High Street

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic


A man carrying two duffel bags. A voice on the cellular phone. An unknown motive.

Submitted: December 08, 2017

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Submitted: December 08, 2017

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“Tell your driver to drop you off at 11th avenue,” the voice in the phone said. “Bring the two bags and cross the road towards High Street Park. I’ll call again in five minutes.”

The phone line goes off.

His sweating palms and waning grip strength has made it harder for him to take hold of the phone, but he refused to let it go.

Coming from the 26th avenue, the car took a left turn towards 11th and stopped right across High Street. He got out a few seconds later and crossed the road. He found himself a few meters away from a christmas tree triple his height. The tree’s glowing light steals the show from the red sunset sky and the fluorescent signages ot the retail shops around. Below the enormous tree are huge gift boxes, roughly close to a dozen, in different colors, some are knee high, while some of the biggest ones won’t go past the waist. 

She liked Christmas, he thought. He always looks forward to seeing her daughter’s reactions when opening the gifts underneath their tree. He’s probably more eager for his daughter to open the gifts than his daughter herself. 

Phone rings.

“Do you see the green box under the tree?” the deep voice on the phone said. “The one beside the big red one?”

“Yes I see it.”

“Lift the lid and drop the first bag inside.”

He looked around the area. There’s only a handful of people. Almost all of them glued to their phones to even notice him making the drop.

It took a moment before his weak and shaky knees took its first stride. 

“I want to hear her voice again,” he said to the phone as he approached the tree.

No answer.

He lifted the lid of the box and slowly dropped the bag inside. As he turn around to walk away, he noticed several traffic cameras, one was pointed towards the tree. Greed fuels stupidity, he thought. Anyone trying to get that bag of money would definitely be seen on these cameras. But the money is his last concern right now. 

The cold northeastern amihan winds that perpetuates during November isn’t enough to stop his sweating. Dripping sweat are visible on his temple and on his neck.

“Let me speak to her you motherfucker, or you won’t get the other half of money.”

All he got was silence on the other line. 

A full five seconds passed before the voice on the other line speaks. “For a man, you are a demanding nagger. Is that why your wife left you?”

“Who the fuck are you? Why are you doing this?”

The voice laughed as if his lungs are running out of air. He cleared his throat and gave a deep sigh. “I, sir, am a ghost of your past. The filth of all your sins, and the voices of all you’ve sinned against. I will be the one who will show you your future.”

“I just need to hear her speak,” his voice cracked as he tried to hold back his tears.

Silence.

It was a deafening silence on the other side of the phone that he had to check the screen if he’s still in the call.

Just as he placed the phone back in his ear, a tiny voice came out of the phone’s earpiece. 

“Daddy!” a kid screamed through the phone. It was a voice that he knows too well.

“Mara!” he called back.

Then a rustling noise on the other line and the man with a deep voice came back. “Now, let’s get back to business, shall we?”

A tear fell on his sweat-soaked shirt. It took a moment before he manages to hold back the rest of it. 

The voice spoke again. “I need you to walk towards the other end of the park towards 5th avenue. Walk casually. Don’t try to seek any attention. Keep the phone on your ears and update me on your location constantly. Remember what we talked about. If there’s any little sign that you are working with the police, anything that I notice unusual, this conversation is over, you won’t hear from me again, or from her. 

He didn’t say a word.

“Start walking now.”

For a moment he thought his first step would send him crashing down the pavement. But he managed to propel forward, casually, at least in his mind, just as the voice instructed.

Bonifacio High Street is a rectangular plot of land, half a kilometer in length, a linear park runs in the middle throughout its entire length with retails shops in the surroundings.  From 11th Avenue on the east end, two more avenues divides High Street before you reach 5th Avenue at the west end. On normal days, a crowd fills up the entire length of the linear park, but on a very long holiday weekend like today, the place is close to deserted.

5th Avenue is a five-minute walk from the tree, he thought, but for a hundred ninety pound middle-aged man, he knew better than that. Five minutes is a sprint for him. Still, he walked the fastest he can. After a little more than a minute, he reached the first avenue to cross.

“I’m crossing 9th Avenue,” he spoke to the phone with a noticeable panting in his breath.

He continued his pace towards the west end.

“Beautiful place isn’t it?” The voice spoke to him again. “I heard you have a piece of this district.”

He didn’t answer.

The voice continued, “Three condominium flats, two retail stores, a minority share in three more businesses. Did I miss anything?”

He kept walking, clumsily, with phone held up in his ear. Black duffel bag in his right hand, his gazed focused forward.

