The Man With The Umbrella
The Man With The Umbrella
Four days had passed but there was not a single call from Finny and Cassel. They were probably turning out to be like their father. Indifferent and opportunistic! The phone buzzed a lot, but it was from the client who was bothering the advertising agency with the pending work that was not submitted by Maggie. Rose got really annoyed and decided that she would go upto Maggie’s house and understand why she had not been responding. She briefly spoke with their managing director Ron who agreed with her. Knowing very well that she too had three deadlines to meet in the next two days, she decided to wind up early that day so that she could work from home at her leisure. Being at the higher senior level she was allowed to take those kinds of decisions all by herself. Nevertheless, she wrote a quick mail to Ron before she started her car and headed downtown to Maggie’s house.
Sitting in front of the window Maggie continued painting on her canvas, her hands moving artistically, coloring with her sketch-pens. The breeze made her feel chilly and she paused for a moment to look out of the window to admire the weather. It was so beautiful! As much as her. At 35, she was supple and slender. Her fair complexion glistened in the late afternoon sunlight like satin as she sat comfortably in her rusty red sleeveless jumpsuit, her hair let loose, their curly ends touching her shoulders, owning the canvas to her delight when her blue ink ran out and she swore. How was she supposed to finish the landscapes now?
Maggie latched the door and moved out, stopping for a brief moment when she felt the quiet around the house enhanced. She did not want to waste one single moment of her life thinking about Charlie. No matter what she had done to keep things afloat between them he never stopped taking her for granted and continued being the jerk that he had been five years back. She started walking down the streets of downtown Manhattan to a nearby stationary shop from where she usually got her drawing material. Having a pressing deadline from her client at the advertising agency where she freelanced, working weekends was imperative. Thank god she was occupied! Else, Charlie’s erratic behavior would have anyways driven her crazy.
Elaine stood in front of the Roundhouse aquarium gates located at the end of the pier of Manhattan beach. Finally, she had been able to keep up with her promise. Finny and Cassel were very happy being with her. As the fireball started melting in the soulful broth of nature a sense of calm instilled in Elaine after a very long time. The orangish yellow hues amalgamating with the blue reflection of the sky in the sea captivated her and she thought why did she not do this earlier…
“Let’s go aunt Elaine. We won’t be able to get the tickets otherwise. Only an hour is left for the aquarium to be closed down.” Elaine winced as Finny came over to her.
“Oh yeah. Let’s go you both.” She said, and went inside the aquarium with the two children.
The evening was spent with much joy and then the trio headed to a nearby restaurant for dinner. Cassel had not been so happy in a very long time. She smiled all the time that evening and so did Finny!
Passing through the footpath a man in a blue shirt holding an umbrella caught Maggie’s eye. She could see that there was a stark resemblance of this person with someone she knew and so she tried to get a better view. The road was pretty busy and the traffic moved quickly making it very difficult for her to get a confirmation on what her intuition told her. As she paced her footsteps towards him, she realized that the bulb in the lamppost across the street was not working as it flickered every second or two. Maggie looked at the sky realizing that the sunset had rendered it schauss with tufts of cotton candy scattered all over. Weary of her chase, Maggie was finally happy to reach the shop where she was headed for and quickly picked up the refills that she needed.
The man in the blue shirt was standing on the street opposite to that of Maggie. She did not notice him this time around and started walking her way back home. But she could not stop thinking about him after having seen him early that evening. How much he resembled Mark, her college friend. And if he really was Mark, what was he doing here in Manhattan. As far as Maggie knew, Mark was settled in New Zealand. But they were not in touch for almost fifteen years and that made her question herself. She kept walking further, memories of her teenage years flashing through her mind…
“Hey, Good morning sunshine!”, Mark said.
“What is so good about this morning Mark?”, Maggie replied.
“Well, it is good for me at the least. I saw you first thing I reached college.”
“That’s flattering mister. Thanks! You really know how to make me smile!”
“Where are you headed to sweets?”, Mark asked.
“I have to finish my article submission today. Ms. Steed will really throw me out of the class if I don’t get good grades this time.”
“I am sure you will get good grades Mags!”
“I hope so Mac! Bye.”
As her car took a steep right turn that led to Maggie’s house, Rose realized a flurry of people that were standing there talking to each other. She somehow managed to get through the crowd and stop her car in the nearby alley. Rose had started getting terrified by the very thought of what had happened but she kept pacing forwards with a heavy heart as her feet were getting wet and stuck in the garden soil making it difficult for her to take swift steps towards the entrance. She saw two police officers patrolling every visitor that would come up and knew that it was her turn. As Rose went closer, they stopped her and asked,
“Yes Madam? Who are you?”
