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Heartbreaking Impasse of a Grey Evening, Part 1

Walking Dead?

The windscreen wipers moving back and forth were laboring to wipe defiant torrents of rainwater pelting down the front of the car. Although the interior of the car was fairly warm, I could almost feel the chill in the wind out there. However, my mind was more attracted to a myriad of colors flashing up and down the street as car headlights lit up the wet tarmac; some reflected off colored umbrellas while others made eerie mirage-like dances on the drenched highway.

Then it happened.

For a fleeting moment I thought I had seen her, but I hesitated … no, it couldn’t be her, she was dead! How could I even think about it? I removed my glasses and rubbed my eyes, then put them back on. With clouded thoughts, I peered grimly through the windscreen and tried to engage my brain with the hectic movement of the wipers. The jam had brought the normal highway rush to an uneasy standstill. Light flashed red, orange and back to red again then got split into a thousand tiny rubies onto the windscreen of the taxi.

Seated beside me, the cab driver snorted, coughed and grabbed the wheel with an exasperated resignation. He did his best to avoid my gaze and that somehow made me a bit more comfortable. The less prying eyes the better, I mused and smiled to myself. For sure I knew that if he could have glanced at me, he couldn’t have seen a smile: I was dead sure my face looked more ghostly than the scariest phantom imaginable. Ghostly? No, ghostly was what I had seen through the taxi windscreen right there in the storm (or rather what I thought I had seen.) Of course it was nonsense, I reasoned with myself. Yet, with suppressed alarm gnawing the back of my mind, I felt a peculiar thumping rhythm resound inside my chest. What if … what if it was her? What if the wet face fully exposed in the glare of the street lamp was of the same woman who, four years ago, had disappeared right into thin air? Before she could utter one word that could have changed my destiny, forever? What if …

No, no, stop it! My vision was getting blurred. As reluctantly as I could, I slowly turned my head left. The woman had her back to us, and was bending forward talking to a snack seller on the restaurant veranda. The snack seller picked his tongs, dipped them into a glass bowl and fetched something, then stuffed it into a paper bag which he handed to her.

Right then she turned round to cross the road.

Once again, her face was fully illuminated. My jaw dropped. It was her! Oh God, it was indeed her! I stared at her dark eyes, her loose hair blowing in the wind, her shapely frame enveloped in a long black leather jacket and her long shapely legs inside a pair of wet blue jeans. I was vaguely aware of the cab driver staring at me with interest but I couldn’t take my eyes off the woman standing on the curb, gripping an umbrella in the chilly storm. I was even more vaguely aware that the traffic jam had eased and the cab driver had engaged gear.

With almost a savage force, the car lurched forward and began to speed along the highway.

“Stop!” I croaked hoarsely.

“What!” He retorted incredulously.

“I said stop the car!” I shouted violently. He stared at me as if he was seeing me for the first time.

“We are in the middle of a blasted highway! I can’t stop here!”

I turned back and saw the woman cross the road and enter a brightly-lit building across the highway. What followed then was a sheer act of stunning impulse. I unlocked the car door, dug my elbow hard into it, flung it wide open and jumped. The cab driver cursed and screeched violently. I wasn’t even listening. Worse, I wasn’t even thinking of the oncoming vehicles that could crush me to pulp any minute.

The landing knocked the breath off my lungs and I doubled, rolled and threw my numb body over the curb. Painfully, I struggled back on my feet, staggered a few times then began to run back towards the direction that the woman had disappeared. I had to see her. I had to talk to her. I had to know what had happened four years ago when she had refused to answer my calls, when she had disappeared without trace only to be reported dead. I had to know who had taken her place in the morgue, who looked like her and why that other woman was dead. More importantly, I had to know what caused her to disappear for all those years while I rotted in jail—all because of her.

