The floor was cold. He seemed to be losing consciousness. He fought to keep his eyes open and inhaled heavily. His breaths were getting deeper and slower. His body felt heavy, his clothes were dragging him, it was as if his body was giving up but he fought, fought the urge to just lie down there and accept whatever was coming. Is this what it felt like? Dying? No…he couldn’t, he wouldn’t. He let out a sharp yell of pain. The wound was pushing through his body, spilling more blood as it went deeper and deeper.
His life seemed to flash before his eyes. Had he been a good man? No…Jacob Brown hadn’t exactly been Mr. NiceGuy. His lips cracked as he smiled. ‘Her’. Thoughts of her crashed into his head and filled his mind. Thoughts only of her. He cursed her, blamed her for the situation he was now in. The pain of the wound seemed to be far away now. Rage filled his body with a new kind of energy. He somehow forced himself to sit up, leaning against the wall of the subway. It was the dead of night. It was raining heavily and he was stuck in the old subway, off the highway. It was an old part of the city, which had been revived with new infrastructure, but for some reason the subway had remained untouched. ‘Click-clack click-clack click-clack’. The unmistakable sound of high-heeled shoes echoing off the hard concrete road reached Jacob’s ears. His unbelieving ears pricked up at the sound and his eyes tried to look for the source. His eyes were half open. His thoughts seemed to be getting sluggish. His new-found energy seemed to have run out. Rain…wound…dark subway…girl in heels…that’s all his brain seemed to be able to process at that moment. He let out a sigh and unable to resist any more, he closed his eyes and allowed himself to slip into the dark.
She had been working all day and her feet were sore. High heels sure looked pretty, but were a pain. She wished she could just kick them off and walk home barefoot. Unfortunately, it was raining heavily. It was late into the night and she was returning home from a hard long day of work. It would have been safer to take the highway, where a few cars would still pass by, but she wanted to reach home desperately. So, she decided to go through the old subway, the one that was off the highway. Though it would be lonely and unsafe, she would reach home at least 15 minutes faster, and that was good enough for her. She walked down the subway, thinking of her assignments, upcoming projects and their deadlines.
She let out a sigh. She walked slowly and cautiously. The road was all wet and muddy and she was afraid of slipping and falling. She was suddenly aware that there were no lights in the subway. She took out her phone and switched on the torch. “That’s better,” she whispered to herself. The water seemed to get muddier and darker as she went further. In fact it seemed to be……..turning a dark shade of red. That’s when she heard it. Deep sighs and a ragging breath. She dared to go on ahead. She could slowly see a shoe, then a leg, a torso and finally a face appeared. The man was in a terrible state. There was no time for any questions. She slowly bent down, her hair brushing against his cheek, to check if he was breathing. Yes, he was alive, but seemed to be unconscious. She quickly called an ambulance and in a few minutes, the sound of wailing sirens filled the air.
“The wound’s quite deep,” said the doctor, “But he will be fine.” “Nothing a few stitches can’t cure,” he added with a smile. She heaved a sigh of relief. “Any information about his family, doctor?” she asked. “Yes,” he replied, “We found his mobile phone in his pocket and have contacted a few people. They are on their way to the hospital right now.” She didn’t have to wait for long, for in about 15 minutes, his family came rushing through the door. Tears were streaming down his mother’s cheeks and his brother was comforting her. They spoke to the doctor and he told them about how the girl had brought Jacob to the hospital, just in time. They rushed towards her, their eyes shining with gratitude. “Thank you so much dear,” said his mother. “It’s alright,” she replied with a smile, “I should be leaving now, it’s gotten quite late.” “Of course dear, thank you once again." She left the hospital and started walking back home. She glanced at her watch. It was 2:30 a.m. So much for reaching home early.
4 YEARS LATER
“You look beautiful darling, shall we leave now? Its getting quite late, you see.” “Of course dad, just let me wear my shoes.” They left the house and her father closed the door behind him, “Why don’t you just wait here while I get the car?” “OK dad.” She shuddered in the cold and gripped her coat even more tightly against her. Just then her father returned with the car and they set off. “I hope this party will be better than the last one dad,” she said, “They’re quite boring at times.” “Now, now, Jennifer,” her father replied, “You know I’m not a great fan of these parties either. But I have to be present there for work purposes and Mr. Brown simply adores you. He insisted that you should come along with me tonight.” “Dad, I don't quite like Mr. Brown. He seems somewhat odd to me,” she began. They continued their chatter all the way till they reached the big mansion of Mr. Brown.
