Elena's eyes trace the words on the menu card. Her crimson-painted lips budge gingerly as she whispers the words to herself. I adjust my plate and napkin once again. The candle flickers its golden hues sitting on the table with patience that I lack. The bright golden flame arcs into darkness. Not even the cozy tawny chair can cool me down. My legs hammering rhythmically against the carpeted floor.
"Come on, Elena? What's taking you so long?!", I sigh loosening the tie, choking me. Through the blue stained glass pane beside me, I can make out the blurry shadow of finely trimmed plants with flowers protruding out of them. The touch of elegance I want Elena to notice.
"Ma'am, would you like to order something now?" The waiter walks towards us. I lean forward to state the regular meals we have been having here but with a click of a tongue, she dismisses him.
"What the hell, Elena?!"
"What's your PROBLEM?!", she hisses slamming the menu card on the table. The brown stained glass in the center of the dark brown woody table trembles. The cutlery frisks making a jarring jingle.
"I am having a rough day! Senator Hameed was found dead in his bed!", I whisper.
"That's nothing to do with my life!", she gruffs.
I dart my eyes at her, scanning her face then her dress. Tweed and velvet trench coat. Designer jeans. My luxury hissing at me? I turned her with my wand of power into a princess!
"STOP.THIS.DRAMA!" I dare not to break eye contact. But she looks away with scorn, "You are nothing without me?"
"I was everything without your rich rags! I am nothing WITH you! Stop rubbing your status as Cabinet Member, in my face!" Her rough voice makes my fingers curl into a fist.
"You have NO RIGHT to talk to me like that!" In anger I pick the menu card off the table and flip it open, staring at her.
"Oh really?" She rolls her eyes at me, "What about your bodyguards scrutinizing my place, my schedule, my friends and family?!" Her sotto voice is slowly turning to a penetrating one.
Her silence does not come as peace but as an uneasy stillness hanging in the restaurant. The eyes trace down her voice to my table.
I try to swallow my anger, but her stare urges me to spit it out. Her pursed lips try to keep the displeasure intact within. The soft music playing cannot soak the tension down.
Through the heated argument, we have forgotten the waiter standing beside us, "Sir, order?" He slips an iPad out of his apron pocket.
"Get the hell out!" I stare straight in her eyes. He stands there, staring down at Elena. She nods "Leave!" I turn to him.
The receding footsteps of the waiter paint a smile on her face. The ringing of her phones snaps her out of that smile. Without a glance at the screen, she dismisses it, places it back into her purse. The chair scrapes quietly against the carpeted floor as she gets up.
Her lips blow away the small flickering flame.
"Where are you going? I forsook the meeting with Mr. Prime Minister for THIS?!" I stand up, staring down at her purse. I want to swing her around, pull that purse off her shoulder, take the mobile out, and read the caller's name.
"Oh, honey!" She gives me a sympathetic smile, "I gotta go!"
She moves out of the restaurant. I slowly sit back into the chair, thinking about the meeting. Mr. Khan, the prime minister, would have discussed the death of the senator, the sugar crisis, corruption, and money laundering. He would have asked his right hand, Sajjad investigate the case with JIT.
I stare at the blue glass pane with my arm resting on the chair's rim. A sly smile makes its way on my face. Mr. Khan's trust will make my absence excused. The blind trust! Flattery is such a powerful weapon to win hearts! A little sympathy over Hameed's death made him pull me into a hug.
My mobile pings. I sit upright glance at the chat.
informer: YOUR COINAGE HAS BEEN RELOCATED!
me: all Cs?
me: good! don't let anyone know this.
Holding my finger against the informer on my mobile screen, I deleted the chats. My stiff shoulders relax. A gratifying smile paints itself on my face.
But my smile evaporates. Through the corner of my eyes, I notice the waiter stuffing Elena's handbag in his apron. I swing my head around, but he vanishes into the crowd. I stir out of my seat and storm outside. A young man, the waiter, in a nearby well lit alley dumps an apron into a trash can. He yanks his bow off, pulls the tugged shirt out of the pants, uncuffs the sleeves and scuttles to the car - more specifically, her car.
My numb icy blue fingers run across my serge cobalt coat. I button it firmly across my body and bolt for my car. Her car roars as I sit into mine and zooms out of the street.
