Win or Laws

Win or Laws
The transition from a mental state of hope to despair was grueling, taxing and exacting. Several years ago, a young woman had decorated opinions about being a lawyer for the National Court, the desire which fueled her zest to outmatch everyone else in her academics. Her career skyrocketed like a space shuttle without sufficient fuel to escape the gravitational force of struggle and rat-race and with an ambition of floating in an eternal weightlessness of success, riches and fame. The community that she grew up in was not encouraging in subjects of academics and career, owing to which Rita was more popular in circles dominated by white men and women. This formed a vital point for her community to issue her a cold disdain. 

Couple of years ago, she left her husband for reasons lesser known to the world. Rumours floated around saying that the loss of her baby girl drove the couple apart. However, the rumours were given only the credit that they deserved – not more, not less. Furthermore, her relationships with her friends remained square and invulnerable to her personal circumstances.

The flames of ambition of entering in the circles of the most renowned lawyers and judges were fighting against the storms of ennui and monotony. She was good at what she did – probably the best – but what she did was fight mediocre divorce cases, petty crime cases and cases related to family money that she wished she had, so she could run away and kick a restart to life.

She readied her bag to call it a day, when her boss, the man next to her father showed up at her cubicle. “Got to be somewhere else, champion?”

He always cheered her up. “Yup! Someone is waiting for me tonight and it must be getting cold. I better eat it before it actually does.”

Dan laughed heartily, he always did. “Well, I am sure that your dinner can wait. Come, see me in my cabin.”

They entered in his cabin.

“Here, have a look at this.” Dan slid a file across the metal-top table towards Rita.

Rita browsed through the file and made a mental note of all the key aspects of the case in hand. A murder case of the house-keeper. Time of death – early morning. Place of death – the living room. Potential suspect – Jake Douglas. Rita’s eyes widened. She looked back at Dan with sheer surprise and did little to suppress her shock. “Is this the Jake Douglas?”

“This is the Jake Douglas. The actor from The Night in the Train, The Bridge of the Blacks and Underside of the underside. This is him, Ms. Ferreira.”

Rita, shivering in anticipation. “And you handed his file to me, because?”

“Well, I will take it back this instant unless you hug it to your chest and run away.”

Tears softened her vision as she found this case as a breakthrough for her career. She was convinced that this case could be the fuel that her rocket needs. A case advocating an A-list actor in a murder incident would lift her up to all sorts of media: the newspapers, the TV, Press conferences and everywhere else. Owing to her size, she was in tears again, dreaming about the large area of the pictures that she will dominate.

She ditched her dinner and stayed back, burning the midnight oil. Meticulously, she studied every detail of the case and prepared herself with her meeting with the cop, Mr. Stan Morse later next day.

“Nice to meet you, Ms. Ferreira.”

“Call me Rita, please.”

“Alright. Listen, I don’t think there is any case in this. The housekeeper, an old lady who cannot run or fight back, was killed in the house, where only one man stays and it is that goddamn Jake Douglas.”

Rita did not respond to Stan’s comments. “Thank you for your inputs Mr. Morse, but I will refrain from making judgements at this point.”

Stan took off a bottle from his trousers and popped a pill as casually as candy. “PTSD,” he said. “Those rascals sitting on exorbitantly expensive and ridiculously uncomfortable sofas call it PTSD.”

Rita observed how Stan turned red, veins showed on the top of his balding skull.

“What do they know, eh? They sit in an air-conditioned room, counselling people in what they have never experienced. A fancy degree gives them the right to judge me? Do you know how a war feels like Rita?”

Rita nodded a negative.

“Bring to your eyes your worst nightmare, Rita and tell yourself that it is real. That is what a war is like.”

Rita brought her nightmare to her eyes. Her nightmare was not remotely linked with deaths or violence. Her nightmare was dying or fading away into death without achieving what he has struggled to achieve all her life – fame and respect. 

“Anyway, I am sorry for my outburst. It is just these goddamn pills.”

“Assuming that Mr. Jake is innocent, who is in the list of suspects? There is no one in this list I have. Has there been any advancements?”

“None. There is nobody who has entered the house or left the house in the last two days, except for his poor old black lady.”

“Thank you Mr. Morse. I will see you at the court hearing.”
As hard as it was, Rita had to bend over backwards to prevent her affinity to Jake Douglas from coming in her way of her judgements. 

“You know you are not a snowflake, right?” Jake’s words hurt like the friction from sandpaper. 

“I don’t believe I am, Mr. Jake. But thanks for the reassurance.”

“Ah cut the Mister and Missus crap, already. Let us get me some freedom, alright. Listen, I did not kill this lady at all. Now, go, save me or I will have you cut off from the case and would hire someone more attractive than that ugly ass of yours.”

Rita bottled her ferocity. She felt her affinity for the highly famed actor evaporate like fuel. “The police have found no other suspects as of yet. Little would you know about how things work in the real-life, so let me tell you exactly how this will go down.” Rita was riled up in fury. “There was a murder of a black old lady in your house during ungodly hours. The cameras prove that the only person coming in and out of the house for the last two days was your housekeeper, who is now dead. If your best defense is going to be that ‘I did not do it’, then pray to God that capital punishment is issued to you. That way you will die early and will be saved from the assured defamation that will be launched at you, while you get your ass raped in the city prison.”

Jake stared at Rita, holding his tongue. Rita was hardly sure about the reality anymore. A few nights ago, the idea of defending one of the most popular actors swept her off her feet; now, the same idea brought her back to her feet. 

“That is right, Jake. May I now kindly request you to shut your attitude up and let me do my job?”

“Sure,” he murmured. “You being my lawyer, I might as well tell you the truth, Rita.”

“I already know it. What I want to know is why.”

“You know how it is with famous people, Rita? People are greedy around me like it is their lunchtime. Why am I single? It is not my attitude; my attitude is the outcome. I am yet to find someone who loves me for me, not my money, not my fame. This housekeeper duped me into recording some words I spoke while rehearsing an act. She got it doctored and threatened me to go to the court with the tape and shame me for life unless I paid her her ransom.”

“Marvellous. And you decided to just kill her in your own house, with your own hands. Wow. Only if you were as smart as the Jake on TV.”

“Yes. I did it, alright. Because it’s easy. And I’m Jake Douglas. No prick can threaten me into misery.”

Rita prolonged her stare hoping for it to drill a hole through his chest. Emotions aside, Rita. It’s your job. Do it. 

“So, you’ll still fight for me? I mean, after knowing that I am the culprit here?”

“I don’t care what happens to this society Jake. This world has showed me only the ugly side of the moon. I am not letting it take away a stepping stone to success, too. I will fight and we will win.” It’s my first and probably the only chance at earning a name that they’ll regret they ever subjected to shame. 

Jake sighed.

“In the meantime, may I tour your house and look for information that could benefit the case?”
The tour took longer than she imagined. Superficially, she crossed ever corridor, every room and every corner to look for loopholes that could be used by the police or the opposite party. Mr. Stan must have taken care of it, she was certain. 

A small room at the corner, facing the garden was open and Rita took note of a childish bed with cartoons printed all over them. The size of the bed was too small for Jake to place his head on and she was aware that there isn’t any kid in the house. To crosscheck, she asked and he confirmed. 

