THE ONE: A Novella: TWO

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
George Dawson has company on a couple of his claim investigations and both he and his partner have suffer, well . . . lapses.

Submitted: March 17, 2016

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Submitted: March 17, 2016

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ONE GONE

A Short Story

Nicholas Cochran

Chapter Two

 

“Larry, I tell you, man, I just can’t sort all this crap out.”

George took a punctuation bite of his Zimburger and propped his glasses up on the bridge with his pinky, while he firmly clutched his lunch with tanned hands of long fingers and ragged nails.

Noon hour crowds of young office workers eased and slid past each other with some of the expected excuse mes (while some just had a fast feel or an innocent grope) amid a level of chatter that seemed to rise and fall with hand movements; clutching burgers or napkins; racing to and from the mouths of the Montgomery Street lunchers.

They were a colorful animated  mass, that ebbed and flowed; full of suits and Marina gals.

George removed his glasses and  began to chew, which left Larry the opportunity to confront George with some of the discoveries that he and Keith and BM had made concerning George’s lighting rise to the top of the investigator crew.

“George; what do you do to the people you visit about their claims?”

George stalled the flight of his burger to his mouth, “how do you mean?”

Larry tried very hard to find some inner meaning to George’s reply; some hint that he was withholding matters that were astonishing one and all at AAAA.. Larry knew George would be his constant innocent self.

“They say that you were with them, maybe twenty minutes, but they can’t recall much; in fact they sincerely remember only enough time for you to ask them about their claim and then give either a recorded or written statement or both; all amounting to at most, ten minutes.”

Larry sat back and waited. George continued his burger to his mouth and after a small bite, he chewed for a moment, then gave such an enormous sigh that Larry thought he might be having an attack of some kind; maybe a seizure.

The noise of his sigh was closer to that of a rushing wind with its beginning somewhere about eight blocks away, on the Embarcadero.

“Damn it; neither can I, Larry.”

George swallowed while he placed the remains of his Zimburger on his plate, wiped his mouth and drew in a deep breath, all the while keeping his eyes locked on Larry’s. He quickly leaned over the center of their table and, still holding Larry’s questioning eyes in a full lock-down stare, repeated—this time very slowly; and mysteriously, ”neither do I Larry; I just don’t remember.”

He remained in this leaning-in position for at least a minute while they both thought about this bizarre confession.

Larry pushed as far back into his padded seat as he could and before he knew what he was saying, he said it.

“I want to come along with you on a few of your next calls . . . okay?”

George  remained rigid as though he hadn’t heard Larry or was otherwise occupied with some thought or paralysis of thinking; or something else.

He confirmed Larry’s assessment of his friend’s mental state by still holding his leaning position for at lest another three minutes.

Larry thought it best to let the process work through whatever was presently guiding George.

A moment before George blinked and withdrew into his seat, Larry had  the distinct impression that some thing; even something animate, but invisible had left their booth and gone outside.

George blinked again and asked Larry to repeat his question.

Larry did.

George leaned forward once more, this time placing his hands on their table and breathing a normal voice at Larry, ”oh yes, really, man, please do that; yes; I have two later this afternoon. Please come along with me and see what; well; whatever it is, happens; what I can’t remember. 

"I never thought it mattered much about what went on but I admit that I was really puzzled by the amount of time that had gone by; like you do when you’re reading something absolutely riveting; or watching a fast-paced movie or a DVD at home, you, know, like you think it’s been twenty minutes, and it’s been forty-five, like that.”

He sat back and met and held Larry’s eyes once again.

He held his glasses with a white-knuckle grip that Larry was positive would snap them at any moment.

“Yeah, man, please do Larry.”

A look of pleading jumped into George’s eyes and he then lowered his head, took up his burger and continued with his lunch.

So many strange emotions and juices were flowing about Larry, that he lost his appetite and nibbled a few French fries and drained his Sprite.

 

That afternoon at three thirty, Larry sat quietly thinking in the passenger’s seat while George drove to his appointment.

Later, Larry would tell everyone that although George was a newcomer to San Francisco and had only visited the City one time before, with his parents and brothers and sisters, when he was seven, he neither asked Larry for directions to the claimants house nor consulted his GPS.

“ I hate those things, don’t you Larry?” while he turned off the device.

They arrived five minutes early, along what turned out to be a faster route than the GPS suggested, complete with back alleys and other shortcuts that George calmly found and turned into or out of as though he had traveled that route several times before.

