Café Chocolaté: Chapter XXXVI

Chapter XXXVI – Ginger Thomas

Ginger jumped as Mary hit the ground and Timothy bolted across the room. Eddie tugged on her arm.

“What happened?”

Ginger shook her head. “I don’t know.”

Timothy bent over the woman, looking for something. Probably the reason she collapsed. His frown deepened.

“I don’t see anything wrong with her, though her heart rate is elevated.” He looked up at Xavier. “If she’s been given insulin, she doesn’t have the same symptoms as Fabian and we have no way to reverse it, if that’s the case.”

Ginger swallowed so hard it hurt her. We might have less noise if she stays like that for awhile. I don’t think I’m quite cruel enough to hope that she will though.

With the sound of a shriek that could only have come from Mary Dill’s vocal chords, Ginger let any such thoughts die a swift death. She saw Fabian sag back against the table leg, while Anna closed her eyes in relief.

Mary sat up against Timothy’s protest, holding her head in her hand. He tried to speak to her, but Mary pointed a shaking finger in Renee’s direction.

“What… What did you do to me?”

Renee blinked in apparent shock or confusion.

“I couldn’t breathe.” Mary spoke with a shaking voice and held a hand to her throat. Her wide eyes locked onto Timothy. “My throat closed, I couldn’t breathe, and everything went black!” She dropped the hand from her head, grabbing onto Timothy’s shirt, prompting him to pull back. She didn’t release him. “What did she do to me?”

“We don’t know that she did anything to you.” Timothy looked vastly uncomfortable. “Even if someone did something to you, we don’t know that someone was Renee.”

“She admitted to having insulin with her! She knew I was onto her!”

Ginger saw Timothy openly roll his eyes and she almost laughed.

“Mary. Can you breathe now? With ease?”

She stared at him as if he had lost his mind. “What?” One hand still clung to her throat, the other held onto his shirt for dear life.

“Are you having any trouble breathing now?” He enunciated his words as if she might be hard of hearing.

“Wh-yes. Yes, my throat opened and I can breathe now. I’d be dead if it hadn’t!”

Ginger rolled her eyes this time.

Timothy pried the woman’s fingers from his shirt. “If you’ll excuse me then…”

Where are you going? She just tried to kill me!”

“And, if that’s true, she didn’t nearly succeed.” Timothy stood. “You, on the other hand, came much closer when you attempted to kill Eddie, so I’ll be returning to him, in case he needs me.”

He didn’t let her say whether she minded or not. He left her, staring after him in consternation. He sat next to Eddie again with a sigh.

“What do you think happened to her?” Ginger intentionally pulled her attention away from the now babbling woman.

Timothy shook his head, already frowning in Eddie’s direction. “I don’t know. I’m not an actual doctor. And she barely knows what happened apparently, much less how Renee could have caused it.”

“Renee hasn’t moved from her chair in a long time.” Ginger started to say more, but Timothy’s deepening frown distracted her. “What’s wrong.”

He didn’t answer. He barely even gave her a glance of acknowledgement.

Eddie lay with his eyes closed again. Perspiration stood out on his face, a face so devoid of color that he hardly could have looked whiter. Ginger’s heart pounded harder.

“You found the dead man’s picture in her purse! What more could you need?” Mary seemed to have recovered quite well in a short space of time.

Ginger looked up and Xavier visibly sighed.

“We don’t even know why she had the photograph.” Anna sounded more annoyed than she had yet. “She hasn’t even had a chance to explain. You just grab onto whatever circumstantial evidence occurs to you and run with it!”

Mary stared at her.

Seems to be the woman’s second most defining trait. Her first is screaming.

Xavier shook his head, picking up the photograph again from a table. “I would appreciate an explanation for this, Mrs. Allen. If you would be willing.”

Renee had said nothing since she gave permission for her purse to be searched. She seemed incapable of speech as she looked from one person to the other, but swallowing visibly, she finally shook her head.

“I can’t say. That is – I don’t know! I didn’t put it there.”

“Because that’s believable.” Mary answered first.

“Unless whoever took her insulin, put the picture in the purse at the same time.” Kimberly quirked an eyebrow.

“Would make sense, I suppose.” Anna nodded. “If the killer wanted to implicate Renee, it would be a good way to throw suspicion on her.”

“Or she could be lying.” Mary pulled herself to a standing position with difficulty, refusing Xavier’s offered help. “She could have used the insulin to try to kill Fabian and myself, then forgotten she had the picture in her purse.”

