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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Café Chocolaté: Chapter XXXIV

Chapter XXXIV – Timothy Teller

Chaos erupted in the form of Mary Dill’s panic. Instinct kicked in much faster than it had the last time and Timothy bolted from Eddie to Fabian, where Adrian already began turning the man over.

Fabian showed no sign of consciousness. Blood trickled from where his nose had roughly been introduced to the floor. Timothy reached to find a pulse.

Adrian watched him anxiously and Timothy only nodded once he felt the steady thrum of a heartbeat. He started undoing Fabian’s tie and collar. He tried to speak, but his voice got buried in Mary’s noise.

Adrian leapt to his feet, but Xavier beat him to speaking.

“Miss Dill. I need you to control yourself. It may be difficult to help the man if we cannot not hear each other to communicate!”

Mary dropped her voice to a whimper. Timothy could not see her face to know the rest of her reaction, as he looked Fabian over for injury and made sure the man could breath.

“There’s no sign of harm on him.” Timothy glanced up as Adrian bent down again. “I don’t think anyone stabbed or attacked him.”

“He seemed fine one moment, then he just keeled over the next.” Kimberly shook her head. “No one touched him. We would have seen it.”

“I think…” Anna paused when everyone turned toward her. “I think that I overheard him mention to someone about problems with his blood sugar once.”

Timothy barely saw Ginger nod, before he began searching Fabian’s pockets. The man did not wear a medical bracelet.

“He did mention that once.” Ginger’s voice sounded oddly quiet for her. “As a joke.”

One side of Fabian’s coat had a sheaf of papers. Timothy only glanced at enough to realize it certainly had nothing to do with a medical condition. He pushed them back, checking the other pocket. Pulling out a narrow red box, he grimaced. Glucagon.

“What is that for?” Kimberly probably asked the question for several of them.

“We need to use it to give him an injection just as quickly as we can.” Xavier reached over Adrian’s shoulder for the box. Timothy relinquished it and Adrian stood out of his cousin’s way.

“Do you know how?”

Xavier already had the box open. “Yes.” He nodded toward Fabian. “Get his coat off and his sleeve rolled all the way up. Or cut if off if you have to.”

Timothy and Adrian worked together with some assistance from Kimberly to do as he said. Fabian’s dead weight made it difficult, but not impossible. By the time they had his sleeve rolled all the way up, Xavier had finished preparing.

Timothy watched the injection being administered, then helped Xavier roll Fabian onto his side. Xavier checked his watch and the room collectively held their breath. Timothy watched for a sign of returning consciousness in Fabian’s face, but could see none.

Lord, please let the injection work. Don’t let there be another one gone. He pushed away the mental picture of failing, once again, to save a life. Please, Lord.

Hours seemed to tick by, but it could really have been a very few minutes. At last, with a choke and coughing sound, Fabian spluttered to life, and Timothy sagged in relief with the rest of the room.

When he seemed able, Xavier and Timothy helped him to a sitting position, leaning against one of the tables. The man looked pale and didn’t try to speak, but he seemed coherent.

“His blood sugar could drop again and fast.” Xavier glanced toward the café counter. “As soon as he thinks he can swallow it, he needs food.”

Timothy nodded, while Kimberly and Anna both went for the counter. Xavier gave them an idea of what to get the man to eat, then looked back at Timothy with a sigh.

“How did you know what to do with the injection? You didn’t even read the directions.”

Xavier sighed again with a shake of his head. “My wife’s youngest sister has diabetes. She wanted all of us to know how to administer it, if needed.” He glanced toward Fabian. “And I’ve done it before.”

Anna brought the food over and Fabian attempted to eat. Slow at first, he began to regain color and movement. He did look worn out, however, and Timothy planned to keep an eye on him.

“You need to keep a better watch on your blood sugar while we’re in here. We can’t get you outside help if it happens again, you know.”

Fabian nodded, leaning his head back against the table. “It shouldn’t have dropped so fast. I keep the Glucagon for emergencies, but there shouldn’t have been an emergency. My dietary changes have been working.”

Timothy shook his head as he stood up. “These things don’t go as we expect sometimes.”

Fabian didn’t argue, but took another bite of his food instead.

