This is the continuation of a series. To start at the beginning, click here.
As the sunrise crept through the slits in Missy’s Venetian blinds, amid the weariness that had been put off and pushed aside by both of them, Missy and Norman both slumped over the sofa pillows they clutched and settled against the soft, padded arms of the couch, him on one end and her on the other. Quiet snoring could be heard from them both.
A couple of miles away, at Lena’s house, coffee cups were clinking and a fresh box of donuts from Delicately Baked was being decimated by Maureen, Audrey, Lena, and Bette. Joe had already left for a day of fishing, and the sounds coming from the kitchen table were like so many clucking hens.
“I’m sure the Chief has done his best – maybe – but with what results? None!” This was Maureen speaking, and she had an edge to her voice that showed that she was well and truly exasperated on behalf of her good friend, Lena. “A man comes to your house with a gun, no doubt to do you in, and the so-called ‘Warm Springs Village’s Finest’ has apparently sat on their hands for a week now – and they had the gun and other evidence! What does it take?”
“I agree,” said Audrey, digging into a raspberry-filled pastry. “I know they don’t have a huge budget for all the latest crime-solving technology, but for Pete’s sake, they had the gun!”
Lena made sure to keep her most pitiful facial expression so as not to let any of the group off the hook as far as maximum sympathy for her situation.
Bette was rifling through the big purse she always carried, gathering up a few of the natural supplements she took regularly. Pulling out a small glass jar, she held it out towards Lena. “Would you like to try some diatomaceous earth? It is good for so many things that maybe it would help de-stress you.”
Lena stifled a giggle-snort. “Bette Kogut, with everything I have had happen to me lately, do you really think that eating dirt is going to make me feel better?”
Maureen and Audrey squelched a grin apiece, so as not to hurt Bette’s feelings, but this group of friends had known each other far too long to have thin skin, so Bette just dropped the jar back into her purse and said, “See if I offer you any dirt to eat the next time you have a problem!”
Glancing at the kitchen clock, Lena scooted her chair back and announced, “Girls, the police department will be open for business in twenty minutes. Let’s head out. We should all be seated in the waiting room when the Chief arrives for the day. It is high time we got a progress report. And it had better contain some good news!”
At the Warm Springs Village Police Department, there would be no usual morning arrival of the Chief to work on this day, because Chief Middler had stayed all night, questioning Ruston, making calls to other law enforcement agencies, making pot after pot of coffee, and finally, keeping guard after poor, exhausted Ruston had been allowed to curl up on a cot and rest his worn-out body and mind.
The sun had come up that morning on a bleary-eyed Chief sporting a face covered with gray stubble. Marla Jo had stayed all night, too, and she was looking somewhat worse for the wear.
At eight o’clock, straight up, the four donut-stuffed, coffee-fueled women who had come directly from Lena’s house, marched into the station. At the security window in the reception area, Lena rang the bell for service.
Nobody responded right away. It was eerily quiet for a police station as if the whole police force had lain down for a nap at one time. Lena rang the bell again.
Chief Middler ambled up the hallway, blinking his tired eyes. As soon as he saw who was waiting for him, he knew his day was not taking a turn for the better.
“Ladies,…” he started.
Lena started to unleash her pent-up frustration on the poor tired cop, but within a few seconds, she could see that he was already wearing a look of defeat and humiliation. She stopped, mid-sentence. Taking a quick look at her three companions, she saw the compassion that had come over all of them immediately upon beholding this poor man’s demeanor.
“Chief, are you okay?” Maureen asked.
“You look a little puny,” Lena added.
“A little sleep-deprived, maybe?” asked Audrey.
“Would you like some diatomaceous earth?” asked Bette.
The Chief and all the ladies looked at Bette. The women suppressed the urge to either laugh or to chide her, good-naturedly. The Chief was just bewildered. He was half-asleep by now, and besides, he didn’t know what diatomaceous earth was.
Just then, Marla Jo walked in and asked if she could be of any help. She had splashed some cool water on her face to wake herself up, so she was pretty much her usual self.
“We want to know the status of the Village Marauder case,” Lena said. “It has been so long – I need to know what is being done.”
Marla took a deep breath and rubbed her hands on her uniform pants. She cleared her throat. “Ladies, come on into my office. Let’s talk.”
The weary Chief followed them into Marla’s office and took a seat on the worn leather chair across from her desk. The four lady inquisitors pulled up the heavy, old-fashioned wooden chairs that lined the wall. The seats were not comfortable but were sturdy.
Marla glanced at the Chief for some sign of how to proceed, and he motioned politely for her to go right ahead and take the lead. At this moment he felt much more like being an audience member than an orator.
Marla started her presentation with the technical stuff, how they had handled each piece of evidence, how many other agencies had been contacted, and how they got their lead about the habitat of the suspect. When she gave the play-by-play of the night of the big raid, the excitement in the room was palpable. Lena, Maureen, Audrey, and Bette were all on the edge of the heavy wooden seats when the big take-down was described to them. Wide-eyed, they were now thinking that the perpetrator must right now be in the very building where they were sitting – locked up in a cell, awaiting prosecution!
Then came the recounting of the conversation that took place in the police car on the ride from the criminal’s hideout to the jail. At first, the tension continued to mount, as the dialog was played out for the eager audience. But then came a moment when the mood and timbre of the tale took a sudden steep dive. It was as if the air had been sucked out of the room.
Lena’s face fell. Maureen’s mouth went slack. Audrey blinked repeatedly. Bette let out a deep sigh.
No sooner had the words, “brother” and “Ruston Wrigley” been uttered, than a blanket of heavy disappointment laced with frustration and anger seemed to wrap around the ladies.
Marla said, quietly, “I’m sorry, ladies.”
“Me, too,” added the Chief. “But we are not giving up…”
The four ladies were not going to sit there and listen to apologies, in the mood they had just come under. They all stood up at once, turned, and wordlessly filed out of the police department.
Marla and the Chief were left sitting alone in the little office that seemed to be overcast by a gray cloud now. Simultaneously, they muttered under their breath, “Crap.”
STAY TUNED FOR MORE TO COME…
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
Chapter 11 – Click here
Chapter 12 – Click here
Click on the Author Block Below To Visit Nancy’s Listing of Her Book, The Diery, on Amazon.com
Author Nancy Carlton
Nancy Carlton and her husband, Steve, have lived in the village for five and a half years. They have three children and three grandchildren. Nancy has been writing for many years, and loves to vary her projects between songwriting, authoring novels, and “cozy murder mysteries” and political commentary. Even poetry and the occasional short story are produced. She also sings with several groups in the village.
This chance to do a serial story in the Hot Springs Village Gazette is a fun and exciting new adventure!