Fiction

Fortune

By Ramprasath Rengasamy

     I worked as a computer engineer in one of the fortune 500 multinational companies. I was not married. As I was bored at home, I had stepped out to have a long ride on the highway in my brand new Honda. I used to do such things once in a while. The last time I did was almost six months back. I had to cross an

Intersection to reach the highway. The intersection was at the rear side of a chemical factory. So the local road through the intersection remained deserted for the most part of the day.

     A man in his mid-twenties and a crashed motorbike laid side by side in the middle of the road. I had to pull over my Honda to the right side of the road. The man had fallen on the road with his legs widespread. He was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. A crashed motorbike next to him made me think he must have had an accident. I looked around to see no one. The crash site was at the point of four way intersection.

     I jumped out of my car and ran to him to best utilize the golden hour. I wondered how much of his golden hour was left. I was not a medic. But, I had expert level knowledge in basic first-aid.

     When I saw him in close proximity, I found that he was already dead. His helmet had given up caging his head. He had a head injury, and his hairs were soaked in his blood. His was not a very bad injury but, he looked like lost too much blood. I realized I was well past his golden hour.

     At first sight, he looked handsome. I wondered if he was married or at least had an episode of love life. In my opinion, mid-twenty was a tender age to embrace death.

     Next to him, I saw his license, a bank slip, and a check. By the license, I learned that his name was Edgar. I took all of them in my hand. It was the slip of a familiar bank in America. The slip had clearly mentioned that Edgar had over a million in his savings account. Along with the slip, I saw a check (cheque) he had signed. Part of the check (cheque) was wet with his own blood.

     Had I not seen the slip, I might have promptly called 911 for help. With the information of a bank account holding a big sum in hand, I thought calling 911 was not a good idea. Even if I called, it was not going to bring him back from death. He was not going to resurrect or anything like that. I turned around and felt relieved to find no one in the vicinity. Taking away someone’s property without their permission could be stealing. But, I didn’t want to steal. So, I leaned forward towards him so close so that, if I spoke only he could hear it.

     “Feel free to object, if you are unwilling to give this to me,” I said.

     He didn’t say anything. I took it for his willingness to allow me to take it.

     So I inserted the slip and the check and his license in my pant pocket and walked back to my car. I started my car, took a U-turn, and drove back home.

     Once back at home, I was going through the options available for me to cash all the money. I was not as handsome as him. But to collect the money, I had to look like him. Fortunately, we were more or less of the same height and weight.

     It reminded me of my friend Dr.Aziz. He was a researcher cum doctor. His research was on a scientific solution that could make anyone look better. According to him, an ugly looking face could be tricked to look pretty by controlling the photon emission at the right spots. The impressive stuff about the solution was, he could even turn me look like someone else for a temporary period of time.

     Dr.Aziz’s was a classified project. It had not gotten approval from the government yet. But I trusted his methods. He looked for test subjects, and I gladly became one.

     By definition, objects were visible to humans because of the light reflected from it. His solution was to deploy photon emitting microcells.  A chip would control these cells. The chip manipulated how I appeared to others from all angles. The collective outcome of all these could make me look like someone else. Since he was a close friend, I could personally influence him in case I ran into any issues. This gave me the needed courage.

     I took the treatment immediately. It was like a pharmacy visit and getting some vitamin tablets over the counter. Dr.Aziz gave me a small bottle full of a gel. I could apply it like how I applied Vaseline every day. The chip was a tiny one injected in the dermis layer of my skin. The gel wasn’t supposed to be contaminated. Once applied, the chip controlled the photon emission. The chip needed a power supply to do its job. When outdoor, the gel functioned as solar cells. When indoor, I could plug a small battery that lasted for hours.

     At home, I rehearsed at least a hundred times to reproduce Edgar’s signature when asked. His signature was not very tough, and I was very good at copying.

     Then I went to the Bank with the check and Edgar’s driver’s license. With his license and a face that exactly looked like his, I didn’t have to face too many questions. With just a few signatures on a couple of documents, I won Priscilla’s trust. Priscilla ensured that everyone else at the bank trusted me.

     “Let me do the paperwork for you. You could choose to take all the money at once or take it in parts. It is up to you.” agent Priscilla said.