“There is nothing there, Rita.”

She didn’t listen. She lit the room, the blue and the pink of the walls were coming alive. The walls made her feel confined to the room, crushing her presence between the four walls. Chocolates, comic books, toys and every thing that a kid would fantasise about. Except for one black book. 

Jake saw Rita storm out of his house, stomping away. He’d expected worse. “Rita,” he called out, but he got no response. “Rita, you said you don’t care about anyone, right? What’s wrong now? Come back here you-” he held his tongue and witnessed Rita fly away faster than a bird.
A week later, the court hearing began and ended. Jake observed the blinding fury with which Stan interacted with his lawyer. “How could you as a woman?” And “How is it that you could defend a monster like him?” And “Might as well you marry that insensitive son of a bitch!” And “I’ll make sure you end up a big fat black widow!”

The outburst was deafening and nothing like Jake has seen before. Stan’s eyes widened, his face reddened and his limbs shivered. Rita let it all hide under the rug until the jury was out, defending Jake innocent and due to the personal circumstances, the old lady killed herself. 

One branch of this success was celebrated by Jake, while the second one was a trade off for fame, name and endless popularity or the lack thereof. 

The night following the case, Jake met Rita upon her request. “How can I help Rita? Don’t worry about the payments. They’ve been made and I’ve added 30% as a variable fee. 

Rita was drowned in gloom as Jake could sense. She was fumbling in her purse as she spoke. “You think you’ve won, haven’t you?” She pulled out the book she took from Jake’s house. “Yes, I still don’t care about the sorry world that has served to pull my leg every time I climb. But I care about my world.” She shoved the picture from the book on his face. 

“This was my world, you god-forsaken son of a bitch!”

It took seconds for Jake to switch to an ’actor’ mode. “Rita, it was all a mistake. I swear I’ve left it all behind. I’ve realised that the more crime I do, the more I’ll end up doing. Believe me, the housekeeper was just there at a wrong time. She wasn’t supposed to come that day.”

A speeding white van came to a screeching halt at he mouth of the alley where they stood. A group of strong men abducted Jake and before he could realise what befell upon him, he was half way to hell. 

Rita stood there, welcoming the rain, cleansing her of her sins. With her arms outstretched, she peered through the falling tears of her angel at the sky. “I hope you know that mamma did this for you, baby girl.

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The Hues of Death

The sunlight perforated through the large window that dominated the wall behind his plush leather chair. The humble wooden desk was the only thing in his room that did not comply with the decadence that he had inculcated in his lifestyle. It was not his house, anyway, he always thought, and gave in. A son of the mountains, he had survived the harshness of the savage beauty the mountains had to offer in the Alpine Europe. Facing minimal competition, Jimmy Kew had an easy way into the world until he stepped first in the warmer and a venal part of the globe – Gellet.
Air-conditioning was a must if he had to serve as the Branch Head of a major Multi-National bank, located in Gellet. How he ended up in India still throws him into a state of pondering. Pondering ceases when an illegitimate wealthy bastard comes across his way, to make use of Jimmy’s special services. Struggling to settle at an optimal room temperature, he nudged the Air conditioner every few minutes. However, today, he did not. The room was freezing – cold enough to enable a snow leopard feel comfortable. The only thing colder than the room was Jimmy himself. Dead.
In another part of the city, a real estate agent shut down his office, and examined his new possession in sheer privacy. In midst of the ruckus of the city that bore a population more than that of several countries, and away from the banal misappropriation of funds within the company, right now, he was in a state of zen. He admired wealth like many admired virtues, but he was shy to make a garish display of it. It was best for his profession to look modest. He wore a shabby black suit that fit him not, for it was borrowed from his cousin, starkly opposite in appearance. A face that the world related with humblest of raiment had today chosen an extra-ordinary selection, owing to the rules of the venue he had to attend. “Mr. Harman, you are looking stunning”, is what he heard all day, but he cared least to offer them an explanation to it. He knew that most of the people surrounding him were sycophants, who loved his money more than him. Of what use is money, if you can count it till the last penny? He quickly undressed his suit, unbuttoned his shirt and stared at the marvel that was now under his possession. He understood nothing of it, but he knew how much he paid for it. The overwhelming excitement that stirred a storm within made it harder for him to breathe. It must be the damned tie, he thought. His head started to get lighter, the more he kept his eyes open, so he decided to shut them down. Dizziness took charge. In a span of a few excruciating moments, he found himself lying on the floor of his office, with the shutters down, and the noise of the city drowning his feeble cries for help. This is why I never wear a tie.
Elsewhere in the outskirts of Gellet was someone who wore a suit by choice, and loved it to the skin. High heels that brought up her overall fashion quotient clacked across the hallway as she entered a house – no, a mansion, that lay its foundation on the pile of money stained by the blood and sweat of hundreds and thousands of honest men and women. Who’s fault is that if they consider this living anything but a competition for survival? It was her birthday, and the mansion was swarmed by dozens of men, decorating the walls and the floor and the ceiling and the pictures and the tapestries and the windows. The lady who led the decoration team briefed Mrs. Sharma of the idea that she is putting life into. Resha Sharma was pleased, or so her expression warranted. “You are sweating, Mrs. Sharma.”
“Oh, am I?” Surprised, she ached to reach for her napkin. At the acquisition of which, she ached to bring it up to her face and wipe the sweat off. At the completion of which, she ached to maintain her balance. At the failure of which, she ached to breathe. Succumbing to it, she ached to survive. Failure hit her like a truck. Dead.
“Three dead and counting, Mr. Freemont. Third one was found two days later, when his office shutter was forced open.”
“I hear you, Willy.” Svent Freemont had just returned from a long vacation that the Agency had forced on him. “You need to have a break or we might run a risk of being driven crazy.”
“I feel a little rusty with the practice, I admit. Would you be kind enough to brief me on the details of the deceased while we drive?”
Svent was filled in on the details. “What did you say the third one was doing in his office when he was found dead?”
“It appears that he was looking at a painting.”

They arrived at Mr. Harman’s office. “If not whatever that killed him, cholesterol would have grappled him down, sooner or later,” remarked Willy, finding comfort in blurting silly comments around Svent. Noticing Svent’s expression, Willy slid back into the usual discomfort.
“Why is the painting on the floor?” Freemont began his investigation with the employees that Mr. Harman had working there. The actual painting was cleared away by forensics as evidence.
“It is new, sir. I have never seen this painting before.” The others resounded the comment, and it satisfied Svent’s judgement that the painting was out of place, anyway. Rich, elegant, but out of place. It would rather be well-suited in a plush apartment or anything bigger.

At the mansion of Mrs. Sharma, the decoration was halted, and the mood swayed sharply from joy to despair.
“Where was Mrs. Sharma earlier today?” Willy led the investigation upon Freemont’s order.
A crying lady, her mother, responded, “She had taken off from her work today because it was her birthday.” Sobbing incessantly, the decoration lady picked up from there. “She had told me that she would not be home before lunch, as she had to attend an important event in the south of the city. However, she had dropped this from her purse today. Maybe this is where she had gone today.” The lady handed out a business card.
“Gellet Art Gallery. That is indeed in the south of the city. Thank you.”

