*** Hi Everyone! I know you're not meant to this but I feel like it's in order to do so. I want to apologize for taking so long to upload this. um 2 years i think is a pretty long time! :S There's been so many things that have happened since i uploaded the first chapter ie. writer's block lol, university and family. A whole bunch of factors really! Like i said before i'm sorry for keeping away for such a long time and as usual constructive criticism and feedback is very much appreciated :D I hope you guys like this one, i tried to add a bit 'ground' and personality as well as some sort of movement and story to this chapter so hopefully that comes through well!
So yeah, stay well throughout the whole week everyone and ENJOY! ^_^
Beep beep beep!
"Ugh! Please, just allow me for today..."
Beep beep BEEP! My phone signalled its impatience. Being on a crowded morning train with your phone going off was bound to turn a head or two but with my refusal to even try to attempt to retrieve it and with its constant beeping, a couple of head turns turned to head turns of about the whole carriage.
Irritated, I fished out my phone to see a message from Maslow:
"A new assignment briefing. Maybe this will wake you from your slumber ..."
My emotional turmoil over the past few months didn't go unnoticed and Maslow, being the guy that he was, caught on quite quickly that I was a changed woman. However, there hadn't been a new assignment in a while just handfuls of paper work, so maybe Maslow was getting onto something. If anything a new wakeup call was what I needed from this reality that moved like a dream.
The train ride unexpectedly didn't take too long. Approaching the building and walking along the hallway, my mind was set on looking for Maslow. And as usual he was there waiting for me as I reached my office, with a cup of coffee in one hand and a set of documents in the other.
"You got that message then?"
"A new assignment, huh? And these are the details I presume" I answered taking the documents he had gestured towards me.
"It's definitely new I gotta admit. If you recall there was an activist that had disappeared during his travels in Prague. Unsupposedly enough, he had protested outside a government agency over the protection of people in the country" he got up from leaning against the office desk and made his way to the window.
"From various sources, he was quite the celebrity as his protests drew many people and even made global news in various countries. As always beggars can't be choosers and he consequently had people who were ready to calm his noise. And that they did."
"Hmm you always have to be dramatic don't you?" I looked up at him with a grin. He replied with a more serious look.
"There's no need for me to be dramatic. It lies there naturally. Mika, you know, as much as I am dying seeing you dull and drained of life, this case is crazy suspicious. And with all suspicious cases you know there's danger involved."
"Maslow I know what you're getting at. I'm fine with this. I can do this, this is what I need."
"I know that but... is THIS what you need right now?" He came over to me and leaned across to take the documents that I laid on the table. "Are you sure you need this right now? This case is so open and vague. They've given you an address so that you can get a "head start" but apart from that there's not much to go on. Lots of hours of intiricate puzzles and complications need to be figured out. Oh and plus slight taste of murder but I'm sure you knew that already." Maslow's sarcasm was always so dry... "Come on, Mika! Are you sure you can do that? Are you ready for this after all that has happened?"
I looked at the documents in his hand and stood to face him so that we were on the same eye level. "This is what I've needed for quite some time now; a sort of engagement to rid me off the past. You know that Ryan, you know." I clasped my hand around the documents, both of our hands clutching this new case, this new destination. "They've given this to me for a reason and I'm ready to take it. Forget about your concerns and, as a friend, listen to mine."
With a sigh he reluctantly released his hold and turned round to face the window, stuffing his hands into his trouser pockets. "Your destinations Bogota, Columbia. I took the liberty of taking a look at the details and they've left an address where you can get more info about the activist."
"Thanks Ryan. I'll be fine. I promise you." I went up to him and touched his arm lightly. He turned again to face me and with a smile said. "I'm sure you will. You better go and do that research that you're always so good at doing."
"I'm right on it. And by the way, thanks for the coffee!"
