My previous postis a collaborative story that members of my morning writing class wrote for Written Across the Genres. Dock Story One is complete now so I’m posting my afternoon class’s story that begins with the same first paragraph but goes on a different adventure. Neither class knew what the other class wrote until the book was sent to press. We thought the contrasting story plots were interesting.
Dock Story Two
by Multiple Contributors
Out of breath from racing to catch the last boat of the night and then missing it, Marian slumped on the stairs below the Pont-Neuf Bridge. She had sacrificed dinner with her traveling companions at the La Rose de France to be on this Seine River tour. Taking a cab to the Eiffel Tower light show wouldn’t be the same.
She thought everyone had left the dock, but a slim, middle-aged man in a black topcoat and a hat waited for a boat, on the wrong side of the pier. In his right hand, he gripped a small satchel that had a rip on one side. How long had he been standing there?
“Sir, something is falling out of your case.”
He didn’t move, but a wave of his fatigue and sadness smothered her. Marian struggled to leave. She wondered if she could make it to the street level.
She forced herself to pick up the small object that had fallen. When she straightened, he was gone, nowhere to be seen. For an instant, she looked at the small red pouch and stuck it in the pocket of her London Fog. There might be an address inside.
Along Rue Dauphine, she hurried to meet her friends at the restaurant, but they weren’t there. Disappointed, she walked back to her hotel room, hung her coat, and emptied the pockets. She held the red velveteen bag, thinking that maybe she should take it to a nearby police station tomorrow. A glance at the alarm clock told her it was almost midnight.
Marian turned the pouch in her hands, trying to feel the contents. Curiosity won over conscience. Her fingers untied the tiny blue ribbon wound around it. She withdrew a locket and clicked it open. The picture inside was of a girl about eight years old with golden shoulder-length hair. She dropped the locket and sank on the sofa, tears streamed down her cheeks. As her sobs subsided, she clutched the gold locket to her heart.
Who was that man in the black coat? Why would he have her daughter’s picture? Adriana had been kidnapped ten years ago. The police never discovered any evidence or a suspect. Did the kidnapper take her daughter to France and raise her here? Marian made up her mind. She had to find the man in the black coat.
She splashed her swollen eyes with cold water as she tried to guess which direction the man would have gone. Adrenaline took over. “I must find him.” Stuffing the locket into her coat pocket, she rushed to the elevator and made her way to the street.
Oh, dear God. Could it be true? Have I come to France to find my Adriana?
People moved aside to make room for Marian who flew across the bridge. With a heart ready to explode, she spotted the man she had seen on the dock. He sat at an outdoor table in a crowded bistro. There was an empty chair across from him.
Marian realized this was the moment she’d waited for these ten years. The answer drew close. Composing her panic, she walked towards him. Concealed in the shadow, he gestured to the empty chair with a nod, but didn’t look at her. She sat down, put the locket on the table, but didn’t move her hand away.
Marian felt the world was empty while she waited for a death sentence. The man pushed a picture in front of her; a toddler Marian thought was Adriana.
“Jewel, my little girl.” In a coarse voice, the man talked for the first time. “Disappeared.” He paused. “I found her years later in San Francisco.”
With clenched fists, Marian struggled to control her inflating fury.
“She’s sick, needs kidney transplant.” Another long pause. “We’re not a match.”
He leaned over and with gnarled fingers, tapped the table next to the locket, “Open it.” His coal-black eyes peered into Marian as if he saw through her core.
Startled, Marian gasped, inhaling the swirling stale cigarette smoke and vehicle exhaust. She pressed back in her chair reclaiming her personal space. Her hands shook as she picked up the locket and popped the latch. Is this picture not Adriana, was I mistaken? She blinked to clear her vision and compared the two photos.
The girls had the same hair color, same button nose, similar smiles—but not the same. The scar, in the locket picture, barely visible, this had to be her daughter. Marian remembered the day Adriana fell from the play structure, the bloody white tooth that pierced through her lip.
“Why did you have this locket?” Marian said, as she matched the man’s assault. “Where is my daughter?”
“I am Philippe Martin Cesar,” he said. “We were young. Jewel was all we had. My wife’s anguish overwhelmed her. I searched the world. San Francisco gave our daughter back. I brought her home. But all I found was my wife’s suicide note.”
“Where is my daughter?”
“Believe me she had the best care, the best boarding schools. Summers we traveled.” Phillipe gazed into the darkness. “But she was ever more distant. Not my little Jewel.”
“You’re telling me you kept her here knowing she belonged to me? You bastard. You set this up didn’t you? You knew exactly what you were doing out on the dock.” Marian felt the locket like a crushed heart in her hand. “Where is she?”
“Please, we are not alone in this. Our daughter needs help.”
“Our daughter? She’s not your daughter.”
A waiter set a glass of white wine before her. Did she order this? She took a sip realizing that she would need to cooperate with the kidnapper if she were to have Adriana back. Her eyes scanned the avenue. There was not a gendarme in sight.
Oh, he’s smooth, Marian thought. He held all the cards. She pounded the table. “Take me to her now.”
“Bon Choix.” Philippe lead her to the station de taxi. Marian wondered if she and her kidney would survive this trip.
The taxi driver plunged them into the Pont de L’Alma tunnel. Marian remembered Princess Diana’s car crashed here. Her heart jumped. She guessed that the next stop would be Petié Salpêtrière Hospital where the beautiful Diana died. She vowed that Adriana would live.
“Adriana and Jewel looked identical. I made a mistake.” Philippe’s voice sounded deep with regret. “She became ill. I had to find you.”
Marian tightened her fingers. “How could you do that to me when you knew what it was like to lose a child?” She shook her head then gazed out the window.
The taxi had stopped before a large metal gate. Marian knew it wasn’t the hospital entrance. She saw a mansion loom ahead.
“Where are you taking me?” She reached for the door handle.
Philippe grabbed her hand. She waved her arms at him but he restrained her. A strong smelling substance entered her nose. Before she lost consciousness, she remembered that ether smelled a little like acetone.
A sharp pain jolted Marion awake. “Where am I?” Her hand fluttered above the bandages on her left side. Phillipe’s face came into view. “Adriana, how is she?”
“Fine. You were a perfect match.” His face softened. “Take her home.”
Movement drew her attention to the bed beside her. A set of familiar smiling eyes greeted hers. A mother’s knowing. She found her Adriana.
Story contributors in the order of participation: Julaina Kleist-Corwin, Beth Aaland, Jan Davies, Linda Todd, Art Tenbrink, Marilyn Slade, Reme Pick, Blanche Wacquier, Sharon Lee, Haihong Liao
This post completes Dock Story 2. To read Dock Story 1 click below.
The characters and plots for these 2 stories are very different. What preferences do you have in either one?
Julaina Kleist-Corwin, Editor of Written Across the Genres