Cosmo looked in the direction of the gunshot and gaped at the woman that he only knew as a cook as she marched down her backyard toward the men. She was wearing green plaid pajamas and cat-shaped slippers, had rollers in her dark hair, and a rifle with smoke coming out of the barrel in her hands.
“Wow…” Murphy whistled. “Lydia, that was the hottest thing I’ve ever seen you do.”
“What is going on?” she demanded.
“We’re not too sure,” Cosmo said. “But, uh, thanks. For… You just shot a fairy! A little fairy straight out of the air!”
Lydia rolled her eyes. “C’mon in. Tell me what you know.”
Cosmo and Murphy scrambled after their coworker, diving over the threshold of Lydia’s sliding door. Lydia, on her part, was nonchalant as she locked her doors and placed her rifle beside it.
Looking to Murphy, Lydia said, “So, what did you do?”
“What?” He gaped. “You think I did this? Lydia, if I had enough power to blow up the moon, don’t you think I would have a better use for that power?”
“No,” was her blunt response.
Cosmo said, “Remember that lady who wanted the red wine? We saw her there at the park surrounded by more fairies, then that pink one caught us and chased us, then you…”
“Killed it,” Lydia said. “At least, it should be. If that stupid thing starts breeding near my yard, I’ll sic my cat on it.”
Cosmo wondered if Lydia was the type of person to imagine burning her enemies in the fires of her stove as she cooked.
“Right.” Cosmo cleared his throat. “Anyway, so, that’s what we saw. We should probably go to the police or something, right?”
“What are they going to do about it?” Lydia asked.
“I don’t know,” Cosmo said. “Are you suggesting that we do something about it?”
She shrugged. “Your fault the fairy lady is here.”
“It is not,” Cosmo said. “She just… showed up.”
“Didn’t you give her directions?” Murphy asked. Cosmo narrowed his eyes at Murphy, finding the other man on the sofa with a long-haired cat purring in his lap. Murphy shrugged. “So, what’s next? Those fairies saw us, and they may notice the absence of Lydia’s victim.”
“Which means you idiots could have led them straight to my house.” Lydia snatched a box of ammo from atop her fireplace and proceeded to reload her rifle.
“We didn’t know it was your house,” Murphy said. “On the bright side, now I know where you live so I can pick you up for dates–”
Something rammed into the slider, making the house shake. Cosmo fell to the ground, getting stepped on by the spooked cat running for safety, and he sat up in time to see Lydia standing firm with her rifle pointed at the mass of pink fairies fluttering outside of her slider door.
Cosmo stood back up, his eyes wide at the sight, and he felt Murphy clutch his arm. “We need to get out of here,” Cosmo murmured.
“This is my house,” Lydia said. “If they want to bust through the door, I’ll make them eat lead!”
“Lydia, I really don’t think you have enough bullets for that,” Cosmo said, reaching up to touch the woman’s shoulder. “We need to leave.” The fairies rammed the house a second time, and Cosmo stayed standing only because Lydia and Murphy helped keep his balance. “Probably sooner rather than later.”
Her arm shook, but she did turn her gaze from the fairies to Cosmo. Her glare softened and she eventually nodded. “I need Oscar.”
“Oscar?” Murphy sounded personally offended. “Who’s Oscar?”
“My cat,” Lydia said. “If I have to leave the house, I’m not leaving him.”
“Murphy, did you see which way the cat ran?” Cosmo asked.
“Up the stairs, I think,” the waiter said as he jogged to go and look.
Lydia brushed past Cosmo, muttering something about needing her hiking boots, and followed Murphy. Cosmo scrambled after his two friends, stumbling up the stairs as the fairies smacked the house for a third time.
“Next time we have an evil fairy chasing after us,” Murphy said, his voice coming from the room to the right of the landing, “let’s just try to catch it instead of blowing it to bits. That way, maybe its friends won’t try to kill us.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Lydia’s dry tone said from the other end of the hall. Cosmo followed Murphy’s voice and found his friend in the bathroom trying to reach the cat behind the toilet. Oscar was pressing against the corner wall as far away from Murphy as possible.