Svent had formed an assumption, that would be confirmed only after learning about the death of the third person – Mr. Kew.
His body lay cold as ice on the chair, his face lying on the desk, screaming silently that he did not want to die.
“It is cold up here.”
“We did not touch anything in the room, except that we tried to bring Mr. Kew to life.” An employee at the bank responded. “And we failed,” he said, sinking his head into his chest.
“Was he in the office the entire day?” inquired Svent.
“He is hardly in the office. He is usually with clients or other business meetings.”
“Where was he earlier today?”
Mr. Kew’s secretary sped off to his desk, punched his nervous keys on the computer, fumbling to press the right ones, to open Mr. Kew’s appointment schedule. “It is blank.”
“How is Mr. Kew’s interest in paintings?”
“Oh, excessive. You’d fail to find a piece of wall in his apartment at Malabar Hills! It is covered with paintings – elegant ones at that.”
Svent smiled.

Svent and Willy headed towards the Gellet Art Gallery, and observed the dismantling of the exhibition that attracted the affluent parties from across the country for the 5-hour event.
The gate-keeper opened his eyes wide at the sight of men in suits and revolvers in their holsters. He ran off to alert the owner of the gallery – Mr. Eliah D’souza. Before the owner could be told about the guests, the detectives were at his door, widening the gate-keeper’s eyes further. Willy thought that his eyes might just pop out if he were to be shocked again.
“I am sorry to bring you some bad news, Mr. D’Souza,” uttered Svent as he approached his Eliah’s desk.
“Call me Eliah, please. And what might that news be?” Eliah gestured at the chairs, and the detectives took the seats. Eliah gestured the gate-keeper to find the door.
Willy pulled out three photographs, and placed them neatly under the owner’s nose. The owner studied the photos carefully.
“What about it?” Not a line or a crease on the aging face of the owner gave way for suspicion.
“Well, we are told that these people had visited the art exhibition early today. And, like you can see, they are lifeless. To cut to the chase, we are here to find out how you defend your innocence, Eliah.”
The assault was direct. Willy observed this to be one of the techniques how guilty criminals could be broken. But here, Svent was of the intention to smash the criminal.
“Defend my innocence?” Eliah laughed mockingly. “I own seven other galleries all across the country. I look after the dealings of millions in cash every single day. Do you know how taxing it gets, Mr. Freemont?”
Silence prevailed. Willy felt the weight from under, now rising on their back.
“I guessed not. If you believe that I am going to spare my time to defend myself over what appears to be a mere co-incidence, then you are mistaken, my sirs.”
“I understand,” Svent remarked, absolutely unsatisfied by the performance. “If you think that we are going to spare our time to dig the culprit out, then apparently, you are are not.” The detectives stood up, greeted superficially.
“One last thing, Eliah. We’d like to meet the artist whose paintings the victims were looking for, please.”
Eliah pulled up a card from his drawer, and allowed the detectives to take leave. “A junior artist, but a highly revolutionary one at that. His paintings are attempting to bring the unethically rich and the wealthy to their knees. Like the Stanleys and the Bradleys and also the McKennys. He was a goddamn minister, who was painted in red. It is marvellous, but he is a junior, still unsure of his footing. He seems to have taken a much bolder move, this time. Go fetch him.”
Willy moved ahead, cursing under his breath, only to find that Svent had taken a smaller pace. Svent was in the gallery, exchanging serious gestures with the gate-keeper, whose eyes seemed to have gotten smaller, and friendlier. Nodding their heads an inch, they moved away.
Svent responded to the curious eyes of Willy that were not able to form the question, with mere smirk.
“The artist goes by the name of Bastian LeMac,” said Willy, with anxiety in his voice. “But, he made a casual welcome to us.”
“Hmm,” responded Svent with a natural coolness, unaffected by the tidings.
“Sir, shall we not question him?”
“What for?”
“He could be the one who killed the victims!” Willy was flabbergasted, thinking that Svent was still in his holiday mood.
“The forensics had called,” Svent replied dispassionately. “They have assigned the cause of the murder to a substance that starts with a letter E. I cared not to remember the fashionable names these scientists give them. Upon a very small research, I found out that this substance is light, almost transparent, and has characteristics of oil.”
“Which could be applied on the paintings, to mimic the features of the oil!”
“Yes, my dear Willy. Now you tell me. Why would a junior artist who is struggling for earning his living want to risk his career and his life, while being at a loss to an ability to escape?”
Willy grunted under his breath. Why does this have to be so complicated sometimes? “Who is it, then? The gate-keeper? The owner? An extra-ordinarily co-incidental suicides?”
Svent smiled. “What is it exactly that you write in your notes? Come, let us go.”

At the art gallery, surrounded by the police, Eliah D’Souza had nowhere to go. His confident and charming appearance had allowed him to go through the scanner undetected once he thought, but he was wrong as pineapple on pizza.
“But sir, how?” Willy at a loss of idea. Although there were as few as these many possible culprits, Willy missed it. “Did the gate-keeper tell you something that I don’t know?”
“The gate-keeper made sure that Eliah was not to leave the gallery. What did Eliah respond when we asked for the painter whose paintings the victims were looking for?”
“The name of the artist.”
“Exactly! If he deals in millions like he said today, and that also across the entire country, how would he readily know which person was looking for which paintings in particular?”
Wide-eyed Willy remarked it as genius. “He had not taken even a minute to ponder over the name. Eliah plotted against the artist! But why?”
“Not our job to find out, I suppose. But I believe that Eliah might be the next rich that Bastian would have thrashed under his paintings.”

A Con’s Gambit

           The credit for the hubbub was due to the aluminium dishes across the hall, in the hands of murderers, rapists, thieves and con-men, who could barely keep their senses in check, while committing the crime. The meal was not anymore banal than the vapid grey walls that drank the whites from the lights, keeping the monotony of depression within the prison walls alive.

“Two months are up,” whispered Jake, without lifting his gaze from his plate. The listener knew he was being talked to, yet his reaction was absent. “Are we ready, Stuart?”

The deep blue eyes, had a fiery essence to it, barely repressed by the cunning smile that accompanied it. Stuart leered at Jake. “Yes, we are, Jake. I hope you have prepped Mike for this, too.”

“Absolutively, man. I trust in your plan, man. You are a nice guy, but there is nothing like being too cautious, am I not right? So I ask again – is your plan foolproof? Because I’d hate to be caught in the act, and get incarcerated. I’ve heard life in prison is worse than my wife’s chicken soup, and I have eaten that soup and I have been incarcerated; the comparison is only fair.”

“We need to get him to meet up at the yard today. Spread the word. His freedom is near.”

At the yard, the heat did little to energize the labourers, but did largely to deprive them of it. Only if life were as easy as the Shawshank Redemption, Jake thought. Mike huddled up with Stuart and Jake under a shade at the edge of the yard. Mike was a portly man, so much that his belly engendered a large shadow underneath.

“Yo, man. So, we plan to do it tonight, at 23:50. You have the watch safe with you, don’t you? Do you need us to reiterate the procedure?”

“I have the watch and negative, I am confident I will pull this off. My cue will be when I receive the key to my cell tonight. I unlock the cell quietly, without attracting attention, and march to my left, until the end of the row, turn left, towards the cabin of the prison officers. At midnight, the shift changes, and in an orderly fashion, the new officers replace the existing ones. One officer who guards the door will be replaced, too. I have to climb up the wall, plug myself between the two walls with my limbs outstretched and catch the new officer that comes out of that door unawares.”

