Time Shadows [Shadow Chronicles Book 1]
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by Sharon Jordan
Description: Even though she's a scieintist with a Ph.D., Jacqueline Devore is so desperate to escape her vifid dreams that she will even consult a psychic. Each time she closes her eyes, she finds herself inside the body of another woman, pregnant with twins and living in WWII France, where she is a caught up in the holocaust and moved from one Nazi prison to another. Jacqueline is desperately afraid in the present, threatened and followed everywhere, as is the woman she becomes whenever she sleeps--that woman, Michelle, desperately fights for her life, and the lives of her twins.
eBook Publisher: ebooksonthe.net, 2003
eBookwise Release Date: May 2006
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [309 KB]
Reading time: 199-278 min.
Finding a psychic wasn't as easy as Jacqueline Devore expected. In fact, there was only one to be found in all of Riverside, and it was the very place her lab assistant, Jeffrey, had recommended.
Delphi's Oracle was a one-car garage attached to a small, smoky-gray wooden house with snow-white shutters. Railroad tracks cut across Third Street, just a half a block away.
Jacqueline pulled up to curb, the engine in her candy-apple red Mustang idling, and lit up a smoke. It should have been easy to drive away, to try and push aside the dreams that haunted her, but the hand-painted sign tacked to the right of the door caught her attention, and kept it.
"Walk-ins Always Welcome." She mulled over the invitation, and then accepted it.
She crushed out her smoke en route to the garage door. There, another small sign read: 'Come In and Make Yourself Comfortable'. She hesitated, looked down at her black T-shirt, faded blue jeans, and white tennis shoes and wondered if she was properly dressed to visit a psychic. But she felt like it was too late to turn back; so she knocked softly, and then cautiously entered the oracle.
It was crammed with shelves lined with dusty books. She scanned the titles, noticing numerous spiritual books and a few on self-help. One in particular caught her attention. Discovering Past Lives Through Hypnosis. Perhaps Delphi would allow her to borrow that book. Just in case, she pulled it off the shelf before examining the rest of the room.
A small oval mirror hung across the room and she caught her own reflection staring back; high cheekbones, long auburn hair, and deep-set greenish-brown eyes always looking, always searching for the truth. Eyes that some had told her looked mysterious and unreadable. Eyes that she had always found rather boring if the truth were told.
The faint scent of incense lingered in the air, and she inhaled it appreciatively. If she were to guess what type it was, she would have picked sandalwood. A thick, reddish-brown shag rug covered the concrete floor, and she knew that if she were barefoot, the carpet would feel like soft grass.
Creeping Charlie and Spider plants dangled from every nook and cranny, and two huge, brown beanbags filled the farthest corner. Between the chairs was an intricately carved wooden table topped with a small note, and of course, she had to pick it up and read it. It simply stated: 'All services are covered through gratuities.'
Although this was the last place on earth Jacqueline ever thought she'd be, she was strangely comfortable in the oracle and she hadn't even met Delphi yet. What did she have to lose by staying and meeting the mysterious psychic? Plopping into one of the beanbags, she cracked open the book and scanned the table of contents, surprised to find the chapter headings quite compelling. The topics ranged from hypnosis techniques to methods for uncovering information about a person's past lives. Chapter Four seemed to be the most salient, so she flipped to it, reading the title aloud, "Living the Present through the Past."
She heard a tiny cough from the doorway as someone announced their presence. Feeling like a guilty child caught sneaking through her mother's closet; Jacqueline bit back a gasp and looked up. The outline of an extremely curvaceous, dark-haired woman was backlit in the doorway. She wore a long white gown, and Jacqueline immediately found it reminiscent of a Halloween costume. As the woman stepped forward, the layered bracelets on her wrists jingled musically.
"You must be Jacqueline," remarked the woman, her voice thick with an Eastern European accent. "I am Delphi, named after the ancient Grecian priestesses who revealed hidden secrets to the kings and peasants alike. I have been expecting you."
Jacqueline eyed the outfit, and then the bracelets and felt her heart plummet in disappointment. This woman was genuine? Yeah right, and she was the Queen of Sheba. She tossed the hypnosis book upon the carved table and pulled herself out of the woman-trap called a beanbag.
