SAGE OF DARKNESS
Catelyn looked up at the window she just flew out from. Amar Qureshi just pushed her out from a window, six floor down. She got out of the trash bin, assisted by Michael. They waited for Amar to jump but before he could, he was pulled back inside. They found him.
Michael pulled her away from the bin and pushed her into the car.Prem was already behind the wheels, waiting to kick the gas paddle. Catelyn and Michael got in the car.
“Drive!” Michael screamed. Prem hit the gas so hard, Catelyn could swear the car flew out to the street.
“Where’s Amar?” Prem asked while driving as fast as he could.
“They got him.” Catelyn whispered.
“What?!” Prem hit the brakes so hard the car screeched and came to a halt in the middle of the motorway. “We can’t just leave him. We have to do something.” He continued looking at both Michael and Catelyn.
“I agree.” Catelyn said. “We have to go back. We have to get him back from them.” Catelyn said, tears flowing from her eyes.
“Yes, but right now we don’t even know who ‘they’ are.” Michael explained. He continued, “we have to get to a safe place. We have to protect Catelyn. Then we have to go get Amar.” He said to Prem.
“I want to help get Amar back. It’s my fault they have him, if we don’t get him back soon they will kill him.” Catelyn said, adamant on following both Michael and Prem in getting back Amar.
“Fine, but first, we need to get to a safe place.” He said with a grim look.
They headed to Michael’s place when they were sure no one was tailing them. They arrived at an abandoned building when Michael said it was his place. Catelyn looked at him with a puzzled look.
“You live in an abandoned building?” She asked,
“Yes, you have a problem with that?” he shot back.
She held her hands up in surrender. Their ultimate goal right now was to find out where Amar was and if Michael could help them, both Prem and Catelyn were more than willing to accommodate. They just weren’t sure how much they could trust Michael. To them, he was still someone new. Prem knew Amar had his own investigator, this is the first time he’s meeting Michael.
Catelyn entered the building, followed by Michael and Prem. Michael guided them to the top floor of the building where he had set his camp. Both Catelyn and Prem were shocked when they entered the top floor. It was equipped with the latest computer and security systems. It looked like it was a technology lab. He even had a huge fridge built in the floor filled with food.
“In case the both of you are wondering, this is where I work. I don’t live here.” Michael said, looking at both of them with an amused look on his face.
Catelyn and Prem exchanged looks. “Aren’t you afraid people might try to break in or squatters might move in and get cozy? Or what if the owner of the place comes back?” Prem asked.
Michael who was now on his computer looked up. “I own this place. You didn’t think I would set all this up here without any security did you?”
Catelyn was awed at his professional skills. No wonder Amar trusted him. She browsed around the floor with caution. There was wires everywhere connected to devices and monitors. There were twelve monitors set up in the corner of the floor. It was showing a map. Map to where, Catelyn didn’t dare ask, but there was a red light blinking and moving at the same time.
“Is that suppose to blink? What is that?” Catelyn asked pointing at the monitor where the red light was blinking. Prem moved closer to catelyn to take a look.
“That’s Amar.” He answered, short.
Both Catelyn and Prem was aghast.
“He is on the move. They’re moving him. I clipped a tracking device on him just now. You didn’t think I’ll let my boss go in unprepared.” Michael answered.
“Wait, you put a tracking device on him? How? Where?” Catelyn asked in shock. “I thought you were his investigator?” She looked confused.
“I’m his investigator and his personal bodyguard. I have a team that guards him. Wherever he goes and whatever he does, we’re always there around him. If I told you how and where I put his tracking device, I would have to kill you.” Michael explained with a grim expression.
“Did you know this?” Catelyn turned to Prem.
Prem shook his head in disbelief. He knew his friend was wealthy and reputable, but he didn’t know Amar had a bodyguard and a security team that guards him.
“There are certain things that are best kept secret.” Michael said with a smile. “Now that you know, you need to keep it quiet.”
“So where is he?” Prem asked.
Michael was calculating the latitudes and longitudes of the map. He looked up at Catelyn and Prem with disbelief. “In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.”
I woke up with an excruciating pain in my head. I felt something wet at the side my head and it felt smelled like copper. I tried focusing in my surroundings, but I couldn’t, the pain was too much and I was so dizzy I couldn’t see straight. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I tried focusing on my surroundings than the pain in my head. I slowly opened my eyes. I was in a van of some kind, I tried recalling what had happened, slowly my memory was coming back. I’m captured, my first thought went to Catelyn. I knew I pushed her off the window, Michael got her. A flood of relief washed over me. The documents were with her.
