Jezebel Jones had run just about as far as her aching lungs would allow when she finally reached the only undiscovered hideout that Norman Wrigley had used in the woods of Warm Springs Village. She ducked inside, barricaded the door, then collapsed on the makeshift bed that had been cobbled together by Norman some weeks earlier.

She gasped and wheezed, trying to regain her breath. It took a good five minutes for her heart rate to return to a somewhat normal rate. She closed her eyes tightly in an attempt to block out the scene that kept replaying in her mind – gunshots ringing out, people screaming, (mostly herself), and the terrible moment when Joe had dropped down the hole to the floor below him. She didn’t know whether he had survived or not. This whole nightmare was beyond even the kinds of trauma she had grown up with.

She balled up her fists and let out a primeval scream. A name kept echoing in her head: Ruston! Ruston! Ruston!

Back in Joe’s hospital room, things were humming along pretty well, all things considered. The bullet had gone through flesh and fat, missing bone entirely, and Joe would be released as soon as the Police Chief okayed his house as being safe to return to. Marla Jo was entering Joe’s room just now with the news.

“Chief Middler gives a thumbs up for you to go home. The perpetrator had apparently climbed a tree by the side of your house and pried off the screen, then opened the window to gain entrance. Looks like the window was unlocked, Joe. You need to watch that. Anyway, we have temporarily nailed a piece of plywood over that window from the inside. You’ll want to call someone to do a permanent repair.”

Joe thanked Marla Jo. He didn’t get a chance to get another word in, because Lena jumped in with, “Why in the world was anyone in our attic, anyway?”

“We don’t have the answer to that, yet,” said Marla Jo. “She didn’t leave much behind, but there were a few scattered fingerprints and gum wrappers. Oh, yeah, and of course, we collected the spent shell casings from her gun. .380 caliber.”

“How long was she up there, can you tell?” asked Lena.

Just then, the Chief entered the room. “Well, if she was up there more than just a few hours, she must have been wearing an adult diaper, because there were no signs of her having to relieve herself in your attic.”

“Oh, yuck!” said Lena. “I hadn’t even thought of that!”

“Well, it is a fact of nature,” Marla Jo cut in, with a little chuckle. “Everybody’s ‘gotta go’ eventually.”

“What are you going to do to make sure she doesn’t come back, Chief?” Lena asked, with her voice showing a tinge of fear.

“We’re going to find her and put a stop to her plans. We will be combing the village with our full crew, plus some volunteers, and we have been on the phone, notifying every police agency in this part of the state.”

“Please find her quickly, Chief! My nerves are about to snap!” begged Lena.

“I suggest you have someone spend the night at your house until we have her in custody – someone who is not afraid to shoot a gun if the need arises,” the Chief advised.

By now, Joe felt like asserting himself a little. “I’ll get the guys I shoot with at the range to take turns, one each night.”

“Good idea,” responded the Chief. “I will keep you posted on our progress with the case. Rest up.”

“Will do,” said Joe.

“Thanks, Chief,” said Lena. Marla Jo and the Chief left, and the Chief let out a deep sigh as he sank into the driver’s seat of his patrol car. “What kind of fiasco is this turning into?” he muttered, under his breath.

At Missy’s house, she, Norman, and Ruston were sitting at her kitchen table, sipping bowls of Tomato Bisque soup with croutons sprinkled in, instead of crackers. Their lives had all been put on “hold” for the time being, and they had no choice but to sit tight and wait for the consequences to alight.

“Good soup,” said Norman, slurping just a little.

“Thank you, kind sir,” answered Missy, with a nod.

”Yes, ma’am, it is delicious,” added Ruston. Then he laid his spoon down, and his face took on a pensive look. “Norman, do you think everything is going to work out okay?” he asked.

“Well, I have my hopes and also my doubts,” answered Norman. “Is there any particular reason why you think they might not come out okay?”

“Let’s just say I have one more burr under my saddle that bugs me. Well, maybe a better way to put it would be one little cloud on the horizon that I need to know will go away, and not rain all over me,” said Ruston.

He had the full attention of Norman and Missy, now. They both laid their spoons down. Missy cleared her throat, and asked, “What cloud are we talking about here, Ruston?”

“Yeah, Ruston,” said Norman. “What cloud?”

“Her name is Jezebel Jones,” Ruston said, looking down at his bowl. “I left her behind when I came here hunting you, Norman.”

“And…?” Missy asked, tilting her head a little to the side.

“Well, she kinda thinks she owns me,” said Ruston. “She thinks I’m going to marry her.”

“Why does she think that, Ruston?” asked Norman.

“Well, once upon a time I told her that. Like, many months ago. Before I found out she was flippin’ crazy.” Ruston answered, looking down and tapping on the tabletop, nervously.

“How crazy?” asked Norman.

“What do you mean by ‘crazy’, Ruston?” asked Missy.

By now, Ruston was rocking gently back and forth in his chair. “Well, she started telling wild stories, and she was shoplifting from the local stores. She went on a starvation diet and got all skinny. And she dyed her hair black.”

“Was she violent?” asked Missy.

“Only one time, that I saw. When I told her I was going to go find my brother and tell him what happened to our Mom, she wanted to come with me. I told her she couldn’t come, and she threw her cell phone at me. Then she ran out the door hollering that I’d be sorry, and she slammed it really hard. I mean really, really hard.”

“Well, Ruston, I don’t think there’s anything to worry about from Ms. Jezebel. She blew her top and let off steam, but I doubt she will do anything else. You are safe here with us.”

Meanwhile, at Jezebel’s hideout, she had shifted gears. She was no longer tired or scared. Her anger had made its way to the forefront, and she was loading the three handguns she had stolen at Joe and Lena’s house during the day before the shootout with Joe. She had listened carefully to make sure the house was quiet, and crept down from the attic and found Joe’s stash of guns. She had picked the small one that Joe had bought for Lena, and two .45s. Good old Colt! Deadly, if slow, a .45 bullet was a death warrant to anyone in its way.

“Good thing I kept up with all the news about Norman’s case in the Warm Springs Village Gazette, she thought. I knew about Joe and Lena, I knew he had guns, and I knew a lot of useful information. I wonder if he has even noticed these guns missing, yet. Old people!”

She chuckled to herself as she made plans to go on the hunt for Ruston and his big brother, Norman. “They are still here in the village,” she thought. “In jail, probably. It is time for me to arrange a little early parole for them. Then, Ruston will see that he owes me, and he will be my lovin’ groom at the quickly upcoming wedding!”

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.

Chapter 13 –  Click here.

Chapter 14 –  Click here.

Chapter 15 –  Click here.

Chapter 16 –  Click here.

Chapter 17 – Click here.

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