A2Z 2021: 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 | INAPPROPRIATE
JUXTAPOSITION | KILLJOY | LIABILITY | MISSING | NOTORIETY

 OBLIVIOUS | POSTUMOUSLY | QUESTIONS | RETRIBUTION
STALEMATE | TIP-OFF | UNDERMINE | VENDETTA | WEDDING
XONERATE | YESTERDAYS | ZEN
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 scoffed, “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.”

BACK TO TOP

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INAPPROPRIATE

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.

========================================================================================

JUXTAPOSITION

2021 A2Z ChallengeAfter closing the door and kicking off my shoes, I quietly looked about for MiLady.

“Oh, that sounds like him, now,” her familiar voice said to someone else – obviously not to me with her next sentence. “We have company, Dearest! And I poured you a glass of champagne. You will find it on the counter in the kitchenette.”

“Thank you, my dear,” I answered as I walked through the wee kitchen, picked up the fluted glass and followed the conversation.

Two mountain-sized gents, all in black, faced me as I entered. My girl had her back to me.

“There you are,” I stressed as I approached to kiss her cheek. “Left me with all the luggage and the duty of tipping the bellman.”

“I’m sorry, but Hilly and Gia insisted we leave right away so not to miss, Messrs. Aguillon and Carrere,” she gushed while slowly turning to meet me.

With my back to our guests, they did not see my eyes widen. Standing before me, beaming proudly in my wife’s shimmering purple evening dress was … Nostalgia!

“I am so glad you made it here safely, Dearest,” she said with the typical kiss to both cheeks followed by a hug. “Play along, I will explain later,” she whispered.

We parted and she twirled slowly like Wonder Woman. “Look! It still fits!”

The two guests chuckled.

“Fishing for compliments, Dearest?” I replied before taking a long drink of champagne.

I then made an obvious look around the room. “I thought Gia and Hilly were here.”

“You just missed them, Dearest. They were with their bodyguards and very late for some pish-posh charity function. We will met up with them, later today.”

“Ohh,” I said genuinely disappointed,” So, they will probably see Sylvia running about out front with the limousine.”

“Sylvia?” Gia inquired, as the two Frenchmen stiffened and leaned in a little closer.

“Yes, Sylvia,” I repeated. “The same Sylvia who was arrested for trying to kill you in the hospital, the last time I saw her!”

“Sir,” interrupted Carrere, “but where did you see her?”

“She was my chauffeur here from the airport.” I answered as Aguillon moved his right arm to his ear and spoke quietly into his cuff-sleeve.

“Did she threaten you in any way?” was his next question.

“No, I did not know it was her until after she pulled in the hotel archway.”

“One more question, Sir. Did she relay anything that seemed cryptic to you?”

“She said, ’Extravagance will easily kill you, but do not let them,’ then she jumped out of the limousine and ran off!”

“Which way did she run, Monsieur Rabbit?” Aguillon asked this time.

“Towards the Eiffel Tower,” I answered.

“Excusez nous, Madame!” they replied in unison, before setting down their emptied glasses. Then after kissing Gia goodbye, “Merci beaucoup et bientôt.”

Turning to me, they gave a quick bow (at the waist) and rushed out the door.

“What was all that about, Dear?” I asked, after sitting down. “And don’t you dare leave anything out either.”

BACK TO TOP

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KILLJOY

A2Z Challenge 2021“I can … not believe what I am hearing!” I stammered. “I need another drink.”

“MiLady is perfectly safe, Dearie,” Nostalgia tried again to reassure me. “She is not alone, Doctor Gardner is with her.”

“I will NOT believe that until I see her!” I growled, as I poured whatever the deep amber liquid was in the glass decanter behind the bar in the suite.

I inspected the glass, put it down and drank from the bottle. “Whiskey!” I announced proudly and took another swig.

“Rabbit, MiLady had agreed that she would impersonate me and I would –”

“She agreed, did she?” I snapped. “How is that possible, Sister, Dear, without a previous conversation taking place? A conversation that evidently did not include me!”

“Yes, we spoke previously,” Gia admitted. “And you were not privy to it because we knew that you would not allow it.”

“Tread carefully, Gia,” I growled after finishing the decanter. “Because, right now, the only problem I know, I am looking at!”

“MiLady has four trained officers ensuring her safety,” the Old Battleaxe confessed. “They would take a bullet for her.”

“If they don’t,” I quietly answered, “You will.”

“Rabbit,” she giggled, “don’t tease me like that.”

“Does she still have her cell phone?” I asked.

“No, I have it. MiLady has my cell.”

“DAMMIT!” I tossed mine across the room. “I cannot call her then, can I? Bad enough, this is our anniversary weekend and I cannot spend it with her!”

“I’m sorry, Rabbit, I –”

I held up my hand. “Enough, Nostalgia! No more! I need answers and it is evident that I will not get anything from you that I will trust.”

Gia said in the chair opposite me. “I understand.”

“The Hell you do! Before I step out that door, before I get involved any further, you best find someone to be here before 9 o’clock and tell me what is blue blazes is going on!”

“Oh, Rabbit,” she whined, “You are such a demanding killjoy.”

“If anything happens to my wife,” I replied sternly, “I certainly will be!”

I wandered back to the bar to return the empty decanter and hopefully find another. The conversation was getting stressful.

“Oh, lucky me,” I sang out, “what is this stuff?” Taking a long drag, I started coughing. “Oh, boy, that’s rum!”

“Rabbit, you should really –”

Nostalgia was interrupted by a loud pounding at the door.

“Are you expecting anyone?” I asked quietly.

She shook her head.

“Who is it?!?” I called out in French.

“Carrere and Aguillon, Monsieur!”

“I need your I.D. under the door!”

The Frenchmen protested in beautifully colourful metaphors.

“Then you can talk to me from where you stand, gentlemen. And curb your language, Madame is still awake.”

“Dearie,” Gia piped up, “That is not –”

“My wife was involved without my prior knowledge? It’s my rules now, if they want me to play along!”

Very slowly, one vinyl sleeve appeared under the door, with a familiar passport-sized mugshot.

Picking up the sleeve, I opened the door and let in the two annoyed officers.

“Thank you, Carrere,” I apologized after returning his identification. “This visit is very late. I was about to retire for the evening.”

“Doctor Love was nowhere to be found,” Carrere spoke first.

“If it was her,” Aguillon continued.

“I had met the doctor before, years ago!” I snarled, while looking at Nostalgia.

“Carrere and Aguillon used to work very closely with Templeton,” she began.

“Templeton? The guy that–”

“No, Rabbit,” Gia interrupted, “the Jane Doe who was in Hilly’s morgue,* that Agent Templeton.”

“Oh, I am very sorry, gentlemen.”

“I tried to tell you earlier, Rabbit,” the Old Fossil continued, “that Interpol believes that they have found information that identifies the false Templeton!”

“Wonderful! Who is he and where can we find him?”

========================================================================================

LIABILITY

2021 A2Z Challenge“We are not 100% certain,” Aguillon confessed, “but leads point to a former operative from Scotland Yard.”

“He was involved in sting operation that backfired,” continued Carrere. “Many agents were killed. They were set up!”

“Oh, my goodness!” Nostalgia exclaimed as she covered her mouth. “This is the first I have heard of this! How is it I do not know? Was I involved or was it before my time?”

Another loud rap came from the door. A melodic female voice sang out. “ROOM SERVICE!”

Nostalgia, absentmindedly, opened the door and walked away.

“Doctor Love?” I spoke up. “Why are you back again?”

While Carrere and Aguillon spun and pulled their guns, Sylvia stepped in and shut the door.

“To answer your questions, Gia. Yes, we were involved. It was our first time working as partners. We were not read into it because we were too far down the food chain. They were expecting us to get shot or killed.”

