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Book 3

Thursday, May 11th

“I’m an emotional recluse,” Julian Dupart remembered telling Ian Chase. His heart had

remained in the stunning ivory casket.

Resurrection vines crawled along the sprawling oak branches, forming a canopy above the Passebon family crypt. Julian approached, each step feeling heavier than the last. Carrying a large bouquet of white magnolias, he made his way to a stone bench.

“Bonjour, Chérie. Happy Birthday. I brought your favorites.” The fragrant flowers rested beneath the name Delphine Passebon Dupart. Julian's hand moved in the sign of the cross, and he bowed his head in prayer. Inhaling, he said, “I have a new duty station. Ian is sending me to San Diego.”

A memory of a conversation from 1994 floated in on the Louisiana mist.

“Chérie, we’re going to San Diego.” He picked Delphine up and swung her around.

“I’m so proud of you, Julian. A SEAL.” Delphine

peppered his face with kisses. “Just know, I’m going to exter‐ minate those toad women.” She brandished her protective claws in reference to the women who chased Navy SEALs.

“Toad women? Chérie, they’re frog hogs. And you, Mrs. Dupart, will be my only one.” Giggles fell from her lips as he tossed her over his shoulder and headed toward their bedroom.

At the gravesite, the humid Louisiana air weighed him down. “Chérie, this is a big move. I’ll be the second-in- command of the entire San Diego branch. Del, I don’t know if I can do this without you,” his Cajun-accented voice cracked.

“Jul-i-an?” a familiar voice called his name. A man and woman Julian had avoided for the last five years joined him. “Mère Genevieve and Père Marcel, bonjour,” Julian said, his body stiff as his in-laws enveloped him in a hug.

Genevieve Passebon stepped back and took Julian’s face between her hands. “We’ve missed you. You look well.”

“Genevieve, let him be. Julian, we brought a picnic; eat with us.” Marcel pointed to the bench Julian vacated. “It’s good to see you.”

He nodded and sat. Julian stammered, “I’m sorry, I…” “There is nothing to apologize for. You are a very good man who loved our daughter in health and sickness. You never left her side. Pain runs through the heart like no other sense, but, Julian, the heart is one of our body’s miracles that can grow fresh circulation.” Doctor Marcel Passebon rubbed his own chest.

“Delphine, shake some life back into this man.” Genevieve knelt before her daughter’s grave. “Now we eat.” Julian chuckled at his mother-in-law’s familiar refrain. She said it to him every time he returned home from a deployment. Control over his strained emotions was fraying. “There are three sandwiches inside the picnic basket. Were you expecting someone else?”

“No, we knew you would be here. You have not missed a birthday. We watched and let you be.” Genevieve’s lips turned up. “Delphine wants you to know it is time.” Genevieve Passebon was a medical doctor, but she grew up in the deep backwaters of Louisiana, where she was raised as a faith healer or traiteuse. Delphine had also embraced those beliefs.

The heaviness that had rested for five years beneath his breastbone lightened a bit. “My mom keeps me updated on everyone. Are you two going to slow down?” Julian sipped from a bottle of water.

“Marcel retired from the hospital, and now he works with me at the community wellness center too.”

Julian’s father-in-law’s hair had whitened, and there were dark circles beneath his eyes. “What is new in your life?”

The afternoon went fast. Delphine’s parents and he included Delphine in their conversation as if she were present, and as the sun began to set, they packed up their picnic. Julian was the last to walk away from the grave. “Je t’aime, ma Chérie.”

As they reached the parking lot, Genevieve turned and placed her weathered hands over Julian’s heart. “Jul-i-an, open your heart. There is room to love again.”

Julian hugged his in-laws and promised to stay in touch.

Maybe he would succeed this time.

Thursday, May 25th - Washington DC

Julian’s doorbell rang. “Come in.” He zipped his suitcase closed.

“You do realize I could be a mass murderer?” Martin “Farmer” Bailey teased his friend.

“And you would be dead.” A MK-25 rested in his hand. “I thought I’d be getting a driver.”

“What do I look like?” Martin dangled keys in his hand. “It’s not usual for the CEO of a company to drive a subordinate,” Julian joked as he dragged his bag off the table. “You take this one, and I’ll grab the other two.”

As he locked the door, a memory of a different knock on the door crossed his mind. From the first time they met at a FOB in Iraq, Martin Bailey became a trusted friend. Under a billion-dollar restructure of the Chase Group, Chase Security would now be its own company, branded under the name Chase Security International, with Martin named as the new CEO and Julian promoted to the Deputy Executive Director of CSI-San Diego.

Copyright © R.L. Dunn

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