“Welcome, Liam, welcome! I see that you have, on my request, brought along Jennifer. Hello Jennifer darling, I must say you do look very pretty tonight.”
“Thank you Mr. Brown. You are indeed truly charming,” replied Jennifer in a gushing tone. “Well, there is one person I want you to meet tonight,” continued Mr. Brown, “Oh, he must be somewhere around. Excuse me for a moment, I will be right back.” “Sure Mr. Brown, we will be waiting,” said Jennifer with a warm smile. Mr. Brown left and Jennifer whispered to her dad, “You are not paying me enough for this.” “Well, I’m not paying you at all,” said her father with a grin, as he led her into the party. There were many ‘hellos’ and you look very beautiful’ exchanged before Jennifer and her dad came across Mr. Brown again. This time, he was accompanied by a tall, dark man. He looked, there was no other way to say it, beautiful. His eyes were a dark shade of blue and his smooth blonde hair was perfectly brushed. He could have been a model. When he spoke, his voice was deep and smooth, and he sounded almost…royal. In fact, he looked a bit familiar too…but Jennifer just couldn’t remember where she had seen him before.
She let out small gasp, as a four year old memory leaked into her head. “You’re the man I found in the subway!” she exclaimed, “I..I took you to the hospital and….then your….your mother came….but you never saw me….of course…..now I remember.” “I’m sorry I didn’t quite catch that,” said her father and Mr. Brown looked equally confused. But as realization dawned on the other man, he looked stunned. “It’s really you,” he said, “The girl in heels.” Jennifer let out a small laugh, “Yes, I was wearing a quite large pair of heels that day, wasn’t I?” “Dad, this girl saved my life, when I was attacked, 4 years ago,” said the other man, “Remember, when I was in the subway…..” “Sorry, dad?” cut in Jennifer. “Yes,” said Mr. Brown, “Liam and Jennifer, meet my son, Jacob.” “Hello Jacob,” said Jennifer’s dad, as he stretched out to shake Jacob’s hand. “Well, Liam and I have some business partners to attend to,” continued Mr. Brown, “Jacob, I hope you don’t mind accompanying this fine young lady for a while, do you?” “We’ll be fine dad,” said Jacob, “You both carry on.”
As Liam and Mr. Brown left, Jacob turned to Jennifer. “So,” he said, “You’re the one I’ve been thinking about for the last 4 years.” She blushed and said, “Hey, I’m Jennifer.” “Hey Jennifer, I’m Jacob. You know my dad pretty well, don’t you?” “Yes, my dad and him have been quite good friends for a while now. It’s a surprise I haven’t seen you before.” “Well,” continued Jacob, “My dad and I don’t really get along well but I do know that he’s quite fond of you.” “Well, my dad and I are quite close,” said Jennifer, “Ever since mom passed away, it’s just been the two of us. And Charlotte, of course. The two of us were really good friends when we were young. But when my dad got a job transfer we shifted here. It broke my heart to stay away from her for so many years, but fortunately, she got a job here too. Since then she has been living with me and my dad. She’s like the sister I never had.”
“I had a friend named Charlotte once,” said Jacob. They continued laughing and talking with each other. They felt completely at ease with one another, as if they were long lost friends, and not strangers. The incident that had occurred 4 years ago, acted like a strong bond between them. Jennifer found Jacob quite charming and funny. But it was too early to say anything, after all, it was just the first time that they had spoken. They took many pictures and it was a merry night. It was quite late before Jennifer and her father reached home. She felt tired, but just couldn’t sleep. Thoughts of that night kept swarming her head. Finally, she fell asleep.
“I can’t believe I got up late again,” said Jennifer with a groan, as she gathered her work files in a hurry, “Charlotte, could you please get my bag. It’s behind the door.” “Just a minute,” said Charlotte, her best friend. As she was getting the bag, she stumbled on a loose tile. The bag fell down and some of its contents spilled out. “Oh god,” said Charlotte exasperatedly. She hurried to pick up the bag and what had fallen out of it. “Jennifer,” she asked, “What are these pictures?” “Which pictures…..oh these, we took them last night at Mr. Brown’s party.