Jacqueline held up her hand, a simple nonverbal and unconscious blocking technique. "I've made a mistake," she said, and stepped toward the door.
"No, you didn't," Delphi told her. "You're finally doing the right thing."
Jacqueline spun toward her. "Did your crystal ball tell you that?"
Delphi actually started to laugh. "I knew you'd be dubious about my abilities, but I didn't expect outright hostility."
Jacqueline sighed. "I'm sorry--okay--I'm sorry. This is your business and I have no right to come in here and insult you." She turned to leave again, and then stopped. "Why did you say you were expecting me?"
"I'll answer that question later. Right now I want you to know that I'm so glad that you came. I've been looking forward to your visit." Delphi smiled warmly. "Please sit down and relax."
The psychic's cordial behavior slowly disarmed Jacqueline, but she'd always been resistant to change, so continued standing. She placed her hands firmly upon her hips and eyed the book she had been perusing. "Do you have a lending system for your books?"
Delphi picked up the book and flipped through it. "Kind of, but let's chat for awhile before you decide on one, okay?" Delphi set the book down and smiled warmly at Jacqueline. "Would you like a cup of tea? I've got English and Indian and Irish and--"
"Any would be fine."
"One lump or two?"
Delphi nodded, and left for a few seconds. She returned with a tray of sugar cookies, fresh fruit, and a teakettle with two small ceramic cups. Jacqueline had the distinct feeling that Delphi had prepared the snack specifically for her.
The psychic placed the tray upon the carved table and eased gracefully into a beanbag.
Oh, what the hell? Jacqueline plopped onto the other beanbag. Her stomach growled loudly. She quickly eased its pain with one of the tempting sugar cookies. When Delphi smiled at her, she decided to eat another. Why not? She was size 14 and proud of it. As she chewed the sweet delicacy, her mind twirled in circles. Without apologizing, or explaining, she added three lumps of sugar to her tea. She swallowed, then spoke up.
"Listen," she began, "no offense meant, but I've never done this before, and I never thought I would. I really don't know where to start."
Delphi lit a stick of sandalwood incense and placed it in a holder shaped like the ancient Delphic Temple.
"How about at the beginning?" she responded as she waved her hand over the incense, wafting the fragrance into the darkest crevices of the room. The jingling of the psychic's numerous bracelets sounded like tiny bells.
Jacqueline took a sip of tea, picked up another cookie and took a nibble while collecting her thoughts. Part of her wanted to run away, to get as far as she could from this psychic, from anything to do with the unknown. But the other part of her needed solace, needed help, and needed understanding. And then Jacqueline did something she didn't expect to do; she opened up to Delphi.
"Okay--I've been having these dreams, but they're just not ordinary dreams, they're quite detailed and very realistic. Like I said, they're not ordinary REM sleep, they're long and involved, and they keep going night after night. It's like I've been drawn into another person's life and..."
Momentarily lost in her own reflections, Jacqueline paused and ran her fingers through her hair before continuing her train of thought. "I've jotted down notes about the woman I dream about. Her name is Michelle, and--well, here." Jacqueline reached into her purse and pulled out a yellow notepad filled with tiny handwriting. She handed it to the psychic.
Delphi flipped through it. "This is impressive."
"And I've got more at home. Much more."
"How long has this been going on?"
"Three weeks, at least. But--listen, I can recall dates, places, sounds, feelings, and names--it's surreal. Before coming here, I talked with my lab assistant; he's a friend of mine, a little about these dreams. It was the first time I had told anyone about them. And I thought he was going to say that I was hallucinating, maybe even delusional, but instead he asked me if I believed in reincarnation, which I don't, but since then I've been obsessed with that idea. Maybe I was Michelle before I became Jacqueline? What do you think? Is it possible?"
Delphi opened her mouth to reply but before she could, Jacqueline continued, "Perhaps I am remembering events that occurred in a previous life. But--but, I was raised in the church and reincarnation just doesn't match my beliefs. And oh, God, I'm babbling."
"You're not babbling. But I do want to ask you a few questions."
"Take the floor," Jacqueline replied.
"When were you born?"
"December 17, 1944."
Delphi nodded, "So you're twenty-seven? Hmm ... we're almost the same age."
