Calliope Njo: I’m a Believer

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I’m a Believer

 Calliope Njo

Baxter wanted to meet in Paris Beaubourg. The food was not great, but it wasn’t bad either. I’d give it a three out of five stars if anybody asked.

I got here at ten. It turned eleven and yet no Baxter. I paid the bill and left the cafe to get to the airport.

Once there, I got the first available flight back home. I got on board and went to the premium economy class. The middle seat was not available, so it was an aisle seat all the way. It didn’t matter so much, because then nobody could nap on me.

The food wasn’t awful, and after that, a satisfying nap was what I needed. I woke to an announcement that we would be landing soon. After the necessities were taken care of, I got back to my seat and buckled in.

After baggage claim, I found my car. I was never so happy to see it again because it meant home. That also meant finding out what the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks happened.

That was the longest twenty-minute drive I ever had. I opened the front door, glad to be back, and I gasped. “What?”

“It’s about time you got back.” Baxter stood from the EZ-chair. “Ready to go to the cafe? Or did you indulge in the Parisian patisserie too much? Hmm? By the way, your mail is on the dining table. Bills.”

I dropped my bags. “Do you realize where I came from? Do you realize how much of an inconvenience to even go there and not have you show up?”

“Oh Zoey, darling. You didn’t get my message? I said the Paris hotel and casino. We can enjoy something there. When I found out you made an extra trip, I arranged for services to get you back. Now, we have some work to do.”

I oughta—I raised my fist. “There was no extra service to get me back. I did what everybody else did.”

He patted my fist. “Oh my. Certainly not lady like. We have some treasure hunting to do. I will return here at eight in the morning on the clock. All right?” He turned around and opened the door. “Toodle-loo.” He left.

Toodle-loo. Toodle—I screamed and kicked my bag all the way to the room. He didn’t even explain or offer an apology. I hoped he got run over by something.

My foot throbbed, and it kept me up all night.

I limped my way through the morning and then my doorbell rang. Baxter had my key so it wouldn’t be him. I looked through the window and my eyes opened wide.

I opened the door. “What are you doing here?”

She smiled. “Well. Nice to see you too. Long time no see.”

I slammed the door on her. “No matter the relationship, you must always show yourself as the best that you can.” I lost count of how many times I heard that from Baxter.

I opened the door again. “Yvonne De Santiago. Prime member of the community. She could do no wrong. The one who had a very large, shall we say, following. Yale, Harvard, and even Cambridge. Any of the prestigious Ivy League colleges vied for her attendance.”

She smiled. “Something I said?”

“Get on with it.” I realized how hard it was to talk through gritted teeth.

“Baxter MacAlister told me to team up with you to get the book written by Aphrodite. It happened to be one of the missing texts from the Archival Library.”

“Sure it is.”

“Why would I lie?”

“I don’t need to answer that.”

“I don’t even know why you’re mad at me. Nobody else slams the door in my face.”

I swallowed hard. “After the stunt you pulled in high school, I don’t need to answer that, Miss Thing.” I snapped my fingers.

She shrugged.

I squeezed my fist. “You know, somebody told me once, that if the only answer a person can give you is an uncertain answer, maybe they’re not worth talking to.”

“Things were different back then. Times moved on. Who cares what happened?”

I laughed. “I don’t even know why I’m wasting my time. The only reason you’re still standing is because Baxter was supposed to have sent you.”

“I have responsibilities you know.” She smiled. “As for hurting me, my lawyers could take you for everything you have. Of course, you don’t have the backing that I do.”

It was scream or laugh. Instead, I slammed the door on her again. My feet wouldn’t move. I closed my eyes and tried to think of a spot I could take myself to. Failing that, I called Baxter.

“Yes. MacAlister.”

“Baxter, I’m furious with you right now. Why in the hell would you send her to my door?” My jaw tensed.

“Easy now. Calm yourself. Don’t give her the satisfaction of knowing she hurt you. Let her believe you moved on. Besides that, she is the only one with the connections you need to retrieve that book. The love and romance section over here has a hole and that book will fill it. First, you must retrieve it. She has the necessary paperwork to get the book. What happens after that, is up to the both of you. Agreed?”

“Baxter…” I let out a long deep breath. “All right. I’ll go. You’re lucky I’m not doing anything since this thing with the pandemic started. Email me a copy of what you sent her so I can take a look before we get there.”

“Sugar Plum…”

“Sug—You’re up to something. Come on. You know how to use a computer.”

“Yes. I do. Very well. Maybe if both of you have the same information, the end result may come about that much quicker. It will take a bit. Toodle-loo.”

He hung up. While I waited for that email, I packed a few things to get me through. He was right as usual.

The laundry wasn’t even done yet. Good thing I had a lot of clothes.

When I finished packing, I checked my email. Sure enough, Baxter sent the information to me. Something about that book didn’t seem right. It didn’t seem right that they had books centuries ago. Even one that Aphrodite wrote. According to the note though, she did, and we had to find it.

I groaned because he contacted her again. I could go out and get the damned book if that’s what he wanted. The place was not hard to get to and getting it wouldn’t be a big deal. I wouldn’t even think about bringing her along. What would she be good for? Picking out the proper nail file?

Before those thoughts got any further maybe a blog entry would help. I wrote about my time in Paris and the places I visited. I included some pictures too. As soon as I turned off the computer, my doorbell rang. Here we go.

I opened the door. “Seems as though we’re supposed to work together. Any idea why?” I sure don’t.

“To be honest, I would rather be in Switzerland than be here chasing down a book that might not even exist.”

Pity, assault and battery were chargeable offenses. “So why are you even here?”