I ran and ran. Rain hammered my unprotected head, raced through my hair and down my neck. If only she could have stayed on, pick a phone and speak just one word into the mouthpiece - just one word! I would be in a villa of my own set in the midst of rolling plains with flower gardens swaying in the breeze of spring while an elegant, well-groomed butler attended to me. But she had done the opposite: she had told the police that I was a smuggler, that the jewelry found in my flat belonged to her boss and that I had looted it from his store armed. Armed, for God’s sake! I didn’t even own a gun! Whoever had planted the necklaces had done a real good job and both she and whomever it was had to pay for sending me to the slammer for three years before my sentence was cut off.

I spotted the brightly-lit restaurant and waited feverishly for the speeding vehicles to pass, then crossed the highway and approached the entrance. The receptionist was fanning through the pages of a book and he straightened up when he saw me. He glanced at me with dull eyes devoid of interest and went on fussing with his book. “Up the stairs, mister” he mumbled without looking at me for a second time. Straight up ahead of me past the landing was the restaurant inner entrance.

I grabbed the banister rail and hurled myself up the stairs, two at a time. The dining room was busy with diners on the tables keen to have something to warm their bodies as the storm went on raging outside. My eyes quickly scanned the room but I couldn’t spot her. Then just as I was about to go back down the stairs and ask the receptionist if he had spotted her leaving, I caught a movement from the corner of my eye and turned my head towards the bar. I saw her thrust some keys into her pocket and turn towards the corridor that led to the rooms.

I went after her.

She turned left and opened a door, entered and shut the door behind her. A few steps later, I reached the same door, grabbed the handle, turned it and stepped into a small room with a narrow bed, a side cabinet, a chair and a small table. The floor was littered with crumpled cigarette butts. The girl was staring through a window at the other end of the wall, and she didn’t bother to turn when I came in. Seated in the small chair, a ruthless grin in his vicious face, a smoking cigarette between his thin lips was Felix. He was holding a gun in his hand, and its barrel was pointed at me.

“Hiya there, mate, long time no see.” He sneered. “I see your past is catching up with you, ain’t it now?”

“Felix …” I found my voice, “is this some kind of joke?”

He lost his grin and cocked his eyebrow. “Aah, joke, right? You come barging in here uninvited and wet like a duck, you don’t knock and you ask me whether this is some kind of joke?” He raised the gun higher and aimed it at my face.

I felt rage starting to build up in me. “Oh, save me the theatrics, you snake, I came here to talk with her”, I snapped, and pointed at the girl with my chin. “Grace! What the—”

“Shut up!” he shouted, his face turning ugly, “or else I’ll smear the wall with your brains! Get down on the floor and stay put!”

Slowly, I sat on the floor and looked up at him. This was the same guy I had considered my pal, the man I had grown up with and known; and now he was holding a gun and pointing it at me. I had no doubt he could shoot me without batting an eyelid. There was an evil murderous light in his eyes that I didn’t like.

Then the girl turned and looked at me. Her eyes were engaging and intent. “Keep the gun down, Felix,” she cooed. Her voice was clear and smooth. “Dan isn’t going to cause trouble.”

Felix stared at me, frowning stubbornly, his thumb on the hammer of the gun.

“Come on, Felix,” urged Grace. “It’s okay, keep it down.”

Felix lowered the gun reluctantly and tucked it out of sight under his belt.

“Get out; I need to talk to Dan alone, Felix. Come on, leave us.” Grace came over and sat on the bed.

Felix began to walk past me towards the door. This was my moment, I told myself. If I let him past that door, he would lock us from the outside, most likely go and fetch the rest of the gang and finish me off. Suddenly, I threw my foot upwards then made a semi-circular sweeping move, tripping him painfully. For a moment he lost balance. Before he could fish out the gun, I jumped to my feet and crashed my fist on his jaw with all my bitterness behind it. He went down like a corpse, and remained limp. I kicked him over and retrieved his gun. All this happened with a speed I couldn’t explain. Grace sat on the bed staring.

