Chapter 4 – Au revoir New York

The year was 1932, the clinic was filled with men sick with some unknown cause. Some of them were struggling with breathing, while many had lost their ability to hear and were having minor seizures. Almost everyone looked invited by death.

Their below poverty line status brought them to this free treatment camp at the end of Monte Rosa Street in western Alabama. These men, for the most part, were illiterate sharecroppers and all they knew about the disease was “it was a mild fever with some allergic reactions.” That’s what Dr. AM have been telling them.

Dr. Anne Marie was their primary care physician. She promised their families that it’s just a start and they will improve in time. “The medicines are working” she would be heard saying to the relatives. Something was unique about this patients, their color, they were all black men.

15 years later, a file was lying on the desk of special agent Bo Scottsdale. Her chirpy self got a roadblock in the tongue when she saw “a file” on her desk. Files never got her good news, and they always signaled to a spark of life about to go dark. She hated this job but she was protecting the country, and under the name of the motherland, she was ready to fight any evil that came in the way.

Bo Scottsdale was Active 56’s best assassin. She was trained for this job right from her teenage. Bo was a special child, she was a great fighter and had a presence of mind beyond imagination. She could single-handedly take down four giant men without any weapon. She was approached by Active 56 at 14 years. Her mother convinced her that it was her best chance to do something for the nation, a kind of opportunity not everyone gets. It paid well, she got to go places for work, and she had some of the best work colleagues.

The only drawback; it was a secret agency funded by government to maintain peace. The aim of Active 56 was to create a balance in the world. They would eliminate any kind of threat without creating panic and chaos. Their Intel came from CIA.  The institution had 56 world’s best assassins, and within no time, it was evident that Bo was the best they had. She could handle dangerous operation seamlessly and gracefully. No trace of anything left behind.

A doctor in her mid-sixties named Anne Marie had a target on her back. Bo was ordered to take her down with the claims of Doctor being a traitor and the reason for the death of 399 black men in 1932. As Bo read the file, she slowly unearthed her history.

Dr. Anne Marie was a renowned doctor of her time, and in 1932 she took part in a covert operation financed by some international drug company to study the effect of their drug on Syphilis. All the participating black men were never told they had syphilis. In fact, they were not even told about any kind of study. Those people came from such poverty that most of them had never seen a doctor before. They could only visit Dr. Anne Marie because it was a free medical camp. Their families had high hopes of curing them, but they all died the slow and sad death. The data for the experiment was to be collected from autopsies of the men, and they were thus deliberately left to degenerate under the ravages of tertiary syphilis—which can include tumors, heart disease, paralysis, blindness, insanity, and death. “As I see it,” one of the doctors involved explained, “we have no further interest in these patients until they die.

Bo saw the attached pictures of dead men, and she felt sorry for them. Some of them were so young that Bo could imagine their alternative life where they had a beautiful family of their own and were living happily. She felt a pit in her stomach for all the anger she had just developed for the doctor.

“People like her are cancer to this society, ” she thought to herself, and she prepared on taking her next target down.

The doctor had been hiding since 15 long years after a whistleblower unearthed her covert operation but now no one could save her from Bo.

Natasha was done with her work by 5:30 pm and decided to head home and start her private investigation with Chloe. She was determined to know all about herself. She took the taxi to work every day, and Chloe would drop her back.

“What should we call ourselves? NC Private Investigators” Chloe laughed

“Shhhhh…..just be fast. I want to get everything before Pa enters this house.”

“Yes my Nancy Drew, I will fast, super-fast.”

Natasha was little confused about the whole situation, but she needed to find out about herself, especially when Pa was so strict about keeping things away from her. They went to the storage, pulled out every bag and started to open them one by one. Old clothes, newspaper cuttings of disaster around the world and some old dusty novels. Nothing of particular significance.

“Dude, you are like the first chic I know without any family pictures popped out from anywhere”.

Their house might have been decorated with best paintings from artists around the world, but there wasn’t a single family picture.

“Honeybunch, this is taking us nowhere” Chloe had that grin on her face

“Tell me what? You have that face again.”

“errr..well nothing just a thought.”

“What thought?”

“Do you…ummm…can you…I mean…”

“Say it, Chloe.”

“Can you trust Pa? I feel he is hiding some bomb there.”

She looked around one more time, just to be sure. She couldn’t find a thing. She took an intake of breath, trying to think straight. Her instincts aligned with Chloe but her heart said differently. She trusted Pa too much, but she had seen him being strange all the time; having those secret conversations in whispers, talking to some strange men every Tuesday, going quiet when she entered the room, and a lot of such small little things that were pointing towards Pa being dishonest with her.

“Oooooh look what I found, your medal.”

“My medal; lemme see.”

“oopsy whoops sorry doesn’t belong to you. Whose Scottsdale? Your mom?”

