Unfinished Business

A2Z Challenge 2021

A2Z Challenge 2021: Theme Reveal

UNFINISHED BUSINESS:

Nostalgia returns and no one is safe!
Serial releases Monday to Saturday, starts April 1st!

ANNIVERSARY | BIRTHDAY | CELEBRATION | DEMOTED
ENIGMA | FRENZY | GUARANTEE | HONEYMOON? | I

JUXTAPOSITION: 12APR2021 | K: 13APR2021 | L: 14APR2021
M: 15APR2021 | N: 16APR2021 | O: 17APR2021
P: 19APR2021 | Q: 20APR2021 | R: 21APR2021
S: 22APR2021 | T: 23APR2021 | U: 24APR2021
V: 26APR2021 | W: 27APR2021 | X: 28APR2021
Y: 29APR2021 | Z: 30APR2021
AFTER Z: Reflections in MAY

References to 2016 (untitled mystery)

ANNIVERSARY

A2Z Challenge 2021: AIt had been a long and tiring four days of work.

Both MiLady and I were very thankful that Friday morning was a holiday; it would give us a three-day weekend to enjoy our wedding anniversary in the serene beauty of the Rocky Mountains.

Sitting down at the dining table with our cell phones, a pad of paper and a pen, we looked up the tourism website for Jasper, Banff and the Hot Springs.

“Do we want to see the other side of the mountains?” I smiled as I burst out into song with my reference to British Columbia.

My girl turned a deaf ear and rolled her eyes, as her shaking head dropped into her hands.

“If we planned this, last week, instead of the last minute,” she replied, “then I would have said –”

Her phone began buzzing wildly, followed by the doorbell.

I got up and crossed the kitchen floor. “I’ll see who is at the door.”

MiLady nodded as she answered her phone, “Hello?”

An explosion of sound erupted, forcing her to swing her device out the full length of her arm.

“HAP-PY ANN-I-VER-SA-RY! HAP-PY ANN-I-VER-SA-RY! HAP-PY ANN-I-VER-SA-RY! HAP-PY ANN-I-VER-SA-RY!”

I returned from the door, slowly waiting for my wife to share who her urgent caller was.

“Still singing?” I inquired.

MiLady brought the squawking device between us.

“–PY! HAP-PY! HAP-PY! HAP-PY! HAP-PY ANN-I-VER-SARY!”

We exchanged wide-eyed looks, as she gingerly eased her phone as far as she could reach treating it like an IED.1

“Who was at the door?” she inquired, while watching me inspect a small packet that was a little thicker than a cigarette package.

“The courier,” I answered. “He was just pulling out of the driveway, as I opened the door and found this on the first step.”

After cutting through the reinforced tape, the bubbled envelope quickly gave way. A couple postcards, matchbooks, drink coasters, a colourful key fob with a very short, cylinder key, and a brass miniature tumbled and scattered across the table.

I held up the little brass object for her to see. “Someone lost a cute Monopoly piece.” MiLady smiled, as she looked over the other items.

“This fob has an odd-looking key hanging from it,” she announced holding it up. “See?”

“Rabbit? RABBIT!” a little voice chirped. “Can you hear me, Rabbit?”

I froze into a blank stare. My right eye started twitching. I wobbled in my seat.

“Dear’st?” my girl whispered, as she gentled placed a hand on my cheek. “Do you need a glass of orange juice?”

I shook my head slowly.

“RABBIT!” The all-too-familiar little voice chirped again, “MILADY!”

“Gia?” MiLady clutched her phone to her ear. “What? Of course, we are at home! Where are you?”

“Hello, Dearie!” the Old Banshee gushed. “I’m fine. Did you get your surprise yet? It should have arrived long by now.”

“Surprise?” my girl repeated quizzically, while looking over her glasses at the assortment of travel items scattered on our table. “Unless you mean these tourism trinkets …”

“They are not trinkets, Mrs. Rabbit,” another female voice answered.

“Think of them as a 3D jigsaw puzzle,” the Old Fossil continued. “Arrange them, so you can clearly see them all and you will discover what your anniversary gift is from Hilly and me.”

