First it was the razor wire along the top of the fence between the Schmidts and adjacent properties — including that of Al Fin’s family. Then it was the guard towers at the Schmidt property corners, with remote controlled cameras, motion detector lights, and what looked like 50 caliber machine guns in each tower.
Al Fin and his third wife, Nadia, were in their front room discussing the problem.
“What did you find out from the DA’s office in town?” Fin asked his young wife.
Nadia sighed after taking a long sip of white wine. “Adolph Schmidt is a retired prison guard captain from Kansas. He worked at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary while it was still a maximum security facility.”
“That may explain the razor wire and the guard towers, but how can he justify those 50 caliber machine guns?”
Nadia took her time drinking the wine glass dry, then slowly refilled it. She paused with the glass just in front of her lips, “The assistant DA sent a patrol car to have a talk with Schmidt. He says the machine guns are replicas, just for show. They can’t fire real rounds.”
Suddenly 10 year old Emma popped unexpectedly out of her nook in the bay window, where she had been quietly reading. “Those boys waved their penises at me over the fence and laughed! It wasn’t funny, Daddy! Valerie wanted to call the police, but ELIZA said I should talk to you first. What are you going to do, Daddy?”
Al Fin stood and started for the door, muttering, “Those little shits! I wish they had cut them off on the razor wire.” He was feeling a fire in his chest that urged some kind of action.
Nadia moved smoothly to intercept Fin halfway to the door, and put her hand calmly on his arm. Fin stopped automatically and looked at his wife with a slightly quizzical look on his face. In her young eyes Fin saw an old expression that quenched the fire in his chest and made his previously strong legs almost wobble.
“There’s no need to go off half cocked,” Nadia murmured through a wicked-looking Mona Lisa smile. Then she winked. Without the smile, she went on, “The boys are not the problem. The father no doubt put them up to it. If he didn’t tell them to do it directly, his attitude influenced them. It’s a dominance thing the father picked up at the prison, and it rubbed off on the boys. They probably do the same thing to their little sister, like a family ritual dominance hierarchy.”
“So what do I do about it?” Fin asked with genuine curiosity, since it seemed that his wife knew a lot more about this situation than he himself did.
Nadia looked vaguely over her left shoulder, away from Fin, and shook her head slowly. “You should wait a few days and let me see what I can do. The screaming that sometimes comes from the basement tells me that Schmidt is a sadistic and domineering bastard who can’t control his own temper. All meditation aside, the last thing I want to see, from a lawyer’s point of view, is you confronting that kind of person directly, especially when you feel you are defending your family.”
Suddenly Fin remembered that 10 year old Emma was standing there watching and listening. “Emma, why don’t you go outside and play for a while?”
“But Daddy, those boys might be out there! Yesterday they were shooting at ELIZA with slingshots!”
“Goddammit!” Fin again turned toward the door, but once again he stopped at the touch of Nadia’s hand on his arm.
“It’s alright, Al. Emma can stay close to the house for now, and out of the line of sight from the Schmidt property. Neither ELIZA nor Valerie will be hurt by anything those boys might do. Let’s give the machines the job of covertly surveilling the Schmidts for a few days while I do a little more research on Adolph. Between the three of us, we may come up with an antidote to this poison.”
And so an uneasy truce settled over the boundary between the Fin and the Schmidt properties. It did not go unnoticed in the neighborhood, and indeed on the island at large. Especially interested was local writer and resident Charles Kingsley. He had been told by Al Fin not to involve himself, but just in case, he had ranged and sighted his sniper rifle on all four guard towers and on the new security gate guardhouse leading into the Schmidt property from the road.
Meanwhile, at the Fin house the ex-wives carried on their lives as usual, making life difficult for their ex-husband, their children, the domestic help, and the intelligent machines of the household. The two older boys continued to go surfing and cruising the island roads, going on regular sailing excursions with their Dad.
At her office, Nadia was collecting some interesting materials on their troublesome neighbor, and as she did, her smile grew wider, showing more of her teeth.