Lance and Leather pulled onto the parking lot of the Motel Fandango just before sunrise. “What a dump!” said Lance. “That low-life punk has got my future wife tucked away in this garbage heap!”
“We are about to liberate her from this situation,” Leather reassured him. “Take a good look at that broken-down neon sign, dude,” he said with a chuckle, pointing at the pitiful remnant of signage with its years of wear and tear, which, if you only count the letters that were lit up, literally spelled, ‘Mote andang’.
The two big guys chose a spot at the far corner of the lot, partially obscured by trees, where they could keep a lookout for Ruston and Jezebel to emerge from their room. They wouldn’t pounce on their unsuspecting prey outside, though. Too much risk of being seen. They would locate Ruston, then follow him back inside, or trail him to another locale with no witnesses except that redheaded wildcat, Jezebel.
Back in the gated confines of Warm Springs Village, Missy Masters had awakened with music and a sparkly tangerine-colored outfit still dancing around in her head from the show she had attended the night before. Maureen Morgan had brought the crowd to their feet and stirred up old memories in the mind of Missy, a.k.a. Madame Zsa Zsa, who, a few years back, had sung and danced across stages throughout the South. She could feel the itch returning. That acting, dancing, singing bug was crawling all over her, and it could not be denied. After breakfast, she pulled down the door in the hallway ceiling that had a folding ladder leading to the attic. Up she went to rummage through old trunks and boxes for the souvenirs of all the shows she had sparkled and shone in, just not so terribly long ago.
Norman heard the rustling and footsteps above his head, accompanied by Missy humming various bits of show tunes. He climbed up the ladder to see what was going on. This gave Missy an audience, so she donned a feather hat from one of the trunks and performed what she could remember of a dance number in “White Christmas.”
Meanwhile, at “Mote andang”, the sleepy bride and groom had risen from their fitful slumber and were drinking left-over halves of cans of “Dr. Stepper” that they had bought at the Dollar Jamboree store. For the entrée, they munched on stale peanut butter crackers and shared a Milky Way bar for dessert. Already, Jezebel was starting to compare in her mind the reality of life as Ruston’s wife with the way things might have been if she had married Lance Strong. Ruston wasn’t scoring too highly in the play-off.
About a quarter to eight, Ruston said “Jezzy” could stay in the room and watch cartoons while he made a scouting run to find a place to either steal more food or swipe the money to buy them a decent meal. As he walked out the door with his trusty crowbar stuffed inside his shirt, Jezebel was in front of the large mirror next to the bathroom, looking herself over for bedbug bites. She had counted seven so far. She was not happy about it.
Ruston should have been more aware of his surroundings, but his weary brain was focused on one thing: providing sustenance for Jezebel. He had just spotted a newspaper box in front of the service station beside the motel. It was shielded from the view of the clerk inside the station, and it held the statewide newspaper, which meant that probably quite a few people had already stopped and bought their morning news, at a buck and a half each. Ruston hoped so, anyway. He headed toward the box, reaching inside his shirt for his handy “newspaper box opener”. Suddenly, he was being pulled into the woods behind the station. There was a large hand over his mouth. He barely had time to panic before a stunning thud landed on the side of his head, and the daylight vanished. Everything was dark. He felt himself being slammed against something hard. Several jarring blows struck his ribs, but he was hardly cognizant of that fact. Within seconds, he didn’t know anything, at all.
Lance and Leather dragged the unconscious Ruston behind an abandoned stack of used tires and discarded him there.
“Is that sufficient?” Leather asked Lance.
“I believe that oughta do it,” Lance replied. “Now, let’s go get my woman.”
The short walk to the door that Ruston had exited moments before didn’t take long. Lance knocked nonchalantly on the door, knowing Jezebel would assume it was Ruston returning.
Sure enough, Jezebel opened the door without any inquiry as to who was there. As soon as it was opened a crack, Lance and Leather burst into the room. Lance clamped his hand firmly over the panicking woman’s mouth, and whisper- yelled, “Don’t scream, Baby! Do Not Scream!”
Leather had quickly shut and locked the door, and was looking out from between the curtains to make sure no one was paying any attention in their direction. All was clear.
“Are you gonna be quiet?” Lance asked Jezebel, who was wide-eyed and hyperventilating.
“Mm-hmm,” she replied, nodding. Lance took his hand away from her mouth.
Jezebel whimpered, “What are you doing? Where is Ruston?” She was shaking, and tears ran down her face.
Lance responded, “Ruston has decided he doesn’t want to be your husband anymore, Sweetness. He has run away, and left you to me. Now, you are mine again, like you were always supposed to be.”
“What do you mean, he has run away?!” she cried. “Did you hurt him?”
Leather piped up now. “I didn’t hear him complain, did you, Lance?”
“Not a single peep,” Lance said. “He looked tired, anyway. I think he needed a nap.”
“Yeah,” Leather laughed. “I bet he is laid out, snoozing, right now!”
Jezebel tried to lunge at Leather, with her arms up, to give him a few punches in the face, but he dodged, and Lance grabbed her, easily subduing her. “Now, Baby, you need to settle down. We have to get your things together and we are all going on a road trip, you, me, and Leather. Oh, by the way, this is my friend, Leather.”
Jezebel trembled as she put her shoes on and picked up her purse. “This is all I have,” she said quietly. “I will go with you. Don’t hurt me.”
The three walked to the car at the corner of the lot in silence. Lance opened the door to the back seat for her, and she got in. He slid in beside her. Leather got in the driver’s seat. They eased onto the highway without anyone giving them a glance.
Out behind the service station next door, Ruston had not moved a muscle. A sizeable knot with a two-inch gash decorated the side of his head like gruesome Halloween makeup. Nobody knew he was there, except the two men who had put him there. Two ribs had been cracked and were now leaning inward, restricting his breathing space. Ruston’s Honeymoon had been short-lived.
Stay Tuned For More To Come
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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!