Jake’s cynicism over Mike’s ability to accomplish the athletics was unrestrained.

“Ha Ha, very funny, Jake. I train cheerleaders for my living.” His gaze shifted at Stuart, now. “If you know what I mean,” he said with a wink.

“Get back to the damned plan!” You sick fuck, Stuart wanted to add.

“Now, I won’t have time to bide, as I’ll have to make the move before the fallen officer is found. Retreating back, walking past the corner through the yard where we are standing right now. It is on me to cross this yard unnoticed. The lights and the guards will notice squat when I make the moves,” he gestured in a ballet move. “At 00:20 sharp, the barbed wires up the guard walls would be deactivated, and will stay the same for a minute, which is my window to make the escape.”

Jake could not hold it back. “Mike, you weigh a hundred kilos and you are barely 5 and a half. I hope you are not overestimating your ability.”

“You don’t trust me.”

“You’re darn right, I don’t. I’d trust better on a dog who claims that he can talk.”

“How about a dog that sniffs and fucks your butt?”

Jake pulled a punch at Mike before Mike’s mouth shut. He fell down instantly, pulled himself up in a jiffy, with movements agile and quick. Stuart knew for certain that Mike would pull this off.

“23:50,” said Stuart, and left along with Jake. “You head to the location I asked you to.”

“If I had a million in my pocket, I’d wager them all on a fiasco that is waiting in the dark only to come out and laugh at us.”

“Enough of your pessimism, Jake,” barked Stuart in a repressed grunt. “I had enough. This will not fail. Your job is to facilitate the key to his cell, on time – not before, not after, on time.”

“Do you rather want to say that this must not fail?”

Stuart had the fire in his eyes all over again. “This will not fail,” he said with sheer deliberation, making sure that the argument is pulled to a halt at that instant.

“How prepared is Tim?”

“I wrote a code for him on the backside of the book that I lent him. That was the only communication that I have had with him. He knows that this must happen tonight. All he has to do is code it on the main computer, and keep it running for exactly a minute, feigning malice in the Head Officer’s computer. He is the IT guy, this must not be a challenge for him. At least not the kind that he cannot handle.”

“Head Officer’s computer?” Jake had his head blown up. His cheeks had turned red. “This is your fuckin’ plan, man? How do you believe that the Head Officer is going to ask for the IT guy at fuckin’ midnight? And tonight?”

Stuart smiled.

Tim’s eyes were swollen, not for the sleepiness, but for the lack of it. He was anticipating a summoning from the Head Office, expecting a solution for the failure of the computer to turn on. They were oblivious to the fact that the problem was a creation of Tim, himself, that he had planted on the computer a fortnight ago. Now was a chance for him to plant the code on the computer and facilitate Mike’s escape. A broad bridge to cross, but what was tough was imminent.

A familiar face stopped by at Stuart’s cell the very next day. “It was you, was it not?” the guard asked Stuart through the vertical bars that separated them.

Stuart spoke not a word for a few moments. His eyes calm as an ocean. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“A computer code, which deactivated the electric barbed wires last night facilitated Mike’s escape. Rings a bell?”

“Kind of. Sounds like poor security to me.”

“Listen to me, Stuart. That you are not a killer, but that you participated in a ploy to kill someone is enough of a reason for you to stay in jail, but if you are caught –”

“I won’t be caught. Not even if you rat me out to your masters.”

The guard stood there in silence, staring at Stuart in despair. “You know you do not deserve to rot in this cell for far too long. Why are you risking a longer term?”

“I am not risking anything. Even if he was to be caught last night, he’d not rat me out. I have a leash on him, that enforces discipline, instills obedience.”

Long fingers of the sun illuminated the prison cell, further illuminating the smile on Stuart’s countenance.

“Stuart, you have a daughter for God’s sake. Don’t you love her enough to want to go back to her sooner than soon?”

The words brewed a storm in an otherwise composed weather, uprooting the composure off Stuart’s face and wreaking havoc within him. He stomped up to the prison bars and grunted with all the strength he could gather. “I am doing all this only for her, do you understand?”

The sudden upsurge of emotions choked the guard’s words at his throat.

“Do you understand, I ask?” Stuart bellowed again, not truly expecting an answer. “Do you know how it feels like to have your daughter raped in broad daylight? Do you know how deep a scar like this can go on her life? Do you, officer?”

The guard felt the small hairs standing up on the back of his neck. Realization arrived at him gently, with the words that Stuart spoke.

“I am doing all this for her, goddammit. What do you know about this escape, eh?”

“That you freed a guilty man, charged of rape.” Cognizance hit him like a truck at full speed. “You,” the guard whispered, and choked. His eyes wide as a planet, hairs stood up as in fear. “You did not free him. You… you freed him.”

“Yes, officer. That is exactly I did. I rid this planet of a scumbag sooner than this frail system of justice could have. With the kind of money that he claimed he swam in, I’d rather eat him up before he was granted bail. And then what? Have another girl abused by his monstrosity? It does not take a scientist to learn that I have committed homicide, but given a chance, I’d do it again, officer. I’d fork that motherfucker’s eyes out alive for the life that he has decided for my little angel. Tell on me, get me hanged, I am telling you I would die in peace, knowing that I have acquired vengeance on my daughter’s abuser and there will be one less son of a bitch out there who’d act that act again.”

A heavy voice came out of the officer’s mouth. “Where is he now?”

“The last cabin on the banks. You’d have enough evidence to identify him.”

The officer walked away, with a confluence of morality and law at his heart. His footsteps sounded as weighty as his heart. For the rest of  Stuart’s term, he never saw that officer again.

1 of the 11

In relation to my earlier story, “The Boss”

https://muffledquail.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/the-boss/

 

The meadows were lush green, freshly kissed by the morning dew, leaving behind a glow that pleased Lenny’s senses. The sun had taken a break from a long, heralded assault throughout the year, and had given way to the cool breeze that carried the congenial rains on its back.

The visibility had taken a hit, the hills on the far end of the picturesque sight had vanished behind the thick curtain of rains, embellishing the view from his window, remarkably better. Lenny liked the hills, but he liked the misty curtain and the magical sleight of water and sun and wind even better. The other side of the coin got darker as the front got better. Tony and Alena did not permit him to go out into the world, deemed to be dangerous, that could swallow him up leaving no trace behind. Lenny obeyed their stringency until he was not young anymore, and developed a brain of his own.

He wanted to go out, he wanted to sit under the sun, soak up the brightness and find out if he can fly like the Superman. He wanted to get drenched in the rain, and learn if he can grow tall and green like the trees that adorned the yard outside. He wanted to climb the mountains, to know if he can really see the world from the top of it. He wanted to get to the top of the Klate City Tower and find out if it is taller or shorter than those faraway hills. All the places he wanted to go were spread across the city – the city he had seen from the backseat of their car. Isolation, lonesomeness and solitude, if compensated with an optimistic environment within his house, would probably have helped his mental health, or that he believed. However, the dark side of the coin was darker for him.

The reason what brought them to a decision of living away from the world, eluded him. All he was told was that “it is not safe for you, out there.” A house, far from the crowd, far from the society allowed seclusion to seep into him, and it carried gloom along with it.