“Hilly?” I repeated. “Who –”

“Hello, Mister Rabbit,” the other voice replied. “I hope you are not still upset with me for that hit to your head … It was ages ago.” 2

“Doctor Gardner? You still haven’t been able to lose her yet?” I teased, as MiLady arranged the postcards and matchbooks into neat little rows. “Have you tried stuffing her into the boot of your car?”

While my Old Fossil cursed a Gaelic streak, MiLady started identifying the packet contents.

“The Louvre Museum, the Arc de Triomphe, and, ohh, Notre-Dame Cathedral!” she exclaimed, pointing at the iconic Gothic church. “Nostalgia, these postcards are gorgeous! But what are all these little matchbooks?”

Hilda had the answer. “They are from some of the sweet little shops, theatres and cafes that are dotted along the Champs-Elysees, MiLady. We started at ten in morning and still had not seen half of it by nightfall!”

“And this little Eiffel Tower made of brass … it’s too cute!” my girl squealed. “You have a Paris theme going here.”

“And, If you have the key fob with the aeroport locker key, you two will be going to Paris too!”

“PARIS?!?” MiLady exclaimed with delight. “Ohh, Rabbit, we’re going to Paris!”

“How?” I asked, playing Devil’s Advocate. “We have no passports, Dear’st, and only three days off.”

FOOTNOTES:
1 IED: improvised explosive device
2 AtoZ Challenge (2016): Questions

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BIRTHDAY

2021 A2Z Challenge: B
“CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!” Nostalgia screamed like a Justin Bieber fangirl.

MiLady set her phone on the table and wiggled her index finger against her ear. “Warn me before you do that, next time,” she growled. “I have you on speaker-phone, now, Gia.”

My apologies, Dearie,” she responded excitedly. “Blame Rabbit.”

Exasperated and wide-eyed, I threw my arms up in the air. “Why is it my fault?” I countered.

“How long will it take you to pack your medications and other essentials, little brother?”

“Gia,” I stressed slowly, “what evil plan are you hatching now?”

“MiLady,” the Old Fossil pouted whenever she could not get her own way, “Rabbit isn’t playing fair. How long will it take you to pack your medications and other essentials?”

“Not long, I think. Maybe twenty-thirty minutes. Why?”

Ecstatic giggling echoed from the phone. It reminded me of Harley Quinn, the young, effervescent blonde that faithfully followed Joker around while he terrorized Gotham City.

“Done! Your ride will be there in thirty-one.”

“Nostalgia,” I bellowed. “What on Earth are you doing?”

“Finalizing your hotel room and car rental, Silly!” she answered. “MiLady, do you want your own car, or do you trust Rabbit’s driving?”

“Thank you, Gia, but –” MiLady began.

“You have never driven out of country before?” Hilly interrupted.

“No, I haven’t.”

“Fine,” Nostalgia schoffed, “You can ride shotgun for Rabbit. Gotta run, ta!”

Before another protest could be worded, the call ended.

“Heaven help us,” I griped, “She needs to be committed! Was she even listening when I said ‘No passports?’

“Probably not,” MiLady said quietly with a slowly growing smile. “Certainly confirms selective hearing runs in your family.”

It was my turn to look over my eyeglass rims disapprovingly as my life partner rushed to the bedroom, laughing as she put as much distance between us as possible.

“You do know,” I began when I caught up with her, “Gia is probably in trouble, again.”

MiLady nodded as she checked her makeup bag for her favourite dark red lipstick, “In Paris, most likely … How good is your French?”

“I haven’t used it for a while.”

She looked at the mirror and spotted my reflection behind hers. “Let me reword the question then: How much do you remember?”

“Enough to get a bottle of wine and a luxury suite with a view.” I flashed a smirk, “And a warm bed.”

MiLady spun to face me with both hands firmly on her hips. “So! The truth comes out now, does it, hmm? I wasn’t the first girl you tried that line on!”

“No, Dear’st,” I answered quickly, taking a step forward and pulling her into my arms, “You were the last one.”

“No, no, no,” she protested, pushing her forearms against my chest as I held her tighter. “I am trying to be mad at you!”

Oh,” I replied as I kissed the tip of her nose before letting her go. “Sorry.”