“Killed?” I repeated. “How long ago was that?”

“It was happening when you and MiLady Rabbit were getting married,” Sylvia said. “Someone, who will remain nameless, was all upset during our stakeout that she was missing her little brother’s wedding!”

Carrere began waving his gun telling the doctor to put her hands behind her back.

“Put those toys away!” she scolded. “It’s been a long night. It is way past my bedtime, and I have not yet had my dinner! So, unless you are handcuffing me then leading me to the bedroom, for a good time … Stand down!”

Aguillon caught up to Carrere, who holstered his piece behind his jacket. “We looked everywhere for you, after Monsieur told us that you were here. Where were you?”

“In the stairwell beside the door,” Sylvia giggled. “You certainly did not look everywhere.”

“Now, my turn to ask questions. Gia, why are you not answering your cell?!? I have been messaging you for hours regarding Templeton!”

“I do not have my phone, Dear –”

The doctor’s voice rose an octave higher. “WHAT? Who have I been messaging with?”

“MiLady Rabbit,” the Old Fossil answered, “is pretending to be me at a charity event with Hilly Gard –”

“Gia,” Sylvia interrupted again. “Valentine is dead and Lauer has been set up! The authorities are not looking for anyone else!”

“OH, NO!” Gia exclaimed as she dropped into the plush chair behind her.

“Now, you understand?” Love asked. “I messaged that and a few other things, which concerns me. If MiLady breaks character, it could jeopardize what they are trying to do!”

As I stood at the bar, my jacket pocket began vibrating again.

“That’s odd.” I stated. “I threw my phone at the wall. What is …?”

I pulled out my faceless pocket watch and opened the lid. It was glowing, again, but it was not blue, this time. It was green!

“What is it with this friggin’ thing?” I demanded. “At first, I thought it was a cute novelty. It glows blue when Orcs are near like the little blade from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but now it is kind of creepy … what does green mean? Poison?”

“Ohh, good,” both women exclaimed.

“You have it!” Nostalgia continued.

“I thought Valentine would have forgotten,” Love finished, “and then he would have it.”

“Who?” I queried with concern. “Who would have it?”

“You said it was blue earlier?” Sylvia commented.

I nodded. “I was in the lift coming to my room. Phillipe the bellman and whomever the operator was also saw it.”

“Was anyone else in the lift?” she continued.

“Two well-dressed women and four men were leaving it before I got on. It looked like they were going to a fancy dinner.”

“He did it. God bless you, Valentine,” Doctor Love smiled and blew a kiss towards the ceiling. “You came through!”

“Sylvia,” it was Gia who was confused this time. “What did he do?”

“The short explanation is this,” Love began. “Green is when fellow officers are near. There is a nanochip in our identification badges.”

“Oh, that is neat! Where’s mine?” Nostalgia demanded.

The doctor ignored her former partner and continued. “The blue colour is for allies that would have something like a visitor’s badge or –”

“My cellphone!” Gia added.

“Yes, like an agent’s cellphone.”

“That’s fine,” I answered, “but what happens when there are badges and cellphones in mixed company?”

“I’m sorry, Mister Rabbit, that is not a short explanation.”

BACK TO TOP

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MISSING

A2Z Challenge 2021After a few phone exchanges, Gia was able to contact Lieutenant Margolis, who sadly confirmed that Sergeant Valentine was found dead and Lauer had been arrested for his murder!

“I am about to board my flight, Nostalgia,” she said. “I am glad that Doctor Love is with you, she acquired a lot of inside information when she was with the false Agent Templeton.”

“Nzuri,” the Old Fossil said quietly, “How did Templeton escape custody?”

“It was a complete farce,” she confided. “He had officers loyal to him. He lied to the right ones and was let go. But, then he saw Sylvia, he arranged for her release and she has been relaying what and whenever she can!”

“Do we at least have a name now?” Gia asked.

“I am sorry, Nostalgia, I’ve got to go!” Margolis replied. “And please, tell, Mr. and Mrs. Rabbit that I said Hello! I will call back soon.”

Gia pocketed the cellphone and looked solemn.

“Well?” I asked.

“Sorry, Rabbit, I was lost in thought for a moment.” She replied as she wiped a tear from her cheek. “Margolis is flying to Edmonton to help clear up the mess around Valentine’s murder, and get Lauer out of jail!”

“Is Templeton behind it?” I asked.

“I want to think so, Mister Rabbit,” Sylvia answered, “but he has a loyal following.”

“So, anyone could have done it,” I said sadly.

“Unfortunately, yes.”

Carrere and Aguillon were on their phones. The former seemed upset while the latter was scribbling madly on the palm of his hand!

They then compared information, nodded and announced to the group.

“There is a situation at the charity dinner. We are needed immediately!”

Without question, the five of us rushed out the door.

“Non, non, non, Monsieur,” Carrere held up a hand in front of me. “Not you. Stay here. You are not trained for this!”

“Gia?” I must have looked like a wounded animal. “Tell me who you have that is more qualified to handle triage … or anything worse?”

We locked eyes for an instant, then she looked at the Frenchman.

“He’s with Sylvia and I,” she said, as we scrambled into the lift. “Main,” she then told the young lady operator.

“Oui, Madame,” she answered.

Reaching the main floor, the lobby was filled with a few dozen uniforms and eight smart-dressed young men in suits.

“Cars are ready, Monsieur Aguillon” one of the eight called out in French. At a quick glance he resembled a slightly unshaven Tom Hiddleston.*

Patrons and visitors milled along the walls, curious to what was happening. Some snapped pictures and video, while younger ones pointed and fangirl squealed.

“Do they think this is a movie set?” I asked.

Aguillon smiled and pointed, “It happens every time he is around.”

“What is his name?” I asked.

“Who does he look like?” the Frenchman laughed.

“Dammit it, Loki, lead the way, will you?” I shouted, “Before we all get killed!”

Uniforms held back the cheering onlookers, as we were able to reach the waiting cars outside.

“Car Two,” Carrere shouted from behind us. “Load into Car Two!”

A passenger door opened, then gunfire sounded from behind!

“VITE! VITE! VITE!*” More than one voice yelled.

Ahead of me, Nostalgia rushed into the open car door. Without question, I quickly followed.

“Are you okay?” she asked out of breath.

I nodded. “I think so.”

We both looked through the open door into the madness.

“I thought Sylvia was with you,” I said with concern.

“We separated,” Gia answered. “To better watch out –” The door slammed followed by pounding on the roof.”

“CONDUIRE!*” Squealing tires responded as the car bolted from the driveway.

“– for you.”

Turning to look out the tinted rear glass, a small, limp form laid near the curb where the car had been. Three growing red marks stained the jacket.

========================================================================================

NOTORIETY

2021 A2Z ChallengeBetween worrying who was shot at the steps of the hotel and trying to communicate with a Directorate security driver that did not understand English – or let on that he did not – Nostalgia was annoyed.

“Hilly is not picking up her phone,” she pouted. “It’s going to voicemail for the twentieth time!”

“If she and MiLady are involved a situation, much like we were,” I questioned, “do you seriously believe she will answer, or return, you call?”

“Of course not, Rabbit,” Gia answered with a huff. “That is absurd! Ten-fifteen seconds is plenty of time.”

We looked at the phone. It was silent and dark.

“Any time now,” she said.

As the Old Fossil fretted over the silent cellphone, I tried to figure out where we were from the famous landmarks we drove by.

After ten minutes, I told Nostalgia, “He has us travelling in circles! The Eiffel Tower has been on our right passenger side for this entire joyride.”

A frosted plate of bulletproof glass separated us from the driver. It was difficult for us to see him, and for him to see us.

“That is possible,” Gia answered.

“Ohh, well, do you know if there is more than one Arch de Triomphe? Because that is the third one that we have just driven by!”

