TUSCAN BYWAYS

 

(The direct sequel to Dark Jungle with Marshall and Terry and another side story to

 The Cavern of Deep Harmony)

 

By Jo

 

PART ONE:

 

 

It was 2 AM and Eden lay propped on her right elbow, watching her husband. Every night, sometimes two, three, or more times a night, he woke her, his head turning on his pillow. It began with a low moan deep in his throat, progressing to a series of desperate No...no...nooooo's as his hands fisted in the covers. Nothing he'd been through at the inn last fall had left him in such a state, but she knew this was different. Back in Campeche while he was still recovering in the hospital from his kidnapping ordeal, she'd had time to speak extensively with Terry Thorne, also in the hospital recovering from injuries he'd incurred during his rescue of Marshall deep

in the jungles of the Yucatan. Terry's friend Pablo in the police department had also arranged for her to speak by phone with Consuela, the teenager the kidnappers had forced into keeping Marshall chloroformed almost constantly for several days.

Consuela had been injured by Pedro, the leader of the kidnappers, and had been in a medical clinic with a concussion, a fractured collarbone, several broken ribs, and a dislocated knee.

She seemed very willing to speak with Eden, quite eager, in fact, almost as though it served her as some sort of confessional. Eden had been horrified by what the girl had told her, not only about how terribly Marshall had struggled when he'd been awake and then had to be resedated, but also in her stories about the man-eating jaguar trying to get inside the little shack where her husband had been held prisoner.

From Terry she learned about the mahogany tree and how thoroughly Marshall, unconscious, had been bound to it, how the cloth had been covered with tape atop his mouth to keep the vapors in his lungs longer. Marshall had no memory of that particular part of things, and for
that she was exceedingly glad. But after, he'd awakened in the pouring rain, finding Terry lying terribly injured beside him, and Pedro dead across Terry's legs. Though totally blind, he'd managed to tend to Terry's wounds, had even dug a bullet out of his left arm. The two men,
both in weakened states, had then stumbled their way hour upon hour through dense, trackless jungle in 112 degree heat, ending in a partially-collapsed Mayan ruin absolutely in the middle

of nowhere.

Terry's best friend and partner, Dino, had flown briefly up from Colombia to check on him in Campeche, but had had to return shortly to South America when what had looked like a done-deal on a difficult hostage negotiation had suddenly gone south. Marshall, extremely grateful

to Terry for all he'd done, all he'd risked on his account, had come to like the man as well, finally talking him into flying back to Pittsburgh with them to finish his recovery.

Eden's first cousin, Connie, had flown to Campeche to be with Eden while Marshall was missing, had shown up with her fiancÚ, Ryan Malone, son of the innkeepers in north central Pennsylvania where Marshall and Eden had met, fallen in love, and married on New Year's Eve. Ryan and a local buddy had flown down to Calakmul, managing to find Marshall and Terry, both in terrible shape by then. A rescue helicopter had flown them back to Campeche and Connie and Ryan had stayed on until the two men were ready to leave for the States.

For the first time Marshall availed himself of some of the vast funds he'd inherited and arranged for a private jet to fly the five of them up to Pittsburgh.  Terry took up residence in one of the guestrooms in the Sinclair's large stone house in Mount Lebanon, a suburb of Pittsburgh in its South Hills. Connie and Ryan, both travel agents who'd recently started their own agency, shared an apartment about twenty minutes away.

Twelve days had passed and Marshall and Terry gradually regained strength. Pittsburgh's medical community was world-famous and Marshall made sure Terry had the best care possible for his injuries, a long knife gash diagonally across his chest, and bullet wounds in his left
bicep and across the back of his left hand.  Four days ago Terry had begun to run again, not far at first, but still he went. Marshall suggested he take Wadsworth with him as the big German shepherd was so often kept in tighter parameters in his service as a Seeing-Eye dog. And so it was that Waddy and Terry began to develop a shared enjoyment of their early morning runs through the quiet, shaded neighborhoods of Mount Lebanon.

But it was Marshall who worried Eden. What he'd been through amounted to nothing less than torture and it had left a lasting imprint on him. Not that he seemed to be thinking about it during the day, but at night it rose to the surface over and over. She couldn't even begin to imagine what it had been like for him, not even with all the information about it she'd gathered. Yes, she'd seen the video the kidnappers had made, and that did serve somewhat in her understanding, but as an observer of it, not from inside it. Marshall was the only one who knew what that was like.