I stood and looked at her. “You framed me. All I want is to know why. Tell me now.” My voice was shaking with emotion. She brushed some hair strands off her face and looked at me. Her eyes were dead expressionless. “We’ve got to go now. They’ll be here any minute. Do you get it? We gotta go!” she gestured impatiently with her hands.

I leaned forward and got my face closer to hers.

“No-one is going anywhere, Grace,” I said, slowly and composed. “I don’t care what happens to me. You see, you and this bastard already messed up my life. I want to know why, and you are going to tell me now. Get it?” At that point I could have strangled her without the slightest feeling of remorse but I strained to appear calm. If had to crack this code, I had to play calm.

Her eyes darted around the room frantically. “It’s a long story, Dan, I’ll tell you but not here! Certainly not here!”

I hesitated. What was she playing at? Was she setting yet another trap for me? Did she intend to lead me straight into a cobra’s lair? She was in for a surprise if she thought I would follow her. I was no longer the gullible naïve Dan of four years ago; time in prison had shaped me differently. Nevertheless, she was right: this was not the place for confrontation. We had to leave.

I sighed. “Okay, Grace. We are going out through the back exit, and you will go where I take you. Snap it!” I tucked the gun away, grabbed her arm and half-dragged her out of the room towards the back exit.

Five minutes later, I brought her out to the street, hailed a cab and sped towards Oakland Palms.

The Mirage-House

It had all started one day four years ago outside Ed’s car repair shop at the The Eastern Cavern when Felix, my childhood friend eased his red Chevy into the parking area. He switched off the engine, removed his sunglasses and stepped outside the car, pausing to wipe his brow. It was hot, one of those summers when not the tiniest breeze was blowing. I put down my spanners and stood up, wiping my oily hand with the cuff of my dust coat. Felix put on a broad smile. He was a tall heavily-built man, around thirty-five and graying around the temples already. The smile gave his clean-shaven face a square look.

“Hiya there, mate,” he said. “Must you break your back working out these crazy machines in this heat?”

“Hello Felix,” I relied, stifling a yawn. “What brings you to the Eastern Cavern?”

He dipped his hand into his shirt pocket, fetched a small envelop and handed it to me. “I am running an errand for Old Kruger. He thought I should hand this over to you. I am on my way to the city; a man has to cool his body somehow,” he said and winked. “Old Kruger’s money stinks right now, because it’s in his vault instead of being in my bank account.”

I laughed. “You are already doing something about it, as I can see.” He got back into his car and slammed the door shut, then rolled down the window. “No, Dan, this is like counting the pebbles at the beach.” He put on his specs and kicked the engine to life. “Poor bastard has never enjoyed life. Pity he will land himself into some elegant retirement home full of nuns and weirdos.” He reversed the car, made a u-turn and accelerated towards the highway. “See you real soon, mate!” he shouted and sped off. I waved my arm to him Adjusting my glasses, I ripped open the small envelop. Inside it was a well-folded paper, neatly handwritten with a fountain pen. I scanned the text with interest:

“To the attention of Dan Morgan, This is Kelly J Kruger. I am assuming you know me. I urgently need your help. Please come over S.V. Annex at 6.00pm, I will explain it in detail. You will be well paid for your effort, thank you.”

I stared blankly at the letter for a minute, let my mind wonder a bit and then shrugged.

I am assuming you know me …

Well, everyone knew Old Kruger. He was the wealthiest merchant in the city. He was a supplier of building and construction materials, owned wholesale stores for household goods, owned 36-wheeler trucks that transported transit goods across the border and owned an exhibition room that showcased rare jewelry and other interesting collection. This alone made him the most respected, most feared and most envied man in the district.

What did he want from me? How did he even know I existed? I was a just a humble mechanic. I repaired cars all day long: it was what I needed to make my mind relax. After being a private detective for over six years and surviving bullet fractures, I had wanted to put that life behind me and start a normal quiet life where no one from the past knew I existed.