“We need to get out of here and meet up with the others.”

“I agree,” I stated, “but we are stuck in this death-spiraling attempt of …”

Nostalgia started pounding the plate-glass that separated us.

“ARRET! ARRET!” she screamed at the top of her lungs. “ARRET!”

Suddenly, the car jerked to a halt, causing our heads to bounce off the glass and see stars.

“Ouch,” I whined. “Serves us right for not wearing seatbelts.”

“We stopped,” Gia said proudly. “Now, we wait for him to open a door, and …”

When the car resumed its course, Nostalgia cussed a blue streak!

It was another ten minutes before it stopped again, and the rear doors opened. The familiar faces of Carrere, Aguillon and six of their eight teammates were gathered around.

After the car left, Nostalgia and I were told that Sylvia, “Loki,” and another young man named Moreau were rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries!

“Did you find the gunman?” Gia demanded.

Carrere nodded, “Gunmen, Madame. One is in custody and the other two are dead.”

“What or who did they want?” I asked, “And why?”

“They want you, Mister Rabbit,” Aguillon interjected, “to give up your Orc-detecting pocket watch or die!”

“Gia?” I called out as calmly as I could muster, but she didn’t answer. “Oh, Sister, Dear?”

“What, Rabbit?”

“Remind me,” I asked, “to never, ever, allow you to plan a celebratory or holiday trip for MiLady and I, for whatever reason, again!”

“This wasn’t on the finalized trip itinerary,” she retorted. “Trust me!”

“Monsieur, Rabbit.” It was Aguillon. “For your safety, you will have your own security detail. The Directorate has sent them here tout-suite!”

“I don’t want …”

Before I could utter another word, two black SUVs screeched to a halt, grill to grill, mere inches from each other. Three officers left each vehicle at a run and gathered around Aguillon as he called out their names.

“St. John. Beaumont. Martin. Allard. Cadieux and Vachon.” Each curtly nodded in response to their name.

“Monsieur, this is your protection detail for as long as you are in France.”

“They are … all ladies.” I stammered.

“And you are a rabbit?” asked Beaumont, a blue-eyed blonde with her hair tied back.

“Point taken.”

While Aguillon was acquainting me with my unnecessary protection team, Nostalgia, Carrere and the other agents had returned from the elegant Palais d ’Orleans.

“It has gone from bad to worse,” Carrere said.

“Everyone is dead?” I panicked.

“No, no, not that,” Gia interrupted. “Hilly and MiLady have been kidnapped!”

I struggled with the chain, but finally got the watch out of my jacket pocket and shoved it in Nostalgia’s hands.

“Here! Take it! They can have the stupid thing, if it will release Doctor Gardner and my wife!”

“It’s not that easy,” Carrere continued, “they escaped out the service entrance. We are using traffic video footage and aerial recon to locate them. We will find them, Monsieur.”

BACK TO TOP

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OBLIVIOUS

A2Z Challenge 2021“I do not doubt you, I only have concern as to how long it will take you!” I fretted.

“We will set up a command post back at the hotel, Rabbit,” Nostalgia tried to sound reassuring. “Why don’t you go back to the –”

“No.”

“Monsieur,” it was Beaumont, again. “Have you seen our National Library, the BnF?”

“No, I have had had an opportunity … yet.”

“We can take you there for a VIP tour,” continued Vachon, “It is not far at all.”

“I’ll drive,” Allard called out, while St. John took ‘shotgun’ – the front passenger seat.

Cadieux was already on the phone making arrangements with the library. “Oui, Madame.” She nodded to her teammates as they loaded into the SUVs with me.

“Yes, he is under the exclusive Pantheon-Sorbonne Fellowship, and wants to review your collections and manuscripts predating 1792.”

There was a pause, as the BnF official asked another barrage of questions.

“No, Madame, The Directorate is supplying the professor with a full detail while he is visiting France. Expect them in the next ten minutes. A party of seven, and yes, our six officers will have concealed handguns.”

“That was some fast talking, Cadieux,” Allard laughed. “Biggest white lie you have told, so far.”

“Drive, Allard,” Beaumont ordered as she looked at Cadieux. “You have glasses you wear sometimes, right?”

“Yes,” she answered.

“I have an idea … and I apologize in advance for all of us, Monsieur.”

“For what?” I asked.

“For being French!” The ladies roared with laughter while I had a wild guess what might happen, but they wouldn’t risk a crazy stunt like … something Gia would do!

Beaumont started explaining. “St. John call Vachon and Martin, Tell them to pocket their ties and mirrored glasses, and find a back door in. We are about five minutes behind them.”

She looked back a Cadieux. “Juliette, your change of clothes is in this car or the other?”

“This one.”

“Good,” Beaumont continued. “When we get to the BnF, we’ll get out of the car and wait while you change back into your street clothes. You will The Rabbit’s assistant. Long hair pulled back. Short skirt and heels. Glasses and cleavage … the typical things that distract a man.”

“EXCUSE ME?!?” I screeched to another round of rowdy females enjoying a good joke. “My what?”

“Sorry, Sir,” Cadieux whispered with a nervous smile.

“Not your fault, Juliette,” I answered, “just hoping that no one is offended.”

As predicted, we arrived behind the BnF within five minutes. Cadieux joined us after a few more.

“Mister Rabbit,” she said softly, “I will need your phone.”

“My phone? Why my phone?”

“You are to be preoccupied with the manuscripts in the library, Sir,” Beaumont cut in as she ditched her jacket in the SUV. “As your university secretary, Cadieux can answer any calls and bluff through a conversation.”

“Vachon, you have the anterior right quad and Point,” she continued. “Keep the exit line in sight. St. John, you have eyes on The Rabbit and Cadieux, she has no gun.”

Vachon nodded and crossed the floor to the right side, while St. John kept close and slightly behind Juliette and I.

Beaumont continued. “Martin, you have the anterior left quad and eyes on me.” Martin looked puzzled. “I will be The Rabbit’s translator, supplied by the university fellowship. As an educator I cannot carry a gun.”

Martin smiled and moved ahead to the opposite wall, keeping Vachon and Beaumont almost equally distant.

“Allard, I need you at the exit by the cars,” Beaumont finished.

“Marie-France,” Allard said when they were alone. “Our two best sharpshooters are out! Cadieux and yourself. Third best is me, sitting in an SUV?”

“Yes,” Beaumont answered. “No one knows we are here. This activity is to preoccupy The Rabbit’s mind, as the others try and find his wife!”

“It doesn’t feel right,” Allard complained.

Beaumont shrugged. “Noted. When we finish here, we take him back to his hotel, order everyone some room service, eat and then draw straws to see which pair has the night watch with him.”

When Allard got close to the vehicles, she lit a cigarette.

A disheveled, old vagrant shuffling his feet came towards her. He smiled a big toothless grin, mimicked smoking a cigarette then pointed at her. Butting out, she nodded.

After giving him a smoke and helping light it, he thanked her with air kisses as he shuffled off. She giggled as she climbed into her SUV to start it.

The flash was so intense, it took out both vehicles. The old man returned in disbelief. He fell to his knees and sobbed loudly.

========================================================================================

POSTUMOUSLY

2021 A2Z Challenge“It is a Saturday morning, for crying out loud!” I yelled as another two SUVs appeared to take the ladies and I back to the hotel. “Who is normally awake at these hours?”

“Evidently, one with something against Allard.” Vachon quipped.

“Or else she was made example of,” finished St. John.

“Enough,” Beaumont growled. “No more talk until we are back at the hotel.

The ride was swift like riding in an ambulance.

I looked out the window to verify what I saw. “We just went through a red light.”

The women nodded.

“This is normal?” I asked. “Without flashing lights? Or sirens? Or anything?”