"Oh." Jacqueline bit her lip to avoid saying what she felt, what she observed. She could see the age on Delphi's face, but what the hell, let her think whatever she wanted.
"What was your childhood like?" Delphi asked.
"It might help me to understand your dreams better."
"It's not that you think I'm crazy, right?"
Delphi shook her head. "Not at all."
"It was fine, I mean, uneventful. Rather boring to be honest with you."
"No," Jacqueline laughed, nervously. "I did have an imaginary playmate for a while, but that doesn't count, right?"
"Were you lonely?"
"I don't know, I read like a rabbit stuck in its burrow, all the classics, like Homer and Socrates."
"I bet your parents were proud."
"Not exactly. They never understood me. Still don't. They're like day; I'm like night. They're into the arts and socializing; my father is a pianist, and my mother a dilettante. I was interested in literature, in words, and solitude."
"Hmm, you must be a writer, right?"
"In a way, if you consider scientific writing as writing."
"I do," Delphi said, and poured more tea into their mugs. In the distance a train was approaching, blowing its horn. The garage rattled as the train lumbered past.
Then silence filled the oracle.
Delphi gazed into Jacqueline's eyes, almost as if she was looking into her very soul. "Are you afraid of your dreams?" she asked.
Jacqueline picked up another cookie and popped it into her mouth. Then she replied honestly. "Absolutely."
"What are you afraid of?"
Jacqueline pressed her fingers against her forehead, right below the area where all her headaches originated, and answered, "Sometimes I feel like I'm not going to wake up, like I'm going be trapped."
"Yes, you see, despite appearances, I'm a psychologist, an experimental psychologist at Colton StateCollege, and--I've never placed much credence in paranormal phenomena..."
"I hear what you're saying."
"And I don't want anyone to think I'm losing touch with reality."
Delphi nodded knowingly. "What goes on in here is confidential. No one else is going to know what you say to me, unless you tell them. Deal?"
Jacqueline nodded in agreement.
"It is essential that you overcome your fear," Delphi told her.
Jacqueline shifted uneasily in her beanbag. Her pants were getting tight and she wished she could slip into some sweats.
But Delphi didn't notice and continued speaking. "Fearing the unknown is normal, but this same fear depletes our ability to learn and grow from our experiences. When we fear, we cannot embrace life completely and we cannot accurately hear the messages being sent to us. When I talk about eliminating fear I do not mean that we blindly live without respect for possible dangers; instead we need to channel our energies into the positive and uplifting messages in life."
"That all sounds good in theory," Jacqueline said. "But I don't know if I can control my fear. Damn, I can't even control my appetite." She laughed nervously.
"You don't need to apologize," Delphi began.
"I'm not," Jacqueline said, cutting her off.
"Okay--maybe I should rephrase myself. You don't need to control your fear, just learn from it."
"Maybe you should read my journal," Jacqueline said, defensively, "and then maybe we can talk about fear."
"I'm on your side," Delphi quickly replied.
"Oh, shit--I know. But you don't know what my dreams are like. They're moving into a realm that's filled with such darkness and despair. If I don't stop them..."
"I don't know ... I don't know!" Jacqueline felt an inner storm building, ready to hit the surface and rip away any reality left.
"Okay, calm down, I hear what you're saying. But your dreams have been coming for weeks, right?"
"And, would you agree with me that they look like they're here to stay?"
"That's what I've been saying," Jacqueline replied. She picked up another cookie and popped it into her mouth.
"Have you considered hypnosis?"
"Slightly," Jacqueline said, keeping her full mouth closed as much as possible.
"Good, now we're on the same track. I can give you pre-hypnotic suggestions to eliminate your fear. And we can tape your revelations so you can listen to them later and perhaps glean more information from them. What do think about that?"
"I don't know. I've tried self-hypnosis at home to quit smoking, but it hasn't worked, yet. So, with my lack of success, I'm not very confident about using it for my dreams."
"But I'm here," Delphi said, reaching over and holding Jacqueline's hand. "And I can guide you. But the true knowledge giver is within you."
Jacqueline pulled her hand free. "I am pretty desperate," she admitted. "I guess I could give it the good-old Girl Scout try."
"Good. Would you like to begin your session?"
Jacqueline hesitated, "After I use the bathroom--?"
