Maureen stood still as a statue for a minute or two, hands on hips, with all the cogs and wheels in her mind whirring. She pondered her options regarding the motley pair she had just seen whizzing by her front yard. Then, she turned on her heel and marched into the house with a sense of purpose and a mission to protect her friends Lena and Joe.

Lena answered on the third ring and was glad to hear Maureen’s voice. “Mo! How nice to hear your voice! Did the earthquake hit your place hard?”

Not wanting to launch abruptly into the troubling news about the gypsy and the marauder, Maureen replied, “Oh, it barely touched me. Just a little shimmy to make things look messy. How about you?”

“No problems here,” Lena replied. “Just a little excitement to add to what we have been through around here lately. We’d hate to get bored by having several days in a row with no troubles.”

Seeing her chance for a logical seque, Maureen kept it smooth. “Speaking of trouble, I thought I’d better let you know who just went past my house, flying low, in a pink Cadillac.”

“Pink Cadillac?” answered Lena, with tension immediately tightening her vocal cords. “I only know of one person around here with a pink Cadillac! Missy Masters, a.k.a. Madame Zsa Zsa!”

“Yes, Honey, and she wasn’t alone,” Maureen responded, breathlessly. “Norman Wrigley, a.k.a. The Village Marauder was in the passenger seat. Missy was decked out in full fortune-teller regalia, coins and colors flapping in the breeze. They were doing at least fifty-five miles an hour! On a residential street!”

“Did you call the police?” asked Lena, now with added volume.

“I thought about it,” answered Maureen, “but I thought I would call you first and let you decide how to proceed.”

Lena was silent for a few seconds, then she called out for Joe to get in on this news flash. “Joe! Come to the phone! New development!”

Joe ambled to her side, not at all interested in jumping back into a cauldron of stress and misfortune. “I heard you mention the word ‘police’ just now. What in the world is up, now?” was all the response he felt like mustering.

“It looks like Missy has gone “gypsy” again. Not sitting quietly at home, awaiting a visit from the cops. She and Norman Wrigley are zooming up and down the village streets! Who knows what they are planning?” Lena’s voice was getting raspy now from the tension in her throat.

“So, that’s all?” replied Joe. “Just driving? Haven’t stopped anywhere? Haven’t hurt anyone?”

Lena and Maureen could clearly hear the masculine “voice of reason” Joe was trying to put across. They weren’t buying it. Not for a second.

“So, after everything those two and that Jezebel have put us through, you aren’t concerned about them zipping about the village like two joy-riding teenagers? Maureen said they were speeding!” Lena was trying to energize her lackadaisical husband, but Joe had used up his allotment of agitation and all his ‘fight-or-flight’ juice in recent days.

“Tell Maureen thanks for calling to warn us, but I think we will just make sure our doors are locked, have a pistol handy, and relax in front of the television in our recliners. ‘Murder, She Wrote’ is about to come on.” With that, Joe, turned and went back to the den.

“Well, Mo,” said Lena, feeling a tad rebuffed, “I guess there’ll be no action here unless the gypsy and the marauder start it.”

“Okay, then, my dear,” Maureen said, resignedly. “I did my duty by calling to warn you. Let me know if you need me.”

“Thanks, Mo, I will. Thank you for being my security guard. You are a faithful friend,” said Lena. “Talk to you soon.”

“Okay, Honey. Bye, then.” Replied Maureen, and they both hung up.

Just as they did, a loud “BANG!!” sounded in the street right in front of Lena and Joe’s house. Lena let out a blood-curdling scream and ducked quickly into a crouch behind her kitchen table. “Joe!!!” she shrieked.

Joe was already up and headed to the front door with his pistol. Throwing open the door, he spotted the pink Cadillac that had flattened his mailbox and the flower box at its base. He would have drawn his weapon, but the reason for the loud noise was obvious to him, immediately, for the blown-out front tire that had fairly exploded on the pink Cadillac was strewn around the street and Joe’s front yard. A dazed gypsy and a young man sat in the driver’s seat and passenger seat of the convertible. They seemed just as stunned by the loud noise and sudden impact as did Joe, Lena, and the nearest neighbors, who began pouring out of their houses in various states of surprise and curiosity.

Joe turned and went back inside his house to lay down the gun and let Lena know she was safe. Upon his return, Missy and Norman had disembarked the big pink Cadillac and were inspecting the damage.

“Everyone okay?” asked Joe.

“Yes!” answered Missy, fidgeting with a couple of feet of her massive headdress that had come loose. Tucking it around the back of her hairdo, she cleared her throat and stepped forward a few steps, extending her hand. “I am so very sorry! It was purely an accident, and I will gladly pay you for the damages!” she said, in a pleading tone. Then, suddenly, the tears came. Missy sat down on the ground, put her face in her hands, and sobbed.

Norman stood silently, shocked by this latest episode of life-jarring drama. He felt like crying, too, but he feared that he would be letting down every man in the world if he failed to maintain his stoic toughness now.

Joe, however, was older, wiser, and much more experienced in the ways of humankind than Norman, and he had nobody that he needed to impress by being an ‘Alpha Male’. He walked over to Missy and touched her shoulder.

“Ma’am, let me go get you a Kleenex,” he said. “Then I will get a couple of neighbor guys to help me move your car out of the street and into my driveway, while you come inside and let my wife fix you and your friend a nice glass of iced tea.”

Lena had stepped out onto the front porch and was seeing and hearing everything that played out. Now, the waterworks started for her. Then, Norman’s tear ducts opened up, spilling forth all the sorrow, dread, and misery he had carried for so long.

Lena stepped inside the house and brought out a box of Kleenexes for Missy, Norman, and herself. She helped Missy up off the ground and said, quietly, “Come on in. “We’ll have tea and we’ll talk.” Looking at Norman, she said, “You, too. Come on.”

While Joe oversaw the moving of the Cadillac and the cleaning up of all the debris, Lena, Missy, and Norman settled at the table with tea and cookies, and Kleenexes, of course. One at a time, they poured out their hearts, mending and healing. Norman shared his tragic background, and what had let him to stray into the mischief and misdemeanors, even eventually felonies that he had perpetrated.

Missy shared how her discovery of her heritage had led to her fascination with the gypsy culture, and how her deep caring for downtrodden humanity had brought her to try to save the misunderstood young man known as The Village Marauder.

Lena listened intently, and was so moved that she leaned forward, patting Missy and Norman on the hand, and gave them plenty of Bless-your-hearts. She kind of wished she had something to apologize for in all of this, but in reality, she had handled it pretty well, so she would just accept these two new friends and make plans with them regarding talking to Chief Midler about dropping all the charges.

Love and serenity had won the day at Joe and Lena’s house, and Missy and Norman would be starting a new chapter of their lives with a light heart and a clean slate.

However, over at the hospital, not far away, Lance Strong had heard about Jezebel leaving town with young Ruston Wrigley. Lance was healing quickly from his physical wounds after tangling his motorcycle around a deer, but his emotional health had just taken a big hit. He was getting angrier by the minute. “No woman is going to jilt me and run away with a skinny punk!” he said to himself. “I am checking out of this hospital today, and within three days’ time, I will find them and teach them a life lesson. I will live up to my name. I am LANCE STRONG!”

Stay tuned for more to come…