“Yes, Sir, we did,” answered Cadieux, “and no, it is very rare. But we do we have flashing lights behind the engine grill instead of on the roof. Reduces vandalism and aids in –”

One cellphone started ringing. “Surveillance.”

“Is that mine,” I asked pointing, as Cadieux answered it.

“Answering for Professor – oh, yes, Madame, one moment please.”

She offered my phone telling me is was “Mrs. Rabbit.”

I grabbed it, clutched it to my ear elated to hear the sweet sound of:

“Sorry, to disappoint, Dearie, it is only me.”

“Nostalgia, why is it you are calling?”

“Tell the driver that you and the girls need to get to University Hospital . The one in Bordeaux.”

“Hospital in Bordeaux?” I questioned looking at the distraught ladies in my company.

Vachon rapped upon the plate-glass and repeated the instructions to the driver, who slowed the vehicle, turned about and resumed speed.

“Sir,” she said, “Tell Madame, we will be there in 12 minutes.”

I relayed the messaged and was told, “You need to be quicker than that.” before she hung up!

“My sister the drama queen.” I uttered with a few extra colourful words. “She wants us to hurry up. Twelve minutes is not good enough!”

Beaumont smiled and nodded to Vachon, who rapped on the plate-glass again but with her gun. “OTAGE!” she yelled. “VITE!”

The car came to life and sped up considerably.

“I leaned to the right and asked Cadieux, “What did she say?”

Cadieux smiled and answered me quietly. “A bit of a lie, Sir. She said we have a hostage situation and to hurry up!”

Pulling up to the Emergency entrance, Carrere and Aguillon were waiting with their full team of eight. Loki had his right arm in a sling and Moreau was sporting an eyepatch.

After Beaumont told Carrere and Aguillon what happened at the library, we were split up again. The girls went with the guys to the chapel for prayers for Allard, while Carrere and Aguillon took me to the ICU, to the room directly across from the nurses’ station.

“Finally,” Gia remarked, fumbling with the faceless pocket watch. “Take this bloody thing back, it’s cursed!”

As I put the object back in my jacket pocket, I noticed some movement behind my sister.

“How are you feeling, Sylvia?” I smiled. “It is good to see you, again.”

“Thank you, Mister Rabbit,” she responded softly. “But I need your help.”

“Of course, Doctor, anything!”

She smiled. “I need you to help me die.”

“WHAT?!?” I shouted.

“Then tell everyone that I died telling you a secret. Nostalgia and The Boys will back you up.”

“So, they are my alibi?” I asked. “I will serve life in prison.”

“Gia,” Sylvia asked sweetly, “Take the boys and get some coffee. I need to explain things a little slower for Mister Rabbit.”

As the Old Fossil ushered Carrere and Aguillon out of the room, she looked back and smiled at her former partner.

“Night, Love,” she said with tears running down her cheeks, “Have a good sleep.”

“Thank you, Gia,” Doctor Love replied, also crying, “and Good-bye.”

Forty-two minutes later, lights and alarms went off at the nurses’ station! Medical staff appeared out of nowhere and scrambled into Sylvia’s room!

Twenty-six minutes later I left the room with most of the hospital staff.

Doctor Sylvia Love would be escorted out of her room within an hour and taken to the morgue.

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QUESTIONS

A2Z Challenge 2021The nursing staff permitted us to use the adjoining room to grieve.

Carrere and Aguillon were speed-talking through their phones trying to arrange something.

The younger officers had returned with cups of coffee and tea, uncertain of what else they could do besides console each other over the teammates they had recently lost.

Beaumont quietly asked Carrere for any further details about Allard.

“Her family is having a private service, next week.”

“I would like permission to attend,” Beaumont requested.

“Permission denied, they said that they want a private service!”

Beaumont stiffened, turned away and left the room.

“Will she be okay,” I asked Cadieux. “She is very shaken up.”

“They were very close, Mister Rabbit,” she answered.

“They argued like a married couple,” I added.

“Oui,” Vachon said, “for almost six years.”

“Six? Years?” I slowly realized. “They were married? And the in-laws will not allow her to attend?”

The ladies looked up wiping their tears. Some weakly smiled, while others slowly nodded.

“They did not approve.” Martin sobbed. “So, they eloped! I drove the getaway car!”

“I was Best Man,” Vachon said proudly. “And St. John was Maid of Honour.”

“Mister Rabbit, I am sorry to interrupt.” It was a nurse from the station across the hall. She had a clipboard and a paper bag.

“Your relative’s personal effects.” She said as she handed me the bag. “This page is a list of the contents.”

I reviewed the list and signed it.

“Thank you, Monsieur,” as she reclaimed the clipboard. “May I request one last favour of you? There is an adamant man at the nurses’ station demanding to see her.”

“And you would like me to speak with him?” I asked. The nurse smiled and curtsied.

“Merci, Monsieur,” then hurried off.

“What was that?” Gia asked noticing the curtsy. “She didn’t do it properly.”

“Someone is at the nurses’ desk demanding to see Sylvia. I was asked to deal with him.”

“I will come for moral support then,” she said, as we walked into the hallway.

He was a tall, heavy chap. Well-dressed and slowly going grey … and very drunk.

“What room is she … she in!” he stammered. “She will see me!”

“May I help you?” I said slowly.

“Not unless you work here,” he responded without turning to see me.

I looked at Gia, took a deep breath and announced, “She is not seeing anyone at this time. I am the Next Of Kin and Executor to the Estate for the late Doctor Sylvia Love. Kindly address your business with me.”

Nostalgia’s eyes went bigger than saucers, when the big man spun. “She’s dead?!?” he growled.

“She is, yes, Sir.”

“And no one bothered to contact me?” he growled, again, grabbing two handfuls of my jacket before shaking me. “WHY?!?”

“Firstly, Sylvia had only my contact information listed on all her papers,” I remarked pulling away from his grip. “And secondly, I do not know you, Sir.”

“I. Am. Her. Husband!”

“Ex-husband!” the Old Fossil cut in. “Tucker Roberts, you haven’t changed a bit.”

“Gia? As I live and breathe,” he spat. “I thought you died years ago.”

Hospital security slowly came up the hall behind hi,. Carrere, Aguillon and both security details appeared behind Nostalgia and I.

“We didn’t get divorced,” he retaliated. “So, everything in her Will goes to me!”

“The Will shall be dispensed later, Sir,” I answered. “If you leave your contact information, we can –”

“Gimme her cellphone!” Tucker demanded. “And anything else that she had in her possession before she came in here, and I will worry about the rest of the junk later.”

“There is nothing for you to collect.” I replied.

Roberts charged at me, yelling “Noooooooo!” but, before he got too close, he was on his the floor, face down.

Kicking and screaming. Vachon and Cadieux each held an arm straight, palm up. They sat on the floor, applying pressure with their high heels – one in his armpit, the other at the side of his neck.

St. John sat in the small of his back, while Beaumont and Martin sat on his calves, poking their heels into his cheeky backside.

“How did he know Sylvia died?” Gia asked.

“She called him for a favour,” I replied, “Last thing she did.”

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RETRIBUTION

2021 A2Z ChallengeHospital security helped Roberts to his feet, strong-armed him and began escorting him off the floor.

“Excuse me, but I must speak with him before you remove him from the hospital premises.”

He glared through me. “I have nothing to say to you!”

“Then it will be a very brief conversation,” I answered, “And you can continue your leisurely walk with these gents.”

They followed me to the room directly across from the nursing station. It was empty. The bed had been stripped, all the equipment removed and the curtains open wide.

Once inside, I asked the security to close the door and wait outside.

“I was with her when she called you.” I said, after the door closed. “It was in this very room.”

Tucker looked around solemnly, but still angry.

“It was the last thing she did.”

