Posts tagged “lies

Strangers of the Past: Part X

Posted on 20/09/2012

Ameya watched with a gentle smile as the craggy old man bowed over the cot under a bay window and tucked the sleeping boy under the thin cotton sheet. The man’s once furrowed brow softened as he gazed silently at the child resting peacefully and he reached over with crooked fingers to smoothen the boy’s reckless curls.

She sighed softly and turned her eyes to study the man’s worn-down but cozy house. A slightly-open window allowed a wave of fresh breeze to push the dank, fishy smell to the corners. Torn, saggy fishing nets hung from hooks anchored around the room, a pair of boots caked with mud from a week ago were tucked in the corner. She smiled, noticing the curtains she’d purchased for him almost a year ago, although now they were covered in cobwebs and dust. At least he’d kept them, even if he paid no mind of its existence.

Besides the makeshift bed on which her son now snuggled under the covers, there was only three chairs and a small square poker table as furniture. His fishing gear occupied and overwhelmed the small shack where he lived. She remembered the many times she’d begged him to let her redecorate, to make it more cozy. True to his grumpy nature, Jonas merely grunted to reject her request and trudged down the hill to his real home… the sea and his rickety fishing boat.

Just as she was about to inspect the tablecloth she’d sewed many years ago for him, Jonas cleared his throat circumspectly and Ameya glanced over her shoulder at him.

He raised a wispy, gray brow at her. “Late you will be if you dilly here,” he said gruffly, knowing she was dragging her feet to leave her son with him.

Ameya grinned, turning around to face him. She crossed her arms over her chest. “Are you trying to get rid of me?” she asked, her own brows cocked inquisitively.

Jonas cleared his throat and glanced back down at a sleeping Tomas. The corner of his lips twitched and his wrinkled brow smoothening again thus warming Ameya’s heart all over again. These two were all she considered as family and her heart ached at the thought that Jonas was becoming too old to keep up with her growing son.

“Have you been by to see Neville?” she asked softly, Jonas promptly scowling at her unwarranted question.

“Why do I need to see him for? I am healthy enough.” He waved his skinny, dark arm.

Ameya refrained from rolling her eyes. “Just a simple checkup. At this age, many things could be happening inside you. Just do one to be sure you are healthy all through.”

He narrowed his eyes at her in suspicion. “You are making noise like a doctor again…” he said in a low tone.

She shrugged, unfazed by his intended accusation. “Maybe I was in my former life,” she threw back without much thought and immediately bit her tongue at her careless words. Jonas’ eyes narrowed further.

Clamping her mouth closed, Ameya averted her gaze to her sleeping son. There was no point in dwelling on a past she could not remember. Who cared if she was something more than just a mother and a herbalist by night, tour guide by day?

Then Ameya gasped suddenly. The tourists! She’d forgotten all about her promise to the dear woman to personally show them the sights. “I have to go,” she said quickly, reaching for her purse that was slung over the chair. “I will be back for him by 7.” She stood to her feet and hastened for the door.

“What has happened?” Old Man Jonas shuffled to the door behind her.

With one quick glance at her child, she regarded Jonas. “Don’t worry. I will be back at 7. Don’t eat dinner. I’ll bring some food.”

He wrinkled his nose, annoyed by her presumption that he couldn’t help himself with food. Still he didn’t say a word and just held the door, watching Ameya bound down the hill to the mainland. Shaking his head, Jonas waited until her head disappeared under the hill before he closed the door and turned to watch over his adopted ward until the distracted mother returned.

—-

Marcus watched, biting the insides of his cheek to keep from laughing as Jonathan and Hapta played the staring game across the table from each other. All around them, the bustle of the restaurant grew louder as residents and tourists alike ushered in for lunch at the Old Plantation Yard eatery.

Tucked in a corner encompassed by tall trees that swayed with the island breeze, the inside of this eatery was decorated with mismatched charm, collecting different treasures and artifacts from the people that worked and ate there. Tables were covered with colorful plaid cotton; the tables were arranged in front of a platform situated at one end of the restaurant. The same plaid cotton hung on the walls and random ledges around the room, and random centerpieces sat on every table. Soft folk music was playing today when the three men finally convinced Chief Francis to go with them for lunch; the spot had been the police chief’s recommendation.

