All eighteen members of Rising Voices exhaled audibly, in perfect unison. Marcus, the director, was the first to speak. He raised his arms in the same way he had led this chorus hundreds of times and spoke loudly in his well-trained Tenor voice: Lock the door! Men form a blockade against the door in case the shooter tries to get back in! Maureen, dial 9-1-1!

Maureen had, of course, dialed 9-1-1 by the time the words “Lock the door!” were spoken.

“I need to make an announcement to the audience and notify Security,” Marcus said, with a strong tone to his voice, but his hands shaking visibly. “I guess we had better cancel the show for safety’s sake.”

The men made a pathway through their barricade for Marcus to get out. Jim Calais interjected, “I’m coming with you!” to Marcus, and squeezed through the small opening in the doorway that the guys had allowed for the exit.

Half a second after the two men were out the door, it slammed shut again, and they heard the lock click.

Lena plopped down in the nearest chair with a blank stare on her face. She blinked every few seconds but spoke not a word. A couple of Sopranos came to her side and patted her on her shoulders, speaking sweetly to her, trying to comfort this poor soul who had been through more drama in the last few weeks than a teenager in a “B” horror movie about a bunch of kids visiting a deserted summer camp.

A knock on the door, and the reassuring voice of Chief Middler came within minutes. It turned out that the Chief and his wife had been in the audience when the booming voice of Jim Calais had startled the gun-toting burglar earlier, and he had made a quick search of the building, also calling in backup. He had probably only missed the fleeing thief by a few seconds, but he felt certain that the ”subject had left the building” and was not an immediate threat. Officers were now stationed just outside the front and back doors of the auditorium.

Heart rates and blood pressure were high in every singer left locked in the dressing room, but there didn’t seem to be any real panic. A statuesque brunette with a snow-white streak in her hair at the left temple stepped to the front of the room, opposite the door, and cleared her throat to get everyone’s attention.

“Excuse me, fellow performers! I have something to say. I know we were all startled by the armed thief who so rudely made her way into our private world and threatened us. And, yes, she took some money from a few of us. But, I want to know whether or not you all intend to let her steal this evening’s show from us and from that audience who are waiting for us at this very moment. We worked very hard for this night – countless rehearsals, wonderful costumes, special props, and long hours of planning. We have all used up lots of expensive gasoline between the rehearsal hall and our homes. I, for one, don’t intend to let some unhinged wacko rob us of our reward!”

It was Susan Croissant speaking. Her alto voice carried her heartfelt plea straight into the hearts of her fellow songsters.

Lena stood up. She wiped a single tear from her cheek and said, “You are so right, Singin’ Sister! This is our night to shine! We are not going to let that freak deprive us of the applause we have earned!”

Every member filed out the door with solid determination showing on their faces. As they reached the side entrance to the stage, Marcus was apologetically telling the audience that the show would be postponed to another night due to the intruder who had perpetrated a terrible crime and threatened the chorus members.

They marched quickly to their places on the risers as the confused audience, who had begun vacating their seats, caught sight of the entertainers about to hit their first notes. Elston Brazil, their pianist, who had calmly and quietly endured all the chaos that had transpired, ran a quick arpeggio with plenty of flourish.

Marcus took his microphone off the stand, faced the chorus, and asked, “Guys, what’s up?”

From just offstage, Chief Middler shouted, “The building is secure, sir. You may proceed with the show if you desire.”

Marcus signaled to the pianist to begin, and Elston unleashed the exciting introduction to “The Blues, The Beat, and The Boogie.”

Meanwhile, Chief Middler had slipped out the back door and was rendezvousing with four deputies from the county sheriff’s office, laying out a plan to catch the culprit who had once again invaded the peace and sanctity of Warm Springs Village.

Over at Missy Matson’s house, the three amigos were blissfully unaware of the danger they would have faced if Jezebel Jones had been able to find the right house. They had finished up a nice casserole Missy had made for dinner and were lazing around watching a “Quincy” rerun, trying not to get too many brownie crumbs on the sofa. The warm glow from an orange and gold retro lamp from the seventies lit up the room with a soothing ambiance. A neighbor’s Golden Retriever began to bark excitedly and kept it up for about a minute before Norman decided he’d better take a look outside. He stood in front of the picture window and pushed the curtain aside, leaning forward to peek into the darkness. Unfortunately, the neighbor’s watchdog had been barking for good reason, and the slim figure walking down the street caught sight of Norman. Jezebel Jones recognized him immediately. She stopped suddenly. “Norman!!” she called out.

Breaking into a sprint, she headed for the house where she knew her one-time Sweetheart, Ruston, must be. She was at the door in mere seconds, pounding on it and shrieking, “Ruston, let me in! You have to let me in!”

Norman had flung the curtain back closed, but of course, that did no good after he had been recognized. Missy headed for her cell phone and dialed 9-1-1 while also heading to her bedside stand to retrieve her self-defense pistol.

Ruston had been stunned silent and still by the sudden terrifying turn of events. He was still sitting on the couch when Norman yelled at him to go hide in the bathroom. Ruston suddenly felt very much like the younger, weaker brother that he had always been. He walked numbly down the hallway and locked himself in the bathroom. He stepped into the shower stall and sat on the floor. Tears stung his eyes and trickled down his face.

The call was relayed to the Chief from the police station that Jezebel Jones was trying to enter Missy Matson’s home. Knowing instinctively that it was Jezebel who had robbed and threatened the singers at the auditorium, this latest news served to help put a piece of the puzzle in place. If they could arrest Jezebel before she got away from Missy’s house, they’d solve two crimes at once. He notified every officer except the two at the doors of the auditorium to proceed with great speed and caution to Missy Matson’s house and that the suspect was armed and crazy as a rabid mongoose.

If a bird’s eye view of all the activity going on at once in Warm Springs Village could have been seen, it would have been sensory overload for the viewer.

On stage at The Woodlands Auditorium, Rising Voices had the audience clapping, laughing, and generally having a blast. Elston Brazil was making those piano keys do feats and wonders they’d never done before.

Susan Croissant’s sultry solo, “Hot Southern Nights,” had the audience wolf-whistling and begging for more.

Maureen and Lena wore brightly colored authentic outfits in nineteen-forties style that looked like they were determined to outshine the Andrews Sisters, and that they did. “Sentimental Journey” struck a chord with every Baby Boomer and senior citizen in the building.

Meanwhile, the pounding and screaming were still going on at Missy’s door, and by now, several neighbors were looking out their windows and dialing 9-1-1. Just as the door hinges had finally worked loose enough that the door was about to give way, sirens pierced the night, and bright flashing lights decorated the neighborhood like a blue light special at a disco.

Jezebel heard the sirens and saw the lights, but she was too close to her goal to stop now, so she reared back and gave the door a solid kick. Down it went, and inside she charged. She saw no one in the front room, so she dashed down the hall. Police had come in right behind her and were within inches of grabbing her when Missy, not knowing the cops were so close to catching Jezebel, stepped out of her bedroom, pointing her pistol at the invader of her home, and yelled, “Freeze!”

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.

Chapter 18 – Click here.

Chapter 19 – Click here.

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