This is a continuation. To start at the beginning of the series click here.

By Nancy Carlton

Chapter Four

Lena whirled a full hundred and eighty degrees and slapped the door with both hands splayed to her sides. “What do I do?!” she whispered, in a panic.

Mo and Audrey had both sprung to their feet and scurried as far from the door as they could get, and still be in sight of the possible action about to unfold.

“It’s my neighbor, Stanley! He is dressed all in white and carrying a paint roller!” Lena squeaked. “What if he’s the guy?”

Audrey let out a big breath of air in a tone resembling a half-sigh and a half-chuckle. “Stanley?” she said. “I have known Stanley and his whole family for decades. For Pete’s sake, Lena, open the door!”

Mo shuddered visibly and made her way back to her chair as Lena composed herself and opened the door with a sheepish grin on her face. “Well, hello, Stanley! What’s up?” she said in a nonchalant manner.

Stanley grabbed the door and hurriedly slipped inside, closing and locking it behind him. “Ladies, don’t anybody panic,” he spewed out, breathlessly, “but I think I just saw the Warm Springs Marauder sprinting through the patch of woods just fifty feet from here! He was dressed all in white had a long hunting knife in his hand!”

“Which direction was he heading?” Lena asked, reaching for her cell phone on the table. “Heading towards the pickleball court,” Stanley answered. “And there’s a tournament happening there, isn’t there?”

“Yes, there is!” Mo responded, also grabbing her cell phone. “I’m calling 9-1-1!”

Lena decided that two calls were better than one, so she also punched in 9-1-1 on her phone. In about three seconds the room was abuzz with the cacophony of two women excitedly spilling the news to the emergency response operator, plus Stanley and Audrey exchanging all their own thoughts and questions on the subject.

As soon as the news was relayed to the Warm Springs Village Police Department about the tall, knife-wielding man in white running toward the pickleball tournament in progress, the full force and fury of the Village’s law enforcement team was unleashed. Soon the sound of sirens could be heard echoing up and down the main drag, and a three-block area around the Pickleball courts flickered and flashed with red and blue lights.

Being the upstanding citizens that the crime-fighting trio of ladies were, they immediately jumped into Lena’s car and went racing to the scene of the action. Stanley followed in his truck. Traffic was soon at a complete standstill for a half-mile in both directions on Hernando de Soto Avenue. Nobody could get in or out, and several of those who tried to go around the bottleneck ended up front-end-down, stuck in the deep ditches surrounding the courts.

High up in a tree, nestled in the woods, and situated about seventy yards from the heart of the action, a lanky young man dressed all in white sat in a fork of the tree, his legs bracing him in a secure spot between the trunk of the massive oak and a quite comfortable place a couple of feet out a limb. He had opened a backpack that he had previously secreted in the tree, and laid his knife inside it. Retrieving a flare gun, he felt a rush of anticipation. Taking careful aim directly at the billboard atop the pickleball court fence, he cocked and fired the orange plastic flare pistol. “Made in China, sold at Walmart!” he chuckled.

His frequent target practice sessions paid off, and the brilliant white ball of flame did a bull’s eye landing dead center in the artist’s rendering of a multi-colored pickleball on the shiny billboard, sending sparks and bits of flaming debris across the court, narrowly missing the small group of players who had not already deserted the area in the mayhem caused by WSVPD arriving on the scene.

“It came from out there, in the woods!” screamed a frantic teenage girl, pointing. “From up high in the trees!”

Two of the police officers and about a half dozen spectators took off in the direction the girl had pointed towards, running as fast as they could weave through the cars, the trees, and the various landscape features and helpful information signage that the village was loaded with.

Smirking and quietly giggling to himself, Norman Wrigley was way ahead of the pursuing mob. He was so much smarter than all of them, he thought. The pitiful posse of civilians and Village ‘keystone cops’ should just save their energy, he mused. He had known to shinny down the tree the very second after he fired the flare gun, and hit the ground running. By the time the crowd had the first clue as to what had even happened, Norman would be well on his way to his clever hideaway. He had studied these woods so thoroughly that he knew how to pick his path and scurry clean out of sight faster than any of those ‘losers’ could catch a glimpse of him.

He had been planning his campaign of terror for a long time. He knew every official facility, storage building, pavilion, and cubby hole in the whole village. He knew the security staff’s schedule, and where every police car would likely be parked during the night shift.

He had no need for a gate pass sticker or membership/ID card. Those things were for the folks who were just sheep, following the rules. Those were for the naïve villagers who thought their gates and cards kept them safe. Someday soon, Norman would show them just how vulnerable they really were.

And the first ones that he would personally inform of their vulnerability would be those three silly old ladies who seemed to always be around when anything went down in the village. He had even been hiding behind a big hydrangea bush just outside the kitchen window of the one named Lena earlier today when her friends had come over to visit. He could hear them talking about him. That just would not do.

But, for now, he would go to his favorite cozy hiding place and stay out of sight while things calmed down in the village. He had bottled water, some military surplus MREs, a sleeping bag, and his cache of weapons and tools. He would rest, sleep, and plan.

Stay tuned for more to come…

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Chapter 1 – Click here.

Chapter 2 – Click here.

Chapter 3 – Click here.