These people are likely going to torture me instead of killing me. That was clear, if they had intended to kill me they would have done it back at Raffles chambers. I just need to know where I am and how to get out of this.
There wasn’t anyone with me in back of the van. There were two men, one was driving and the other was beside him on the passenger seat. I don't think they know I’m awake. I tried untying the rope from my hands, it was too tight. I couldn’t move much either, they tied both my hand and legs. I tried to be as quiet as possible.
The van came to a stop. I didn’t want them to know I was awake. I acted like I was still passed out. They opened the door and carried me out. “He’s passed out cold,” one of them said.
They laughed and continued to drag me somewhere, I could hear metal doors creaking open. They dropped me with a thud on the floor and left locking the door as they left. As soon as I heard them locking the door, I opened my eyes and took a look around. I know I’m in a consignment trailer. It was dimly lighted with a light bulb and there were two chairs and a table. It was somewhat like an interrogation room.
I tried getting my hand free from the ropes. I remembered I still have my pocket knife in my jeans. I pushed it out of my back pocket and cut the ropes that tied my hand and legs. I was out of the ropes within minutes, then I heard the doors unlocking again. Someone was coming. I took the ropes that I cut and hid it, and took one short rope that I can use to strangle at least one of them. I lied back down on the floor and pretended to be unconscious.
There was only one of them that came in, he brought in a tray of food and water. He kneeled beside me and gently nudged me. I moved in one stride and caught him by the neck from the back with the rope and strangled him. The man was coughing and gagging, he couldn’t breathe. I continued to choke him until I was sure he was passed out.
I took off his clothes and tied him up with the ropes that they used to tie me. There was an apple on the tray that he just brought in. I took the apple and stuffed it in his mouth, there, my art work, enjoy.
I took the man’s black jacket and wore it. It would work as a camouflage. It had a hood I could wear, and lay low until I find out what and who they were. I needed to do a little snooping around and make sure in the process, I don't get caught or worse, killed. I also needed a phone. I have to let Catelyn and the others know I’m okay and alert them of where I am. I walked out of the trailer and locked it, no one was around, I could hear water, like waves, then I realised it was a ship. I was on a container ship.
I was about to panic a little when I heard someone walking over to where I was standing. I quickly hid behind another container. I could hear them talking, “This is wrong, I don’t want to be apart of this,” one of them said.
“Dude, so you want to die? if we don’t do this, he will kill us.” The other replied.
“I didn’t sign up for this, I am not going to just hand over those little girls to the those men. God knows what they might do to them!” The first man whispered shaking his head.
“Neither did I, but if we want to stay alive then we don't have any choice.” The other man replied.
Both of them looked a little terrified of what they were going to do. Now I understood what was going on on this ship. They are trafficking girls around the world. This doesn’t sound good. I had to do something. I have to find those girls. Before that, I need to find a safe way out of this ship, so that the girls could use it to get to safety.
I headed to the lower deck of the ship. I kept a lookout, just to make sure no one was around. It was probably about 1 or 2 am. I needed to find a phone fast. My best chance was the two men at the containers just now. I saw them heading back down to the lower decks. I decided to follow. The stairs to the lower deck were steep and small. It would be difficult to run back up in this stairs, one could easily be trapped here if ambushed by those men.
I followed them back into a corridor, the air was thick with steam and hot air. They entered into a room, it looked like a bunker. I stood outside the metal door for a moment to make sure no one else was in there. I knocked on the door and when one of them came opening, I knocked him in the face pushing him further into the room. The other came at me with a knife, I flipped him over and kneed him in the groin. The two of them were on the ground, one cupping his groin and the other his bleeding nose.
I walked up to them and said, “I’m not here to hurt you, I just need some information. Will you help me?” I asked,
One of them nodded while the other moved away from me.
“What’s your name?” I asked the one with his nose bleeding.
“Joey.” He said, his voice muffled by the pain.
“And you,” I turned to the other one who was holding his groin.
“Henson” He said, short.
“Right, where the hell are we?” I asked.
“We’re on a ship.” Henson answered. Joey was elbowing him, stopping him from telling me anything.
“I know we’re on a ship you moron, where are we? or where is the ship heading?” I asked, more precise.
