I just finished a cozy mystery where the protagonist is a spunky 60-ish widow living alone on her farm. According to the story she was babysitting her five-year-old twin grandsons one evening when she glanced out the window and saw a prowler in the semi-darkness. The adult male entered her old barn by a side door and disappeared inside.
The next morning the two boys asked to play in the empty barn, but first Grandma wanted to be sure it was safe. So she left the boys in the house alone and went out to the barn to check for the intruder. She looked the downstairs over, then went to the steps leading to the hayloft. Thinking she may need some defense, she grabbed a shovel that was standing near and up she went.
I myself am a 60-ish woman and there is no way on earth I would:
A) leave the matter of a prowler until morning without reporting it.
B) leave five-year-old rambunctious boys in the house alone while I went to check.
C) enter any building in a remote setting if I’d seen a prowler lurking.
D) kid myself into thinking a shovel would be any kind of defense.
I would be too afraid of what might happen to myself — seeing he may well be armed with something more effective than a shovel. Even if he wasn’t, it wouldn’t take much for him to grab the shovel and bonk me a good one.
My second worry would be what this prowler would do to the children once he had me out of the way. Even if the intruder bopped me and took off, how long would I be out cold and who would supervise my darling grands? (Mine aren’t apt to be such terrors, but the boys in this book sure were!)
I like page-turners, but don’t really appreciate unrealistic or stupid behavior on the part of main characters, done just to create more tension. Just for fun, I wrote the scene you might sooner see at my house. (Maybe you can understand why I don’t write cozies?)
Officer Blake pounded on the front door again, then sighed. Was this going to be another of these twittery old ladies with an overactive imagination? Then he heard feet pounding down the hallway. Children in the house?
The door creaked open and a little guy barely big enough to reach the knob was peering out at him. Blake gave the boy a friendly grin. “Hey there. Is your Mom here?”
The boy, still staring at Blake’s uniform, shook his head. Another one exactly the same size piped up from behind him. “Our Mom’s gone away. We’re staying with Grandma this weekend. Who are you?”
“Who do you think I am?”
“Are you a fireman? I wanna be a fireman when I grow up,” the second lad answered.
“Hey, that’s great! No, I’m a policeman and your grandma called me. What are your names?”
“I’m Janson,” the second twin told him. “But Dad calls me Janx.
“And I’m Devon,” said the first, still clutching the door knob.
“Is your grandma here right now?”
“She’s in the bedroom,” Devon told Blake in a whisper, obviously still in awe of his uniform.
“Can I come in and talk with her?”
“You’re supposed to say, ‘May I’,” said Janx. “Our Mom always says we have to.” Devon nodded vigorously in agreement.
“Oh, yes. I forget sometimes. May I see your grandma then?”
“Okay. She’s in her bedroom pulling stuff out from under her bed.”
The two boys led the way. “There she is,” said the first, pointing to a pair of feet sticking out from under the bed.
What on earth! Is she alive? was Blake’s first thought. But then he saw the feet twitch.
“Excuse me, Mrs Poule. You called the Station to make a complaint about a prowler?”
The sixty-something lady dragged herself back out from under the bed and sat on her heels. “Oh, Officer! Thank goodness you’re here. Yes, I want you to check it out right away.”
Blake noted the tubs filled with yarn, gift wrap and such lying on the floor around the bed. “Did I catch you doing some spring cleaning, ma’am?”
“Spring cleaning nothing. I’m making a safe place for the three of us to hide in case that prowler turns out to be an escapee from some institution.”
“I really doubt that, ma’am, but I’ll certainly check him out for you.”
Janx stepped up right beside Blake. “Are you going out to shoot him? Can—I mean, may—we watch? We’ll keep real quiet.”
“I don’t want to,” Devon murmured. “There might be blood. Ick!”
“Cool!” his brother shot back.
“No, I’m not going to shoot him. I’ll just shoo him away,” Officer Blake told the boys. “He’s probably just a homeless fellow looking for a place to spend the night.” Then he turned back to their grandma. “Can you give me any description of the man?”
“Well, it was dark, but he seemed really tall. He was carrying a flashlight. The beam shone on his face one time so I did get a look at it. I’d say he looks about how your average axe-murderer might.”
Blake grinned. Well, at least this woman wouldn’t be rushing out and putting herself in danger. He thought he’d better reassure her a bit before he went out to the barn. “You know, it could be he’s just a hunter who’s gotten lost.”
Mrs. Poule stared at him for a moment. “When did hunting season end?”
Blake thought a moment. Whoops! “About two months ago,” he admitted.
“Then he’s really lost. I think you better get out there and redirect him pronto.”
Now Mrs. Poule grabbed Janx and Devon each by the arm and dragged them toward the bed. “Crawl under here, boys. I’ll let you know when it’s safe to come out.”
Janx wailed in protest. “But Grandma, we wanna see his gun!”
“Hush. Just get under here. I’ll hide in the closet.” She turned to Blake. “Ring the doorbell three times when the coast is clear. If I don’t hear it the boys will.”
“I’m sure they will.” Officer Blake winked at Janx. Then he nodded at Mrs. Poule. “Will do, ma’am.”
He headed back to the front door, all the while hearing the twins protesting. “But Grandma, we wanna see…”