“This is your last chance, Riya.” warned the Editor. “I can’t tolerate your excuses anymore.”
Riya’s face was red with embarrassment. She found herself being the centre of attraction to all her colleagues. The situation froze her.
“Aren’t you ashamed to tell me such silly excuses, Riya?” shouted the Editor. “Go find something to write about or I’ll have to fire you.”
“Sir…” replied Riya in a low voice, refusing to look up.
“Get going already. Go.” said the Editor “And don’t forget to close the door behind you, Riya.”
Riya stepped out and found that all the faces were towards her. She even heard some of them muttering about her to each other. Her eyes were filled. She knew she couldn’t stay there for long, so she ran out.
Riya stepped out of the building. She was feeling better. She was about to go to her home when she heard someone calling her from behind.
It was Gwen, Riya’s best friend and colleague.
“Riya, don’t be upset on hearing the Editor.” said Gwen “Ignore him. Don’t care what he had just said. I’ll help you find a good topic to write about.”
Riya wiped away her tears and struggled to smile at her friend.
“It’s all right, Gwen.” said Riya “You don’t need to help me. I can’t expect you to help me all the time for a story. Can I?”
Gwen didn’t know what to tell Riya, so she kept quiet.
“I know.” said Riya in a shivering voice “Perhaps I must spend some time with mom.”
“Can I come?” asked Gwen
“I’m sorry, Gwen.” said Riya “But I really need to spend some time alone there. I’ll catch you up later.”
Riya took a cab from there to the Yardley Corner. On the way, she kept staring outside the cab. There was nothing interesting to write about, so she decided to take a short nap.
The cab driver woke her up.
“Yardley Corner, Madam.” he said “Have a good day.”
Riya got out of the cab. Right in front of her was St. Johns church. Jimmy, the church’s sweeper was there. He knew Riya very well. On seeing her Jimmy came forward.
“Riya, my child.” he said, patting her shoulder “Long time no see. How do you do my girl?”
“I’m all right, Uncle Jim.” said Riya “I’m here to see mom. Can I see or is it closed?”
“It’s open. Go on.” Jimmy said scratching his grey beard and returning to his work.
Riya walked towards the spooky area which we call the cemetery. She opened the squeaky gate and went to her mother’s grave. She prayed silently and on her way back, she found a middle aged man with grey hair and beard sitting on a stone chair outside, staring to the cemetery. She felt something odd about him, so she decided to ask Jimmy about it.
“Uncle Jim, who is that man sitting outside the cemetery?” Riya asked Jimmy anxiously.
“Oh. You mean that guy whose staring to the cemetery? asked Jimmy
“Yep. He looks so odd.” said Riya
Jimmy smiled softly and said “Actually, he is an odd type.”
“You know him well?”asked Riya
“No. But sort of, you know. He come here every day and sits the same way, staring at the cemetery, without speaking to anyone and leaves at the evening. Kind of strange, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, Uncle Jim, but why does he do that?”
“I have no idea.” said Jimmy, raising his shoulders “Some says that he is lunatic, some says that he is just a homeless man or beggar or something. But that’s too far-fetched idea, you know, no beggar would come in tuxedo, will they?”
“Looks like it’s having a good scope of a story.” said Riya
“Perhaps.” said Jimmy “You know, he rarely talks. Anyways, try your best. Can’t say what will happen.”
Riya went and sat next to the man. He kept staring at the cemetery, ignoring her presence.
“Sir, do I know you?” asked Riya, trying to grab his attention.
“I don’t think so.” he said without looking at Riya.
“Oh. Actually I had been observing you for quite some time.”
“I don’t get what’s there for you to stare so much”
“If you have to ask something else, ask and leave” he growled.
Riya was a bit frightened by his voice. Many questions ran through her mind by then.
“Did I say something wrong? Or is this man really lunatic?” she thought “Perhaps I should take one more shot.”
“Good weather, isn’t it?” asked Riya
He turned to Riya and frowned.
