Publish Novella 28 November 2021
EPISODE 2 – DEJA VU
The puzzled fitness trainer resumes a familiar training session with an unfamiliar client.
Jackie is already in the pool when Michael returns.
“It’s not nice to make a lady start without you.”
He then begins the uncomfortable workout while trying to ignore her flirtations.
Afterwards, she asks, “When will I see you again, Mikey?”
“Tomorrow… the usual schedule,” he replies.
“That’s a long time to wait,” Jackie says, as she rises out of the pool with an arched back and walks to the showers with a rhythm that belies sciatica.
Michael dries off and hops on the treadmill for 20 minutes to get some positive endorphins before showering and heading home. Checking contacts in his phone, there is no indication that Athena or Carmen ever existed. Prior text messages have the names Rosie and Jackie. After binge-watching a few movies, Michael goes to bed early, hoping that he will awaken from a bizarre dream.
Tuesday morning, Michael begins his normal routine. His first appointment is with Athena, as it should be. She denies any knowledge of Rosie. So Michael shrugs off the prior day as a parasomnia. Later that day, he is happy to work with Carmen in the gym’s swimming pool.
At the end of the day, he arrives home feeling much less confused than he did on Monday. But then he receives a text message from Jackie asking to come over to his apartment. Michael becomes visibly shaken as he scrolls through two months of similar messages between them. He texts back to her, “Sore from workout. Not tonight.”
Then Michael tries to phone Ray Allan, the guy who turned over the fitness clients to him. That number is disconnected. Now, Michael realizes that the nightmare is not over. He has no idea what to expect the next day.
Wednesday morning the gym session begins with Athena. Michael increases her benchpress weight by five pounds. After the session he commends her for her progress. Mr. Jackson is on time for his appointment and making good progress.
At 1 PM, Michael arrives in the pool area and sees a woman in the familiar one-piece bathing suit, wading in the water. He calls out, “Carmen?”
When she turns toward him, it is Jackie. “I missed you last night. Are you going to come play in the water with me?”
“Uh… Excuse me,” he says abruptly as he rushes to Marge’s office. “Marge, have you discovered who is messing with my appointments?”
“No, let me take a look again.” Her eyes widen as she tries to conceal her surprise at the sight of old and new fitness clients. “If you want, I can take your afternoon appointment and you can go home early.”
“With pay?” he asks.
“Sure thing. I’ll give you a call later when I work this out.”
“Great, thanks!” Michael says with relief.
After leaving the building, Marge completes the training session with Jackie. Then she calls Stanley into her office for a private meeting.
“The glitch has gotten worse. I tried to reset it but it is now mid-transition,” Marge reveals.
“That’s unfortunate. It appears a manual extraction is necessary. Which operative do we have available?” Stanley asks.
“Jackie can visit Michael tonight,” Marge recommends.
“Take care of it… no loose ends!” warns Stanley before exiting.
Michael phones the police to report a missing person. He realizes how ridiculous the complaint will sound and hangs up before saying anything. So he begins watching television in his bedroom while awaiting the call from Marge.
Later, he enters his kitchen for a snack. While turning around to head back, he sees a figure on the sofa in the dark living room. “Who’s there?” he shouts, as he slowly slides open the cutlery drawer.
The lamp clicks on to reveal Jackie. “You look surprised to see me.”
“Um… what? How did you get in here?” a gobsmacked Michael asks.
“Silly, Mikey. You gave me a key.” Standing up and walking slowly toward him, she continues, “You stood me up this afternoon in the pool…. Are you going to use that knife to make me a sandwich?”
He drops the knife into the drawer as her attractive face and very fit body is fully lit. “My head is messed up right now, I just need to be alone. Can you understand that?”
“When are we going to finalize our wedding plans? You can’t keep putting me off. What are we doing about this weekend?” she asks while rubbing his chest.
“Weekend?” he replies with great surprise, as she persuasively leads him back to the sofa. That is the last thing he remembers before awakening, bound in a dark cellar next to Ray.