As Chief Francis still sore from his injury quietly excused himself to call a friend, the three men remained quiet even though there was a small war brewing in them. Well, for Jonathan and Hapta. As for Marcus, he was content to sit back and watch the drama unfold.

“If only I had some popcorn right now…”

Hapta smirked, not shifting his glare from Jonathan’s face. “Relax. It’ll work out.”

Jonathan sneered in response. “Must you lie in every situation?”

Hapta blinked innocently. “What are you talking about?”

“Are you kidding me right now?” Jonathan shot back incredulously, still reeling from Hapta’s underhanded move. “Who is writing a book? Me?”

“Well, it’s a good idea. Your entire life story could be a novel—” Hapta leaned back when Jonathan suddenly shot his hand and swiped in front of his face. “Whoa!”

Marcus grabbed Jonathan’s fist and held his brother-in-law back before he lunged at Hapta. He glanced from the corner of his eye, noting that some of the patrons were now regarding them with strange looks. “Take it easy,” he said calmly. “We will deal with him at the hotel.” He waited until Jonathan slowly returned to his seat before releasing his hand.

Hapta scowled. “Oh come on. What other excuse would you have come up with to get her to see us?”

Jonathan clenched his jaw tightly. Marcus rolled his eyes. “How do you plan on following up with this story? With another lie?” he asked his partner.

“Sure, why not?” Hapta answered easily. “He’s a writer, we’re helping him do research for it.”

“I can’t believe this…” Jonathan muttered, folding his arms to keep from swinging again at Hapta who was now grinning foolishly. “When Chief Francis comes back, I’m telling him the truth.”

Both Marcus and Hapta turned sharply to him at the same time. “What will you tell him?” Marcus asked, his voice hinting with concern.

Jonathan frowned at his brother-in-law. “You want me to lie too?”

“Yes,” Hapta replied without hesitation.

Marcus sighed at the same time. “Don’t think of it that way… All I know is that we can’t very well tell him that she’s your wife and you’re coming to take her home.” He shook his head, imagining the fiery woman that had single-handedly put them in jail. “For some reason, I don’t think she’ll be too keen about that piece of information.”

Jonathan swallowed hard, thinking of the woman who stared at him with blank eyes. He glanced down at the bare table. “I don’t want to lie… It won’t help anything.”

“It won’t hurt either,” Hapta reasoned. “Look, let’s just say we’re doing research. What’s the big deal?” he leaned forward this time and spoke firmly. “No one will question you as a new writer working on a great love story.”

This time Jonathan and Marcus looked sharply at him. Hapta grinned and rambled on. “You’re writing your life story. About a man whose wife is missing, who goes with friends to an island to find her. For all they know, it’s a fiction novel with travel incorporated… For you, it’s documenting a mission to bring your wife home.”

Silence on the table was engulfed by the raucous noise around them as the three men mulled over Hapta’s proposition. It was a stretch of the truth, something both Marcus and Jonathan were not comfortable with, but it would be the perfect opportunity to get close enough to Ameya.

Jonathan sighed with resignation and looked up to Hapta’s expectant gaze and Marcus’ curious one. Swallowing hard, he nodded. “Fine… Let’s do it.”

Hapta grinned from ear to ear. “Great!” Marcus merely nodded and clapped Jonathan on the shoulder. Just then, two men approached the table, one of them bowed stiffly at the waist and the other towering over him, guiding him back to the table. They chatted openly as they approached the table.

Chief Francis shifted his attention to the three men looking up at them curiously. “Warren, these are the three men I spoke with you about,” he said in English so that they would understand. “Gentlemen, this is Warren Jean-King from Sunrise Tours. He is the owner of the business.”

The men exchanged welcoming smiles before Hapta stood to his feet to shake the man’s hand. “A pleasure to meet you, Monsieur Jean-King. I am Charles Hapta, and these are my colleagues.”

The tall man with narrow shoulders grinned widely, revealing a wide gap in his front, porcelain-white teeth. “Good to meet you,” he said as they shook hands firmly. He glanced over at the other two men now standing. “Now I hear you are in need of an experienced tour guide to help you with your research?” He asked.

Chief Francis chuckled. “Warren does not like to waste time… I am sure he already has someone in mind.”

Warren nodded affirmatively. “I have a good impression of who I want to refer to you gentlemen. He is a man from the area that has—”

“Actually,” Hapta interrupted with a smile. “My colleagues and I had the privilege of meeting a guide from your company.” He paused to look over at Jonathan before turning back to Warren. “I have heard many good things about her excellent work ethic and knowledge of the island.”

