Chapter 11: HUSBANDS RETURN AND FRANCESCA LEARNS

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 74

BEGINNINGS RETURN

A Novel

Nicholas Cochran

Chapter Eleven

 

With a group of her friends over coffee and bourbon, Melinda Meadows told the strange story of Francesca Weir. Before she completed three sentences, a number of the assembled twelve put down their cups and glasses while they riveted their attention on Melinda. After ten sentences, seven of the women began to speak—all at once.

Amidst laughter, spiced with tingles of anticipation, the women eventually deferred to Hanna Drummond, a short curvy blonde woman of twenty-four with delicate ankles and a husband in Afghanistan—out of the Twentynine Palms Marine Base. She smiled, took a deep breath, and began.

“Well, gang, I was on the back porch—like a wide deck; it goes right up to the edge of the desert—like this one; Melinda’s. Well, it was somewhere in the late afternoon, probably around five. I had put on a ton of lotion and was sunbathing with buds in my ears, listening to  Van Halen,” stopping to smile with several others, “well, I blinked an eye . . . maybe the sun was too hot on a spot I’d missed with the lotion, and there he was. This guy. Lying down and looking up, he looked like was literally eight or nine feet tall. I shrieked while I sat up. But no sound came out. In fact, I immediately realized that there was no sound at all. The sun was behind him so I couldn’t really see his face but he had longish hair; black. Then he spoke to me.”

All the other women gathered around Hanna until their chairs and bodies formed a heated huddle under the sun.

“He said: “I understand that your husband is in Afghanistan.”  I told him that was right. He put a foot up on the deck and I edged back.

“Oh, don’t be afraid; I’m here to help you. What’s his name and rank?”

 I don’t know why, but I gave him all of Troy’s info; I was surprised I remembered it all. But maybe that was part of the whole thing—you know, a huge guy in the desert dressed to the nines and all.  As I became more accustomed to the sunlight, and with him moving a bit forward to block it out, I could see that he was sporting not only dress clothes but also the most expensive brands.“For whatever reason –or reasons I was completely unafraid. Something in his voice. Almost, hypnotic.” Hanna stopped and breathed in through her nose while she chose her next words.

“He told me that his name was Xavier Mazel and that he hoped he could do me a favor. Then he disappeared—vanished. I blinked some more and sat up, thinking he was starting back into the desert. But it was empty. He wasn’t there.” She hung her head with disappointment. All the other women were silent. Eventually, all of them told a similar story. A few had asked Mazel how but he only smiled. All had asked when. Hs answer to all of them was “very soon.”

Melinda struggled to remember anything from that afternoon with Francesca but found her memory blocked. This annoyed her because she felt—she knew she received the same visit but could remember nothing.

 “Well,” began Melinda, “I was telling you all about Francesca and why she had come to visit me,” laughing, “well now I can call her and ask her back to talk with all of you because this has to be the most amazing thing that has ever happened around here; ever.” The other women voiced their agreement. After a few stiff belts of bourbon, the twelve women divided the names of the remaining RV women between them with the sole purpose of finding out if they too had experienced a visitation from Mazel. They set a temporary date of two weeks was set. A couple of the women volunteered to find a hall or a similar large room where they could all meet with Francesca to tell their stories.

*

Francesca listened with stunned curiosity to Melinda’s phone call. After she hung up, Francesca immediately sought out Harry as well as Jake. She sat them down and proceeded to tell them: first, there was a genius, a psychic, and better that that; a soothsayer.

“And what is creeping me out, guys, is the fact that all of these women were promised their husband’s return from the front lines in the Middle East as well as Europe and Afghnistan. Now how do you suppose that he can pull that off? I wish to hell he would drop by and give me a clue about all this. I have seen him, after all. And, I know he’s been around on several occasions—here and at home. Invisible of course. Wonder what he’s up to.”

Harry and Jake looked less askance at Francesca than they usually did on previous occasions while she was relating her tales of the Invisible Man. Something about eighty-four women saying they saw this guy; that they all said he gave the same name and the same promise, began to chip away the granite of their resistance to such a screwy tale.

“Well, guys, by the look on your faces, I’d say you have to agree to come to the meeting next week and hear the women themselves.” They both agreed.

Three days later, Francesca received a hysterical call from Melinda Meadows.

