Adam glanced up from unpacking as he heard a whirring sound in the garden. His Dad Thomas Andrews followed his son’s gaze.
“Those little fellows never seem tired hovering around the feeders do they son? They were probably one of the inspirations that prompted the creation of a drone.” He looked at his son fondly.
The humming birds darted, hovered at the feeders then with rapid movement to the side they lined up behind others for their turn at another feeder.
“They can empty those feeders in a morning and then hum around your Mom’s kitchen window to tell her they need more.”
Thomas squinted into the garden through the bright summer sunlight and smiled. Maria grumbled at them frequently, Thomas, Adam and the birds for causing her extra work keeping those feeders supplied. Thomas had told her to remove the feeders and she wouldn’t have to worry about extra work. Maria looked horrified at the suggestion. She loved those birds and they all knew it. She was merely making and observation. Men! They have no understanding at all when it came to a woman’s mind. Thomas grinned as he remembered her chiding.
Thomas turned his attention to the box being unpacked on the patio at the back of their house. He sat in his easy chair. It was his favourite spot on a Sunday when he was off work. He was a construction engineer, so their house had all the bells and whistles one would expect in an engineer’s house, and Maria kept him supplied with jobs she’d find to make the house and yard even more attractive. He loved to please her, and was very grateful for the fact she’d produced this son for him. Adam was his pride and joy and he was encouraged to see his son’s interest in robotics. A chip off the old block!
The package contained the makings of a drone. Prices had come crashing down when competitors entered the market and Thomas had noticed his son’s interest as he thumbed through magazines and on internet search. Jim Duffy Adam’s teacher had demonstrated one to his class at recess time and Adam had returned home that evening with excitement to report on the experience. Thomas ordered one through one of his work contacts to buy at wholesale price and it had been delivered to his friend who’d phoned to see if they were home to deliver the package this Sunday morning. When Adam learned what it was he went wild with excitement. No golfing for both this day, the drone had to be unpacked, assembled and tried out.
Maria paused from her cooking. They were to have guests over in the afternoon and she was cooking up a storm. But between mixing and baking tasks she made quick trips to the patio to watch the drama unfold. She smiled and stood erect with pride. These were her men. She may fuss at them and over them but they understood it was all out of love and loved her back unreservedly. She’d return to the kitchen smiling each time. This was her kingdom and she was the queen. Supervision of the king and prince was her responsibility. Maria came from German stock and took life and her responsibilities seriously. Thomas was a laid-back personality but brilliant at his work. Their personalities blended perfectly.
Thomas had offered to help his son with assembly but Adam had indicated he’d like to do that by himself and this was why Thomas sat forward in his chair watching with a professional eye to see the assembly was being done properly. He nodded his head in appreciation as his son completed each task in sequence methodically and professionally. Obviously, those studies on the internet, books and school were yielding results. At last it was all completed and Thomas put his hand up to stop Adam as he reached for controls to try it out.
“Let me try it out first son and see everything works properly, we don’t want this thing going over into old Claude Wilkins place. He’s very unfriendly and dangerous so no one goes near him except for his boys who I think were in prison for a while. Fortunately, he keeps to himself when he’s home and ignores the neighbours who are all anxious about having him in the neighbourhood. I wonder where he gets his money from? Doesn’t seem to work anywhere as far as the neighbours I talked with know.”
Thomas and Maria had only recently moved to this neighbourhood as it was more convenient to Adam’s school and he could cycle the few blocks there.
“Have you studied the rules Adam? No invasion of anyone’s privacy by photographing over their property and certainly don’t fly it high enough to get in the road of any helicopters from the airport over yonder. If you want to study landscapes then we will need to take it to the country or the nearby beach. Is that understood?” Adam nodded his head looking disappointed this Dad would have the privilege of first test of the drone.
Thomas examined the controls. Just like the one they used at the construction company. Good! The drone took off under his expert handling and hovered over various points of their expansive property while Adam watched enviously. He could hardly wait to get his hands on it.