“No one gave you insulin, Miss Dill.” Xavier watched her. Even Ginger could see the slight amusement around his eyes.

“How do you know?” The woman planted both hands on her hips. “That’s what happened to Fabian!”

“We don’t know that either. It’s still conjecture at this point.” Xavier sighed again. “It’s a conjecture that seems to fit the facts, but we don’t know. You, on the other hand, show no signs of life-threatening low blood sugar. And you woke up on your own; we did nothing. As you know, Fabian wasn’t so easy.”

Mary didn’t look convinced.

“I have never seen that picture before in my life.” Renee bit her lip, then shook her head. She rubbed her rounded stomach. “I don’t even have a printer.”

“Libraries do.” Kimberly raised both eyebrows at the looks sent her way. “I didn’t say that she did print it. But you really don’t have to own a printer.”

“I didn’t print it at a library either. I’ve never seen it before!”

Ginger looked at Timothy again. The man seemed to care little about what transpired in the café, focusing entirely on Eddie. The look on his face switched Ginger’s attention fully. As he pulled back the bloody bandage from her brother’s side, Ginger winced.

“What are you doing?”

He only spared her a half a second glance. “The wound started bleeding again at some point. I don’t know when; he must have moved more than I thought.”

Ginger felt her heart drop. “You can stop it again, right?”

“I’ll try.” He shook his head. “I need more towels. These are covered.”

Ginger looked at her brother’s drawn face again, squeezed his hand, then hurried on a search for towels. They didn’t keep that many around the café; paper towels generally seemed better. Paper towels did a lousy job at drying dishes though.

When she brought what she could find to Timothy, Ginger caught her breath at the sight of the wound in Eddie’s side. Without realizing it, she sank onto her knees. Timothy turned in alarm.

“Are you all right?”

She nodded, but couldn’t speak or move. She kept staring at what she could still see of the wound.

How can he survive that? I’m going to lose him altogether.

“Are you sure?” She barely registered Timothy’s question. “Ginger, look at me.”

She made herself obey, blinking to bring her eyesight into focus.

“Are you all right? Actually, all right?”

It took her several seconds and a deep breath to answer. “Yes. Of course, I’m fine. Yes.”

He watched her for another second, but had to turn back to Eddie. “Let’s hope you are.”

She caught the unspoken implication. He didn’t believe she would tell him even if she wasn’t all right.

Which might be true. I don’t need pity.

Eddie groaned, prompting Ginger to return to her former place beside him. Either her imagination caused her to see things or he’d gone even paler than before. She took his hand, but he didn’t respond in any way. The lump that she had banished from her throat earlier, came back now.

Timothy bandaged him up as well as he could, the frown still on his face. Ginger could read nothing though in his face, beyond his concern.

Eddie’s eyes finally opened, and Ginger struggled to appear unworried. His eyes, bright with fever and clouded by pain, startled her. They showed an agony that she hadn’t been prepared to face.

He didn’t try to say anything; he seemed to be in too much pain. He tried to breathe deeply, but Ginger could see that it hurt him.

“We have to get him out of here.” She didn’t recognize her own voice when she spoke to Timothy. He didn’t respond.

She hadn’t been paying attention to the conversation in the rest of the café until Mary insisted on drawing attention again. Ginger would have glared at the mere sound of her voice, if she had the energy to spare.

“If Gary Bradshaw isn’t your husband, Renee, then who is?”  

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I Do Not Understand

The loss, the tears, the grief,

The pain that seems to grow.

The broken, bleeding hearts

That splintered by this blow.

They say You’re on the throne,

That all is in Your Hand.

Yet, God, I look around

And I don’t understand.


While sobbing fills my ears,

She trembles in my arms.

I have no words to say,

There are no cheering charms.

They say You’re still in charge,

That all is in Your Hand.

Yet, God, I look around

And I don’t understand.


I dearly want to help,

I watch him struggling.

But I can only stand

And pray You’ll comfort bring.

Oh, God, You’re on the throne,

And all is in Your Hand,

But when I look around,

I do not understand!


Prayers that seem unanswered,

The cries that seem ignored,

The pleas that fell to grief,

Is Your ear deaf, oh LORD?

If You’re still on the throne,

And all is in Your Hand,

Why, when I look around,

Do I not understand?


My own grief comes in waves,

Though stifle it, I might.

The weight I feel, the guilt,

The tears, I often fight.

I know You’re on the throne,

And all is in Your Hand,

But still I look around,

And I don’t understand.


I look into Your Word,

It clearly says You hear.