“How do I know, you’re not just saying that?” he sniffed, wiping his nose with his jacket sleeve.

“She said that she still loved you, George,” I answered. “And if it weren’t for your excessive drinking …”

“Yeah, yeah, we would still be together. Everybody knows that!” he growled.

“But,” I smiled. “Does Everybody know that you have a daughter?”

Roberts’ neck snapped. I had his full attention and the answer I expected.

“She told me that the baby was stillborn.”

“She was protecting the child,” I repeated what the doctor had told me. “from physical and mental anguish.”

“I would never hurt a baby,” he blurted.

“Sylvia could not take that chance.”

“She denied me to see my daughter!” Roberts snapped.

“And a daughter’s opportunity to look into the face of her father,” I continued. “Until now.”

“What?” George asked in disbelief. “What do you mean ‘Until now?’”

“Before Doctor Love spoke to you, she spoke to Victoria.” I paused for the words to sink in. “Your daughter.”

Victoria?” the big man repeated on the verge of tears. “She named her after my mother?”

“Yes, she did.”

“She hated my mother,” Roberts chuckled. “They could not agree upon anything.”

“Young Victoria is not that different, allegedly,” I confessed. “Or so I was told.”

“Can I speak to – I mean, can I call her?”

“You can do more than that, if you wish,” I said. “She will be here –,” I checked the app on my cell, “in ten minutes.”

“Ten minutes?” Roberts sobered up almost instantly! “Where is she coming from? She’s here?”

“Victoria Love-Roberts is a forensics specialist. She is in her final year of study at the University of Amsterdam for her Ph.D.”

“Another Doctor … in … in the family,” he said struggling.

“She had called my number, while her mother spoke to you. She was making arrangements for the first available flight to Paris.”

“And, she’s gonna be here in ten minutes?” George Tucker Roberts did not believe what he was hearing.

I looked at my app, again. “No, she will be here in six. She had sent a copy of her flight itinerary, so we could make arrangements on this end to accommodate –”

My phone chirped three times.

“—her.”

“Aren’t you going to answer that?” Roberts pointed at my at my phone, as the voices outside the door got a little bit louder.

“It’s Gia, texting that your daughter is here.”

There was rap and the door opened slightly, enough for Nostalgia to poke her head through. Her eyes were red from crying all night.

“Sorry for the interruption, Rabbit,” she began, “but Doctor Love, the younger is here to see you.”

I nodded. Roberts stood a little straighter and tugged at his jacket sleeves.

“Do I look presentable?” he asked.

“We will find out in a minute.”

“UNCLE!” the young lady exclaimed, rushing in to strangle me. “I finally get to meet you! Mother told me so much about you; almost as much as –”

She spotted the grey-haired old man, standing military-straight by the empty bed, unable to control the tears streaming down his cheeks.

Looking back at me, she whispered, “Is that him?”

I nodded.

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STALEMATE

A2Z Challenge 2021Hello, Victoria,” George Roberts said softly. “You look so much like your mother did, when she was younger.”

“Thank you,” the young doctor replied, as she cautiously stepped closer to him.

“I will be outside in the hall,” I offered, “and allow you two to talk.”

“No, don’t,” Roberts panicked.

“Oh, please, don’t,” Victoria pleaded.

I smiled, “I am just outside the door with Nostalgia and the other officers. You have too much to discuss and don’t need my presence to make it any more awkward, do you?”

“We could talk at length over dinner, instead, yes?” Victoria asked. “I am famished.”

“I would like that,” her father replied. “Can it be arranged safely, Sir?”

“I will get right on that,” and then I closed the door.

“So?” the Old Fossil asked.

“You were close enough to the door,” I scolded, “You tell me!”

“I am just worried for that poor lamb!” Gia fretted, “To meet that mean brute, and then be told he is your father, really now? Skywalker had it easy; he at least knew of Vader before The Reveal!”

Everyone smirked or smiled at Gia’s reference.

I told everyone gathered of Roberts and Victoria’s hopes for further discussions over dinner.

“I recommend at the hotel,” Carrere mentioned. “You have sole access to the entire level with your Honeymoon Suite …”

“Well, that was easy,” I answered, “Now, if we could just find my wife.”

“We are still checking video footage from the traffic cameras, Sir.” Aguillon said. “We have not given up.”

Nostalgia went into the room and explained everything to Roberts and Victoria.

When they came out, everyone returned to the hotel. Rising up in the lift, we entered the suite and were surprised that it looked more like a war room!

Both security details were reviewing papers, maps and video footage.

Carrere and Aguillon were swarmed by their juniors with information that they were hoping would be useful.

“Your wife is missing, Uncle?” Victoria inquired with some alarm. “How long has she been missing?”

“The last time I saw her was on the plane when we arrived in Paris, last night – early this morning.”

“We will find her, Rabbit,” Nostalgia replied.

“Before our flight back?” I asked. “Preferably not in a pine box!”

Carrere, Aguillon and Gia looked solemn. They knew the put a civilian’s life in jeopardy. A civilian with no specialized training, who was using her wits to comprehend her situation and – hopefully – find a way to contact help or escape.

“We ordered room service,” Beaumont cut in. “Everything from the menu. It looks like a small buffet – who is hungry?”

After filling a plate, I carried it out onto the balcony. Looking over the ornate cityscape with its world-renown landmarks.

This is not how I wanted her to see Paris! I worried.

Cadieux held a small envelope, when she joined me.

“This came for you, Monsieur,” she said. “About an hour ago.”

“Thank you, Juliette,” I answered, as I took it and ripped it open.

A silver boxchain fell into my palm with a shiny black orb the size of a marble attached to it.

“This thing is interesting.” I said, as I held it up by the clasp, to better view it at full length.

As we looked at the piece of costume jewellery, it started to sway from side to side.

Cadieux giggled, “Are you trying to hypnotize me, Monsieur?”

“I am not trying to influence it to move at all.”

“What have you got, Rabbit?” It was Nostalgia. She saw the swinging chain and thought the same thing. “Hypnosis is not your style, little brother. Nor is it a practical form of interrogation.”

“This showed up while we were away, Gia.” I dropped the object into my hand.

“There is also a small cubed box on the desk.” She paused, “Maybe they are a set?”

Stepping back into the hotel suite, we went to the desk.

“I have seen a box that size before,” I said aloud, “It was given to me by Valentine before I stepped into the airport at Edmonton.”

“Before he died,” the Old Fossil added.

Tearing the box open, against protests that it could be a bomb or filled with a toxic chemical agent, I looked in

“I don’t believe it!”

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TIPOFF

2021 A2Z ChallengeI reached inside the cubed box and pulled out the faceless watch!

Nostalgia applauded, “Well done, brother, dear! You did a magic trick, but your timing is horrid!”

“Hold this!” I gave the box and watch to the sarcastic Old Fossil and took a step back.

I reached into my jacket pocket and pulled out my faceless watch. “You mean this one, right?”

“What on Earth?” Gia looked bewildered. “Two of them!?! When we haven’t figured out what the first one is meant to do!”

Victoria overheard her godmother and joined the conversation. “Two of what?”

I held up my pocketwatch and Nostalgia displayed its twin.

“Ohh, they are beautiful!” the young lady exclaimed. “Mama had one when I was small.”

“Ohh, really?” Gia replied, “Do you remember your mother telling you how she got it?”

Victoria nodded as she finished her sandwich. “Yes, she said it was a gift from her former employers for a job well done.”

“Former employers?” I repeated. “What former employers, my dear? And do you recall how old you were?”

“I think I was six or seven-years-old,” she began, “when Mama showed it to me. I remembered it because it looked like a broken watch.”

After everyone else gathered around, Victoria continued.

“It was so very strange. It looked like a watch. Ticked like a watch, but had no hands or face,” Dr. Love-Roberts recalled. “Mama had lots of fun calming me down, I got the crazed thought that it was a bomb!”

