Some people in Chief Middler’s position would have probably overreacted and met the pink Cadillac full of suspects with the maximum display of strength and force that could be mustered by their department. For some reason, though, the Chief of the Warm Springs Village Police Department could just feel in his bones that a calm approach would be appropriate on this occasion. He had brewed a pot of coffee and was sitting in his comfy desk chair sipping the rich dark brew when the threesome arrived. He had instructed all personnel to just relax and proceed as if nothing out of the ordinary was taking place.
The gypsy mobile pulled up out front and came to a stop. Its three occupants exited the vehicle in silence and filed inside the police department’s front door. The receptionist stood up and motioned for them to come around her desk and enter the Chief’s office. This they did in an orderly fashion.
Chief Middler hit the “Talk” button on his intercom and told the receptionist to please phone Lena Crafts and let her know that the three subjects he had discussed with her earlier were now safely inside his office so that she could be at ease.
“Would any of you like a cup of coffee?” the Chief asked. They all declined, politely.
Norman had taken in all the peace, quiet, and politeness he could handle, at this point. He burst into tears. “Just do it! Just get it over with! Arrest me!” he sobbed.
Missy pulled a Kleenex out of her handbag and handed it to him. Ruston was sitting stiff as a board, his bottom lip quivering.
Missy leaned forward and spoke softly to the Chief. “These young men are at the absolute end of their knowledge as far as how to handle this traumatic situation. They know they broke the law, and they are truly sorry for that. They both have long and sad personal histories to tell you. When you see how much they have been through and how scarce their resources have always been, I believe you will be able to afford them the empathy and sympathy they deserve. As for me, I was truly trying to help my fellow human beings in their time of need. I hope that you will grant me the leniency necessary for me to continue to be able to maintain the type of life I have worked so very hard to attain.”
Chief Middler set down his coffee cup. Leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms, he said, “Suppose we take the sad histories one at a time. I will listen. You three will talk, each in turn. Pour it all out until I know everything that could possibly have anything to do with what led you here today.”
“Thank you, Chief,” Missy said, shifting to a more comfortable position. “I will go first.”
Knowing that by taking the first turn, she would help Norman and Ruston to see how best to speak up for themselves, Missy started in. “I have always been one to ‘root for the underdog”. From the first time I read about ‘The Village Marauder’ in the Warm Springs Village Gazette, I could tell that this was a guy who had been misunderstood, mistreated, and given the short end of the stick by society…”
Her words were heartfelt and poignant, and she kept up a steady stream of them for the next half hour. Norman knew his turn was next.
Back at Lena’s house, the mood had made a major shift. Feeling downright celebratory, Lena had gone to the big freezer that sat near the back door and pulled out a frozen cheesecake. This brought applause all around.
“Shall I microwave it?” she asked, pulling it from its cardboard box.
“Only for one minute!” replied Maureen. “Just zap it long enough to thaw it a tiny bit so we can cut it.” The general consensus was that this would be the best way to handle it. In under three minutes, they each had an icy, hard, delicious chunk of cheesecake in front of them, and they were ‘going to town’ on it. Joe walked in just in time to see the women stabbing and sawing on the yummy triangular blocks of goodness. He decided it was worth the risk of being stabbed with a fork, to reach for the final piece still in the aluminum pie plate.
The day’s exciting events were rehashed one more time. When the cheesecake was all gone and the sugar rush was starting to wear off, the conversation turned to other subjects, and Joe excused himself from the table to watch a football game on television.
Lena and Maureen had been working diligently for several weeks on the music for the Rising Voices concert that was coming on the following day. Bette and Audrey were planning to be in the audience for the show, and the understanding was always that this was a reciprocal deal. Each of the ladies would attend the performances that any of the others were in. Bette would soon be in a musical at her church, and Audrey would be tapping up a storm at the Woodland Center. Everyone would be there for each other.
Just as Audrey was giving a short demonstration of the fanciest step sequence in her upcoming show, Bette started looking around. She cocked her head to the side and made a “Shhhh” gesture.
“Ladies, ladies,” she said, in a slightly hushed tone, “Do you hear something?”
“Yep. The speediest tap shoes in the village!” answered Lena.
“No, no. I’m serious,” said Bette. “I mean like someone moaning.”
They all listened intently for a few seconds. Maureen was just about to tease Bette about imagining things and being overly dramatic, when suddenly…
There it was! A definite moan, kind of like when someone is just waking up from a deep sleep and trying to stretch themselves into full alertness.
Maureen stood up, pulled her chair out from the table and stood in it, straining to hear the sound that she thought sounded like it was in the attic.
Bette and Audrey were looking at each other, wide-eyed. Lena turned to run towards the room where Joe had gone to watch the football game. She ran right smack into him as he came trotting into the kitchen. “Ladies, did you hear something?” he asked as he helped Lena regain her balance from nearly being bowled over by him.
“Yes!” they chorused.
“Joe, you have to see what it is!” Lena entreated him. “What else can possibly happen in this house?”
“Leave it to me,” he said, trying to sound reassuring. “I’ll take care of this in short order!” With that, he marched to the bedroom and retrieved a pistol from the nightstand.
In the hallway, he reached up and pulled down the hideaway steps that led to the attic. “It sounded like it was up there, right?” he whispered to the line of ladies watching his every move.
They all nodded vigorously.
Joe flipped the switch in the hallway that turned on a light in the attic. The steps creaked loudly as he ascended them, keeping his pistol held securely and straight ahead.
When the top third of his body was far enough up to be inside the attic, he suddenly froze. Extending his right arm straight and steady ahead of him, he yelled loudly, “Who are you and why are you in my attic?!”
The women screamed and squealed like schoolgirls. They scattered, and Lena made rapid tracks to her cell phone in the kitchen. Picking it up, she was saying aloud, “9-1-1! 9-1-1!”
Just then, Joe fired the gun.
STAY TUNED FOR MORE TO COME…
Chapter 1 – Click here.
Chapter 2 – Click here.
Chapter 3 – Click here.
Chapter 4 – Click here.
Chapter 5 – Click here.
Chapter 6 – Click here.
Chapter 7 – Click here.
Chapter 8 – Click here.
Chapter 9 – Click here.
Chapter 10 – Click here.
Chapter 11 – Click here.
Chapter 12 – Click here.
Chapter 13 – Click here.
Chapter 14 – Click here.
Chapter 15 – Click here.
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!