The Sorrow, p.1Azhar Amien / Thrillers & Crime
By Azhar Amien
Copyright 2014 Azhar Lorgat
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Wake
Chapter 2: Breakthrough
Chapter 3: Dying Light
Chapter 4: Still
Chapter 5: This Sorrowful Life
Chapter 6: Where The Heart Is Struck
Chapter 7: Sicarius
Chapter 8: A King’s End
Chapter 9: Blood In Pretty Crime
Chapter 10: The Departure
Chapter 11: The Caged Animal
Chapter 12: Icarus
Chapter 13: In This Time Of Dying
Chapter 14: The Things We Do For Our Children
Chapter 15: The Reaper’s Feast
Chapter 16: A House Of Pigs
Chapter 17: Descent
Chapter 18: Remember My Name
Chapter 19: A Tale Of Two And One
Chapter 20: Downpour
Epilogue: Three Years Later
Connect With Azhar Amien
My love, my best friend, my inspiration. Thank you for your amazing support, your wonderful encouragement and for just being the beautiful person that you are.
I would like to thank my mother for all that she has done for me over the years. It can never be overstated, and I owe her everything. I could never leave out my brother for playing a pivotal role in encouraging me to become a writer, and for all the feedback and ideas. Without his help this book would have never become what it is today.
I would like to thank my significant other for her never-ending encouragement and for listening to me talk about my crazy ideas for hours on end. Your patience and support is a constant gift in my life, and it was an absolute joy to go through this journey with you.
I would like to thank my friends and family for shaping me into the person that I am today, for showing interest in my work and for helping me get to a position where I am able to achieve this dream.
Lastly, I would like to thank Roheen Abdulla for his amazing work on the front and back cover pages, and for bringing my vision of it to life as easily as it all first appeared in my mind.
Thank you, to all of you, for being there.
Chapter 1: Wake
“Swing me higher, daddy!” my nine-year-old daughter squealed as I pushed her on a swing.
“Any higher Jess and you’re going to fly out of the park!” my wife Nicole said, laughing.
“That’s okay! Daddy will find me!” she replied happily.
I shared a look with Nicole as our daughter enjoyed her swing, smiling in triumph. Jess had always been her daddy’s girl. Nicole folded her arms and rolled her eyes at me. To me this was the perfect life. I knew that I should have been grateful, because there were many people who wished for what I had, and those who had it but didn’t appreciate it. A beautiful wife and an angel for a daughter – what more could I have wanted? We were happy. My life here, in these moments, was amazing. Not even the struggle we faced in this terrible city was enough to take that away from me. I would do anything for my family. They were my entire world.
“Jess, I think your dad is getting a bit tired now. Why don’t you take a break?” Nicole said.
“No he’s not!” my daughter replied in a sing-song voice, “If he was tired he would have stopped pushing me.”
I laughed at Nicole’s playfully-shocked expression. She often said that Jess was too clever for her own good and got her sharpness from me. I always tried to argue that with Nicole being the lawyer it was safe to say that Jess inherited the ability to argue from her. She then tried the pity party approach by saying that our daughter only seemed to want to argue with her. That’s when I ended the debate by saying that maybe Jess just loved me more. Nicole would then roll her eyes at me and we would both grin like idiots. We never got tired of that debate, silly as it was.
A few minutes passed of me pushing Jess on her swing before I finally told her I was going to have a break. She obediently climbed off the swing and held my hand, walking with us to a nearby bench. I sat down and put my arm around Nicole while Jess snuggled up against me. She seemed to get sleepy rather quickly under the warm sun. She soon closed her eyes and an adorably peaceful expression set on her face. I smiled at my wife. She smiled back.
“I love you so much, Jack,” she whispered to me.
“I love you too, Nicole.”
There. That was the moment. The perfect portrait of my life and everything I wanted from it. If there really was a God out there then I definitely was someone He favoured. I was so damn lucky. I just wanted this, day after day and year after year. Nicole’s mobile phone jerked me out of my thoughts as it vibrated and beeped. She frowned at the screen as she read her text message, and her face fell.
