in improper ventilation. Recommend repairs.

Kitchen outlets not GFCI protected. Code did not mandate at time of construction, but recommend consultation with licensed electrician to assess safety hazard.

Flooring slab appears to be notably off-level as chairs observed sliding from one end of the room to another throughout the course of the inspection. (photos 2a, 2b, 2c, 2d, 2e, 2f)

Anti-tip device not installed at range/oven.

Interior – Master Bath

Left master sink slow draining.

Tub/shower diverter valve not functional.

Water shut off valves frozen at both sinks.

Recommend evaluation and repairs by licensed plumber.

Interior – Hall Bath

Toilet runs after flushing. Literally. Recommend securing base to floor with reinforced lag bolts.

Interior – Family Room

Cracked picture window at west wall has breached seal and fogging between the panes. Recommend repair/replacement.

Appearance of two restless apparitions noted at stairwell. Unable to make definitive age determination.

Interior – Bedroom 2

Damage to drywall at south wall (photo 3a).

Heavy staining to carpet (cosmetic) (photo 3b).

Interior – Bedroom 3

Demonic entity precluded inspection of walk-in closet. Recommend seller make accessible prior to final walk-through.

Air/Heat

Ambient temperature allowed for unit to be tested in both heating and cooling modes. Unit functioned properly in heating mode, but did not attain optimal temperature split in cooling mode. Recommend evaluation and service by licensed HVAC tech.

Electrical System (Main)

Sixteen double taps (two circuits running to the same breaker) located in the main panel. Panel improperly grounded to the underworld.

220V line for the dryer improperly wired to rheostat.

Multiple instances of 60W bulbs in ceiling fans and wall sconces illuminating past structural limitations and shattering. Recommend capping exposed wiring until replacement bulbs can be installed and cause determined.

Reversed polarity at “half-hot” outlet in den. Improper splicing of the 110V line at the same outlet appears to power the portal to hell in the sub-floor. This would be considered faulty installation.

Recommend complete evaluation of electrical system by licensed electrician.

Pool

“Pops” in plaster appear to represent cosmetic deterioration. Recommend monitoring for further degradation or appearance of rebar staining.

Pool motor not grounded.

Pool light does not function when garage door open or curling iron plugged into bottom outlet of the master bath.

Backwash valve leaks when activated, allowing for possible release of evil (known carcinogen) into the ecosystem. Recommend replacing packing nut and hosing any/all displaced life force off cool deck. Further recommend upgrading from carbon to “DH” filter to improve overall filtration and water quality.

Inspection of main drain cut short by chanting and otherworldly green glow emanating beneath its housing. Original contractor appears to have only moved the head stones. Recommend licensed contractor exhume and relocate bodies of trapped spirits to undeveloped plot.

Review of entire pool system required by licensed pool contractor.

General Observations

This home is in overall good structural condition with a few action items that require immediate attention. In addition to the findings noted previously in this report, inspector recommends burning sage in all four corners of every room and consulting with licensed shaman for proper incantation/invoking of ancestors.

As exorcism typically falls outside the scope of standard home warranty policies, recommend paying for extended Max Von Sydow coverage.

Dead cypress tree outside bedroom 3 window too close to structure. Possible root penetration and moisture damage to foundation. This species of tree has been known to come to life during violent thunderstorms and devour children. Recommend consultation with professional arborist about relocating tree elsewhere on the premises.

Possible termite damage noted at garage stemwall. Recommend evaluation and treatment for wood destroying organisms.

In the event “they’re here” or ever become “here,” inspector recommends professional remediation by licensed exterminator.

Front door latch sticks.

_________________________________________________________________________

Lemonbusters, LLC not responsible for supernatural occurrences and/or the actions/findings of our referral partners in the psychic realm. Should your home be declared clean by a third party affiliate, Lemonbusters, LLC is in no way liable should your child subsequently be attacked and dragged under his/her bed by a maniacal clown.

Lemonbusters, LLC recommends consulting a specialist prior to going into and/or staying away from the light.

Lemonbusters thanks you for your business and wishes you the best of luck with your new home!

