The same run-down Waffle House where Lance had eaten his greasy eggs and thin, flat pancakes that morning was now the scene of an intense strategizing session for Lance and Leather. Lance had taken out a five hundred dollar cash advance on his credit card at a nearby ATM, and that was enough to ensure the interest of Leather in the plan to educate Ruston Wrigley and Jezebel Jones on the subject of proper behavior for brides-to-be and interlopers who steal said bride-to-be.
Cheeseburgers and fries were disappearing rapidly from their plates as these two oversized tough guys plotted the best way to set right the grievous wrong that Lance felt had been perpetrated against him. The first item to be settled was whether Jezebel should also be punished for her betrayal, or whether Lance still wanted to woo her back and marry that little wildcat. He had decided that she could have one more chance, as long as Ruston Wrigley was truly taught a lesson he would never forget – that is, if he were still able to remember anything.
Various levels of bodily harm to be dished out to Ruston were debated and Lance decided on Level Four – “Permanent Injury Including a Limp or a Noticeable Scar.”
Lance felt that he was being charitable, considering that Leather would have gladly sent young Ruston to the hereafter for the amount of money he was being paid.
Maureen Morgan was putting the finishing touches on her hair and makeup for the Warm Springs Big Band Show that would be held this evening. She was their singer and genuinely loved all the great songs from the glorious nineteen-forties. Her outfit for the show had been specifically chosen to highlight the first nostalgic piece she would present tonight. The dress was Tangerine orange, with every sequin produced by the Acme Sequin Company for the past year, and the feathered fascinator she wore in her hair was the same color, but with clear rhinestones for added sparkle. Her two-inch high heels were open-toed and spangled with stones of tangerine and diamond-clear. All in all, when the spotlight hit her, she would blind the whole tech crew, but that’s a-okay.
She had warmed up her voice and rehearsed her opening line all day and was more than ready to deliver: Tangerine, she is all they claim!
Lena and Joe were getting dressed to attend the show, as were Audrey Younger and Bette Kogut. Even Missy Masters was going to be in attendance, along with Norman Wrigley, who was finally learning to be a stable member of society in the village. An air of excitement seemed to hover over the whole community this evening.
Some one hundred miles away, the newly self-decreed married couple Jezebel Jones and Ruston Wrigley were spending their first few days as Mr. and Mrs. by scrounging and scavenging. Ruston had found a crowbar in the alley behind a service station and had carried it across the street to a laundromat with no customers inside and had pried out the coin receptacles of four washers, four dryers, and a money-changing machine. This had gotten him a hundred and fourteen dollars and a case of paranoia, as he now had to be hyper-vigilant in case anyone had seen him entering or leaving the premises.
He had used the money to rent a motel room for the night at a joint so seedy that the man at the front desk didn’t even raise an eyebrow over the fact that he was paid in all coins. Money is money, he figured.
The thirty-nine-dollar accommodations had left him with enough money to get them a nice supper and to buy Jezebel a cheap ring to wear to signify her new status as a married woman.
If he had known that Leather and Lance would soon be on his trail, he would have used the money to transport himself and his bride as many more miles away as he could afford. Ignorance is bliss, they say.
Marla Jo Maynard and John Kelly were on duty at the Warm Springs Village Police Department that evening. They had been so relaxed since the Madame Zsa Zsa and Norman Wrigley situation had been resolved that they weren’t even worried that the next big case heading their way would be once again that troublemaker, Jezebel, and all the chaos that followed in her wake. They just enjoyed the tranquility while it lasted. The storm would come soon enough.
Susan Croissant wasn’t attending the Big Band show tonight because she was diligently rehearsing her newest creation: It’s Not the Humidity – It’s the Heat. While she had considered it finished, something kept bugging her, saying it could be even spicier, so she kept at it. The first two verses were pretty much perfect, but now she slaved over verse three, which kept the temperature of the room at well above a hundred degrees:
I feel my breath quicken when you enter the room,
Your eyes meet mine, and the sparks ignite.
All the world disappears, save for you and me, Hot Stuff,
And there’s gonna be fireworks tonight.
She chuckled to herself. “Yep, it’s just bawdy enough to border on cheesy but still real enough to strike a chord,” she thought. “Yep. Just enough.”
She was aware that she’d be warming up the springs of Warm Springs Village more than these retired folks were accustomed to, but that’s what they get for letting anybody in their forties come in through the gate.
Lance and Leather had left the Waffle House and were celebrating their business deal at a club called “The Rough House,” which was situated about halfway between Warm Springs Village and the laundromat where Ruston had acquired his windfall. At the table next to theirs sat a skinny redneck with his name emblazoned on the back of his belt, “Earl Ray,” and a chunky blonde woman who was decked out head-to-toe in Rockabilly finery. She had the giant teased bouffant hairdo, the red lips, the false eyelashes, the dangling cherry earrings, crop top blouse, and Capri pants. Her platform shoes must have been a good four inches tall. Earl Ray was excitedly recounting to her how he had spotted a guy sneaking out of the laundromat that Earl Ray managed, carrying a pillowcase that obviously had something kind of heavy in it. Having an uneasy feeling, Earl Ray had immediately gone into the laundromat and discovered the mess left behind by that no-good thief. Machines busted, empty coin boxes strewn around, and well over a hundred dollars missing. He could remember enough about the dude to describe him to the cops, and that is what he had done.
Lance and Leather were listening intently to the man’s story, without letting him know they were eavesdropping. When he described the thief, Lance’s eyes got wide, and he tapped Leather on the arm, then pointed to the storyteller. “Sounds
like Ruston Wrigley to me!” he whispered.
Leather nodded, and they both turned towards the man telling his tale to the blonde. “Excuse me, sir,” said Lance. “I couldn’t help but overhear…”
And thus, they drew out every detail that Earl Ray could recount about appearance, location, time, etc., of the likely quarry they pursued. They thanked him, paid for their drinks, and set out for the small town not too far away that had been the scene of the brazen theft.
Ruston Wrigley’s “number” was coming up, and he didn’t know it. Instead of lolling about in a bedbug-infested motel room with his “True Love,” he should have been making quick tracks on down the road and watching over his shoulder.
Stay Tuned For More To Come…
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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!