Crossing the floor, I walked into the closet and grabbed my weekend bag, dress shoes, two days’ change of clothes and my shaving kit. When I stepped out, MiLady was waiting, holding out my medication bottle.

“Are you missing anything?” she inquired as she placed the bottle in my hand.

“Only my prescription sunglasses and wallet.”

“I’m ready too,” my girl responded as she pointed behind her back to the bed. “Would you grab my bags, Dear’st?”

“What, no pharmacy tote?” I teased as I pulled the two small bags from the bed. “That thing was almost as heavy as me!”

MiLady blew razzberries while she walked into the living room.

As I set all the bags near the door, the doorbell rang. Quickly recomposing myself from the fright, I still managed to open the door before the bell finished its melody.

In the doorway stood a man mountain eclipsed in the sun.

“Afternoon, Mister Rabbit,” his booming voice resounded. “I am here to take you and Mrs. Rabbit to the airport – and we don’t have a lot of time to get there.”

“Detective Lauer,” I grinned and offered a hand. “How are you, Sir? It has been a while! I hope that you and Detective Margolis are both doing well.”

Before he could answer, MiLady walked in.

“Who are you taking — ohh, Detective! Hi!” she sang as she buried her face in his side and bearhugged him!

Lauer laughed nervously. “Afternoon, ma’am. It is good to see you both as well. I am fine, and Margolis is adjusting to work in Ottawa, the last time we spoke.”

“What?” my girl was shocked. “You two split up?”

“I will explain on the ride,” Lauer deflected, as he grabbed all the luggage straps in one hand. “Is this everything?”

“Not you too,” MiLady pouted, as she walked out the door. “Dear’st, we are leaving without you!”

Milady continued to the car, while Lauer looked up from the bottom of the outdoor staircase and nodded, as I locked the door and put on my sunglasses.

“No, you’re not,” I called back.

When Lauer and I caught up to MiLady, she was surrounded by four black Cadillacs with black tinted windows. One shared the driveway with our car, while the other three boxed us in — obstructing the road.

She turned around slowly with her hands up. “Dear’st, I think we are being arrested!”

It was not until I closed the wooden yard gate, when I saw eight or nine of them. All in black suits, mirrored glasses, and brushed nickel handguns — all pointed at my wife!

“Lauer,” I asked quietly, so that only he could hear. “Has my sister been impersonating MiLady in her recent adventures?”

“Not that I am aware of, Mister Rabbit,” the detective laughed as the nearest three gunmen turned, cocked their hammers and pointed their weapons at us!”

Lauer put the luggage bags down and slowly opened his jacket revealing his badge and photo identification. “RCMP, stand down, gentlemen. All of you!”

Funny thing happened next.

They didn’t.

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CELEBRATION

A2Z Challenge 2021: C
“Both of you,” the tallest gunman called out, waving his shiny automatic side to side. “Over here with this lonely lady. We –”

“What is taking so long, Cooper?” a thick accented voice squawked over the car radio. “Get them in the car!”

Two Black Jackets pocketed their weapons and bolted for the car in our driveway, opening the front passenger door and both at the rear.

Number Three grabbed MiLady by the arm and lead her to the rear driver’s door with his gun poking at her side, before pushing her into the vehicle.

Number Four did the same with me, but I was shoved through the opposite rear door.

“Hello, Rabbit,” the big Russian smiled peering around the front seat headrest. “Still bailing out your lovely sister?”

I looked at the unrecognizable man. “Valentine?”

Booming laughter was his response, “You do remember me! Good, good.”

MiLady looked at him with some concern. “Is Detective Lauer riding with us or is he walking?”

“Oy vey!” the sergeant shook his head. “These guys are like The Borg. Buff and brainless. They take direction well but cannot think for themselves on the fly. And not a woman among them.”

“Local Enforcement Officers?” I asked.

“I wish they were,” the Russian answered. “I can at least instill fear of old police tactics—”

“KGB,” I interrupted.

“KGB,” Valentine smiled, “But, no, this … elite force … is secret service. Excuse me.”

Valentine reached for the hand microphone and flipped the external speaker switch.
“Cooper! The detective is riding shotgun by request of Mister Rabbit. The rest of you, Saddle Up!”