She looked at his fist in the covers, clenched so tightly the veins stood out. Despite the air conditioning, sweat beaded his face as the pleading words came out of his mouth. "Please...no... don't...please!"  Consuela had told her how it broke her heart to do what she must, but she was
afraid for her life and so always his pleas went unanswered. It was why she'd finally decided not to let him wake up again. It was simply too hard on the both of them when she had to pour the vile liquid on the cloth and clamp it on his face.

Reaching out, Eden lay the back of her hand along Marshall's left cheek. "Darling," she said softly, "wake up."  But he was lost in his nightmare of feeling, sound, scent and didn't respond, so she went to the bathroom, wet a cloth with cool water, and pressed it to the side of his face.
Instantly he shot up to a seated position, grabbing her arm, his unseeing eyes wide, desperate.

"Marshall!" she called more loudly and he blinked, shaking his head, realizing where he was.

He lay back with a low moan, folding his arms over his face. Gently, she pried them loose, kissing his lips softly and he pulled her to him, enfolding her.


"I'm sorry," he whispered.

"You have nothing to be sorry about, my darling. None of this was your fault."

He blinked rapidly, hoping to keep a sudden wetness contained in his eyes. "I'm trying," he

said, his voice barely audible.

"I know you are. It just is going to take a little time. But you'll be fine." She smiled fondly. "You're always fine."

"Not now," he sighed.

"You will be. I know you will."

In the morning he seemed to be sleeping soundly and Terry and Waddy had gone out for their run. Sitting at the kitchen counter, her chin resting on her hand, she called Connie. Ryan, ever an early riser, answered. "What's up?" he asked.

"It's Marshall, Ryan...again."

"Still having the nightmares?"

"Always. I don't know what to do to help him. He's here, back home in familiar surroundings, yet several times a night he's right there in the Yucatan. He's having such a hard time getting past it."

"Are you two writing?"

"Writing? No, we haven't touched our book for some while now."

"What's he do all day?"

"Not too much yet. He's been so weak, you know. We talk a lot, go out to eat with Terry, not anything much."

"How're you doing, you and baby Horatio?"

"Oh, we're doing fine these days. In fact, I feel really great right now. Seem to be past the early hard parts and sailing through the middle of the pregnancy."

"Good."

She could hear the smile in his voice. "What are you thinking, Ryan?"

"I'm thinkin' like a god-damned travel agent, Eden, that's what I'm thinkin'."

"Travel agent?"

"Yeah, you know...planning trips, that sorta sorta?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean you and Marsh have too much time on your hands to sit around and let the Yucatan settle into your bones. You need to get out, go someplace, find new, interesting...and safe...

places to visit."

"Oh, I don't know...."

"I do, Eden, and Uncle Ryan is always right. You know that."

She did know that if Ryan hadn't been right about the particular ruin he thought Marshall and Terry were in, then the two men would have died.


"Soooo....Uncle Ryan, what do you have in mind, then?"

"Ever been to Tuscany, kid?"

"Tuscany? No."

"Want to?"

"Now?"

"Yeah. Well, soon as I can make the arrangements, which, knowing me, will be extremely fast," he laughed.

She cleared her throat. "I don't know that I'm ready to go overseas, Ryan, just yet...just Marshall and me, I mean."

"All right, then. Connie and I will come, too."

"Really?"

"Hey, we own the business. We can do what we want when we want."

"What about Terry? I don't think he's quite up to shooting bad guys again yet."

"Terry, too. You may have to work on him a bit, but you can do it."

"Do you think he would...?"

"I think it would be great. I also think Marshall would like it. It's easy to see what good friends they're becoming."

"Marshall, Ryan. What if he doesn't want to go?"

"Be good medicine for him, but maybe don't go that route. Tell him you and Horry wanna go. He'll do anything to make you happy."

"Horry?"

"Yeah, the kidlet."

"Um, I'm not sure I really relate to that name, Ryan."

"Horatio's too long. You know that. No kid's gonna be called Horatio by his peers. Why, he's probably more likely to end up Hor."