The room filled with laughter. I shook my piece listening for loose pieces — nothing. I shook it again and placed it near my ear.

“This one does not tick,” I announced holding it out for everyone to see, “If it runs on a battery, I think it is dead.”

“The same for this one,” Gia said after conducting similar tests, but when she held it out for viewing, it started a throbbing glow. “Ohh, look, how pretty!”

I turned around to face my sister and discovered my pocketwatch was also throbbing green. “These things trigger each other? Bombs, maybe? Should we keep them apart, or take a chance?”

As I moved closer to Nostalgia, the glowing piece started to move in my palm.

“Are they magnetized?” Victoria asked.

“It is possible,” Gia replied.

When I was within arms’ reach, I held the chain and allowed the object to hang. It immediately swayed towards its twin!

In disbelief, Gia did the same. The twin piece swayed towards its mate, and – TING – was the sound of singing metal as both pieces connected back to back!

“It is very possible,” I said, opening one eye, after half-expected the TING to be the precursor to a bomb going off. Relieved, I then tried prying them loose. “They will not come apart now.”

“Worry about that later,” interrupted Carrere. “The batteries are not dead, and it is evident, they are two halves of a whole.”

“Oui,” Aguillon agreed, “but a whole what?”

“Mama said hers was like a compass,” Victoria replied. “She was the boss’ secretary and she was thanked for her professionalism, insight and ideas helping the business during tough times.”

“So, the piece was a thank you gift?” I asked.

“Yes,” Sylvia’s daughter continued. “Mama gave her month’s notice, and the business gave her a grand send off. She was going to start a job working as a telephone/ switchboard operator for the government.”

“I used that cover story,” Nostalgia reminisced, “where I was too! One month later, your mother and I were paired up to conduct a stakeout.”

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UNDERMINE

A2Z Challenge 2021A month later?” asked Aguillon. “That was your first case? A stakeout?”

“Yes,” Nostalgia answered. “But, that is not the answer you wanted. What are you looking for?”

“Something before that stakeout, if it exists,” replied Carrere.

“Doctor?” Carrere asked to Victoria, “do you remember the place where your mother worked? And who gave her this unique gift?”

“It was a technology-type business,” she answered. “And, I’m sorry, I do not remember the name of her employer.”

“It is amazing that these things are so mysterious,” I said, still trying to pry them apart. “And we still have no idea what it is they do!”

“And no idea what this thing does either,” Gia said holding the chain that had the black marble-sized stone attached to it.

Suddenly, one device started flashing conic circles that grew four times, disappeared and started at the center again. At the very center, an LED arrow pointed in the Old Fossil’s direction!

The other piece was like a mad stopwatch with numbers rotating through sequences too quickly for anyone to distinguish!

“Aunty,” Victoria began, “would you hold that chain closer to the devices?”

When Gia took a step closer to me, the marble pulled on its chain.

“It is attracted!” she squealed.

“But is it attracted to the opposite one too?” I asked, as I flipped the devices and held it out to the marble held by the bane of my existence.

Like a foul taste in one’s mouth, the marble was repelled as far as the chain could stretch!

“Non,” said Carrere amazed. “What happens if the marble makes contact?”

I turned the device over, again, and Gia stepped nearer. The marble made contact with the conic rings device.

The rings had stopped, and numbers appeared in its place.

“Coordinates?” I asked. “Could it be that simple?”

“Oui,” Carrere nodded, “But where?”

On the opposite device, the rings were condensing to the center, with the same coordinates listed inside the center ring.

“Quickly,” Aguillon shouted, “trace that location!”

“It is the Hospital, Monsieur!” Vachon answered. “But we were just there!”

“Is it possible there is another magnetic orb?” Victoria asked.

Everyone bolted out the door, down the lift and outside to waiting cars.

Like a security convoy for a political official, four SUVs returned to the hospital and stormed into the waiting area of the Emergency ward!

“Where are we going, Rabbit?” Gia asked as she looked at the three magnetized pieces in my hands. The conic rings continued to flash into a smaller sequence. The coordinates at the center were replaced with an arrow that shimmered slightly right.

“It is pointing beyond those doors,” I answered.

Carrere asked the nurse at the desk, if any persons were admitted earlier in the day.

She nodded and told him that a gentleman who had been involved in a car accident, died before he reached the hospital. And two women, missing their identification, that leapt out of a moving car!

Carrere shouted out the area bed numbers and Aguillon led the way, while Nostalgia and Vachon went to the morgue with both security teams.

Pulling the first area curtain, we were looking back at Doctor Hilda Gardner!

“Who is there?” she inquired with growing fear. Both her hands and eyes were covered in gauze.

“Doctor,” I replied softly, “were you with MiLady Rabbit when this happened?”

The coroner started trembling. “Yes! They left us in the rear seats. MiLady suggested we sit with our feet in the center and our backs to the doors.”

“This is how you escaped?”

“No,” Gardner continued, “The doors were locked, but the windows opened, so, we pushed off each other’s feet and fell out the windows head first!”

“INTO ONCOMING TRAFFIC?!?” I screamed. “Were you both crazy?”

“They were planning to kill us, Sir,” she cried. “It was the only idea we had, and we took it.”

“Where is my wife, Doctor?” I begged.

“She is in the next area and heavily medicated. She had injuries worse than mine.”

“Rabbit,” answered Carrere holding the adjoining curtain, “she’s safe. She’s here.”

Rushing to her side, I could not stop stuttering. I shook nervously, taking in her injuries. Stitches to the head. Bumps and bruises everywhere.

“I am here, Dear’st,” I whispered before kissing her forehead. “I will not leave your side.”

“Don’t make a promise that you cannot keep, Dearie,” Nostalgia interrupted.

“Why?”

“Because,” she continued, “the DOA in the morgue is the fake Templeton!”

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VENDETTA

2021 A2Z ChallengeTempleton?” I repeated, “I thought that he possibly killed Valentine back in Canada. If he is dead, then someone else must have done it.”

“On … guard,” my girl struggled with her words.

“Yes, Dear’st,” I reassured her as I strained to hear her better. “I am here and not leaving you. Rest. Talk later.”

“The … guard … near …”

“Aguillon,” I called through the curtain, “Aguillon!”

The Frenchman came running. “Oui, Monsieur?”

“MiLady is mumbling about the guard detail. I apologize for this request, but would it be possible to assign the ladies to protect her?”

He smiled, “I think it can be arranged.”

Within a few minutes, four familiar faces were looking concerned through the slim opening of the curtain.

“Allo, Lapin,” Vachon teased, before looking at the overhead tower of clear fluid bags beside the hospital bed. “Is MiLady going to be okay?”

The other three covered their mouths to stifle gasps, but they all gave a deep sigh of relief when I nodded.

“Painkillers, antibiotics and anti-inflammatories,” I explained. “She will need a lot of rest.”

“We will make certain that she is not disturbed,” replied Cadieux.

St. John quickly changed topic to me. “You should now get some rest, Monsieur.”

“I will soon.”

Vachon divided up the detail. She would stay in the corner near the bed, in full view of the curtains. Cadieux would be near the nurses’ station, while Martin and St. John would be at either side of the curtain.

“What are you waiting for,” Vachon scolded. “A personalized invitation?”

“No, a report from toxicology. They found a couple injection sights on the interior side of her right calf,” I answered. “Someone went to a lot of trouble to be sure the injections would not be found easily. I want to know what she was given, before I murder the S.O.B. who did this!”

“Rabbit? Rabbit!” Gia sang beautifully from the hallway with Doctor Gardner holding on to her. “I want you to be the first to know!”

“You’re contagious,” I smirked, “and will put all of us out of our misery, by fleeing the country?”