A Mrs. Eleanor Soames was the claimant; a bouncy, blousy woman in her ‘early sixties. She had crashed her new car into the rear wall of her garage. In addition to George’s previous notes in the file, was a letter from Mrs. Soames.

She claimed to have placed the car in reverse but the car had immediately sprung forward, and fifteen feet of garage floor later, she had smacked into the wall. This activated her air bag and she had been burned slightly in the process of the bag opening.

They met Mrs. Soames in her front yard where she was troweling away beneath her rose bushes but stood up without difficulty as soon as she saw them approaching.

“Hi there, you guys are from the insurance company, right?” She smiled warmly at the huge young men and  dribbled some earth from her trowel as she removed her glove and shook their hands with a strong motion,“ c’mon in and I’ll get you guys some coffee," turning, and over her shoulder, “or a shot,” laughing, “well, maybe not; the company probably wouldn’t like that.”

They followed her around to the garage, “you should look in here first; the car hasn’t been moved. Thought you might want some photos.”

George lifted his iPhone and took ten pictures while Mrs. Soames related in detail that horrible and frightening morning of two days ago when she had crashed.

Larry noticed a gauze bandage on her left forearm.

Mrs. Soames was wearing a Forty-Niner tee that revealed the gauze bandage as well as four band aids dotting her right forearm.

George took pictures of these .

Then Mrs. Soames led them into the living room of her modest house and told them to sit while she gathered some cookies and her freshly-baked Black Forest cake.

After a few moments, the extremely attractive Eleanor Soames, five foot seven, slim, but broadening a bit in the beam, returned with coffee and refreshments that promised to keep the lads there for the rest of the day—and there was still one more appointment; at four.

 

Larry was standing on the front walk about half way to the curb.

At the front door, Eleanor Soames was bidding George a hearty farewell. She flashed a brilliant smile and waved and thanked ‘George for such a remarkable visit—and settlement.

She promised to watch the mail for her check and to call George if it hadn’t arrived by the end of the week.

“ Such a wonderful team you two make. And you drop in anytime you’re out this way, promise.”

Larry smiled back and George did as well; his smile seemed to light up Eleanor’s face even more; then a look of longing darted across her face; her eyes stopped sparkling and her mood turned forlorn.

Then she shut the door.

Larry was in the car and belted before he blinked several times and turned to George.

“Are we all through with her; seems to me we should have taken a statement or offered her a settlement.” Then he remembered.Nothing had been said that would place any blame on the car manufacturer; in fact the car hadn’t moved and obviously had not been inspected.

“Did she say something about keeping a lookout for a check, George?”

George stopped the car at a vacant spot at the curb and turned off the engine.

“Larry, I don’t remember anything about that, either.”

A vicious icicle of dread stabbed Larry’s spine. He looked at George, who had taken off his glasses when he had unbuckled his set belt.

“Now you see what I mean, Larry; let’s check my notes—and my iPhone.”

There were two pages of notes, the name of the car manufacturer as well as the names of the brakes supplier, and particularly the name of the company who  made the gear shifters for the car.

George’s iPhone began with pictures of the garage, the car, the inside of the car and then followed photos of Mrs. Soames removing her bandages on her left forearm and also removing all the band-aids on her right forearm.

George had the recording turned on and Mrs. Soames was heard to answer questions.

But there was no recording of anyone asking any questions; that should have been George.

Nothing.

The iPhone information concluded with a recording when Mrs. Soames thanked George for his brilliant assessment of the damage to her car and for believing her that she just didn’t have a ‘senior moment’ and put the car in the wrong gear.

George had photos of the gearshift in the reverse mode.

Mrs. Soames asked George how he knew what had happened and what went wrong with the shifter.

The next voice was Mrs. Soames saying: “well, aren’t you up on it all, George; that’s astonishing; you’ve really done your homework; amazing.”

Next, and last, were picture s of Eleanor signing s releases, in triplicate, and then signing a written statement that George had done up.

The last pictures and recordings were of Mrs. Soames leading the two young men to her front door, where Larry—and now, apparently, George—had ‘come to’ or ‘woken up.’

George’s features slowly reconfigured  to the point where his eyes appeared five times their normal size as he reaffirmed his oath that he had not remembered anything other than what Larry had remembered..

“What about the recording, George, your voice, you know, you asking the questions; they’re not on here.

"I know; it’s happened on every case Larry; that’s part of what’s been torturing me; am I losing my mind; do I drift off into some other world? Then there’s the time element; how long would you guess we had been there?”

Larry moved his bottom lip over his upper lip and creased his brow.