“Her?” Warren asked, tilting his head curiously.

“Yes.” He turned to Chief Francis who stared at him with raised brows. “The guide who escorted us to your prison almost a week ago?”

The two men exchanged quizzical looks before Chief Francis faced Hapta again. “Ameya?”

Warren chuckled incredulously. “You want Ameya de Jonas to be your tour guide?”

Jonathan frowned at their open amusement. “Is it impossible to get her?”

Chief Francis and Warren exchanged knowing smiles and then Warren from Sunrise Tours shook his head. “It’s not hard to get her as a tour guide… it’s just that…” He hesitated.

“It’s just what?” Marcus spoke, curious as to why both men looked equally surprised and amused by their request.

“Well,” Chief Francis replied. “She’s a bit hard to deal with…”

“Understatement of the year, Chief,” Warren chortled aloud. He faced all three men. “Ameya de Jonas is not only the most outspoken of my tour guides, she’s the most difficult.” He grinned as if it was the funniest thing he’d ever said. “She’s often forgetful and mercurial about her responsibilities.”

Chief Francis laughed aloud. “When she’s not being the vigilante of the town, she’s either selling herbs to the residents or staying at home to take care of her young son.” He and Warren snickered together, not noticing all three men were now gaping openly at them.

Jonathan suddenly couldn’t breathe. She was a mother?

<<Part 9 || Part 11>>

Strangers of the Past: Part IX

Posted on 12/09/2012

Unfolding the morning newspaper in front of him, Chief Francis perused the news with a careful eye. With the upcoming festival and increasing wave of visitors arriving in their island, the police force could not afford to lax on their duties. From his many years of experience, he knew that crime would increase while the residents grew more preoccupied with preparing the island for the week of celebrations.

He cringed as he mentally counted the many hours he would have to sacrifice for patrol duty, wincing as he could already hear the groans and bemoans of his team of police officers when asked to spend more time on duty. Though their extra shifts would be reimbursed once the festival was over, the additional wages would prove not to be enough for the officers who often felt taken for granted by the residents.

If only their government could follow the example of those in America who gave their police officers agreeable benefits for their loyal service, they would be better off… or so he’d heard.

Heaving a deep sigh, Francis peered up from the top of his newspaper to the front window of the lobby in the police station. The front verandah was bare of on-duty officers, most of them either patrolling the city or the few lounging in the back. He didn’t mind the solitude. It wasn’t very often the station had much visitors and Francis didn’t care at this moment if it was because his officers were growing lax or the city was better behaved in the recent week.

With a sardonic smile crossing his lips at the absurdity of his last thoughts, Francis folded the paper and started to stand when he heard a popping sound below his waist. Gritting his teeth, Francis slowly lowered himself back to sit on the chair as the wave of pain shortly followed.

Without a word, he reached on the nearby table for the phone and quickly dialed a number. Taking a deep breath, he slowly leaned back against the seat and waited for the dial tone.

Shortly afterward, the dial tone was interrupted by muffled voices on the other end. Francis frowned deeply. “Are you there?” he groused, the pain setting into his lower back, shoulders and now his legs.

“Hmm, yes…” a male’s baritone voice sounded on the other end.

Francis shifted his gaze as much as his body would allow him without eliciting more pain along his neck. None of the officers was in sight and this time, he cursed them for heeding his request to be left alone in the early hours of the morning. “You should come here now.”

The other voice hesitated as the voices around continued on. Then he heaved a sigh. “Pa, I’m at work. Is something the matter?”

Francis stifled a groan. “Would I call you if something was not awry?” he spoke tightly. “Neville, do I need to remind you that you still do house calls?”

The man on the other end sighed. “I do, but when there is time… Right now I am scrubbing up for a procedure.” He paused as a voice spoke urgently. “Pa, what is it? I can send a nurse to—”

“Never mind,” Francis snapped quickly before his son could finish his sentence. Pulling the phone from his ear, he slammed the phone back on its cradle, glaring at it as if it was his doctor son in front of him. “Useless…” he muttered to himself and winced once a sharp pain shot down his legs. Shifting his gaze back to the window, a sudden wave of relief rushed over him as he spotted three men walking down the brick-laid path to the front gate. Squinting to make out their faces, he smiled in relief and waited to be rescued.

