The Book-Keeper (Part 1)

“I am sorry Simone. It’s all my fault. I should have been more careful” Jeet said with a nervous wobble in his voice.

“But how did it all happen?” Simone asked frowning nervously as she pressed her thumb on the receptor at the door.

After finding their daughter missing from the park, Jeet had called his wife Simone, and they both reached their home almost at the same time.

“Myra wanted to go to the park, and I was busy uploading this weekend party’s menu on our refrigerator. I made her wear her ear cell to keep track, with an intention to join her within half an hour. But when I reached the park, she was nowhere. I tried contacting her, but her ear cell was out of reach” Jeet replied almost at the verge of crying

“OMG! But what about the security robots? Didn’t you ask them?” Simone’s heart had started racing fast at the prospective danger.

“I definitely did. But they said they saw her walk with the person she was sitting on that bench a few minutes ago. And then Myra and the other person went to another part of the park. I rushed to that area and asked the security Robo too, but they said she never went there. I drove around the entire area but found no trace of her.”

“With a person? Which person? There must have been a recording of the person?”

“Yes. I got the recording. Look”

Jeet tapped at his watch, and a floating screen appeared in front of them at their kitchen-cum-drawing room wall. The date on the upper right corner read March 2076. A lush green park with three benches in a row on its left. Two women were sitting on the first one, on the second one a man and the third a little girl with a book on her lap. The girl was wearing a purple sleeveless cotton frock, and her long black hair was dangling over the page she was reading.

“What’s that on her lap?” Simone asked surprisingly as it looked a little fatter than an e-reader.

“Oh, that’s a book. A paperback. I forgot to tell you that we found one when we were going through some old things that I had packed and kept in our storeroom” Jeet replied.

She kept reading for some time. Few men, women, and children passed, looking curiously at the book. And then a man in his fifties paused in front of her and kept staring at her. He was wearing a bottle green T-shirt and white jeans. The man at her tiny face and then sat beside her. They started talking, and then after a while, they both stood up. The girl followed the man and soon they were out of the screen area.

“Mr. Ghosh? The mysterious book-keeper he is” Simone screamed alarmingly.

“Who? The one for whom Arnab says is in some illegal business? I never saw him, but had heard a lot.”

“Yes. He works as a book-keeper and stays at the far end of the block. And Arnab is right. Nobody knows where he vanishes every weekend and sometimes at certain nights too. Not even his family members. He must have kidnapped Myra” Simone dropped herself on the sofa and started crying.

“Kidnapped! No Simone! Please don’t say that” Jeet said panic-stricken sitting beside her.

“Oh, my! Oh, my! He must have heard us when we last went to the park and discussed it” Jeet blurted remembering something.

“What? What he must have heard?”

“Myra wanted a new book just like the old one we found. And when I said it’s difficult to get one, she started pestering me to find one. He must have been around and must have used it as a bait to lure her.”

“And you are telling this to me now?”

“I am sorry, but I never thought it important enough to discuss. And you were so busy these days.”

Simone looked away and then in a moment wiping her tears started clicking on her watch cell.

“Don’t worry. I have a friend in the police department. We will find her in a jiffy” Simone clicked on her ear cell and called out her friend’s name.

Jeet too started calling everywhere he thought Myra might have gone, though she was never allowed alone even a block away. Nobody gave any positive reply and disappointed, Jeet slopped on the sofa remembering the day they found the book.

It was a cloudy Saturday, and Myra’s football class had got canceled. Simone had left for her office, and Jeet was just about to switch on the 3D printer when Myra called him from behind.

“Pops, I am feeling bored. Can we play something together?” She asked with a smile, the gap in her milk teeth making her look cuter than ever.

Jeet decided to work from home and be a house-husband. He had seen her father slog all through his life working for a multinational and he hated it. His father seldom got time to spend with him though whenever he did, he gave his full attention to Jeet. But they were rare moments. Hence, he chose 3D designing that allowed him to work as a freelancer from home. And he loved every bit of it. There was a mad rush in the first few morning hours, but once Simone left for office and Myra for school, he was on his own to work peacefully at his own pace. This arrangement also gave him an opportunity to spend a good time with Myra once she returned home from school.

“Myra dear, why don’t you read something? Do you want me to upload new books to your e-reader?”

“Nope. I am tired of staring at the screen. I want to do something else” She said looking around the room that Jeet had converted into his workshop.

“What’s inside that pops?” Myra asked looking at a big carton above the cupboard.

“Well, that contains some old things that I took out from my cupboard to make space. You want to have a look?” Jeet asked well aware how disciplined Myra was.

“Wow! That might be interesting.”

Jeet pulled it down, placed it at Myra’s room and went back to his workshop to finish his work. But he wasn’t able to continue for as long as every other moment Myra returned with an object she wanted to know more about. Finally, Jeet decided to join her and went to her room.

“Okay let me show you my treasure myself and tell you all about them.” Jeet sat on the floor and took the palm-sized camera gifted by his grandmother from Myra.

……to be continued

-Nita Bajoria

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