A Love Forbidden: The Making of A Cliché Novel Part II

<- Part I

***

Chapter 4: Beyond the Boundaries of Belief

Anui threw Tiffany aside and plowed into the alleyway. His footsteps rapidly faded into the narrow darkness.

Tiffany stood frozen, clenching the letter in her fist and shielding her eyes from the perimeter’s blinding rays. There was an uproar of strict commands, none of which she understood. A deep, threatening voice spoke through a megaphone.

“C’est la police! Placez vos mains en l’air et se livrer immédiatement!”
“This is the police! Put your hands up and surrender immediately!”

The movement of heavy military boots echoed through both levels of the market. Dozens of armored figures hunkered themselves against railings and wooden stands, clicking their pistols into cocked positions.

She was confused, but Tiffany quickly understood the situation was serious. The encircling silhouettes aimed their weapons directly at her, awaiting the order to fire.

Powerless, Tiffany fell to her knees. Before hitting the ground, a muscular arm wrapped itself around her waist. Anui, wearing his jacket again, pulled Tiffany to his side and shielded her from the policemen.

“Jericho!” he yelled, holding an ID badge before him. “Jericho!”

For a moment, it was quiet. The surrounding forces lowered their weapons slightly, easing the tension. A couple uniformed men looked toward their commander.

“Hey, can I come in?”
“Marcus?”
“Yeah, let me in.”
“Oh, I get it. Now that there’s some action, you’re actually interested, huh?”
“In your dumb story? No way! I’m just sick of yelling. ‘Cause like, it’s not good for my lungs.”
“Mhm sure. Well, in that case, no you cannot come in.”
“Then, I’ll just keep pounding on your door until-“
“Fine. Get in, but not a word from you!”
“Yeah, yeah. Whatever.”

A couple uniformed men looked toward their commander.

It gave Tiffany a moment to react. She was furious with Anui’s irrational behavior, and at the same time, scared by his dark forcefulness. He’d become a monster- a creature that would show kindness one minute, and heave you toward a threatening ambush the next.

She yanked her arm from his hold and stepped back.

“Get away from me!” she screamed.

Anui was shocked. Still showing his badge, he turned toward her. The squadron’s defenses raised again, re-aiming their weapons at Tiffany.

“What are you doing?!” he hissed. “Are you trying to get yourself killed?”

Tiffany didn’t move. She didn’t speak. Realizing the gravity of her actions, she said nothing as the police moved militantly into the market, pushed her to ground and tightened the handcuffs around both her and Anui’s wrists.

Two men lifted her from the hard brick flooring and tucked her head into the back seat of a flashing vehicle. Anui, it seemed, was being hauled in a different direction.

The door shut behind Tiffany. She sat, hands behind back, staring at the metal grating that divided the front and back seats. A policewoman started the vehicle, with one of the officers riding passenger.

Tiffany was in complete disbelief of her situation.

“Why? Why is this happening?!” she thought.

Unable to contain her distress, she leaned her forehead against the cold grating and slowly began to sob. Her manacled fists clenched in despair, causing her to feel the edges of a crumpled paper. She’d completely forgotten she was clutching the letter.

“Marcus, what are you doing?”
“Nothing.”
“Did you just steal a piece of gum from my desk?”
“Nope.”
“I can see you chewing it.”
“Aight, I took it. Sue me.”
“Leave my stuff alone!”

After allowing her tears to dry and collecting herself, Tiffany slowly flattened the parchment’s folds against the backseat. It was difficult with the restraints, but she managed. Pushing the paper into her lap, she bent forward for a closer look. The sun had yet to peak over the horizon, so her only light was the reflecting flashes of the police car.

It took several minutes of straining her eyes and fighting the speed bumps, but she finally read the message in complete.

“I know you were only a child when your mother left, and everyday since has been filled me with heartache. I am a man of great sorrow, but I know it is my own doing. Elizabeth could provide you with a better life than my chosen profession ever could. This was never the way I intended things to happen, and I hope you can one day forgive me. – F.S.”

The name of her mother sent Tiffany swirling in a cloud of memory. An overwhelming amount of stored images surged through her mind. There was Elizabeth, helping five year-old Tiffany into their new home. Her hair was identical to Tiffany’s, and her face was elegantly rounded. Then, a middle-aged Elizabeth appeared with short curls and green cat eye glasses, sketching designs of women’s clothing for a high fashion magazine. An angry Elizabeth scolded teenage Tiffany on the dangers of walking alone, while another older one greeted high-society members at her fashion magazine’s inaugural ball.