Well, not quite: Kruger knew me. The richest man in town probably had had me investigated, knew I spent my days under vehicle engines listening to swing music and whiling time away in the Eastern Cavern. What did a man have to do to live his life in peace without anyone bothering him? Come on, Dan, I told myself. If rich people disturbed me and made sure I was well compensated, well, they were free to disturb me all day long.

“Fine!” I muttered to myself loudly. “I’ll come over; I could do with some extra money right now.”

At 2 minutes to six, I walked through the small gate at S.V. Annex, nodded to the two guards clad in stiff-looking gray uniform and entered the reception hall. Inside, a girl of around twenty-five sat behind a desk typing away a document. She was tall and beautiful. Her almond-shaped eyes studied my face and softened. Her pretty full-lipped mouth carved into a brilliant smile that pierced me.

“Mr. Morgan?” she said.

“Yes,” I smiled back. “Go right in,” she pointed at a door at her left with a beautifully manicured thumb. “Mr. Kruger is expecting you.”

I nodded at her, opened the door at my right and came into an elegantly furnished room. There was an expensive-looking couch and a highly polished mahogany desk in the middle of the room. Kruger was seated behind the desk with a glass of brandy in his hand. He rose as I entered.

“Welcome Mr. Morgan,” he beamed.

He was a giant of a man, around 6 feet tall with a frame that could survive a head-on collision with a train. I offered him my hand which he grabbed in a vice-like grip and shook. “Go on,” he said, gesturing towards drinks compartment. “Pour yourself something.”

I wasn’t in the mood for drinking. “No thanks, Mr. Kruger, I am fine.”

He waved to one of the two leather-covered chairs facing his desk. “Have a seat, please, won’t you?”

I eased my frame into the chair and waited. Kruger sat back, cocked his head and studied me the way a gem trader would study a new specimen. I met his gaze without blinking.

“I won’t waste time with you, Mr. Morgan. You see, I am a busy man and so are you, so why waste time?” He crossed his arms and smiled thinly.

“How can I be of help, Mr. Kruger?” I asked patiently.

“I have sort of tried to dig into your past, Mr. Kruger, and I have been informed that you have a brilliant background as a crime investigator. I have a job for you, and should you deliver satisfactorily …” he paused in mid-sentence and pulled open a drawer from the front of his desk. He fished out an A4-size envelope and threw it at me.

“Have a look at the contents.”

Inside the envelope was a bunch of glossy prints depicting an attractive villa set in an splendid compound surrounded by one of the most beautiful gardens I had ever seen.

What on earth was I supposed to do with the photographs?

“That villa is yours if you deliver the results I want.”

“What?” I asked sharply, “a villa as payment for an investigation?” This was unlike anything else I had ever heard, whether from a rich man or not. Looking at him, I could tell he read my doubts.

He shifted in his seat and shot me a matter-of-factly look. “Mr. Morgan, the assignment I want you to carry out is worth the token. You see, I have reason to believe someone is planning to have me killed. I have been stalked more than three times, followed on the highway and noticed a human figure in my home compound at night two days ago.” He lowered his voice and leaned forward. “Listen, Mr. Morgan, I have a persistent feeling that my wife is mixed up in it.”

“Really? Then why didn’t you report the matter to the police, Mr. Kruger?”

He frowned. “Quit talking nonsense,” he snapped. “I don’t want my name plastered all over the front-line news.”

“What makes you suspect your wife?” I asked. Deep in my mind I wasn’t concentrating; try as much as I could, I couldn’t take my mind off the villa printed in those photos.

I had dreamed of such a house for long, and then it had started to dawn on me that I could never own it: it was well past my social class. How could this man have known it?

“Let’s say I have my reasons. Will you take the job?”

I hesitated. I had sworn never to return to crime investigation ever. On the other hand I was looking at an opportunity to own my dream house. Yet, I felt uneasily, couldn’t dive into a case without understanding the risks.

