It was already nightfall and the air was damp with a rising fog coming from the sea. All the boats were back alongside the quay and the last smells of the fishermen’s activities were slowly fading away. In the far side of the harbour, between the two largest buildings, the blurry silhouette of a man was busy with some heavy load… he put it down gently on the ground, paid his respects with a bow and disappeared in what seemed to be vapours… it’d have been a very strange sight indeed to any passer-by… but no one was there.
At the flower shop, on the opposite side of the harbour, things could not get duller. Indeed, at this time of year, very few people bothered buying flowers therefore, the business was going slower by the minute. When things could not get worse, a police officer entered. He looked strange… not strange like spooky… rather like a worried “newbie” on his first solo assignment. He looked around and, with a shy smile, asked to the young lady at the counter:
- “Good morning miss!”
- “Good morning officer.”
- “May I speak with Rebecca please?”
- “Certainly, I am she. What can I do for you?”
- “Could we speak in a quieter place?” he asked clumsily.
Even though the shop was nothing but quiet, he wished she would sit down before he dropped the bomb he was about to drop on her. Indeed, he believed (out of his experience with his girlfriend) that women tended to become hysterical if they stood while receiving that kind of news. He could not manage a straight face with that type of reaction… he needed her calm for everything to work out as he had planned. So, they went to the back of the shop where, to his relief, stood a very ugly couch and a coffee machine. As they sat down, Rebecca broke the ice… or froze it even more:
- “Alright here we are, now what is it?” she asked, without hiding her annoyance.
- “Well, we found the body of an unidentified woman at the harbour a few days ago…”
- “Pity! What has it got to do with me?”
- “Yes… Unidentified until this morning, but I am getting to this in a moment. The woman, you see, had a safe deposit key on… in her and, it seems, you are the only person allowed to use it…” He waited, but she did not react as expected.
- “You are the police, you can override anything…” she said dismissively.
- “I cannot override the law. To make a long story short, if one relative of the deceased is alive, the police must ask permission…” he answered, now thinking fast when she interrupted him, yet again:
- “Wow, wait a minute! Relative? I am an orphan and as a consequence, have no family… what is it that you want with me?” she enquired, getting agitated.
- “Yes, I am coming to that part now… for some reason you see, we have been able to match this woman’s DNA to yours…”
- “How? You are not supposed to have my DNA, I have no police records… how did you get it?” She was containing her anger with difficulties as he failed to explain:
- “Yeah, I know… Anyway, we did match them and we found out that this woman was your birth mother.” He was starting to lose his patience and courtesy.
- “I told you, that is impossible… my mother died giving birth to me. This is ridiculous!”
- “I assure you that the analysis were thorough and checked multiple times. There is no doubt about your blood relation to her. I am sorry.” He finished, trying to sooth her with false compassion, which she noticed a little.
- “So, what do I do now?” she asked with tears in her eyes and composed anger in her voice.
- “We would like you to either get the content of the safe deposit for us, or grant us permission to retrieve it in your stead.”
He looked sure of himself, but the sweetness of his traits had now completely vanished… The “newbie” was now very confident, maybe too much, and Rebecca wondered if the whole interview had been an act. The rudeness that showed on his face frightened her a little and she felt deep inside she could not trust him just yet.
- “Hmm! Can I think about it?”
- “Sure…” He answered taken aback. He added quickly:
- “But not too long. Your mother was murdered and we have all the reasons to believe that it had something to do with what the safe deposit contains.”
- “So why are you giving the key to me?” she asked testily.
- “Because the law forbids us to keep it.” he answered, without hiding his exasperation anymore.
She observed him and noticed how unnerved he was. There was indeed something “fishy” with this man… he handed his card without a smile and said before leaving:
- “Make sure to contact me ASAP with your decision.”
- “Yeah…” she answered, closing the door on him.
Contrary to how they had met, all formalities or politeness had disappeared with Rebecca’s growing suspicion and anger… He sat in his car for a while, staring at the shop. He started the engine as soon as he saw her looking right back at him from the window.
The key tightly settled in her fist, she was trying to figure out the safest way to deal with the situation. Her having a recently dead mother would have to wait. She suddenly made up her mind and closed the shop. She changed clothes and left by the back door, which (she hoped) the officer had not noticed.
She hurried in the back alleys of town having no idea if she was followed. For each step she took, she felt her anguish take a stronger hold on her heart. Almost panicking at times, she did not stop until she had reached the International Bank. Without a pause, she rushed inside. At the information desk, she asked in a whisper:
- “The safe deposit boxes please?”
- “At the end of the hall to your right.”
- “Thank you.”
She was sure that if she’d turn around, she would see pairs of eyes following her every moves. She glanced at the cashier’s counters and indeed she was correct… or so she thought? Maybe she looked suspiciously guilty walking with her head down at an uncontrollably fast pace for a lady. Nonetheless, friends or foes, nothing could happen until she had come in possession of the content of the deposit box, or could it?
She opened the box very quietly where she found only a piece of paper reading:
“Dearest Rebecca… no time to explain… speak the name George, now!”
- “George!” she obeyed.
- “Quickly my dear, follow me!” said a man behind her, already holding out his hand to her.
He was standing in a thick layer of fumes that prevented her from seeing his feet or hers for that matter. The air was icy and for a split second she did not know what to do, until she heard the loud noise of running steps coming closer… she knew then it was her cue. She looked at George, nodded and he pushed her through a wall. She ended up in a warm room where a fire was already burning.
The officer, who had interviewed Rebecca, arrived out of breath: he looked furious. Many men accompanied him and looked everywhere… without success.
- “How could she just vanish?”
- “Ah! But she did not my good sir.” said George in a mocking tone.
- “Get him!” shouted the officer.
A group of what looked like policemen ran towards George with a menacing look on their faces. George stepped back slightly and continued his teasing:
- “Come now officer… you know better than that.”
- “Where is she?”
- “Not your concern anymore. However, now that I see you have everything under control, I must take my leave as I have a pressing meeting with myself starting… in a decade!”
Not the least surprised by what had just heard, the officer was green with rage. George laughed heartily, bowed and faded into the wall.
When she turned to her saviour to ask all the questions that came into her mind, he merely smiled, handed her a letter and pointed out the library that nearly furnished the entire room.
- “This is the inheritance of your mother that she is passing down to you. Your are safe here.”
The air was getting colder despite the fire… Before she could even speak, he continued:
- “This is not my time… I must leave you now,” and saying so, he did.