On his eleventh birthday, Lenny decided to pull up the creaky wooden plank from the centre of the floor in his room. He had done this several times before, but with a hollow objective. The plank was loosely fit, and he knew it. His parents had never noticed it, and Lenny did not bother to apprise them. This time, his desperation assigned an objective to lifting up the plank. A shovel from the garage struck the soil beneath, with a glorious ambition.

 

“I am doing my job.” Tony asserted in a blaring tone so loud, shattering the windows around him in the dining hall. An army of sweat beads started marching down his balding forehead as his head was shaking uncontrollably under the weight of the anger that he felt within him. His fingers had curled into a balled fist, so hard that it could have broken the wooden dining table beneath his hands. Alena was worried more for the table, than for the anger, and she owed the nonchalance to the frequency at which he used to be a bear with a sore head.

“Stop being up in arms about this article, Tony!” Alena was ready with a catalysing tone, aiming to moderate the rising temper. “It is the Boss you are writing about. As it is, he is unpopular for taking several lives! Why are you so stiff-necked about wanting our little Lenny dead?”

The army paraded in a straight line, dripping itself from the furrows of Tony’s forehead. He banged the table, blowing off a gasket upon the mentioning of their offspring. He stood up at the table, leaving the food half-eaten, and dug his hand in his pocket. He slammed a roll of colourful bills on the table. “Who do you think I bring this for? Your ugly face?”

“Stop yelling for crying out loud!” Alena spoke up with a repressed grunt, spending most of her vigour in suppressing the indignation. “You will scare Lenny!”

Moments passed by when nobody spoke. The air surrounding the two found rest. “Listen, Alena,” spoke Tony with a voice with an unimaginable tenderness. “I am a reporter for the GNV News. The best channel in the country. It is a new assignment, and I cannot produce conventional news. In order to make a name and rise up through the ranks, they expect golden eggs. If I am to bring them the commonplace news about robberies and rape, I will remain indistinguishable, and if I remain indistinguishable, who is to bring food on this table, and who is to bring money for Lenny’s tuition?

“The Boss has his hands in the nastiest of businesses, and the network that he has built in Klate is the reason why Lenny is locked up like this. We don’t let him go to school by himself. We don’t let him meet his friends, if he has been able to make any. We don’t let him be by himself anywhere, anytime. I mean, how could we, Alena? Do you think we want this life for our kid? Soon, he will be grown enough to leave us. Do you think I want him to face the world for the first time at that age and not now? Boss crawls up under my skin, and stings me hard! I hate that son of a bitch and I will take him down, and I have a lot of material against him. One publication, and he will be out of Klate. We will be free.”

Alena felt a pang of fury along with Tony, but she stayed calm. Fire does not fight fire. Water does. She admittedly nodded. His heart, his intent was her weakness, and she deliberately gave in. Another side of her worried if they were slightly too paranoid about Lenny’s safety. She was also bothered by the fact that Lenny stopped protesting against locking him up in the house. He will understand when the time comes, she told herself.

“You got to be safe, Tony. You got to be safe for Lenny, and for me. For us, please don’t poke the dormant snake. Kill it while it is asleep.”

“Boss is no ordinary snake, Alena. He is a goddamn dragon.” Tony replied with a faint smile. “And he never sleeps.”

“You are not helping my anxiety.”

“Gun is in bedside drawer. Shoot that son of a bitch in his face, if it helps you.”

Lenny overheard the conversation, and quietly slid back into his room.

Months passed by. Night before the day when Tony planned to publish the article, a tingling sense of disquiet percolated his skin. A fusion of fear and ambition had rendered his heart shaking and his hands steady. “We are one day away from the news, Alena. One day.”

Alena was far more scared than Tony was, but his composure was contagious.

“I have booked the tickets for a faraway land. We will fly away tomorrow. Far, so far that the Boss will never be able to find us, in case he survives the media.”

Alena nodded, and reacted to the sound of the bell that chimed across every corner of the house. One man, in a dapper blue suit stood at the door, his tie a shimmering black, his shirt a sparkling white.

“What can I do for you?”

“Let us in.”

The cold voice delivered a chill to Alena, and the intruder barged in, making way for the man in a bright white suit, and a golden chain. The girth of the man was colossal, just able to walk in through the width of the door. His head was rich with hair, as white as the suit itself.

Boss.

He settled on the sofa, central to the room, facing the TV set directly. Tony protected Alena behind him, and stood at the corner of the room, next to the TV.

“What are you so afraid of, Mr. Neak? It seems like you did something wrong.” The chill in his voice was notably dreadful. Alena had Lenny in her mind, and she was shivering with fear – raw, pure, unadulterated fear. “Have you done anything wrong?”

Tony tried to pull out his phone from the trouser pocket.

“I presupposed you for a smarter person, Mr. Neak. You disappoint me.”

“What do you want?”

“You know well what I am here for. Your investigation is the reason I am here. In a way, you have invited me here, Mr. Neak. You called me here, today, among your beloved wife, your charming son. Would you not introduce me to them?”

“Dare you touch Lenny, you cold-hearted faggot!” The repressed anger blew up her top, and she verbally charged the Boss.

“Ooo, that anger! Don’t you find it attractive?” Boss asked his henchman, who loyally stood by his side.

“Not really, sir.”

“Then kill her.”

In a fraction of a second, a bullet split Alena’s head open, hot dark blood oozing out, running across her cold skin. She slumped onto the floor next to Tony, who stood there, helpless. He would have felt a burden of guilt, that his wife was dead, next to him, who had warned him of this, but his ambition had blinded his want for a safe and happy family. But, before the guilt began to settle in, another bullet spit cut through his chest, and another right next to the first one, and Tony’s eyes, wide and afraid, slowly saw only blackness – blackness of Boss’ filth.

“Which number were these?”

“10 and 11, sir,” the henchman replied.

“Good. I do not wish to make a 12 tonight. 11 kills a day is good. On target.”

The henchman took care of the bodies, as the Boss walked across the rooms, to find Lenny. Unlocking the door at the far end in the house, Lenny stood in the middle of the room, his hand steady as those hills he dreamt of. A gun held in his hands, pointed at the Boss, who laughed, and discredited Lenny of his ability to be able to pull the trigger.

“If you kill me little boy, a very evil man is outside, who is going to take you away and hurt you severely.”

“Only if he catches me, you bastard.”

The smile vanished off his face, and in a moment came a painful drill in his belly. His fingers that held the wound were stained with blood, that did not cease to stop. Another fire, and another blood leak.

“You’re my 1st of the 11,” Lenny spat. “And now, I am the Boss.” Lenny grunted, unleashing his wrath.

He pulled up the plank that he was standing on, and made way along the extremely narrow tunnels that he had carved over the months. Several bifurcations underneath had led the way to different places that he dreamed of going to. One to the meadows, one to the vicinity of the TV tower, one to the hills, and so on. He crawled towards his dreams, he crawled to stand up on those hills. He chose a path, that the pursuer could not find, and the Boss was still alive, except that he was younger, and driven by a disparate ambition.