“And just like that, Lauer will be –” I began as the front passenger door opened and Lauer climbed in.

“Hi, guys,” he smiled. “Miss me?”

“Just like that, Rabbit,” the Russian reiterated trying not to laugh.

Looking out the tinted glass, the Black Jackets scrambled to their cars. Two vehicles backed up, allowing Valentine’s car to leave. The third Cadillac had already pulled forward a few feet.

“Sergeant Valentine,” MiLady spoke up as she continued to watch all the action outside. “Why are four cars needed to take us to the airport?”

“National security, Madame Rabbit,” Valentine answered proudly, leaning back in her direction to flash a perfect pearly-white smile.

MiLady’s eyes widened as she shot a quick glance at me and I to her.

“Oh, no,” I groaned. “She’s done it, again, hasn’t she?”

“Whatever do you mean, Mister Rabbit?” the police sergeant feigned cluelessness. “Lauer, do you know what our long-eared bunny rabbit is muttering about?”

Lauer turned in his seat to face both of us. “Nostalgia needs your help, Sir.”

“That explains him, but, why am I going?” my girl interrupted.

“I do not have all the details, Ma’am,” Lauer apologized. “I am just relaying what Margolis told me.”

“Okay,” I snapped. “Just what does Nzuri know? And why is she in Ottawa? I thought that she was your protection detail.”

Lauer smiled. “She got promoted to Left-enant and transferred to the CyberCrime Division in Ottawa … she says, Hello, by the way.”

“Ohh, good for her!” MiLady cheered. “And, please, tell her “Hi” back, the next time you talk with her.”

Lauer nodded, “I will, Mrs. Rabbit. Thank you.”

“So, why are my wife and I rushing off in a four-car security convoy? What has my sister done? Where has she done it? And how much money is her bail, this time?”

“She and Doctor Gardner are in Paris,” Lauer explained. “They are following up on a couple of leads from the previous investigation that the two of you assisted us with.”

“From the previous –?” I began. “That was years ago!”

Valentine nodded. “Still tying up loose ends. There were so many. Now, only a few.”

Feeling a migraine coming on, I started massaging my temples. “I need a drink.”

“You can get whatever you like, very soon,” the detective responded. “We are almost at the airport.

It was interesting to watch. Four Cadillacs pull up to a delivery entrance, doors opening in synchronization expelling The Black Jackets. In two lines, they assembled at both rear doors.

“This is where I say, Goodbye, my friends,” the Russian confessed. “Stay safe. And tell your sister, yes, I still miss her.”

I looked at the big Russian and quietly told him, “I will.”

“Oh, I almost forgot! This is yours.” Valentine handled me a small box the size of a Rubik’s Cube. “Put it on before you go through Security.”

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DEMOTED

2021 A2Z Challenge: BValentine stood beside the car he had just driven. He lit a cigarette and watched as The Black Jackets escorted Lauer, MiLady and myself into the airport via the delivery entrance.

Taking another drag, he looked around and noticed the car trunk wasn’t closed properly. Again. He rolled his eyes and moved to the rear of the car.

“They are still learning,” he told himself reaching to close the lid, when he felt a sharp twinge in his side.

On second thought, he let go of the trunk lid and cupped his side with his right hand, while pitching his half-drawn cigarette to the ground with his left and squashing it with one of his D13 boots.

“Filthy habit, you know, smoking.”

“Yes,” Valentine admitted to the voice behind him, as he felt a growing warmth at his side, “but I find it more controllable than drinking.”

“Yes, I guess there is THAT to consider.”

The big Russian pulled his right hand away and looked down.

“You are bleeding!”

Returning his hand to his side, the police sergeant turned around slowly to face his attacker. “What is it that you want from me?”

“I am here to collect The Package. Give it to me.”

“I … no longer … have … it,” the lawman replied, as his breathing became laboured.

“Well, that is a shame.”

Valentine was shoved off-balance and fell ass-first into the empty trunk.

As he tried to block the lid from closing, he saw the glint of a silencer before hearing two staccato bursts of air.

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ENIGMA

A2Z Challenge 2021Lauer left the departure area, when our plane’s wheels left the runway.