“My mom? My mom was Erin Landberg, and she was ….”

“She was? What? “

“Chloe I don’t remember my mom, ” and she started sobbing. A large arm circled around her waist as Chloe hugged her trying to comfort her. For next few minutes, she was lost in her own world, oblivious to the sound of the door knob opening.

 

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Chapter 3 – Au revoir New York

She had an incredible time with Alex, and she promised to answer his call if he does call. She wanted to go to his place later that night, but she had to be home, in time, for her meds. Pa was very strict about it. Every night Pa made her the dose of medicine that kept her stable. Pa said if she skips them, she will start forgetting herself. She was already too sad, not able to remember her life completely before the accident. She could not take the chance of forgetting whatever is left of her life in her memories.

“How long do I have to take this awful medicines Pa, I am tired of it.”

“Just four years my Darling and then you are free, you can go back to your apartment, and Pa won’t bother you.”

“You don’t bother me Pa, I love you,” and she hugged him tightly.

She could see Tuileries gardens all around her. It was a beautiful site. The place looked more like a station as if it was built on a historic station and not was an art gallery. The paintings around were all dated 1848 to 1914. The gate had a sign that read “Musée d’Orsay”

“Hi honey” A man confronted her from behind holding her tight in his arms. She could feel his strong masculine hands round her waist. He gave her a peck on the cheek and asked if she liked the place. A little girl came running to her. She looked just like her; anyone could tell she looked like her. The same face and the same mole above her lip.

“Here’s come my princess” And the man lifted her up.

“Mommy, this place is so beautiful” she exclaimed, and that’s when her phone started buzzing at full intensity.

Natasha had her eyes wide open. The Alarm next to her bed was buzzing at full intensity. She had to reach the library by 8 am, and it was 7 am already. She had a text from her working partner Chloe that she was going to be an hour late and that made Natasha panic as now Natasha would have to be on time to open the library. Normally Chloe handled that part well. She was an early bird, always on time and Natasha was relieved as it was fine if she was 5-10 min late on a regular basis. She had a quick shower, and she headed to the mirror to put on her make-up. As she glanced herself, she couldn’t help thinking about the little girl from her dream. She gently touched her mole remembering how the small girl looked exactly like her.

That day at the library she was scanning through all the books on Past lives, and psychic connections. When Chloe came, Natasha had a book titled “know your past” in her hands.

“You reading that?” Chloe asked

“Yes, just curious about the title.”

“Seriously? You believe in rebirth and all that shit?”

“I cannot say I do, but I like to keep my mind open, whoever wrote it had something to say, so I am just scanning.”

“Your old man giving you a hard time?” Chloe was not sure why would Natasha pick that book while she normally was found reading ancient history and magnificent architectures around the world.

“He is trying his best to take care of me, but I want out, I am done living with him.”

“Are you still on those funny shots?”

“They are my meds, Chloe; Pa says I am going to forget everything if I don’t take them.”

“Can he make me something to forget my reality?” Chloe laughed

“Sure, why not” Natasha chuckled

“Anything to forget David and his annoying self.”

David was Chloe’s younger brother and most of his life he was found high on drugs. He caught that awful habit from his school. Chloe and David were orphans living with their old aunt, and she was very old and sick for most of the time. Chloe loved David, he was the only thing she had of their parents, but his habits were making her life difficult.

It was one snowy evening when Cloe returned home from work and Aunt Sheila informed her that David was nowhere to be seen. He usually returns from school by Afternoon, except for Wednesdays and Fridays when he had his soccer practice. It was a Tuesday, and when David was not back till 7:30 PM, Chloe called his friend Mike. According to Mike, David never showed up at school that day. She was worried, panicking mostly and went to the police station only to find that they already had a male with a similar description in their custody.

David had to be admitted to a rehab where they found out about his drug abuse which had been going on for a few months now and last night, David had OD’d a drug that made him unconscious in the streets where police found him and took him to the hospital. While in the Rehab, David hated the place and Chloe tried to be encouraging and motivating every time she got a chance to be on the call with him. David had to earn the call privileged with his behavior, and he missed Chloe.

The scariest thing in Chloe’s life was that phone call from Jordan Shepherd’s Correction House.

“We think David just tried to cut his wrist,” they told her on the phone. Chloe was at the library where she busted into tears and ran towards where he resided. She had made sure that David would never do that again, she decorated his entire cell room with their pictures; from when they were young, to their birthday parties, and to their happy picnics.

“This is what you will miss if you try that damn thing again,” she told him, and David got it loud and clear. He served his remaining time with good behavior and was soon home with Chloe. David was too ashamed to be back in school. Chloe tried hard convincing him about it but he just never wanted to be back there. Chloe decided to give me some space and let him decide on when he wanted to be back. Cloe was tired, she laughed a lot, but deep down she was sad and tired. She shared this part of her life with Natasha who often showed her a lot of compassion.