Jonathan scanned the quiet terrace of the station and frowned. “Maybe we’re too early…” he muttered softly as they walked down the path. None of the officers that had once gawked at them on the day they were arrested were to be found.

“They’re probably on vacation,” Hapta mused aloud, popping at his gum as he walked a step ahead of them. “These people are serious about their festivals.”

Marcus smirked, also scanning the foregrounds. Then he noticed the trunk of a car peeking from behind the corner of the building. “Isn’t that Chief Francis’ car?”

Hapta glanced over to where Marcus gestured and nodded. “You’re right. Maybe he’s here somewhere…”

“There’s no need looking,” Jonathan replied in a low voice and both men glanced over at him. He was staring straight at a closed portico in front of them. The men turned to the clear window in front and squinted, noting a man sitting inside. “Isn’t that him?”

As the three men walked toward the door, Francis managed a sigh. “Finally…” he breathed as Hapta pushed open the door and he frowned up at them. “What took you so long?” he groused, the growing pain driving his impatience as they gaped at him.

Jonathan raised a brow at the strange behavior of the once friendly man. Marcus frowned at the man’s rigid stance. “Are you alright, Chief?”

“Not particularly, no,” the older man muttered, glancing down at his legs. “I believe I got up too quickly and my back is suffering for it.”

The three men grimaced openly, staring at him. Having noticed the phone beside him, Jonathan cleared his throat. “Did you call for help?”

“Tried to… Don’t worry, it’ll pass just in time for the meeting.” Chief Francis managed a smile just as the pain slowly died down. Still, he kept his stiff body propped straight. “What do I owe this unannounced visit?” He waved a hand to the empty chairs around him.

Hesitantly as if they would’ve preferred taking him to the clinic, the men slowly found their seats while keeping their eyes on him.

Hapta promptly answered. “We’re here to take you for lunch…” He cleared his throat when Francis raised a brow and chuckled lightly. “Well, we planned on it.”

Francis managed a smile. “That is very kind of you.” Then he narrowed his eyes in suspicion, although the residents of the community were known for their hospitality. “Lunch for what, may I ask? I know in your country, you say nothing in life is free, right?”

“You’re right,” Hapta agreed. “We need your help.”

Marcus shifted his attention to Hapta, having not expected Francis to be so forthright. He’d hoped the man would be more at ease after eating with them, so that their request would be less strange and audacious.

“How can I help?” the man muttered, wincing slightly as the pain returned.

“Maybe we should take you to the clinic first,” Marcus interjected, noting the man’s stiff form. “We can talk about our request la—”

Francis waved him off, turning back to Hapta. “How can I help?” he repeated, eyes trained on the man.

Both Jonathan and Marcus looked over at Hapta, both anxious about how he would convince the man to give them the information they needed to find Hannah again.

Hesitating only for a second or two, Hapta glanced at his comrades quickly before looking back at an expectant Francis. “We’re actually not here as the missions’ security backup team.” He paused, waiting for Francis to roar in outrage.

The older man merely smiled patiently. “I figured.”

All three men exchanged rueful glances before Hapta turned back to him, eyes wide in surprise. “Was it that obvious?”

Jonathan refrained from rolling his eyes and reminding Hapta that the lie was too farfetched and unsound for even a common resident to believe much less a seasoned police officer.

Francis shrugged casually despite the stiffness of his shoulders and back. “Not too difficult considering the missions group doesn’t really worry about security while they are here…” He tilted his head curiously. “Now that you have started confessing… what are you doing here?”

Hapta smiled easily, as if he’d already predicted this inquiry. “Truthfully…” he looked over at Marcus and Jonathan and the two men held back groans once they noticed the telltale look in his eyes. He turned quickly back to Chief Francis before they could stop him. “We’re actually doing some travel research…” he glanced over at Jonathan, gesturing to the man who now fought gaping at him openly. “For Jonathan’s travel adventure novel,” he fibbed without hesitation, noting how Francis’ eyes lit up in curiosity.

Jonathan curled his fingers into his palms, refraining from lunging forward at Hapta for weaving yet another lie, this time at his expense. Marcus fought back laughter that threatened and glanced away from Jonathan’s murderous glare. Today was going to be a long day.

<<Part 8 || Part 10>>

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