"Of course, go through the garage door, through the kitchen and down the hall. The bathroom's behind the first door on the right." * * * *
It felt strange to enter Delphi's house alone, but Jacqueline's unease was quickly replaced with awe and curiosity. Delphi's house was like another world; one far away from heavily urbanized Riverside, California. Almost every inch was covered with plants.
Potted herbs lined the kitchen counters. Drying herbs dangled from the ceilings. Shade-loving plants, like the Chinese Evergreen, filled the darkest corners of the rooms. Vines literally crept up the walls, while flowering plants lined the windows. Large ferns towered on plant stands while smaller, fluffy ferns hung from macraméd plant holders.
Delphi's furniture was dominated by rattan and cane combinations. Bamboo shades were drawn up at the windows. The floor was a highly polished oak, and thick oriental rugs adorned selected areas. Ceiling fans buzzed overhead. There was an earthy smell in the house, almost like the fragrance of a dew-kissed garden. Then, through an open window, Jacqueline glimpsed a large garden in the back yard. She could see corn, beans, potatoes, tomatoes, and citrus trees lining the fence.
Delphi's bathroom was equally comfortable. Once again, plants dangled from the ceiling and the air was filled with an earthy, fruity smell. Lace shower curtains, pulled back by brass rings, surrounded an antique, claw-footed bathtub. In a book rack sitting next to the commode were more books. Jacqueline picked up one entitled Reincarnation: Fact or Fable?
As she sat on the toilet, she remembered that, oddly enough, during her childhood, some of the moments she had felt the closest to God had also taken place in the bathroom. * * * *
When Jacqueline reentered the oracle, Delphi was sitting upon the floor with her legs crossed and her eyes closed. Jacqueline remained quiet, not wanting to intrude upon Delphi's deep concentration. She couldn't help but wonder what Delphi was thinking about.
Finally the psychic opened her eyes. "So, you liked my house?"
"Absolutely. It's like walking into a garden, but still being inside a house."
"I call it my Garden of Eden," Delphi said proudly. "It's where I can escape from the world."
"I think I need to work a little more on my own Garden of Eden," joked Jacqueline.
But Delphi seriously replied, "Your garden will flourish once you discover your true self. Are you ready to begin?"
Jacqueline nodded, still slightly unsure of what she was getting herself into. Furthermore, she was puzzled by Delphi's last statement. She only wanted to know more about her dreams, she already knew enough about herself. Didn't she?
Delphi unfolded a soft cot that had been hidden discreetly behind one of the bookcases. "Would you like to lie down or sit in the beanbag?"
"I'll--" Good God, every decision felt gigantic. "I'll lie down."
Self-consciously, Jacqueline stretched on the cot, and Delphi quickly tucked a soft handmade quilt around her. It was like an odd bedtime routine. But the quilt did the trick, and Jacqueline felt more at ease.
"I have one more question for you," the psychic said.
"If you were to choose one place to go to, to go and relax, where it would be?"
"The ocean," Jacqueline replied without a moment's hesitation. "But don't ask me if I want to wear a swimming suit."
"No problem," Delphi said with a smile.
Delphi turned down the lights, and then sat in the closest beanbag. Jacqueline heard the tape recorder click on and then Delphi's soft voice telling her to shut her eyes and relax.
"I want you to take four deep, cleansing breaths. Breathe in-and-out, in-and-out, in-and-out, in-and-out.... Now, breathe comfortably and I will count back from the number ten and with each number, you will feel more and more peaceful."
Delphi instructed Jacqueline to relax the muscles in her feet. She had Jacqueline concentrate first upon easing the tension in her toes; then on the arches of her feet.
With each downward count, Delphi guided Jacqueline to calm another region of her body. With the number five, Jacqueline released the stress within her stomach muscles. With the number one, Jacqueline attempted to remove the strain in her facial muscles. This area posed the biggest obstacle in her quest for complete relaxation, since her nervous energy tended to concentrate in her face and scalp. Then she tried to visualize the tension leaving her entire body, especially her head and neck.
Delphi told her to envision herself on a gorgeous beach near the ocean.
Jacqueline sat upon a cushioned lawn chair under the shade of tropical trees. Warm ocean breezes gently massaged her body. She was completely comfortable and on the verge of falling asleep.