"Damn it!" I pull out of the lot, but it is too late.
"Guard." I connect with my bodyguard, "Track Elena's car."
"Roger!" His voice rings in my AirPods. My car races around the different roads following Elena's car that is moving out of the city. The sun is kissing horizon goodbye.
"Sir, we will meet you on the road.", guard suggestes. The tensity drawing upon my nerve is fading.
"No, I can deal with them, both!"
The population is decreasing circumspectly as the car speeds out of the city. The lights are fading into darkness rapidly until the only source of light on the road remains my car.
My car slows down on the advice of the bodyguard speaking in my ears. Mobile's flashlight illuminates the barren desolated land. Getting out of the car, I move towards her Audi standing over soft granules of sand. It is empty. The windows rolled down, engine still heating its body. The flashlight lights upon the velvet, treed, and jeans clothing.
My face burns as I try to suppress anger. Her words echo stinging and fueling the fire in me. The clothes are gasoline to my fury.
In the distance, the tall trees are whispering danger. The fear creeps down my spine, extinguishing the fire within. Through the waving branches of wild trees, I can apprehend a house standing in solitude.
"Sir?", guard exclaims.
"I am good." I disconnect with him and cautiously move towards the house. The soft sand beneath my feet is turning hard. I kick the front door open, desiring to catch Elena redhanded. The dust, the cobwebs, and the torn furniture welcome me. Against the dark sky night, the house appears darker. The wind whistles through the trees. The stale air with a whiff of rotten flesh hangs around me.
The wooden floor creaks as I step inside. The cracked windows and moldy brown walls with water stains demonstrating the innocence of the solitude loving house.
The metal squeaks as I unlock the door leading into the kitchen. The squeaking of door hinges echo around. The pitch darkness in the corner of the kitchen invites me to look for the clues around. As I step towards the catastrophic blackness, the staircase lights up leading into the basement.
"Weird!", I think shrugging the contemplations aside. My hand reflexively sinks into my coat, touching the hoister. With a deep breath, I climb down discreetly.
"What's his PROBLEM?!" Elena's murmur makes my feet stop, "He is such a stuck up SNOB!"
"Darlin'!" A woman's voice tries to calm her down.
"He is a hopeless case! I--" Burning rage hisses through my body. How dare she?!
"Darlin'! Darlin'!", the woman interrupts, "All men are the same! Money makes them blind."
"He literally follows me everywhere! A-and I do not care if he loves me anymore." Anger is building up inside me. I am trying to swallow the seed of fire. The steam is trying to crowd my sanity.
"I can't handle my husband, either! I am an actress. That does not give him the privilege to doubt me. His suspicions are killing me!", another woman cries. It's burning me down. Swallow the seed!
"I don't care what my husband thinks of me! I am leaving him! That's enough!", another adds. Swallow! Here it goes, blazing down the food pipe.
"I am leaving him! He is gonna come tomorrow, shove his facts about my today's schedule in my face. I will shove reality in his. I REALLY don't care if he is listening right now!"
BOOM! The seed of fire ignites the fire in my guts. The hot blood rushes through the veins into my head. She is nothing without me!
I pounce into the room to shove the reality in HER face, but my eyes have been deceived. Or maybe my ears were deceived.
"ELENA?! What kind of practical joke is it?!", I grunt, my eyes scanning the empty dark room for clues.
"ELENA?!", I bellow. My voice shouts back at me. The light suddenly rains down on me. My hands fly up to my eyes as the sudden glare nearly blinds me.
The walls around me light up.
"Mr. Salman donates for the well-being of his nation.", a news reporter says. I handed a cheque to an elderly man sitting on a porch of his dirt-baked house.
The aged man's picture enlarges with side notes appearing on the screen, "Former butler at the senator Hameed's house. Transferred a large amount of money to Hameed's and Salman's bank accounts."
The picture disappears. The words flash one after another:
The light dims down. The walls slide open. Elena's smirk appears in front of me as she walks forward with the folded arms.
"What type of joke is it?!" As I advance to stride towards her, grab her and choke her down, a sharp tap on my shoulder startles me.
"Not so fast, Mr. ...", the waiter's voice echoes. He walks up to me, "Salman." My hands slide into my coat. I pull the gun out, pointing towards them.
"Do not move! Do as I want!" To my words, Elena laughs, rolling her eyes.