“No, you silly boy! Hilly and I are getting married! We have decided that we not be so fortunate, if such an event like this were to happen, again.”

Vachon and the girls were elated! They were the first to congratulate both brides.

I got up from my chair at MiLady’s bedside and crossed the floor to them.

I hugged and kissed the doctor first. “Are you certain you want to be among this odd little family of rabbits, sister, dear?”

“She smiled, “The only time I am genuinely happy is when Nostalgia has been my side.”

I turned to the Old Fossil. “I guess I have to hug you, now.”

“Let’s not and say we did,” Gia replied, looking around, “but all these witnesses might be a problem.”

“I suppose you are right,” I whispered, leaning in to kiss her cheek.

“Oh, my,” she giggled. “A double first! An admission that I am right and a kiss too!”

“I have no idea what you are referring to, woman!” I countered, “But you and Hilda have my blessing.”

“We are going to get a license in the morning, and find a Justice. Will you join us?”

“I’m sorry, Gia, but my place is here with MiLady.”

Nostalgia nodded. “I understand, the four of us can celebrate later.”

We watched as Nostalgia walked slowly, arm in arm with Doctor Gardner, who was still had her hands and head bandaged. Carrere and his team were assigned with them.

It was another couple of hours before the blood lab technician returned.

“Again?” I asked. “Why?”

“One of her tests had very questionable results, Monsieur,” the young man responded. “The doctor would like to do it, again.”

“No,” I answered. “Not until the doctor talks with me.”

“But, he will tell you the same thing, Sir,” the technician said.

“Then, I will hear the said words,” I began, “and he will get the same response I have just given you. I want to see all the results from the first blood panel.”

The technician left a little upset, but returned in twenty minutes with a very agitated doctor.

“I need you to leave, Monsieur,” he demanded, “I cannot give my patient the proper care she deserves with you present!”

“Your patient is my wife, Monsieur,” I said calmly. “I am her next of kin and her power of attorney. I want to see the results of her blood panel before you subject her to another.”

“I cannot do that,” the doctor replied, “her file is protected.”

“I work for the same establishment that protected her file.” I said sternly.

“You will not understand –”

“If it is written completely in French, then, yes, Doctor, I will not be able to read it very well. I am only concerned with the data results.”

Another ten minutes, and I was reviewing graphs of four main blood tests.

“Sodium …” I began.

The doctor added, “Pentothal. She was interrogated and they used truth serum in small dosages.”

“Less chance of being detected.” I continued.

“Oui, Monsieur,” the doctor nodded, “and carefully administered in locations that would accelerate the chemical reaction.”

“Question for you, Doctor,” I had a situation reeling in my head. “The skill required to do this, by what you have seen during your examination, would be …?”

“An experienced I.V. nurse, “the doctor replied. “Or a drug addict … or any doctor.”

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WEDDING

A2Z Challenge 2021I opened my eyes to rounds of laughter.

“Hello, sleepyhead,” MiLady smiled. “You haven’t changed. You finally found me, and do not listen to word I say.”

Vachon and the ladies laughed harder.

“Good morning, to you too, Dear’st,” I smiled, followed by a wince, as I squeezed the left side of my neck after sleeping funny. “And, in my defense, you were incoherent.”

“Gia called a while ago,” my girl changed topic. “She and Hilly are on their way over with some interesting information.”

“You had a bit to share, last night, but we were not able to make sense of it at all.” I countered. “Would you care to try, again?”

MiLady looked at me oddly, “I would rather wait for your sisters. Doctor Gardner will be able to fill in details.”

As we continued to fill in MiLady as to what led us to finding her and my sister-in-law, she asked to look at the magnetic device.

“So, this is the contraption that glows blue?” She asked, “Or green? Do you know why it changes colour?

As we started explaining our theories, the newlyweds made their appearance!

“We are official!” Gia announced proudly, flashing a silvery-black ring. “It matches Hilly’s!”

Nostalgia extended her arm and poised her hand between MiLady and I, so that we could better gush over her ring.

“Oh, look,” Vachon interrupted. “It’s blinking and glowing again!”

“It likes your ring, Gia,” I said. “Come a bit closer.”

Doctor Gardner was still in the hall, when she came in to investigate the commotion.

“What is –?” She stopped. “Where in Heavens’ name did you find that antique?!?”

We all looked at her with quizzical surprise.

“You have seen one of these before?” I asked.

“Of course I have,” she answered. “May I?”

I offered everything to her. Both devices and the magnetized ball.

“Oh,” she then said solemnly. “She’s dead too.”

“Hilly, forgive me for asking,” I asked, “but how do you know what you do about this thing?”

“You have three items here,” she began. “I have the fourth … or I used to. The ball broke, so I had the chips made into a titanium ring. I wore it for years, until I gave it away.”

“Gave it away?!?” Victoria panicked, “How long ago and to whom?”

Gardner smiled wide. “In the last hour or so, to my wife.”

“Oh, my head hurts,” I said cupping the right side of my forehead in my palm. “Please, as a favour to me, rewind and tell the story of this … this thing.”

“I was young,” Gardner started, “and preparing to leave for school, when Papa came to the table with a small box. In it was one of these devices with a magnetized ball on a necklace.”

Across the room, Victoria Love-Roberts listened intently.

“Of course, at that age,” the doctor confessed with a laugh, “I had to ask him if it was a present for me. I was very disappointed, when he said it was a parting gift for a workmate that was leaving the business to pursue a better job.”

Carrere, Aguillon, Nostalgia and myself looked at one doctor and then the other.

“Victoria, dear,” Nostalgia broke the silence. “You mentioned, the other night, that your mother had one of these, yes?”

The younger doctor nodded slowly, as she held out her hands. “May I?” she asked trembling.

Hilda looked at the younger woman as she passed the objects to her. “Your mother was …?”

“Doctor Sylvia Love,” Victoria answered softly. “She had told me that she left her job as a secretary of a small company, that was struggling to breakout into the technology field …”

The women in the room were emotional. Hands covered gasps and eyes began to tear.

“Dare I suggest,” I theorized, “that Sylvia had to leave ‘for family reasons?’ And, long story short, the two of you are half-sisters?”

After many exchanged glances of “Is it possible,” Carrere and Aguillon arranged for three DNA tests. One for each of the doctors and one for George ‘Tucker’ Roberts.

As we waited for the results, everyone had one question: we had a story for one set of devices, but where did the other one come from?

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XONERATE

2021 A2Z Challenge“A sister?” Doctor Hilda Gardner repeated slowly with a smile. “I always wanted one growing up!”

“You were an only child, Hilly?” Nostalgia asked.

“I was,” she responded. “My mother died from complications and Papa did not re-marry.”

“I’m very sorry,” I interjected. “It must have been very lonely growing up.”

“Not really,” Gardner replied. “I read a lot. Aunty and Granny were school teachers, if I wasn’t studying, I was reading. I almost became a school teacher too, until they discovered I loved the sciences more like my father.”

“I enjoyed science, too,” Victoria added, “but I thought that I was taking after Mum, because she never mentioned my father.”

“I am sorry, Mister Roberts,” the blood lab technician said, “but you are not the biological father of Miss Victoria.”

George Roberts nodded. “I didn’t think so,” he said sadly as he went to the far corner of the room and sat quietly.

Victoria sat beside him. “You have been Papa to me since I can remember,” she told him with tears running down her cheeks. “Mum said you learned to braid my hair! She only had to cut the knots out once.”

“But I couldn’t change your nappies,” he chuckled. “You were such a little thing … and neither of us could believe how much toxic waste you made!”

Gardner came and sat to the other side of Victoria. “Forgive my prying, but where did you grow up?”

“Cheapside, and you?”

Gardner smiled. “Northside, not far from Papa’s work.”