“We’re heading to France.” Joey said.
“Tell me about this ship,” I said.
“Well, it’s called the bloody mary.” Joey answered. “It’s owned a man named Byron. That’s all we know.”
“Alright, this Byron where can I find him?” I asked,
“He is usually up at the captain’s room.” Henson said.
“I know the two of you are not bad men, I need your help to get out of this vessel and those girls,” I said, judging by the looks on Joey’s face, I knew I hit it right, I continued “I will help the two of you as well, I will give you however much money you want, you can get away from here and start a life somewhere else. No one would find you.”
Joey and Henson exchanged looks, Henson was about to say something when Joey cut him off. “My girlfriend’s pregnant and I need the money. How much can you give and can you keep her safe as well?”
“Of course. Whatever you want, how about two million pounds for each of you?” I said.
Both their eyes went big when they heard the amount I just said. Joey and Henson immediately agreed to help me. Of course I am not going to trust them completely. For the moment I need to use them, the two of them are familiar if this vessel and they can roam wherever they want on this vessel without being questioned.
“Now, I need a phone.” I said. Joey looked at me and handed me his phone. I glared at him, obviously peeved, “we’re in the middle of the ocean, where do you suppose we get cellular signal?” I asked with a sarcastic tone. “Get me a satellite phone.”
Both Henson and Joey looked blank but the they hurriedly vanished behind the cabin door leaving me in the cabin alone. I wasted no time and started looking for anything that I could use to escape from the ship. I looked around the cabin, there were two bunk beds with white and grey sheets. Under the bunk beds were boxes of beer and liquor. I could smell it, a bottle must have been broken or something. There were a table at the end of the cabin with papers and some stationery on it. The cabin room was dimly lit, i barely could see anything.
I walked up to the table and flipped through the papers. They were bills of lading that was headed to France. This ship carried tonnes of potatoes. It was headed to Le Havre, just a few hours away from Paris. I’m going to have to make contact with Michael, he can make arrangements for the ship to be intercepted before the ship reaches to the parisian harbour.
I was beginning to wonder where these two buggers went, it’s been a while since they left the cabin. He needed the satellite phone as soon as possible. He knew Michael would be able to track him, but they needed a plan fast and they have to execute the plan while its still dark. Once day breaks, it will be harder to go unnoticed, his life was on the line together with all those little girls.
“What have you got me into Mr. Raffles…” I mumbled.
I heard the door to the cabin click open. I hid near the bunk beds, just to be sure it was the two of them that entered. It was joey, but he was alone.
“Here,” He said, handing me a satellite phone.
“Where’s Henson?” I asked, eyeing him suspiciously.
“He stayed upstairs at the docks, we don’t want anyone to suspect us, just acting cool.” Joey explained.
I nodded in agreement and dialled for Michael. He answered at the third ring.
“Q,” He said.
“Yeah, 278862,” I said.
Michael and I have a number or codes that only we know. This one is a distress code, so that he would know what to do, with the code, he surely would know that I am the one who’s contacting him, not an impostor. There’s also one for if I was kidnapped, that one’s a duress code, as he liked to call it. He insisted on having these codes when I first hired him over eight years ago, never had to use it before, but now I’m glad he insisted on it.
“Oh thank god, are you okay? I know you’re at the indian ocean. My statistics shows me that you’re heading to france. Tell me what’s going on? Stay put Q, I’m on my way. You’re not going anywhere under my watch.” He said.
I smiled at his words. “I know, listen, something big is going to happen here, you’re going to have to intercept the ship before it reaches the port. That’s the only way we can get the girls to safety.” I explained whispering to him.
“What girls?” He inquired, his voice filled with curiosity.
“Long story, I don't have time to explain but bring back up.” I said.
“Right,” He said then continued, “hey boss, don’t get yourself killed, wait for me. Dont do anything stupid.”
“I’ll try my best and don’t take your own sweet time to get here!” I replied.
I switched off the phone and hid it under my jacket. I turned to Joey who was looking bleak. I asked him to show me where they hid the girls. At first he hesitated, I could understand why, I asked him again for the sake of his family, he agreed to show me. But we had to lay low. We couldn’t afford to get caught. So far there’s no commotion on the decks above, which means the men who put me on the ship still haven’t noticed that I’m gone. That’s good news.
Joey guided me through the vessel. We went through a long corridor with cabins on both sides. No one was around at the corridor. It was easy for us to move through the corridor, it was quiet and quite deserted.