“What is it that you want to know exactly?” he asked
“I want to know about you, if you don’t mind” Riya said, smiling.
He hummed. He looked down and then turned to her.
“What is it that you want to know about me?” he asked
“I want to know why you spend so much time here.” she replied
“Before I tell you that, you must know who I am. Do you have some time to spare?” he asked
“A lot.” she said with a smile
The man sighed. He looked around and then he turned to her.
“I’m Chris. Christopher Jacopo, NYPD detective. Ex actually.” he said softly “It had been 25 years since I have been expelled.”
“Expelled? For what?” Riya asked immediately
“I was coming to that.” said Chris “Don’t worry. I’ll tell you everything.”
Riya feared that Chris was some sort of dangerous guy. Her adrenaline level pumped up.
“15th July 1987. I joined NYPD that day.” Chris said taking out a flask of coffee and sipping it. “I was all excited at those times.”
“I was also excited when I joined my job, you know.” said Riya, smiling “But it didn’t last long, though.”
“That’s because you weren’t behind your passion.” explained Chris “You were excited about doing some random stuff.”
Riya smiled softly as an agreement.
“Perhaps.” she said, chuckling
“Those days, I made many good allies and enemies.” he said almost frowning “But that didn’t stop me. I kept assassinating all the wanted criminals I got at sight. For my actions, I got lots of medals. Those weren’t the only things I got as rewards. There was something else I got which was more valuable than all those gold medals…”
“And what was that?” she asked slowly
“Jennifer… only girl officer in my squad.” he said smiling “She was too much into me. I wasn’t actually. You know why?”
“Because you never liked her.” she asked
Chris sighed heavily and then smiled.
“She was a girl every man dreamed of.” he said softly
“Then what was it?” she asked, confused
“It’s because I dreamed of being a bachelor those days.” he replied
“And for that, you gave her up?” she asked, frowning
Chris smiled at Riya and then took a sip of coffee.
“Yep, but she never did.” he said, placing the flask beside him “She took it as her mission to achieve my heart. After a long effort, she got me to talk to her.”
“Damn. How did she do that?” she asked Chris with excitement
Chris chuckled and then turned to Riya.
“You already have the answer to it, my child.” he said, laughing
“I have? Really?” she said, surprised “You never told me about that one, did you?”
“I don’t need to, my child.” he replied calmly “The answer is in your past.”
Riya tried to recollect, but it was of no avail.
“I…I can’t remember” she said with effort
“Don’t you wonder how you got me to talk to you?” he asked, smiling
“What? I don’t get it.” said Riya
“She was like you, my child.” he said “She was determined. She kept talking to me again and again until she got response from me. Actually it was a negative reply, you know. I offended her. But she was happy that finally she achieved it.”
“She was carefree?” Riya asked, laughing
“Yeah, sort of.” said Chris “But sometimes she can be over-caring as well, you know. I was the only one she cared most about, but I just cared her less. I feel ashamed of that now.”
“Do you have any good memories about her?”
“Yes. All that I’ve told you is about the good part. There is a tragic part as well. Where she won me…”
“That’s exactly what I want to know about. Tell me.”
Chris sighed deeply. He kept silent for some time and then turned to Riya.
“30th September 1990, I was handed over the case to control some outraged group of students in Manhattan District. A terrible day…”
“That’s where it all started?” asked Riya on seeing Chris rub his eyes
“Yes. The worst day in my life.” he said “As soon as I was handed over the case, I went there. The students destroyed almost everything. Houses became rubbles. Vehicles became metal cases with fire. The whole place turned into a perfect hell. Me and my squad went around, helping injured people, and saving small kids from the attack. My squad tried to make a compromise with the rebels, but they won’t give up their aggression.”
“So, your squad turned aggressive against them?”