“C’mon, we were friends downstairs,” Murphy said to the feline, and Cosmo took the opportunity to go around to the other side of the toilet to grab the cat. Oscar hissed in surprise and swiped his claws at Cosmo. The claws snagged Cosmo’s shirt, cutting through the cloth and pricking his skin.
“Calm down,” Cosmo said to the cat, maneuvering Oscar in his arms so the claws wouldn’t reach him. “Hey, Lydia, we got the cat!”
Cosmo, with Murphy close behind him, caught up to Lydia at the landing, the cook dressed as if she were ready to go to war. “What are those?” Cosmo pointed to the small packs along her belt.
“Bullets, mostly.” Lydia opened the inside flap of her jacket to show off a couple of smaller guns and a Swiss knife. “And some beef jerky. It’s what I usually take to go hunting. Minus the tranquil guns.”
She took Oscar and placed the cat on her shoulders, where he obediently sat still, before she marched down the stairs. Cosmo shared an incredulous expression with Murphy.
“I don’t know if I find her scary,” Murphy whispered as the men followed Lydia, “or hotter…”
The house was rammed into again, sending both Cosmo and Murphy down the stairs much faster than they would have just walking. Lydia had stepped out of the way just before they would have toppled into her. Cosmo heard the woman growl as her attention was fixed on the mass of fairies right outside the slider.
“Do we have a plan?” Lydia asked.
“Uh, run?” Murphy supplied.
“Together?” the woman asked. “Are we splitting up? What’s the meeting point? Do either of you have anything that could help you against those insects?” The questions were rapid-fire, and Murphy’s eyes grew wider with each one Lydia asked.
“Stick together,” Cosmo said, “and we’ll just try to focus on heading toward the police station. It’s not too far from here.”
Lydia nodded. “And they’d be able to help replenish whatever I use against the fairies. Good idea.”
Replenishing Lydia’s ammunitions pack had been the furthest thing from his mind, but Cosmo didn’t refute the woman holding a rifle. Instead, he said, “Let’s go out the front way–”
The door banged open courtesy of a slim, pointy-eared man and his hammer.
“You gotta be kidding me–” Lydia’s curse was interrupted by a shrill whistle coming from the fairies outside. About half of the flying monstrosities broke off from the group at the slider door, soaring past the house’s side windows, and almost made it to through the front door. Barely giving the occupants of the house a glance, the slim man turned and swung the hammer, the metal face of the weapon smashing into the mass of fairies. The couple of fairies that the hammer had missed were blasted out of the air by Lydia’s rifle.
While Cosmo and Murphy, if the waiter’s death grip on Cosmo’s arm was a good indication, nearly wet their pants from the shouts of bullets, the hammer man merely raised a thin, blond eyebrow at Lydia. Her response was to aim the rifle’s barrel at his head.
“Who are you,” she demanded, “and why are you at my house?”
“Come,” was what he said instead, holding out a hand to Lydia. She didn’t move, but Murphy had gathered enough courage to go around Cosmo and stand next to the cook. Cosmo followed suit, standing closer to Murphy. The hammer man’s glance shifted evenly between the three restaurant employees.
“Let us go,” the man said, stepping closer, heedless of Lydia’s rifle mere inches from his temple or Oscar’s hissing. “The fairies will return with reinforcements.”
Cosmo glanced behind him at the slider to see the rest of the fairies retreating, and he looked back to see that the hammer man was looking right at him. The hammer man nodded, as if Cosmo was on his level of understanding, but Cosmo was as far from understanding as the moon was.
“Do we have a choice?” Cosmo asked, looking at Lydia and Murphy.
“Yeah,” Lydia said, “I can just blast off his face and we can get out of here.”
“Would we go to the police now?” Murphy asked. “I mean, we can’t really go there and tell them that we killed a bunch of fairies and an elf.”
Lydia’s narrowed gaze shifted from the hammer man to Murphy, and the waiter shrugged. The cook soon lowered her rifle and returned to staring at the stranger still patiently waiting in the threshold of her front door.
“Come with me now?” the hammer man asked. “If no, I will go alone, but you will remain in danger.”
“Alright, alright.” Lydia slung the rifle strap over her shoulder, and Cosmo ducked away from the swinging gun. “Lead the way, elf.”