Authors: Derek Haines
by Derek Haines
The sequel to The Sons of Cleito
Copyright © 2013 by Derek Haines
All rights reserved.
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Also by Derek Haines
Between the time you close your eyes and wait for sleep to arrive, one's brain goes into its routine filing mode of the day's events, but the mind however, slips into nonsensical overdrive. Unlike a dream, this short, or more often long period of time, is when irrational thoughts become rational, the impossible becomes possible and the absolute illogical prevails. I tossed and turned, having a fistfight with my pillow as my mind decided it was time to process my last few months and unleash vengeance on those who had wronged me. Helen came in for a dose of my spite as our marriage danced in my head and her death somehow became justified. As savage as it seemed, shot and dumped into the sea without ceremony, my mind decided it was a logical and satisfactory conclusion to our marriage that was seemingly based on the presumption that she was only assigned to me by an unknown cloak and dagger agency of political imperative. That she had been my wife for nearly twenty years didn't compute in my mind, as it decided she was simply better off dead, and gone.
Waves of retribution happily washed over the unknown man who had hammered my left hand to a pulp, and I kicked away merrily into his groin, as my mind paid him back handsomely for the pain he had inflicted upon me. My mind's steel capped boots furiously kicking away and turning his testicles into an almost liquid state. For those who had taken me from my home on that quiet Sunday morning and delivered me to ten weeks of hell, my mind spat in their faces. For the woman I only knew as Hazel Eyes, who had started my weeks of suffering that day, my mind, acting with a sense of pure venom, had me slapping her face until blood ran from the corner of her mouth and her cutting hazel eyes blackened. She whimpered, as my mind had her falling to her knees, and I slapped her cheeks even harder – from right and left and savoured the sight of her face reddening and swelling.
I tossed again and thumped my pillow in frustration as sleep failed to arrive to kill the insanity of my mind's sick imagination. It may have been just after my mind had me shooting my interrogator, the man with the Oxford Accent, with one bloody and messy shot between his eyes that sleep did finally come and allowed my brain to quietly continue its routine filing, and for my body to get the rest it so desperately needed.
I knew the horrors of my abduction and torture would take time to dissipate, as would my memories of Chara and the fantasy of the island of Decem Filios. And of my mother's letter and the mystery that lived within its words, which I knew now had been at the centre of my ordeals. I just didn't know why. The ten weeks that had been stolen from life remained a mystery, but all I wanted to do now was forget about it all, erase it and the nightmares, and get on with being me. Whoever that was.
It was early, just before six when I woke and through my window the day was threatening to be sunny for a change, as I blinked in mild confusion, which had become somewhat of a habit during the last few weeks as I adjusted back to relative normality, but still mixed with uncertainty. I checked my phone on my beside table. It was Tuesday.
Tuesdays are spectacularly famous; along with Thursdays, for being one of the
nothing happens at all today
days. I was enjoying my Tuesday's predictable nothing happens quality as I walked along the lake in my new habit of taking a long healthy walk in the early morning. Along with less wine, more exercise and some creative writing teaching, I was feeling healthy, happy and modestly worthwhile. On my way back home though, through the narrow streets of the town, I heard something that in all honesty I knew I really didn't want to hear. Especially on a
nothing happens at all
'Excuse me, do you have a moment?' a stocky man in an ill-fitting suit said, as he approached me on rue de Musée, while I was slowly making my way back home.
'Sorry, I'm in a hurry,' I said, and I turned on my heels immediately and started walking back from where I'd come. I could see someone in an equally ill-fitting suit loitering near the corner of rue Pury. I walked towards him, with his friend ten steps behind me. When I arrived at the intersection, I darted right suddenly and ran as fast as my forty-six years could carry me, towards the hopeful protection of the small streets over Place Pury, and perhaps allow me to lose my new Tuesday friends. My heart was thumping in my chest as I urged my legs to use the investment I had made in my health in recent weeks. My guts though were a bit late in catching on to the danger and only just caught up with the bad news my new acquaintances posed and belatedly started sending their twisted messages of impending doom. Ignoring all my internal organs, I sent a message down to my legs. 'Run you fuckers, Run!'
I sprinted across Place Pury, dodging the traffic and bicycles, racing passed the Gucci shop and avoiding those walking begrudgingly to work, and then turned right into a side street. Then right again, left, right, left, then left and right again turning into any street that appeared in front of me and in any direction. My heart was readying to exit my body through my throat as I looked back over my shoulder and gained a little hope in not seeing any ill-fitting suits behind me. I looked ahead and realised I was back on Place Pury. I ran straight ahead and took the next narrow street on my right and slowed down as I thought I had successfully lost my new Tuesday friends. I leant against a wall and sucked in huge gulps of air to help my lungs, which were crying out in pain. I looked right and left as I did, but there was no sign of my pursuers.