“Safe travels, my friends,” he whispered as he hurried to return to Valentine and The Black Jackets, but when he stepped outside, he was a bit alarmed.

Blocking public and service access were six marked cruisers, two ambulances and one fire truck. All of them had their lights flashing, looking like a Battle-of-the-Bands concert at a discotheque.

“Cooper!” he called out to the only Black Jacket he knew, as he pushed his way closer. “Cooper!”

Cooper spun and instantly recognized the Mountie.

When Lauer was within arm’s reach, The Black Jackets formed a tight circle around him and Cooper.

“What is happening?” Lauer asked.

“Sergeant Valentine was found in the trunk. Dead.”

“Dead?” Lauer repeated in disbelief. “He was joking around with Mister Rabbit … what? Fifteen-Twenty minutes ago!”

Cooper nodded. “He was left alone, when it was time to get our clients inside. The other drivers *should* have stayed with him!”

Lauer moved closer to get a look inside the trunk. “Any suspects?” he asked.

“Yes, Sir,” replied the tallest Black Jacket. “You!”

Fifteen – Twenty minutes earlier:

As we were being led to the lift* to catch our flight, MiLady reminded Lauer that we still did not have our passports and flight reservations.

“Oh, sh–!”

“But, Gia said that this funny-looking key would be useful,” she finished, holding up the key fob with the long cylinder.”

“Yes, it will!” Lauer smiled. “What is the number on it?”

“1-2-2-4.”

Locating another airport officer, the gent pointed to the wall opposite the lift. “It is in that group of red lockers, Sir.”

Once in front of 1-2-2-4, Lauer tried the key. The door opened wide revealing two passports with flight tickets, €5000 Euros, £2500 Pounds, and $1000 dollars each in Canadian and American bills.

“Oh, my!” MiLady exclaimed. “That looks like a lot of cash.”

“It is a lot of cash,” Lauer answered. “Split it between the two of you, or one of you will be questioned for sure.”

While MiLady and Lauer busied themselves splitting up the locker contents, I opened the package Valentine had given me.

“That’s interesting,” I said as I opened the object’s cover and then held it up by the attached chain. “I think it is a pocket watch.”

“It is bea-u-ti-ful, Dear’st!” my wife swooned. “Doctor Who blue!”

“Tardis Blue, Ma’am. Doctor Who isn’t blue,” said Lauer matter of factly before looking closer. “Odd little thing. It does not have any hands or the 12 indicators, numerals or otherwise … so it is a beautiful watch — IF that is what it is — that does not tell time.”

I turned ‘the watch’ over and found a small inscription:

5683 645239 259297

“Too many numbers to belong to a phone,” I stated.

MiLady looked while I split my money share between my wallet and trouser front pockets. “Maybe,” she whispered, “It’s the number of an offshore account …”

“—filled with millions in ill-begotten wealth?” Lauer joking finished her sentence.

The three of us looked at each other with wide-eyes. We were thinking the same thing: could it be possible?

We enjoyed a hearty laugh, shaking our heads. No, it can’t be, but …

Proceeding up the lift, Lauer escorted to the express cue of the security check.

He flashed his badge before turning over our passports and flight tickets to an older woman at the dais.

She nodded, looked at MiLady and I, then reviewed our passports.

“Oh, you haven’t much time!” she said with a genuine smile, after handing us our passports and opening the little gate. “This way.”

Thirty-seven steps later, MiLady and I were emptying our pockets into grey tubs on a conveyor. I had also included my shoes, belt, eyeglasses and rings.

When my wife was called through, I looked back and found Lauer, still at the dais with the woman. He smiled, nodded and then gave a proper military salute.

“Sir?” a female voice called out. “Would you walk through the gate, please?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I answered, then looked back again, but Lauer was already gone.

FOOTNOTES:
*elevator
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FRENZY

2021 A2Z Challenge“Please walk through the gate, Ma’am,” the lady security officer said.

My girl managed through the quiet detection device.

“Thank you, Ma’am,” the officer smiled. “Your personal items are over here to your right.”

She then looked at me. “When you are ready, Sir.”

“Is this when I tell you I served in uniform?”

“Come through, please, Sir.” She repeated.