Timothy moved back toward Eddie, feeling very tired and very imprisoned. Ginger looked up at him, her eyes wide with concern.

“Should he have such a high fever?”

Timothy reached to gauge Eddie’s temperature without speaking. He bit back a sigh. He is getting hot. He switched to checking the man’s pulse.

Ginger didn’t ask again, but watched his face as if she could read it like a book.

Creepy thought, if she could.

Eddie didn’t open his eyes or move. Timothy couldn’t imagine how the poor man would survive without proper treatment and he shuddered at the thought of the alternative.

I can’t stitch him up or give him more blood, if he needs it. I can barely tell how far his injury goes.

The silence in the room had grown tense. It made Timothy feel almost claustrophobic. It seemed everyone could feel it.

Renee laughed nervously, possibly trying to break the tension. “Who could have expected that low blood sugar would be such a relief? I was afraid he’d been targeted by the killer!”

“Who says that he wasn’t?” Kimberly handed Fabian a glass of water, as he grimaced at his food. She returned to her chair.

“You don’t force a man to have low blood sugar, Kimberly.” Anna frowned deeply from where she stood near Renee.

“My brother used to, when he wanted to get out of trouble.” Kimberly crossed her arms with a shrug. “He’d give himself enough insulin to drop his blood sugar to where he’d get sick, so people would get so busy taking care of him that they’d forget what he did to get into trouble.”

“That’s dangerous.” Timothy could only imagine the long-term ramifications of such stupidity.

Kimberly looked at him. “It killed him. My point is though, it can be done.”

“That doesn’t mean that it was done.” Anna put force into her words.

Kimberly shrugged, dropping her hands to her lap. “Someone has been using a syringe.”

Timothy wished he could read guilt or lack thereof in the exchanged looks of everyone in the room.

“What makes you think that someone has been using a syringe?” Xavier stood near the booth where the little girl and his cousin sat.

“Because it’s on the floor a few feet behind Timothy like someone threw it there.”

All eyes turned in that direction as if on cue. Timothy saw nothing at first, but after several seconds, he noticed the syringe lying in the shadow of the dark counter. Xavier crossed to retrieve it, picking up the syringe with a paper napkin. He held it up to the gray light of the window with an unreadable expression.

“Fabian would have noticed a needle stuck into his arm.”

“Not necessarily.” Fabian’s voice sounded stronger than before. “I rarely feel a needle. I never have.”

Xavier only looked at him.

The tension of before only seemed to deepen.

“Surely you’d feel something or notice someone that close to you.” Anna’s voice faltered, despite her emphasis.

“I’ve stood beside just about everyone in this room several times today. I wasn’t expecting a needle in my arm. As to feeling something…” He nodded barely. “Sure. An itch similar to a mosquito bite about ten minutes later.”

The unasked question flitted through the room.

Fabian fumbled with his other sleeve to show a red mark on his arm. “Which I did have.”

No one spoke or even seemed to breath for a full minute. Then, Timothy jumped violently as Mary’s scream rent the air. Kimberly vaulted from her chair and slapped the woman across the face.

Stunned, Mary stumbled backward toward the counter, eyes wide and mouth open. Kimberly would have none of it.

“Close your mouth and be quiet, woman! We’ve had enough of your noise and don’t care one iota about your histrionics!”

Anna had stepped forward and Xavier pulled Kimberly back. No one else moved.

Even from his vantage point, Timothy could see Mary’s chin quiver. “Someone tried to kill him! It could be any of you!” Kimberly made as if to go at her again, but Mary flinched. “Don’t touch me!” Her words ended in a wail.

“Do you have diabetes?” Kimberly rolled her eyes at Mary’s head shake. “Then you have nothing to worry about!”

“That’s not how that works…” Timothy regretted the words as soon as he spoke them.

Mary’s wild eyes turned toward him. “What do you mean?”

“He means that insulin will drop your blood sugar, whether you’re a diabetic or not.” Xavier’s face still could not be read.

“But someone without diabetes isn’t likely to be carrying around the magic injection to fix it.” Kimberly shrugged. “Could be a problem.”

“You mean that someone tried to kill him – and might succeed next time?” Mary’s shriek should have shattered the windows. Unfortunately, it didn’t even crack them.

