A Game of Shadows – II

17:35PM CET
Evert Van de Beekstraat 202,
Amsterdam Netherlands.

 

Dan Churrito (52) was a janitor at the Amsterdam airport; He was just halfway through his shift that evening when he saw the pregnant lady walk out the ladies room, with her luggage. Her fuller belly made it even more difficult for her to walk and the limp in her stride made her a picture for sore eyes.

She had no luggage at all which only meant that she had been there to see someone off, probably a husband or another family member. She walked with a limp in her right leg and the protruding belly didn’t help the cause either. With a glimpse of her beneath her fedora, Churrito could see that she had pretty features and streaks of blonde hair aching to break free.

He stood there, watching her walk out of the Airport and stand for a taxi that had miraculously appeared without a summon. Funny thing was, he almost thought he saw her exchange something with the other blonde haired beauty, who was dropped off at the Airport from the same cab.

 

48 hours ago

 

A violent knock on the door had broken Agent Weaver’s debriefing, or as Isabel would have put it, Weaver’s interrogation.

A year or so ago, Agent Tom Weaver had sketched a very delicate water tight trap for his most notorious rival, a noted and renowned art thief whose name was still a mystery. Hence, he was nicknamed Maclean after the Super thief Jack Maclean himself.
Weaver’s plan was put in motion and the ravishing Isabel Chavez, a rising young talent in the bureau, was planted as Khole Andrews, the director of the Van Gogh museum where Maclean or Kevin Ellis as he later introduced himself, was to strike next.

What Weaver could not foresee, was the unexpected event where the bait would fall for the predator.

After signing some urgent sought after documents sent from the Head office, that a nervous looking desk sergeant had brought in, he looked up at Isabel with grim expressions. She knew he was disappointed and he left no stone unturned in letting her know about the same.

 

“I want you to prepare a detailed report of everything that has happened in the last year with that thief around you. Even if he cooked a meal and threw away in a bin which you later discovered, I need it to be in the report. Do you understand Agent Chavez?”

 

“Yes sir” Isabel replied.

 

“Head back to the house now, go through everything he has left behind and make me a list of them. I want to personally inspect everything on the list. Mention the list at the end of your report and you will be relieved at the submission from the case.”

 

“Yes Sir”

 

“I hope you can do this right Agent Chavez, don’t disappoint me again”

 

She nodded and walked out.

 

An hour later, she was back at the cozy mirage of a life she thought she could share with a thief. Even though it made her sound stupid, she somehow believed every word that he has said, she somehow still believed what he felt for her was true.

 

But then reality was singing a different tune. He was on the run and she would probably be back to some desk job after failing her assignment. Her life was headed down the drain.

The first few days after Kevin disappeared into the night were tough on Isabel and it wasn’t getting any easier for her, knowing these would be her final 48 hours in the same house that she had shared with Kevin.

 

She has been asked stay in the same house and make a detailed report of every single incident that she could think of, which would help Weavers cause and put Kevin behind bars.

What the officials didn’t understand is that, not only they have asked her to walk on a path that goes against the man she loves but also to go through all of the memories of their surreal time together. Only to find a way to put him behind bars, taking him away from her once and for all. That too without getting any answers to her questions.

 

For the first couple of hours Isabel was lost, she didn’t know if she was supposed to hold her head high and with all her dedication help weaver to catch Kevin or was she supposed to cry her heart out in the pin drop silence of her apartment, mourning the loss of a life, a lie that she desperately wanted to be true.

 

So she did what she could, she sat down with moist eyes and started going through all the details that she had to pen down. As she wrote and re-read notes of every single moment and Incident the way it had occurred, unbridled emotions flooded every single spore of her being.

 

She listed every single item that he had brought in the house and the reason behind it, even thought memories flooded her thoughts, rendering her numb, she continued until she had to list his favorite piece, a framed quote that hung above their bed.
Isabel looked at it with sheer curiosity, wondering, why was this war quote his favorite.

“And you want to hang a war quote above our bed?” She had asked him

“Yes, cause it’s the right place” He had replied.

 

The right place! Suddenly it all started to fall together.

 

The only real piece of direct evidence retrieved from the night that Kevin Ellis had disappeared was a letter he had left in the gallery. The post script in the letter was a taunt for Tom weaver she had thought, or so had everyone thought. But now, only she knew that it was indirectly directed at Isabel, without putting her in the spotlight.