The Purple Death

She waited anxiously. She sat on the curb, oblivious to her surroundings, which were full with nothing. It was close to midnight, and the vicinity was clear of people. She was alone, but yet she was waiting for someone…waiting for something…

As an honest academician, Chloe climbed the ladders away from the abject poverty that had cast an ominous shadow over her childhood, only to find herself at the same spot of penury. She was not among the ones who’d blame anyone else for any misfortune that came her way, but rather, she sucked it up. Her father had made severe financial blunders, which caused them dive face first into the ocean of debt, the surface of which felt like thin glass. A dull life with just enough money to live had started to eat her from within, and vacuumed her life out of satisfaction.

Teaching was not something that she saw herself doing, but to make her way through, she taught to the needy, and made money only enough to nourish herself and her small family. She did not complain, neither did she crib over her situation. She fought and she survived, but was robbed of any possibility that would make her happy from her heart. The happiness that appeared on her face was disconnected from what ran in her heart. Fighting for survival and then money, barely enough to keep her alive, made her feel as if she were a hamster running on a wheel. Ending exactly where it started. She was looking for a window out of which she can escape.

She got a job at a public school that paid her in meagre quantities. She was offered a position in a private school that promised her the money that she only dreamt of. However, she knew it in her head that her chase for money will ruin the future of public schools, and soon, there would exist none. Poor kids will remain uneducated, availing a monopolistic advantage for the private giants. Besides, her greed for money was lost. She didn’t think that she would enjoy it like the way she could have if she had more money ten years ago. She continued at the public school.

Frustrated, she went to a place where she usually went when she was low. A jewellery shop. She was browsing things she gave up hopes of owning. However, her desire could not be subsided. She ached for some necklace, or a ring, or a tiara or anything else that she couldn’t afford. The owner knew her and her tragic life since she was a young little girl, who wasn’t dried off of the joy and glee. His life was not as glorious as it was a decade ago, when he could take walk with a straight back.

“This is a new collection!” Chloe stated with a smile on her face, clearly joyed by the glitter of the gold, and the shimmer of the silver.

“It certainly is, Chloe! How are you, today?” The man spoke with an aging voice, rough due an overuse of cigarettes.

Chloe hoped he did not ask this question since it brings her back to reality from this magical land of gleam and shine. “I am doing okay, Mr. Brown.”

Mr. Brown could see the pain beneath her face every time he heard the response. He asked this question every time to read how she really is from her face. It only got worse from the last many times.

“Come,” said Mr. Brown, pointing his hand towards a staircase that led to the warehouse underneath the shop. “I will show you something that will make you lose your senses!” He locked the shop door from the inside and led the way downstairs. He walked with a limp, every step a shot of pain through her legs.

They settled in a room, big enough only to fit two people and a small table between them. However, the walls were full of shelves and drawers where Mr. Brown stored his jewellery. He took out an elegant black box from the topmost drawer on Chloe’s side and placed it on the table between them. He shut the light off, and turned on a small white light that was powerfully hitting the surface of the black box. Curious as to what lay inside the box, Chloe leaned forward towards the table. As the box opened, a magnificent glow of purple washed her face. Her expressions of joy could not have been described better than this purple shine on her face. Mr. Brown observed her face; he could not dig that deep in his memory to a time when he had seen Chloe his astounded.

Mesmerized and lost, Chloe’s amazement of the grandeur of the small purple stone was brought to a steady halt by My Brown’s polite interruption. “This is called as a Blue Garnet. I know it is purple, but that is why this is a special stone. It is blue by nature, but it turns purple every night. It is among the rarest of the stones! As small as this is, selling this will help me earn a fortune.”

“I am sure it would.” Chloe was yet to come out of the incredulity.

“However, there are many stories associated with his stone, Chloe. I need to tell this to someone. If I tell this to a prospect buyer, he will never buy this stone from me.”

Chloe was bewildered. “Why is that? What is the story?”

Mr. Brown cleared his throat. His grey hair shone brighter in the small light in the room. “This stone has changed several hands. I have learnt the reason why. As mesmerized as you were, other enthusiasts were trapped by the charm of this stone, but they bought it. The first owner of this stone bought it from a jewel exhibition in Mumbai. An enthusiast, wealthy businessman bought the stone with a blink of an eye. Now, as if this stone is cursed, the man’s car was slammed by a truck just when his driver pulled off the car out of the parking. The driver survived, the owner of the stone did not.”

Chloe’s eyes spoke of the horror that she felt.

“This stone was shipped to Dar es Salaam, to his only son, who inherited all his possessions. He sold it the First Lady of Tanzania. Her position rewarded her with a lot of money, and his work had her in constant touch with her. She bought it without having to try to sell it to her. The stone has a magical spell that lured the audience into falling for it. It is akin to Siren, who deceptively attracted the shipmen towards her, breaking their boats apart. She choked on her next meal the same day. It is also said that she was attracted to the stone enough to bring it with her everywhere she went.”

Chloe was smart enough to understand what is going on. “Mr. Brown, are you feeling superstitious about this stone?”

“If I were superstitious, I would not buy the stone off the grieving lady who came yesterday. Co-incidences are more powerful than superstitions. Superstitions are merely incidences that humans fail to comprehend.” Mr. Brown stated plainly, expecting her question. “Now, this brings me to the last known owner of this beauty. Mr. Grim. A connoisseur of rare stones and jewels, and more importantly, a man who ridiculed the curse that hovered over this multi-coloured stone. She wanted to sell away the stone, the blasphemy that made her beloved fall off the roof to death.”

Chloe was shocked and puzzled. Dumbfound as never before, her lips were parted and her eyes stared at the table where the black box was placed. Mr. Brown, with his stooped back, was putting away the box with careful steps on the small ladder, placed right behind Chloe. Grasped by the mystic powers of the purple stone, Chloe handled a box of jewellery from beside her in the shelf, and slammed it on the back of Mr. Brown. She smashed the glass and the wood on him and before he could gather his senses around what was happening, he succumbed to the possessed woman who out of desperation put an end to his life. She delivered the curse that the stone possessed.

Now, she waited. She waited on the street. Sitting under the gleaming moon, she waited for the end of the joyless life that she had invited for herself. Every person who has possessed this stone has died, she thought as she ran her finger across the stone, thinking of Mr. Brown who was delivered a release that he needed, now waiting for her own release that would set her free from the manacles of the joyless and unambitious life. “Superstition,” she said to herself, bringing a smile to her face as she ran her hand through the smooth surface of the stone. She waited..

The Untamed Fire

I observed him carefully as he walked to the door. I knew that time was running out but suppressed the urge to check my watch. I took a deep breath and started counting in reverse under my breath. “Ten, nine, eight, seven…”. I saw the leading man of the jury on the other side of the glass door as he led the jury that walked marching towards the court room, where I in all my solitude, waited. They held in their hands a piece of paper that would determine which turn the vehicle of my life will steer into. Whether it will crash into a wall made of solid steel or if will be lobbed into the skies of freedom and glory was a decision that will be at the mercy of what the jury believes in. To my dismay, I had given up the fate of my existence in the hands of those twelve people as well, for I could have been the lawbreaker, or I could not have been. Befuddling, isn’t it?

