Wil A. Emerson WHo, Where, How, When

Wil A. Emerson: Who, Where, How, When

Excerpt from
Diminishing Returns

Coming soon from Wil A. Emerson


Eiffel Tower, Paris, France (Photo: Laurie Firth)       A vacation in Paris ends unexpectedly when two friends are abducted and held for ransom. On return to the U.S., Leslie shakes off the harrowing ordeal and returns to a routine life with her family. Carolyn, however, is being treated for PSTD and struggles with recovery in a Michigan mental facility. Before Carolyn trusts again, she must reconcile who’s to blame for the brutal abuse rendered by the captors.

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“In my Dark Corner”

       On a starry Thursday evening, September 15, 2013, my best friend and I enjoyed a pleasant dinner in the heart of Paris. The outdoor eating area of the small restaurant overlooked the Seine River and the window view provided a magnificent reflection of the Eiffel Tower. The famed icon, not more than a block away, was ablaze with thousands of white lights. Sightseers by the hundreds stood with their heads turned upward, gazing at the towering structure. Why wouldn’t we, too, be enamored by the City of Light?

       Le Clos des Gourmets, an expensive restaurant by American standards, had been recommended by our concierge. With a sweep of his arm, charm and wit for enticement, he guaranteed we would feel the heartbeat of Paris as we dined amongst area residents. Trust not being an issue, we accepted his offer to make the reservation and soon discovered the fine dining establishment was crowded and too loud. The entrées were less than perfect but, the blend of international wide-eyed tourists and expressive, cheerful servers made the experience worth all the grandiose build up.

       “Leslie, there they are.”

       “And here we are, Carolyn Hayes. The two of us. They are tourists just like us.” She grinned and cast a glance at the two men we’d also encountered on the train ride from Frankfurt.

       “Coincidence? I don’t like the way they pretend they’re not spying on us. Makes me nervous to say the least.”

       “You’ve been sheltered too long. Set those detective skills aside and enjoy the subtle compliments. Let’s toast to our success. Past and future.” She raised her stemmed glass that reflected in the table lamp as if filled with multi-faceted rubies.

       I raised mine and tipped it her way. “Best friends forever, Leslie Duncan.” As I did so I couldn’t help but feel queasy. The two strangers had taken another glance and then nodded to a lone man, muscular and sinister in my imagination who leaned against the bar nearest the entrance way.

       As the dinner progressed, we were stimulated by more than just the ambience. Our spirits were heightened because we had achieved our goal. Two empty-nester girlfriends together in the most enchanting city in Europe.

       Leslie Duncan, friend for more than fifteen years, looked more beautiful than ever. My glow, I humbly admitted, would have netted me a close second. We were happy then as we sipped a glass of expensive Bordeaux and talked about this selfish adventure and how much we’d gain by exploring France without our husbands. No compromise over which museum to skip, no groans or deaf ears when we discussed the art. Delicious red wine—freedom, selfish indulgence. Possibilities held more promise than ever imagined.

       On the return home, our husbands would welcome us with wide arms and delight vicariously in this whimsical venture.

       However, spirits collided with reality and all too soon Leslie and I clung to each other by a thin thread of hope. Events led to altered dreams. Souls shattered, but yet not broken. Death imminent.

       I, alone, slipped into utter darkness, an abyss so profoundly unreal the struggle to maintain sanity lingers seven years later. I shudder frequently. Laughter often rings false and tears fall unexpectedly.

       Leslie’s unwarranted scars rest beneath sinew, but not far from her heart. Her dignity is intact. She has become my idol, the image of strength, even though we are more distant than ever. The terrible event that kept us captive to the whims of violent men fractured our friendship in a manner that inhibits general conversation. This was no laughing matter. Not one we could chat about over Sunday brunch.

       We do, however, continue to work together. To diligently derail, if not forget, the long period of seclusion that defied all sense of humanity. This work effort comes with a need to avoid extreme emotions that ride sidesaddle with memories of a dire time when we were lost to the world.

       Images have faded but jagged lines and shadows linger long after chalk has been dusted off a blackboard.


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Author photo courtesy of the Pioneer Group .
Excerpts © Copyright 2018, Wil A. Emerson. All Rights Reserved.
"Eiffel Tower" photo © Copyright 2015, Laurie Firth. All Rights Reserved; used by permission

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