Kruger saw my doubts and widened his smile. “There’s something else,” he said. “I am opening a car assembly joint in the city and I want you to be the supervisor. Now, shouldn’t that be really exciting?”

I stared at him in disbelief. Supervisor in a car assembly joint? Gosh, that was sweet! I was a man of cars, and this would suit me so well. But why reward me with a multi-million dollar property for carrying out an investigation? Now where was the catch?

“You have a job, a house and a future,” he said. “So, will you take it?”

Of course I would take it. This was the break I been waiting for. That was what I thought right then. I didn’t have the slightest idea that giving in to Kruger’s request would cost me my peace, my freedom and almost get me killed. If I would have known, I would have threw that letter into the trash bin, resume my usual job and enjoy my swing music. But money and financial freedom can tempt a man and make him do things that he otherwise wouldn’t, and that was what was about to happen. If I thought my previous life in crime investigation had been dangerous, then Kruger’s offer would take my current life and throw it down into the pit.

I sighed. “Yes I will, but I will need as much information as you can give me.”

“Good,” he picked a pen toyed a bit with it. “That’s why I chose you. I want you to leave no stone unturned and make sure I am clear of any danger. I have faith in you, and as you can tell I don’t a want word about this to leak.”

So for the next 20 minutes I sat back and listened to his story. He sounded real positive that he had seen some stalkers in the dark. His car had supposedly been tailed and this worried him; he was determined to get to the bottom of it without them finding out that they were being investigated. He had began to doubt his wife one week ago when he found her in the bathroom engaged in a deep phone conversation with someone unknown to him. She seemed to be tense, and was seemingly instructing the person at the other end of the line to keep some information hidden; and uttering words like “he can’t know about it”, “be careful, I don’t want any problems” and so on. Kruger believed he heard her mention the word “darling” and “you will be happy, I promise you”. He seemed to be suggesting that his wife was in the midst of a conspiracy with a secret lover—to have him murdered.

After that conversation I decided to sign up to the job: it was too good to lose. I pictured myself in that piece of estate, a villa in West-End, sipping a cold drink in a rocking chair beside the swimming pool … wearing white shorts and thinking about the following day when I would drive to the car assembly factory as the supervisor … this was one chance I couldn’t afford to lose. Kruger’s ordeals didn’t sound that daunting; I was sure I would crack the code, “and when I do,” I thought to myself, “well, life begins.”

I would start with having a look at his house the following day, maybe there were some clues I could lay my hands on.

The Trap

Kruger’s home was built on 4-acres of completely private lush gardens. With an impressive mica stone front, the huge house was one big image of beauty. The sizeable lawn laid out with natural stone terracing instilled a sense of relaxation on me as I approached the front door. I walked around the house to the backyard. The expansive blue stone patio gave the back of the house a sleek feel and as I walked through the magnificent flower gardens, a cool breeze caressed my face. This was one nice place to live, no doubt about that.

My eyes scanned the ground looking for a clue. If someone had been lurking in these gardens spying on Kruger, then he must have left a clue. Anything would do - a cigarette butt, a footprint - anything.

I didn’t have to search for long: I found one.

I was walking past an astilbe bed when I noticed that one of the bushy plants was bending. I squatted to examine the plant and found that someone had stepped on its base, and yes, he had left a shoe-print on the moist dark-red soil. I recognized the print immediately: sole of suede sneakers, left foot. That meant that there might be some garden soil still stuck in the grooves of the shoe sole. However, that clue was far from being enough. I had to know who, and that had to be tonight - if the spy would show up, that is.

Further hunting didn’t bear more fruit, so I decided to leave. No-one had seen me investigating since Kruger had given his workers a day-off for my benefit, and had instructed the guard at the gate to let me drive through. What remained was to return tonight and stalk the stalker. I had barely reached the front gate of my house when my mobile phone rang. It was Felix. His voice was as cheerful as ever. He wanted to know what Old Kruger wanted me to do for him, so I told him the first thing that entered my mind; that all Kruger wanted was some advice about the car assembly factory he was intending to open in a month’s time.