I held out my right arm and walked forward. I got one foot on the threshold when the gate started beeping.

“Remove your shoes and belt, please, Sir. And try again.”

“My shoes and belt are behind you, officer, where my wife is standing.”

“Try coming through, again, Sir,” was the dismissed reply.

This time, the gate beeped and had lights flashing.

Two burly officers came running. The young lady waved them off.

“You said, that you served, Sir? What did you do?” she asked while she moved her paddle up my right arm. It squealed and lit up.

“I was an Army medic in Bosnia. I was hit with shrapnel from a landmine that was triggered two and half car-lengths away.”

She nodded and continued without comment. The paddle glided down my side to my right leg. More squeals. More red lights.

“What happened to you?!? This is gonna go off again, if I move to your left side, isn’t it, Sir?” she asked with more concern than irritability.

“Yes, both legs, unfortunately.”

She shut off the sound and quickly moved across my legs, up my left side and turned to wipe over the back of my head, back, and legs again. The red light blinking madly.

“Thank you for your patience, Sir,” she smiled. “Your personal items are over here to your right.”

I smiled and nodded at her then proceeded to where MiLady stood.

Then a booming voice came from behind me. “Excuse me, Sir?”

Turning around, six airport security officers joined the lady, that had just cleared me.

“Thank you for your service, Sir,” she said, as she and the other six saluted in unison.

I straightened and returned the compliment. “Thank you.”

They then cued to take turns shaking my hand, as a few other people waiting to clear the checkpoint were took pictures or applauded.

When I finally got to MiLady, she was holding out my wallet and watch. “That was very sweet, what they did.”

“Yes, it was, but unnecessary. Will we still make our flight?” I worried.

There had to have been a mindreader amidst the group. An airport manager pulled up with a golf cart. “Your flight has been told that they cannot leave with you,” she announced. “Shall we go?”

Helping MiLady into the front, I took the tail gunner’s view. Three minutes later, we were thanking our driver.

“Salut!” was the exuberant greeting from another woman.

MiLady just smiled and waved.

The woman nodded. “You do not speak French, Madame?”

“Not since I was a very little girl,” MiLady answered sadly.

“And you, Sir?” she smiled.

“Gauche! Droit! Gauche! Droit! Gauche! Droit! Gauche! And I seem to have forgotten the rest,” I called out with a heavy sigh and a smirk. “Forgive me?”

She giggled, “We have been expecting you. Passports and flight tickets, please?”

While I balanced the carry-on bags, my girl handed over both passports with the flight tickets tucked inside them.

The young lady cracked open the passports, took a glimpse at our mugshots then passed everything to her male counterpart at the desk.

He smiled wide. “Mr. and Mrs. Rabbit, thank you for joining us on our non-stop flight to Paris! We have you seated in Business Class. Do you have any questions for us, before we board?”

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GUARANTEE

A2Z Challenge 2021“… reminder, while the seatbelt sign is lit, please remain buckled in your seats. Thank you.”

While MiLady stowed her handbag at her feet, I gave the others to the tall steward who had offered to assist us.

“Thank you, Sir,” I said, as I sat down beside my wife, who was too busy looking through the window.

He returned a smile, “You’re welcome, Mr. Rabbit. We will be by with a cart, once we reach our flight altitude.”

As he left to join his flight mates, who were buckling up at the front, the whine of the engines grew louder and shriller.

Taxiing to the assigned runaway was a slow and bumper than riding in an old rumble seat.

Speed picked up, the plane angled skyward and bumpy ride ended.

“We have lift off,” MiLady giggled as she watched through the window.

“You sound like NASA during the Apollo missions.”

MiLady still had a smile. “I don’t care. We’re going to Paris!”

It was a painful ten minutes until the plane levelled out, the cabin pressure stopped hissing and my ears stopped popping.

I knew things were getting better when the flight staff got up from their seats and began loaded up their carts.

In teams of two, each with a trolley, two teams disappeared behind us through the separation curtain, leaving my helpful steward and a young lady.

They started from the curtain and worked their way to the cockpit.

“Good afternoon, my name is Julien,” he said cheerfully upon reaching us. “How are you today?”