Delphi's voice soothed her from the back of her consciousness, "Once you awaken, you will be able to remember everything, and if at any point, you are uncomfortable, all you have do it open your eyes, and you will be back here, in this moment, safe, relaxed, and at peace. Now, I want you to remember..."
And just that easily, Michelle came to life. * * * *
Michelle hurried along the narrow, cobblestone street, pulling her coat tighter in a vain attempt to stay warm. The trees were stark and barren, the sky gray and cloudless. Despite the autumn's chill and gloom, she was in a glorious mood and couldn't wait to get home to her husband, Jean. She knew he would be just as thrilled as she was with the news. Doctor Bergen had just told Michelle that she was expecting twins! He had actually heard two distinctive heartbeats with his stethoscope. She'd always wanted a big family, and twins were an excellent start.
She patted her abdomen. No wonder she was looked like she was ready to give birth at any moment. But she had two more months to wait. Two more months until she could hold her little babies in her arms.
The small flat that she shared with Jean and their loud tomcat came into view. It was located in a large, grayish-white complex close to the rue de Faubourg St. Antoine where Jean worked in a furniture shop. When they first moved in, she felt like a minority in the neighborhood, since most of the residents were foreign-born. But the neighbors had welcomed her so warmly that they quickly became an extended family. She couldn't wait to tell everyone about the twins.
As she opened the entry door, someone grabbed her right wrist and brutally twisted it behind her back. Her keys fell to the ground with a clatter. * * * *
"Oh, God..." Jacqueline moaned as she clutched her right wrist. It throbbed with each and every heartbeat. "This has never happened before..."
"I'll get some ice," Delphi said. "Hold on."
Delphi hurried out of the oracle and Jacqueline was left alone, with her new injury and her thoughts.
"Oh, God," she murmured. "What next?" Her eyes fell upon the beanbag and she shoved off the once-cozy handmade quilt and chose the crunchy bag instead. At least she could meet Delphi sitting up, and not lying down like a helpless infant.
Delphi hurried in with a bowl of crushed ice and a pale blue washcloth in her hands. "I'm sorry; I tried to pull you out before any damage was inflicted."
Delphi placed ice in the washcloth and closed it with a rubber band.
"I thought I could control it..." Delphi began.
Jacqueline pressed the cold compress to her wrist. "I'm not surprised," she said.
"I'll understand if you don't come back."
"Oh, great." Jacqueline moaned. "Where else would I go?"
"They'd think I was possessed." Jacqueline laughed uneasily.
"Do you mind if I take a peek at your wrist?"
Jacqueline held it out for inspection.
"Do you see these?" Delphi asked.
Jacqueline squinted and looked and squinted some more. She finally discerned the outline of finger marks on her wrist.
"Just as I thought..." Jacqueline said.
"Exactly. If you want to listen to the tape to make sure that I didn't--"
"I don't need to do that, I felt it. That's what I've been trying to tell you. These dreams are so much more than mere dreams. Are they from my past life?"
"It's too early to tell. At first, when you told me that you loved reading and that you were a writer, I thought you might have an incredible imagination. But an imagination doesn't do this. If you come back tomorrow, we can have another session, and we can learn more."
"I won't have to wait," Jacqueline smarted back. "Remember? My dreams? They'll come with or without you."
"Listen, if you want to, you can stay here; I've got a spare room."
"Christ! I don't need a babysitter!"
"I'm only trying to help."
Jacqueline sighed. "I'm sorry, I'm just on edge. I don't understand what's happening and I don't know what's going to happen next. If I can't push Michelle out of my mind, I'm afraid that she'll get stronger and stronger and pretty soon, she'll just take over and I'll disappear."
"Maybe you should see a psyc--"
"Don't say it."
"Okay, how about your family doctor?"
"At least tell me your phone number so I can check on you."
As Jacqueline recited it, Delphi retrieved a small notepad from a pocket in her gown. With a tiny pencil tucked inside the lined note pages, Delphi quickly jotted down the number.
"And you know mine, right?" Delphi asked.
"How do you know so much?"
Delphi laughed. "It's my job."
"I don't buy that."
"Okay," Delphi offered, "I'll tell you as much as I can. A friend of yours told me about you. But don't ask me who--"
"Jeffrey? Jeffrey Winston?"
