If Missy Masters and Marcus Breen, during the restless dreams they experienced, had known about the female whirlwind who had just signed a one-year lease in the Warm Springs Willows Apartments and how she would give them nightmares, they would have just stayed awake all night.

The aforementioned whirlwind was named Kay-Renee. Oh, sure, she had a last name, but she had stopped using it when she went on the lam, trailing behind her a string of shoplifting and credit card fraud charges. Now, she uses her compound first name and tells people it’s her stage name.

What does she do on stage? Oh, anything that she can get hired to do. She can do standup comedy. She’s a mediocre performer of sleight-of-hand magic. She can mimic at least a dozen different foreign accents. She is fair-to-middlin’ at imitating Cher, and has, on occasion, done a little Burlesque. Her best-polished act, though, is a remarkably accurate word-for-word re-enactment of Phyllis Diller’s famous bad housewife schtick.

On Kay-Renee’s first full day as a Warm Springs Villager, she saw a flyer advertising auditions for standup comics and magicians. Snatching the flyer off the community bulletin board, she let out a triumphant “Yesss! It is like the universe knows I have arrived in this place at this time!”

When she showed up at the audition, she was decked out “to the nines” and carrying a case of props for tricks and illusions, just in case Mr. Breen didn’t laugh himself silly with her Phyllis Diller routine. She needn’t have worried. Marcus Breen was a Baby Boomer, just like most of the villagers, and Kay-Renee’s bit about being nine years behind in her ironing and only being able to bake one cupcake at a time because her oven was so dirty, made sure the gig was hers.

Marcus had no idea he had just opened the door to let a fox into the chicken coop.

Leaving the audition with the part secured and a new bunch of potential victims laid out for her, Kay-Renee drove back to her apartment with a smile on her face, and evil in her heart.

Missy had worked a full shift that day, then checked in on Ruston before she finally made her way home, kicked her shoes off, and plopped down on the couch. Norman was napping in his room, but as she surveyed her surroundings from her nest of pillows on the sofa, she could see that he had spent several hours of effort and elbow grease today, making the place a haven of peace and serenity. Not only was everything clean and shiny but there was lavender oil being diffused, and several small lamps were lit in strategic areas to give the place an aura of comfort. Missy stretched out and nuzzled a pink pillow. Soon she had drifted off to dreamland.

It hadn’t been a half hour before she awoke to the sound of her cell phone signaling with loud “dings” every few minutes that there was activity on her Amazon account. Missy was still groggy when she managed to pull herself up onto one elbow and grab the phone. The green light was flashing, and there were six message intro’s showing on the screen. “Thank you for shopping with Amazon. Your order #…” was repeated for over half of the page. She tapped on the top one, and was shocked to read, “Your expedited order will arrive tomorrow…” and there was the price – three hundred fifty-two dollars sixty-seven cents. That was just the first one. There were six! Missy was wide awake now!

Over at the Warm Springs Willows apartments, Kay-Renee was thoroughly enjoying her new home. Even though most of her belongings were still in boxes lying around all over the place, she had a bottle of her favorite wine and was having the time of her life using the new credit card numbers and PIN’s she had paid a hundred bucks for just yesterday. Yep, her friend, “Leather” had hooked her up with the means to furnish her new apartment and spice up her wardrobe, all on someone else’s tab.

Maureen sat in front of her television set, letting “The New Detectives” play quietly as stress-busting background noise, as she flipped through today’s weekly paper edition of The Warm Springs Village Gazette. She had seen the notice for the auditions being held that day for an act to join Rising Voices in their upcoming concert. She hoped Marcus had found somebody good today.

Every now and then, traces of last night’s uneasy dreams replayed through Maureen’s mind. Something about a pregnant redhead riding a motorcycle. This made no sense. Then, the dream would morph into a blond in a wig, holding a microphone in one hand and a cigarette in a long, slender cigarette holder in the other hand. And there was that laugh. Deep, raucous. Hah, Hah, Hah, Hah!

Today had been a traveling day for Jezebel and Lance. They had crossed the state line before noon. After a lunch of all-you-can-eat catfish and fixin’s, they had put two hundred more miles behind them. By the time they stopped for the night at the Nighty-Night Motel, Jezebel was worn out. Her ankles felt a little swollen. Lance ordered the To-Go special from the dairy bar next to the motel, but Jezebel felt a little queasy, so she just sipped on Dr. Pepper.

Ruston Wrigley was not progressing as his doctors had hoped, and the entire nursing staff at the hospital during the night shift found themselves visiting his room quite often. His coloring was not good, his breathing was irregular, and he moaned, when he made any sound at all. The story of his sad life had circulated among the nurses, and when one of them, an RN named Madelyn had heard someone mention the name “Jezebel” while retelling his saga, it had set her mind to an uneasy search, trying to remember what she had heard sometime back, about a woman named Jezebel. She knew it wasn’t good.

It was nearly midnight now, and Missy Masters was on the phone with Amazon. “No, it’s not me!” she repeated. “You have got to stop these charges and find out who is doing this!” The young man with the far-eastern accent assured her he would block the charges, but he couldn’t guarantee her that they could find out who placed the orders. “Cancel your credit card immediately,” he had advised Missy. She did that, of course, but somehow it didn’t bring her enough peace of mind to allow her to go to sleep.

Norman was awake, too. When Missy had told him what was going on with her Amazon account, it had made him terribly uneasy. He knew it wasn’t his brother, Ruston, placing the orders, but he had a feeling that somehow, some way, there would be a connection to Ruston or Jezebel or someone they knew.

Someone was sound asleep somewhere, though. Leather had spent the hundred bucks from Kay-Renee on some extra-strength “blow” from a new acquaintance he had made, by way of his buddy, “Don Quixote” who had a tattoo parlor providing a front for his drug business. Don had introduced Leather to a new player in the area, known simply as “The Sandman.” As a gesture of goodwill, The Sandman had given Leather a great deal on a gram of white powder, supposedly the finest good time around. Leather had made the purchase, bumped fists with the guy, and headed back to his humble abode.

Oddly, the good time didn’t happen the way Leather anticipated. His mind and heart had gone from normal to absolute hysteria in just minutes, then plunged like a skier who lost his mind mid-air while performing the world’s most terrifying ski jump and broke all laws of nature, except that of gravity.

The ride was over quickly, and the sleep set in hard and fast. You know – the kind you never wake from.

Stay tuned for more to come

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