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

By Nancy Carlton

At half past eleven, Madame Zsa Zsa and Norman were still talking. Sometimes laughing, sometimes probing the deep philosophical labyrinth that Madame Zsa Zsa had studied and that Norman had lived through in his tumultuous life.

Suddenly, the Texan Gypsy sprang to her feet, causing her dangling coins to clang together and tinkle in alarm. “It will soon be midnight!” she said in a loud, forced whisper. “We must be under the security of my abode before midnight!”

“We?!” Norman responded, puzzled by her choice of pronouns. “Are you one of those folks who “identifies” as plural, or are you saying “we” as in “you and me”?

“Don’t waste time, Mr. Vagabond Genius-Winner. Surely, by now you can see that I mean to help you. The strong vibrations in the air that I am sensing are telling me that if you don’t leave these woods tonight, you will be captured and in jail before breakfast tomorrow!” As she finished this warning, she began circling the room, looking for items that Norman would need to bring with him. Alas, he had pretty much nothing except his backpack and a knife that he would conceivably need to move from this
ramshackle dwelling to the home of the only Gypsy he had ever met.

Tired and befuddled, Norman knew of nothing else to do but to trust her and do as she said. As they opened the door to leave, they were both startled by the sight of a male figure running away from the very place where they now stood. In the dark, they couldn’t tell much about him, and they didn’t waste any time gawking.

At first, they scrambled back inside and slammed the door, then locked it and moved pallets in front of it, to make a barricade. Minutes passed by and they heard not one crackling twig or rustling leaf from outside. No voices, certainly no police ordering them to surrender. Nothing but the hoot of an owl and the croaking of a noisy tree frog.

“We cannot huddle here, frozen by fear!” said Madame Zsa Zsa. “I don’t know who that stranger was, but we have to get moving or we will never make it to my house before midnight. Follow me!”

They shoved aside the obstacles blocking the door, and flung it open. Then, as fast as they could run, they dashed through the dark forest with only the moon to light their way. The Gypsy took the lead, and Norman stayed right at her heels as they zipped through the worn paths he had trodden so many times. After five minutes of this, with coins jangling, Madame Zsa Zsa broke from the pathway and began blazing a new trail. Norman asked no questions, just followed the sound of the jingling coins and the sight of the blond hair reflecting the soft moonlight.

As they rounded a bend, there appeared what would prove to be the welcome getaway car. A vintage Cadillac convertible, lustrous pearly pink – with an ornate hand-painted “Madame Zsa Zsa” sign on the driver’s side door in shiny silver. The top was down, and Norman could see a string of crystals dangling from the rearview mirror. The moonlight glinted off the crystals and shone off the silvery words on the door.

Madame Zsa Zsa yelled, “Get in!” as she jerked open the driver’s side door and scrambled in, making sure to get her flowing skirt safely inside before closing the door. Norman wasted no time. He tossed his backpack in the back seat and was firmly planted in the passenger seat in about three seconds, shouting, “Go, go, go!”

The big caddy roared to life and squalled the tires as it went from zero to sixty in a few seconds. The wind felt good on Norman’s face and Zsa Zsa’s coins tinkled frantically. It occurred to Norman that he had not ridden in an automobile in a long time. As bizarre as his current circumstances were, a comforting sense of normalcy seemed to blanket him.

As soon as they had reached a main thoroughfare, the blonde had to lower the speed on her pearly pink gypsy-mobile because the Village cops were like birds of prey on speeders at night. The rest of the sixteen-minute ride was accomplished at a cool, calm forty miles an hour.

When she hit the remote garage-door opener on her windshield visor and a broad, sand-colored door began to rise, Norman was shocked to see the home of this eccentric blonde Texan gypsy. It was just as village-compliant, regulation-following, efficiently manicured as any home he had seen in Warm Springs Village. There was nothing in sight that would say to any passerby, “Madame Zsa Zsa lives here.”

“Not what you expected, right, Norman?” Madame Zsa Zsa laughed. “You expected a caravan-style wagon painted in garish colors and designs, right?”

Norman swallowed, and cleared his throat. “I don’t know what I expected, Madame, but it was not this.”

“Come inside, and we will have some tea and get you settled in, at least for the night,” she said, as she hit the door-close button, securing the pink caddy in its comfy garage.