“Oh, the old fox is getting richer, isn’t he?” he sneered. “Well, I guess it’s time I asked him for a salary increase, don’t you think so?” he laughed without the slightest hint of mirth.

“Maybe,” I replied, “you are entitled to good living standards as his sales manager”

“Now you are talking, mate! Well, I’ll pass by this afternoon, talk to you soon.”

“I’ll be there,” I said and hung up.

After a light lunch, I put on my overall and drove to Ed’s deserted car repair shop. I had been working alone for the past one week since Ed was away in a business trip. I put on my gloves and went to work.

It was roughly two hours later that Felix drove his Chevy into the shop parking area. He was wearing a grey River Island sleeveless shirt and gray slacks. “Holla, mate!” He bawled. “Ain’t you one sturdy fella! I think you work too hard, mate! Do you ever have time for yourself?”

I smiled at him. “This is ‘time for myself’, Felix: alone as I like it.”

“Yeah, yeah … Ed is lucky to have you, isn’t he? You working like a bull, while he tours the world.”

“Just as Kruger is lucky to have you,” I offered.

“Too blasted lucky, I must say,” he said and made a face. “The old fox has an eye for his secretary, and she sort of controls his decisions sometimes. He trusts her way too much.”

“What?” I said, taken aback.

“Sure, he is in love with Grace Derrick. She has everything to gain, of course.”

Grace Derrick was that tall beautiful girl I had seen in office yesterday. She had sort of appealed to me … there was something in her eyes that bespoke an innocent, kind heart. She had looked at me with interest, then shyly averted her gaze and went on with typing as I went out of the room. Later, my mind had kept wandering back to her. Well … so she was Kruger’s girl?

Felix shrugged. “Look, I got a bottle of tequila. How about we drink to your nice future at Kruger’s car assembly joint?”

“He didn’t say he was going to give me a job; he just wanted a few advices.” I said trying to sound genuine. Looking at him, I could tell the statement didn’t fool him.

“Oh yes he will, mate, I know the old fox. Come on; bring some glasses, won’t you?”

“Sure!”

I went into the office and returned with two wine glasses. Felix was about to open his car door when he stumbled on a wheel rim and fell on one knee. I put down the glasses and rushed to help him up, apologizing for the carelessly-kept rim. Before I could do anything, something caught my eye: he was wearing suede sneakers. His left shoe sole was facing me, and there was deep-red soil stuck in the grooves of its sole. That observation took a split-second and though I was a bit shocked, I didn’t want Felix to see my expression, so I grabbed his hand and helped him up.

“I am okay, mate, thanks.”

He then produced the bottle of tequila and for the next half hour, we just sat there, drank and chatted.

Twenty minutes after he had left, I remained seated, thoughts racing through my mind. Could it be Felix? Was he spying on Kruger as well as conspiring with his wife? No, it didn’t seem possible: I had known Felix all my life and he had never shown signs of such behaviors. Certainly I was jumping at conclusions … that must have been a coincidence. Yet, I had a bad feeling about it but tried to convince myself that Felix couldn’t have done it.

Or had he? The only way to find out was to carry out two tasks: one was to conduct a search in Felix’s house; the second was to return to Kruger’s compound tonight.

Dusk found on the road headed to Felix’s. I knew he wouldn’t be returning from work until after 8.00pm. That gave me time to reach his house, park the car in the back-street and break into his house. I couldn’t put on the lights so I switched on my flashlight and went up the stairs and into his bedroom. If he had anything to hide, this would be the place.

For the next twenty minutes I searched every inch of the room but couldn’t find anything suspicious. I then opened the wardrobe and went through his clothes one by one. In one of the inner pockets of a brown coat, I found a small envelope with 4 photographs in it; when I shone the beam of my flashlight on them, I was so rudely shocked that I almost dropped them.