Delphi wagged her finger, "Ah, ah."
"Okay, fine, don't tell me!" Jacqueline squirmed in her beanbag. Changing locations hadn't been such a wise decision, after all. For without two good hands, the chair was a Chinese torture device.
"Let me help," Delphi said, and pulled Jacqueline up carefully. "Call me before you go to bed, I can give you some suggestions. Okay?"
"Sure. How much do I owe you?"
"Nothing. Just call me."
Jacqueline departed with the ice-filled washcloth still on her wrist and the book under her arm. It was one of the first times in her life that she was glad she was left-handed, since driving wouldn't be such a pain. She was also grateful that she had insisted upon an automatic when she purchased her 1968 Mustang. She glimpsed Delphi standing in the garage doorway, watching her, as she pulled away from the curb. And for a second, it looked like Delphi was crying. But then the enigmatic psychic disappeared into her oracle. * * * *
Jacqueline's little red Mustang purred like a kitten as it wound along Arlington Avenue. On the right stood the towering and majestic Benedict Castle; a lovely landmark, and an actual castle originally named Castillo Isabella, but known by locals after the builder Charles Benedict. To the left was Canyon Crest, her parents' neighborhood and where most of the elite in Riverside lived. There, houses towered above their immaculate yards. There, perpetually suntanned women sipped glasses of champagne while their children romped in backyard pools.
There, Jacqueline had spent hours inside with her books.
There was the life that Jacqueline once knew.
There was the life she could hardly recognize anymore.
It seemed as though her childhood memories belonged to someone else.
She made a hard left at the intersection of Arlington and Central. Central turned into Alessandro Boulevard and led up into the foothills and Woodcrest, her new haven. Woodcrest was lined with orange groves and custom-made homes. Her home was the tiniest in the neighborhood, but size didn't matter to her. Spartan as it was in contrast to Delphi's house, it felt cozy to Jacqueline with her books and records.
The car behind her honked his horn. What's their hurry? He can pass me easily; there aren't any other cars on the road. But the driver leaned on his horn. Fine ... Go ... She quickly pulled aside. A black MG went zooming past, blaring its horn.
"Jerk..." Jacqueline mumbled as she pulled back onto the road.
Then the MG slammed on its brakes. Jacqueline twisted the wheel and barely slipped around the MG. What the hell was that driver thinking? Did he have a death wish?
In an instant, the MG was on her tail, inches from bumping her, honking like a maniac.
She barely had time to react. She floored the accelerator and took the closest right. But the damn car mirrored her every move. What am I supposed to do now? Where can I go?
On instinct, she pulled into the closest driveway, but the black MG stopped and blocked her retreat.
Jacqueline leaned on her horn. Please, let someone be home. Please come outside. Thank God, she thought, as the front door opened and a little old lady stepped into the smoggy California afternoon. Jacqueline jumped out of her car and dashed to the woman.
"Thank God, you're here," Jacqueline cried.
Fear paralyzed the woman, who looked like a doe caught in the bright lights of an oncoming semi.
"I need to call the police!" Jacqueline cried.
And at that, the black MG ripped away from the driveway.
"Did you notice the license number?" Jacqueline asked.
"I didn't see a thing," the woman said, backing away from Jacqueline. "And you shouldn't either."
"But ... but, you saw that car. He chased me down. I don't know what he would have done if you hadn't come outside."
The lady finally came to life. She placed her hands firmly on her hips and stared straight up at Jacqueline. "Listen to me. If you want to stay alive, you need to learn to keep your mouth shut." She turned away and slammed her front door behind herself.
Jacqueline heard the door across the street slam. What did these people know that she didn't? Who was in that car?
She decided to knock on the old lady's door and get more information. When had thugs started to run Riverside?
Then knocked again.
There was no answer.
Jacqueline knew that if she knocked on the door across the street, no one would answer there either.
Her shoulders slumped with disappointment, and feeling as though she had nowhere else to go but the safety of her car, she hurried back to the Mustang. Once again, it purred like a kitten. But she couldn't keep her eyes off the rearview mirror, fearing that theMG, like her dreams, would reappear. * * * *
Home never looked so sweet, so safe. Locking the front door never felt so secure. And when the phone rang, she eagerly picked it up, hoping to hear a friendly voice. Instead she heard a cruel and evil one.
