The Hidden Code

#SixPens-NEW

SixPens-07

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“If his wife had believed him he wouldn’t have gotten into trouble. Only if he had paid heed to her warning. When she said, ‘Don’t go today, am sensing danger.’ But to Kris, t’was false alarm. He knew he had to head out. He had to be there today. The client couldn’t wait any longer.

“Commitments need to be honored, darling.”

He was the sole bread winner. Ana had taken a maternity break.

Ana implored of him once again.”Kris, darling, please do not go!”

Kris put on his thick coat. He gave Ana a quick peck. He stepped out onto the cobbled street. An icy blast of air hit him! ‘Oh these nasty winters,’ he thought. Need gloves, he made a note. His thoughts drifted back to Ana. Why was she being paranoid today? It’s the hormones playing a trick. He hurried towards the tube station.

The train was unusually late. He looked around for a hot coffee. He found a stall at last. But the vendor was not around. Suddenly, he spotted an eerie silhouette. It was far away at first.

The train station was practically empty. The commuters were in no hurry. The silhouette disappeared amongst the travelers. Or was it his mind playing tricks.

He thought his head was spinning. He turned around and saw a bench. Walked up to it and sat down. On its side was a black suitcase. No one around to claim it. Suddenly, he noticed a woman approaching. The woman sat down beside him. She glanced, smiling in his direction. She looked oddly familiar, like Seema. His college sweetheart, his lost love. Can it be possible, it’s her? No, can’t be, wasn’t she dead?

He rubbed his eyes and stood. It was time that train arrived. The woman continued sitting, staring ahead. A cold breeze began to blow. Kris hugged his coat, started walking. Glancing back, the woman had disappeared! Kris was scared, he walked faster. The train arrived and he got in. He felt someone was watching him. What’s happening today, he wondered, scared. Was Ana’s sense correct all along? Should he alight on the next stop?

Kris decided to continue his journey. He had six stops left now. He fondly reminisced of pregnant Ana. The train coach was almost empty. It entered an eerily long tunnel.

Today’s events played in Kris’s mind. Ana’s unfounded insistence to stay back. Then, the appearance of the woman. The prickly sense of being followed. He so wanted to go home. If only the meeting got canceled! He then decided to call Ana. The phone kept ringing for a while. Ana didn’t answer, which was odd. But Kris reassured himself right away. She must have dozed he decided. He waited impatiently for his stop.

The train jerked and suddenly stopped. The lights in the coach dimmed. Darkness started, spreading all around him. What has gone wrong, he wondered. Suddenly, he sensed movement near him. Someone was trying to grab him.

Kris was now in total shock. The lady from the station was here! She was holding and grabbing him. He opened his mouth to scream. But no words exited his mouth! This felt like a total nightmare. He tried screaming but in vain. His speech had surely betrayed him. A stream of sweat trickled down. He turned around to run away. But his legs felt like lead.

The grip of the woman strengthened. She was trying to say something. He could feel her breath on him. But his brain was not comprehending. Suddenly, the lights came back on. And then he saw her clearly. It was indeed Seema, his ex-lover. But how was this even possible? Seema and he had lost touch. Work life had been hectic, of course. Then Ana had entered his life. Could this be a pleasant coincidence?

“Seema, how come you are here? There were stories about your death. The eerie atmosphere really scared me. I thought you were a ghost.” Kris blurted everything in one breath. Seema laughed and hugged Kris tightly.

“I’m Sangeetha, Seema’s identical twin sister. Kris, you never knew I existed. Seema used to tell me everything! I even have pictures of you. I saw the love letters too! Seema unexpectedly committed suicide in October.”

”Oh! Seema sure didn’t mention anything. Why have you been following me?”

“Well because Seema left you something. She wanted me to pass it along. I am burdened by her wish. Help me fulfill her last wish.”

She handed Kris a metal box. It felt cold in his hands. “She wanted you to have this. Her journey ended suddenly and painfully.” She still felt miserable about it.

Kris was about to open it. He saw his stop had arrived. He bid Sangeetha a warm farewell. He alighted and felt cold again. He began walking towards the exit. The metal box held tight underarm. He couldn’t open it right now. There were too many people around. He would wait until the meeting. But curiosity was getting to him. What could Seema have left him? The box did not seem heavy.

He got into a cab hurriedly. The box laid beside him peacefully. He ran his fingers over it. And then…he noticed something familiar. The box had their initials carved. It was Seema’s handwriting, no doubt. He could not wait any longer. He tried opening the box clasp. But the box did not open. He realized it was number locked. This was typical Seema, always secretive. How will he open the box?

Kris tried figuring out the lock. It could be a person’s birthdate. Maybe his, maybe hers, who knew? Meanwhile, the client arrived on time. Kris conducted his scheduled meeting quickly. The metal box was bugging him. He was thinking of the combination. It had to be a date. He tried the date they met. It worked, the box opened instantly. Inside, Kris found a tattered diary. And some old pictures of them.

He handled the diary very gently. It was fragile just like its owner. His eyes stung from unshed tears. His throat choked with her memories. He couldn’t believe she was gone. What secrets does this diary hold?

It looked like Seema’s personal diary. She had always carried it around. She was very possessive about it. Kris was never allowed near it. It seemed to capture her essence. Kris felt like he was trespassing.

The pages carried a yellow hue. The remains of the time of love. The cover was bit eaten up. The moths knew love tasted sweet. His heart skipped a beat now. He had opened the first page. It was dated 5 years back. Seema had poured her heart out. It was filled with Kris’s descriptions. Every facial detail of Kris meticulously penned. But, they had not met then. They had met 3 years back. Kris was now shocked, entirely perplexed. Seema knew him 5 years ago?