Could you please add them to my picture album?” “Sure, I’ll do it right away,” said Charlotte. She made her way towards Jennifer’s room, looking at the pictures. It seemed to have been quite a party. The elderly-looking fellow must be Mr. Brown, she thought. But who was that next to him, the tall dark man? She took off her glasses, as she brought the picture closer. She gave a gasp of horror and dropped the pictures. Her face turned as white as a sheet and her eyes grew wide. “No,” she whispered. It couldn’t be, hadn’t she herself… No there must be some mistake. But if it was him…and if Liam and Jennifer knew…..no…no…. She reassured herself. He couldn’t be a threat to her. She was safe. She let out a sigh and gathered the pictures, as she went back on her way to Jennifer’s room.
It had been a month since Jennifer had met Jacob at the party and she had left with his promise of calling her soon. She felt disappointed. Had he completely forgotten about her? Her phone buzzed. ‘MEET ME AT THE COFFEE SHOP AT 4:00 P.M. I WILL BE WAITING – JACOB.’ She let out a small squeal of delight. She left at 3.30 from work and headed towards the coffee shop. He was already there, and by the looks of it, he had also left early from work. “Hey,” he said, “You look pretty.” They went on to meet each other many times promising to meet again after each meeting.
They got closer and began trusting each other. She felt completely free with him. He was hilarious. Most of the time, she would go back home, her stomach aching with laughter and she liked the way he called her Jenny. “Jenny,” he said one day, “I wonder if you could do a favour for me?” They were lounging on the couch at Jennifer’s house as she said, “Sure, tell me Jacob. What’s bothering you?” “Well, you know I don’t get along well with dad and that I live separately,” he said, “I have a few problems going on at work and well the thing is…..I’m lagging behind on rent. I was wondering if you could lend me some money….” “Oh Jacob,” she said with a frown, “I wish you would have told me earlier. I’ll talk about it to dad when he comes back from work and let you know. Ok?” “Thanks Jenny, you’re the best,” he said with a smile. Just then, Charlotte came to ask Jennifer what she would like to have for lunch. She gave a little start when she saw Jacob sitting there. ‘Jennifer,” Jacob said, “Where’s the washroom?” “First door to the left,” she replied. As she was checking her phone, he slowly snuck into the kitchen. “Oh Charlotte,” he said with a sneer, “Miss me yet?” He pushed her against the wall and whispered menacingly, “If you tell Jennifer or Mr. Liam anything…..you know very well what the consequences will be.” “Oh please,” She pushed him and continued, “You don’t scare me anymore.” “Jacob,” she added sneeringly and with a scoff she walked off.
Jennifer was true to her word. She spoke to her dad about the money when they were having dinner. “Well Jennifer, I’m not really sure,” he said, “Let me think about it for a while and I’ll let you know.” Charlotte overheard this conversation and a look of realization dawned on her face. “No,” she whispered to herself, “I won’t let him do this again…..not to Jennifer.”
Two days later, Jennifer’s dad said, “Darling, I thought about it, and if you think that you can trust Jacob with the money, ask him for his bank account details. I’ll have it transferred.” Jennifer hugged him and said, “Thanks dad, you’re the best. Don’t worry, I can assure you that he will return the money as soon as he is able to. I’ll talk to him when I see him, in fact, we are meeting this afternoon. I’ll talk to him about it then.” Jacob was simply delighted when Jennifer told him that Liam had agreed. “Thanks Jenny, it really means a lot to me,” he said, “I just wish that there was something that I could do for you in return. Don’t worry, I’ll return the money as soon as I can.”
They had agreed to meet in Jacob’s flat that afternoon as Jennifer didn’t want to talk about the money in public. Jacob was in the kitchen, making coffee for the two of them when the doorbell rang. “I’ll get it,” said Jennifer. She hadn’t even unbolted the door entirely when two police officers barged in. “Is this the house of Benjamin Miller?” they asked. They looked towards a very surprised Jennifer and asked her, “Do you know Benjamin Miller? He lives here. Are you with him right now? Answer us!” “Officer, officer, it’s not her fault,” said Jacob, as he came out of the kitchen, wiping his hands, “She’s just a friend of mine, visiting for a couple of hours.” “Are you Benjamin Miller?” they asked him. “No, I’m Jacob Brown and I live here now,” “Sorry for the inconvenience mister,” they said, “but you need to come with us to the police station for questioning.”