Accustomed to the burden of frustration, I spend my dull afternoons taking a break from the humdrums of the grey life that I have brought myself to. Perhaps I have more than what I deserve to have, but none of it makes me happy. I would not try to glorify myself by telling you what I am not. I am a salesman, who sells exercise equipment for the morbidly fat and the rich. The equipment is robbed of every possible utility, and is a device that aids me in earning some money off the desperate obese populace.

Some weeks ago, I sat at fountain that adorned like a jewel, alongside the curved path of the Central Park. An empty bench was reserved for me, it felt. A bunch of boys came to the path precisely ten minutes after me, glee on their faces, except one. That one boy reminded me of my childhood. As the only boy with spectacles on, he was bullied over by the other boys who followed him. Don’t mistake me for a nice person, for I am not one. I am bereft of sympathy and compassion. Life has filled me enough apathy to serve for this one life at least. I was the shortest in height among my fellow schoolmates who took the same route home. My belongings were tossed, placed on a tree branch high up and more. The days were as dreadful as I imagine them to be, today. My parents handed this matter to the teachers and the teachers put it on my parents. Ultimately, I was left alone to be exploited by my schoolmates. I went through similar emotions, if not same as this boy’s. However, I did not feel bad for the boy, but as the days passed by, the various forms of harassment that he went through had brewed a mixture of rage and anger within him, which blazed his eyes with a fire that I was not an alien to. He would have painted the park red if his physical strength matched with his inner rage.

Some days later, the boy approached me and sat by my side. “Why don’t you help me, sir?”

Surprised by the question, I dove into a pool of thoughts, swimming from one to another. One thought was about how I was as a child. Unlike this boy by my side, I never sought for help. I never thought that I needed help. I had perceived everything that happened in my life as something that is meant to be. My father worked for very long hours, my mom cheated on him and my babysitter barely took care of me. My mother fed herself a belief that I fell for her lies. Nobody needs a dentist three times a week and I was acquainted with that. Fights and violence dominated the small house that my parents could afford and it made me insensitive to both. Neither affected me. Sensitivity is like a lemon; once dried up, it is only worthy of debris.

As a child, I demonstrated violence in my own way. With barely anyone to supervise me, I was at the liberty of experimentation and at the mercy of no one. Fire. I love fire. I loathe cigarettes or any other smoke, but fire mesmerizes me. It fascinates even today, when I am over thirty, how almost the entirety of the object turns black upon burning. The wrappers of the Christmas presents were the subjects of my first experiments. They shrivelled, cowered and got supressed by the raw might of the orange-yellow power, rendering them ruthlessly of their purpose.

I did not stop here. The brutality of my actions climbed the ladder. I know these as brutal acts because I learnt the meaning of sensitivity from others, when I had already surpassed the barrier, time and again. It was too late until I knew that I was a monster! Do I regret any of it? No. Remorse alights from the train along with benevolence. I went to my front yard, and put a burning match inside the ant hill. The pleasure that I now know to be so sadistic was once a matter of joy for me. It fed my endless curiosity. I did not stop at ants. I lit roaches and lizards alive as well. If there were someone who corrected me while I was young, I might have stopped being apathetic, but then I would have been robbed of the ultimate pleasure that I derived from burning those little helpless bastards alive!

“Why do you think should I help, boy?” I responded after a while, taking a deep dig into my sandwich.

“Because you seem to care,” said the boy with barely any expression or hope for help.

I ignored the boy, for I don’t consider myself to be the best of the men one must seek out for advice. The boy went away, alone, dejected. His loneliness followed him unmistakably and was deafeningly loud. Being accustomed to seclusion, the supressed, quiet rage within him came an inch closer to the surface. It was an issue that went miles ahead of simply bullying. It scars the person for life. A human is nothing but an amalgamation of all the experiences that he has in his entire lifetime. There is a reason why I am who I am. Improper direction of right and wrong, insufficient childcare, limitless mistreatment and guiltless pleasures.

The scene repeated day after day, as I ate my lunch, I saw that boy get beleaguered by the boys out of his league. Still, sympathy is not the word that I would use to describe how I felt. I could not care less. As a matter of fact, I mentally tried to run away from the situation, as it reminded me of the unpleasant times from my past that bring me trepidation.

After some more days, he came and sat next to me for another time. For a boy that age, he spoke some words of a wise man. “For someone who could witness and tolerate the injustice on a young boy so casually, one has to consider this juvenile and unimportant.” The wrath that was bred within him was closer to the surface than the last time I had felt.

I was taken aback by his words. Maybe he was right. Perhaps I do not find this to be a big deal. Or perhaps it was only an extension of my unconcern for anything that goes around of me. How do I explain it to him? I tried.

“Have you tried talking to your elders about this?” I asked, surprising myself with the level of maturity that I had in my talk.

“You think I would resort to a complete stranger eating his lunch in a park before resorting to my parents and teachers? Do you see what they are doing to me? Do you see how limbless I feel when they are harassing me?”

His voice rose with every question that he asked. His face trembled, his lips parted and he sweltered like a pig. I simply stared back at his eyes and he calmed down, started staring at his shoes – shoe, just one shoe. The other was hanging up the tree in the park.

Agitated, I frowned at the boy’s situation. The realization hit me like a truck on my face that the bullied life that I had is not the one that I wish for this boy, here. It was one of the reasons why I grew up to be an ungrateful piece of being. A personality is at the mercy of how things are around you when you grow up. I am sullen, apathetic, unconcerned, indifferent, cruel and violent due to the circumstances that impressed me in my childhood were full of it. Do I love it? If I understood what love was, I would not love who I am, I am doubtless.

A sudden wave of anger swept me red. I noticed the boy feel empowered as my fury boiled within me.

As I stand now in the court, awaiting judgement, the echoes from my past still haunt me, but I feel that I brought about a change in this world. A world of shame was swirling within me, but my face had a happy curve on it. Never had I known what disgust means until today, when I helped prevent a boy from turning into who I am—a hateful and spiteful piece of wreckage. The solution is to slice down the roots!

“Six, five, four, three, two, one…”

“With regards to the case charged against you for the murder of three teenagers, we find you…” the pause between now and the decision felt to be the longest. “Guilty.” The voice came from the skies. Hazy, yet perceptible. For reasons I could not comprehend, it felt like a piece fell right in place. I felt complete.

The boy followed me as they took me away for a life in prison. I knelt down, and looked in his teary eyes, free of the rage. “How am I to live with this, sir?”

I sighed. I did this because this gave my life some meaning, some purpose. “I did this for myself, boy. You live like a man should. Learn not from me.”

“But,” the boy cried profusely. His words were unspoken, but yet heard. He felt the fire within him subside, as I saw the one he set on the boys roar aloud.

A Leap of Faith

“What would you have done on this beautiful Sunday if were not for this demanding case?” Willy asked Freemont as the latter looked outside the plane window into the milky-white clouds.
Freemont sighed. “The usual. Sunday afternoons are for gaming.”

Willy expected to listen to a mature answer than what he heard and it was evident from his facial expressions.

Freemont noticed the same, laughed and said, “It is necessary to keep the kid inside you alive, Willy.”

Their private plane booked for them by the Government of a city-state of Juana landed on the rain-washed runway. Juana is connected by trains with few islands around, that are well-connected with the rest of the world, currently in a better political state than Juana. For almost every travel in and out of this city, airplanes are the most promising mode of transport. The airport was washed, but no amount of rain could wash out the tyranny of the unknown intruders who have been eating the life out of the city by harbouring a brutal regime under Juana’s glorified skin.