Yet, promise, it does not,

The answer will be clear.

Nor that while on Your throne,

With all things in Your Hand,

That when I look around,

I’ll ably understand.


Oh, God, increase my trust;

My faith that’s trembling now.

Please comfort those I love,

And bring us peace somehow.

I know You’re on You’re throne,

With all things in Your Hand,

And when I look around,

I will not understand.


You have not lost Your love,

E’re faithful You’ll remain.

I can not see Your plan,

The glory You will gain.

I know You’re on Your throne

With all things in Your Hand,

And one day You’ll allow,

That I will understand.


Until that day, oh LORD,

I give this grief to You.

I give You those I love,

And trust Your Word is true.

You’re always on Your throne

With all things in Your Hand

And when You look around,

You fully understand.

On Grief…

Grief. I’m not sure it’s something that any of us know how to process. Not really. Even when it’s expected, it tends to manage to feel unexpected.

Somehow, grief is often entwined with the traumatic. It causes us distress emotionally, psychologically, sometimes physically. Sometimes the grief reminds us of previous traumatic events and other times, the cause of the grief is traumatic in itself.

I’ve been thinking about grief a lot of late. Have you ever thought about the grief of the disciples after the crucifixion? Christ’s death could easily be considered a traumatic source of grief for them. The disciples mourned over Christ’s death. At least, they certainly seemed to. Tonight, as I sit with the grief of losing a friend, remembering the grief of other friends, with the grief of things that have happened recently in my life and those of others close to me, I think of the disciples. I think of them holed up behind tightly closed doors, in fear of the Jews, grieving over the death of their Messiah – and what did Jesus do? He showed Himself.

Mary in the garden weeping… He showed her Himself. The two on the road to Emmaus… He showed them Himself. The disciples, huddled behind closed doors… He showed them Himself.

He didn’t scold or criticize, He redirected their gaze in different ways, according to His plan. What I need is my gaze redirected to my LORD. He can and will do so for me – and I can ask Him to do so.

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven…”

There is a time for tears. Ecclesiastes 3 makes that clear, when it says there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.” Just because our gaze is redirected to Christ, does not mean that sadness and tears will disappear. Jesus Himself cried at Lazarus’ death. But then, what did He do? He showed everyone there the power of God. He showed Himself; God in the flesh. He brought attention to the Father.

It’s true that Jesus rose from the dead. Lazarus walked out of the tomb. Yet, I don’t think that takes away from the overall picture. The picture of our gaze being redirected to Christ. The answer to our grief isn’t always the eradication of the reason behind our tears. Sometimes, the LORD grants healing, restoration, or transformation as His means of redirecting our gaze to Him. Sometimes, that is not in His plan or His will. Sometimes, the fire stays hot, our hearts continue to break, and it seems the tears will never stop – and that is what He will use to show us Himself. Because, even in mourning, we grieve not as those who have no hope. We have hope – we have Christ – and I pray that He shows us Himself, even in grief and mourning. Even through sorrow and tears. Perhaps more so then, than at any other time.

I trust that He can and will complete the work He has begun in His children, whether it would be through healing and transformation or through fire and tears; I pray and trust that He will show us Himself and use all for His glory.

To the KING be all the glory!

Where… Wait, did I just see Hugh?

I’d heard that April Hayman had been looking for her hero, Hugh; that somehow or other, he had disappeared from the pages of her book, The Pilot Falls, and that she couldn’t find him. Of course, I’d heard that, but I never expected to do more than hear about it.

It’s been a really wet summer. I know that I live in the desert and that most people don’t associate desert and wet, but it really has been! As in there are days that the roads are flooded, the ditches and retention areas are lakes, and goodness, there is more green around here than usual. Last year, for instance, the sun had scorched about everything in sight by the end of June, I think. Anything the sun left, wilted from lack of rain. Not this year, though.

I don’t tend to carry umbrellas, for the mere fact that there is no where convenient to put a wet umbrella when you go indoors to shop and people don’t always want a dripping mess in their entry way. Also, my umbrella does not have a hooked handle – if I had a classic umbrella with a hooked handle, things might be different. As it is, instead of an umbrella, I tend to make a dash from car to door, and hope for the best. (Usually using myself to shield any books I may have in my grasp.)  

On this particular wet day, while driving in my car, I had to stop partway to my destination, because I was sure I had a flat. Avoiding the puddle of water that nearly resembled a ditch, I parked just ahead on the side of the road to do some investigation, but due to the downpour, I rather ran to the passenger side of the car in a rush.