     I waited out to give Priscilla time to do the paperwork. Right then, a man in his late thirties approached me. He was in black pants and a white shirt. He had his shirt tugged inside his pants and was wearing a black leather shoe. He leaned forward and in a low voice he said,

     “I am Robert. Could you please follow me?”

     I stood up and followed him as he walked towards the pantry. Once reached, we sat opposite each other on a table. If he was a bank employee, I wondered why he took me to the pantry.

     “Do you know you are dead?” he asked.

     Honestly, I didn’t expect that question. It startled me.  

     Mocking anyone could be considered disorderly conduct and menacing. Especially, mocking someone to gain huge wealth from a financial institution could even be considered a serious crime.

     “Excuse me,” I said, hoping to gain some more time to think.

     “Look, I know what you did at the intersection,” he said in a low voice.

     “What? How? I mean….” I was uncertain about how to react. I was under the impression that I had successfully managed to make them all believe what I wanted them to believe. Robert’s intervention confused me, and I could not take it.

     “Edgar has an impressive financial history. That’s why I ran over my truck on him. But, before I could return and take his belongings, you took them and ran away. I could have killed you too, but you made my job easy.”

     I wondered how I missed to notice him on the highway. We were at the bank, and I was mocking Edgar. He could get me caught by telling the truth to everyone.

     “This is my game. I planned it. I orchestrated the whole thing. I killed Edgar. I buried his body in the trail. So all the money should ideally go to me. I agree that you got lucky at the last moment. But, who would lend if I said I needed money for fixing my heartburn, indigestion, sudden dizziness, and fatigue. Would you?”  

     As he spoke, from time to time, he rubbed on his chest pressing a bit and moved his hand over his abdomen in a circular motion.

     “Let me suggest you something. Go ahead with what you had planned to do. But you would have to give me the total money. If you do so, I will give you a grand. If not, I am going to tip-off to the bank about your real identity.” he said with a wicked smile.

     I wondered if he was trying to trap me. It was apparent that he killed Edgar but made it look like an accident so that he didn’t end up getting caught. If he could kill someone and make it look like a random accident, I thought, it would not take much time for him to do the same to me.

     “Hurry up! The clock is ticking.” he urged.

     I could not think much. Between getting caught in an accident and taking home a grand, I thought, taking home a grand was a better idea.

     I stood up and walked towards the office room. Priscilla was waiting for me.

     “Where did you go, Edgar? I thought you left,” she said.

     “Just stepped out for a coffee, Priscilla,” I said.

     “So, how do you want to take the money?”

     I turned around, and saw Robert staring at me from the pantry. He was all looking into my eyes even from that distance.

     “Can I take five minutes of your valuable time to think about it?” I asked.

     “Yes. You can. Let me come back with a Coffee.” Priscilla said.

     She then walked out, leaving me alone in her office room. I thought I was safe in Priscilla’s office room rather than in the pantry.

     In my mind, I ran over all the options I had.

     The first option was, I could tip-off to the police about Robert. The police could even protect me for a day or two. But not more than that. What if Robert came after me after that? What if in the police interrogation, my true identity came out? This option didn’t sound wise to carry out.

     The second option was, I could ask for a substantial share from Robert. Even if Robert accepted it, there was no guarantee I could expect him to stand by his words once he got his money.

     The third option was, I could donate all the money equally to every orphanage in America. That way, neither I nor Robert would have anything left to benefit. But, I could not guess how Robert might react in that case. Unlike Edgar, I had a car. So Robert might just run a bulldozer over me.

     The fourth option was, I could take a day of time. I could arrange all the prize money in fake notes and hand it over to Robert. Then I could tip-off to the police so that the police could arrest Robert and put him behind bars. That way, I could be peaceful outside. But the problem with this option was, I knew no one who could help me arrange fake notes for all the money in a short span of time.

     The fifth option was, I could peel off the gel from my face. That way, even if I was not Edgar, Robert was not going to leave me as I now knew what he did to Edgar. Technically, it could make me an ally of Robert indirectly. Any legal complications he might run into in the future might actually pull me too into it.

     The sixth option was, I could confess everything to the police. But, that could put me in prison first as I had already contacted Priscilla and have gone past the identification verification part.

     The seventh option was, holding as far as I could. From what he spoke, I learned that he had been having symptoms of a heart attack. But I knew I had no control over his heart attack.

     Priscilla came back with a Coffee Mocha.