The letter

 

He was leaving her bread crumbs. A trail to follow. He had been planning this all along, giving Isabel ample proof that her heart had longed to believe. He did love her.

 

She looked around and thought of everything she could to find the next piece of bread crumb and came up with nothing. Time was running out, she had nothing other than the copy of the original letter that Kevin left for Tom weaver and the framed quote that she now knew to be her first piece of evidence.

 

So she went back to the drawing board and wrote down every line of the quote. When she couldn’t come up with anything she turned to the only modern day magician that every commoner believed in. Google.

 

As soon as she entered the quote, numerous hits for a certain George Herbert came up. Apparently, the lines were from a poem Herbert had written in the 17th century. The title of the poem was Anagram.

Anagram

Anagram, her eyes lit up at that word. She had found the next piece of breadcrumb but she didn’t know where to apply it. She tried rearranging the letters of the same poem herself and through a series of various cryptography software’s that she was equipped with and yet came up empty.

Nothing seemed right to her. As a last throw of the dice, she entered the first line of his letter to Tom Weaver and the computer screen came to life with a positive reply. Excited to find an answer, she entered the rest of the lines of the letter.

To her surprise, every alternate line screamed the same answer at her. Even the start of his post script message, was actually a code. The code revealing his actual location.

 

The solved anagram read: I am at Edo.

 

Edo was the former name of the Japanese city of Tokyo.

 

 

In the Meanwhile:

 

Somewhere in the Amsterdam office of the FBI, Tom Weaver sat smiling in his chair, watching Isabel run around the house, looking for things to pack through the small camera that he had installed at the apartment while Isabel was being held by himself under the pretense of a debriefing.

 

He knew the thief she called Kevin. He had chased him far too long to know that he would have never left empty handed after planning for so long.

 

Once a thief, always a thief, the thought as she watched Isabel emerge from the study room with a book in hands as she collected the small bag she had packed and walk out of the house.

 

She was going to lead him straight to the thief.

 

To be continued…

 

Second Wind

Prologue:

Benjamin Wagner,
Wilmington, United States.

It had been 3 years since my life had changed. It had been 3 years that I decided to quit the army and settle in Wilmington, the place of my birth for my daughter. It had been 3 years since the death of Annette, my loving wife. I had tried to move on since, If not for me, then for my 3year old daughter Faith.
Long ago a Staff sergeant with the US special forces, now I was just another common restaurateur. The shore side place where my restaurant “Causeway” now stood was up for grabs back then and my dad thanks to all his reach helped me get it. Since then I have managed to get a reputation for the restaurant for the best food served on the shore of Wrightsville beach. The restaurant was owner by me but was run by locals who I had grown up with and thanks to their not minding my long hours away from work I get to spend all the time with faith. All my time in since Annette’s demise had been spent either with Faith or at the Restaurant with a exceptions of a few times when I took dad’s yacht for sailing.

I always had believed that moments and journeys changed lives and 8 months ago my paths crossed with another such moment. That was the first time I met Angela on the pier on Wrightsville beach.

Second Wind

The day was fast passing by and the afternoon sky would soon turn into a beautiful shade of orange like every evening. I had called up Angela to meet me at the marina a little after seven for my random ride of the waves. Mom and dad had volunteered to look after faith that evening and Doug my restaurant manager had taken over for me.
In the last 8 Months since I met Angela, a lot had changed. I had started to socialize more, with Angela at my side and sometimes even my little daughter. Faith and grown fond of Angela and they both spent a lot of time together. The twosome of father and daughter looked more like a family now since the arrival of Angela. There was no denying that I was in love with Angela & I knew she felt it too. Hence, this outing was planned.

An Hour before 7PM I made my way to the marina where “Gloria” our family sailing yacht was resting. I made sure I cleaned the deck and put all the food and the alcohol into the fridge aboard the yacht and then got her sails ready for the minor voyage. I never noticed that the hour had passed so quickly until I saw Angela walk towards Gloria at the marina. I was still in my sweat shirt as I helped her aboard, “All done are we, captain?” She asked and smiled.

There was something sensual about her smile that always made me forget the world around and her eyes were as beautiful as magical orbs that had spoke all lot in silence. She was a mesmerizing beauty that could catch anyone’s eye and could turn every head.