“What’s your name?”
“What do you do for a living?"
“I’m a graphic designer but the company that I work for is currently running in losses.”
“Have you ever heard of or met Benjamin Miller?”
“That house is his. I’m living there on rent. I got the house through an agent but I’ve met Benjamin once.”
“Well, I would want to talk more but in some time. Please wait outside.”
Jacob left the officer’s office and went outside, where Jennifer was waiting for him. “She got up the minute she saw him and rushed towards him saying, “Is everything all right? Who’s this Benjamin Miller? Do you know him? Are you in trouble?” Questions swarmed her mind but Jacob simply held her hand and said, “Everything is fine, just relax.” She took a deep breath and sat down again. Jacob sat next to her and they waited in silence, hand in hand, until the officer called him in again. “I’m coming with you,” Jennifer said, “I can’t bear sitting over here anymore.” Jacob just nodded and they went inside. “Officer, what has Benjamin Miller done?” Jennifer asked. The officer replied, “He’s a con artist. He has cheated about 12 different people until now and we have heard from a resource that he has a new victim.
We were given his address and sent two of our officers to his house, only to find the two of you. That man is extremely cunning. We have only had one close call with him, even then, we were only able to see the edge of his coat as he narrowly escaped. Earlier victims have given us various sketches. We were only able to draw out some common features but, we are not even close to knowing what the man actually looks like. Can you help us?” “I’m sorry officer,” said Jacob, “But he had a handkerchief covering his mouth and unfortunately, I don’t remember his features very well.” “Alright then, since we can’t find any evidence or witnesses against you’ll, I guess we have to let you go,” said the officer, “But you can’t leave this city until our next notice.” “Thank you officer,” said Jennifer.
Jacob dropped Jennifer at her house and headed towards his own. When she walked in, her dad had already come back from work. “There you are,” he said, “I was starting to get worried about you! Where have you been?”
Jennifer told her dad the entire story, from the officers barging in to this mysterious Benjamin Miller. “The part that worries me the most is that the officer said that he had a new victim. I wonder who that is. I do feel bad for them,” said Jennifer. “It’s you,” said Charlotte in a hollow voice as she emerged from behind the curtains, “You’re his next victim.”
“What do you mean?” asked Jennifer.
Charlotte took a deep breath and went on to explain, “I know Benjamin. We were school friends. I met him accidentally on the airport once and we kept in touch ever since. We became really close. He was easy to trust, funny, charming. I heard him talking on the phone once. I realized that he was conning me. He had cheated about 10 different girls before me and he spoke about me so casually, as if I was just another piece in his games, just another insignificant part of his plan. I confronted him at once and he got really angry. Things got ugly. He threatened me with a knife that day. I had no choice but to give in. We finally agreed to meet in the old subway, off the highway that night, where I would give him the money and he would leave quietly. None of us were ever supposed to talk about each other after that. But I didn’t want to let him get away with that. I didn’t believe that he would leave me alone after that day. I was worried for my family and myself. So I took a knife with me and while he was counting the money, I stabbed him in the stomach and took my money back. I waited in the shadows to make sure that he was surely dead. But, I heard someone coming and took off. Someone must have found him and saved him…..”
Jennifer sat down on the couch heavily, her head in her hands. “Jennifer!” her dad exclaimed, “Are you all right?” “It’s all my fault,” she said, “It’s all my fault. I saved him Dad…..I saved him. That night four years back, in the subway….” “But you didn’t save any Benjamin,” he said, “You saved Mr. Brown’s…….” “Yes dad, yes,” said Jennifer, tears streaming down her eyes now, “It was him all along. You tipped the police, didn’t you Charlotte?”
Charlotte nodded her head silently. “Just in time that too,” said Jennifer’s dad, alarmed, “I was just about to transfer the money. But Charlotte, why didn’t you tell us earlier? Why wait for now?” Charlotte replied, “I wasn’t sure if he was just cheating Jennifer, or actually had some money issues. I thought that he would have changed after what happened four years. But I guess a leopard never changes its spots.” Jennifer wiped her tears and dialed a number on her phone. The receiver picked up the phone in just two rings and Jennifer said, “I know your secret Mr. Jacob Brown. Or should I say, Benjamin Miller.”