“None of your business.”

So predictable. “Uh huh. Translation. I’m only here to keep my parents happy. Baxter happens to be an old family friend, and if I don’t do what he says, I’m out of the family and all of that delicious precious money.”

She raised an eyebrow and smirked.

“Yeah. Let’s get a move on.” Stupid is as stupid does after all. “Let me get my things and I’ll be right outside.” I left her there and closed the door behind me. Bag and backpack in hand, I met her outside.

She got into her Jaguar and I got into my Toyota. The clouds got dark but no rain came. That was a bummer. We could use it to disintegrate the proud and the mighty De Santiago.

The map led to an area in South Africa. The only way to get there was by plane. About the time I thought about looking behind me to see if she was there, a blue Jaguar sped up and cut in front of me. It didn’t take much for me to figure out who it was.

She wants to play. Fine. They were doing road work up ahead, which meant that area would be rerouted. I laughed as I got into the left turning lane and made a U-turn.

I pulled into Chick-Fil-A on the corner to grab some food. I forgot to eat something before leaving. I sat and studied the map. That was about the time I realized Baxter never did show up. I started to wonder what this game was all about.

Baxter thought that the book was bought by a collector in the local area. That made things easy. He couldn’t verify it but it was the best lead he had. However, the lead in South Africa was the best bet. That’s why Yvonne was necessary.

I fluttered my lips, said a few choice words, and started up my car again. I called the local number and a man answered.

“Yes? Caruther’s Books.”

“Hi. My name is Zoey. You were supposed to have a book written by Aphrodite. Do you have it?”

“Aphrodite. Aphrodite. One moment.”

One thing about telephones, was the wide variety of hold music. This one was Mozart. Lucky for me, Baxter taught me the classics.

“Yes. I have it. You will need to bring some sort of proof with you so I can be sure I’m not being taken.”

Huh? I looked through the papers, and sure enough, a letter with a note on top saying to give it to the holder of the book.

“Will a letter from Baxter MacAlister do?” It was all I had.

“If you know Baxter, then you could answer this question. What is his favorite coffee?”

It had to be a test. That would be the only explanation for it. “He hates coffee. He hates water just as much. That’s why he drinks tea every chance he gets. Sometimes lemonade but that’s on rare occasions.”

“I look forward to seeing you. Bye.”

He hung up. I hung up too and kept looking at my phone, half expecting Baxter to call me to tell me it was a huge joke on his part.

Since that didn’t happen, it was a trip to that bookstore. It turned out to be a little shop downtown next to a car-repair garage. It took five trips up and down the same street to find it. A quick look of the parking lot, and no Yvonne.

I grabbed the note and left my car. I locked it of course. This area was known for car thefts.

I gave the letter to the man at the counter, he nodded and left, but he came back a few minutes later with the book. He nodded and opened the door.

Strange how all of that worked out without saying a thing. Made me wonder if he had psychic powers or something. Still no Yvonne. I hoped she got lost.

Happy to see my car was still there, I got in and left. I needed to get that book back to Baxter. Since I had the car, it would be easy to drop it off. However, he never stayed in one place for very long so it was always easier to call him.

I got back home, with that precious book in hand, and I should’ve known. “Baxter, you know, why do you even bother? I mean, here you are, in my house to do what exactly?”

He took off that hat, the one with the round top. He told me once what that type of hat was called but I forgot. Anyway, he turned towards me. “The purpose of the book was to put the both of you together. To work side-by-side. Instead, I get a screaming woman on my telephone because you were being unreasonable.”

Unreasonable? “Look, Baxter, I was not being unreasonable. Being unreasonable would mean her mouth being wired shut.” While spreading rumors that she caught on to a new diet. The wired-mouth diet.

“I put the both of you together for a reason, my little Sugar Plum Fairy. Huh?” He stood from the chair. “I had hoped that you would learn forgiveness.”

“Is that what this stuff is all about? I have nothing to be sorry, you—”

“Yes. Yes. Vile creature. How can you love without first learning how to forgive? Everybody deserves love, my dear. That was the point of all of this.”

“You want me to forgive her? I could never. Not in a million years.” My body got very warm at that point. I turned around and went into the kitchen to grab a beer. I opened the fridge and discovered it was empty. I slammed it shut.

He put his hands on my shoulders and turned me around. “You have to start somewhere. The starting point for you would be to learn to put the past behind you. From there, learn how to open your heart again.”

Dammit. I hated tears. “What does that have to do with anything?”

“Did you read the book?”

“No.” You wanted me to read a book?

“I had hoped you would. So you can learn something. She may be the most disgusting bitch and getting the nerve to actually say I forgive you is the furthest thing on your mind. If you can work past that feeling, then you can learn to find love. Make this old crotchety man happy and find someone to hold forever.” He put his hand over his heart. “Where it counts.” He lowered his hand.

I looked up at him. “So all of this was for nothing?”

“No. It was in the hopes to teach you to find peace. Find forgiveness. Find love.”

I shook my head. None of this made sense. “You’re not going to die right now are you?”

“Someday. Right now, this old man is hungry. What do you say we get something to eat. Something not in the fast food category.”

“All right.” I nodded and reached for the book. “This is the book you were looking for.”

“Splendid. While we’re eating, I’ll tell the history of this book.” He smiled. “After that, you can help me re-sort the books.”

I looked up at him. “Re-sort. Every. Damn. Little. Book. I ain’t doin’ it. I don’t care if it’s burning down.”

“Oh, come now. It won’t be that bad. Besides, they love you.”

“Yeah. Uh huh.” Sure they do. Little dolls come alive at night too.

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