It had only been a few hours since I landed but Bogota, Columbia was beautiful. Like some exquisite artwork the city shown and glowed, exposing it's hidden splendour. Walking along the streets, the buildings and historical monuments staggered up high shining majestically in the sun. Intricately woven and embedded with history to make it part of the Colombian culture, bogota definitely was a great place to vacate to. The sun was delightful and the lights added to the cities exoticness. Even though I was only here for work, I was sure I'd be able to add in a little "me" time at some point. My apartment was a nice little cosy room with a nice little bed next to it; it could wait later whilst I explored my surroundings.
Walking around I thought about the case. Ryan was right, this case was pretty open and it most likely was going to be complicated but I've encountered danger one too many times to not be cautious and tactful. Europol head quarters had identified a few suspects but the idea was to try and suss them out and once there was a concrete lead, I could hand the dirty work over to real handy men of the Europol. Europol had an address as a foundation for my reasearch and so, dressed in a nice light outfit to compliment the weather with my tiny brown leather shoulder bag, I went ahead to find the hotspot. The areas surrounding the place were nice but the place itself was in a small alleyway that looked dingy and derelict. When you research all different types of cases Europol give you, astonishment and shock isn't as sincere as it was in the beginning. Trust me, about a year in should do the trick.
The building in question seemed like it had two stories to it. Out of the uppermost window, hung a dirty rug which flowed along with the breeze. In the distance I heard children's playful screams and assumed that this place must be occupied by families. It brought a sense of comfort to me as the prospect of coming alone to a lone shack didn't seem satisfying. All of a sudden I heard an outburst in a foreign language, which supposedly was Columbian, come from behind. I looked over my shoulder to find a plump elderly woman skittishly coming towards me brandishing a wooden spoon in her hand. She didn't look like she was going to do any harm or seem to be of any threat but with that stick it seemed like anything accidental could occur. I stood back, in defence with my arms stretched out in front of me.
"Yah! Who are you? Foreign people don't come here... City people don't come here. You must go, quickly!" screamed the lady, her voice reverberating from the aged walls.
"I'm sorry madam. I've just come to look around." I mustered hoping that that columbian survival guide would come into great use.
She stopped in her tracks with a quizzical look on her face.
"Don't lie to me! I know what you have come for! There is nothing here for you! Go back!" we looked at each other for a moment, our connection was made. Her face bared all as her expression only reinforced the info that I needed to have.
"I need your help, madam. Could you do that for me?" She looked at me still, her face stationary as I pleaded with her. She looked around her, that quizzical and speculative look pasted on her face. I walked slowly towards her, trying to be as open as I possibly could. "You know why I'm here. It's about the campaigner, the activist." I said quietly.
"Sssshhhh! You should not be here!"
"Please Senora." She turned to look around making sure no one could intervene between us. For what seemed like forever, she stood watching me and speculating; possibly wondering if she should let this strange and unexpected woman in. Finally she let out a sigh and ushered to me with her wooden stick of defence. She led me into a narrow passage and opened a wooden door which instantly released the smell of something delicious. It reminded me of home and reawakened just how much I missed my family. The job at Europol didn't allow me to see much of my relatives but when I did see them it felt like I shouldn't go back to it. I missed them and the smell of cooking brought it all back.
She led me into a small kitchen lit by the natural sunlight and motioned to me to sit at the kitchen table that was situated in the middle of the kitchen. She looked at me again with her curious eyes. I knew what I must look like to her so I tried my best to relax my expression, smiling affectionately. She went to her stove and placed the wooden spoon into the boiling pot of broth and turned off the fire.
"Why are you really here? What is it that you want?"
"It's the same reason I gave you... to find out more about the campaigner who went missing." She looked at me, distressed and irritated
"There is nothing that you want that I can provide. Why, here of all places? To this rundown villa, you want to find information about someone who is not from the same standing as us let alone the same situation as us? " She edged forward, growing more irritated and restless. "You want information but only the kind that will be pasted on the newspapers of this country and broadcasted around the world. You want information that will fetch you money and leave the rest of us the way we were." I was shaking my head throughout.
