By the time Lena got home that night, it was fairly late, and the excitement from the evening was starting to give way to fatigue. Poor Joe had fallen asleep in his recliner, having told his buddy who was keeping watch over them to go on home, and she decided not to wake him. Lena quickly and quietly changed into her comfy pajamas and soft slippers. She felt a little hungry, so she padded into the kitchen and rummaged for something to munch on. Settling for a chunk of Sharp Cheddar cheese and some saltines, she poured a glass of orange juice to complete her meal.
Sitting at the table, she thought back over the events of the day, then tried to push them aside so that sleepiness could take over. The village was usually very quiet this time of night, but every few minutes she kept hearing a loud motorcycle cruising up and down the street. She hoped it wouldn’t keep her awake and she smiled when the thought occurred to her that at least that brunette who had wreaked such havoc at the Woodlands Auditorium surely wasn’t riding a motorcycle through the village.
Over at Missy’s house, things had gotten strangely quiet. Norman and Ruston could both see that their hostess was just about out of patience and understanding with them and the never-ending circus that was their lives. As soon as the police had left there with the intruder, Missy had said “Good night” to the Wrigley brothers and retreated to her bedroom. They could hear murmuring and muttering coming from behind her closed door every now and then, but they didn’t see her again that night.
At one point, Ruston turned to Norman and started to offer some kind of lame explanation or ask a dumb question – Norman didn’t wait to find out which it was. He punched Ruston in the arm and said, “Shut up!”
This would have been typical behavior if the boys had been adolescents, but at this age, it was just an act of pure exasperation. Ruston grabbed the spot on his arm that Norman had just slugged, and let out a pitiful “Ow!” He attempted no reprisals, though. It occurred to him that this same scene had played out several times two decades earlier, and the bigger brother always wins.
Lance Strong was starting to get tired and a bit sleepy, too, so he headed his motorcycle back toward the only motel he had seen in the vicinity. It was Warm Springs Village Sleepy Time Inn. It was situated just at the edge of the village and looked inviting to a guy who hadn’t slept in a comfortable bed for a good while.
Lorena Little was the night clerk on duty at the check-in counter. Lance Strong was the best-looking guy she had ever seen walk through the sliding glass door of the motel and she was just in the mood to appreciate the sight of him.
She fluttered her false eyelashes at him and licked her lips. “Good evening. What can I do for you?” she asked, leaning forward and resting her elbows on the counter.
Lance could hear a soft voice inside his mind saying, “Just get a room and get some sleep!” Unfortunately, the voice he had just heard from Lorena Little was louder.
Her long brown hair and dark brown eyes seemed to just draw him in and capture his attention completely. He didn’t feel very tired anymore, but he definitely wanted to check into this delightful little motel.
“I’d like a room, ma’am,” he drawled, accentuating his southernness just a little. “Just one bed.”
Lorena stepped over to the computer and tapped a few keys. “Do you have any ID and a credit card?” she asked sweetly.
“Yes, ma’am, I do,” he responded and pulled his wallet out of his pocket. Lorena made mental note of his name on his driver’s license as she entered the data. She also noticed that the credit was not one of the pay-as-you-go kinds of cards. This meant he had to actually have a least a little bit of money.
She assigned him the room nearest the lobby then she took her time telling him all about the amenities available at this fine establishment and all the restaurants and such that were nearby. She was just preparing to shift the conversation over to more personal matters, when into the lobby walked John Kelly, one of the village policemen who had been on door guard duty at the Woodlands that evening. “Good evening, Miss Lorena,” he said with a broad smile.
“Good evening, officer,” she replied. “How can I help you?”
“I just stopped by to give you a little cautionary advice about strangers who might come in,” said the polite young cop. “We have had a lot of unusual goings-on in the village lately, and tonight was no exception.”
As he was talking to Lorena, he was casually eyeing Lance Strong. He thought something seemed familiar about the guy. He stuck out his hand in the offer of a handshake, which Lance responded to in kind.
“You look familiar to me, sir,” said Officer Kelly. “Were you at the Woodlands Auditorium tonight?”
“No, sir,” answered Lance. “I don’t live around here. I don’t know where that auditorium is. I am just passing through.”
“Is that your motorcycle outside, there?” asked John.
“Yep. That’s my two-wheeled Cadillac,” said Lance, with a mustered-up little chuckle.
“Well, I saw one like that at the Woodlands tonight,” said John, “So, I guess someone else has a two-wheeled Cadillac just like yours.”
Lance didn’t know quite how to respond to that remark, so he said, “Well, I had better get my toothbrush and pajamas out of my saddlebag and hit the sack.”
With that, he did just that. Returning in a couple of minutes with a handful of belongings, he slipped quietly into his assigned room, and Lorena knew the mood was broken and she wouldn’t be spending any special time with the tall blonde stranger tonight.
John Kelly gave Lorena the rundown on what had transpired at the auditorium, and cautioned her to be careful about strangers “just passing through.”
At the jail, Jezebel Jones was settled into her own assigned room, except it had bars on one of the sides instead of a wall. The three walls it did have were dull and marked with scrapes and scuffs from plenty of other dissatisfied lodgers. Her fury had been temporarily spent and all she really wanted now was to sleep, and this suited everyone at the jail just fine. Within twenty minutes, she was dead to the world and snoring to beat the band.
Marla Jo marveled that a scrawny little waif like Jezebel could snore so loud. After Marla Jo finished writing up a report of this evening’s events, she leaned back in her chair and dozed off.
For a good hour and a half, it seemed that the whole village rested peacefully, like a scene for a Christmas card with “Silent Night” written on it in gold leaf…
Then, Lance Strong awoke from his nap. Somehow in his sleep, he seemed to recall seeing two different police cars earlier that evening turning down one particular road, towards a little brick building with lights on inside, and cars parked out front. Then, he remembered overhearing John Kelly telling Lorena in the conversation that filtered softly through the door of his room that “three blocks from the auditorium is the best place we could have possibly put the police station. It is so convenient!”
Suddenly wide awake, Lance popped out of bed like a Pop-Tart and got dressed. He cautiously eased the door open and scanned the lobby. No sign of Lorena Little or anyone else. He quickly tiptoed out the door. He pushed his motorcycle to the edge of the parking lot so that nobody would hear him start it. He knew exactly how to get to the place where his Jezebel was now. No way would she ever turn him down, now, once he’d sprung her from behind bars!
He wanted to zip down the road doing ninety miles an hour, but he knew the Barney Fife cops would be looking for speeders if they were awake at all, so he followed the example of all the villagers he had observed and drove a safe thirty-five. Even at that speed, he knew it wouldn’t take long to be where his bride-to-be was incarcerated. He didn’t have a complicated plan concocted to get her out – just the fully loaded .380 ACP tucked in the back of his belt. That was all the plan he needed.
Stay Tuned For More To Come…
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!