“He’s here, Francesca , he’s here. He just walked through the door. I just had to tell you. Bye”

“Wait,” Melinda cried, “what’s Mazel doing there? Can I come over and meet him?”

“No no no, Francesca, not MazelChuck, my husband. He just walked in the door. Bye again.” Francesca sat holding her phone before jumping up and racing to Harry’s office.

“Well, he did it, Harry, he actually did it; Mazel; he delivered a husband from Afghanistan; Chuck Meadows, Melinda’s husband. He just walked in the door. She just hung up.”

Harry could see how deeply this news affected Francesca. He rose, came around to stand beside her, and asked her to sit. He called for Jake, and fresh coffee.

“Now. Steady Francesca. Take it from the top, once more. Slowly.”

Jake appeared with three cups and pulled up the chair beside Francesca’s.

“What’s up?”

Harry motioned to Francesca to begin.

“I was telling Harry, Jake, that Mrs. Meadow’s husband just walked into their RV.”
Jake maintained his default smile while he waited for Francesca to continue. Francesca picked up his hesitation. “He was in Afghanistan, Jake. Mazel brought him back.”

Jake pursed his lips. “Did she, Melinda, actually say that? You know, that Mazel delivered him? Did she say how he got there?”

Francesca immediately understood her active mind gathered a bunch of data, pulled it together, and made Mazel the reason for Chuck’s homecoming.

“She said that Mazel brought him back.”

Jake, still unimpressed, looked to Harry, who at this time, leaned over his desk toward Francesca in a fatherly manner.

“Francesca, Jake has a good point, don’t you think?” Francesca clenched her jaw in frustration while she nodded an acceptance of their critique. Nonetheless, after only a moment, a smile returned to her lips.

“Okay guys, point taken. I’ll call her.” Before Francesca reached her desk, all the lights on her phone as well as her cell phone were blinking madly. She took the first line, correctly sensing that another woman from Anza Borrego was calling to tell her that her husband was home. She asked the caller to wait a minute. She rushed to Harry’s office while yelling for Jake to come to her office to hear the calls on speakerphone.

One after another, she took the calls with the caller crying with joy over the speakerphone, while punctuating her tears with the words that Mazel had delivered her husband. Then each of them would suffer a severe flood of tears, and hang up.

All three staff members of The Alert were silent. Harry spun around and looked out the window. Jake closed his eyes while he twitched his closed mouthed side to side. Francesca allowed her shoulders to drop as she nodded back and forth, while thinking of the best way to corral all these women into one gigantic story, 'but Mazel . . . Xavier; I somehow know that he doesn’t want this spread to the world . . . I don’t think . . . or would he?’

“Francesca,” Harry swiveled to face her, “you and Jake get out there right now. Take cameras, recorders, phones—the whole damn issue and get every story on tape, as well as shorthand, Jake; and I’ll man the fort. Who knows, maybe this Mazel guy will pay me a visit and tell me how he wants this story told. I assume he’ll want it told to put him in the spotlight; or not . . . anyway, away with you two. Take separate vehicles; might need one of you back, or one of you may have someone to visit alone; whatever. So go. If you have to spend overnight, find a place close by and let me know where it is and all the particulars.” He gave them a shooing hand-wave and returned his swivel to face the window.

Jake and Francesca gathered all the equipment they could imagine needing, stuffed it in two large duffle bags, and went to the garage for their cars. Jake threw the duffels into his trunk and left.

Francesca waited a few moments before entering her car. Once buckled in, she did some deep breathing while she imagined meeting Xavier again. She wished he would appear in the passenger seat beside her where they could have a straight talk about things before setting off to figure out and report the story of the century. In hopes of conjuring him, she postponed turning the ignition while she concentrated all her thoughts and focused them on only one thing: Xavier Mazel.

Francesca could never remember how long she sat in deep absorption before she heard a sound beside her; her passenger door. Her eyes sprang open. She drew back against her door. She felt for the pepper spray, next to the .38 Special. She blinked as though her eyes were crammed with grit. She leaned forward, away from her door and put out a hand.

The passenger door opened, remained open for a few seconds and then closed.

 No one.

Francesca held her breath. Her eyes rounded. Her mouth opened. A figure formed.
“Hello, Francesca. I had a thought that you were looking for me. Well, good thinking, because here I am.” Xavier Mazel smiled at Francesca’s shocked glamour. “Shall we go?”

End of Chapter Eleven


Submitted: March 30, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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