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Desk Job

“And here is the mezzanine. Happy hour runs between five and six, Monday through Friday. Three dollar wells and half-price appetizers. You have to try the shrimp cocktail. It’s to die for.”

The new arrival looked about in wide-eyed wonder. He hadn’t known what exactly to expect, but it most certainly wasn’t … this.

“This way, please, sir,” the concierge prompted as he led the guest through the piano bar and into the landing beyond. The haunting bridge of the Doors’ classic People Are Strange followed them into the passageway.

“That is the best Jim Morrison impersonator I have ever seen,” Carl gushed as he cast one last look over his shoulder at the opulent parlor, squinting against the restless light that chased itself from one diamond-studded adornment to another.

“The gym is open 24 hours,” the concierge informed him upon stopping short, causing a distracted Carl to bump him. A pleasing combination of magnolia and sun tan lotion escaped the smart, white linen suit.

“Free weights, nautilus, cardio. We have spin classes from 9 to 10 AM, and combat pilates from five to six PM on weekdays,” the concierge continued.

“Combat pilates,” Carl echoed.

“Beats me,” the concierge chuckled in response to Carl’s raised eyebrow, “but the ladies love it.”

He looked in both directions before addressing Carl again in a theatrically hushed voice.

“Word has it the program was developed specifically for Jane Fonda. We’ve been told to expect her any day now.”

“I’m not really much of a workout guy, but the sauna looks incredible,” Carl admitted. “Mind showing me the theater room I read about in the check-in literature?”

“Fifth floor, right next to the all you can eat lobster buffet,” the concierge replied. “We’ll hit that right after the complimentary day spa on four. Peruvian mud wraps, deep tissue massage and the best exfoliating facials this side of heaven … if I may be so bold. If for no other reason, I recommend visiting for the eucalyptus water alone.”

He led Carl to a bank of elevators. There were no buttons to depress, but one arrived of its own accord, opening to reveal an all glass enclosure that looked out to a vast, watery panorama.

“Ah, Lake Styx. No matter how many times I see her, this view never gets old,” the concierge admired. “As I understand it, you have been upgraded to one of our waterfront suites.”

“Lake Styx?”

“Yes, isn’t she grand? Damming up the river has not only allowed us to power the entire facility, but also to host a bi-monthly regatta. Captain Hazelwood looks tough this season.”

He waited a beat before continuing, an amusing thought appearing to grip him.

“Damming the river of the damned, now how’s that for irony?”

“I must confess,” Carl said as the elevator closed and began its descent, “this is not at all what I thought it would be.”

The concierge chuckled.

“Expecting fire and brimstone, were you? We still offer that in the basic package, of course, but you left your mortal coil in style.”

“I don’t follow,” Carl confessed.

“You packed a golden parachute before jumping from your previous plane of existence,” the concierge expanded.

“Meaning …,” Carl pressed.

The elevator came to a stop.

“Meaning your Certified Distressed Property Specialist designation is in demand.”

Carl stared at his olive-skinned host, too confused to speak.

“What? Don’t look so surprised. The man downstairs got caught holding a few investments when the market went to … well … here in a hand basket. The cash flow properties in Boca and gold are about the only performers left in the portfolio. We are sitting on a massive shadow inventory of souls, thanks in no small part to a rather unfortunate dalliance with sub-prime candidates. Faded rock stars, former child stars, ice road truckers … suffice it to say we entered into a few too many binding agreements with less than reputable types. With the topsiders defaulting at a record clip, we don’t have nearly enough agents to get these toxic apparitions off our books. The boss sends his apologies for putting the bacon double cheeseburger on the menu at Wendy’s, but the massive coronary you suffered was entirely necessary. We need you.”

The doors dinged open to a blast of in-rushing sulfur smoke.

“Sorry about that,” the concierge apologized between coughs. “Seals in the boiler room need to be replaced. Gets in the shaft every time they run the pyrotechnics on nine.”

The pair stepped into a hazy corridor as the smoke dissipated. Carl squinted at the hunched figure that awaited under a red velvet bellhop’s cap. His luggage was strapped to the porter’s back.

“Johnny Cochran?”

“Just JC here, sir,” the porter mumbled.

