Part 13 is here for your read. I have included the previous parts at one place for easier read. Thanks for your support and let me know your thoughts
PART 1 26-Oct-18
The sordid emotions from the past kept visiting her deviant mind making her restless and more she tried to detach from the horrid thoughts, it surged back with a renewed purpose. She did everything to detox her overthinking mind – read, played, danced, binge ate but nothing worked. The past never left her, often staring at her with a mischievous grin. Tired of its unceremonious visits she decided to accost her morbid soul. She hustled, screamed, pleaded but all she received was a silent stare with that infamous smirk mocking her helplessness. How she wished she had an option to denounce everything, go back in life and erase the past. Would she be able to conjure strength to confront the past?
PART 2 26-Oct-18
She could never forget that defying moment. The vivid imagery was engraved permanently on her mind. That fall evening when the gelid breeze was blowing from the north, sweeping the pale, green leaves along. The day was turning gray and the fast vanishing sun was casting tall shadows of trees on the cold cobbled streets. She walked with some purpose meandering the pathway lost in some deep thoughts. There was a weather warning, the storm was about to hit the port town. She could feel the gust of wind gradually gaining speed. She turned her attention to the dial, it was past 7:30 PM. If it was not for her demanding work, she cursed under her breath and paced herself a tad less than a dash. As she curbed along the path she witnessed a gray shadow hustling with a limp. He turned and looked at her for few moments before turning around and dissolving in the cold pewter evening.
PART 3 27-Oct-18
That face she could never forget for a lifetime. The cheekbone dropping deep, giving a ghostly touch to his aghast look. The unblinking hollow eyes fixated firmly on his frame and his glance sharp and narrow. His lips were thin without any expression and the long coat he draped appeared worn out and dilapidated. The gaze was brief and he turned around dissolving in the oblivion. By now the wind had gained momentum. The occasional thunders, the gentle drizzle all suggested the arrival of a bellowing storm. She pulled her focus back and regained her lost pace to reach her dwelling with urgency. And then she saw someone lying on the ground. There was no movement. The body lay still, immovable and lifeless. Her feet froze, beads appeared on her cold temple unceremoniously. In a complete subconscious state, she approached the desolate person. Little she knew this moment would change her, redefine her and accost her for that day and beyond.
Part 4 28-Oct-18
From closer proximity, she saw the body of a girl lying insentient with her face down. Besides the awkward placement, nothing looked wrong. The long brown coat was still perfectly fitting her, the black boots looked elegant and her golden tresses looked unscathed. There was nothing on her or near her that suggested any harm. Brenda knelt down to observe her more closely.
“Are you Ok?”
There was no response. She held her arms and shook her but didn’t get any feedback. She mustered some courage and turned her over to expose her countenance. Her eyes were closed and her petite face exuded radiance. Despite the insanity surrounding her lifeless stature, she appeared to be at calm.
Brenda started shivering. The fear of the unknown engulfed her. And then the torrent of downpour arrived as if the sky opened a massive deluge. The wind also gained pace confirmed by the swaying of the chestnut oaks. She got up in haste and retraced her steps back. Then she turned around and dashed. She kept running until she came to the main intersection. The rain had drenched her from head and toe. Though she had an umbrella on her she failed to notice its existence. The storm had peaked by now and the street looked desolate. It took her few minutes to realize the grave mistake she committed. Maybe the girl had lived in her. Maybe she could have given her first aid. The untoward thoughts surged back overpowering her already devastated being. And in a state of stupor, she turned around and ran back. She reached the position where she left the girl and looked for its existence. The street was pitch dark and the rain was blinding her vision. She stretched her eyes but failed to notice the girl. She put the torch on her phone to illuminate the area but that didn’t help either. Not even a scintilla of what she noticed just a few minutes ago existed. She climbed the boulder next to the street, she looked on the meadow on the other side, she combed the pathway inch by inch, but besides the coldness and a constant eerie nothing existed. The girl had vanished. Aghast and despaired, she walked back to her apartment with dropped shoulders and a disheveled heart.
