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Sunday, March 3, 2013

It's that time again.

Well, I've been working on the sequel, and this chapter is out there for you to review - but beware, there is much more to come!

                         Book Four - Chapter Eight

Those dreams! They kept coming, every time she closed her eyes they were there. It was as if something or someone really didn’t want her to sleep. So, Marilyn quit fighting, and got up early, went downstairs, and put on a pot of coffee. The images from the night kept coming back to her through her hazy consciousness. She simply couldn’t get the images to stop. Images of ancient forests, and mountains, deep and dark rivers. And those voices! It was as if the forest itself was speaking to her.

She turned on the radio, but what came out of the radio was nothing she had ever heard before. There was a harp playing, not loudly at all, but nevertheless commanding – like the voices. But the beauty of the music – it was as if by its own sound it could penetrate all resistance. It was so unlike anything that she had ever heard, that she felt herself give way. She closed her eyes again, and felt herself drifting off. She was now walking along in the forest, as ancient as anything she had ever experienced. The harp could still be heard, but there seemed to be the music of the forest itself, as if a humming accompaniment to the playing of the harp. She could feel the warmth of the breeze, and the sun shining down through the leaves, dappling the path before her. She walked further down the path, toward the sound of running water.

And there, at the water’s edge stood a youth. His demeanor was quiet, and inviting. Marilyn came up to him. He held out his hand toward her, and he spoke to her, in a voice as powerful and ancient as the forest itself.

“Lady Marilyn, fear not. My name is Drachma, but I am called Tom. I bring you greetings from a land and a time far off.”

Marilyn tried to speak, but could not. But the youth continued.

“You have been chosen, and have chosen. Your guide shall be Falma, the wise. Heed what he tells, and follow well his counsel. For he has been here among us; and knows the dangers which you and the others shall face. But for now, m’lady, do as you must, and Falma shall be there for you. And your adventure has now begun!”

Then the youth turned, and walked down the path, into the ever deepening forest. Marilyn tried to follow, but her feet would not move.  Next, the forest scene receded , as she opened her eyes, and shook her head clear. She noticed that the music had stopped, and the radio announcer was telling of the music, which came on a disc that had come to him just yesterday, and was apparently some Irish minstrel music from the fifteenth century.

She then got back up, and poured herself a cup of coffee. Next, she picked up the phone and dialed it.

“Charlie, I’m so sorry to waken you… You were? Anyway I couldn’t sleep, and I just had the weirdest dream, if you can call it that… In any event, I just didn’t want to be alone right now… no, nothing like that… You will?... And I told detective Lewinsky that I’d come down to the station this morning. But I think that I’d really like to talk to the earl before I do that… You will?... Well, give me a half hour to get showered and dressed.

“And now, Charlie, you can’t do a story on this. At least you’ve got to wait until all the pieces are in place… Charlie, please… just promise me that you’ll put aside your infernal reporter’s instincts for a while… OK, it’s a deal.

“And Charlie, thanks… No, nothing like that. Well, I’ll see you in about a half hour. Bye.”

As he ascended the stairs to her door, Charlie still didn’t know what kind of mood Marilyn would be in. That phone conversation did not tell him really what he would find. Only, he knew this was something very disconcerting, for she had never before called before eight.

Before he could ring the bell, Marilyn opened the door, and smiled cautiously as she let him in.

“Thanks for coming over, Charlie. Would you like a cup of coffee?”

Her hair was still damp from the shower, and hung about her face in casual disarray. She smelled faintly of wildflowers, and she was dressed in jeans and a floral top. All of this made Charlie vaguely uncomfortable in some way that he could not define.

“Thanks. Yeah, I’d like some.”

“Well, sit down here, and I’ll bring you a cup.”

Charlie sat down in the living room, as Marilyn went into the kitchen, and came back with two cups of coffee. She set his down next his chair, and then sat down herself on the living room floor, at his feet. Charlie’s sense of unease abruptly increased.

