His hands were set on the keyboard, ready to type out the thoughts buzzing in his head. He sat staring at the computer screen, his fingers rooted to the respective keys, wondering where to begin. It was late in the night; the office was almost empty–only one or two employees, sitting in obscure corners, perhaps waiting to attend the late night calls. His presence was unknown to them; he had not bothered to turn on the lights of his cubicle. For almost ten minutes, he remained in the same pose, still as a statue. Then suddenly, he quaffed the coffee kept on his desk and the choice was made–he would rather not answer the email. Yes, that would be a good option. He would keep quiet. This way, he would remain safe. And so would the others.
He closed the browser, crossed his fingers and rested his chin on them. The screen now displayed the details of some hi-tech, incomprehensible technology. His eyes vaguely followed the article, stopping at the words that were common to the vicious email. As reaction, images wildly flashed in front of his eyes. The graveyard that he visited every month, decaying like the buried bodies it held. His childhood home, the floors of which were anointed with blood. The grey revolver in his closet, the sheen dulled by the murders it committed. The face of the man that he hated the most, hated so much that he would never refrain to murder the scoundrel…
Why should these haunt his mind? Suddenly, after so long? The event seemed to have happened in some unknown era of his past. Today, everything came alive as if he was warped in time. Why?
He got up, moved out of his office silently. The air outside was ice cold, to his great relief-the bitterness released the torturous memories. He decided that he would walk today—it would give him time to think. Meanwhile, he had to start his course of action, confirm his suspicions before it was too late. He turned left to go to Peter’s, his home was the nearest.
As he walked down the empty streets, he hoped that Peter had not changed his address. It had been five long years that he had contacted anyone or even read the emails. He remembered receiving something from Peter but he had thrown it away, as he had pledged. To lose himself into a new world where he was invisible. No one had really understood why. Even he didn’t.
The house seemed lived in. It was well kept, the burgeoning cherry blossom tree was an evidence. He walked up to the gate post and squinted to read the name on the etched marble. #45, Murphys, it read. He heaved a sigh and hoped everything following would be good.
He opened the gate silently and walked towards the door. There were some clanking sounds that came from inside the house but the lights had been turned off. He glanced at his watch. At the same time the Big Ben struck. It was midnight. Too late to knock at someone’s door. Nonetheless, he had to do it.
He rapped on the door in his usual style. He wondered whether Peter would recognize it. He wondered if he would want to see him again. But was it really there enough time to think all of this? No, no time if he was to meet a mess. Yes, the most important thing was…Peter should be present-in a single piece, as it was said. They were ruthless. They could have done anything. Five minutes had passed, without any reply. He was beginning to get impatient.
He rapped again, louder this time. Nothing seemed to be stirring inside. It was late, definitely, but Peter never slept so heavily. Anxious, he punched the door savagely, with a force good enough to break it. Still, silence prevailed. There was something wrong.
“Peter? Peter?” he called out, his voice in rhythm with his knocks.
“Peter? PETER! Can you hear me?” he called out again. No results.
He turned the knob to break in. The door easily gave away. The house was not locked. He turned on the lights of the living room. The scene took him aback. It was a complete mess. Things thrown here and there, furnitures out of their usual places, as though someone was struggling. The TV was off the table. Nothing seemed…normal. His blood had already begun to boil. How could they?
He moved inside the house, effortlessly, in search of some clues of Peter’s whereabouts. There would definitely be something. All rooms were in the same state. He checked every nook and cranny, to get something that would give him a direction. He was in the master bedroom when he heard the clanking again. Following his sharp senses, he reached the bedroom at the end of the house. He took wary steps, in a ready position to attack. Then, he switched on the light. No one in the room, except a cat, who seemed to be playing around. Damn! They did it so cleanly. Not one clue. Once he found out he swore he wouldn’t leave them. He tried calling Peter’s cellphone, it was unreachable. As expected, he thought,now I must act. But before he did anything, he had to visit Andrew. He might know stuff.
Without hesitating a moment, he took a taxi and rushed off to see Andrew. He could not act without seeing what Andrew had in store. Of one thing he was sure of-the death game had begun long before they had sent the mail. The plan was structured like pieces on chess board. One wrong move…
He was so lost in thoughts that he hardly realized when the taxi stopped. He jumped off the taxi and ran to Andrew’s door and wildly knocked on the door. Within few seconds, Andrew opened the door, and spoke groggily, eyes half closed, “Hey Man! Do you even realize-?” Andrew just opened his eyes to see the man.