He distinctly remembered the meeting clearly. A mutual friend set it up. A blind date that produced magic! But was there more to it?

There was only one thing to do -read the intriguing diary. But before he started reading, he stared. He stared at her clumsy handwriting. Just the way she was in life. His own cute little goofy sweetheart. Seema had been meticulous and elaborate. But she had mentioned no locations. His mind reeled, his senses dulled. The descriptions gave him no clues.

This diary was a question mark? Was her innocence a cover-up?

Befuddled, he started reading further. Instead of solace, he felt cheated. He skipped the portions leading to their meeting. He wanted to know Seema’s motives. His eyes popped open on Pg.147. Seema had mentioned a terrorist organization. It seemed like a covert operation. Seemed like Seema was a decoy. Kris scratched his head, totally bewildered. How did he fit into this? Was he being stalked by Seema? Had their relationship been a farce?

Kris realized he was a pawn. There was a bigger plan here. Kris started reading the next pages. It detailed the organization’s terror plan. The plan to target the Olympic Games. Kris was a member of the organizing committee.

‘Forty days before the Olympic Games. How do I fit into this?’ Kris mumbled. His head began to throb as if it had been hit by a hammer. “Coffee break, Mr. Cross?” asked his assistant.

Coffee break reminded him of Ana. Why didn’t she take his call? He felt dwindled between both sweethearts. “I shall try calling her again. I hope she is competently fine.” Still, he couldn’t forget his ex.

Kris came home. “Darling, I’m home.”

Ana ran into his arms. “Oh, Kris. I’m so glad you’re okay.”

“I’m fine. I tried calling you. Why didn’t you answer?”

“I was in the kitchen.”

“Alright!” Kris opened his office bag and handed Seema’s diary to his wife. Perplexed, Ana frowned.

“What’s this?”

“Seema’s diary.”

“Shouldn’t you be reading this and not me?”

“I did. I failed to put two and two together.”

“Are you sure I should read?” she asked Kris one last time.

“I have never hidden anything from you, Ana.”

“Alright.” Ana read through the diary. She scribbled something on a paper. After she finished, she looked shocked.

“What is it?”

“A coded text.”

“Yes, I can’t figure it out.”

“I just did,” Ana replied quietly.

“Are you sure you decoded it?”

“No, I was just joking my dear. Don’t be so serious,” chuckled Ana.

“But I didn’t like your joke.”

“Sorry Kris, but I am feeling sleepy. Can I continue the rest tomorrow?”

“Ana, you have been behaving weirdly. This is a serious matter concerning terrorism. I didn’t expect this from you. We need to understand this better. We will have to inform the authorities. Please, I need you to help.”

“Seema is a spy. She’s alive. She faked her death years ago. She was pretending to be Sangeetha.”

“Why didn’t you tell me earlier? I do not love her anymore. What else did you find out?”

“Kris, the diary has ended abruptly. I don’t understand much of this. Do questions arise with regards to their intentions? What do you mean by this? I mean, why give the diary? It exposes their plans to you.”

“Maybe she is a double agent. She can’t go to the police. So she has come to me. Tell me about the coded message.”

“It’s Morse code hidden between paragraphs. So that no one will know.”

“Hmm…look beyond our combined intelligence. What do you suggest we do? Let’s go to the police now. They will know what to do. Let’s take the diary as proof. Will you come along with me?”

The police informed the CIA immediately. CIA cryptologists decoded the hidden information. The CIA made plans with Kris. All information was kept in secrecy. The people involved were tracked down. They proceeded to stop the attack.

Regardless, there was still a mole. Everyone thought Seema was behind it. But that was far from the truth. Kris knew the real truth though. Olympics International Federation was the core. The epicenter of a dreadful disaster.

On a public press meeting, the director of the CIA answered the questions that baffled everyone.

“Seema was an undercover agent trying to expose a highly dangerous organization whose main agenda was to bomb the 2024 Olympics in Paris. Mr. Kris Cross, who worked for the Olympic Committee, was tasked to plant bombs in all corners of the Coliseum.”

“Sir,” interrupted one of the reporters. “Kris and Seema knew each other. Why would Seema, pretending to be Sangeetha, approach the very person who would plant the bombs?”

“I think Ms. Seema Shah herself can answer that question,” Director Cole said.

“Kris and I met in the organization. When he was appointed as the main person to penetrate the Olympic Committee, I had to do everything to get all the information I needed. So I pretended to love him. Fast forward, when I sensed that Kris knew something about my true identity, I broke up with him and months later, I plotted my own death. But I had to show myself to him for the last time, as Sangeetha, Seema’s twin and gave him my diary where I wrote the code keeping in mind that he would show it to his wife to establish a trust that he was over me. Kris didn’t know that Ana knows Morse. By that time Ana suggested to go to the police, he had to go along.”

“Director Cole, why is Kris Cross not arrested yet?” another reporter joined in.

“He already is!” A commotion broke into the room.

It was Sunday morning; the sun was shining brightly. Kris asked Ana to get ready. They were in the park now. It appeared to be a mundane weekend. But there were eyes following them. They were scattered all around him.

Seconds later, a group of CIA agents appeared and two officers came forward to meet them. Kris knew it was time. He hugged Ana and whispered, “Thanks for being on my side. Wait for me. I love you.”
“We’ll be here, Kris!” she replied.

Kris agreed to be the key witness and would be under the protection program of the CIA. Ana would have to get used to having security guards around wherever she went.

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Contributed by: Dr. Deepali, Sudeepta M Sarangi, Natash Sequiera, Piya Gajbe, Pooja Gupta, Divisha Agrawal Mittal, Rashmi Raj, Zartiena Antao, Shraddha Niphadkar, Rham Dhel, Kajal Kapur

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Penmancy

~a coven of creative characters~

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