This is a continuation. To start at the beginning of the series click here.

By Nancy Carlton

Chapter Three

     The first strategy meeting of the newly formed crime-solving trio of Lena, Mo, and Audrey had to wait until after Audrey taught a tapdancing class and Lena and Mo each attended their respective church choir rehearsals on Wednesday afternoon.

     “How’s everything at ‘Our Lady of Something or Other’?” Lena asked Mo as she let her into her kitchen.

     “It’s called ‘Sacred Heart’,” Mo replied. “How are your friends at ‘First Something or Other’?”

     These two had been good-naturedly ribbing each other about one another’s churches for years. Lena would tell Mo jokes about what some old woman would tell in the confessional, and Mo would make a joke about a Baptist barber who believed in ‘once shaved, always shaved.’”

     Audrey was a Methodist, and nobody could find any good Methodist jokes, so she avoided this particular bit of joviality. However, they did come up with a tap dancer joke or two, like “How many tap dance teachers does it take to change a light bulb? (Five! Six! Seven! Eight!)”

     On this afternoon, however, they had serious matters to discuss. Overnight, six different calls had come into the Warm Springs Police Department via 9-1-1 reporting a tall, lean figure dressed all in white, snooping around neighborhoods, peeking into parked cars and once even standing outside the kitchen window of a house owned by an elderly widower.

     The biggest scare to the gated community had come, though, when an unsigned letter had been slipped surreptitiously into the payment box for the Property Owners Association. The letter was written in large block printing and simply stated: It is NOT FAIR for some people to have it so easy while others work harder and longer and never catch a break! It is time for a reckoning!

     “Well, if they are ready for a reckoning,” Lena said with the toughest demeanor she could muster, “then I reckon it’s time for us to give ‘em one!”

     “I have no words to explain to you how intimidating you don’t look right now,” Mo responded, with just a hint of a snicker.

     “Oh, I don’t know, Mo,” Audrey said, “I felt a slight angst when I saw all that raw fury on the face of this redheaded ‘Nana’ in her designer blue progressive lens spectacles. If I were a criminal, I’d just throw down my weapon and surrender right now!”

     “Alright, alright,” said Lena. “I get it. I’m no Kojak. The only thing I ever get tough with is the burnt-on goo in my glass pans after I cook lasagna. But, it is time for us to get serious about solving this crime spree here in our own little village. I’m not sure the police need our help, but if we don’t hurry, they may solve it without us, and there goes our chance at fame, glory, and any possible reward!”

     “Fine, but we sure went from ‘doing a public service’ to ‘fame, glory and any possible reward’ in a hurry,” said Maureen.

     “These are fast times, Mo. Only us ‘movers and shakers’ can keep up,” Lena said, opening a kitchen junk drawer and pulling out a pad of paper and a purple ink pen. “Have a seat, ladies, and let’s start listing clues.”

     Gathered at the kitchen table, ignoring the empty coffee cups from that morning’s breakfast, the ladies set about gleaning every known fact of the recent criminal goings-on in Warm Springs Village.

     Lena wrote, as the bits of information were put forth by the trio. “We can assume the perp is a man,” she said.

     “How can we assume that?” Audrey asked. “What are we basing that on?”

     “Well, everyone who has had the least glimpse of him since this whole mess started has called him ‘he’”, Maureen responded. “And he is tall, they all say. And he runs fast.”

     “I agree,” said Lena, writing the words ‘Culprit is male’ on her pad. “Besides, what female would be dressed all in white, from head to foot? Why, it would add fifteen pounds to her appearance!”

     “Well, think about it, though,” Audrey said, leaning forward in her chair. “A female criminal would want to camouflage her appearance, right? What better way to do it than to make herself look bigger?”

     “Audrey, remember the first night of the crime spree! The guy was confronted face to face by old man Jensen. The culprit was a man!” With this proclamation, Lena underlined the word ‘male’ on her notepad.

     “Oh, yeah. I forgot that part. I haven’t had my second cup of coffee yet, today.” Audrey responded. “So, how about you brew us a pot?”

     “Alright, but keep those ideas coming, and one of you write them down while I make a pot of coffee,” Lena said. “Are we going to agree that there is only one perpetrator doing all the dastardly deeds?”

     Maureen looked thoughtful. “I wondered about that,” she said. “First he uses a knife, then a gun. Sometimes he is quite careless about being seen, but when spotted, he takes off like greased lightning. So far, he hasn’t actually injured anybody, but he has managed to terrify hundreds of ‘seasoned citizens’. He has some kind of grievance about life not being fair, but he hasn’t named anyone as being the one he has a beef with. The fact that he ran into Mr. Jensen’s apartment may have been merely due to the fact that it was the first one he came to on the top floor, or, perhaps he knew whose apartment it was, and singled out Old Man Jensen. We don’t know.”

     “Coffee’s ready,” Lena said, as she got three cups from the cabinet. “Sounds like you have given some serious thought to the situation, Mo. The starting point for our investigation is pretty solid, now. However, one thing occurred to me just now, as Maureen was laying out the data.” 

     Setting a cup of steaming, delicious caffeine-laden goodness down in front of each of the other two ladies, Lena said, with a little twinkle in her eye, “Has it occurred to you that the ‘doer’ could be somebody we know? Someone who knows us?  Someone who, if we aren’t careful, might discover that we are investigating these crimes?”

     Mo had picked up her cup of coffee, and stopped with it in mid-air, on its way to her mouth. “Oh, thanks a lot, Lena! This was way too stress-free, you know, trying to solve crimes with no training, no weapons, no anything – and now we have to worry that the bad guy might be a friend or neighbor, some guy that we see every day. And, if we aren’t covert enough, we might be the next victims on his list? If he has a list?”

     Audrey sat quietly, taking small sips of her coffee, and thinking deeply. She blinked, sighed, and put her coffee cup down. “I don’t know whether to run as fast as I can, away from you two, or to giggle with delight at the thrill of the adventure we are undertaking. Inside my head, I can vaguely recall my mother telling me to be careful what kind of company I keep, but in another part of my head, I have stored all these bits and pieces of the detective movies I have binge-watched for twenty years, and I know that I always got great satisfaction when I was able to figure out ‘whodunnit’ before the guy in the trench coat solved it.”

     Collectively, the blood pressures and heart rates of all three ladies were probably up about twenty percent as they began to make a list of everyone they knew who might have the slightest possibility of being involved in the criminal caper being played out in their little village, when suddenly there came a loud, rapid pounding on the back door, just a few feet from where they sat.

     Maureen sprayed coffee from her mouth (and possibly her nose) as Audrey gasped and stiffened. Lena let out a mezzo-soprano scream that was not at all supported by proper breath technique, as her vocal coach would have told her.

     After about five seconds, the pounding came again, this time accompanied by a booming voice that demanded, “Open the door!”

     With her brain struggling to stay connected enough to her body to propel her to the door, Lena made her way to the peephole and peered out. There stood a tall man dressed in white. In his hand was a paint roller. He had a few splotches of paint on his face. It was her next door neighbor, Stanley Barnard.

     Lena’s brain went into a spasm. Should she be relieved? Should she open the door and greet her neighbor? Or might he be the marauder in white that had been terrorizing Warm Springs Village?

Stay tuned for more to come…

Chapter1 – Click here.

Chapter 2 – Click here.

Click on the Author Block below to go to Nancy’s listing of her book, The Diery, on