“Well, the parts I remember, only about fifteen minutes but . . .”

“Right,” George broke in, “but look at the photos and then look at the counter of the minutes on the audio recording: forty minutes; now look at your watch.”

Larry had noted the exact time of their arrival at Mrs. Soame’s front lawn. He then added the recording times as well as the fifteen minutes he remembered in the garage and sitting down in his chair and accepting his coffee and taking  a couple of cookies.

He drew in a large breath and before answering; he exhaled for a long time and looked at George, staring into his glimmering eyes.

“The time on my watch says it’s about three fifty; the recording and the rest of the time took up roughly an hour.”

Larry blew a breath through is open lips, "we’re one hour short; but only back there; wherever we were. Here, it was twenty minutes.”

George’s eyes had never left Larry's; he now appeared to be catatonic.

Larry yelled, “George.”

George flicked his eyelids and straightened his shoulders.

“We’ve got seven minutes to Mr. Harrison’s house.”

He turned the ignition and after a quick look over his shoulder, he pulled away and sped toward the Harrison residence, without words, gasps or any sound whatever.

Both men had conjured the bits which they could remember from their meeting with Mrs. Soame’s and swallowed hard when their next memories cut in as they were leaving.

They arrived at Gerald Harrison’s house at two minutes to four, which was some kind of record for traveling within the speed limit; a total of forty four blocks in three minutes.

Larry decided to just let whatever it was happen, and try to sort it all out later. He would tell Arianne all about it and let her logical brain find the ‘prestige’ of these astounding happenings.

 

Mr. Harrison gave them a wide smile and a vigorous wave as they stepped down the long front walk to George’s car.

Neither spoke until George had turned the corner and parked.

Larry just shook his head from side to side while George played the audio recording of their visit, and they looked at the photos.

“George; this is really disturbing me, man; has this ever happened to you before; I mean, before you came to San Francisco;  maybe in Utah?”

“Never; I swear; in fact it didn’t begin until my third or fourth day; we can check with BM and Keith; but I just know it didn’t begin before then.”

Larry didn’t move. He was trying to decide how they should tackle this . . . whatever it was.

“Does Keith know?”

George frowned, “ I don’t think so; I think he just read the written reports and looked at the photos. But he does—always, look a bit puzzled when he reviews my cases with me. I know he has talked to BM about me. And you.”

Larry shifted nervously and couldn’t think of any more of an answer than; “Yes, yes he has George. They—he, asked me to try and find out how you were settling and declining so many cases in a week; even in one day. I agreed. I hope you don’t think I’m a spy or a mole. Really, George, none of what’s happened today goes any further than my telling Arianne.”

George gave a restless movement and thinned his lips against his teeth, “ Okay, man, I trust you.”

Larry immediately sought to ease George’s concerns “I’m only gong to tell her, George, because she has some of this whatever, as well; I think she might be able to help us; really.”

George’s face brightened and he gave a laugh, “Isn’t this just the most weird thing you’re ever heard of; or seen?”

Larry answered with a laugh of his own.

“George, whatever it is, it is—at least so far . . .  what would you say; helpful; benign; I guess good old “good” is what I’m trying to say; so far.”

They sought out the Buena Vista after Larry had called Arianne and invited her to join them.

She immediately agreed with great enthusiasm and said she’d be there about six.

Before Arianne arrived George had demolished four Fosters and Larry had sipped two Stone Runination Doubles.

Arianne lighted up the BV Café. She immediately spied Larry and George and eased her way to their table.

After several long sips of her Pinot Grigio, she asked them to tell her everything; right from George’s first experience four days after his arrival. But even before George could begin, Arianne turned to him and asked him to go back as far as he could remember, in Utah; and tell her if even a snatch of his recent experiences had  ever happened before.

He couldn't.

The expression on Arianne’s face remained unchanged throughout the extremely detailed relation of all the events and noises, as well as any sounds or smells that either of them could remember.

When they, individually, had told her about the recordings, their length, their detail and the unremembered photos, she exhaled and took a large swallow of her wine.

“Well, this is going to be really something”

Something, what?” asked George.,

 Arianne looked over George’s head to the wall behind.

“I don’t know yet, but the fact that this didn’t start until you arrived here; and this obsession with the effect on your family of their religion; maybe there’s a . . . oh;something, that, well, maybe; ties them together. But whatever it is,” taking in a deep breath, “it’s bound to be . . . unwelcome.”

 

 

End of Chapter Two


© Copyright 2017 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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