“Nope, we didn’t. We had to be defensive because the students turned more aggressive than before. They attacked my squad. I tried my best not to hurt them, but then, they started using weapons. They killed as much as ten officers and injured two severely. I, Jennifer and Eddy survived somehow. Then we took our arms and went to take the situation under control. It led us all the way to their campus. I was surprised to see the mastermind of that revolt. It was Ex Michaelardo.
“Ex Michaelardo?! You mean that Mexican Drug dealer!” Riya couldn’t believe it. Ex was one of the top most wanted people there. Public had been waiting for long to get some news about Ex. He had gone missing for years and no one knew where he was.
“Yes.” said Chris, frowning “Ex was the main drug supplier of that institution. He used his power over those addicted students to gain control over that area. I hit the students who tried to guard Ex with the butt of my gun because I was only allowed to shoot them with rubber bullets. Knocking most of them down, I reached Ex. He wasn’t happy to see me. I forced him down while Eddy and Jennifer guarded me. I tried to make Ex drop the gun, but he fired it accidentally and it hit Eddy on his neck and he died. My attention turned to Eddy and I went near Eddy, leaving Ex on the ground. That was a lifetime mistake and I totally paid the price for it.”
“So, Ex got away from you by that time?” asked Riya anxiously
“No. He tried to shoot me and Jennifer came in between and sacrificed her life for me. That day, she won me. I fell for her for the first time, breaking my vows to keep her away from me, I shot Ex on his hands and then ran to Jennifer. With her hands moist with blood, she stroked my cheeks and asked me ‘Chris, will you miss me?’”
Chris’ eyes were filled with tears. He started to cry. Riya turned around and found Jimmy standing there with his broom in his hands, eyes moist. Perhaps he had been listening to the conversation for a bit long.
“I didn’t know what to tell Jennifer then…I was in a shock…the situation froze me. I…I couldn’t even think of what to do. She died in my hands” said Chris, showing his both hands to Riya.
Chris’ emotion then turned to anger. His eyes went red with fury.
“I was totally out of control by then. I went MAD!! I killed that Ex. I fired the bullets onto his face until I was sure he couldn’t be recognised. Then I went on rampage…I killed them, all of them. I went on killing all the students who tried to attack me and helped Ex with his mission. I was driven so mad that that day I even killed some who got into my way. I couldn’t control my emotions…I was driven MAD!!
Riya didn’t know what to tell Chris. But for now, she knew that it was the best to keep quiet. She placed her hand on his shoulder. Chris looked at her with his red eyes.
“You know, we’ll never understand someone’s value until we have lost them.” said Chris in a sad tone
“I know…I lost my mother 27 years ago…she was killed in this Manhattan District attack you mentioned.” said Riya “Our house was burned down and my mother was stabbed with a dagger. I remember the officer who saved me from the rebels that day, now. His name is Christopher Jacopo.”
Chris suddenly turned to Riya, looking surprised.
“I couldn’t recognise you at first, but when you told your name, I wondered if you were the same person. I confirmed it was you when you told me about the Manhattan incident.”
Chris looked at her, confused. Riya smiled.
“I know you can’t recognise me. I wasn’t the only one you saved that day. There were hundreds of them.” said Riya with a soft smile. “But what did you do after that incident? Went on hiding?”
“I was arrested the next day. I was taken to the court but it took one year to hear my case. The court found me guilty of massacring students and I was expelled from my job forever with ten years hard labour.”
Riya lowered her head sadly and looked at Chris with a sad smile.
Chris stood from his seat and turned to Riya.
“Do you wonder why I’ve opened up to you?” said Chris with a small smile on his face.
Riya nodded her head, indicating no.
“It’s because you are similar to Jennifer, my child. You reminded me of her. Thank you…”
Chris looked at the cemetery again. Riya followed his eyes. He was looking at a grave. It was written: “Jennifer James, 1961-2017”
Chris turned to Riya. He smiled softly at her.
“You asked me why I spend my time staring there, right? It’s to tell Jennifer that I miss her everyday…We shall meet again, my child. Until then…Bye…” said Chris, before he disappeared into the evening fog…