“He could have done it to himself.” Anna narrowed her eyes in Fabian’s direction. “Knowing we could save him.”

“He could hardly bank on us knowing what to do!” Ginger turned from Eddie for a moment. “Don’t be silly. None of us know him well enough and what would be the point?”

“To divert suspicion!” Mary shrieked the last word again. If Xavier hadn’t remained nearby, Kimberly might have slapped her again. Or throttled her.

“He didn’t have insulin on him.” Adrian raised his voice above the growing noise.

“He might have taken it from anyone who did. Or brought along a single dose for this very purpose.”

Timothy didn’t know which woman made the suggestion, but her voice shook. He’d looked down at Eddie again, who lay still with his eyes closed, though Timothy noted a fleeting expression that seemed to suggest he heard everything that went on around him.

“Does anyone have insulin with them for any reason?” Xavier still stood near Mary and Kimberly.

Timothy looked up in time to see Renee shudder. “I have insulin in my purse. The doctor prescribed it for my gestational diabetes.”

“Where is your purse, Mrs. Allen?” Xavier preempted Mary’s obvious question.

She nodded toward the floor. “It’s under the table.”

Xavier retrieved the purse, before turning back toward Renee. “May I?”

She nodded.

Timothy watched the search of the purse, Xavier’s brow furrowing ever deeper. At last, he shook his head, raising his eyes toward Renee again. He watched her in silence for a moment and the woman shifted in her seat. No one else spoke.

“Mrs. Allen, there is no insulin or syringes in your purse.”

Her eyebrows shot up, but he clearly hadn’t finished. He held up a piece of paper. “I have to ask you, however… Why do you have a photograph of Gary Bradshaw in your purse?”

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I Won’t, Didn’t, Haven’t Spilled…

The beans, that is. After all, I was too distracted to even respond properly to my interrogator, much less say something I wasn’t supposed to. The first sentence I even understood him to say, just made me blink!

“Did you hear me, darlin’?”

The elderly gentleman who frequents one of my favorite coffee shops and has “Veteran” stamped all over him, smiled after his question. I just caught the smile when I looked up at him from the map I had been studying.

“I… I don’t think so, sir.”

With another grin, he took the seat opposite me. “I saw your Lost Dutchman’s Secret mystery is coming out soon.”

I nodded. “Yes, sir. In November, LORD willing.”

“I mean, I don’t read a lot of fiction, but my wife read the first one in the series – something by a Havig? Last month.”

Chautona Havig.” I said it softly, but his hearing is still keen. I caught sight of a woman reading a book across the room. I could just see the gold letters emblazoning Sarah Sundin as the author. I pulled my thoughts back to the conversation in front of me.

“Right! And my wife, she wants the next one in the series by Marji Laine. The one coming out this week – what’s it called?”

A Giant Murder.

“Right! The Jack and the Beanstalk mystery. My wife is so excited about this series.” He leaned forward against the table. “I hear tell a rumor though, that your publisher has something else going on behind the scenes?”

I blinked again, trying not to think of Agatha Christie or even Perry Mason. I didn’t want to accidentally voice what I was thinking – he might think it had something to do with the rumor he wanted confirmed.

“My wife wanted me to ask you about what they have going on.”

“I’m afraid I don’t have anything to tell you.” This time, I started thinking of the time Mr. Holmes solved the case of the red-headed league. I banished the thought.

“Come on, darlin…” He calls everyone darlin’. “Just something for my wife?”

“I’m sorry.” I pushed my copy of Lord Peter Whimsey’s first mystery back into my bag, beside Alice in Wonderland and my vintage copy of Pinocchio. I looked back at him and smiled. “I don’t have anything.”

He shook his head with another grin. “Well, I can say I tried. I told her you’d keep it to yourself though. You have fun with that new story you’re plannin’ out, darlin.”

I blinked once again. “I didn’t say I was planning a new story.”

The man laughed this time, nodding at my map as he stood. “You didn’t have to. Enjoy your day.” With a tip of his hat, he walked off.

And as you can see, I won’t, didn’t, and certainly haven’t spilled the beans. You can go see if Sandy did, if you like. I promise I have done no such thing. (And while you’re at it, sign up for the GIVEAWAY, since Marji’s book really IS live this week, and we like to celebrate by giving things away!)