Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Passenger

The sun descended the horizon and the street lamps drew out in the distance. Andrew knew it was going to be a long night, he had done many before but this one was special, after all it was his daughter's birthday the next morning. He wished he could have taken the day off but it had been a tough year so far. He had lost his home, his wife and his job in what seemed to be a streak of bad luck. His only ray of hope was his daughter to whom he was attached more than anyone else. The mention of her arrival was enough to keep him on his toes all day. Andrew worked double shifts to keep up with his failing mortgages and to pay for his expenses and rent. It's hard to live a normal life once you have lost almost everything you had, every one you loved and everything you ever imagined. "I will buy a bunch of daffodils and a pair of red fur slippers when my shift ends", thought Andrew to himself as he lowered the gear to brace up for the steep climb ahead.

His fare was waiting to be dropped off at the airport. "You must hurry Andy, it's an important client, he is willing to pay twice the fare if you get him to the airport in time for his flight", had shouted Andrew's manager before entrusting him with the Mercedes. Andrew would get a twenty percent cut if the passenger was happy. As Andrew drew close to the pickup, he saw his fare wore a long overcoat and sturdy boots with a large hat covering half his face. Strange for this time of the year thought Andy. Not a matter of concern as long as he pays me at the destination thought Andy. He just wanted to complete this fare and go home and surprise his daughter. It’s not only Birthday's that come once in an year, but also do double fares he thought to himself. Quirkily, the passenger sat roughly inside the car in haste and asked Andy to hurry up. Definitely this man was special, he carried no luggage, wore a tailored coat and boots. Tossing the hat on the back seat, the passenger fastened his seatbelt and drew out a big box which looked like a big box of Algerian dates from the outside.

 Maybe it was just his mind playing games, he was hungry. What Andy saw late was a handgun. "No games" hissed the passenger. Andy never asked his fares their names. It's my job to get them from here to there, why bother for information which I intend to forget once he steps down. It's unnecessary he thought. It was always the passenger. However this one was different. He had a glint in his eyes. Obviously the fare had been trained in what he was doing. Not an amateur. Novices always clench their fists when they hold a gun, not factoring the recoil. The passenger held it tight across in a curl of his huge palm with fingers crossed across the trigger. "Keep driving straight" said the fare ordering Andy. There is little to be scared off in life when you have little to lose. There was an eagle tattooed on his wrist. Oddly there was an eagle tattooed across his neck. Some sort of ancient cult, murmured Andy unknowingly drew up a scene, masked people sitting around a fireplace chanting the name of their unknown lord.

 Andy prayed to God to be left alone, and then he thought about what he just did. He had prayed after a long time. The passenger fiddled with the glove box and tore apart the GPS needle. "Do you have anything to say old man?" asked the passenger. Andy was frightened, he felt like a prisoner sitting on the death row. "No, err yes," struggled Andy searching for words. Finally he blurted in one breath, "It's my daughter's birthday in the morning, and it would be nice if I make it before dawn". The passenger laughed. "It won't be necessary" he said. Taken aback, Andy revved up the engine and carefully shifted up the gears, the German machine was quick to respond, sheer raw power the salesmen often told Andy. Still angry about the remark on his daughter, Andy gave a look to the passenger who seemed to be least interested in the journey. Is he escaping the country?, would have been no use asking him any questions, angry men with a trigger between their fingers are not the perfect match for conversation.

 The eagle tattoo reminded him of his daughter, "I want to fly high in the sky and never come back, daddy" she had said. Kids, they speak without thinking, is that called innocence? The valley gave way to open fields and farms. The city was visible in the distance. "Faster" grunted the passenger. Andy had a quick look at the watch before the speedometer. Only international flights left so late. It was close to midnight. "Which part of faster you didn't understand" breaking the stream of thoughts in Andy's head, the passenger was growing impatient. "Sir, we are already at 30 miles past the legal limit, I am afraid we might catch the attention of speed cameras if we go any faster.” The passenger wasn’t amused. He just pressed the gun harder on his neck. Andy thought of the tattoo on the passenger’s neck. An image of an eagle flashed by Andy’s eyes, it seemed so familiar.

"Are you running away?" Andy gathered courage and asked. "Doesn't make a difference to you" muttered the passenger. The passenger eased  the weapon and took out a wad of  photographs from his pocket. They were photos of young girls and boys. Maybe his children thought Andy. The passenger didn't look like someone who could have kids. The airport was just minutes away. Just across the next bridge and then Andy would need to confirm the terminal number. Left for the even numbers , right for the odd ones. Andy pushed the gas to rush. It had been an enough odd night already. Just a couple of hours away from dawn. A sudden silenced noise emerged from the woods. Andy ducked and slowed the car. The passenger didn't budge an inch as if he knew this was coming. He just shook his head and continued sifting through the photographs. The passenger didn't like unfinished business. Another shot was fired, this time the attacker did not miss. Snipers are trained to be patient, they can keep sitting all through the day without firing a single shot, and still be alert to respond to as much as a pin falling on the grass. The attacker hadn't missed the first shot. It was a carefully calculated shot to slow down the target. Andy had just reacted in the same way the sniper had expected him to. Andy could see the signs asking him to decide a lane. The car was at the top of the arch. The passenger looked least interested in the flight now. It is said that who are about to die, hear a silence before the doom. There was only a silenced gunshot today, muffled by a padded envelope of leather and fur. " Which terminal sir?" Asked Andy trying to ignore what happened moments ago. " It doesn't matter anymore, it isnt't necessary" said the passenger. Andy was irritated by this answer, it was the third time the passenger had assumed it wasn't necessary for Andy to know. Nevertheless Andy wanted the twenty percent cut that was stake. He took a right. The second bullet hit the target. It was all over.

 Andy looked the passenger. He was shocked. It was his daughter's birthday, that was all he could remember. The next day, someone kept tulip flowers on a little girl's grave. The man prayed and placed an envelope enclosing a photograph and a small note before leaving. Hours later an old man called  into a police station claiming to have witnessed the murder of Mr Andy Parrott on a turn near the the airport. Earlier in the wee hours of the day the passenger shook hands with the Andy's boss, and passed him a photograph. The photograph had Andy's blood stains on it, his blood from the last few breaths he took before looking at the passenger. Andy was no more in this world, he was in the higher world where he met his daughter and wife after 5 years. Police later discovered the envelipe near the grave. The note had a quote by Orson Welles, " You are born alone. You live alone, and you die alone, its only through illusion of love and relationship, you think you are not alone".

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