“I’m sorry, Jack. I have to go. Will you keep an eye on Jess for me?”
“Is everything alright?” I asked.
“Just something at work, love, nothing to worry about,” she said, standing up and giving me a soft kiss before whispering to Jess that she’d be back soon. Jess was already asleep. I watched her go and I relaxed myself, enjoying the warm sun and gentle atmosphere of the park. After a while I slowly closed my eyes and drifted away.
I returned to the world with a startling jolt as my phone vibrated in my pocket. Reality slipped back into focus. I groaned and reached into my pocket for my mobile phone, but abruptly stopped as my vision cleared.
It was dark. I had been asleep for hours.
Oh God. Nicole would be worried sick.
“Jess it’s time to go baby,” I whispered as I rubbed my eyes.
There was no response. I glanced up.
My heart jumped to my throat. She was not there.
In that moment wild panic erupted inside of me. It was the feeling only a parent could ever understand. Sheer terror beyond anything you could imagine, able to drive you mad in seconds. I launched myself from the bench and my eyes darted around, trying to see in every direction at once. She was nowhere. I started to shake. My eyes glimpsed her favourite white teddy bear, which clutched a red heart to its chest, laying on the grass. My breathing became rapid as my heartbeat skyrocketed out of control. She was not one to wander off. My mind filled with all of the worst possible scenarios at once, and right then I simply wanted to die. I screamed her name as loudly as I could. Silence was my only response. I ran out onto the road. The street was empty. There was no one in sight. I felt sick. I could barely stand. I forced myself to run back to the park and search for her. I shouted her name again and again.
I suddenly heard her cry out in the distance.
I ran towards her voice in a rush of panic. Her terrified scream wrenched my guts out.
An explosion of sound erupted in the night sky.
With trained ears I recognised the sound of a gunshot. I froze in place. There was no force on earth that could have got me to move. The screams were no more. The night was dead. I no longer breathed. I fell.
I snapped wildly to attention, my body jerking as my eyes flew open. The first thing I saw was the serviette in front of me, stained with black ink from the pen that was in my hand. I was momentarily confused. I looked across the table into the stunning eyes of my wife, Nicole, my insides calming down as she looked worriedly at me. I was exhausted. I had almost dozed off again. I had just experienced what was medically known as a myoclonic jerk, which was a common occurrence when one was falling asleep. Respiration rate fell, your senses started shutting down and the brain often interpreted that as your body dying, so it sends an electrical pulse to wake it up again. It usually caused you to violently jerk out of your stupor. No one enjoyed getting woken up like that. I shook myself to restore energy to my limbs. My heart still hammered from the brief dream, and I tried to put it out of my head.
“What were you writing over there?” Nicole asked me.
“What?” I asked, frowning.
She gestured with her spoon at the serviette laying ruined with ink in front of me. I picked it up and stared at it. My writing was incomprehensible; senseless scribbles of a man too tired to even remember having written it. I crumpled it up and tossed it aside.
“Are you okay, Jack?” Nicole asked, “You half dozed on me. You’ve been working too many late hours.”
“I’m glad you came to that conclusion instead of thinking that you were boring me, love.”
Nicole gave me her radiant smile, “Me boring you? That would be the day, wouldn’t it?”
I smiled, but quickly turned serious.
“It’s sickening. Low pay, long hours and everyone is too afraid to actually do anything about all the crime. I wonder why we even have police anymore, or why I’m mad enough to be a cop myself.”
Nicole reached across the table to hold my hand and I took comfort in the gesture.
“Things will get better Jack. The fact that there are so many people still willing to be part of the police and make the effort shows it. But sometimes I don’t get why you don’t go after that promotion and get in a position to really help. You’re crazy smart we both know that.”
I grunted, “We spoke about this, darling. Going after these guys just invites unwanted danger and they run this city. It’s their rules. All I’d be doing is making things worse for us.”
Nicole pursed her lips, “Isn’t that hypocritical?”
I didn’t have an answer, but spoke anyway, “I care too much about you and our little girl to do anything to put you in harm’s way. If things were different, and I didn’t have to worry about your safety…I just don’t know. I wouldn’t make any difference on my own anyway.”