The door from the garage into the kitchen caused a faint chime to sound when she opened it. “Security system,” she said. “Let me turn on the “Home – Stay” setting. She did, and a robotic voice said,
“Alarm ON”.

“All safe now, Norman,” she said. “Tonight you will sleep in total safety. Let’s have some chamomile tea.”

Salty tears stung Norman’s eyes, but he blinked them back and quickly rubbed his eyes, feigning sleepiness. He hadn’t realized just how much he had missed feeling safe, and having the company of another human being.

Zsa Zsa put the tea kettle on and took cups and saucers from the cabinet. Just as the kettle let out its shrill warning that the water was boiling, the Grandfather clock at the end of the hallway began chiming in deep, rich tones. Twelve times it sounded, and Norman counted every “bong.”

“Midnight!” they both said, at once. A simultaneous giggle went out from both of them.

Zsa Zsa brought some cookies out from the pantry. “Frosted lemon cookies are my favorite,” she said. Surprised, Norman said, “Mine, too!”

They nibbled cookies, sipped the hot tea, and talked for another hour. Both of them were starting to feel quite tired, and they craved sleep. Norman, though, had another request. “Madame Zsa Zsa, I hate to be a lot of trouble,” he said, “but do you mind if I take a shower? I haven’t had a real shower in so long.”

“As a matter of fact, I would like it if you took a shower before you sleep in my guest bedroom, Norman,” she answered. “I will get you a towel and washcloth.”

“Thanks, Madame Zsa Zsa,” Norman said, “I don’t have any clean clothes to change into, but maybe you’d let me wrap up in a sheet or something long enough to wash the clothes I have.”

“Listen, Norman, I think it is time you call me Missy. My real name is Missy Matson. I am a nurse. Well, part-time nurse, now. And part-time Gypsy. But, since I am a part-time Gypsy who studied you and your situation, I knew you would be coming to my house, and I knew you would need clean clothes. You will find a robe, new underwear and socks, and some clothes in the guest bedroom. I estimated your sizes, based on descriptions of you in the newspaper.”

Norman was overwhelmed with gratitude at what this new friend was doing for him. He thanked her, and she showed him to the bathroom and guest bedroom. Somehow, he felt almost at home.

Meanwhile, out in the dark woods of the village, Ruston Wrigley had made himself a bed of wooden pallets, a sleeping bag that had been left behind, and some burlap bags long-ago discarded by workers who had stored supplies in this building that had been one of the hidey-holes of Ruston’s brother, Norman.

“Well, Brother Norman, after all this time, I come looking for you, and you bug out on me at the last second! I come to bring you important news, and you have vanished. Great timing, Big Brother! I remember all the times you said you’d go after the rich people and take the part of their ill-gotten gains that should have been our Mother’s wages. You talked about justice, and how you’d go after it. When the news came about a “Village Marauder” I knew it was you, Brother! I knew it!

I finally decided to join you and help you with your quest. But, Norman, you wouldn’t believe what happened. Wait – yes, you would. You know how fate has always been against us. Just as I was preparing to join you, Brother, and help give our sweet Mama some of the good things in life – she died! Mama died, Norman! We waited too long, and she died still poor! I can’t stand it, Brother! Where are you?!”

Ruston cried bitter tears, curled up in the remains of the bedding in the shack where his brother, Norman had found hope, only hours earlier. Separated by only a few miles, the two brothers were many miles apart in their states of mind. Norman was relishing the warm, clean water and luxurious suds of a shower in a safe, welcoming home. Ruston shivered and sobbed in a dark corner with no company except the same field mouse who had often visited the place while Norman had lived there.

Missy, also known as Madame Zsa Zsa, was taking off her makeup and humming a Hungarian folksong softly, when she suddenly felt an uneasiness wrap itself around her. She leaned against the counter and closed her eyes. She could see, in her mind, the figure from earlier in the night, running away from the building where she and Norman had been talking. She pictured the man, concentrating on his size, build, and gait as he ran. Suddenly, her eyes opened wide. “Norman has a brother! That had to be Norman’s brother!”


Chapter 1 –   Click here

Chapter 2 –  Click here

Chapter 3 – Click here

Chapter 4 – Click here

Chapter 5 – Click here

Chapter 6 – Click here

Chapter 7 – Click here

Chapter 8 – Click here

Chapter 9 – Click here

Chapter 10 – Click here

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