“Excited,” my wife answered.

“Would like anything to drink, Madame?” he inquired as his young lady partner passed a cup with a warm, wet towelette in it to MiLady.

“Hello to you, Sir,” she smiled, focusing her attention on me and offering another warm, wet towelette in a cup. “How has your day been?”

“Rushed,” I admitted, “but nothing a strong Chai tea cannot fix.”

Julien prepared a cup of coffee for my girl and mentioned he would return soon with the other item she requested. He then turned to assist to Gem.

“Anything else, Sir?” he asked, while Gem offered my hot drink.

“What time will it be when we arrive, Julien?”

He brightened upon hearing his name. “It will be 2 a.m. Saturday morning, Sir. Paris time.”

Ohh,” MiLady sounded shocked. “May I, please, get a blanket with that pillow?”

“Yes, Madame.”

“May I have one of each, as well?” I inquired.

“Of course, Sir.”

Gem and Julien got their cart away quickly, as the other two teams were returning.

Team One immediately went back out to collect garbage, as Team Two followed collecting dirty dishes, leaving Gem and Julian preparing earphones, pillows and blankets.

“I am so sorry for the delay,” he said softly, as he offered the pillow and blanket to MiLady. Gem stood immediately behind him with another set, waiting her turn.

“Ohhh, it’s nice and warm!” MiLady purred snuggling into it quickly. “Thank you!”

Julien smiled and nodded. “Good night, Madame.”

As he backed away, Gem came forward.

“And, you have not been forgotten, Sir,” she said sweetly.

She held the pillow behind my head as I adjusted my seat, then opened the blanket.

The side of my face brushed against the soft pile of fabric.

“Is that lavender I smell?”

“Very good, Sir!” Julien said.

“Many patrons find a hint of lavender is relaxing and helps them sleep,” Gem added. “We will also dim the lights soon, after we finish handing out the rest of the pillows and blankets.”

“Thank you, very much,” I said to both of them.

They bowed and quietly left.

I looked beside me and MiLady was fast asleep.

“Sleep well, Dear’st,” I whispered, as I closed my heavy eyes. “When we land, I will wish you, ‘Good Morning,’ in Paris!”

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HONEYMOON?

2021 A2Z ChallengeI woke with a start, the plane had jolted to a halt.

I looked around me. The other travelers were already gathering their bags and cueing in the aisle, waiting impatiently to disembark.

“Dear’st, it’s time to wake up,” I began looking over my shoulder. “We’re … in …,” then I discovered I was talking to an empty seat. “Paris?”

My eyes widened as I scanned the cabin looking for her.

She is probably in the bathroom, I thought. My eyes darted to the front of the plane and spotted both were still in use.

“Good morning, Mr. Rabbit,” Gem called to me. “Do you need some assistance?”

“Have you seen my wife leave yet?” I asked quietly tossing my blanket and pillow in the empty seat.

She smiled, “Yes, Sir, She is indisposed.”

“Thank you,” I answered with a deep sigh of relief. “I know I will lose her shopping in Paris, but to lose her before stepping off the plane …”

After gathering our bags, I joined the lineup in the aisle and leaned to and fro to get a better look at the bathroom doors. Still closed.

“Dear’st! Dear’st!” I could hear her voice, but could not see her, except for a hand waving slightly above the crowd. She was not far – maybe fifteen feet away, but, she was being forced to travel in the direction of the commuters.

“I see you,” I called out. “I’ll meet you inside.” The waving hand disappeared.

Out of the plane, down the covered gangplank and into the terminal was quick for two o’clock in the morning. There were only two or three flights disembarking.

I looked around the gate. No familiar face was to be found.

I lost her again?

I pulled out my phone and called her. I hung up when it went to voicemail.

I tried again. I was relieved when I heard the familiar voice of my –

“Hullo, Dearie!”

“NOSTALGIA?!? WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH MILADY’S CELL?!?”

“No, need to shout, Rabbit,” Gia scolded. “I am not deaf, yet. MiLady is busy with Doctor Gardner, so I’m your operator …”

“Gia, please.” I tried not to yell. “I want to speak to my wife.”

“She is …”

“Now, Gia.” I insisted.