Tiffany winced. It was too much information too fast, but it slowly untangled. Every recollection centered around her mother and their relationship. She was a very loving person, and Tiffany began to miss her. Although, she was too fatigued to show it. The emotional roller coaster of her last twelve hours was a complete mental drain. And she still had so many blank spots filled questions.

“Why are these letters scattered like some kind of twisted game? Who is my father? Why did we leave? His profession?!”

She’d been so lost in thought, Tiffany didn’t realize the car had stopped.

“Marcus, you in there?”
“Mom?”
“There you are. Here, I found ’em.”
“The mop and bucket? Oh, no Mom I was kidding.”
“Kidding?”
“Yeah, I was-“
“Kidding?! I heard you from downstairs! You were hollerin’ your fool head off! ‘Vomit’ this and ‘puke’ that.”
“But-“
“Pshh. Kidding. Figures. I mean, you two are up here fighting over Lord only knows what, asking for the mop and bucket, and ten minutes go by without you coming down to get ’em!! Sure, maybe you were kidding, but I was getting concerned for the carpet!”
“Mom.”
“‘My kids must be some kinda lazy,’ I said. ‘Letting yack dry up in the fibers like heathens. I raised ’em better than that!'”
“MOM!!”
“Mercy, child. I’m two feet away. Don’t shout.”
“I’m sorry, Mom. I only said that because I was making fun of Shaundra’s mushy romance novel. I told her it was making me puke.”
“Oh, Shaundra! You’re writing a novel? Baby, I’m so proud. Let’s hear it!”
“Uh… I’m not sure-“
“Just jump right in. I’ll catch up.”
“Um, okay…”

She’d been so lost in thought, Tiffany didn’t realize the car had stopped.

“Who’s Tiffany?”
“Uh.”
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Keep going.”

She didn’t have time to grab the letter.

“What letter?”
“Mom.”
“Right. Sorry. Keep going.”

She didn’t have time to grab the letter. It fell into the car seat as the officers pulled her out. The building she entered was not the sort of police station she’d pictured. There wasn’t a waiting room. They didn’t process her fingerprints or take a mugshot. Tiffany was lead directly to a man in a black suit.

“I’ll take it from here,” he said, opening the heavy metal door before them. “Take a seat.”

Inside the cold, dim room was a metal table and two opposing chairs. There was a large mirror on one of the walls, through which she knew she was being watched. A shadowy figured moved slightly on the far side of the table.

Tiffany nervously edged into her seat. She was still only wearing her sundress and flip flops. The chilling air sent shivers down her spine. When she was finally still, the seated man’s face came into view. It was Anui.

“Who the hell are you?!” Tiffany spat, surprised at her sudden rush of anger.

Anui sighed. This was clearly going to be harder than he thought.

“I can only imagine what you must be thinking right now,” he said.

“You want to know what I’m thinking?! I think you’re a lying piece of-”

“Tiffany, right now you are in the center of a large drug smuggling operation with illegal activity spanning six different countries.”

“Heavens, I’m on the edge of my seat! Aren’t you too, Marcus?”
“Yeah, it’s alright I guess.”

“Go on, Shaundra. This is getting real good!”
Thanks, Mom.”

Tiffany froze. It seemed impossible her situation could get much worse, and yet another unfathomable circumstance smothered her. She was seconds from a nervous breakdown, incapable of responding.

“Without your memory this is going to be a very difficult interrogation, but I want to help you.”

Anui lifted himself from the chair and walked over to her slowly. Tiffany remained motionless.

“I want to help you,” he repeated, unlocking her handcuffs and freeing her wrists. She wrung them slowly as he sat back down. “But until you are able to give me any information, we are stuck in this room together.”

“What do you want me to say, Anui? If that’s even your name,” she retorted.

“Do you remember anything about purchasing your flight to Tahiti?” Anui asked.

“No,” she replied.

“Do you remember anything pertaining to illegal drug activity?”

“No.”

“Have you or anyone you know been in contact with a mafia boss operating under the alias ‘Viper?'”

“NO! I can’t tell you anything, okay?!”