At last Thomas was satisfied and supervised as his son took it off the ground and practiced various manoeuvres. He took it slowly around their property taking photos and videos as he did.
“What are my men up to?” Maria suddenly appeared beside the two as they watched controls carefully.
“I’m flying it Mom!” Adam shouted excitedly and dropped controls in his excitement. The drone suddenly darted through the air toward the Claude Wilkins property while Thomas and Adam rushed to pick up the controls. It swept over the back of Claude’s property and there was a loud bang. The three of them looked at the drone now plummeting to the earth.
“He’s shot it down!” Said Thomas incredulously. His face suddenly reddened in anger. Maria looked at both in alarm.
Thomas strode purposefully down the driveway with Adam in close pursuit.
“Come back!” Shouted Maria anxiously. The bell on the kitchen oven summonsed her to take out cookies and she rushed to remove them then returned to watch as her men headed for the neighbours.
Claude was waiting for them as they approached his front door.
“We’d like to have our drone back Claude.” Thomas was furious inside but kept an outer calm.
“You have no right invading a person’s property, I could sue the pants off you but will keep the drone to teach you a lesson. Anyway, its damaged beyond repair so you’ll just have to buy another one and let this be a lesson not to trespass on other people’s property. Now go or I’ll put a bullet through the both of you!” He quietly retrieved a rifle hidden behind the open door and pointed it at Thomas chest.
“Go!” Said Claude waving the gun at Thomas.
“I certainly will go, there was no intention to fly over your property. My son dropped the controls he’s new at this and in future we’ll practice out in the country so you’re never disturbed again.”
Thomas gave his winning smile. “Just give us the drone Claude, you’ve already caused us a lot of expense repairing it when it was not necessary so that should be enough punishment. Give us the drone and we’ll be on our way never to disturb you again.”
“Go!” Said Claude, his eyes narrowing. “If you’re not gone by the time I count to ten you get a chest full”
Thomas extended his hand imploringly to try to reason with the man but Claude interpreted this as an attempt to grab the weapon. His trigger finger responded and there was a loud bang. The impact hurtled Thomas back and he slumped to the ground with a groan clutching his chest. Claude and Adam stared at the crumpled form in surprise.
Adam yelped in fear and sped down Claude’s driveway. There was a loud bang behind him and he turned in fear to see the gun pointed in his direction.
Maria heard the bang too and ran to the front steps. She saw her son speeding down the road toward their house and up the driveway as fast as his legs could carry him. Maria read the story in his face and hastened him inside. She raced around the home locking doors and windows then peered out the plate glass window in front to see Claude standing uncertainly at the end of their driveway. She phoned emergency, gave the address of the shooting, and urged police and para-medics to get there quickly as their own lives were in danger. She gave their address.
Within minutes they heard a chopper approaching and looked fearfully out the window. The urgency of the oven bell told Maria the next batch of cookies were ready to take out. She rushed to turn off the oven. There would be no guests today.
Then the front doorbell rang and Maria looked at the security monitor before rushing to the door where uniformed men stood hands on their hip guns uncertain what they’d find inside. Maria opened the door and burst into tears while Adam stood shaking. They rapidly quizzed Adam then contacted the team heading down Claude’s driveway cautiously by wireless, guns at the ready using shrubs and trees as cover.
The sound of a siren told everyone the paramedics had arrived, but police had to secure the area so they could make it to their patient. Time was running out, though presumably Thomas was already dead.
A loud hailer was produced and two police cars joined the chopper as they spread out cautiously to surround the home. Claude was told to come out unarmed with hands raised above his head so para-medics could do their job safely. He was covered from all sides. They were met with silence. The paramedics looked at each other and nodded. Regardless of the police trying to hold them back they sped down the driveway holding their emergency kit. They found Thomas by the front door and checked his vital signs. There was a weak pulse. Not gone yet, but likely would be by the time they reached the hospital. They hastened to secure him and moved him down the driveway to the ambulance where further life support was available. The siren screamed as they sped toward the nearest emergency hospital grim faced. They didn’t expect Thomas to survive that journey.