Part 5 11-Nov-18
She had a restless night. The past evening horror was pasted all over her mind. Next morning she scanned all local TV channels and newspapers but couldn’t find a trace of any untoward event. She took the day off from work and used the time to reorient her mind. Sharing with her best friend sounded tempting but she refrained, for she was too ashamed to expose her guilt. Calling parents was not a good idea, particularly when her own thoughts were convoluted.
A month went by but life was never the same for Brenda. The fateful evening kept revisiting her. And no matter how much she tried, the benign face of the petite girl clouded her mind. She knew the moment would stay with her forever and hoped that time would heal her anxieties. And with that thought, she got back to her life rhythm, slowly but surely until one Saturday evening.
This was the first time since that incident she went for a girls night out. It was a lively evening. The girls, the Castro Pub, the drinks, and the gossip, everything around was a blessing. She was glad she stepped out her apartment. The blithe was distinct and visible on her face. After a few hours, she stepped out to use the restroom. Right at the alley before she could turn she came tete-a-tete with the person she saw on the cold street of Chicago. Their eyes met for few seconds and he scurried away with the same distinct limp.
Part 6 12-Nov-18
Her heart leaped to her mouth. The stupor she was happily consumed in stripped away and before she could comprehend the situation, the man disappeared. Almost in a subconscious manner, she scurried forward, trying to trace the path the man went. The narrow alley turned few times and opened to an exit. This was the only outlet the pathway had, and she stepped out into the dark night with urgency.
Soon she was swept away by the coldness. Her coat was in the pub closet. There was no time to go back and biting the cold she surged forward. The night had crawled in and the streets were relatively empty. She glanced around but couldn’t see the person. It was a narrow alley with tall buildings crowding on both sides. Towards her left, about 400 feet away, she saw a four-way intersection guarded by a traffic light. On her right, it was a dark alley with no visibility. Her intuition led her towards the right. She knew the man limped and couldn’t have gone too far. Her dash wasn’t too effective for she had her heels on, besides the cold was chilling her bones. After a few minutes of hapless running, she saw the person hastily limping away to find an escape path. She kept her pace and pulled out her phone to call the cops. But before she could dial the number a gunshot arrested the tranquility of the street.
She felt numb. With trembling hands, she touched the viscous substance flowing in abundance. She was shot and soon emptiness engulfed her senses.
Part 7 13-Nov-18
The shadow glanced at the victim with skeptical eyes. Soon he saw her falling on the pavement, recoiled and collapsed. There was no time to waste. He swiftly moved on to the side street, promptly drifting away, vanishing into the darkness with his signature limp.
He had to kill her. He was looking for the right opportune time for the past month. Observing her every move, following her closely, trying to find the right moment to execute on his plan. And he was glad he could finally put this behind. She had seen his face and even when she had not approached the police or done anything alarming, she had to die, for he couldn’t take any chance. There was no way anyone could have the scintilla of that night proceeding, for it could rattle the apple cart. And if the domino breaks it would fail “Sigilio”, which no one in the cartel could afford.
He walked up to the other side of the street to the South Bay parking garage and soon left the place unnoticed.
Part 8 15-Nov-18
A sign of tranquility graced Ray’s countenance. For the past month, he was in a constant battle, debating whether to divulge the episode to Jamie or not. However, every time he mustered some courage, the ruthlessness of his boss impedes his advances. But today he was finally at peace, for he had succeeded in getting rid of the sole witness.
He drove around the block and came back to the intersection leading to the Castro Pub. From the distance, he could see an entourage of police vans. There were sirens bellowing and a distinct commotion crowded the atmosphere. There was a police officer standing at the intersection diverting the traffic. He slowed down, rolled the window and with a soft tone queried
“Is everything OK officer?”
“There is a casualty.”
There was no one trailing his car. He took the advantage and asked another leading question.
“Someone shot a girl.”
“Is the girl ok?”
“Don’t know. They took her to the hospital. You should get moving.”
