“You were there on duty,” Mariette interrupts with a snarl. “And that’s good enough for me. Now she gets migraines. Nightmares…”
Irène moves closer, step by step, to risk giving the other woman the hug she so clearly needs. To see Enzo one last time and hand over his finished dinosaur now a dead weight in her hands. She notices how the adjoining garage whose door lies open, is dark and empty where his father’s truck had once stood. Gone for scrap soon after he died, she’d heard.
“Tell her, Maman!” Enzo yells from the car. “Please. Because you won’t tell Doctor Varaigne!”
In that moment, Irène manages to reach his passenger side door and pass him the shoe box. She can smell the hatchback’s new leather. Her message on top of the box reads,
Bonne chance, Enzo. Garde-toi bien. Irène.
At this, the boy wipes a small, none-too clean hand across his moist, brown eyes. “Go on, Maman. It might help us all.” His tone then changes. “If you don’t, then I will.”
His mother turns away and slinks indoors; her long, greasy hair moulded it seems, to her skinny shoulders. Within seconds, she emerges with her daughter, frail as a fairy. Her lighter brown eyes huge. Wary. Tousled curls crudely cut, pinned back behind her ears.
“It’s Papa,” admits Enzo. “We all hear him, but especially, Lise.”
“What do you mean? He speaks to her?”
“I wish,” sighs Mariette, relenting; positioning the girl in the front passenger seat and strapping her in. Her tone no longer confrontational. “This is far worse. If you must know, it’s Hell.”
She slams the Peugeot’s door shut, ignoring the neighbours’ curious stares from further up the street as she describes the nightly, thundering din of wheels and the clattering of iron on iron drawing nearer then receding. Only to start up again…
Mariette faces Irène. Real suffering in those weary eyes. “No-one else seems to have heard it, and I’m frightened of us being labelled ‘weird’ or on drugs or worse.”
“So you recognise this noise?”
“Of course. It’s his old truck. And,” she adds, having taken a breath, “there’s also the strong smell of blood…”
With trembling fingers Mariette checks her shoulder bag and locks both the front door and that of the garage. Pockets the keys as if she’ll soon be handing them over.
“Stinking, it is not human, either. I can tell. I trained as a nurse.”
Irène passes her a small card she’s had specially made for her new homeopathy business which she hopes might one day might lead to her giving up teaching. Around its border are cheerful images of health-giving plants and herbs.
“If ever you need to talk some more, just get in touch,” she says, and aware of Enzo staring up at her, is rewarded by the briefest glimmer of a smile.
“Thank you. I will.”
Filled with a growing unease, Irène returns home to her small apartment in the Impasse
Jean Moulin, but instead of focusing on marking the usual pile of tests that typify the end of each term or sorting out those few orders she’s been sent for anti-depression caplets, she turns on the TV to watch the re-run of a Wallender episode.
However, its bleak, snowy scenes, never mind the troubled, grizzled cop himself, only adds to her sombre mood. Nor is she hungry. Not with worrying how Mariette and her little family are getting on, wherever they’re going.
So, at eight o’clock she decides on an early night. Tomorrow will be hectic enough, what with an electrician coming in the morning to fix her bedroom lights. Also, her newly-single mother threatening to invade for lunch and to regale her with lurid details of her latest boyfriend.
Since a child, Irène has herself experienced powerful dreams that seem to last until morning, but this one is even more so. In it, she sees Enzo as clear as day, dressed in Les Bleus’ football strip. His heroes…
It’s summer, with the sun high in a perfect sky, and he’s standing in the middle of the Mas Roland’s full, green vineyards, furiously beckoning her as if he’s found something important. She’d once discovered a thin, nearly black Napoleonic coin; a crumpled love letter; a torn page from a book of Baudelaire’s poems, but this seems altogether different.
She’s forgotten to dress, and once outside amongst the vivid foliage, senses the bliss of a deep, golden warmth against her nakedness. The gentle brush of vine leaves and their bulbous grapes against her legs, her thighs, her sex, as she progresses as if magnetized, towards the boy and his eager smile…
“Irène?” he calls out, even more keenly. Not in the least embarrassed. “Hurry!”
“Faster, Irène! Irène… Irène… ”
And she tries, but not for long, because suddenly, everything has changed. That dream vanished, and that sunshine become a cold darkness. Instead of being in the blissful vineyards, she’s standing shivering in front of her apartment block, in its bleak, unlit street with the church bells striking midnight. A full moon lurks overhead, while a vicious, northerly wind lashes her bare body from head to toe. But before she can turn away to protect her modesty and locate the building’s main door, there comes a growling noise drawing closer and closer from behind her.
This is no dream…
She shuts her eyes against those blinding headlights and when she opens them, glimpses the same aggressive radiator and bull bar on that patched-up green truck she’s seen so many times before, accompanied by the vicious clanking and rattling of loose parts as it hurtles towards her. Too late she realises this apparently driverless monster isn’t out of control. She’s the target and it’s seeking her out…
‘You should be proud of your father… He tried his best to save the vines for everyone’s benefit.’
She’d said the wrong thing…
“Help! Help!” she screams as a colossal weight smashes her bones, her everything, then violently skews sideways with a loud screech before disappearing up the street..
Stench and delirium had shrouded those last terrible things she’d seen. The driver’s black, grinning snout. His two sharp horns. The cargo of pitiless, blank eyes on hers, pointed teeth glinting in the moonlight, while from somewhere close by, had come the distinct sound of a young boy’s victorious laughter.
Thursday March 29th 2018.
- CHAMAS FAMILY TRAGEDY.
Just two days after the unexplained and violent death of 28 year-old Irène Lougon – a well-respected local primary school teacher outside her apartment in St.Chamas – the bodies of widow Mariette Sanchez, 33, and her daughter Lise, 9, have been recovered from their car in the Canal du Midi near the Port Lauragais Service Station, south of Toulouse. So far, there’s been no sighting of 8 year-old Enzo Sanchez, her brother, although a broken plasticine model of a dinosaur was found yesterday in a wood near Bram. Its discovery remains a mystery. Both children were pupils of Mlle. Lougon.
Chief forensic pathologist Dr. Olivier Bernard states that the new silver Peugeot 208 hatchback’s distinctive tyre tracks leading from the nearby road and over the bank directly next to the canal, prove the recently bereaved mother had deliberately driven into it. Also, both the deceased, still wearing seat belts and locked inside, had made no attempt to free themselves and would have perished soon after submersion. Inevitably, too, according to Dr. Bernard, the overloaded roof rack had caused the vehicle to immediately sink upon entry. Dr. Charles Varaigne, the family’s doctor, has so far declined to comment.
Police meanwhile, are urgently appealing for any witnesses. Also for news of 65 year-old Giraud Roland, long-time owner of the Mas Roland vineyard, who failed to return home on Sunday evening.