This is a continuation. Click here to read Chapter 1.

By Nancy Carlton

     “No one has died – yet!” you said. “Are you aware just how perfect those words would be in a book about “Famous Last Words”? This was Maureen talking, waving her forkful of cinnamon roll in the air as an expression of excitement and warning.

     Stirring another packet of Stevia into her coffee and licking a speck of icing off her top lip, Lena tried to convey a nonchalant reassurance that there would be no danger whatsoever in Maureen and herself casually looking into the events of the previous night at Benevolent Sam high-rise. 

     “It’s not like we are going in, guns-blazin’, to take out a desperado, Mo! This would just be two ladies of maturity and wisdom using our wits and resources to do a public service for our fellow villagers. We can find out stuff the police can’t, because we fit in with the general population here. We don’t stick out like an officer in a uniform.”

     Maureen raised her coffee cup to her lips and started to repeat the “No one has died – yet!” line, when a shot rang out, shattering the glass window of the restaurant and smashing Mo’s coffee cup to smithereens, leaving her holding just the ceramic handle.

     Pandemonium broke out in the Arkansas Club as patrons dove under tables, food and drinks spilling, and dishes clattering to the floor. Police Chief Middler was at the corner table with his donut and coffee when the spent bullet came to rest in the wall a few inches from his head. He had caught a fleeting glimpse of a tall figure dressed all in white a few yards from the restaurant’s window as the person whirled a hundred and eighty degrees and fled the scene. Grabbing his hat and walkie-talkie from the table, the chief raced out the door, while the screams died down behind him.

     Maureen and Lena sat looking at each other wide-eyed and open-mouthed. Mo gently set down the ceramic handle of the mug that had been decimated in her hand. She blinked and cleared her throat with ladylike delicacy, then calmly asked Lena, “Is this the kind of amateur sleuthing fun you had in mind?”

     Lena was twisting her napkin and staring at her water glass. “Well,” she finally started, then paused. She licked her lips and scanned the room to survey the melee and chaos as senior citizens re-emerged from their hiding spots. A waitress was on the phone to the police, excitedly giving an account of what had transpired.

     “Well,” she said again, “you know, this little incident today may not even be connected to what happened last night at the high-rise.”

     “You didn’t answer my question,” said Maureen, using restraint not to appear flustered. 

     “I was afraid you’d notice that,” Lena replied. “Are you okay? Did any fragments of the coffee cup cut you or anything?”

     Mo stood up and shook cup fragments out of her clothing, then took a napkin and dabbed the coffee off her sleeve. “No, I seem to be intact. What I am wondering, though, is how long we both may remain intact and healthy if we go slinking around like two untrained menopausal detectives on Medicare, poking our noses into places where knives and guns are in use.”

     Lena was only halfway listening to Maureen, because she was giving most of her attention to scanning the crowd at the restaurant to make mental notes of who all was there. “Oh, look, Mo! Audrey Younger is here!”

     Sure enough, their favorite tap-dancer was gathering up the spilled contents of her purse several tables away from them. Lena and Maureen made their way to her. “Are you okay, Sweetie?” Lena asked.

     Audrey let out a nervous giggle and said, “Sure! Just a typical morning for me. I try to eat only at places that have live gunfire during my meal. I find that it stimulates my metabolism.”

     Just then, the Warm Springs Village SWAT team invaded the scene. This consisted of Marla Jo Maynard, a sixty-year-old female cop with a silver braid hanging down the back of her bulletproof vest and Willard Biddle, the senior detective of the force. He was fifty-two years old, stocky, and kept his hair dyed ridiculously black. Having been a police officer for thirty years, though, and having the best marksmanship record in the county, he always garnered great respect in the village.

     It didn’t take long for the pair to search the restaurant and declare the building free of any shooter, so they next went sprinting across the golf course and into the woods on the other side in search of the tall figure dressed in white.

     By now, patrons were estimating what they each had eaten before all heck broke loose, placing their little piles of money on their respective tables, anchoring the cash with salt shakers or silverware, and leaving the premises. Good luck to the police who would need to interview everyone later.

     Lena, Mo, and Audrey all exited the place together, and on the way to their cars, Lena made Audrey an offer she should probably have refused: Join Lena and Mo in an exciting new hobby and figure out why the violent crime rate in the village had suddenly gone all rowdy and rampant. 

     Was Audrey up for it? Did she have a brave and daring spirit? Would she make their dynamic duo into a terrific trio?

     Oh, dear…she said, “Yes!”

     Maureen gave Audrey an earnest, serious look and said, “Dear, I hope you are prepared for what you are getting yourself into.” Then she winked.

     Lena reached into her purse and fished out a pen and a scrap of paper. “Ladies, what supplies do we need from the dollar store to get us started on our crime-solving duties in a fully professional manner?”

     “Professional?” asked Maureen.

     “As in, we get paid to do this?” added Audrey.

     “Ladies, ladies,” Lena piped up, holding up her hand like a stop sign. “Maybe professional wasn’t the proper word. We won’t get paid – unless there is a reward for the criminals we catch!” Now her face showed a spark of even more excitement. “There might be a reward! Plus, we might become famous!”

     “I thought we were doing this as a public service,” Mo said, with a tone that was somewhere between sweetly tolerant and nervously cautious.

     Audrey looked at Mo, then Lena, then back at Mo. “Are you ladies sure that the two of you are on the same page about this, before I jump in and join the scheme?”

     “Oh, sure!” they chorused, “Absolutely!”

     They each had put on their very best facial expressions of competence, trustworthiness, and wisdom.

     Audrey fell for it.

     Well, Warm Springs Village is in for the twenty-first century female Keystone Cops/Columbo version of an unpaid-yet-professional(ish) band of three crime-solvers, and goodness knows, the village will never be the same.

To be continued…

Click here to read Chapter 1

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