The alarm went off at 5 AM . Laura Rigmaiden\'s eyes opened instantly and she rolled into a sitting position. She sat there a moment going through a catalog of her physical aches and pains. A ritual that took ever longer as the years passed, she thought with a wiry grimace. She rose and walked to the bathroom. She picked up her glasses from the sink counter and stood at the sink a moment surveying herself in the mirror. Her green eyes blinked back at her owlishly. Not bad for a seventy-five year old broad.
A network of faint wrinkles grooved her lightly tanned skin. Very little fat was on her five foot tall frame except her breast and her behind. The muscles were still in tone because of her exercise regimen. Minimize the loss of that muscle mass, she grimaced to herself wryly. The back was still straight. Belly reasonably flat. She mentally patted herself on the back. The doc had told her her cholesterol was remarkably low and that she had the heart and lungs of a thirty-year-old. Not too surprising given what Jordon, her dead husband had called her obsession with exercise and nutrition.
Of course Doc was young enough to be her grand daughter and just trying to make an old lady feel good.
She returned to the bedroom of her small apartment and started into her morning exercise routine. She finished up with fifty man-style push-ups and hundred fifty crunches. She had worked-up a pretty good sweat.
Dressed in her sweats she prepared to leave for her morning walk. Strapping on her fanny pack and grabbing her staff, she stepped out into the brisk, sunny urban morning, took a deep breath of the cold air and started off, going down the steps from the stoop two at a time. Her knees weren\'t entirely happy with that but to hell with them if they couldn\'t take a joke. She grinned.
As she walked she greeted her neighbors. They all knew her which wasn\'t surprising since she was the only Caucasian in the community and most thought she was rich and slightly crazy.
\"Morning, Ms Garcia\", she shouted and grinned.
\"Buenos Dias, Senora\", returned Ms Garcia, smiling. She so enjoyed her walks.
\"What\'s happening exciting, Jeanine\", she said to the chubby black woman walking her kids to school?
\"You got it Ms Laura\", Jeanine said with a slight smile.
Not many people were out this early. Maybe that\'s why she was inattentive. She walked easily along, literally hoping up and down on and off the curbs.
The high was almost as good as that old runner\'s high she used to enjoy so much. Maybe that was the reason for her carelessness. Not paying attention, she bumped into him. She turned automatically to apologize and saw who it was. Damn!
Unfortunately they were familiar. The three of them were a blight on the community. The sterling example of humanity she had run into was named Bobby Rickert. He was the size of a small house, his blonde hair slicked back from his beetle-brow, a fine set of extremely bad teeth that may have accounted for his extremely bad attitude. He and his two friends were wearing their usual uniform consisting of an open unwashed flannel shirt, color optional, filthy baggy jeans, dirty tee shirt and heavy work boots. Bobby always carried a weighted aluminum baseball bat.
Bobby\'s good buddy and fellow sadistic waste of skin was Jerry Mandriguez. Jerry was rumored to be God\'s gift to women. Unfortunately, Jerry had heard the rumor and believed it. He was a small, rat-like individual. His long black hair was tied back in a ponytail. His smile flashed the gold tooth in the front. Maybe that\'s why his smile failed to reassure a person or lightened the moment.
The third member of this band of happy Musketeers was Lamont Walker. A very handsome, six foot plus, Nubian -bronze God. If only he wasn\'t such a sociopath. Well, nobody\'s perfect. Lamont spent almost every waking hour in a gym somewhere pumping iron.
\"Excuse my carelessness\", she said.
\"I\'m not interested,\" responded Rickert. \"Since you were stupid enough to run into me you have to pay a penalty.\"
He and his merry band all got a good chuckle over his cleverness. She looked bored.
\"I said excuse me. I don\'t have money or anything else beyond that,\" she said evenly. The display of bad dental work faded from Rickert\'s face.
\"If you don\'t have money\", he said with a thoughtful frown, \"I\'ll have to hurt you … bad.\" There was that evil smile, again.
Lamont and Jerry moved to surround her. She sighed.
She sensed Jerry behind her.
\"Last chance old bag, give me your money and your clothes,\" said Rickert. Lamont giggled.
Play time. She kicked sharply up and back, catching Jerry solidly in the groin. He screamed and dropped his knife so he could clutch his ruptured testicles with both hands. She pivoted at the waist and smashed him on the side of his head with her staff. He went down like a sack of laundry. She pivoted back, her staff smashing Rickert\'s knee. He collapsed screaming to the pavement. She continued around and jabbed the end of her staff into Lamont\'s face, catching him just between the eyes and shattering his facial mask. He fell without a sound. She turned back to the screaming Rickert and used the tip of her staff to render him unconscious.
She surveyed her handy work with some satisfaction. Three \'brain-deads\' down in less than twenty seconds. Her old instructors would be proud. No deaths, even Jordon would be pleased. Too bad they\'d all be crippled for life.
She turned to resume her walk, stepping on Rickert\'s chest as she did so.
No, this was too good a morning; a morning like this deserved a run. After all it was only five miles back to her house and if her knees couldn\'t take the joke, well….
Besides, she had to hurry, she\'d promised her daughter she\'d appear for her grandson\'s birthday party and she hadn\'t picked out a gift yet. What do eleven-year-olds like now days?