“Once we reach the port, the girls will be shipped off to a famous brothel, the frenchmen will be coming for them. I heard Byron talking to the frenchmen.” Joey whispered to me.
I nodded and promised that would never happen. I had to get the girls out. We reached at a staircase leading to another floor. We went down the stairs and found two men guarding a door. This must be it, I thought to myself. There was a tray of food under the staircase. It looked like no one touched the food that was on the tray. I urged Joey to pick up the tray hoping he would know what I was getting at, thankfully he did. Joey picked up the tray and walked towards the men. I followed suit.
“We need to give ‘em food, captain’s orders.” Joey said, looking stern.
“No.” One of the men said. “No one is allowed in.”
“Fine, if one of ‘em died of starvation, do you think the captain’s gonna’ like it?” Joey countered. I stayed low behind him trying not to catch any attention.
Both of the guards looked at each other, probably thinking what Joey said might have made sense, well it did to one extent. Not bad this guys eh?
“Only one of you can go in.” One of the men said.
I was getting tired of this. This is going to take forever. I flipped the tray to the side and hit it straight to the guard’s neck. He slumped on the floor with a thud. Before the other guard reached for his radio, I kicked him in the nuts, where it hurts the most and punched him once in the face and the neck to make sure he really passed out. My hand were aching from the punch I threw at the guards. I looked up at Joey who was standing against the wall looking pale.
“Well, open the door you moron!” I whispered. We were running out of time.
Joey unlocked the door, his hand trembling. Once the door was opened Joey entered in first then me. I had to pull both the guards inside. Once I was in the cabin, my heart sank. There were about ten girls, all of them couldn’t have been more than 10 years old and all were in cages. In cages, like animals. My blood boiled to see little girls treated like this and I wanted to kill the men who did this to them. They were covered in dirt and their clothes were torn and ragged.
Joey and I exchanged looks, he was as surprised and pained as I was. We unlocked the girls from the cages and let them out. I gestured them to be quiet and assured them that they will be safe. Joey and I stuffed both the guards in the cages that the girls were locked in. t was so small we practically had to kick them in to make sure they fit in it. Well, take that!
We gathered the girls and told them to be as quiet as they can, and help is on the way. I got the radio from one of the guards just to know if something was amiss. That would stir the whole vessel.
I got back up to the stairs and signalled Joey that it was clear to bring the girls out. We are going to have to get to the main dock for Michael to get us out of here. We managed to get out to the docks unnoticed, which was an uphill task considering the amount guards i had to punch and worse, I had to hide the bodies while Joey guarded the girls. It was not long before when Henson found us and joined in the team. Judging by the look on his face, he was more terrified than happy to see us.
Henson got us to a container that was empty. I hid the girls in there with Joey and Henson. I needed to know who the captain was and what exactly was going on and how did Raffles get involve in all of this.
Henson told me where the captain would be at this time. So I decided to pay him a visit. Before I left, Henson handed me a gun. I looked at it then at him.
“I don’t know how to use a gun, truth be told, even if I did I don’t think I will be able to shoot straight.” I said, winking at him.
I headed up to the captain’s cabin. I did have to pacify a few men before I could get to the captain’s cabin. Once in, I saw a man who was facing the monitor with a navigation map, he seemed to be lost in the map.
“Well, if you’re going to kill me, you might as well do it now.” He said.
That, I did not expect. “Why do you think I’m here to kill you?” I asked. I had to know.
“I knew the minute you were gone from the container Mr. Qureshi.” He said.
“You know me?” Now I was really surprised.
“Of course, I know everything that I carry in my vessel Mr. Qureshi and I knew you would come looking for me.” He said.
I couldn’t see his face clearly but he was big built and tall. A little taller than I am. His face was covered with a beard and all I could see in those dim lights were his eyes. Eyes filled with anger and evil. I could feel it my bones. He was pure evil.
“Why was I brought here?” I asked.
Byron walked over to the end of the cabin and pulled out a bottle from under his table. He poured the contents of the bottle in a small cup and took a sip. I knew from the smell it must be whiskey.
“You were not the target Mr. Qureshi. You were just a collateral.” He said.
“If I wasn’t the target then who was?” I asked hoping to find out why I was entangled in all of this.
“It was the barrister and his associate. They knew too much. You just got in the way.” He said with a smile.