"Oh...gads!" Eden chuckled. "I don't think I want to be the mother of a Hor."

"Then don't be."

"Well, I wasn't...not really. We've just gotten silly and been calling him that."

"What if it's Mabel Alicia Kathrynne Jane?"

"We'll cross that causeway when we come to it, thank you very much."

"You're far enough along for them to tell, you know."

"I know. But we've decided to make it like unwrapping a present, being surprised at the contents."

"Well, I'm off to make arrangements, kiddo. You work your wiles on your two men, ok? I'll

get back to you before lunch, so wile quickly."

She'd hung up and made herself a bowl of cold cereal, sitting there watching it sog when Marshall came into the kitchen. "Guess I went back to sleep," he said, running a hand through his hair.

"Good. You need all you can get."

"I had plenty," he said, an odd tone in his voice.

"Not that kind. Real sleep."

"I know," he sighed. 

He hadn't been fed the entire time and when he'd found some raw eggs and green bananas near the ruins and eaten them, the resulting digestive upset had nearly done him in, leaving him weaker than before he'd consumed anything. Now he felt hungry all the time and after pouring himself a cup of coffee, asked, "You 'spect we could do waffles this morning? Maybe some bacon, scrambled eggs?"

"Do you like Tuscan food?" she asked, seemingly out of the blue.

"Love it. Do you know how to make Tuscan waffles?"

"Are there such beasts?"

"I have no idea," he smiled.

"Wanna find out?"

"Find...? How? I don't think Olive Garden serves breakfast, my love."

"Do you know where the Olive Garden chefs train?"

"Tuscany?"

"Bingo."

"So, do they train them to make waffles there? I'm really hungry."

She got off her tall chair and pulled a large bowl out from a cabinet then handed him a spoon. "You stir, mister." As she gathered the ingredients and heated the round waffle iron, she continued, "I've always thought Tuscany was one of the most beautiful areas in the world."

"But you've never been there."

"True." She looked around the huge kitchen that Marshall's mother had lovingly decorated with items from her travels in Italy. "And I would like to add some more things to this room."

"You know I want you to make this house as much yours as possible, Eden."

"Then take me to Tuscany."

"Before breakfast?"

She laughed. "No, I'll let you eat your waffles first."

"You're serious? You'd really like to go?"

"I really would, yes. And I'd like to take Connie and Ryan with us. Terry, too, if he'll consent to go."

"Go where?" Terry and Wadsworth came in through the side door to the kitchen.

"Tuscany."

"Tuscany? You two are going to Italy?" 

"Umm hmm," Eden said, pushing the big ceramic bowl closer to Marshall so he could stir the batter. "But we're having waffles first." She stepped around the counter as Marshall stirred, gazing at Terry. "And it would mean a great deal...to both of us...," she looked meaningfully
back at Marshall, "if you would come with us...at our expense."

Terry's eyes flickered over to Marshall. Sometimes he got up in the night and padded downstairs, going to the kitchen for a glass of orange juice, a slice of whole wheat bread.

Several times he'd heard Marshall's nightmares, knew how haunted the man still was by his ordeal.

 

Eden smiled at him, a firm, closed-mouth smile, her eyes saying a multitude of unspoken things, gratitude, friendship, a genuine desire for his companionship, a hope that he might like the idea for his own purposes, a plea for Marshall's sake. "Connie and Ryan are coming, too."

Marshall grinned a little as he stirred. It was becoming obvious to him that Eden had already put a lot of thought into this.

"Two couples?" Terry said, his voice now full of hesitation. "Wouldn't that make me rather much of a fifth wheel?"

Just then Wadsworth pressed against his leg and he laughed. "Well, maybe not, eh?"

"Please. Will you think about it?" she asked.

"Let me take a quick shower before the waffles are ready, all right? I'll be thinking about it then."

He went off to an upstairs bathroom and Marshall stopped stirring. "Have you already spoken with Connie?"

"No, Ryan. He's checking into it this morning." She came around behind him, sliding her arms about his middle, resting her cheek high on his back. "I really like the idea of the five of us going."

"Six," Marshall corrected.

"Yes, six," she smiled, looking affectionately at Wadsworth.

"Six and a half," Marshall corrected yet again. "Horatio's coming."

"About that name...."

 

 

 

ON TO PART 2

 

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