Nicole frowned, “What are you thinking?”
I leaned back and sighed heavily. I knew that I was bullshitting myself. And I had the feeling that Nicole knew it too. My reasoning was so full of holes it was depressing. The words of a nobody. The truth was that I was as much of a coward as any other cop in the city. A puppy didn’t take the fight to a wolf. I looked around briefly, trying to divert my attention. We were at a crummy restaurant filled with unhappy and morbid people. Everywhere down here was the same. Hopelessness. Everyone idly standing by trying to drown time, hoping things would get better when in fact they were just slowly getting worse. There was nowhere else to turn to for them but the bottom of a glass. Wake up, survive another day, and return to bed where they could escape it, vanishing from the world and savouring the hours they could indulge in not being a part of it. The only reason people were still in the city was because they had no money to leave with. It made everyone depressed, living in apathy. It was never how people were meant to live.
“How would I be able to sleep every night knowing I’d be putting you and our daughter in danger, Nicole? If there were others who were good men, who were committed, who I could trust and work with, who wanted real change around here, then maybe…but you know what it’s like. There’s Sarah, but I don’t know. How much could the two of us do on our own? Sure, if I could, I’d go after a promotion and do everything I can to change things around here, but I choose my family over my unrealistic hopes for this city. That’s my choice and I live with it.”
Nicole looked down at her plate, her voice becoming low.
“Are you saying you regret that choice, Jack?”
I smiled and gripped her hand, drawing her eyes to mine.
“No. You’re my world. We’ll get by. We always do.”
She smiled at me then. God, I loved her so much. But a part of me wished I could help this city. To not hide from its criminals but face them – and win. Prove to them and everyone else that they didn’t run the show. That they weren’t untouchable. But the cops had no fight in them. Many of them were scared like I was and many were just as bad as the criminals. I dismissed all my contradictions and nagging doubts then. I had chosen my family. Surely that was all that mattered?
I suddenly heard my name being called. I turned my head away from Nicole towards a table very close to where we were sitting. My heart jumped. Two men were seated across from each other with a strange intensity about them. I recognised one of them as the glorified mob boss Victor Salvatore, but I did not know who the other was. How had I not seen him earlier? He had been practically staring me in the face. I guessed that I had been too tired and had not been paying attention. Victor held a gun in his hand, an old revolver, and it was pointed directly at the man in front of him who was rooted to his seat like a statue. The fear was as plain as daylight.
No one in the restaurant looked at them twice.
The noise in the place made it hard to hear what they were saying. I concentrated on the two of them, and focused on the gun.
“Do you see that cop right over there with his wife, who just so happens to be an attorney? Then there’s that judge sitting right behind us and a few journalists hanging around. Now I could shut you up in front of all of these people and enjoy the rest of my meal like I don’t give a shit. So don’t you dare come in here asking for more pay and treating me like your damn father. I pay my men what they deserve. I don’t disrespect my employees when it comes to money. And I paid you to do a job, so you’re going to do it at the price we agreed on. Your wife being ill is not my concern. I’ll send her a get-well card.”
Victor rested his gun on the table.
“It happens tonight. It would be unwise to fuck it up.”
“Jack?” Nicole said.
I snapped out of it and my attention diverted from Victor and his lackey. I didn’t come here tonight for trouble. I had only wanted a night out with my wife.
“We’re leaving,” I said.
I gestured with my head over at Victor with the gun, and Nicole nodded anxiously. I called over the waiter and hurriedly sorted out our bill before getting up and moving for the door, holding Nicole’s hand as we escaped a place of emptiness.
I ushered Nicole into our cosy home and locked the door behind us. As we hung our coats, I thought about how we had both chosen careers in law enforcement. I was a cop, and she was a big shot attorney. It made for some pretty grim dinner table discussions.
“Daddy!” cried the sweetest voice I knew.
Jess came charging at me and jumped into my arms, and I laughed as I scooped her up and spun her around. I then put her back down onto the floor and she flew into her mother’s arms with just as much enthusiasm. In her rush of excitement, she had dropped her favourite white teddy bear onto the floor. I scooped it up and handed it back to her. She clutched it to her chest, her arms squishing the red heart the teddy bear held in its hands.
