Authors: Nipa Shah
2016 by Nipa Shah.
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FIRST EDITION: JUNE 2016
COVER DESIGN BY LAXMI KANTH
Third Eye Watch
is a work of fiction.
Names, characters, and incidents are all a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons; living or dead, business entities, events, or locale is entirely coincidental.
This one is for you, husband.
30 years ago you said, “Why don’t you just write a book?” I finally listened! But, just so you know, I won’t be making a habit of it (habit of listening to you, that is, LOL)
(Yes, the next book will be dedicated to you, kids!!!)
If you fail to achieve your goal, change the strategy, not the goal.
~ Lord Krishna
My Sister’s Keeper
Friends With Benefits
A Platonic Night
Partners Without Benefits
Sam – A Trip Down Memory Lane
Audrey - A Trip Down Memory Lane
The Search Warrant
Cloak and Dagger
Late Night Revelations
Know Thy Enemy
The Makings of a Plan
Carter and Sam
A Double Date
The Criket Club
A Night Out
The Morning After
In The Aftermath
Perseverance in (seeking to gain) the knowledge of the Supreme Spirit, and perception of the gain that comes from knowledge of the truth: This is called knowledge: all that is contrary to this is ignorance.
~ Bhagavad Gita 13:1
Serena leaned against the kitchen counter, drinking her second cup of coffee, and browsing the newsfeed on her phone. The television was on in the background, tuned to the local news. She heard “BREAKING NEWS”, and looked up.
A female African American reporter came on the screen, and behind her Serena could see yellow crime scene tape partitioning off the area around a parking lot.
A female anchor sitting behind a news anchor desk asked the female reporter, “Tell us what you’ve found out, Christy.”
The reporter began: “Jen, all we know is that the body of a young woman was found outside this dumpster a few hours ago”, she pointed to the scene behind her.
Serena’s hand trembled, and her coffee cup dropped onto the tiled floor, shattering into a thousand pieces.
“….and although the police don’t have many details yet, one officer did tell me that the body was discovered by a homeless man who had been digging through a dumpster for food,” the reporter was saying.
The picture changed to show a stretcher covered with a white sheet being carried to an ambulance; then panned to show the cops who were milling around the scene.
Serena counted four police cars, their red, white, and blue lights whirling. Then the camera panned back to Christy, the female reporter, who went on to describe the scene in detail, sharing bits and pieces of information that she had inferred.
But Serena was no longer listening.
Her head was buzzing incessantly, and she somehow knew that the body found was that of her neighbor, Sofia.
The newscast moved onto another story, and Serena switched off the television. She turned; then stopped when she heard the sound of glass crunching under her shoes.
She had forgotten about the shattered coffee cup. “Dammit!!!” She exclaimed when she saw the mess she had made, then sighed in frustration and walked to the hallway to get a broom and a dustpan.
As she picked up the shards of glass, her mind flashed back to the night, six months ago, when her next-door neighbor Sofia had been kidnapped. That same night, she, Serena Shaw; former employee in a dead-end job and current owner of an eclectic gallery which sold unique, one-of-a-kind items and furnishings from the world over; had acquired thought-reading abilities.
SIX MONTHS EARLIER
Serena walked into the lobby of her apartment building at half past seven, annoyed because once again she had given in and stayed late, agreeing to help a colleague with a project that was due the following day.
The lobby was empty, the super missing in action as always at this time of the night. But he hadn’t forgotten to brew a fresh pot of coffee and lay out sugar cookies on the large counter that doubled as his desk. The counter also held three small boxes; packages waiting to be picked up the tenants of the apartment, and a large bouquet of fresh flowers. She resisted the urge to see if they smelled as good as they looked. Fresh flowers had that effect on her.
Grabbing a cookie, she munched on it as she walked to the elevator bay, and went through her Facebook updates, nodding politely as a man joined her; a very old man; she thought to herself as she threw a quick glance at him; his body was stooped and wrinkled with age. When the elevator arrived, she allowed him to enter, and then followed him absently; her attention focused on her phone as she caught up on posts from her Facebook friends.
Before the elevator doors could fully close, two large hands waved between the small opening and the doors parted again. Two very large men entered the elevator, and she and the old man automatically stepped back to allow them in. One of them punched the button to the ninth floor, and Serena realized that she had forgotten to punch in her floor. Her apartment was also on the ninth floor.
Serena and the men did the head nod thing that people do in an elevator. The old man’s gaze was focused on the floor of the elevator, and he appeared to be mumbling to himself. Probably praying he would escape the elevator safe, Serena thought in amusement.
The two men were wide and a quick glance at their upper torso gave the impression that they were muscular. They towered over the old man and Serena’s petite frame. They had the “stereotypical Russian look” portrayed in Hollywood films, and Serena couldn’t help thinking the two of them could’ve been twins; both of them wore matching shining black suits, red ties, and wing-tipped shoes. She peered at their shoes, wondering if they’d just gotten them shined.
Involuntarily, she looked up to see both of them staring at her with identical, expressionless faces causing her to quickly avert her eyes; their dark eyes sending a shudder of fear down her arms and spine.
The elevator halted on the eighth floor and without conscious thought, Serena followed the old man off the elevator. She didn’t glance back but felt two sets of dark eyes boring into her as she turned away, as if she was heading to an apartment to the right of the elevator.
When the elevator doors closed, she sighed in relief and doubled back only to find the old man hovering by the elevators, staring at her uncertainly.
What? Does the old man think I’m going to rob him?
She rolled her eyes at him, then opened the door to the stairwell and took the stairs down, to the lobby. There, she walked to the small lounge set against the back wall and pushed open the glass door. Thankfully it was deserted. She dropped her laptop and purse on the small glass coffee table, removed her coat, took off her tall winter boots and sat down on the couch.
