Thursday, March 19, 2015

Serial Saturdays II: Gone Wrong

The guards came back into the dining room. The one leading the others said, “There’s no sign of him, sir. He isn’t here. We did find vials of the toxin hidden in the mattress stuffing. There were nine of them.” He held up a sack and handed it to the officer. Glassware clinked inside. Then the guards stomped their way to the front door and into the rain. Muddy boot tracks stained the wood floor everywhere they had searched. The officer turned back to Tesha, “Ma’am, I understand this must be difficult for you. As such I won’t distribute a fine for destruction of government property. If it helps, here's a vial of proof." He placed  it in Tesha's palm and said, "There's a stockpile of these somewhere in the city I still need to find. Preferably before your husband absconds with it and leaves the city. Good day.” The words came calmly, but it was apparent to everyone from the throbbing vein in his temple that the officer was angry to not find his quarry. He left swiftly, slamming the door behind him. It didn’t quite close as the force of the officer’s swing bounced it back open. The wind blew it slightly ajar.

Tesha fell into Jacque’s empty chair and cried. Her mother handed the baby back to Henry and rushed over to her. “Dear, tell me what it said?” Tesha fell into her mother’s arms and continued to sob. “I can’t help you if I don’t know what happened. Tesha? Please tell me.”
“What did he do, Tesha?” Howard shouted. The baby started crying. “I’ll protect you from whatever that little ingrate did. To think we took him into our family! That no good, good for nothin-”
“Dad! Your not helping.” Henry and his wife were trying to keep their children calm, and not make things worse.”
Tesha’s crying fell to silence. She pulled back from her mother, and told them what was in the warrant.

"Tesha? Is everything ok? The door was left open..." As he was met by a host of angry glares Jacque felt a knot in the pit of his stomach. "Is something wrong?"
Howard walked right up to him and said, "You've got some nerve showing your face here!" He poked Jacque's chest for emphasis. "I knew from the very beginning you were in it for the money, but finding out what who you really are..." WHAM! Jacque felt the wind get knocked out of him from Howard's sucker punch. "I never imagined you could stoop so low."
"Tesha?" Jacque could barely get the word out.
"Don't you dare talk to her!"
"Dad, I can handle this." She had come up behind him and put her hand on his shoulder.
Howard turned to Tesha. "Are you sure, honey? You don't have to face him. I can take of it."
"I have to face him. It's something I need to do." Howard stepped back, but stayed close enough just in case. It was clear to Jacque that his father-in-law was ready to hit again at any moment. Tesha looked down at Jacque, hunched over and trying to catch his breath. She found his eyes and stared into them long and hard, searching for something. Whatever Tesha was looking for she didn't find it. "How could you?"
Jacque was starting to breathe easy again. "Tesha, I don't know what's going on." He gingerly stood up, one hand covering his gut like it might lessen the lingering pain. He took a deep breath. "Just tell me what's happening?"
She held up a glass vial to his face. It was small, no bigger than her thumb. An inky black liquid splashed about inside. Jacque stared at it uncomprehending. "What is it?"
"The city guard found nine of these in the stuffing of our bed."
He felt an unexplainable twinge of guilt. In his mind’s eye an image flashed before him. He was stabbing Tesha in the heart with a wickedly inward-curved blade. The recoil felt as comfortable as throwing himself on a bed. Jacque didn’t know what the image was, but he looked away and shook his head as if it would dislodge the foreign thought. “I...don’t understand.”
“Someone put this in our bed, and I know it wasn’t me. Jacque, tell me you didn’t do this. Tell me something I can believe.”
“I don’t know how it got there. I don’t even know it is. What is going on here?! I thought I was coming home to celebrate my birthday. Why are you all so upset with me?”
Howard spoke up, “I’ll tell you what’s going on! You’ve married my daughter for her money and been poisoning her for the past FOUR YEARS! You’re going to burn for this. I’ve never heard of anyone doing something so outrageous. Ever. They’re going to tie you to a stake and burn you alive.”
After waiting for her father to be finished, Tesha said, “This drug causes infertility. There’s a warrant for your arrest on the table. They think it’s yours Jacque. The constable’s officers came looking for you, and they found this in our house. How did it get here, Jacque?”
It was all so absurd. Jacque didn’t know what to do. An incredulous look came upon his face. A nervous laugh escaped him. “This has to be a joke. You’d never really consider me capable of that.” But everyone in the room was completely serious to the point of solemnity. “Could you? Tesha, you think it’s possible that I’d do that to you?”
“Today I’ve wondered about a lot of things I never thought I’d consider. Starting with how this drug has got into our bedroom, and how you’re suddenly a wanted man. Just tell me the truth, Jacque. It’s all I want.”
After everything they shared and the time they spent together, he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. From their wedding day when they promised to love one another until the day they died, to the years of good memories that followed Jacque never imagined any of it could be questioned. How could someone love another for so long and so readily mistrust it? It made Jacque wonder if Tesha ever loved him the way he loved her, or whether she’d ever loved him at all. He would never look at his wife the same way again.
His stunned silence prompted Tesha to ask him again, “Jacque, are you the reason I can’t have children? Why would you do this?” Something broke inside him.
“You know why,” Howard said. “He married you for our money, and now he’s targeting us for an inheritance. If you’re not going to answer her it’s time for you to go.” Howard stepped toward him menacingly, but Jacque wasn’t phased. Instead he gazed into the eyes of that mean little man, long and hard. The knife was in Jacque’s hand. It took only the slightest flick to slit Howard’s throat.
The vision disappeared as soon as it had come. There was no knife in his hand, yet Howard had stepped back. He seemed scared, and went to sit next to his wife who’d also gone back to the dinner table. Jacque threw the knife with a skill won through years of hard practice. Marian’s head fell backward, the curved blade protruding from her forehead like a horn.
Was he losing his mind? There was no knife. Marian was staring at him. She, too, seemed frightened. He didn’t know what was happening. Jacque just wanted to run away. “I will never forget this, Tesha.” He turned and stormed out the door.

It didn’t seem like the rain could strike the ground any harder, yet it did. The sounds of a million droplets of water beating the pavement intensified, broken momentarily by a thunderous clash of clouds. Jacque didn’t know where he was going, just that he needed to keep moving until the hurt was far behind him. His eyes, firmly on the ground, kept him from seeing the woman he walked straight into. The pair went to the ground with Jacque on top of her. “Are you okay?” He hastily took his weight off the woman and went to a knee beside her. “Are you hurt?”
With one hand the woman parted the damp locks of red hair to see Jacque. She was beautiful. First he was struck by her vivid blue eyes, then her soft porcelain skin. “I’m alright.  Can you help me up? I think I sprained an ankle.” Jacque gave her his hand and pulled the woman to her feet.
“I’m so sorry. I should’ve had my head up.”
She grabbed the hem of her dark dress and twisted it, wringing out the water it absorbed. Then after seeing how wrinkled she made it tried to smooth it out. “Yes you should have.” The woman tried to start walking and nearly fell again. “I can’t walk. I’m going to need your help. My house is at the corner.”
“Of course, it’s the least I can do, miss.”
“Call me Isda.”


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