“I tried to get her to sleep, but she wanted to stay up until you were home,” our young au pair Linda said with a smile on her face as she stepped out of the kitchen. She was a friend. We only called her in when we knew that Jess would need a babysitter.
I half laughed and pinched Jess’ cheeks. She grinned comically at me. I smiled at her affectionately. She had always been her father’s girl. She looked at me expectantly and I knew what she wanted to see. I crouched down in front of her and held out a silver coin, watching as her eyes followed it with the excitement and curiosity only a child could have.
“Watch closely, sweetie,” I said.
She nodded furiously. I twirled the coin around in my fingertips and moved it slowly. Then I clicked my fingers and the coin disappeared. Jess giggled and clapped. She loved my tricks even though they were primitive. Children couldn’t get enough of them. My dad had used them on me all the time – they had never failed to entertain me when I had been little. When I was young I had actually wanted to be a magician because of my dad’s theatrics. But as it turned out my interests were elsewhere. I held my hand behind her ear and leaned forward to kiss her forehead, and when I brought my hand back the coin was once again in my possession. I held it out to her. She took it.
“Let your mother put you to bed now, Jess.”
“When can we watch Finding Nemo, daddy?”
I looked at her as I tried to hide my smile, “I thought you wanted to see the Minions from Despicable Me again, princess.”
She looked as though she was faced with a difficult decision.
“We’ll make time this weekend,” I promised.
Will you read to me, daddy?” she then asked.
Nicole smiled at her, “Your dad is tired tonight, my love. I can read to you if you want.”
Jess pursed her lip in protest. It was her mother’s look. I laughed as Nicole rolled her eyes. I couldn’t stand disappointing my little girl. But she was a sly one. She knew just what to do to get what she wanted out of me. I could never say no to her.
“Of course, angel. Get into bed and I’ll be right there.”
She grinned and ran to her bedroom.
Nicole raised her eyebrows, “You’ve got to teach me how to get her to listen like that.”
I put my arm around her and kissed her, “Not a chance.”
I slipped my hand into my pocket and frowned. I began searching the contents of my coat that I had just hung up.
“What’s the matter?” Nicole pressed.
“I can’t seem to find my wallet. I must have left it back at our local funhouse.”
Nicole rolled her eyes, “My husband with his genius-level intellect can never seem to remember to keep a tab on his wallet. Maybe you should get a GPS tracker in it.”
I grinned, “We both know that you were always the responsible one. I have to go back and get it. It’s not like anyone would steal it – there’s barely any money in it. But being a cop does mean a little something. Tell Jess I’m sorry.”
Nicole put her hands on her hips, “Knowing our little girl she’ll be stubborn and stay up until you get back.”
I knew that all too well, “Then tell her I’ll make it up to her tomorrow night. I’ll read her favourite story for her and maybe we can watch one of those animated movies she adores.”
Nicole kissed me on my cheek, “She’d love that.”
I snatched up my coat and stepped out of the door, heading back to that restaurant.
I left the comfort of my home and emerged into the cold of the night. It had already begun raining. The city never felt shy to shed its tears. The rain fell in a crescendo; a sight of beauty as much as it was deeply depressing. People were scurrying about around me trying to escape the downpour, but I welcomed it. It seemed to me as though the sky itself was a reflection of the endless storm I felt inside me, when I was alone to face my thoughts. The rain awakened my buried thoughts. I could not show my family weakness. I could not show them my regret. I could not show them that I was just a selfish bystander in a city without hope. I was conflicted. I was content with the choice that I had made to protect my family, but a day did not pass where I did not wish that I could be more. A day did not pass where I did not wish that I could do more about all the crime and all the violence.