“Now, Charlie, we’ve got some talking to do, before we go over to Shepperton’s. I know that this is something powerful, as well as something significant that I’m stepping into, so bear with me.” She casually and intimately laid a hand on his leg, as he sat and sipped his coffee. Then she told him of Falma’s visit, her own reactions to what the old man had told her. Next she told him of the dreams, and of her daydream in the kitchen.

“Now, wait just a minute. Let me think this through. All this talk of dreams and meeting mysterious men in the woods takes me back a few years, as you may well imagine. Back to the time when our own earl was a patient in the ICU…”


“As well as the disappearance of your husband, and Judy Morrison. And also of our friend Carlo Vincente.” Charlie then stopped and thought for a moment. Then he said, “and it was Carlo who gave you that box with the drachma in it, which is now missing. And I suppose that this makes you all the more wary…”

“As it should. And it is also what has me convinced that something powerful is going to be happening. And that is why I need to speak with the earl – you did call him, right?”

“Yeah. And you know what’s weird? He wasn’t the least bit surprised by my call. It was as if he was expecting it.”

“Hmm, after these years, and all we’ve been through with him, there are still things about him which defy logic and certainly defy convention. Do you remember who it was, though, that talked you out of doing that TV piece you had your heart set on doing about him, as he was getting better, and going to leave the hospital?”

“Yes, I do – it was Carol.”

“And you know how that all went down? Well, let me tell you what really happened. This is the first I’ve told anyone about this.”

Charlie’s eyebrows arched, and involuntarily he found his old TV reporter’s instincts kicking in. He put down his cup of coffee, and gave Marilyn his full, undivided attention.

“Well, here is how the whole thing developed, and also, how it was that Carol and the earl got so close. Now, you know that I would go and sit with the earl, as he was gradually getting better, and eventually, moved out of ICU. And let me tell you that the staff of Memorial was extraordinarily helpful in keeping the media away. Anyway, at first it was mostly me explaining to the earl how it was in our century, how he was being cared for, and what the IV and antibiotics were for, and why it was necessary to do all those painful tests on him. At first, Carol was just there to fill in the gaps of my own knowledge. But it eventually got to be much more than that. As you know Carol and the earl were finding that their own relationship was becoming much more than that of patient and nurse.

“Eventually, the earl himself began talking to us about his own past circumstances. And he talked of Carlo Vincente, of Drachma, of Falma, but also of Bob and Judy Morrison. But when asked if he wanted this information made public, he was uncertain. He said that the fewer people knew of his circumstances, the better. And I could see his point. But it was really Carol who flat out told him that he should not agree to be “made a spectacle,” as she put it. And it was obvious to me why she wanted this, for in that brief time, she had fallen in love with the earl. And while it was you and me that arranged for him to have a place to be, and to live and to eat, it was really Carol who made his life complete.

“And just think about it. Who has been there each time you’ve been there to question him with your investigator’s hat on? It was Carol, and you know why? It’s because she really loves him, and she feels an obligation to protect him from even well-meaning reporters such as yourself.”

Charlie thought again for a moment, then responded. “And now, with this newest barrage of weird stuff from the fifteenth century, you want to seek his advice. And apparently you want me to go along…”

“Yeah, that’s right. I want you to go along. And I’ll tell you why. There was something that this Mr. Falma told me. He said, or at least he implied that I was putting myself in some kind of danger. And it’s you that I want to tell the story if this should be true. For I really don’t know what kind of danger, or if it means that this is permanent.”

“And what do you mean you’re putting yourself in danger? What sort of danger?”

Marilyn paused, and then continued. “You know I really have no idea, except that it involves Bob, in that time of his, and that I need to listen to Tom (whom I “met” in my dream), someone named Diego, and also some girl named Alex.”

“Now, do you mind if I write these names down?”

“No, go ahead, but it would seem to me that you probably don’t need to.”