“I’m sorry, Rabb—”

I hung up. “If that woman isn’t dead when I get there,” I fumed under my breath as I followed the crowds to Customs and then the Baggage area, “I will do it for them!”

Stepping outside, I waited to see if there was a shuttle service to where we were staying.

“Need a ride to your hotel, Mister Rabbit?” came a voice from someone all in black, who quickly opened the rear passenger door of a black, stretch limousine. “Leave your bags and I will place them in the trunk.”

“Yes, please and thank you,” I replied, as I scrambled into the warm vehicle.

“MiLady Rabbit is not with you, Sir?” the chauffeur asked, after climbing in, slamming the door shut and slipping the car into gear. “Is everything okay?”

“She met up with others and left without me.”

“That wasn’t very nice,” the chauffeur replied in an almost familiar tone. “You haven’t been married long, have you?”

“Together for twenty,” I replied, “But, married for eighteen.”

“Eighteen?” the driver questioned. “Odd.”

I started looking around at the sites, as best I could in the dark. The driver noticed.

“You have never been to Paris, before, no?”

“No, I haven’t.”

“It is big, bright and loud.” The chauffeur warned. “Extravagance that will easily kill you, but do not let them.”

“I will try not to.” I answered, as I noticed we pulled into a semi-circle driveway to a very brightly lit grand entrance.

“Mister Rabbit, be careful and tell Gia ‘Two-Fifteen’ … her life will depend on it!”

“Excuse me?” I asked as I watched the driver leave the limousine and run off to another awaiting car. “Who are you?”

The chauffeur spun and removed the cap and glasses. “Just me, Mister Rabbit.”

It was Doctor Sylvia Love!

“Looking out for my friends.”

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I

A2Z Challenge 2021Having stepped inside, after failing to understand what Dr. Love’s presence in Paris meant, I greeted the young man at the desk.

“Mister Rabbit!” he cheerfully said. “Good Morning! I hope your flight was uneventful. Madame Rabbit is already upstairs.”

“She is?” I inquired. “That is a relief, I lost her in the terminal.”

The Concierge laughed, “It happens, Sir. You are not the first, nor will you be the last.”

As I showed him my passport, he snapped his fingers. “Phillipe!”

Another young man, taller than the Concierge, and built like a footballer in his early 20s, appeared from around the corner.

Mister Rabbit, this is Phillipe. He will take your bags and show you to your room.”

He then reached across the desk and passed a keycard to the young bellman. “The Honeymoon Suite.”

Phillipe nodded and proceeded to the lifts.

“If you need anything, Sir,” the manager continued, “I am here until 8 o’clock this morning. After that, Mia will be here to assist you.”

“Merci,” I responded, but it sounded more like ‘murky,’ as I turned to follow Phillipe and our luggage.

The manager smiled wider. Was it because I answered in French, or I poorly pronounced the word? It was not important; I needed to see my wife. I needed to know that she was okay!

Meeting Phillipe at the lift, the doors opened to release six people. Four gents and two women, all of them preoccupied in conversations.

As they passed, something warm radiated from my jacket pocket. I waited until we were in the lift before I removed it.

My faceless pocket watch was warm and glowing blue!

Phillipe also noticed it and the lift operator.

“I didn’t know it could do that,” I admitted before looking at the two hotel employees.

Looking at each other and then to me, the young men had a probable answer.

“ORCS, Monsieur!” they announced in stereo, which ended with the three of us in a round of laughter.

“Must be,” I smiled. “If it happens again, I will take a better look at my surroundings.”

Phillipe then told his coworker where we were going. The turn of a key and we were at the top floor after a non-stop uprising.

turning right, I followed Phillipe to the end of the hall. Suite Lune de Miel was a large, polished gold sign to the right of the elaborate double doors.

Phillipe knocked and then tried the keycard. He opened the right door and placed the bags behind the left that was still closed.

“Enjoy your stay, Sir,” he said quietly with a nod as he prepared to leave.

“Arret!” I called out, expressing the limits of my French. “This fell out of your pocket.”

I smiled and held out ten Euros. “Thank you, Phillipe, and good night.”

He smiled and nodded, then watched as I entered the suite and closed the door.

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