Before lunchtime had even arrived, Maureen Morgan and Audrey Younger had browsed at every estate sale and yard sale within thirty miles of the village. Having still not found any great bargains, they decided to take the plunge and drive the full hour to the estate sale extravaganza that was advertised in the Tri-County Tribune. Extraordinary values and astonishing selection was promised in the half-page ad that lured people from all over.
With hope in their hearts and cash in their wallets, the two Villagers pulled up behind a line of at least twenty other cars parked at the side of the road where furniture, tables covered in knickknacks, and all sorts of other items lining both sides of the driveway made it obvious that this was indeed the “extravaganza.”
Maureen pulled into the last possible spot to park, and she and Audrey quick-stepped up the road to arrive at the big sale before someone else walked off with the very treasures they needed, wanted, or simply must have.
The entire house was open and every room was loaded with items both grand and gauche. The couple who had lived here had obviously been world travelers, and had collected exotic and beautiful furnishings and accessories from at least five continents. The lady of the house had loved vivid colors, and lots of sparkle. Her clothing hung neatly in a massive closet, many items in drycleaner bags. There were approximately forty pairs of shoes and none of them were any less quality than Italian handmade leather goods. Once Maureen walked into this wonderland, she didn’t come out for a good quarter of an hour. She finally exited the closet with a gorgeous dress, two pairs of shoes, and an over-sized silk scarf.
Audrey had headed straight to a room full of vinyl records and spent a while picking out six albums that would be perfect for dancing, and three for quiet dinner party background music.
After giving the jewelry collection a good going-over and oohing and aahing over the fabulous hardwood furniture, they decided they should probably head back toward the village. They had a long way to drive.
Feeling pretty satisfied with their buying excursion, they chatted happily for the first half hour of the drive home. Suddenly a loud bang sounded, followed by a kind of flapping sound. Immediately, Maureen knew it was a blowout. It had startled the women, but they didn’t panic. As luck would have it, they could see a service station not far ahead. Maureen carefully steered the limping auto into the service station lot and stopped in front of the big garage door.
The station owner was already out front, and he saw the problem right away, before Maureen even said anything. “Looks like you blew a shoe, Lady,” he said, with a friendly smile.
“I sure did,” she said. “You got any new shoes for this buggy?”
“I’m afraid not,” he replied, “but not to worry. I have lots of used tires around back of this place, and I’m sure I have something that will at least get you home. Follow me and we will pick out one that won’t cost you but a couple of bucks, plus a couple more for installation.”
Maureen, Audrey, and Phil, the friendly gas station man, rounded the back of the station to see stacks and stacks of used tires. However, the first thing to catch Maureen’s eye had nothing to do with tires. It was a crumpled heap of human being, lying halfway behind the far right stack. He was only visible from the waist down until she ran over to him, accompanied by Audrey and Phil. When they saw his head, the two women gasped. Phil rasped, “Oh, my Lord. What happened here?”
Maureen had once been a fitness assistant and CPR-trained volunteer at the Coronado Gymnasium in the village. She leaned over the pitiful figure of Ruston Wrigley to check his wrist for a pulse. Not finding one there, she checked the side of his neck, even though the blood from the nasty gash on his head had made a complete mess of it. She detected a heartbeat. Weak, but still there. She knelt down and leaned in to listen to his breathing. It was labored. His coloring was odd.
“Call an ambulance, quickly!” she told Phil, her voice a bit high and shrill. “And the police!”
Phil answered, “I’m on it! My cell phone is in the station!” With that, he ran to call for help.
Ruston had lain for hours, unnoticed. Much of the time he had been unconscious, but now, with someone finally coming to his aid, the noise and the stirring had caused him to open his eyes and try to speak. Trying to muster a breath, he whispered, “Jezebel.”
Then, his eyes closed again, and he moaned quietly.
Maureen’s eyes had widened at the mention of the name “Jezebel.” She recognized it. She looked at Audrey, and was met with the same wide-eyed amazement from her, too. They both knew about Jezebel.
Audrey mouthed quietly to Maureen, “Can you believe it?”
“Of course!” whispered Maureen. “We’ll never see the end of that woman’s trouble-making!”
When the ambulance arrived, Maureen and Audrey watched Ruston loaded into the vehicle, each breathing a quiet prayer for him. When the police came, Maureen told the officer the only word she had heard the young man utter, “Jezebel.” She gave him a brief rundown of the saga of the only Jezebel she knew, and all the misery caused in Warm Springs Village by that woman and the Wrigleys. “This man is likely the younger Wrigley brother,” she said.
The officer thanked her and assured her that he would be in touch with the Warm Springs Village Police Department, pronto. He drove off, and Maureen remembered that she had a tire to get replaced, at least a makeshift one, so she went into the station and told Phil that any one he thought would do the job would be fine with her. She stepped into the Ladies’ Restroom to wash her hands, since she had given the wounded stranger out back a pulse check and he had been bloodied and battered.
It didn’t take Phil long to choose one that he assured Maureen would give her a few hundred safe miles, and he switched out her flat one with this fifteen-dollar beauty. Soon Audrey and Maureen were back on the road and feeling pretty somber after their adventure had taken such a turn.
Also on the road, albeit quiet a few miles away by now were Lance, Leather, and Jezebel. Her first request, once Lance had managed to calm her fear for her personal safety somewhat, had been a hot meal. The threesome had pulled into a Mom and Pop restaurant that boasted “World’s Best Hamburgers” on its signage, and that is what they had ordered, complete with French fries and chocolate shakes.
Leather ate his food in silence, but Lance had kept up a steady stream of personal “sales pitch talk” to Jezebel about how much better her life would be with him, and how he would forgive everything she had done if she would just agree to put Ruston in her past and commit to being Mrs. Lance Strong. This time, there would be no backing out.
Jezebel had always been fully and firmly committed to one person – herself. Before the meal was over and they ordered their molten lava cakes for dessert, she had agreed. Sure. She could do that.
She leaned over and gave Lance a long, wet kiss. “You got it, Baby. “I’m all yours,” she said, nearly purring. “I’ve missed you.”
Stay Tuned For More to Come
Click here for the links to all chapters of A Village Tale
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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!