A group of terrorists attacked this benign state that lay far away from the globalization, in the middle of the Atlantic. They came by boats. Dozens of them, and took over the administration of half of the petite state.

“The only thing we know about these savages is their reasoning that they scream out loud through videos and banners.” The DCI of Juana, who asked for a favour from Svent Freemont, expressed the borderline despair that he was experiencing.

“And that is?” Svent asked as he leaned forward in his chair and rested his arms on the wooden table in between them.

The DCI stared Freemont in his deep black eyes and said, “Revenge is inevitable. You took something away from me. I will take everything from you.”

The monstrous demonstrations of murders and total autocracy in half of the city had brought Juana to its knees. If not stopped, the city-state will be eliminated before it could receive any foreign aid, in case it does. The message that the assailants yell out sent a chill down the spines of Svent and Willy, as they both rested back on their chairs.

“It sounds like you have mistaken me for someone who stops terrorism, Mr. DCI.”

“I know exactly where your expertise lies in, Mr. Freemont. I have read and heard a lot about you. I called you here trusting your stellar zeal in solving cases. In the better part of the city where we are right now, several number of people are missing since last few days, and no investigation has come to fruition, yet.”

Freemont was not impressed. He was looking for a reason why he was requested to travel hundreds of kilometers into this war-torn city-state.

“And the reason why I want the best detective here in my city,” the DCI continued, assured to wipe out the frown off Svent’s face. “Is because it is almost impossible to flee this city via cars and passenger trains are rusting in the yard. Goods trains are on, for even the terrorists need them, but they are under constant surveillance. All the modes of transportation have been monitored and controlled by the assailants. They had no idea that the airfield where you landed on could be operational if we want it to. It is like a curfew in the other part of my city-state! The case of missing people is only loosely linked with terrorism. It is something else. Here is where we need your help, Mr. Freemont.”

The sun shone bleakly over the plagued city of Juana as Freemont and Willy made their way towards the private car that the Government of Juana had arranged for the two. On the other side of the street, a man dressed in black overalls, with his eyes, his magnificent azure eyes bore into Freemont’s as if sending him a message. Svent’s prying eyes caught the attention of a pistol shabbily hidden under the man’s loose dress. Without any sudden movement, Svent and Willy took off from the police station and fled the scene, leaving Svent into a swirl of thoughts that centred around the peculiar man who stood behind a tree with a unique pair of eyes.

The hotel room over overlooked the area, which had noticed a lot of missing people- the central railway station of Juana. As the night fell, Svent was deep in his thoughts, and Willy sat right by him, clueless on where to begin with the search. The moon shone with all its might over the railway bridge where a man passed through with a feline stealth. He stopped in the middle of the bridge and after a couple of minutes and jumped off the bridge over an oncoming train! Svent was startled to see this and he hurried himself to the bridge and try to comprehend the eerie series of scenes that took place right in front of his eyes. Willy was instructed to stay at home, in case they are approached by someone in this matter.

Svent came back to the room, disappointed and tensed. Willy asked him, releasing the repressed restlessness, “What happened back there?”

Svent was absolutely clueless, but headstrong on solving this case. There was no body there. Neither on the bridge, nor on the tracks!

They witnessed another eight mysterious jumps from over the bridge onto the trains and this seemed to be in total slip of his hands. He had no grasp on the matter. While Svent was baffled, Willy made a keen observation that threw a very bright light on this case. Willy pointed out that every person who has jumped from this bridge has stopped there for some time with their head sunk into their chests as if they were reading something. Since their hands seemed to be empty, it must be a small note.

“It cannot be a co-incidence that everyone had something to read right before they jumped. Someone is making them do this!” Freemont got up of the chair, and rushed himself to the bridge, once again asking Willy to continue with the case if he does not return back. Svent’s energy was overwhelming to the point that Willy shed a couple tears at the thought of Freemont giving away his life only to solve a case.

Svent waited for some hours and nothing. It was a forlorn afternoon when the clouds dominated the mighty sun, making it look feeble and ineffective. He stood at the bridge and observed the only few people who passed him on the bridge. He could feel the oppression that the citizens felt, making them wait in the shelter of their homes until the dark clouds cleared from their lives. When he put his hands inside his jacket pocket, he found himself fumbling for a small note that someone sneaked into his pocket when he stood there. Feeling infringed, Svent was utterly shocked for the fact that he, being an excellent detective, let the witness away with not much of a sense of when and how!

The note read, “Take a leap of faith on the next train that passes from under you. See you on the other side.” Sweat broke on Freemont’s brow, but he had to jump. This was the only way to find out the truth. He did not know if he is going to come out alive, but this was a chance his passion for the profession demanded him to take. The train came, the coaches all roof open, filled with white goods. He did not know what they were, but he knew that they would prevent him from getting killed. he closed his eyes, jumped on it and the next thing that he saw was a train station where the train was opened up and he was rescued. Fear trickled from every bone of his body, but he had learnt to hide it well. He stepped out of the train as some men tried to help him with it. It was a very small train station.

Before he could orient himself after the train journey to an unknown land, a voice greeted him from behind, “I was waiting for you, Mr. Freemont.”

It was the man with the azure eyes. Svent was shocked to see him there and he immediately realized the he is a part of a bigger plan and he did not know why. “You! You are trapping people here in this faraway land!”

The man with the azure eyes heard Freemont out, understanding his accusation completely. It was not hard for detective like Svent Freemont to find a gun on a man’s body. “Mr. Freemont, I am aware that Juana has brought you here for a cause, and I am here to help you in this cause. I am not against you.”

Freemont was astonished at what he heard. He was in utter disbelief. Before he could speak further, the man with azure eyes continued. “You are the only one whom I can trust right now. If I were to confess to a Juana military personnel or even the DCI, I would be shot dead or imprisoned under premises of terrorism. Nobody but you will believe me.”

Svent sensed a tone of sincerity from his man. Gathering all his patience, he listened to him. He met some Juana citizens who awaited Freemont’s arrival, in order to convince him of the nobility of the man with azure eyes.

“I am indeed a part of the terrorist group, but it is not my choice. They have my family hostage and any hint that they would receive against me, they will all be dead. I cannot tolerate this horrendous inhumanity and I have been doing my part in trying to rescue people from unaffected areas of Juana to his part of the region, where that madman is not creating havoc, and won’t. He has nothing to do with here. Juana is his only target. This needs to be very low-profile and therefore, it is very secretive.”

Freemont was impressed and sympathetic towards the man. His emotions took an about turn. He heard the man out, completely. He now knew the reason why the madman is on a killing spree, and why he is targeting Juana. “What do you want me to do?”

“Take this train back, and urge the DCI to stop his search for the missing men. They are missing for a good cause. They are all safe here, and my small network of people in Juana are rescuing as many as they can before they see themselves on the madman’s target. If DCI advances his search any further and if he hears about it, the consequences are going to be gorier than now.”

“I will do that,” Freemont said with a new-found zest and motive for the case. “Why cannot I recollect hearing this madman’s name before?” Freemont thought to himself, “Victor Klashkinov.”

“Sure you have,” replied the man with azure eyes. “He is otherwise known as The Boss!”