No flat, but I bent down, hoping I wouldn’t get too wet, to double check what looked like a screw in one of the tires. As I stood, I nearly jumped out of my skin. Standing in that puddle that I’d avoided, where literally no one had been a moment before, (not that I saw – but I was running) stood a man. A tall man.

Actually, I think tall may be an understatement, but perhaps I was just that startled. He immediately reminded me of Goliath of Gath, his light hair plastered against his forehead with the rain. He watched me, looking rather confused or surprised – I certainly couldn’t tell which one.

The rain started to drench my hat, and I glanced toward the driver side of my car.

“Where are you from?”

I jumped. His voice certainly matched giant stature. “I’m sorry?”

He shook his head, gesturing toward me. Or, more specifically, my dress. “What time are you from?”

“Time?” I know I stared. It may be rude to stare at a stranger, but I couldn’t help it. “I’m sorry. I have no idea what you’re talking about.” I took a step back toward my car, starting to shiver.

“It doesn’t matter.”

A crash of thunder made me jump and look up. When I looked back toward my confusing giant, he’d disappeared. Where he went is beyond me.

The rain started down faster with another crash of thunder, and I took the opportunity to bolt for my car. As I started to fasten my seatbelt, I looked down at my dress again, now mostly drenched by the rain. It’s my 1920’s dress. April’s missing Hugh is from… the 1920’s. And he… Did I really just talk to the man and utterly not realize it until it’s too late? I grabbed my phone. I better message April and let her know.

I haven’t seen him since, but maybe someone else has. Denise, perhaps? You could go check with her.

Café Chocolaté: Chapter XXXV

Chapter XXXV – Monique Rodriguez

When Mr. Xavier left her to help the man Monique didn’t like, what little sense of security she had gained, vanished. She clung to Mr. Pickles, curled up on the edge of the booth, quite forgotten it seemed by the adults in the room.

After Mr. Xavier put the needle into the man’s arm, his cousin sat across from her in the booth again. It took what she thought was a minute before he noticed her. When he did, he tried to smile in her direction, but he didn’t really succeed. He mouthed the words, “It will be all right,” but Monique just held her bunny closer.

I don’t remember his name, Mr. Pickles. I lost it somehow. It’s Mr. Xavier’s cousin. Mr. Xavier said he trusted him though.

The child watched everyone in the room as if her life depended on it. She knew where everyone stood, sat, or lay in relation to herself, and wished that Mr. Xavier would come back. When he did eventually stand beside her again, she didn’t relax. She couldn’t explain what was wrong, but she knew that something in the room had switched the wrong direction.

She didn’t understand talk of syringes, insulin, or blood sugar, but she understood the mood and tension in the room. And it scared her.

Stay brave, Mr. Pickles. We must stay brave, whatever happens.

When Mary Dill started yelling and Miss Kimberly leapt to stop her, Monique started shaking. Mr. Xavier had already left her again, and not much scared the girl as much as Mary’s screams. She bit her lip, trying to keep herself good and brave. Mary Dill shrieked yet again.

Dropping from her side of the booth, Monique bolted to the other, jumping into the lap of Mr. Xavier’s cousin. She started to slip, but he caught her, and wrapping one arm around his neck, she buried her face into his shoulder.

Mr. Xavier said he trusted his cousin, so I’ll trust him, Mr. Pickles. I don’t want to be alone.

She couldn’t stop shaking, despite feeling safer, and listening to the others in the café made it worse.

We have to be brave, Mr. Pickles, but I’m scared.

She started when the man holding her made a suggestion, his voice loud to match everyone else. He didn’t sound angry though. Some of them did sound angry. He noticed her jump and made her sit back to look at him.

“Are you scared?” He spoke in a gentle, quiet voice, pushing back a strand of hair from her eyes.

She nodded, feeling her chin quiver.

I have to be brave. I already cried before.

The man glanced toward the others when Miss Renee said something about insulin in her purse. Monique shuddered again.

Insulin must be a bad thing, Mr. Pickles.

She watched the face of the man in front of her. He looked very tired, but still didn’t look angry, as he watched the people across the room.

“What do you do when you’re scared?”

He started at her question, looking back down at her. “What was that?”

“What do you do when you get scared?” She held tighter to her bunny as her voice dropped. “Or don’t you get scared?”

He blinked at her. “I pray. I ask the Lord to help me to trust Him.”

She pulled on Mr. Pickles ear. “Does it work?”

“Yes.”