He moved forward without any definitive conclusion about the girl. St. Presbyterian hospital was few blocks away. He had to make another stop before he could call it a night.
Part 9 – 16-Nov-18
Cheryl was a loner. She had no friends, no acquaintance, no bonding with anyone. She lived a stealth life, discreet and unannounced with zero social media footprint. Her colleagues at office tried many times to socialize but she never entertained. Besides her name, nothing was known. She was dropped dead gorgeous, which from time to time encouraged a few to express their interest, but she never gave any importance to any advances.
As much as she appeared reticent, her work ethics were impeccable. She joined Premier Hedge Equity a year back and in a short time, she was considered one of the most bright executive company had. Her analytical skills, customer handling, hedge modeling advice were beyond excellence. Within one year she had garnered the status of a director working as part of the elite portfolio group. The unit was led by James Dubiok, one amongst the two managing partners of the company.
James was a respective personality in the equity world. For Cheryl, it was a platform to excel and she focused on nothing but work. With her skills, she soared. Life was good and the sky was the limit. Until that fateful evening. An evening to reckon, an evening she could never forget.
Part 10 – 17-Nov-18
It was past 7:00 PM. Nothing unusual for Cheryl, for she usually worked late hours. She had nothing to look forward at home so thought of spending the evening finishing work. Being Friday, the office was deserted, something she loved about working on Friday evening.
It was time to go through the Galactic Inc. file. Acquiring Galactic business was James top priority and she had kept her Friday free exactly for the reason. Galactic was a new airline company with a unique operating style. Unlike the hub and the spoke model, which most airlines follow, Galactic focused on operating at the less crowded route. Their analytical model allowed them to operate in segments where other airlines shied away from, avoiding competition. Their aircraft were smaller in size and they charged a premium price.
Galactic wanted to hedge the oil price for the next ten years. They believed the oil prices would go up in the future and were exploring options. Forward hedgings were risky instruments and Galactic wanted to hire the top hedge firm to ensure their model would yield more value with adequate risk mitigations in place.
She got engrossed going through Galactic Inc. profile. She worked out models, created charts, compared notes, and before she could realize it was past midnight. She wrapped up her work and called it a night.
Her apartment was a few blocks away. Weather permitting she preferred walking but the night was cold so she hailed a cab. She entered the code on the display pad by her apartment building to gain access and as she entered, a man tailgated her. He was wearing a long coat and a fedora hat, which was tilted at an angle hiding his face. He quietly followed her to the elevator. She passed a small smile and the man reciprocated with a nod. He got off on the same floor as Cheryl and walked past her. She could distinctly note the limp as he paced forward. She got her attention back to the door and got busy opening it.
Suddenly she felt a sudden force, pushing her inside her apartment. She was shocked and before she could react the man locked the door behind her.
She was too appalled to react and with aghast eyes stared at the man who had one hand on her mouth and other twisting her hand firming to her back.
Part 11 – 18-Nov-18
Everything appeared blurry and though she could see people screaming, she wasn’t able to hear a word. She haplessly looked around her. Not even one face looked familiar. Every eye was searching her, every gaze appeared vicious. She tried to lift her legs but failed, open her mouth to howl but voice failed her. She felt frozen as if she was bolted to the ground.
And then her eyelids moved and with a herculean effort, she managed to open her eyes.
She realized she was caught in a nightmare. However, the surroundings were still blurry. She could still see unknown faces but this time the cacophony was distinct. The voices she could hear but not able to comprehend. She tried to get up but failed. Slowly her vision was getting clear and voices settled down. The senses slowly were creeping back and she recalled the touch of hot blood on her body, the man she was chasing and the cold night.
Tubes were running all over her and she was surrounded by few beeping machines.
She saw a man in blue scrubs bending towards her, holding her hand to gauge her pulse.
“Good morning Miss Brenda. How are you feeling now?”
She tried responding but her voice couldn’t find its way out. Instead, she forced a thin smile and nodded.