“I am Maggie’s senior at Braun advertising. I have been calling her mobile and residence number for the past four days but no one has been picking up. Actually, we had a work assignment that was to be sent to the client. Maggie was working on it and she hasn’t responded to me over the email. I just felt it would be better I visited her residence and figured it out by myself.”
“Oh. Okay.” The investigating officer replied to Rose.
“Well madam, see the thing is that the people here reported to us that there was no movement in and out of this house the way it usually is. None of them has seen Ms. Maggie after the evening of 16th January and the maid of this house reported to a neighbor that she has been coming to work every morning since then but no one attends the door. We came over when Mr. and Mrs. Cummings from the neighborhood called us and started investigating. It has been two days that we have kept this area sealed. That is all that I can share at the moment.”
“Oh Okay. I will take your leave then. I had only felt that maybe Maggie was unwell or something. But this looks serious. Anyways. Thank you.” Rose replied, and, she left.
By the time Maggie was heading back home that evening, it was pitch dark and she cursed herself for not having left the garden lights on. Some-how she managed to find her keys and entered the house. By way of habit she placed her hand on the switchboard in the hall which was behind the sofa as her fingers fetched for the fourth switch from the left. Just as she had reached the third switch and was about to press the next one on, someone pulled her back clutching her hand that held the shopping bags with the painting material with one hand and then clasped the second which was hovering over the switchboard.
Before Maggie could scream, she found herself turned towards the person who had gotten hold of her and her bags fell down from her hands. Next, she realized both of her hands were held in a tight grip behind her back and her lips locked with the persons’ who kissed her ravenously leaving her gasping for breath. Within a minute or two her hands were tied up with a string, she was laid on the floor with the person on top of her and her clothes were stripped off. And then, with one hard blow that instantaneously stopped the blood flow to the brain, the quite in the house was reaffirmed just as the way Maggie had left it early evening before she went to fetch the colors.
As Rose started her car, she felt nervous. What could have happened to Maggie? She was a very diligent person and never left anyone in the dark as regards work was concerned. It had started getting dark and the thoughts of the pending deadlines also started bothering Rose. She was yet to pick up Finny and Cassel from Elaine’s house. What would she tell them about Maggie going missing? It was a week now that the children were away from their mother. They must obviously be missing her, she felt. As if Charlie’s absence in their life was not enough that now they were faced with this challenge of separation from Maggie. What were they destined for? They were so young. Finny was twelve and Cassel had just turned fourteen that year.
Rose kept steering the wheel at the acceptable speed limit with these thoughts crowding her mind. When she reached Elaine’s apartment it was ten past seven. She was already getting late and so instead of wasting time in parking the car and going over to meet Elaine she preferred to give her a call and requested her to get the kids downstairs near the parking lot where she had halted. Elaine agreed to her request and hurriedly collected Finny and Cassel’s belongings summoning them to go downstairs and meet up with Rose while she would follow suit. The children got inside the car and Elaine handed away their belongings to Rose. They both greeted for a brief moment.
“Have you heard from Maggie lately?” Rose asked Elaine.
“No dear. The last that we spoke was two days back when she had called up to check for the kids. Not after that.”
“Okay babes.” Rose patted Elaine and swiftly started the car which headed straight to her house.
While Rose was driving, she received a message from Mr. Connor, one of the investigating officers for Maggie’s missing case. She was in fact thinking of calling him up once she reached home as she wanted to share with him that although Maggie was missing for four days, Elaine had spoken to her two days back. She just wanted to keep him updated.
As the car stopped at the signal, Rose quickly read the message:
Charlie Watson found dead
at Maggie’s residence.
Please come over asap.
Rose was stunned after reading the message. She decided to leave the kids at her flat with the maid and drive back to Maggie’s house where Charlie was found dead. When she reached there, the neighbors whom she had met just early that evening stood talking with each other. Rose made her way to Mr. Connor and told him that she had met Elaine who had shared with her about Maggie’s whereabouts as best as she knew.
“Can I have a look at his body Mr. Connor?”, Rose asked.
“Well, I would suggest you shouldn’t. But then if you really want to, just have a brief look.”
“Okay officer.”, Rose affirmed and headed towards the attic where Charlie’s dead body was kept.
