By R. Ambardar

"Leona! There's no coffee. Where's the coffee?" The bellow was accompanied by a slam of the front door.

Leona turned her aching head toward the clock on the bedside table. Seven in the morning. Richard was home from work. If the house didn't smell of coffee the moment he came home, it drove him crazy.

"Sleeping in again. What you do around here when I work all night I can't imagine." He dumped his big blue lunch box onto the kitchen table.

"Last night, I had to work late. One of the girls didn't show up."

"That's another thing. I've told you I want you at home. What do you want a job for?" Richard trampled noisily to the sink and washed his hands.

"To help with the bills. You know we can use the extra money." Leona put on the coffee, waited to hear the reassuring drip, and then took out a carton of eggs from the refrigerator. Richard would probably want a six-egg omelet.

"Nonsense. I make enough. And you should give up entering your shooting contests." He sat down at the table and threw an impatient glance at the coffee pot.

"I will if you want me to, Richard. But it's just a hobby I enjoy. Besides, with the spate of drug-related shootings there have been, it's good to arm yourself." Leona placed the plate of sizzling and hash brown potatoes in front of him, and handed him a mug of fresh coffee. Her back still hurt from moving patients, and her feet throbbed from fetching and carrying all through her shift. She could have used the eggs herself, but these were the last of them until she went to the store. The coffee would have to do, so she poured herself a mug and sat down.

"Put out a fresh towel and some clothes for me. I want to take a shower." Arthur jammed a forkful of hash browns into his mouth.

"Right away." Leona abandoned her coffee, went into the bedroom, and changed into jeans and tee shirt. Then she laid out his clothes and a clean towel on the bed. Now that she was up, she might as well mix fertilizer in with the top soil and trim the roses.

She passed the kitchen on her way out.

"Where're you going?"

"Into the yard. I want to plant some more flowers."

"A waste of good money--things that'll stay around for only three months."

"I have perennials, too." She took pride in her hydrangeas and dahlias.

"You only have your expensive tastes to thank for our constant penny-pinching."

"Gee, Richard, if I could go to nursing school, I'd get my certification and we'd have more money."

"And what am I supposed to do, meantime? Work two jobs?"

Leona escaped into the shed, grabbed her rubber gloves and trowel, and went into the yard. She started digging out weeds without her usual enthusiasm. This was no life, living with Richard and his constant barrage of complaints.

Her neighbor, Mary, waved from across the street. "Your hydrangeas look lovely. So pink and full."

"Thanks." Leona smiled. "I'm going to plant some new ones."

She finished gardening and went inside just in time to hear Richard say that today was his day off and he was going to play poker in the evening. What was the use of working so hard if a man couldn't enjoy a few luxuries?

That was when Leona came to a decision. She was going to put herself through nursing school, and Richard's life insurance would do nicely as her financial nest egg.

Two weeks later, she put her plan into action. She waited until Richard left for his maintenance job at Hilltop Inn and took down the rifle from the shed and examined it. Its scope was old and rusted and the rifle's bluing bled around the soldering seams, but she knew it would do the job she had in mind. She disassembled it and put it into a brown bag, folding it into a small package.

She drove the five miles to the squat, low building on the outskirts of town; she had driven him there many times and knew its vantage points. It had a roof from where you could get a good view of any activity below.

Leona parked her car on a side road and walked several hundred yards to the building, hugging the compact package. She didn't meet anyone as she took the stairs to the roof and waited. She had all night and a mission to accomplish.

She heard a rustle below and moved a step to get a better view. Richard was standing in the parking lot, talking to another worker. She felt she could almost tap him on the shoulder. Her hands closed over the rifle now assembled and ready. She took aim and fired once, twice, and then again. She saw Arthur fall and the other man hit in the leg, just as she'd planned.

The rifled quickly dismantled, she ran down and, through the back entrance, slipped onto the street, and drove away.

Next day the papers said the drug addicts were at it again, and Leona waited for the attention to wane while she carried on with her daily routine. Mary brought in food and did chores for her when Leona said she didn't feel like going out.

In the meantime, the cops promised to keep her posted as things developed.

* * *

At the Barton City, police station the phone rang and Officer Miller picked it up."Officer Miller"

"This is Mary Clemmings. I'm Leona Evans' neighbor. I noticed you were here not long ago questioning the neighbors."


"I'm into gardening and I noticed some of Leona's hydrangeas have come in blue, when several months back they were all pink and white. The only way they'd do that is if the soil is acidic, which it is, and . . ." She paused.


"If there's iron in the soil. You might want to dig under the blue blossoms to look for the murder weapon."

Officer Miller replaced the receiver. This was a wild one, but worth investigating. He grabbed the patrol car key and strode out.