“Good. I am glad you are ok. Everything is fine. Take some rest and I will see you soon.”
The voice and the man disappeared and she coiled back to sleep again.
Part 12 – 19-Nov-18
“We have few questions for you. Hope you are comfortable answering them.”
The police officer made the comment with a long serious face.
Brenda was feeling much better now. The shot hit the left side of her chest, few inches away from the heart. It broke few rib cage bones. Though she would take few months to recover, she was glad she dodged death.
“Miss are you okay to talk?” The officer insisted for Brenda was lost in her thoughts.
“Yes, officer.” She sheepishly responded.
“Did someone forced you to leave the pub?”
“Then why did you leave the place? You didn’t even have your coat on you? What was the urgency?”
“I thought I saw an old friend of mine. I followed him and before I realized I was shot.”
“Did your friend shoot you?”
She was getting herself winded in a trap. Narrating the real incidence was never on her mind, for she didn’t want any more trouble. She was too petrified and all she desired was to forget the incidence and get on with her life.
“No, he didn’t.”
“How can you be so sure?”
The police officer was narrowing his grip.
“Because soon I found out it was not him”
She tried to be calm as she found her escape path.
“What is your friend’s name?”
That question hit her hard. She hadn’t planned to give a name. More she thought hard, more her mind was void of any answer.
“Which friend?” She tried buying some time.
“The person you confused to be your friend.”
“Oh! I thought I saw Blake from my college days.”
“What’s Blake’s last name?”
“Blake Johnson. He wasn’t the person though.” She blurted with hastiness.
The police officer didn’t react and continued, “when did you last see him?”
“I haven’t seen him since I left college.”
“Thank you, Ms. Brenda. Hope you feel better”
The officer left and Brenda took a sigh of relief. Her temple was covered with beads of sweat and she hoped the officer didn’t notice it.
She had a plan. She had decided to leave her job, the town, her friends, everything she owned and move to a new place anonymously.
Part 13 – 20-Nov-18
“I mean no harm. But if you shout I will shoot you.”
The man loosened the grip on her and brandished a gun.
Cheryl was too aghast to raise her voice. She was shivering head to toe, and she had layers of beads all over her visage.
“Take a seat.” The man commanded pointing to the sofa with his gun.
She still hadn’t found her voice and followed the instructions without much resistance.
“Now listen to me carefully. If you do as I say, nothing will happen to you. You go your way and I go mine.”
He paused to observe her reaction. She appeared appalled and too traumatized to respond.
“Get yourself a glass of water. Will you?” He commanded.
She slowly got up and with trembling hands drank some water. The water did the trick and she came out of her astounded state.
“What do you want?” She finally spoke with a tremulous voice.
“Have you heard about Haborton fuel options?”
“What about them?” She asked trying to gauge where he was heading.
“What you know about them?”
“Why is this important?”
“You ask too many questions?” The man got up and with a limp approached the sofa. He put the gun on her temple and pushed the cold metal gently forward, forming a circle on her head.
“You will not ask questions but only answer. Understand?”
She nodded. He stepped back but kept standing, towering over her and continued.
“Good, so what do you know about Haborton?”
“They provide aircraft forward fuel hedging options.” She said with a sotto voice.
“I want you to recommend forward hedging to Galactic Inc. Do not let them purchase any current oil contracts. And once they agree push Harborton options to them.”
She was flabbergasted. “Do you think it is that easy? I am not the only one working. There are committees, rationalization, modeling, client presentation. There are so many factors involved. How do you think I can get this done?”
“If there is one person who can get this done is you. Besides, you need to make it happen. How? That is none of my problem?”
“What if I say no.”
“No is not an option. 12 Dewitt blvd in Lambertville is in our constant supervision. You don’t want your parents to die so soon do you?
The world was closing on her. She didn’t have many options but to listen to him.
“I will see you in one week. Remember, if you try to act smart, you have many things to lose and I have nothing.”
And he limped away from her apartment leaving a troubled soul behind.
Copyright © Shantanu Baruah
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