“No…? Well, I’ll write them down anyway, just in case.” And he took out his small notebook from his pocket, and jotted down the names. “Now it would seem to me that Shepperton might be able to shed some light on who these people are.”

“Maybe, maybe not… In any event, I do believe that I’m ready now to discuss matters with the earl.”

Charlie then rose, and helped Marilyn up, with the words, “as you wish, m’lady.”

Marilyn smiled at him, and kissed his cheek. She took the coffee cups back into her kitchen. Next, she came over to Charlie, grasped his arm, and the two of them headed out the door, toward Charlie’s car. On the way out, Marilyn turned to Charlie and asked, “now would you also be so kind as to accompany me to the police station after we see the earl? It seems that detective Lewinsky may not be finished with me just yet.”

Charlie smiled as he said, “but of course.” But inside, his own investigative hairs were acting like little antennae.

Back now at Elliott Avenue, Charlie and Marilyn arrived at the ornate door of the earl of Shepperton’s home. It was Carol again who let them in. She hugged them both, and led them back into the earl’s study.

“Welcome, my friends!” said the earl, with all the warmth of a large bear hug. “And I take it, m’lady, that you have questions and concerns, which I may or may not be able to answer. Now, please take a seat, here…”

He guided Judy to one of the stuffed chairs. Charlie sat in one of the others, while Carol went to the kitchen to prepare some tea. The earl then sat back down, in his chair behind the great desk. Even though he was dressed in late twentieth century casual attire, his regal bearing was obvious. It was then that Marilyn noticed that the earl’s suit of clothes, with which he had come among them four years ago, hung on a set of hangers, behind him.

How odd, she thought, that he would still have his set of ancient clothes, apparently as a memento.

“Now, Earl,” said Marilyn, “if you don’t mind me asking… that set of your own clothing, from your time. Why…?”

“Ah, my good lady, will you not come this way, and I shall show you the reason that I do keep my old set of clothes in here, with me, as a reminder…”

Marilyn and Charlie both got up and walked over to where the earl’s clothes hung. 

“Now, notice, if you will, that my clothing has been rent, apparently after I arrived in your hospital.” He showed them the long split down the front, of both the shirt and the trousers. “Come, feel this cloth. It is nothing like I have upon me now. This is silk from the south of France, with which I was garbed. It is of some significance to me. For this material is exceedingly rare, and was only worn by those of royalty. Now, I shall not wear this again, here, in your time. But it is ever here to remind me of whence I came, for I had nothing else.”

Marilyn hesitantly felt the cloth, from so many centuries ago. She noticed the warp and woof of the cloth, and the deep purple color. She noticed that it had been sewn, very carefully around the sleeve, with black silk thread. And she noticed the garish cut made by the scissors in the ER. And as she was handling the cloth, she noticed the room around her began to fade, as she looked about her, noticing the stream, in the dense forest, and there he stood, by the edge of the stream, smiling at her…

She shook her head, and her vision faded.

“M’lady,” it was the earl, “you did see something, did you not?”

He helped her back into the chair. Carol then entered with her tray, and noticed Marilyn’s pallor.

“Here, have some tea. How do you take it?”

As Marilyn returned to the present, she thanked Carol, and took her cup of tea, with milk and a bit of sugar. Charlie was watching all this with a sense of déjà vu. It was all too familiar, this feeling, as well as Marilyn’s reaction. But he said nothing, and stoically took his cup of tea, just black, and continued his intense observation.

Then, as Marilyn seemed to regain her hold on reality, the earl said kindly, “now, my good lady, it is with much anticipation that I should ask you to expound on what is obviously a frightening experience for you. And be assured, good lady that all here hold you in highest esteem, and we do offer what we may of comfort.”

“Thanks, Earl. And, believe me, I do know that.” And so she began her narrative. First she told of her encounter with Falma in her own living room, and how she had agreed to help her husband, though she certainly did not know what she could do for him. And she told them of how Falma had been set up to be her guide, and would be seeing her again shortly. Then she went on and told of her dreams, and her intensely vivid daydream with someone named Tom.