There were three officers, one photojournalist and a detective in that room. As Rose went near the body a profound decaying stench overwhelmed her. When the cloth was removed from Charlie’s face by one of the officer’s, Rose got startled and stepped back. There was blood on the cloth at the portion that covered his head where she saw a deep wound. Terrified, she hurried her way to Mr. Connor and asked him how long had it been that Charlie was dead.
“In my experience it is definitely more than two days. But we are waiting for the reports.” He replied.
“I am really worried for Maggie officer. Where must she have gone?” Rose asked worriedly.
“Could you please share Elaine’s contact number with me Rose?”, Mr. Connor replied.
“Oh sure.”, Rose answered with a nod and quickly forwarded Elaine’s number to him.
“I think you should take some rest now Rose. You look really tired.”, Mr. Connor suggested.
“Yes. You are right officer. I will take your leave now. Thanks. Please keep me informed about Maggie, just in case…”
“Sure Rose. Bye.” Mr. Connor replied.
Rose then quickly got into her car and started driving back to her residence. She was worried for Finny and Cassel. Just then she received a phone call. It was not usual for her to attend the phone when driving, yet, the way the events in the day had proceeded it became imperative for her to see who was calling her.
“Hi Rose. Elaine here.”
“Hi Elaine. Tell me.”
“I just wanted to ask … Why were you asking me about Maggie’s whereabouts? I hope she is fine?”
“Oh that… Nothing much… Don’t worry. I will talk to you later. Need to get back home. Finny and Cassel must be waiting for me. I am yet to make dinner for them.”
“Oh… You haven’t reached home yet?”
“No dear. I had to pick up some groceries on the way. Will talk to you later. Cya!”
“Ya… Bye Rose. Take Care.”
Finny opened the door as he heard the bell. Rose hugged him tight and called out Cassel. “You both must be hungry… I will quickly make some pasta for you.
Just then the bell rang and Mr. Connor’s name flashed on Rose’s mobile. She picked it up immediately and he told her that Charlie’s funeral would have to wait until Maggie’s whereabouts were understood and thus their department had kept his body in the morgue. He also shared that it would be better if she wouldn’t share the news of his death with any of their common friends.
In a way Rose felt happy that she hadn’t discussed anything with Elaine…
She quickly freshened up and made her way to the kitchen. As she started cutting the cherry tomatoes, she remembered how Maggie had smashed Charlie’s head with the metal rod that had been retained after the repairs of her old house.
Rose then made some extra pasta for Maggie who was hiding in her basement.
Meanwhile, Maggie was trying to contact Mark who had barged into her house that evening when she returned from the stationary shop after getting the colors that she needed.
Mark had been in touch with Rose whom he had contacted through social media after having seen that she had a work connection with Maggie. He had found out Maggie’s whereabouts from her a month before as he wanted to surprise her. When Maggie entered the house and was trying to switch on the lights, he quickly grabbed her to kiss her not knowing that Charlie who had gone absconding for many days after having found that Maggie used to love Mark before she had met him was in the house itself.
Maggie had realized in a moment that it was Mark who was holding her even after almost fifteen years of not having met him and the fact that it was dark. She could not stop herself from the encounter that ensued…
Just then Charlie who was on the terrace of their house realized that although the lights weren’t on, there was some unusual noise that could be heard from downstairs. May be from the living room.
He rushed downstairs picking up a metal rod from their attic in his hand and switched the lights on.
Needless to say, he was devastated to see Maggie and Mark together. After having realized about Maggie’s past life secret he had been heartbroken, although he himself was a player… But Maggie was special to him and he could not take it that she had someone in her life whom she had loved more than anything in her life!
Seeing Charlie in the house Maggie was shocked and could not understand what was to happen thereon… She tried to pacify him but he was not in the state to understand anything. Mark too tried to explain it to Charlie that Maggie was completely unaware of him being present in the house, that he had barged in with the help of Rose who had a set of duplicate keys to their house just to surprise Maggie and all that had happened was just a moment of their passionate love which had never died.
Mark confessed to Charlie and was about to leave when Charlie ran behind him with the metal rod in his hand. Maggie was standing between the two of them and just when Charlie was nearing Mark, she put her leg in between and that caused Charlie to topple down and fall with a bang. At the same time the metal rod also fell from his hand.
Yet, Charlie quickly rose and slapped Maggie very hard. She was thrown a foot apart just near the metal rod and in the need to protect herself and Mark in the moment, she picked up the rod and turned to hit Charlie on his knees so that he wouldn’t hurt any of them any further.