"No senora, that isn't what I want. Yes that is what I have come for but not in that way, not in that sense."I fetched out of my bag my ID and extended it out to her "I'm from an agency that works in tracking down criminals," I said as she took the card from me and looked it. Puzzlement and irritation was to be a familiar expression painted across her face, as she extended her arm back out.
"This means nothing to me. How do I do I know that I can trust you?"
I looked back at her and looked down to my ID, just as puzzled and bewildered. It was true... how could she know that she could trust me? How could I show her that I was sincere, that I hadn't come to sell off of her story but rather to appease it?
"I ... I guess you don't, you can't. To be honest, I don't expect you to." I took my ID from her and proceeded to put in my bag "I'm sorry to have come in like this and approached you in this way." I took my leave to go and headed for the door. Just as I was about to reach the door, a small voice slowly gave me a reason to halt my action.
"You... You said "tracking" criminals. What do you mean by that?"
I turned to look back at her "Mmmm ...I try and catch people who have broken the law in some way. I help to gather information that will make it easier and more effective in catching those people. That's what I do."
"We have not seen people like you in a while. It has been months since people like you have walked around here. What makes you think that you will find what you need here?"
"Because you and your people are the ones who have been affected the most." Her eyes still looked me over more speculative and puzzled but all the more curious and subdued. "I am honestly not here for money nor to make any. I'm here to help, to help you and those around you... if you would let me do that?"
She stood stationary, like frozen in time but slowly woke from her place and went into her kitchen drawer to fish out something from within. The place was homely but you could see the hardship of her living. The human condition was evident but it made it more real to me. She ushered me to a seat on her kitchen table and came to sit opposite me and handed me a crumpled paper that seemed to have aged with time. She looked at me intently and nodded, prompting me to open it. I unfolded the paper and realised it was clipping of a newspaper article. As crumpled as it was, the picture of the activist was recognisable and next to it was another picture of a man with a thick heavy moustache and a closely shaven head. The woman leaned over and flattened out the article and prodded her finger towards a name within the article lines 'Senior Sergio Delagado' and then traced her fingers down to a small image of a middle aged man with dark curly hair. I looked up at her and found tears starting to brim her worn out eyes. "My husband was taken away from me by same people who took him." She indicated back again to the activist. She rubbed her hands on her clothes trying to stabilise herself before she delved into her story with a sigh:
"My husband, Sergio Delagado, worked at the local mines. It was expected of most men here in our tiny village, the only prospect that would be able to sustain and keep us. He worked, from morning to evening. They were long hours, they were. Every day I would cook him lunch and they would send that down for him to eat. When it was over he would come home and we'd be together, just the two of us."
"What about your children Senora?"
"I don't have any. Me and Sergio planned to have children. We had tried but I believe that God has his purposes for us in life." She wiped a tear that let itself loose onto her wrinkled olive cheek.
"Life in the mines was difficult and still is now. Men die and we as wives wish for something else. We long for our husbands to come back to us in one piece. We pray for their health and pray God may provide a means for us to live our lives without the likelihood that we might lose it just as soon,
"People like that poor activist came and wanted to help us and get the government to see our needs and our difficulties. As you can see, this tiny village is not as great as the villas they make at the better areas of Bogota. This is the life we live and this is the life we bring our children into. The activists wanted to help us... my husband was keen on their concerns for us. He saw that they were the ones who would really try and help us. Help turn our dreams into reality."
She rung her fingers together growing restless suddenly, "Words started going round of these people who wanted to help us, who wanted to help our situation. The owners of the mines were not ready for disruption and conflict. The owners...they had money but they were wicked. They used their men to shut us up and threaten that if we ever placed ourselves on the side of the activists, they would make sure we never could go back to the side we came from.
"Sergio was always stubborn and neglected their words. He went too far but he tried, for us... for me. They found out and..." she used her dress to wipe her eyes, to take away those tears, those painful memories.