“Did you say Tom, m’lady?”

“Oh, yes, but he said that his actual name was Drachma…”

“That is certainly interesting, Lady.” And the earl went on to explain how this same youth, named Tom, or Drachma, the younger, figured most heavily in the affairs in Shepperton. He also told of Tom’s past, and how he came to Craycroft, who through means only known to himself, had determined Tom’s true identity, as the heir to Drachma, and his true grandson. Further, he told them of Tom’s own mother, Maggie, who died in childbirth, but who, it now seems had become something of a celestial messenger. And so, with the blessing of his grandfather, Tom was now the adopted son of Craycroft, the healer, and the lord of Shepperton.

As he went on, Charlie recalled very vividly his own, brief and partial though it was, encounter with this girl.

“Let me ask you, if I may,” he interrupted, “but this girl, Maggie, could you describe her?”

The earl smiled, then answered, “I take it, then, that you may have come across this amazing young lass.”

“I think so, but could you tell us what she looked like?”

“Well, I shall, but then you and I must each tell of the occasion when we saw her. As to her physical attributes, I should say that she appears to be no more than ten years of age, but she does radiate beauty, which is unmistakable, clothed as she is in gray, but whose hair is red as the setting sun, and who does leave the unmistakable scent of newly turned earth. But what truly lingers, even after she has gone, is the deepest sense of longing. Now I see from your countenance that you have, indeed, seen her. And could you please tell us of the occasion, and then I shall speak of her myself.”

Charlie then told of his encounters with Carlo Vincente, and his very first seeing the earl, himself, in the ICU, in the middle of the night. And he was left at the earl’s side, as Carlo Vincente then strode out of the ICU, and out of their lives, but waiting for him was this young girl, dressed in grey, with hair that shone red. And as he was himself leaving the ICU, he could tell where she had been. There was the unmistakable scent of newly turned earth, and, yes, that powerful, irresistible sense of longing.

Marilyn sat, shivering slightly, but not from cold. There was a new sensation of impending reality that was closing in around her.

The earl next told them of his own encounter with this waif of a girl. “It was as I lay dying, in my own bed, in my own time. There she was, at the foot of my bed. She told me not to fear - I was but going on a journey where none had gone, but that she would stay with me until I was safely at my destination. And that same smell, and that incredible longing were part of that trip. And it was then all of you, which made it possible for me to be here.”

A tear escaped Carol’s eye as he recounted his story. Charlie had lapsed back into silence.

It was Marilyn who broke the silence. “I just want to say thank you, Earl, for sharing that piece of reality, which, it seems, binds us together in ways that I can’t even fathom yet. And you do give me some peace, as well. For I know that I’ll have your thoughts with me, whatever happens.”

“Oh, aye, m’lady. That you shall.”

“And let me ask you. Do the names Diego and Alex mean any thing to you? Are they ones in Shepperton whom you know?”

“Nay, m’lady. I know them not. And why do you ask?”

“It was Falma who told me that they would be persons that I would need to pay attention to.”

“Why, then, Lady, if that is what Falma said, then I would certainly do that.”

And from then it was just a warm gathering of friends, who were sitting and enjoying their tea, which had rapidly become the earl’s favorite drink. As he waxed eloquent on the virtues of Carol’s British Isles choice of comfort drink, Carol just beamed at her man.

As she saw them to the door later, Carol turned to Marilyn, and asked about Janie and Earl.

“You know, I haven’t heard from them in months. I think I’ll call them when I get back home. Not that I really have anything to tell them. But you’re right to ask. There’s something there, and I know Janie well enough to know that she’ll sense it too. But right now, I’ve got to see detective Lewinsky, and see what she has to tell me. Are you ready, Mr. Stephens?”

“Ready when you are, Madam.”

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