She spent the time talking to her girlfriends and browsing the net, remaining there for almost an hour, trying to not think of the two men in the elevator. She wasn’t sure why she had been spooked; she wasn’t normally such a shrinking violet. And she wondered whom the two men could be visiting.
Serena’s stomach rumbled, and remembered lunch was a long time ago. They should have left by now, she thought, and put her boots back on; then approached the glass door to peer outside. She couldn’t see the elevator from here, but had a clear view of the lobby and the front entrance. Both appeared to be deserted.
She went back to the couch, pulled her coat on, and grabbed her belongings, then re-approached the glass door and was just about to push it open when she saw the two men walking towards the exit.
She took a hasty step back, her breathing quickening as their heads swiveled around the lobby. They looked at the glass door of the lounge, and Serena forgot to breathe; then remembered that the glass door allowed only one-way viewing, offering the occupants privacy from prying eyes.
Serena sighed in relief when she saw the men walking briskly towards the exit, their footsteps echoing faintly on the tiled floor. But she waited another five minutes, keeping her eyes peeled to the front door, and then she pushed the door open and walked hurriedly to the elevators, glancing back several times to make sure no one was there. When the elevator arrived, she punched the buttons to all floors, just in case, and waited anxiously for the doors to close, hoping no waving hands would open them.
The vestibule on the ninth floor was brightly lit. And, also deserted, thank God. There were six apartments on each floor of the building, two to the left of the elevators, two to the right, and two directly across from the elevators and the stairwell, one of which was hers.
As she rushed to her door, she noted no light seeped from underneath the door of the apartment next to hers; no surprise really, her next-door neighbor was rarely home. Serena hadn’t seen her in days, maybe a couple of weeks even.
Her next-door neighbor was this tall, insanely thin, blue-eyed, fair skinned girl, Sofia, last name unknown. Serena thought Sofia might have been from Eastern Europe.
The few times they’d met, pleasantries were exchanged in passing, and that was that. Sofia wasn’t very talkative and appeared to be in a hurry each time Serena tried to have a longer conversation with her. Serena got the hint; no friendships would be formed here.
She entered her apartment and locked it quickly, the deadbolt lock clicking loudly in the silence; then stood there for several minutes, letting her heart rate slow to normal.
I have got to stop watching Criminal Minds.
Dropping her coat, purse, and laptop on the coffee table, she hurriedly took off her boots and threw them towards the closet, then went into the bedroom and changed into tights and a thick sweatshirt. Although she was starving, she grabbed the black down-filled comforter that sat in a hamper by the door wall and stepped outside onto the balcony.
It was long past sunset in Michigan. And cold. She gazed at the Ambassador Bridge glistening in the distance. It was packed with vehicles that looked like miniature toy cars from this distance. Her mind wandered to her job and the people she worked with on a regular basis.
Her job wasn’t particularly challenging. To be honest, she thought they were paying her way too much money to do nothing but create Excel spreadsheets. They could easily get a high-school kid to do what she did, for half the salary.
My co-workers aren’t much to write home about either.
Alyssa, her peer, and the marketing coordinator of the company, was at least a hundred pounds overweight for her five feet five inch body, and so top-heavy that when she sat, her chest rested on the conference table. Serena had thought about circulating a petition around the office, asking management to remove all the chairs from the conference rooms so that they wouldn’t have to address breasts in meetings. Alyssa also spent a lot of her time flitting around the office, peering in people’s cubes and gossiping nonstop.
Another coworker, “I go by Timothy, not Tim”, was a skinny, tall, man in his mid-30’s. Timothy didn’t bathe too frequently and wore the same clothes to work two or three days in a row. He had strong body odor, which caused everyone to avoid sitting too close to him. Unfortunately, his cubicle was adjacent to Serena’s.
The three of them worked for Sally, a dour-looking woman in her mid-fifties who wore brightly colored cotton suits with shoulder pads that had gone out of style in the eighties. On occasion, Sally added floppy scarves to her ensemble, tying them in a bow around her neck. Pencil-thin probably from being a chain-smoker, she preferred hiding in her office with her door closed; her unique management style was “assignment by email.”
Serena rubbed her forehead; just thinking about them made her head hurt. She wanted to quit, but she knew that if she did, she’d have to move back home because she had no savings.
She looked up at the sky, seeking answers.
“You know what you want Serena,” a voice inside whispered.
Yes, I do.
Forever and ever she had dreamed about opening a shop, an eclectic gallery actually, carrying unique artifacts and décor from around the world. She dreamed about buying trips to India and China and the fascinating Middle East; finding delicate and intricate items which were rooted in history and culture. In her mind’s eye, she saw herself spending long afternoons serving exotic tea blends to her customers, sharing stories of treasure hunts in obscure and off-the-beaten-path shops, in faraway lands.
But she couldn’t live on air and water, she thought sardonically.
And opening a gallery costs money. Not to mention the expense of having an extensive inventory.
So she remained torn between practicality and the desire to have more than such a mundane existence.
Her stomach rumbled angrily, and so she went inside and fixed two cucumber and avocado sandwiches, then grabbing a beer, she went back outside onto the balcony while she ate standing up, enjoying the chilled Corona, which combined with the cold breeze outside made her shiver with each gulp.
But she paid dearly for the view each month, and she was determined to enjoy it every single day, no matter what the weather conditions were.
She reflected on all how her life had changed these past few months. She had never gone away to school, and finally, three months ago she had moved out of her parents home, and at the ripe age of twenty-six, she was living alone for the first time.
She and her boyfriend had called it quits a month ago, both relieved to put a dead relationship to bed. But she liked having a boyfriend, someone to call her own.