WHAT DID I TELL YOU ABOUT TALKING TO THE GUESTS, SLAVE?”

Carl jerked to look at the concierge, disconcerted by the wickedly sharp features that had arisen from his previously nondescript countenance. The impossibly bass-heavy admonition held none of the sing-songy patois that had lulled Carl into comfort with its easy cadence.

“My deepest apologies, master,” the porter whimpered into his patent leather shoes. “Please not the Ito again. Anything but the Ito.”

“I’ll deal with you later,” the concierge promised. Turning his attention back to Carl, the wicked point of his chin receded to its prior blunted state. The burning embers inside his silver eyes smoldered for a moment before winking out altogether.

“I beg your pardon, sir. You just can’t get good help these days,” he lamented, nodding in the direction of the sniveling porter.

“JC here will show you to your room now. We can finish the rest of the tour after you get settled. Please help yourself to the complimentary minibar. The tequila is superb, distilled directly from the liver of Jose Cuervo. It regenerates daily, so the shelves are always fully stocked.”

“Thank you for everything,” Carl responded, offering his hand.

“The pleasure has been all mine, sir,” the concierge assured him with a smile, engulfing Carl’s hand in his own. The dainty grip of the long, slender fingers did nothing to camouflage the crushing power of a tiger shark that lurked just beneath his good humor. He winked, turned on his heel and strode back inside the waiting elevator. A fresh blast of sulfur strafed the hallway as the doors closed and whisked him away to depths unknown.

When the air cleared, Carl was alone with the porter, who signaled him to follow. After a seemingly endless procession of twists and turns along the serpentine corridor, they stopped in front of a room.

“No numbers?”

The porter didn’t respond as he selected a key from a crowded ring and opened the ornate door.

Carl’s face wrinkled in confusion. There was no bed. In fact, there wasn’t a stick of furniture in the room save for an IKEA desk cluttered with ten open laptops. A massive chain was anchored to a steel plate in the floor beneath the accompanying chair. The other manacled end lay open.

“There must be some kind of mistake,” Carl objected.

The porter offered of rueful shake of his head.

“No mistake, sir. Take my advice and get started on those BPOs. You don’t want to make him angry.”

“But, but … but I’ve got reservations for the centaur ride in thirty minutes,” Carl stammered.

“And I’m still waiting for my ride in the white Bronco,” the porter retorted. “Just keep your head down, turn your reports in on time and don’t ask any questions. Make waves and he’ll pull your account.”

“And then?”

“If the account don’t fit, he must acquit,” the porter replied.

“What is that supposed to mean,” Carl demanded.

“You go back above ground.”

Carl shuddered as he recalled the nomadic months of wandering a barren wasteland in search of a profitable niche amidst the post-Apocalyptic Real Estate market. One thousand undead zombie listing agents crawling over every remaining equitable seller. He took a deep breath, shuffled to the desk and secured the shackle around his left ankle.

“I’m not going back to that hell.”

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New Feature: Subscribe To the Content of Your Choice!

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Now You Have a Choice!

The blog as a Real Estate tool has been nothing short of revolutionary. Seemingly overnight, a million and two agents turned to their keyboards to flog consumers and search engine spiders with news from the front lines and advertise their wares. As the popularity of the blog as a marketing device skyrocketed, so too did the number of eyes scouring the medium for the latest market stats, home buying & selling tips, and community information. While there was a time when I was reluctant to believe that anyone would be much interested in the disjointed literary meanderings of a garden variety Realtor, it is evident that our readership at the Scottsdale Property Shop has become large and varied enough to warrant moving beyond the one size fits all content subscription offering.

For the six minutes that the professional blogging medium has existed, debate has raged as to what constitutes suitable blog content. Some eschew the inclusion of listings and dry market stats from the blog roll as it is not the most captivating copy. Others throw everything but the kitchen sink into the blog roll. After all, we’re here to advertise ourselves and our properties, yes? The fundamental failing from my vantage point does not involve what material is worthy of blog inclusion (I ascribe to the notion that there is a place for everything), but rather the lack of cohesion. Sure we sort things by topic and the like for our site visitors/readers, but what of our valued subscribers who are inundated with everything under the sun when their interests are often highly specific?