I walked up the street slowly, still trying to catch my breath, then turned either left or right at each intersection and ended up going around in circles until I turned into rue de la Treille and hoped that the cafés, terraces and numerous people having a coffee before work would deter my friends from doing anything if they stumbled upon me again. I took a seat on the pavement terrace of an Italian café and sucked the cool morning air into my lungs. My legs sent me one thousand thank yous for taking a seat. Shaking, but at least starting to breathe more easily, I ordered an espresso and a large glass of water from the waiter. He must have noticed my heavy breathing and sweat on my brow, as a few minutes later when he returned with my order, he'd been thoughtful enough to add some ice cubes to my glass of water. I looked down towards either end of the street and was relieved in not seeing any suits wandering around in search of someone they had lost.
I started wondering if I was becoming paranoid. Maybe they were simply lost or perhaps visiting businessmen and didn't know their way around Neuchâtel all that well. It was probably me, with a newly developed nervous reaction to cheap off the rack suits that my abductors had inflicted upon me. I sipped my coffee and tried to convince myself I was being stupid. It started to work, as no one seemed to be looking for me. I waited another half an hour and ordered another coffee. Just to be sure.
Finally I knew I had to move on, overcome my fears and get on with my life. There was no one chasing me or wanting information from me anymore. It was only my fear and imagination playing tricks on me – and my over-pessimistic internal organs. I took a deep breath, stood up and decided it was time to go home. I walked slowly through the streets, as my legs were in no mood at all to get there in a hurry.
After twenty minutes of ambling, I turned left into rue du Basin, with only one more turn before my street, walking slowly and giving myself a good talking to about being so stupidly paranoid. I was interrupted mid-sentence however by an eerily familiar voice.
'I've been looking for you Soter.'
I spun on my heels and turned towards the voice, which came from behind me. I felt the blood drain from my head and my face turning white instantly, as I focused on the woman, wearing tight black denim jeans, leaning on a wall with her ankles slightly crossed, in the shadows of an arched stone doorway; her long blonde hair resting across her shoulder and draping down over her left breast. Her face was wearing a warm half smile. She uncrossed her ankles and stood, brushing a little imaginary fluff from her green woollen sweater before taking a few steps towards me.
'Chara?' I said, with my feet now riveted firmly in fear into the cobblestones.
'I told you I loved you Soter, and we do have things that were sadly left unfinished.'
I stood like a statue, in disbelief and panic, with my internal organs just for once, paralysed and incapable of sending one solitary iota of their habitual dark and foreboding clairvoyant speculation.
'You look like you've seen a ghost,' she said, as she neared. My mouth went to say something, but it seized, half open. She looked into my eyes as she stood in front of me; then changed her look to a questioning stare. My mouth managed to close and then produced a low level nervous hum like sound before I finally managed to utter a few words.
'I thought you were….,'
'I'm sorry I startled you. Can we talk?'
The rivets pinning my feet to the cobblestones loosened just a little. 'I was on my way home.'
Chara smiled and took my hand. 'You can show me your etchings.'
'That's a very old line, and one I thought only men used when they had less than honourable intentions.'
'I know you're honourable, but a coffee would be nice. It's been a long morning for me,' she said, and started walking, with me obediently following her lead. My head was still spinning and totally confused as to what was happening. I looked over my shoulder expecting to see men in ill-fitting dark suits and was reassured only a little by the lack of them. I turned my head back and saw the corner approaching to turn for my apartment.
'My apartment's just up here,' I said, nodding my head towards the approaching corner. Chara smiled and firmed her grip on my hand a little, which did little to console my stomach that was readying to do a nauseous somersault. When we passed the patisserie on the corner, the owner smiled and gave me a small knowing wave as he stood in his doorway waiting for customers. I returned his smile and said, 'Bonjour,' and sensed from his eyes running up and down Chara's body that he thought I was a man whose luck was definitely in. Little did he know that my thoughts were exactly the opposite.
Chara noticed my hands were trembling while I fumbled with my keys and the lock at the entrance door to my building, but didn't say anything as I finally opened it and we walked to the elevator. I pressed the call button and memories of meeting her on the island came flooding back. She stood aside me, not saying anything, but I was sure she could hear my heart pounding in my chest as we waited for the elevator. When the doors opened I was thankful it was empty, as the last thing I needed now was a chat with a nosey neighbour. I pushed the button for the eleventh floor, the doors closed and I looked up and watched the floors slowly tick by.
'You're still in danger Soter,' Chara said quietly, with her eyes fixed on the floor indicator above us. I didn't reply, or perhaps couldn't as my throat tightened painfully. My anxiety level raised a notch when the elevator dinged and the doors opened, but I managed to make my way to my door with Chara following, without falling from my jellied legs. I opened the door and let her in, and as she made her way into my living room, I just asked, 'Coffee?' and she nodded, and I made my way to the kitchen. Holding the kitchen counter while I waited for the coffee machine to heat up, I took in several deep breaths while I waited for my heart to return to my chest from its current position; lodged firmly in my throat. My hands were still trembling but I managed to place a cup under the spout and push the button. The bean grinder in the machine making a similar noise to my stomach as I fiddled around with placing creamer, sugar and spoons on a tray. When I made the second cup, my heart had lowered an inch or two and was now residing in my upper chest.