"There is no need for that, Mr. Salman. You are free to shoot. Tell me, how was the drama? Better than yours?" Mr. Khan's voice alarms me. I turn around to face him, pointing the gun at him. He pulls the cuffs of his crisp shirt down, buttons his coat, and smiles at me.
A blow on my wrist knocks the gun out of my hand. As I bent to pick, Mr. Khan picks it up, pointing the gun in my face. He cackles, pulling the trigger. The squeezed and cramped breaths in my lungs escape as the metals clink together. He places the gun in Elena's hand.
"Remember me hugging you? The gun? The hug?", Mr. Khan jests, "Am I not smart?"
The words sit sharp on my skin like a knife piercing it hard enough to enforce the intended message. The metal should have felt cold and brutal but I am numb with betrayal.
Suddenly, a handkerchief is pushed against my face. The hard ground beneath me is vanishing. I dig my nails into the wretched hands. I struggle to breathe in the cloth drenched with chloroform. Everything becomes fuzzy. Through inky space, my heartbeats pound loud in my head until it is all black.
My throat aches. I roll my neck to my side, trying to focus as my sedated eyes urge to close. The vision glitches and blurs several times. My head stings, trying to digest the things slowly. A push on my head makes it topple forward, drowning it into icy cold water in front of me.
I try to surface my head out, but the fingers digging in my cranium don't want me to. The fingers grab my tousled hair and pull me out. The water drips down my wide-open face soaking my suit. I try to catch the breaths. Mr. Khan, sitting across me, is studying a file. The place is dim. The ceiling lamp dangling low is the only source of light. His pale yellow serious expression makes my heart skip a beat. He will not pity me. He is not as gullible as he seems to be.
"What is this?", he asks quietly.
"I SWEAR, I don't know! You sodding double face! I want a lawyer! I will go to co---" My face flings to my side. My cheek burn due to impact.
"No one double-crosses ME! I can spare any crime but not treason! You have betrayed your people!" He points the finger at me. His wet hand lays against the file leaving water droplets across the plastic.
There will be a war! He has crossed the limits. Mr. Khan! There won't be a place on this earth where you can hide. I will hunt you down. I don't want you to suffer. I just want to see those brown cold still eyes of yours staring back at me. I leer at his stern face.
"Lawyers can be bought, lies can be sold, but the truth..." He leans forward, his face an inch away from me, "cannot be hidden!" His enzymatic saliva lands across my face eating my ego away.
A hoarse whisper escapes me. I turn my face to my side, rubbing my cheek against my coat, trying to clean mortification off my face.
He moves backward, turns around, folding his arm, but then raises his hand and snaps his fingers. The lights light up the entire place. The room is more sizeable than I thought. A few people stand in the corner staring at us.
"You can read the file for your satisfaction." He turns around and smiles, "Elena?" She moves towards the table, "Good job!", he salutes.
"ELENA!!", I bark, "I won't spare you!" I squirm in my seat. The rope digs deep into my flesh, bruising my skin.
Her brow lifts, "Oh, really?!" She walks towards me placing her leg on the table, "WE won't spare you."
"Who are you, Elena?!" I stare in her eyes. The kindness, the love, the innocence all is gone; drained into the sewerage.
"Oh please!" She holds her hand in the air, "I am SICK of you calling me Elena. It's Sabina. And I -- we are FIA agents. We don't need lawyers." She rolls her neck towards me.
"You will regret this!", I hiss. The pain rises in my gut radiating and throbbing in my head, making it hefty.
"Oh, come on!" She pulls a gun out at me - my gun. Her gloved hand points the gun on my forehead, "You are good at keeping secrets!", she whispers, leaning closer. Her voice makes me wriggle. If only these confines were not there! I would have knocked her sorry face down.
"Is he?!" Mr. Khan waves a file in my direction me.
"No!", she tsks.
"You can keep this a secret." The gun lays cold on my forehead, "Can you?!" My senses sharpened with adrenaline. All eyes stare at me. I can hear them murmur. Their sniggering echoes around me, swamping me into stupefaction. I hold my breath, closing my eyes tight. Tears drip down my cheeks.
"You will ---" My voice drowns in pain and thunder.
Light travels faster than sound, but now I know even bullet travels faster than sound.