My family lived in a city plagued with misery. My family lived in a city built on promises made by liars and criminals. A city in a depression so deep that it had long forgotten what it meant to hope and to dream. We were all just living scared at the mercy of terrible men. At the mercy of their power, and their desire to consume the city’s wealth and soul for their own. To them we were nothing. I was nothing. Anger burned inside me screaming to get out. I could not let it. I was helpless. My mind struggled. I was weak. I was held back. No. I had made a choice. It was an excuse - to hide my fear. I gritted my teeth and hurried on, forcefully subduing my thoughts. They chased after me like hungry dogs when I was alone. I braced against the cold and calmed my mind.
It took fifteen minutes to get back to that restaurant. I was freezing. I was drenched. I didn’t know why I had decided to walk rather than take the car. Sometimes I just needed to think, and the rain was fitting. I stepped inside and suddenly wondered if I’d find my wallet at all. But I wanted the badge; the only inkling of power that I had. I gave the room a once over and saw that my table was occupied by four low-level thugs. Small fish. But in my city even small fish had power. I wasn’t in the mood. I wanted to get back to my family. I stood idly by, trying to pick my moment, select my words and decide on my approach. I shook my head to myself. I was being a coward. I was a cop. I didn’t need to take their crap. I took a deep breath and walked over to them.
“Hey guys,” I said, trying to sound casual.
They turned to address me and their looks became smug and laced with amusement.
One of them interrupted me, “Hey Billy, this is that Jack-ass cop who lost his badge.”
They all burst out laughing at their primitive sense of humour. At least I knew then that they had what I came for.
“Funny. Did you make that one up all by yourself?” I replied.
“I take it you want it back,” the one called Billy said, unable to hide his smile.
“Impressive, maybe you should be the cop.”
“Well, ever heard the term ‘finders keepers’? I always wanted a police badge. Makes me feel so useless.”
Again laughter surrounded the table. My blood began to boil.
“Hey Ricky did you see that picture of his wife? She’s hot.”
“Yeah, I’d do her.”
My fists clenched. I gritted my teeth.
“Don’t forget his cute little girl!” Rickey said.
“Man, that’s just wrong!” Billy mocked.
“Shit I didn’t mean it like that! What’s wrong with you?” Rickey shouted.
“What’s wrong with you, man!” another thug laughed, smacking the table.
For the first time in I don’t know how long, I snapped.
I grabbed Rickey’s plate of food, threw it aside and slammed my hands down hard onto the table, toppling their glasses. The noise in the room lessened instantly. I felt like I was at the centre of attention. It felt good.
“Give me my damn wallet or I’m going to arrest you.”
Rickey appeared hesitant now, but his confidence hadn’t diminished. His voice was cold, and the threat was clear, “Are you sure you want to do this in front of my friends, officer?”
“Oh yeah I’m sure, you little prick.”
I let the anger get the better of me. I enjoyed it.
I stared at Rickey, unwavering, feeling far too heated to realise my stupidity.
“Hey, knuckleheads,” a voice called behind me, “Give the man his wallet.”
It was Victor Salvatore, the mob boss who I had overheard earlier when I had been in the restaurant with Nicole. Immediately they obeyed. They didn’t look happy about it, but they listened. I was relieved to have my badge and the pictures of my family back. It was just a wallet, but it meant something to me. I suddenly felt respect for Victor’s power. Jealously even. I almost wanted it.
I sighed and walked over to Victor, curious if he was going to threaten me as well.
“I respect a cop who has balls in this city. It amuses me,” Victor said with a confident smile.
“I respect a man who can keep his dogs on their leashes,” I retorted.
Victor laughed, “I like you, Jack. You’re very direct. But here’s some advice, kid.”
He paused. I waited.
“Don’t be a hero.”
I said nothing.
“Not in our city. Go home to your family. Let’s say this didn’t happen.”
I turned around and walked away, ignoring the stares that I got from those around me. I stepped out into the rain and stared at the restaurant with disgust. I didn’t know how long I stood there. I didn’t know what I was waiting for. The effect of my small victory had already evaporated in the cold air. I was, once again, nothing.
Movement at the restaurant door caught my attention. The four thugs who had harassed me stepped out as well one or two others. This didn’t seem like groupies hanging out. I had the feeling that this was something else. I needed to stay out of it. I was close enough to eavesdrop. They spoke loudly over the sound of the rain. It was as though I was standing right next to them. They were careless. They hadn’t noticed me. I heard one of them say Victor’s name and then something about not disappointing the big boss.