A frenzied laugh came out of the phone’s earpiece. “You people like to cocoon yourself into tiny fancy towns, put some palm trees here and there, sit on some patio table over at starbucks, and start calling yourselves “elite”, “cultured”, “intellectuals”. 

“I’m crossing 7th Avenue.” he said through the phone’s mouthpiece, slightly irritated by the taunting on his ears.

The voice ignored what he said, “Outside this manicured district, is a decaying city, rotting slowly because of the greed of people like you.”

“I pledged to serve these people!” he finally said in annoyance, while continuing his walk. “And what do I get? A hotel breakfast coupon is worth more than my monthly salary.”

“Well, with your taste for hotels I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s true. I wouldn’t even be surprised if your salary is not enough to hire a primetime TV star for a night on that hotel bed.”

A bad taste in his mouth lingers. 

“I’m crossing 7th Avenue,” he said.

“Careful then, we don’t want you getting hurt after all this effort, not to mention the amount of cash you’re letting go.”

He reached 5th Avenue, puffing and huffing. He asked what’s next.

“I need you to cross 5th, leave the bag right at the edge of the sidewalk, then return to where you are now. I’ll call again in a minute.”

The phone line went dead. He waited for the road to clear. As soon as he reached the other side, he didn’t waste time, he left the bag at the sidewalk and crossed the avenue once again to return, just as the fast moving traffic resumed behind him. He turned around and found the bag gone. He looked around and saw not a single soul carrying the black duffel bag he left, in fact there’s nobody on the opposite sidewalk. 

The phone rings. The same unknown number the voice used.

“It’s been a pleasure doing business with you,” the voice said. “Good luck with your new life.”

“Where’s my daughter?” He screamed.

“Oh yeah, I almost forgot, she’s been waiting for you all afternoon. Under the tree. The red one beside the green.” 

Blip. Phone line’s gone.

In a matter of seconds, he managed to let out a blast of remaining energy and started to run. Adrenaline he figured. But it didn’t last that long. After some two hundred meters, his run went from a sprint to a struggling jog, his breathing shallow. He went on in that running form until only about a hundred meters separate him from the christmas tree. He stopped for a while to catch his breath. He sees it. The red box, right beside the green one where he left the money.

Just as he was about to continue his run, a blinding light came out of the box followed by a thunderous noise and a violent scorching air that pushed him two meters away and into the ground. His back slammed hard into the concrete pavement. For a few seconds, he thought he was going to pass out.

He tried to get up and failed. He lost sense of balance. All his bodily functions are in disarray. He tried to get up the second time and managed to sit. Everything was in flames. A few human bodies on the ground, on fire. Nothing remained of the tree and the boxes. All that remains are the flame that dances to the sway of the prevailing northeast wind. He tried to shout her name as he stumbles to get on his feet, but he can’t hear himself well. All he can hear is a high pitched tinny sound that seems to be coming in from within his ears.

“Mara!” he called out again. 

He tried to hold back but there’s no strength left in him to dam a river of tears.

Standing right before the blaze with ears still ringing, he let out another scream, he screamed Mara’s name again.

He tried to walk forward but almost fell backwards again. Then finally his knees completely gave out on him. Kneeling down and sobbing hard, he looked around, just for any signs of life he thought, for anyone who can help him, or anyone he can help, or maybe anyone who he can share this pain.

“I’m sorry Mara,” he said as he shed tears. “I’m so sorry.”

He tried to remember everything that has happened. He thought of multiple scenarios that could have gone different, that could have saved Mara, but there’s none. With all his money and power, he couldn’t save his daughter. The demons of his past, the enemies he created himself, it all came back to those moments. That was the only way to save her. To go back in time and undo them.

All that happened in the last fifteen minutes is flashing in his mind . The deep voice in the phone, the first bag drop underneath the tree, and the sidewalk money drop. It goes on like a loop in his brain.

The he remembered something else.

The camera pointed at the tree as he made the first drop, the explosion, those scenes suddenly occupied his mind. He saw the camera. He knew he looked at the camera after the drop.

‘I will be the one who will show you your future,’ he remembered the voice saying.

‘Good luck with your new life’ the voice had said to him. 

 

Author's Notes: This story was a writing exercise I did for a workshop I attended. There were constraints in writing this, namely: (1) It should be 500 words. (2) No one should die or get sick (or get hurt). (3) Setting should be at a stripmall at Metro Manila called High Street (Hence the title). (4) There should be no flashbacks. (5) and the narrative frame should be at 15 minutes. But of course, after writing according to the rules, my imagination got a little out of control and I decided to break some of the rules (actually all). Let me know what you think. I am very very appreciative of constructive criticism as I would love to improve my writing. Enjoy. Cheers.

 


© Copyright 2018 Dru Velasco. All rights reserved.

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