"Senora, I'm sorry. I'm sorry for your loss" she shook her head "No. No. Do not be sorry. I want no pity. Our time comes...eventually." She then rested her finger on the image of the thick moustached man. "This is who you are looking for. His name is Rodriguez Stefano. He was a part of those who took my husband and ruined the lives of those in our village." I scanned through the article, lingering on the name she gave me that was etched in black ink. Even if it was just a name, it would be enough to dig further into this case.
A hesitant moment came. "I can see ...in your eyes. You are not like the others..." I looked up at her as she leaned in close to me. I laid the article on the table, unconsciously smoothing out the creases.
"The others? How would you know? Senora... you hardly know me."
Her bereaved hazel eyes looked straight into mine. My stomach somersaulted like a nervous child waiting for the unexpected. "Those who came, who came as if to help and end my pain, came for their own purposes and theirs alone. They either come to tell me to keep quiet or come to create stories to post in their newspapers. Many years, no one has come and my life, my love has been forgotten... until now."
"How would you know I wouldn't do the same?" I sighed.
"I do not know. But every time, I hope. Nothing. There is nothing else to hang onto but that. I have no children, no kin to carry on our legacy. Tell me? What else is there that I can do, except to hope? Even if you decide to this for your means, I would still be the same and nothing would change."
"Forgive me." Her eyes were cast down as her tears finally spilled over. "I will do what I can to bring you solace. Senora, I'm sorry." I lightly touched her hand with mine, hoping that by some crazy notion she would know that I would try as we sat by her round table. She looked up at me then,
"No one has ever come and listened to my story the way you have. You look different, you behave different. Your heart is kind but, I can tell, it is hardened. It is special... "
... All I could think about was his face and the way his eyes had looked at me. Penetrated the very inside of me. It was him but on such a different level that it was hard to contemplate on whether it was really him that I saw.
He had changed physically. Much more leaner with much more defined muscles to his body. His hair had grown just a bit longer but it never lost that shade of midnight black I had always admired. His facial structure was as on point as ever but his eyes had changed. Intensity cannot define it nor can passion put justice to his appearance. It wasn't only his presence that took me off guard but his eyes that held mine in that moment.
In the ray of the moonlight, as if in a trance, he moved towards me with such elegance and precision it was like time had no power. As he came closer to me, my eyes fell from his face to the carpeted floor but his did not do the same. Those same intense, dark eyes were still on me, not seeming to shy away like I had shamefully done.
"Mika... "His lips parted as my name sounded from his mouth. Never had I trembled from the sound of my name being mentioned like that but now I was exposed. In such a long time I had waited for this moment; planned how I would look at him, the words that would come out and the way I would stand but today my eyes did not want to look. My lips did not want to open and say what was longed. Yet again, he had me. He was here, but I couldn't make movements to reach him.
I could hear the steady pace of his breathing and realized that mine was on a record high. Every ounce of him called to me as I was paralyzed in his presence.
"I shouldn't be here..." I finally mustered out but still avoided his gaze. My eyes were directly facing his chest and even with those loose black pants he had on, it was evident that he had grown in size. Now that he was here all I wanted was to be away from him. Too many memories came back; our evasion from the clan, the moments where he saved me as well as the moments where I saved him. All of them flooded over me and suddenly I found my vision blurred by the tears of the long ago.
"I'm the one that shouldn't be here. I shouldn't have come" the vibrations of his voice filled the room and struck a chord within me.
I tried to wipe my tears discreetly trying to make sure he didn't see them but he could see everything as always. In a heartbeat, anger enveloped. Whilst my heart wanted me to turn away and leave my mind needed to know what happened to him in the last 6 months.
"Where have you been? What happened to you?" was all that could come out and it was the honest truth! What did happen to him? Apart from being physically different, he was a different person inside. He wasn't the man I once knew before. He looked straight at me, through me and my heart pained.
"You. You happened to me."