"You stupid fool, what are you doing?" the caller growled.
"What? Who is this?" she asked, knowing she should slam down the receiver.
"You know..." came the deep reply.
"No, I don't. What do you want?"
"For you to shut up." The caller slammed down the phone, sending chills up Jacqueline's spine.
There was a sudden pounding on her front door, and she fell to her knees. Oh, God, the caller's here. What will he do to make me shut up?
She picked up the phone ... it was dead. What now? Run? Where? Who would listen? Who would open their door? The only thing to do is fight ... Fight for my life.
She pulled a butcher knife out of the drawer, and crawled toward the door. She would stab low, fast, and hard.
But when she reached the door, she heard a car backing out of her driveway. She peeked under the curtains and saw the MG. She tore back to the kitchen, to the phone, and tried it again. Still no dial tone. But she had to call the police, she had to ... had to ... but what would she say? That someone came to her door and knocked? That she was almost run off the road by a black MG? And what would the police do? Laugh? Tell her they couldn't do anything without a body?
When had her life gone to the Outer Limits? She pulled a bottle of Scotch out of the cabinet and slid to her knees.
One drink would help. She poured a quick one and gulped it down.
One more drink wouldn't hurt. She poured another, then kept the bottle for company.
She reached up, turning on the radio on the counter. John Lennon sang about his Yoko. She switched the station. What do you know; it was Paul McCartney singing a song about his Linda. It was 1972 and the world was good for the independent Fab Four.
She flipped off the radio. John had his Yoko, Paul had his Linda, and she had her Scotch. One drink led to another as dusk fell. The phone might have come to life again, but even if it had she would have never heard it, for she had passed out on the kitchen floor.
The Scotch might have been her company, but it certainly wasn't her protector.
Her dreams came with unremitting fury. * * * *
As Michelle opened the outer door leading inside her apartment, a man grabbed her right wrist, and twisted it, forcing her to her knees. Her keys fell to the ground.
"We've been waiting for you," the voice snarled. "You will pay for your crimes against France and the Fatherland."
Pain radiated down her shoulder toward her fingertips. She looked up into the rock hard, stone-chiseled face of an SS officer with the cruelest eyes she had ever seen. They echoed with eternal death.
"I don't understand what you're talking about," Michelle pleaded. "I've done nothing wrong. Do you know who I am?"
He began to laugh. "It doesn't matter who your parents are. We know who you are, and we know who your husband is. And we know that you help him with his underground activities."
"But I'm a--" she began.
"You're a nothing," he yelled.
He spat into her face, and the wet mass slithered down her cheek. She felt nauseated, but was tempted to spit back. He shoved her onto the ground and she quickly wrapped her arms over her abdomen. Even then, she could not stop the pain reverberating through her womb to the protective depths of the amniotic fluid surrounding her defenseless twins.
"But..." he began, almost playfully, "if you plead for your life, I might grant you mercy." He placed his boot upon her protective arms. His hardened eyes sparkled with hatred.
She remained silent.
"Stand up, you worthless piece of shit."
She had no other choice, but she kept her arms around her abdomen, protecting her twins from an additional assault.
He pushed her toward a green and white Renault bus parked down the street.
It was the first time she had noticed the bus and the German soldiers guarding it. Obviously, she'd been too preoccupied with the news of her twins. Regret overwhelmed her, for if only she had noticed, if only she had turned away, if only she had run, if only she had done anything, she wouldn't have walked right into their trap. If only...
But it was too late. She was being rounded up like a common criminal. She hoped it was a bad mistake, a nightmare from which she would soon awaken. The twins turned within her womb, as if sensing the terror of the moment.
Michelle's right wrist throbbed as she was herded toward the bus. Dark window shades blocked her view inside. A German guard stood on the back platform, with two others standing at attention on her left and right. Why were so many Germans surrounding her? Was a pregnant woman that much of a threat?
Tiny shreds of sunlight filtered into the dark bus as she boarded, and she saw many familiar neighborhood faces. As she hurried toward the empty seat next to Madame Rosen, the older woman stood and reached for Michelle's hand.
