There are times when one must choose to give up or hold on, picking the right one is important because once taken there won’t be a turning back. Even after seventeen years of working as a journalist at the Nation daily, I must admit I never thought about giving up on a story but now I must. I should have said no when my boss asked me if I could spare a minute on the Christmas evening. Expecting treats and gift I was welcomed by a ragged man at the office shivering from the cold outside, his face pale and wrinkled. My boss gestured me to the chair next to the man, I barely noticed his eyes which were tightly shut, as if he was afraid to see me.
“He asked for you,” my boss told me as I sat down next to the man, “I am Shirley,” I held my hand out, he smiled and thanked me for meeting him. He introduced himself as Janak, told me he had seen me on television, his mother was a huge follower of mine, I felt proud of myself, but the face suddenly went grave his grip on my hands tightened, I had the urge to pull it back but his voice broke my thoughts.
“My mother is missing,” his voice shaking, each sound took a struggle to come out, when it did, it barely made above a whisper, I leaned in to listen. “She had been gone for three days,” he pulled out a photo of an old woman around ninety in a wheelchair, the man solely seemed above sixty and it was not the perfect age someone went missing. I looked at my boss, who had a foolish smirk on his face, he nodded me to continue, I turned to the man and asked if there were any daughter or grandchildren she could have gone to, but his response was simple, “No, I was all there was.” He assured me that all her belongings were at home, there was no way she could have gone without him knowing. He continued after a momentary silence.
“I live at the riverside, I went to the local police station but no one seemed to have an interest in it, they said they had more important jobs in hand and will look into mine when there was time,” tears rolled through his closed eyelids, he was shaking when he rubbed it with his hand.
“My mother and I would always watch your programs, when I had lost all my hopes in the police I didn’t have any other choice but to come to you. I know you are a good person always trying to find the truth, I even remember when you went against the government itself when all others hid under the tables afraid.” His smile grew wide; I could see that he had huge admirations for me as both his hands now held mine.
“I know that this isn’t the kind of things you go after, an old woman who went missing, who knows if she couldn’t take anymore from her son, cracked up and ran away,” his smiles turning to a thin line, “But I can promise you that was none of the cases, she loved me and I loved her back more, the only friend I had, she would never leave me even if I died she would come to my grave every day”
The police would not be interested in such petty cases, I knew, even though it was their job to find her, the elections were on its way and there were duties of national importance at hand under which the missing case was one they could simply put down as a woman who cracked and ran away. Which was the reason why journalists like me thrived in the country, doing the businesses of police, no wonder the man came to me when he had given up on them.
“Would you find my mother for me?” the man asked, hope shadowing his face, I could see he almost opened his eyelids to look but chose not to. With the elections coming up I was on a very busy schedule, sparing my time on a missing case could only result in me being pushed behind others who are racing to be the first. But the man came for me, asked specifically for me, he had put all the hopes on me and I couldn’t turn down an old man on a Christmas night. I agreed to follow the case and meet up with him very soon.
“I don’t have much money, but..” he started to put his hands to the pocket but I stopped him, after all those years of running after money I knew when to say no. I had made enough to last me a lifetime, that was enough. He smiled, tear rolls running down his cheek.
“What happened to your eyes?” I asked out of curiosity which I regretted as it came so hard it may have sounded rude to the other person, but he kept the smile as if it was not the first time someone asked him.
“I am afraid of shadows since I was born, so my mother taught me to close my eyes when I am afraid. I don’t open them when she is not around.”
The wind outside was chilling, the moon at its full shedding the lights out to the streets. I asked the man if he needed a ride, but he waved off the offer.
“It is a lovely night to be walking, I will be fine,” he said as he went out of the main door to the streets, he turned back one more time.
“Merry Christmas,” I said, waving goodbye to the man as he walked through the paved road. My boss waiting behind, he had his doubtful eyes hanging on me.
“You sure about that, Shirley”
“Yes, you called me in.”
“Very well then, It’s on you, I won’t let you take off any time from the office,” He said and I nodded agreeing, “Strange fellow that man, put a bit of care on where you step,” he said as he walked into the building.
“I will,” I stood outside watching the old man’s figure fading in the black of the night. Unaware of the terrors that waited for me.