     “So, how do you want to take the money?” she asked as she sat in her seat opposite to me.

     “I would like to encash everything as I need money to invest in real estate. But if you are running short of bills, then you could issue me a check.” I said.

     By then, I had thoroughly thought through it. Anyhow, Edgar was dead. I had no clue how Edgar earned that much of money even before he turned thirty. Just because Robert ran over Edgar need not mean Robert was a villain, and Edgar was innocent. It could have been the other way around too. There was no point in judging anyone. Judgements could be deceitful. So I wanted to give the benefit of the doubt to Robert.

     At the counter, Priscilla handed over to me a check for one million. I verified that it could be used to pay into an account I wanted. Then I carefully collected it and saved it in my handbag. Once I came out of the bank, I handed over the bag to Robert.

     At first, he didn’t believe me. He ran over his eyes on the check and its details. He kept me waiting outside and went into another bank nearby and used a pay-in challan to dump all the money into his account. He then came back to me.

     “I am a man of my words. When do you want your grand?” he asked. I promptly refused it.

     “I am good. You can take all the money.” I said.

     “Sure?”

     “Sure.”

     “God bless you, brother,” he said with a smile and walked away.

     Even I walked away. I bought a Coffee Mocha from the McDonalds and sat outside the store under the sun.

     My perception of destiny has always been simple. If something was not yours, no matter how much you tried, you would not get it. Some might come up with a different benchmark for trying. But, trying has always been relative.

     I thought I had not thought it through thoroughly when I took away Edgar’s belongings at the intersection. Had I thought it through, I might have certainly called 911. It was amusing to realize how quick turn of events collapsed your mental stability and forced you to make stupid decisions.

     I thought briefly about what a million could have done to my life. I could have chosen to give up working for another ten years. It could have injected laziness in me. My idle mind could have become a devil’s workshop. I could have put on tremendous weight. It could have pulled down my confidence. After ten years, I might have become a hard-sell in the job market.

     I never had other talents to experiment while a million in bank account took care of my everyday bread and butter. Without anything else to focus on, I could have become a parasite drawing what I needed from society and not contributing anything to it. Furthermore, one million in the bank account could have drawn the attention of people like Robert. It might have doubled or tripled my problems. I might have invested money in various investments. Some investments could have turned to profit while others could have ripped me off.

     So I thought it was better to stick to my current job and achieve progressive growth over a period of time. One-million could have made me miss the challenges offered by my work at the office. I have always had a perception of this. The more you faced challenges, the more you thought for solutions. The more you thought, the more you kept the neural pathways active. That way, your behavioral patterns were prevented from getting locked out. This could help you keep yourself creative and strike a perfect balance in living a meaningful and yet productive and progressive life.

     On the other hand, I thought about Robert. One million was definitely going to change his life upside down. I didn’t know if he deserved that fortune or not. All I knew was, I didn’t have the authority to change his fate. I was not god. If fate didn’t have Robert’s name written on the one million of Edgar, it could have ensured someone stronger than me in place of me at the intersection the other day.

     I was sipping my Coffee Mocha when a teen boy crossed me.

     “Hey, your friend blacked out around the corner,” he said as he passed by.

     At first, I wondered if his message was for me. I turned around and realized that I was the only one sitting outside the fast-food store. It reminded me of the gel I hadn’t peeled off yet. I realized, the friend referred by the boy must have been Robert. I took my Coffee Mocha and rushed to the corner of the road.

     Robert was lying on the floor with his hand on his chest. My handbag was still around his shoulders. As I saw, there was a little crowd surrounding him but they stood at quite a distance.

     As I approached Robert, I heard someone telling,

     “Careful brother, it could be a bomb.” 

     I checked his pulse and realized he was already dead. It reminded me of my seventh option. Had I held for a day or two, Robert might have died by himself.

     I turned around and declared, “He is my friend.”

     The crowd around me began to disperse slowly.

     In close proximity, I saw his license popped out from his shirt pocket. I took the bag. There was no money. But I retrieved a bank slip that declared an outstanding balance of one million in Robert’s savings account.

     I took Robert’s license and his bank slip and inserted them in my pant pocket. His license had a clear picture of him.

     My perception of destiny has always been simple. If something was yours, no matter how much you avoided it, you would still get it.

                             ~ END ~

Categories: Fiction

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