Joe and Lena were fortunate enough that their house hadn’t sustained any noticeable damage from the earthquake. With Joe still a bit sore from his bullet wound, and Lena still trying to get her nerves back to their “pre-Norman and Jezebel” state of calmness, it was a blessing not to have any home repairs to contend with.

Audrey Younger dropped by around ten o’clock to check on Joe and Lena. Lena was just making a fresh pot of coffee and pulling a peach cobbler out of the oven, so the timing was perfect for a gab session. Audrey had been on the phone with Bette Kogut, and each of them had their own bits and pieces of local news to share. No gossiping, you understand, just the exchange of vital information. (wink!)

The gist of it all was that the tall blond motorcycle-riding stranger was recuperating in the hospital from his wreck, and Jezebel Jones had escaped from jail and run off. She was last seen heading out of the village with a young man that must have been the younger brother of Norman Wrigley, since he looked kind of like Norman, but not exactly. Oh, yeah, and the police chief had just returned to duty after his bout with COVID.

“Well, I am tickled pink that Ms. Jezebel is out of our village, but it would have been nice if she had been prosecuted for shooting my husband!” Lena said, setting her coffee cup down and reaching for another helping of cobbler. “Is that Norman Wrigley still staying at Missy Masters’ house? Still no word on legal proceedings against Missy or him?”

Audrey waved off Lena’s offer of more cobbler and replied, “Last I heard, he is still there. I bet Missy rues the day she ever undertook to rescue that scalawag.”

Back at Missy’s place, Norman was attempting to tidy up the room where he and Ruston had been sleeping. Norman’s side of the room was neat and clean, and he was getting more and more aggravated at the dirt, dust, clutter, and grime he was finding where Ruston had bunked. “Good grief,” he muttered. “My brother lives like a pig.”

Missy was in the mood for some housekeeping, too. She stood in front of her bedroom closet, pondering whether a few things might be thrown out or given away, to clear up some free space. Her eyes fell on the brightly colored, shiny, sparkling gypsy outfit she had been wearing the night she met Norman. The belt of coins tinkled when she pulled the clothes hanger off the rack. The massive scarf she had used as a headdress shimmered and clinked when she pulled it down from the hook on the inside of the closet door. She paused for a few seconds, breathing in the remnants of the earthy perfume that remained in the abundant
yards of material used to swing, swirl, and swath the free-spirited woman who donned such a dress. She glanced in the free-standing full-length mirror on its heavy oaken swivel just to the left side of her closet, and there it was – there was the twinkle back in her eyes.

“Madame Zsa Zsa wants to play!” she giggled. Grabbing up all the pieces of her paraphernalia and accouterments, she strewed them on the bed and quickly locked her bedroom door. “I need a taste of freedom!” she half-whispered. “I need the wind in my hair, the sunlight, starlight, and moonlight on my skin, and I need to hear the roar of my pink Cadillac taking me out of this prison for a

She heard Norman start up the vacuum cleaner in his room and she was glad that it would provide background noise to muffle the sound of her jewelry and coins tinkling as she donned the outfit that she had worn the night the Village Marauder Rescue had begun. Once the outfit was on, she dug into her cosmetics drawer and pulled out some deep purple lipstick, dark teal eyeshadow, coral-colored rouge, and a tube of heavy-duty mascara. She spent the next ten minutes creating the perfect runaway gypsy face. She dabbed on several good pats of “Opium” perfume to finish the effect.

“This has got to be photographed for posterity!” she chuckled, and she grabbed her cell phone off her nightstand. After switching the camera setting to “Backward Facing” she posed for several shots of this flashy, alluring gypsy – full smile, straight on; side profile, highlighting earring; and tilted head with a playful wink.

Presently she heard the vacuum noise stop. Seconds later, a soft knock on her door. “Missy, you busy?” Norman inquired.

“Time for my debut!” she thought to herself. She unlocked the door and threw it open. “Hello, Dahling! Madame Zsa Zsa has returned!”

Norman was completely taken aback. Speechless, he blinked several times. Finally, he pushed out the word, “Wow!”

“Do you like it?” Missy asked, doing a three-hundred-sixty-degree spin like Loretta Young used to do on television in the fifties.

“I’m shocked,” Norman answered. “Surprised. Stunned.”

Grabbing Norman’s hand, Missy uttered, breathlessly, “We need a break! A mini-vacation! A gadabout!”

“Won’t Chief Midler object?” Norman asked, timidly.

“He might – if he knew about it.” She replied, with a little lilt to her voice. “But, he hasn’t checked on us in days. Days and days!”

“Am I suddenly the sensible one, here?” Norman asked, incredulously.

Missy fidgeted, exhaling and inhaling in short puffs, out of frustration. Finally, she said, “Well, you might be, so I’ll tell you what. You stay here and mind the Chief. I will get in my pink Cadillac and burn some gasoline up, cruising the roads and feeling alive again!”

“But, Missy, if you get pulled over by the police, you could end up losing your nursing license!” Norman was pleading, now.

“I will just inform the officer that I was going to the grocery store. They don’t expect us to just sit here and starve while we wait for them to get their ducks in a row and resolve the tangled mess!” Missy insisted.

“And they will believe you wear full gypsy costume and makeup to go to the grocery store?” Norman retorted.

“Sure, they will! The sign painted on my car says, ‘Madame Zsa Zsa, Fortune Teller and Life Advisor,’ doesn’t it? How else would I dress?” She picked up her purse and keys as she said this, and started toward the door.

“Wait!” said Norman, throwing his hand up in a ‘Halt’ signal. “I will go with you. Dang, it Missy. Dang it!”

“You won’t regret it!” Missy said, with a wide smile. “And, if you do, at least we will be regretting it together. That’s what friends do, right?”

Norman put on his denim jacket, ran a comb through his hair, and said, “Let’s hit the road, Trouble!”

A few blocks away, Maureen Morgan had awakened from the best night’s sleep she had had in a while. After her coffee and Cream of Wheat, she headed outside to check the mail that she had forgotten to check the day before. The earthquake had warped the mailbox post a little and loosened a few bricks at its base. Maureen bent down to inspect the damage. As she manually shoved a loose half-brick back into its proper position, the sound of squealing tires, then a roaring engine came barreling into her neighborhood. In all her years in the village, she had never seen a car traveling at this speed. It was a convertible, pink
with silver writing on the side. It carried two people – one of them decked out in every color imaginable, with shiny coins flashing in the light and a long scarf trailing for several feet behind her. That was the driver. She knew in an instant who the passenger was. His image was burned into her brain. It was Norman Wrigley, formerly known as the Village Marauder.

In a matter of two or three seconds, they had entered her sight and range of hearing and then left just as quickly. Maureen thought she had heard high, shrill laughter as they passed by.

Slightly dazed, Maureen stood still, trying to give her mind time to process the scene. Then, she began weighing her options – should she run and call the police, thus being a tattle-tale who had already called the Chief just prior to this about Jezebel, or should she just let Lena and Joe know that the Marauder and the Gypsy were running free as birds, getting up to who-knows-what, so Lena and Joe could decide what to do from there? Which option was the smartest? Which one was the safest? Which one was the most exciting?


Click here for the links for all previous Chapters of A Village Tale.

To visit Nancy’s listing of her book, The Diery, on, click the author block below.