You should be able to subscribe to that which pertains to your interests directly without having to sign on for every single piece of content posted.

Home buyers don’t want to read “5 Tips For Selling Your Scottsdale Home During the Holidays.”

Home sellers don’t want to read “How Negotiate the Lowest Price on Your Next Scottsdale Home Purchase.”

Admitting the gaping chasm that stands between what a subscriber is bombarded with, and what he/she actually wants to receive in his/her inbox or reader, The Scottsdale Property Shop has moved to bridge the divide.

From now on, you, our reader, will have the option of subscribing to the content category of your choice. At the time of this posting, we are offering subscriptions to posts in the following categories:

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Same place as before, right in the sidebar. You’ll simply notice that additional options exist where before there was only a prompt to “Subscribe to Blog.” You can also click the category links above to subscribe to the feed of your choosing.

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Any thoughts? We welcome all comments and input that would help improve your Scottsdale Property Shop experience. If we fail to implement any suggestions, however, please note that some ideas suck more than others.

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The Borrowing

“Did you get a look at your attacker?”

Gertrude looked down at her bare feet before responding to the patrolman.

“I told you, it was dark. And bright,” she explained. Her matted, grey hair clung to her scalp in incongruous clumps.

“Dark and bright. Got it, ma’am,” Officer Page replied, as if it were the most normal thing in the world. He was at the tail end of a double shift, and no loony old bat was going to cost him the first five minutes of Glee. SVU was going to give him eight kinds of hell for calling this one in, but they could kiss his wide Welsh keister. She would be their problem as soon as he finished up his incident report.

“How about height? Tall, short or average?”

“How would I know what’s little for a little, green man,” Gertrude asked.

“Okay, I’m just going to put down average,” the officer noted. He did the same for weight and listed race as other.

“And you say this little, green man … he, uh … probed you?”

He regretted the question before the words were out of his mouth. Sure as the crazy in this hag’s milky, hazel eyes, he’d just forfeited the title sequence.

She stared off into the night, appearing to see nothing and everything all at once.

“Yes, that animal probed me. In all my years, I’ve never been so mistreated. Not even that weekend in Puerta Vallarta when Harold, God rest his soul, mixed up his blood pressure medication with the Spanish fly that Marvin from the bowling league gave him as a gag gift for his seventy fifth birthday.” A violent shudder wracked her entire being. “I’ll never get that smell out of my nose. Like burning tires in a snowcone factory. Cold as ice, and scalding hot.”

“Cold and hot, got it. How many times have you been abducted, Ms. Gunderson?”

“Counting this time? Once,” Gertrude said. She began fiddling with the hole in the knee of her pantyhose.

“Let’s get back to the actual abduction. You say there was a bright light and tractor beam,” the officer asked, turning to wink at the dashboard camera in his cruiser as he did so. The fellas would eat this up, especially Pennington.

“I already told you all about that. One minute I’m sitting on the sofa watching my program, then before you can say Here’s Johnny, I’m flying through the bay window. Harold, God rest his soul, was always on me about leaving it open, but it was such a pleasant evening. Now are you going to sit here and ask questions all night, or are you going to catch the monster that had me spread out on that table like a fish,” Gertrude demanded.

“And what else did this … processor, you called him? What else did this processor do to you, ma’am,” the officer asked. He hazarded another glance at the camera, crossing his eyes and twirling his index finger near his temple in the universal pantomime for crazy.

“Are you having a laugh at me, sonny?”

“No, ma’am,” he replied, stiffening and turning back to find the galactic traveler eying him with evident suspicion.

“You look here, young man,” she began, wagging a crooked finger at the officer, “that thing is getting away while you have yourself a gay old time at my expense, and I won’t stand for it.”

“We need to make sure we get the right one is all, ma’am,” Page responded, suppressing a grin.

She continued to scrutinize him under a furrowed brow.

“He took my blood,” Gertrude said at last.

“You mean he drew some blood, like a sample?”

“No, I mean he took it. All of it.”

