Two investigators finally showed up and called the visit a simple routine check, but it was hard for them to convince the three women that this was indeed the case. They gave no information, scanned the neighborhood and the house itself, then departed at the same moment András arrived. Gran was in her element and kept repeating that she knew all this would come to no good end, and that someone needed to take proper charge of the case already.
“No good end? What are you talking about, Gran?” Niki asked at last.
“I’m talking about the crazed murderers you keep getting mixed up with.”
“He’s not a murderer.”
“Not yet! But all in good time!” she said, rolling her eyes.
“This argument is completely pointless,” Niki’s mother interjected. “Let’s just hope that it was indeed just a routine inspection.”
“Oh yeah? Well, I’ve read about criminals who were in hiding for years. And you are deeply mistaken if you think that a man who is capable of holding hostages can’t become a killer from one moment to the next. I know, because I read a book by that FBI agent, where he analyzed the personalities of serial killers. Once someone starts, the world of violence and crime sucks them in, and from then on, there’s no turning back,” Gran explained pugnaciously.
András caught the tail end of her rant and responded with a short, but reassuring statement.
“It is unlikely that Verbovszky will be on Niki’s trail. He knows that Niki and her environment will be the first place we’d look for him,” he said, rationalizing the situation. “My colleagues really only came to conduct a routine inspection, but we’ll all have to take a few more safety precautions.”
“I’ve got a gun,” Gran blurted out, and suddenly all eyes were fixed on her. Everyone was stunned.
“A gun?” Niki repeated.
“Yes. Your father bought it a long time ago. For your mother,” Gran explained turning towards her granddaughter. “I put it away for safe-keeping. I never thought I’d ever have to use it. Actually, I take that back. When your father moved out, I considered plugging him in the ass on his way out.”
“Ma, please,” Niki’s mother said, shaking her head.
“I don’t know what sort of gun you’re talking about, but I don’t suggest that you use it. May I have a look at it?” András asked calmly, and Gran reached into her dress pocket and took out a small but heavy, dark blue cardboard box. She opened it, revealing a palm-sized gun. Niki’s eyes widened, and her mother mumbled something.
“It’s an alarm pistol,” András ascertained. “6mm, not loaded. You can keep it at home, but you need a permit to carry it around.”
“Do you have a permit, Gran?” Niki asked.
“Where would I get a permit?”
“Then you can’t carry it.”
“It’s in my pocket. That’s not carrying.”
“Do you have it in your pocket all the time?” Niki’s mother looked stupefied.
“Ever since your husband up and left, yes.”
“You’d best not take it out on the street, ma’am. According to regulations, you must keep the cartridges separate,” András said, smiling.
“Wipe that grin off your face, son… You’re telling me that because it’s an alarm pistol, you can’t plug someone in the bee-hind with it?”
“You can’t,” he said, wagging his head. “But the sound will definitely wake everyone from here to Szentendre.”
“Well, now that’s something, isn’t it? But would you please tell me: why keep the cartridges separate?”
“Those are regulations.”
“Silliness. There’s absolutely no point then. Would you help me load it?”
“Good God,” Niki said, shaking her head.
“You keep out of this! You’re the one who unleashed a madman on yourself, and it’s our responsibility to defend you,” her grandmother said, signaling for her to remain silent.
“What now?” Niki’s mother asked. “What can we expect?”
“We don’t know. Verbovszky has escaped, but sooner or later he’ll need medical attention, due to his recent surgery. He still has his stitches in. He took the hospital guard’s weapon and used it to force an ambulance driver to obey him. This means that a police car will come around here every so often. Niki, you need to decide where you want to spend the next couple of nights: here, or perhaps… at my place?”
“It’s so reassuring knowing you’re the one leading the investigation, son,” Gran asserted.
“The thing is, I’m not leading it. I work at the internal inspections division now, but… since I am, er, concerned in the matter, I was still able to take part.”
“Fine. Then Niki will live here, and I’ll make her read some crime novels to educate herself in self-defense, and you could give me a couple of lessons in shooting,” Niki’s grandmother said, taking charge, causing both Niki and her mother rebel immediately.
“I will not live here, and you will not take any shooting lessons. And anyway, I’m the one writing the crime stories around here… at least in my crime column…”
“Then Niki will stay at my place, and will make her way around by car for a couple of days, instead of her scooter. I will be her chauffer this afternoon.”
“Alright, but before you go, show me how to load this stupid thing.”