“What did they know?” I asked,
“Do ya really think I’m going to tell you that?” He countered.
“Well, you and I both know how this going to end, you are going to kill me. So why don’t you indulge me. Wish of a dying young man. Surely you could appreciate that,” I said, hoping he would bite the bait.
“Hmmm, that is true.” He answered rubbing his beard. I nodded in agreement even though I’m hoping this goes the other way round rather than the way Byron wants it to end.
“Raffles found out what we were doing. He wanted no part of it but I spoke to him, we tried to convince him. But he didn’t want to. He wanted to talk to the police. He wanted to bring us to justice. He wanted to bring us all down. So we had him killed. We targeted the associate as well but she escaped, because of you!” He snarled.
I backed a few steps away from him. “You will not hurt her.” I warned.
“What are you going to do about? My men are out there hunting her down as we speak.” He said.
That moment I realized I needed to protect her more than myself. I had to make sure I got out of here as soon as possible.
“Would you believe me if I said that Catelyn did not have anything to do with any of this?” I asked,
“Of course, but nonetheless she was with Raffles, and Raffles knew every single man who was involved in the trade.” He took a sip of his whiskey and looked at me with a murderous glare.
In an instant, my mind went to the list that Catelyn and I was on. That indeed was a hit list, but the other men on the list, did they turn Byron down too? This was getting too confusing for me to handle. Then I realized, this might be something bigger than what I thought.
“The list…” I said.
“Ah, so you know about the others too?”
“Yes, the list of names, who were the men that was on the list?” I asked him.
“People I don’t like. People I enjoy plunging my knife into. You know, killing with guns and all are quite fun but when you kill with a knife, that’s where you get personal. It gives you a personal touch. You’re the art you create.” He said, his voice mimicking somewhat of a symphony, a murderous symphony.
“So what are you waiting for?” I asked, almost a challenge.
“Hmmm, eager to die are we?” He replied. “Patience my boy, you will get your chance.” He said turning to the monitor when it started beeping. There was a green light blinking. I knew who it was.
I smiled. Right on time!
“Who is that?” Byron asked.
“Well, that is your end.” I said, valiantly.
He laughed at that. I slowly backed away from the monitors, trying to find a better way to get out of this situation. My eyes were fixated on Byron and his knife. I don’t want that knife anywhere near my body let alone piercing any part of my body.
I had to think fast. Byron was still carried away at the monitors, I could make a run for it or I could attack him and bring him down. I’m taller than he is, and well, way younger than he is, I am faster.
Byron was now already alerting his guards, I need to do something. I leapt at him, grabbing him by the throat. He knocked me off him and was coughing violently. I got up as fast as I could threw a punch to his face, breaking his nose. The blow sent him back, he staggered and his face now bloodied, he lunged at me with the knife, I dodged the and swung another blow towards his torso, hopefully fracturing his ribs. He fell on the floor with a thud hugging his body. I smiled in victory.
I took out the satellite phone that Joey and Hanson had provided me earlier, and tried calling them. Hanson didn’t answer the call, probably he was still busy hiding the bodies that we dropped on the way up here. I tried for Joey next, he was hodong the girls that we rescued from the decks below, but before I could say a word to Joey, I felt a sharp pain on the side of my right thigh.
I turned, Byron was smiling, his face was bloodied and dripping with blood and sweat, he was smiling. The pain was excruciating and I knew I was bleeding. My legs could support me and gave out. I tried moving away from him but he stabbed me again on my ribs and fresh ripples of pain went through my body. The pain was getting to my head, I couldn’t focus anymore, I couldn’t move.
I could see Byron pulling up a chair and he sat in front of me. Looking at me, he took a sip of the whiskey that he was drinking earlier. He got up and pulled me up from the floor and made me sit on the chair. I couldn’t move, he had stabbed me with knife again on my left thighs, he didn’t pull the knife out. My head was dizzy with the pain, he was tying me with ropes that I used to strangle him.
He gave me a satisfied look. “When your friends get here, you won't be alive. I will kill you, when they get here, I will kill them too. No, that’s not right, I won’t kill you… yet, I will kill them first, let you watch them die and then finally, I will kill you. Much more satisfying.”
I shook my head to focus again. I was beginning to fear for Michael’s life. How am I going to warn him? I hope to god he brings back up. I could feel myself losing consciousness. This is not good.
-END OF CHAPTER THREE-