“So, this here is Tony’s boy, eh?” he began to cackle, then made a disgusting sound in his throat as he spit his putrid phlegm to the side.
“Please, don’t hurt him!” Julie wailed. “I’ll give you anything, just don’t hurt my son!”
“You know what we want, lady,” he said gruffly, edging the knife tighter against the soft skin of Johnny’s neck. The little boy whimpered softly, several hot tears escaping from his left eye. “Give us our money, or Tony’s boy here will be showing off a new necklace.”
“I will give you all that I have. But I told you, I don’t know anything about the money! Tony didn’t tell me anything, and now I don’t know where he is!”
“Not good enough,” he sneered. Johnny’s eyes grew wide with fear as a thin trickle of blood slipped down his neck.
Julie screamed, “No!” and began to race forward, but stopped abruptly as the two other men edged toward the women.
Lois moved fast. Without even a moment’s thought she drug Benny’s gun from out of her handbag and held it shakily up toward the men who were approaching them.
“Don’t come any closer,” she said, with a slight tremble in her voice.
The men looked at each other in surprise, and let out a disbelieving snicker.
“Come on, lady, we know you can’t use that thing,” the burly man with a five o’clock shadow across his chiseled face said, and looked to his two companions with a shrug. They began to move toward them again.
This time, Lois planted her feet firmly apart, and raised the gun up to her shoulder level, aiming it squarely at the larger man. Her hands were no longer shaking.
“You think so, huh? Well, go ahead and try me buster,” she said in a low and dangerous voice. This time the men took notice and backed off.
“Woah, hold on, lady,” the man said, his hands up slightly in surrender as he ended up near the one holding Johnny. “Now what?” he said softly to the boy’s captor.
“I’ll tell you ‘now what,’” Lois replied in a grim, even voice. “You are going to let that boy go, and you are going to run as fast as you can and not look back.”
The men didn’t respond.
“You don’t think that I’m serious? We are across the street from the police station, you idiots. One fire from this gun and you will have half the precinct down on your sorry behinds in less than thirty seconds.”
The truth of Lois’s statement seemed to start sinking in.
“Julie, start your stop watch,” the old woman said smoothly, then fired two powerful shots directly into the ceiling of the parking garage.
The explosions that erupted from that huge gun might as well have come out of a cannon. The sound reverberated off of the concrete walls. There was no way it wouldn’t have been heard across the street.
The men stood still for a moment, evidently in shock. But half a second later they were scrambling toward the back of the garage, leaving a stunned Johnny behind.
“Johnny!” Julie cried, as she ran toward her son.
Moments later, the sound of footsteps and yells could be heard approaching from the entrance of the garage. The short blip of a siren from the street let everyone know that this was business.
The young lieutenant from the precinct was the first to approach the mother and son. As she pointed toward the back of the garage, he motioned on six other uniformed men who quickly ran in the direction Julie indicated.
Glancing over his shoulder, the lieutenant eyed Lois with the gun still tightly grasped in her hands, although it was now safely pointed toward the ground.
“Did you have that with you in the station?” he asked her incredulously. Lois gave a sideways shrug and fumbled to put the safety back on the gun. “Well, I hope you have a concealed weapons permit for that thing,” he said, laughing.
“With all due respect, Officer, I’d rather carry this with me for now until those men are caught,” she said evenly.
“At your command, ma’am,” he said, with a twinkle in his bright blue eyes.
Three weeks later, Johnny was sitting at Lois’s worn dining room table, shovelling as many fresh cookies into his mouth as he could. By an arrangement that worked for both Julie and Lois, the young boy came to Lois’s house after school for an hour every day, while his mother finished up work at a local pharmacy.
“Careful now, don’t eat them too fast!” Lois warned the boy, but she couldn’t completely suppress the joyful laugh bubbling up from deep inside of her.
A lot had happened these last few weeks. The police captured all three of the men that were harassing Johnny and his mother on the day of their attack, making both mother and son finally feel secure and at peace. As if by clockwork, Tony returned home the following week. He immediately resigned to seek help for his gambling addiction, as that was where all his troubles had begun. Julie felt more secure with Tony’s commitment to their family and things were looking up for them.
Johnny went back to school and now he had become a normal fixture in Lois’s day. She had something to look forward to everyday, and she loved that boy as though he were her own.
“Grandma Lois?” Johnny asked, licking a streak of melted chocolate from the corner of his mouth as he spoke.
“That day in the garage, when those bad men were trying to hurt me...Why did you call me Henry that day?”
Lois paused for a moment before she felt ready to answer Johnny’s question.
“I suppose it was because that day you were my Henry to me,” she said softly, touching him lightly on his head, wanting to caress his perfectly soft cheek but unsure if she could.
“He’s your boy that died, right?” he asked, his gaze sincere and innocent.
“Yes, he died a very long time ago,” was all Lois could say.
“Well, I don’t mind that you called me Henry. You can call me Henry when you feel like it, as long as I can keep calling you Grandma.”
Lois didn’t care what was appropriate or not, she pulled Johnny in for a tight hug and dabbed at her leaking eyes.
“I will always be Grandma,” she whispered in his ear. “And you will always be my boy.”