Her voice dropped even lower. “Always?”

“Every time.” He moved the hair out of her yes again. “Though sometimes, it might take awhile.”

The café grew quiet and Monique twisted her head to find out why. After a moment, Mr. Xavier looked up from the purse he had been searching and Monique frowned at the expression on his face.

“Mrs. Allen, there is no insulin or syringes in your purse. I have to ask you, however… Why do you have a photograph of Gary Bradshaw in your purse?”

The silence that followed hurt Monique’s ears. Miss Renee stared at Mr. Xavier and the photograph wordlessly with the rest.

“Mrs. Allen?”

“She did it…” Mary Dill didn’t shriek, but her voice still managed to be jarring. She actually began rather quiet, but her tone rose like a cascade. “I can see it in her face… Guilt poured all over her expression. She killed him!”

“Oh, for goodness sake. You probably killed him yourself!” Miss Kimberly did not give Miss Renee a chance to speak. “Maybe we should check your precious face for clues!”

“I-I only stabbed Eddie!”

“And an awful lot of good you did there.” Anna shook her head. “We have an injured man on our hands and no way to help him. If he dies, it’s your fault.”

“If everyone would attempt to remain calm…” Mr. Xavier didn’t get far.

“Maybe Renee paid Eddie to kill Gary Bradshaw for her. Maybe she’s really his wife and Eddie’s her henchman!”

“Of all the ridiculous, absurd ideas, Mary Dill, that one has to be near the top!” Miss Ginger glared from her place on the ground. “Still, I shouldn’t expect much better from a woman who thought it was a good idea to stab someone she foolishly suspected of murder.”

“I was-”

“We know. ‘Protecting us.’ Worst protection ever!”

Monique looked back up into Mr. Adrian’s face.

I remembered his name, Mr. Pickles. I remembered his name.

He looked tired. So tired.

“Aren’t you going to stop them?”

He looked down at her again. “They don’t listen to me, Monique. Not really.”

“They do for a little while.”

Mary Dill had begun to raise her voice, and Monique turned toward her again. “Someone in here is a killer! I don’t want to be the next target!”

“You should be the next target, so we can all have some peace!” Miss Ginger had risen on her knees. “I don’t trust Fabian Smith, but there’s no reason to kill him. You, on the other hand…”

“For all we know, Fabian did it to himself to avert suspicion.” Miss Anna gestured with her arm, but winced before pulling it back. “That would mean that no one actually tried to kill a second time!”

“What about Eddie?” Mr. Fabian laughed hoarsely from his seat on the floor. “Do you think I hired dear Miss Dill or am I exonerated from that crime?”

“I’m not saying you are guilty…”

“I’m just your top suspect.”

“Or maybe Eddie is guilty.” Miss Kimberly’s cold tones cut in again. “If he’s the killer, maybe Fabian’s an idiot, who is just afraid of being blamed!”

“With Renee’s insulin?” Miss Ginger raised an eyebrow.

Monique turned back to Mr. Adrian again. “I wish that I could go somewhere else.”

“I know.” He made another attempt at a smile. “God willing, we’ll get out of here before long and we can get you home.”

“If we could just calm down-” Mr. Xavier raised his voice to be heard.

Mary Dill cut him off. “You keep hushing people, but it’s getting us nowhere!”

Monique shuddered. “Do you and Mr. Xavier have a home?”

The man seemed surprised by the question. “Yes. Why?”

Monique stared at him for a long moment. She wasn’t sure she should talk or not, but she hadn’t been told not to.

They never said don’t talk, Mr. Pickles. Just… to be good.

She shrugged. “We don’t have a home anymore. Me and Aaron. Not a real home.”

Mr. Adrian stared at her. She thought he meant to ask her something else, but Mary Dill’s voice arrested his attention again.

“We need to get out of here! I need to get out of here!” She heaved heavy breaths, her face beginning to change shades. “I need… I can’t…”

Monique’s eyes widened as the woman clawed at her throat. Miss Anna took a step forward and Mr. Timothy half stood up, as if unsure whether he needed to do anything. Mary Dill looked at Miss Renee with a horrified expression.

“What… What did you do to me?”

Miss Renee only stared in shock.

“I can’t…” Mary clawed at her throat. “Breathe…”

If she had more she tried to say, it dissolved into a squeak as she collapsed to the ground.

With a sob, Monique buried her face into Mr. Adrian’s shoulder again.

Mr. Pickles… Mr. Pickles, I’m so scared… Who’s going to fall down next?

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