Unfortunately, Mark, who was almost about to leave the house after he had seen all of this turned back for Maggie’s help just in the moment when Charlie had toppled down and realizing that something was serious…
After slapping Maggie, Charlie had again started rushing in Mark’s direction who hit him hard in the face causing him to bend a bit just at the time when Maggie had risen to hit him in the knees.
And, by accident, Maggie ended up hitting Charlie on the head.
With one blow Charlie was dead.
Charlie had never been a good husband to Maggie. She loved him a lot and tried to put up with his possessive and paranoid behavior. Many a times she would miss Mark but that was never the reason for the rift between her and Charlie. Charlie had too many issues that he was not ready to deal with. He was irresponsible, played poker, had an ongoing alcohol addiction and so, many a times Maggie would end up leaving her children at Elaine’s or with Rose. Just to ensure that they would be as away from the mess in her house as possible…
Maggie had been in an unsuccessful marriage for almost fourteen years and was literally dragging herself for her children. One day when she was reading some of the old letters that Mark had written to her, Charlie came to know about her love for him before her marriage and it was enough to trigger him. She tried to explain a lot to him that it was a very old thing and that there is nothing between her and Mark now. But Charlie was in no state to understand and had left her alone in the house without speaking anything…
Little did Maggie know that her love for Mark had never died unless he surprised her that evening by entering her locked house and giving her a surprise. She had felt that she had long dealt with whatever it was that existed between them. But in the moment when Mark kissed her in the dark, she realized it was him even when she had never kissed him before, and, did not resist even for a moment after that!
Mark had gone on a voyage of sorts after Charlie and Maggie had gotten married. He took up different jobs around the world for many years just to get over Maggie but could never manage to do so. He always regretted the moment when Maggie had proposed to him and because of some misconception that he had about her, he had refused marrying her.
Maggie was too hurt and not understanding how to deal with the refusal in no time had decided to marry Charlie who always hinted that he liked her.
But as destiny would have it, Maggie and Mark were meant to be together.
After the accident in which Charlie got killed, Maggie and Mark left his body in the attic and stayed in a hotel for the next four days.
Both Maggie and Mark trusted Rose to be their friend and believed that she would understand them and help them out of this situation. So, they confided in her and after having stayed in the hotel for two days, Maggie decided to hide in Rose’s basement so that she would also have a feeling of closeness with Finny and Cassel, until she could openly meet them.
Meanwhile, Mark, who had rediscovered his love for Maggie who also loved him back, was making arrangements for them to fly back to his hometown. He had decided to marry Maggie after she would reveal herself to the police the next day and tell them that she was kidnapped by some gangsters who had some past animosity with Charlie. She was to tell the police that the kidnappers did not want any money, just that they wanted to kill Charlie and had kidnapped her for fear of she being an eye witness to Charlie’s murder. But then, she was left by them on much pleading for her children as there was no one to take care of them in her absence.
As decided, Maggie went to the police station the next morning and told the police that she had no idea who the killers were, but, there were four of them and that they had driven their car for almost ten hours after kidnapping her before they finally left her in the middle of nowhere when they were convinced that she would not do any harm to them.
Maggie then told Mr. Connor that she had called Elaine from a telephone booth as she did not have her mobile and could not contact anyone else as the only number that she remembered was that of Elaine. Yet, as she also did not have much money, she could not talk to her at length and tell about her exact location.
After having cleared all the dues at the hotel, Mark decided to fly back to New Zealand. He called up Rose and told her that Maggie should visit him a year after having sold the house and closing everything at Manhattan including selling the house and getting done with job responsibilities. They would then get married and he would always love Finny and Cassel as his own children.
Rose then conveyed the message to Maggie and Charlie’s funeral was done after the case was officially closed as there were no traces of the kidnappers being found. This took almost a month. Finny and Cassel had never bonded with Charlie, thanks to his vimzical nature and they were happy to have a loving and mature person like Mark in their life who had started bonding with them over video calls six months after the funeral as Maggie’s old college friend.
In another six months Rose and Elaine helped Maggie to wind up her life in Manhattan and move to New Zealand with Finny and Cassel forever.
Maggie and Mark officially married each other after living together for one and a half year together as a family, just to understand if they could really make things work and if it was in the best interest of the children. They were also trying to get over Charlie’s accidental death and working over some of their unresolved differences form many years when there had been a misunderstanding between them. Eventually, they put behind their respective hurt and pain and lived a joyful life together!