My body screamed at me to stop before I was caught too deep.
I recognised one of the thugs. It was the man who Victor had threatened earlier when I had been with Nicole. I remembered his words: It happens tonight. It would be unwise to fuck it up.
I felt my adrenaline kicking in. I was onto something.
I saw the group take off. Stay out of it, I commanded myself.
I hesitated; the warning spread through my body like a virus. My family were waiting for me back home.
I could see them getting too far away. I couldn’t let go.
Some would have said that I was heading into the belly of the beast. Others would have tried to fit my actions in somewhere between bravery and stupidity. There was always the possibility that I was getting hyped up for nothing, and what I was going towards would turn out to be a lowly stationary theft. Either way I had made my choice. As I tailed the group I felt a pang of regret. I missed my wife and my daughter. But whatever path I had set on now I intended to follow it.
The rain pelted down mercilessly. It was now a gift as much as it was a curse. I didn’t need to exercise too much caution over the noise, but it was difficult to see where they were going. I didn’t know how long I had been walking. Time had ceased to be a factor. The rain had already numbed my body, and it was now trying to do the same to my mind.
My phone vibrated in my pocket. I was hesitant about taking it out of course, but I knew who was messaging me. If Nicole was asking me where I was I must have been gone for quite a while. I felt bad about it. My weakness for my wife made me clumsily take my phone out, shield myself with my jacket and type a heavily abbreviated message to inform her that I was on my way. I had to continue. The group had turned into the docks. Here it would be easier to hide between the cargo boxes. When they were far enough ahead, I darted between a red and a green one. I breathed out in relief. I could see from here if I peaked around the edge of the box.
The group had stopped by one of the large boats and they were waiting, chatting among themselves and messing around. Time passed slowly. But just as I was about to start questioning why I was doing this, it seemed that whatever they had been waiting for had arrived.
Men stepped out of the boat. I frowned. I couldn’t hear them talking from here, especially over the rain. But one of the guys from the boat was yelling and pointing to his watch, so it didn’t take a genius to figure out that my boys were late to the party and that the boat wasn’t from here. I pressed myself up closer to the cargo box, and that’s when I noticed a small hole in it which allowed me to observe from a more conspicuous position. The convenience of it was almost comical. I saw large crates being carried out of the ship, and the professionalism that some of them were handled with told me all I needed to know about their contents: hardly stationary.
It was almost too easy so far, which gave me cause for concern. One of the men then confirmed the contents for me. He took a plastic bag out of a large case and held it up for all to see. Inside was a machine gun. I couldn’t recognise the make or model from here, but it certainly appeared heavy grade. I could only make out an attached scope and extended ammunition clip. The rest I would only have been able to get from closer inspection. But the calibre of these weapons explained the timing and apparent effort that had went into this smuggling operation.
I had seen enough. It was time to call it in. But only then did the magnitude of the situation hit me. What the hell was I doing? Had I not been avoiding things like this because of the danger it brought? If I went down this road I was sure as hell that I would be encouraged to go after a promotion once again. Had I not been trying to lay low?
I swore to myself. If I was to get any awards it would certainly have been for my screwed up inconsistency. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. But maybe, just maybe, it was the start. What if it was the defining moment - the start of a bigger fight on crime? I could be the catalyst to it happening. Was I meant to just turn my back here and walk away? Could I allow myself to be just as corrupt and weak as those I looked down on? How long could I continue to live a sheltered, coward’s life while the city and its people rotted away? We weren’t living. We were hiding.
Think of Nicole and Jess, the husband and father in me intervened. I had to protect them. But what would they think knowing that I had turned a blind eye to this? My daughter wouldn’t ever see me as her hero again. Maybe I could get her to understand one day when she was older. I was sure that I would be able to with some story. But I would always know.
I wasn’t going to lie to my daughter or be a weak man for my wife.
All the pain that we brought by letting this go on - it changed tonight.
I thought of Jess then, and the city I wanted her to grow up in.
The next decision was easy.
I had to call it in.