Brooke held the glass up to the light, inspecting it for blemishes. Her hands were still shaky from her kids’ near-death experience, but she was slowly returning to normal. She noticed a few gray specks of soap scum below the rim. Blane’s pet peeve. She vigorously erased them with the hem of her shirt.
“Hurry Mom,” Maddy called from the living room. “It’s coming on.”
She dropped six wedges of ice in the glass, filled it with water, and padded back down the hall just as the Eyewitness News music erupted from the television.
“Turn it down a little.”
Evan and Maddy were on the floor in front of the coffee table while Mason sat rigidly in a straight-back dining room chair, palms on knees. She took her place next to Blane on the couch and handed him the ice water. He slid his arm around her.
“An eastside babysitter and two children are heroes after thwarting the robbery of a local convenience store this afternoon. Hailey McGuire has the details.”
From the corner of her eye she saw Blane examine the glass for cleanliness. Satisfied, he took a sip.
On the TV, a college-age brunette stood smiling in front of the Magic Mart awaiting her cue to begin. After an awkward delay, she nodded at someone off camera.
“I’m here at the Magic Mart on Seren Drive in Rosemont where today three ordinary citizens, two of them students at a local elementary school, did something extraordinary.”
The camera angle widened to reveal Mason and the kids.
Brooke burst out laughing.
“What a shmuck,” Blane mumbled.
His hair, still hard from the mousse and styling gel, had come unfixed in the scuffle and was a chaotic hash of swirl and spike. He stared unblinking into the camera, stiff with stage fright. Evan blew a purple bubblegum bubble while Maddy beamed and waved at the viewing audience.
Seeing herself, she whipped her head around, eyes shining, big jack-o-lantern smile. “I look famous, don’t I Mom?”
Brooke nodded, acutely aware of Blane’s arm around her. She braced for Maddy’s reaction but her daughter either didn’t notice or was too caught up in her own celebrity to care.
“Shut up Maddy, I can’t hear,” said Evan.
“Hey, that’s not nice.”
The reporter held her mic up to Mason. The sweat on his muscled forearm made his tattoos appear darker. Johnny Cash flipped off America.
“How long have you been a babysitter?”
“Uh … first day.”
“What made you decide to intervene in the robbery?”
“What were you thinking when the gun went off?”
“Um … loud.”
From his spot on the floor, Evan bent backwards and looked at Mason upside down. “You’re more scared of the camera than you were of the gun!”
“What’s your name?”
“What happened in there?”
“That robber pointed his gun at Ms. Dot and then Mason jammed his soups against him. BANG! The gun went off and I thought it killed Mason but it didn’t, just the soup. Then they wrastled on the floor and Mason made him let go of the gun and it slid and the robber tried to get it but I kicked it away and my sister got it and ran away.”
He turned and smiled at Brooke, radiant with boyish pride. Then he noticed Blane’s arm around her and his face fell.
“Here comes my part!” Maddy squealed, almost hyperventilating with excitement.
“What’s your name?”
“Madison Rose Tyler!”
“And you grabbed the gun?”
“Yes, and then I ran to Mason’s truck and locked the doors. He tried to chase me but I’m too fast.”
“Were you scared?”
“Mm hmm, ‘specially when he punched the window but Mason choked him real hard and slinged him across the parking lot.”
“What made you grab the gun?”
“I dunno. I just did.”
“Weren’t you worried it might go off? Did you know not to touch the trigger?”
“I know all about guns. My brother has almost two thousand confirmed kills on Call of Duty. He’s gonna be a YouTube celebrity.”
Brooke glanced at Blane and rolled her eyes. “Maddy I really wish you’d stop talking about confirmed kills. It’s unladylike.”
Her daughter popped off the floor and ran around the coffee table. “But aren’t you proud of my interview, Mom?”
She smiled. Evan wasn’t the only beneficiary of David’s genes. Her husband lived on in Maddy’s furrowed brow and dimpled cheeks, in her stubbornness and confidence and charm.
“Of course, I’m proud. I’m horrified that you held a loaded gun and were chased by that awful man. But, yes, I’m extremely proud of you.”
Maddy squeezed between her and Blane, separating them. “Are you proud of Mason too?”
Brooke glanced at the hulking ex-convict in her living room, uncertain how to answer. Leave it to Maddy to put her on the spot.
On the television, the reporter was wrapping up. “The suspect, Colin Driver of Lancaster, has a lengthy criminal history including charges for burglary and aggravated assault. He was booked into the Lincoln County jail with no bond. Our city streets are safer tonight because these three ordinary people did something extraordinary. From Rosemont, Hailey McGuire, Channel 7 News.”
“Well,” Blane sniffed, “personally I think it was foolhardy and irresponsible.”
Mason stood. “All right, that’s my cue.”
Brooke touched Blane’s knee, hoping to silence him. It didn’t work.
“That’s what we have police for.” He took a sip of water. “You endangered the kids’ lives and the clerk’s life by trying to be Bruce Willis.”
She attempted to smooth things over. “Well, thankfully, everyone’s okay.”
Mason glared at him. “What would you have done?”
Blane inspected his cuticles. “I would have memorized his features, height, weight, face, clothes, while cooperating fully to ensure the safety of the children. Then, when the police arrived, I’d brief them with all the information. Once apprehended, I’d attend every hearing to guarantee that he was prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
“Yeah, I’ll remember that the next time someone’s waving a gun around like a maniac.”
Blane smirked. “A situation I’m sure you’re all too familiar with.”
Brooke tried her best to quell the rising tension. “Hey, guys, it’s been a long day. Let’s not—”
“It’s all good,” said Mason. “I’m leaving.”
Evan pulled at his sleeve. “But we haven’t played Call of Duty yet.”
“Another time,” he said, his eyes touching hers.
Brooke noticed their color. Bluish-green, aquamarine, Earth from outer space.
“I’ve been known to dabble in the old Black Ops,” said Blane. “I’ll play with you.”
Evan responded by emptying a clip. “Br-r-r-r-r-r-ow!”
Blane jumped. Then, over the machine gun fire said, “Are we still looking into the Ritalin?”
Evan charged up the stairs.
Maddy pushed off the couch and followed her brother. “Why does Mason have to leave?” she yelled down the staircase. “Mason is a hero! He’s extraordinary! I think BLANE should leave!”
“Madison that is not nice!”
The door slammed.
She smiled at her boyfriend and shrugged, utterly humiliated. “Kids.”