Felix had his arms around Mrs. Kruger, leaning forward and kissing her on the lips, her arms around his neck. The photos were taken from different directions. Who had taken these photographs? Had someone tried to blackmail Felix? Well, this was turning out to be deeper than I had anticipated. Hastily, I put the photos back into the envelope and put the envelope into my coat pocket, went down the stairs and out of the house. I got back into my car and drove fast towards Ed’s car shop.

Now I knew whom I was after: it was my best friend, and he didn’t know I was breathing down his neck. Did he really intend to kill Kruger, or was he just after his wife? Whatever the case, Felix was in a dangerous spot; he was fooling around with the wife of a powerful man, and stalking him at night. If I could turn him in, I would be paid with an expensive villa and the job of my dreams. The thought made me shudder: could I turn him in? Was he alone in this or were there more accomplices aiding him to carry out gloss misdeeds against Kruger? What was he after? Was Mrs. Kruger intending to come into inheritance prematurely with her husband dead and Felix by her side? I didn’t like this, not one bit.

Ten minutes later, I parked at Ed’s and entered the shop. Inside the inner garage was a pile of wooden crates full of junk: old nuts and bolts, pieces of iron and other old paraphernalia. I bent, pulled the crates off the wall till they were several feet away. I lifted the edge of the old carpet, took Felix’s envelop and laid it on the floor, then laid the back carpet and repositioned the crates. Not the most convenient hiding place but it would do for now; at least it was safer than my own house. After that I locked the shop, got back into my car and drove off.

It was around a quarter to eight that I opened the trunk of Kruger’s Ferrari where I had been lying squashed like a kind of rare animal being smuggled out of a government zoo, and stepped out into the dark garage. Silently, I opened the door just enough to peer outside and when I was satisfied the coast was clear, stepped out. Keeping to the shadows, I walked slowly toward the direction of the back garden, keeping clear of the huge house. Ahead of me was an old willow that provided the canopy I wanted; it was where I would wait for the spy. From there I would be able to see anyone approaching the house both from the front and from the direction of the back garden. Most likely, the spy would arrive from the back of the house having possibly jumped over the hedge. Beyond that hedge was a road leading to the lake, and his car would have to be parked anywhere along that road. That meant that if I kept my ears open, I would hear the sound of the car approaching and stopping. I sat on the base of the willow and waited …

I must have sat there for close to four hours. I had watched the mansion as lights went out, making it look like a giant apparition silhouetted against the dark sky. The moon had risen from the east and was now up; the garden flowers looked grim and eerie in the moonlight and—

I heard muffled voices coming from somewhere outside the perimeter of the hedge. From where I was seated, the hedge was about ten meters away. I decided to wait; maybe this was not the spy I was expecting. Then, I heard the voices again, more clearly this time: it was two men talking in soft tones. Just then, I saw a light go on in one of the bedroom windows in the upper floor of the mansion. Was it a coincidence?

“…can you do it, honey? It’s rather easy, just come out and do as I say…”

The voice shocked me out of my senses. It wasn’t outside the fence! It was right inside the compound, barely fifteen feet from where I was hiding. I leaned forward and saw a shape of a man squatting, then stand and begin to walk in my direction. My heart stopped, then raced so loudly that I was afraid it would give me away. The man approached and walked slowly past me as I flattened myself against the tree trunk, then for a moment his face was outlined against the sky; I recognized the profile immediately. It was Felix. He had been trying to urge Mrs. Kruger on phone to come out of the house. When he was some several steps away, I got to my feet and was about to start following him when I lost balance and stepped on a heap of dry leaves. Suddenly, behind me I heard someone catch their breath sharply. I half-turned and saw a heavily-built figure of a man towering over me. He was completely bald and seemed to be wearing spectacles. Before I could react, something hard like granite hit the side of my head with a savage force; I had a fading recollection of bright lights exploding inside my head before I slipped into oblivion.

(… continued in Part 2)


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Short Stories | Fiction


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