“What was your father like?” Victoria asked, as she continued to hold hands with George Roberts.

“He was always building little things,” Hilda recalled happily. “I would watch him for hours, until Granny or Aunty would say I had to go to bed.”

“One time I laid upon the opposite side of table, on my elbows holding my head,” she smiled. “Granny was not happy and paddled me with a wooden spoon!”

“Oh, dear!” Victoria exclaimed.

“Papa told her to stop,” Gardner finished. “because I was as enraptured in his project as much as he was!”

“Lucky you,” the younger doctor complimented. “I wish I could have met him.”

Carrere rushed in to give me a note. “It is from the University where Doctor Love – Sylvia – was kept on tenure,” he said. “They heard of her passing and cleared her office.

Aguillon followed with a long metal box. It looked like it belonged to a set of safety deposit boxes in a bank vault.

“They released it to us,” Aguillon commented, “acting as your agents, Monsieur. It came from the University Archives.”

I looked at the fine cover of dust. “No use to me,” I said. “I do not possess any keys! How –”

Gia reached past me. In one hand she had the necklace and Hilda’s ring in the other. “Let’s give this a go, shall we? Where are the locks?”

Everyone looked over the box, but no locks or keyholes were to be found.

“What. On. Earth?” the Old Fossil called out. “This is absurd!”

Victoria looked a little closer. “I have seen this before. Mum needed my help. She was making a time capsule. She had put papers, pictures and other important things in it.”

“Do you remember how she closed it?” Gia asked.

“Yes, she put the marble on the lid.” Victoria said. “It would roll in circles and when it stops moving, the lid will lift a bit. To close it, she would put the marble back on the lid”

Nostalgia gave the necklace to Victoria, who gently placed the black orb upon the lid. The jewellery chain scraped slowly behind as the marble settled quickly one-third in from the edge.

A small pop was heard, followed by everyone choking on the cloud of dust that erupted.

When the dust cleared, only half of the box was open!

“Should we try the marble on the other side?” Gia asked, “It might work.”

“No, try the ring.” I answered. “Remember the devices were attracted to one piece each and repelled the other.”

Laying the ring on its side, it rolled to the center of the lid and slowly came back one third.

Another pop. Another dust cloud. More choking.

It was then quickly decided that b“It should be common knowledge after the fact,” she continued with a chip on her shoulder. “Or a full confession!”

Hilda and Victoria sat together, holding hands. “We will sort this all out, regardless.” Hilda reassured her new-found sister, as Victoria sat trembling.

I opened the letter and started reading aloud.

“I am very sorry to put you on the spot, Rabbit. No one else is open-minded enough to understand what happened, WHY it happened, or why I have kept it silent for so long.
When I was young, I worked as a secretary for a little start-up business that had the star potential to break into wearable technology.
Two men ran it. George Roberts and Phillip Gardner.

I panned the room. I was shocked at the silence.

“Well,” MiLady said. “Why are you stopping? Keep reading!” Everyone nodded their heads pleading.
oth doctors should retrieve the items from the box. Victoria went first. She reached in and pulled out a letter, and a couple of sepia tone photographs. She wiped away tears upon her discovery.

“That’s me,” she said proudly, “in Mum’s arms … but who is that with her?”

Hilda was pulling out the surprises from her side of the box when she glimpsed the photo.

“That’s Papa!” she announced to everyone. “A very young Papa! Oh, my goodness, he still had all his hair!”

Victoria then started trembling. “Uncle, this letter was written a month ago … and it is addressed to you!”

BACK TO TOP

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YESTERDAYS

A2Z Challenge 2021“Why would Sylvia have written to you, Rabbit?” the Old Fossil inquired bitterly. “She barely knew you!”

Everyone gathered to listen.

“It should be common knowledge after the fact,” she continued with a chip on her shoulder. “Or a full confession!”

Hilda and Victoria sat together, holding hands. “We will sort this all out, regardless.” Hilda reassured her new-found sister, as Victoria sat trembling.

I opened the letter and started reading aloud.

“I am very sorry to put you on the spot, Rabbit. No one else is open-minded enough to understand what happened, WHY it happened, or why I have kept it silent for so long.
When I was young, I worked as a secretary for a little start-up business that had the star potential to break into wearable technology.
Two men ran it. George Roberts and Phillip Gardner.

I panned the room. I was shocked at the silence.

“Well,” MiLady said. “Why are you stopping? Keep reading!” Everyone nodded their heads pleading.

“George was sweet on me from Day One, but he had a bit of a drinking problem.
And, Phillip was a widower, still grieving the loss of his wife. He had a six-year-old daughter named Hilda. (Yes, Rabbit, the same Doctor Hilda Gardner.).
I tried consoling him, back then, by having him talk things out. But, one thing led to another, as I am certain you can imagine, and I ended up having to leave – I was going to be a mother!

Phillip proposed to me because he didn’t want me to leave!
George proposed to me because the baby deserves two parents,’ he said.

But I said ‘No,’ to both of them – I don’t remember why.

On my last day of work, Phillip gave me the faceless watch, telling me that it will be valuable one day. I didn’t believe it would happen, as he didn’t tell me what it could do, just that it would be valuable.

Two years later, the factory exploded and burst into flames! It was a chemical fire.
Phillip went through the whole building, making certain that no one was still inside. But he was still inside, and about to leave when some compressed canisters exploded.

“Ohh,” Hilda gasped from the shock. “Daddy!”

“You didn’t know, Dearie?” Nostalgia asked, offering her wife a handkerchief. Silent headshaking was her answer.

I attended Phillip’s funeral and saw George. We talked and talked and talked. And when it was time for me to return to my new job working for the government, George proposed to me, again!

‘Your baby will never know their real father,’ he said. ‘And they won’t know much about you with all your double 007 drivel…’
So, we had a civil marriage. He went to the house to care for Victoria and I went off to Scotland to meet my new partner … your older sister.

Five years later, I was still partnered with Hilda and Gia. A shock to us all as too many situations should have killed us!

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ZEN

2021 A2Z ChallengeSylvia’s letter went on for a bit. She glazed over the early years. Explaining the obvious, but omitting the mysterious.

She hinted that she had seen the fake Agent Templeton the night she drove me to the hotel!

“That’s why I ran off, after I chauffeured you. He had followed us from the airport, she wrote. I caught up to him and asked where he had been! I told him that I thought he did not get away!

“That’s when he said, he “had cleaned up a big mess in Canada.” I believe that he meant my poor Valentine.”

“I tried to go with him, but he had a meeting to keep with someone else, who would not accept an old partner, so we agreed to meet in a few hours.

“With that snub, I returned to the hotel and met up with all of you, again.

“I write this because I know, this is my last job with Our Affiliaation.

“There will be an ambush at the hotel in the driveway arch. Anyone who appears to get ‘too close to the target car’ will be shot. Snipers will attempt to kill anyone who enters the target car.

“Unfortunately, I did not get any information identifying the “hot spot” vehicle, but I do know, someone wants the faceless watches and the magnetic mates that go with them.

“Valentine gave you one set, Rabbit, because I told him to. I had given it to him for safekeeping the last time we worked together.

“She gave it to Valentine?” Nostalgia repeated. “I’m shocked, she did not think to give it to me?”

“There’s more,” I commented.

11 Comments

  1. I can’t figure out how to comment on individual letter posts. Anyway, good read.

    It’s hard to believe the alphabet part of the blogging challenge is over for 2021. Down to the after survey, reflections, and the “road trip” sign-up.
    Plus, I’m taking part in the Bout of Books read-a-thon in May. So much excitement!
    J Lenni Dorner (he/him 👨🏽 or 🧑🏽 they/them) ~ Co-host of the #AtoZchallenge, OperationAwesome6 Debut Author Interviewer, Reference& Speculative Fiction Author

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