“Yea, it’s all done. But you should put on this coat, its going to be real cold tonight.” I said offering her the coat.

She sat nearby and watched me bring Gloria to life and maneuver her out of her slip, into the open waters. In a few furious motions I raised the sails quickly and let the breeze lead us. The water rushed alongside and the sky had a fading effect to it, as if it was graying into a dark night. A long way away from the shore in the intercostal waters, I chose a safe spot and dropped the anchor, I made sure that the yacht was well lit so that the other passing boats could see us from a distance and I announced, “Okay now this should do it”

I went and took seat besides Angela; we talked ourselves into the night about how life had changed for both of us since we met. Back then Angela had just moved into Wilmington and didn’t have any family left. An orphan in life and a loner in fate just like me. We were very similar to each other and yet very different. Although our choices had been similar to most of the issues around us but out approach was different. She was the perfect company that I could have had while I mourned at Annette’s loss. She was friend when I needed and trusted when the rest of the worst didn’t interest me all. She was the one who got me back out of my shell and helped me back to being a human. And not to forget mentioning, she was great with my family, especially with Faith. Angela was the mother Faith never had.

As the clocked ticked 9 I asked her to plate up the small dining table on the deck and I went at the lower deck to heat up the food in the oven. In the next 15 minutes, both of us were at the dining table having a sort candle light dinner in the middle of nowhere.

“So what is this all about?” She inquired with a smile.

“Let me get the champagne” I said and dismissed her query. I walked on the lower deck and brought the glasses along with me, uncorked the bottle and slipped something in her glass while I poured the champagne in it. I handed her the glass and held one of her hand on the table.

“Now this is getting real mysterious for me, you better spill the beans soon Ben or I’ll scream for help” She mocked as she picked up her glass.

I gave her hand a firm squeeze because I knew what followed next. After a couple of sips from the glass she noticed something lay at the bottom of it, something with a diamond on it. With shock on her face, tears in her eyes were evidence of happiness as I went down on my Knees.

“Will you marry me Angela?” Was all I asked.

And with tears streaming down her eyes she only uttered the one word “Yes”

With that confirmation I pulled her closer to me, leaned into her and kissed her.

“I love you Ben, I love you so much” She said as I picked up in my arm and started to walk toward the lower deck.

In the warmth of the cabin below lit by a couple of candles, I made love to her. Every touch, every whisper and every movement of hers showed that she needed me as much as I needed her. The candles burned lower as we lovers lay entangled in each other’s arms. Her dark hair looked mysterious and her eyes caught the movement of the candles moving flames. This was another such moment that would have an impact on my life and change it forever, this time for the better.

Epilogue:  

Angela Wagner,
Wilmington, United States.

In the summer of 2012 I married Benjamin Wagner In the presence of all our friends and family. Our Daughter Faith was the youngest and by far the prettiest bridesmaid at the wedding.
I finally had a family of mines, people to laugh and cry with, people to share my life with.

That Night on the yacht when Ben proposed me was one of the best nights of my life; we had made love and then lay in each other’s arms sharing long lost secrets of each other’s lives. We both believed that this was a fresh start and hence we wanted to start with a clean slate of our relationship.

However not all secrets were shared that night.

4 years ago when Benjamin received a letter In Iraq to summon him back home owing to death of his wife, I had received a similar letter.
Only one person in her entire world knew of my whereabouts since I had fled my house to pursue my dreams, she found me back then but Instead of scolding me and dragging me back home, she showed faith in me and backed me. She took care of what was left of my family, I returned to her when our mother died but till then it was too late. She was moving to North Carolina to our grandparents house and hence I came back after only exchanging mailing addresses. I never saw her again after that, though we did keep in touch secretly through letters. The letters were our gateway to each others worlds. I was elated when she got married to a man of her choice. 6 years later a letter summoned me to Wilmington to mourn her death.

The death of my elder sister, my best friend, Annette Wagner. Benjamin’s first wife.

I had decided to stay and meet her new born daughter, the only surviving piece of her body and my heart. I was in a dilemma whether to stay or leave after meeting her.
To find solace I wandered over to the pier on the shore and that’s when I met Benjamin. And as time wrote its tale across our lives, I fell in love with him.

For the life of love and the health of our daughters future, I decided to keep it a secret. A secret, that gave an orphan the love of a family.

A secret that gave not only Me and Ben but the entire family a second wind of life.