"Sit! Now!" shouted a tall, blond German soldier. He lifted the butt of his rifle and smashed it against Madame Rosen's frail hand, instantly bruising muscles and wounding tendons. The old woman bit her lip, but refused to scream out in pain. Instead she straightened her crooked back and looked unflinchingly into the soldier's eyes.
After a tense moment, he turned on his heels and strode to the front of the bus. He cocked his rifle, ready to shoot, eager to kill. His eyes met Madame Rosen's and this time she looked away.
Michelle shivered with the realization that she and that brutal soldier were the only blondes present. That, however, was their only similarity.
The back door slammed shut, and blackness descended upon the hapless occupants. As the bus rattled away from their homes, from their little nests of security, Michelle wondered if any remaining neighbors dared to peek out of their windows ... probably not. She gently leaned against Madame Rosen's shoulder.
"It's a shame your doctor's appointment didn't last longer, no?" Madame Rosen whispered; her voice coated with pain.
"Do you know where they're taking us?"
The distinguished woman shrugged her shoulders. "Perhaps to the Gestapo's headquarters. They told me that I was wanted for working with the underground. Now how would an old woman like me help the Resistance? It's a silly thought, no?"
"Silence!" the blond soldier boomed.
Michelle thought about her own husband, about the secretive missions he wouldn't dare discuss with her, and yet he looked like a run-of-the-mill furniture employee. It wasn't too farfetched to imagine Madame Rosen performing dangerous feats.
Michelle ran her free hand over her womb. She longed to open the windows and allow the late morning air to waft inside, but they were ordered to keep their hands off the windows. Were the guards afraid that the passengers would yell out for help or try to jump out? Where could they go? Rifles were pointed at them. And who could possibly help? * * * *
"Help..." Jacqueline moaned. She felt the cool linoleum of the kitchen floor against her cheek, but couldn't open her eyes.
"Please, help..." she whimpered again.
She heard someone at her door. A slithery, stealthy sound like someone was trying to pick the lock. Fear hit her like a brick and she inhaled deeply, sharply. Soon, her home would be broken into; soon, her life's breath would dangle by a thread. If it was the caller, she had unwittingly rendered herself helpless, and a fast death was inevitable.
She held her breath and waited.
Time now frozen, stood still in her mind, in her heart.
Then the doorknob rattled and shook, and her eyes finally widened with hope. For it no longer sounded like a skilled intruder sneaking into her house. Perhaps it was a neighbor, one of the many elderly who lived within walking distance. And perhaps these people actually cared, perhaps someone had come to help her.
"Can you hear me...?" she cried out.
She attempted to stand, to reach the double locks that kept help at bay, but the weight of the atmosphere was too much, and she fell to the cold floor and succumbed once again to the darkness. * * * *
In her mind's eye, she could see her beloved city. The different quarters, each possessing a life and personality of its own. The Seine as it flowed through the heart of the city and divided Paris into the Right and Left Banks. The fashionable hotels and shops and great boulevards lining the Right Bank. The Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triomphe. The world-famous works of art filling the spectacular Louvre, a museum without rivals.
Then she thought of the Left Bank and the quays along the Seine where she and Jean had taken many long walks. The intellectual challenges brewing at the Sorbonne. The handsome bell tower located at the St. Germain-des-Pres, the artistic quarter located in the Montparnasse quarter, and the magnificent Eiffel Tower.
For a fleeting moment, Michelle thought of the Sacre Coeur rising above the city, soaring over its current problems. Suddenly the architectural arguments surrounding that monument seemed irrelevant, and she longed to be standing near its massive dome, scanning the horizon of the City of Lights.
More than anything, she wished for the courage of France's national heroine, Jeanne d'Arc. Then, she would lead Parisians in a successful revolt against the Occupiers. Fiery death or not, she would direct them to the dignity of freedom that they deserved.
But she was not Jeanne d'Arc. She was a mere woman, stuck in a darkened bus, afraid to move for fear of reprisals. Everything about this experience was surreal. Everything. Surely she wasn't being transported to Drancy, the nightmarish place she had overheard her husband whispering about with another Resistance fighter. Surely, this was all a mistake and once the soldiers knew who she was, knew that she was a native French citizen, she would be released. Surely she would soon awaken from this horrific nightmare.