As the ambulance sped away there was the crash of broken glass through which high powered rifles appeared occasionally, first from the front, then the sides, then the rear of the house. Obviously, Claude was not the only one occupying this home, a fact that was of great surprise to neighbours after the police operation ended. Claude had been the only one seen on that property. Others must have entered and exited while neighbours slept.
For the rest of the day a furious gun battle ensued while Maria phoned around to warn those scheduled to join them that afternoon not to come. She explained through tears what had happened to them that morning. In between she phoned hospitals to find out where her husband had been taken and what was the result on his arrival. Eventually she found the right hospital and someone who could confirm his admission. Thomas had been in theatre for hours, but there was no information on his condition. The area had ben cordoned off so no one could enter or leave the area. For the first time in her life Maria felt unable to cope. Mother and son sat holding each other drained of energy and emotion while they waited for the nightmare to end.
There was a tremendous explosion and Maria reached out to prevent herself from falling as everything in the house shook. The two policemen guarding them raced to the front door and watched as pieces of wood and roofing settled from the sky over roads and nearby properties. Claude’s house was on fire and police surrounding that house emerged running for the nearest shelter. Within minutes another siren sounded as fire rescue officers headed for the burning home.
Later as fire inspectors examined smouldering ruins of a once stately home they discovered the reason for that massive explosion. The home was a factory to produce illicit drugs, and chemicals used on those deadly products were dangerous not only to health but also as highly combustible materials. Many people, part of a major criminal syndicate were engaged in a production line, which explained the number of firearms used to battle with police from every vantage point of the home. Stealthily they’d arrived and departed at night to relieve those who’d been locked in often for days.
As fire inspectors searched the remains to seek evidence which may lead police to members of the syndicate not perished there they found many useful clues in a fireproof safe containing thousands of dollars cash and important documents which led to later convictions. Another find buried under fire resistant debris was the wounded drone. Props had been destroyed, but the most important item still yielding pre-explosion video was the camera.
As soon as the all clear had been issued by police Maria and Adam were permitted to speed to the hospital. Thomas was still in emergency care after hours of surgery in which he’d had to be revived several times. Now he was in an induced coma. Several days later he awoke, unable to speak with all the equipment plugged in but able to squeeze Maria’s hand to show he was at least able to recognize and reassure her. Adam because of his schooling was living temporarily with one of the neighbours who’d made the offer as soon as police had cleared the area.
One month later Thomas was back home. All the emotion Maria had bottled up burst forth as she scolded him for risking his life over that drone. Then with it all out she burst into tears and sobbed a great while with Thomas patting her hand reassuringly. Then when she recovered she spoke calmly.
“Thomas Andrews if you ever do that to me again I’ll be the one to threaten you! What were you thinking? You have a child who needs a father and a wife who loves you for heaven’s sake!”
Thomas began a subdued chuckle then winced as the partly healed wound bit hard.
Maria shook her head. “You think everything is funny and this isn’t funny, I mean it!”
Seeing the twinkle in his eye she relaxed and hugged him tight. “You idiot!”
This time they both laughed and Thomas didn’t mind it hurting this time. It was good to see Maria laugh again and he’d been very foolish to do what he did. He had to concede that.
“Honestly had I known what was in that house and the reason for that fellow being so unfriendly and threatening I’d have been running as fast as my legs would travel.”
At that moment Adam entered home from school. He smiled happily as he saw his parents hugging. The event still traumatized him, particularly at bedtime.
Both reached out for their son to join them.
“I have another drone ordered Adam,” said Thomas. “Should be here in a couple of days.”
Adam looked horrified. “I don’t want a drone Dad!” He threw his school things on the table and fled up to his room.
Maria’s face clouded over. “He doesn’t want that drone, send it back!”
“Oh, it’s for me,” Thomas said innocently. “But maybe he’ll change his mind when he sees me playing with it?”
And that’s exactly what happened.
“© Copyright Ian Grice 2017 All rights reserved”
The above image belongs to extremetech.com