Page stared at the translucent face in front of him and suddenly felt pity. Nutter or not, this was someone’s mother, someone’s grandmother. The panicked family was probably canvassing the streets right now, wondering where she had wandered off to this time. He thought of his late Uncle JJ.

“How about we get you a cup of soup back at the station,” he suggested. He grasped the radio on his belt to call off the special victims unit. The lark had gone far enough.

“There’s no time,” Gertrude objected. “It could be violating somebody else right now! You have to stop it!”

“I understand, ma’am,” the officer began before she cut him off.

“You don’t believe me. Here, I’ll show you,” she interjected.

Before he could stop her, she withdrew a plastic spork from her purple, zebra-patterned handbag and plunged it deep into her forearm.

“Christ,” the officer shrieked, lunging for the makeshift shank.

He yanked it out by the white plastic handle, the beefy fingers of his left hand disappearing into the spongy folds of her triceps.

“Told you,” Gertrude boasted, extending her arm into the pale moonlight for him to see. Not a single crimson drop of blood arose from the fresh wound.

“What the hell,” Page exclaimed, directing the beam of his maglight to the mottled appendage. Three holes connected by a semi-circular gash, completely free of gore.

“It took my identity,” she informed the incredulous officer. “Poked me, prodded me. Stole my DNA and credit information.”

“Hold on,” Page objected, willing the jumbled thoughts in his head to coalesce. “Credit information? What would an ET want with your credit information?”

“I can’t rightly say, but it made me provide my social security number, date of birth and proof of employment on three separate forms. It also demanded bank statements for the past three months.”

The officer stood in slack-jawed silence. His eyes remained fixated on the bloodless wound.

“That’s the only reason it let me go, you know,” she continued. “I’m supposed to fax all of my documents by the end of the week.”

The patrolman’s radio squawked to life, startling him.

“Dispatch to one thirty eight,” a non-inflected voice croaked.

“One thirty eight, go, dispatch,” the officer responded.

“Are you still with the 13-1202, Page?”

“Affirmative. And look, this is going to sound crazy, but,” Page began.

“Hold fast, officer, a black and white is on its way to your location,” the voice interrupted.

“Copy,” Page responded, holstering the radio as a pair of headlights swung around the corner, bathing the pair in halogen light.

“It’s back! Oh, lord help us, it’s back,” the woman squealed.

Page had to physically restrain her as the driver side door opened.

“Got a guy in the back who thinks your lady might belong to him,” the approaching officer announced. “He’s been out looking for her all night. Found him talking to a cat over on twelfth.”

The rear door of the squad car swung open. All six eyes squinted against the glare at the form that stepped out.

“Gertrude,” an uncertain voice called.

“Harold?”

An old man shuffled forward with a hurried, laborious gait. Page released his hold on the woman, who lurched to meet the newcomer. The couple cast an enigmatic two-story shadow on the warehouse behind them as they shared a fierce hug, the officers looking on from just outside the glow of the headlights.

“What’s your guy’s story,” Page asked his colleague, checking the name on the badge.

“He’s not much help,” Officer Davies confessed. “Until dispatch put it together with your call, I figured the old coot was just confused.”

The two watched the couple in silence for a moment.

“Only thing he said that made any sense was that they were signing papers on a house this afternoon. From the sound of it, they haven’t taken out a new loan in damn near forty years,” Davies continued.

Page let out a low whistle.

“Poor bastards,” he acknowledged. “They wouldn’t have known what hit’em.”

“Apparently, the missus went outside to grab some air around the time they were redoing the affidavit statement because the signatures were outside of the margins. She never came back in,” Davies concluded.

“Ah, I get it now,” Page said.

“Come again,” asked Davies.

“When I first found her, she was mumbling weird numbers and trying to snatch something out of the air. Four point three five, two points. Four point eight, no origination … must have been the terms that finally made her snap.”

“You wanna deal with this, or should I,” Davies asked, taking a half step back from the scene.

“Ah hell, I’ll do it,” Page answered. “I already missed the Cardinals’ tip-off.”

“You mean the Suns?”

“Yeah, the Suns,” he acknowledged, feeling his face flush. “Besides, I’m refi’ing my house right now.”

“So?”

“So I want to see where they put the microchip.”

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