He rubbed his eyes and shook his head vigorously. “Can I believe it is Jonathan Scott? Showing up at this inopportune hour of the night, after years of hiding?” Andrew’s voice reflected the delight clearly
“Hi, Andrew. Thought I’d just drop by,” replied Jonathan, in his usual dry tone.
“You didn’t think that, did you? There is something else on your mind,” replied Andrew, in a matter-of- fact voice. A smile lightened up his face.
His icy blue eyes shot a look of astonishment towards Andrew. He gazed on the ground for a while, before he spoke up, “You are right.” Words didn’t seem to have an easy passage today. Not that they always had, but today was much more difficult.
Andrew studied him, trying to figure out the underlying situation. “Come inside. You must be cold.”
Jonathan moved inside the house. He was indeed very cold. Only that he didn’t realize this all the time he was outside, wandering to confirm his suspicion. The décor hit him with a fierce nostalgia. It used to be his favorite hangout place, back in the old days. Old days? Did he really want to remember them? Have a taste of them, again? Yes, he did miss them terribly.Right now is not the time, he said to himself. There was more than one life in danger.
“Where were you all these years?” asked Andrew, as he shut out the chilling winds.
“London.” Jonathan replied. He didn’t understand why he even asked that. It was of no importance right now.
Andrew was astonished. “Why didn’t I ever see you?” he asked.
“Because I didn’t want to be seen.” Jonathan replied, impatience showing up in his tone.
Andrew sensed it. He knew his friend just too well. He began to ask for a drink,“Should I—”
Jonathan cut him short. He didn’t want the usual frivolities. He drove straight to the point “Where is Peter?”
“He has gone on a vacation to Madagascar with his wife,” said Andrew, coolly.
Jonathan had a puzzled look on his face. Really? He had gone on a vacation?
“Oh yes, you wouldn’t know. Peter married Melanie last year.”
Damn! He would never understand. Of course Peter would have married by now. That was not the source of botheration. “I went to Peter’s home before coming here and–”
“You knocked at the door for long and no one replied. You opened the door and found the house in a state as if Peter had been taken. Messed up, things astray on the floor, cellphone unreachable–giving you an idea that something might have happened to him, didn’t it? Well, it’s normal. Most of his plans are last minutes. He really does a lot to keep Melanie happy. Six months ago, the same happened with me. I called up the department, filed a report and after two days, they found Peter holidaying in Italy. After that he makes sure he informs me before he is up for such a plan. And duly, I received his call today at 6p.m. saying that Melanie and he were leaving for Madagascar.” Andrew explained.
“It is perfectly normal then?” asked Jonathan. He was not convinced. There was a nagging feeling inside that told him something had happened to Peter. And whoever had done it was really very smart.
“As usual as it can be. You know Peter,” he shrugged. Andrew seemed contended with the scenario.
Should he mention about the e-mail? No, not now. After all, it could just be a prank (which seemed highly unlikely to him). And even if he told Andrew, he wasn’t sure that Andrew would believe it. There was only one person who could help him at this point. He desperately needed to talk to Gander. The problem was, he had lived cut out from this world for so long that he didn’t know anything about anyone.
There was nothing much Jonathan could extract from Andrew. He stood up briskly and moved towards the door.
Andrew was surprised. He studied Jonathan’s reaction. He could understand that Jonathan was keeping away something. He didn’t dare to ask. There was a rule with Jonathan-you never asked many questions. He satisfied himself by inquiring-“When will I see you next?”
Jonathan wanted to say “Never”, but instead answered “Soon.” And
headed towards his apartment.
Getting back to his apartment was a feeling he wanted to experience for long. It was like a refuge, where he could clearly give way to his thoughts, to his ideas and questions, without being questioned or disturbed. He removed his coat and sat on the couch, thinking deeply. Peter was taken, he could assure that. Should he call the yard and let them handle it? But it was his case through and through, he had opened it and it was his duty to close it, without involving the others. Except Gander, of course, who had urged him to follow it. He really missed… I should concentrate on them he coaxed himself. To begin with, he rolled over the last case in his mind…perhaps, amidst the situations, he would find something valuable. Something to work upon. But everything was blurred in his mind. The day had been long indeed. He decided to take over the matter after getting a refreshing sleep. He got up from the couch, walked towards his study and started to see the old case files that he had not discarded. It brought back the urge to get back into action again. That was the life he was had loved. Back then, how easily had everyone thought that nothing would ever follow! One’s deeds were never left behind. The truth stood unquestioned.
“I told you they would come back. They have,” said a cool voice from behind, as if to validate Jonathan’s thought process. He turned back in astonishment.