Natasha sniffled through the pages of the book reading all about “can someone remember their past life? She was sure that something was happening. All her dreams, people she saw, they all indicated something.

“Do you mind me asking what exactly brought you to this book.”

“I am not sure you would get it. It’s not normal I know, but it’s very strange.”

“Well I believe in fairytales, I have hopes of someone coming on a white stallion for me so I am sure you can give me a try” Chloe chuckled.

“Ok let me show you something” Natasha turned her chair facing her computer and typed the words “Musée d’Orsay” on her computer screen. The google search results brought them to the website of Musée d’Orsay; the art gallery in Paris. The pictures suggested that the place was built on a historic railways station and also it had Tuileries gardens around it.

“I have never been to Paris, never, I came with this name from my dream last night. I saw this place with this gardens and ….everything! You know it’s scary” She was scared a bit while trying to explain Chloe with her hands.

“Are you sure you have never been to Paris? Maybe you did as a child and you went to this place? You said you don’t remember much about your past life, so maybe you did go here and you just don’t remember it?” Cloe made sense. Natasha decided not to ask Pa this time but to search her own house. She wanted to know everything about the life she had forgotten.

Not all those who wander are lost

I was 7 or may be when I realized that everything has an end. It was after knotty died. I cried my eyes out coz’ knotty was dear to me. Knotty was a black cocker spaniel and my family dog whom I adored. I grew up playing with her, climbing on her back, and kissing her while she licked me back. I would always be thankful to god for sending me to an animal lover family, indeed that made me an avid animal lover as well as throughout my life I have been able to maintain and understand the dignity of every souls that exist around us.

Coming back to the point, it was back then I realized that everything that is born has an end. Later on when I got two gold fishes (tiny and sally) even they left me after some 8 months of being besides my bed. I loved seeing them swim. As I grew up, I became more and more aware about my time. Time was indeed running out and when I looked at myself I felt I was wasting it all. I had to make my life worthwhile. I started writing poetry when I was 10 and at the age of 12, my poetry was selected at third position in “London poetry competition”. That time I was a child and I had very less things to worry about and at the same time poetry helped me to express myself in a beautiful way which I could not have done otherwise. It all came naturally. I never took the professional training in writing but I started scribbling my thoughts and that gave me solace.

Later on when I grew up, I was surrounded by different problems and worries like every other teenage girl. I made many wrong decisions and during that time writing acted as a coping mechanism. Things I could not share with anyone or things I wanted to speak out loud were on the paper. I made stories inspired from real life incidents. I am still struggling with my writings and I am not the best but with every story I write, I try and improve. While writing my stories I have to think hard about what the actual situation was and I made all the efforts to keep the story as original as possible. This is how I started writing books. I have grown up reading Sidney Sheldon and hardy boys, Later on Jeffery Archer and Donna Tart were on my shelves. Slowly and gradually I shifted to Paulo Coelho and he is the only author whose book touched my soul from within. I almost cried while reading “Veronica Decides to Die”. A lot of my writing style is like him. Shirley Jackson has been my role model since past 4 years. Like her, my tales are morbid and filled with pain.

WordPress was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I met so many authors here and some of them write amazing. I learn from every blog I read. I made friend here and some of them turned out to be my best friends wherein our friendship extended outside WordPress. Zee, Charly, Richard, LAuran, Ken Powell, Jason, Rob, John, Autumn, and Cecilia to name a few. I have spoken to them, laughed with them and in the end created wonderful stories with them.

When I started writing for “Chords of Life”, I never thought I would publish it. The trend of short stories is somewhat decreasing but still I write coz’ all these were the true tales of people I have met. Sharing stories and penning down real life incidences stretched my happiness beyond what I could have done it otherwise.

When I was small, my favorite place in the world was CROSSWORD, the largest book store chain of India. The scent of fresh paper and ink, the sound of swapping the book pages, the sight of shelves stacked with amazing books in front of me was like a heaven for me. For me, happiness was the smell of new book and I sat and read books for hours. There have been times when I have been so much involved in reading that I actually fell in love with a fictional character. I did fall in love with “Werner – the German boy” while reading “All the light we cannot see”. For me books are uniquely portable magic.

Today, when I see my own book on their shelves trust me it gives me a kind of feeling I cannot express. I still have a long way to go but this little achievement has been so special that I almost cried. I had nostalgia for like 1 minute standing in front of that shelf. I was alone standing there looking at my book with no one to share that moment but still it was wonderful. I picked a copy from the shelf and sat at the same place where I always did as a child. This time I was scanning through the pages of my own book.

Prosperity

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That book in top right corner – “Chords of Life” by Kruti Mehta

If you all would like to have a copy of my book, it is available on AMAZON