Anui glanced over to the mirror, anxiously. He needed a different approach to the conversation.

“I’m sorry. I’m getting ahead of myself,” he soothed. “Let’s start with events around your amnesia. Are you aware that a young woman, not much unlike yourself, was murdered yesterday in the market?”

Tiffany’s eyes widened. She shook her head. “You never told me that.”

“That’s true. I didn’t. However, it does raise some suspicion. I advised you not to wander outside my bungalow. Do you remember that?”

The conversation they’d had earlier that morning seemed so long ago now, but she did remember it. She also remembered when he physically pulled her out the door.

“Yes, but- You said!” Her words began to jumble, so she reset herself. “I don’t understand. If someone were after me, how am I a suspect? Wouldn’t that make me the victim? And how do you know it’s not just a coincidence this lady was killed?”

“Those are valid questions. I’ll explain. Our agents have been tracking narcotics bought and sold in the Pacific islands and parts of the United States. Our intel indicates the drug ring is centralized somewhere in Tahiti. We’ve been tracking numerous criminals for months and do not believe this was a random murder. We know several suspects with potential motive to kill anyone affiliated with Viper’s operation. This includes you. At exactly 4:26 a.m. this morning, you were at the scene of the crime with an unidentifiable man. Yes, we saw that you were with someone. Who was it?”

What little relaxation she felt in the shift of the conversation diminished. Tiffany was lost in a sea of conflicting emotions once more.

“What do you mean, who? You took me there! You said it was your ‘favorite place to see the stars!'”

Anui’s posture stiffened. He closed his eyes momentarily, as if struggling to absorb the new information.

“You say this man looked like me?”

“What are you playing at here? Is this some kind of game to you all?!” Tiffany threw her arms out and motioned to the mirror in fury. “Yeah, he looked like you because it was you!”

Anui shook his head gravely.

“The man you saw, Tiffany, was not me. I can assure you. That vile creature has marred my reputation with his face many times. His name is Tane, and he is my brother. You should learn well to distinguish between us because he is very dangerous.”

“And what the hell does he want with Tiffany?” Anui silently pondered.

Tiffany was briefly held in disbelief, but the reality finally clicked. It explained “Anui’s” disheveled appearance and “mood swings.”

Feelings of violation washed over Tiffany’s mind. She was disgusted by how this “Tane” tried to manipulate her. She hated “Tane” for dragging her into this twisted mess, and she was frustrated that every time she finally understood the world around her, it came shattering down in another incomprehensible wave. Somewhere in the anger, she was also sad for Anui.

“You two are… identical,” she muttered.

“Only in appearance,” he informed. “Tane has spent his entire life learning my habits and using them against me. He’s a disgrace to the family and betrayer of blood.”

“I did not see this coming! Did you, Marcus?”
“An evil twin? Yeah, what a twist…”

Tiffany considered this for a moment, and then grew skeptical. “Why haven’t you arrested Tane, or sent him away? It seems like that should’ve happened ages ago, hm?”

Anui bit his lip, trying to choose his words carefully. He brought his hands together on the table and leaned closer toward Tiffany.

“Tane has a very unique condition. He’s not your average criminal, and unfortunately, I can’t say anything more than that.”

It wasn’t until now, in the full lamp light, that Tiffany could really see the expression in Anui’s eyes. He almost looked hurt, as if deep down, he wanted to tell her everything. It piqued Tiffany’s interest, and she wanted to know more.

“What-” she started hesitantly. “What is Jericho?”

Anui noticed the new softness in her voice and retaliated.

“Jericho is an elite, globally-unified organization specializing in high-profile criminal justice,” he replied coldly, veiling his face in the darkness once more.

“Two can play at that game,” Tiffany thought.

“So, if I’m getting this straight, you’re a womanizing secret agent sent on a mission to stop a dangerous mob boss, all the while being taunted by your psychotic identical twin. Oh, and you think I’m somehow connected. Does that sum it up?”

“That sounds about right to me! Hoo hoo!”
“Mom, you’re out of control.”

It left Anui speechless. He held his breath while trying to form a response.

The door to the room opened before any reply came. The black-suited man stood on the threshold, nodding Anui into the lighted hallway.

“Wait here,” he said.

The door closed and several minutes went by before Anui reappeared, holding the metal entrance open.

“You’re free to go,” he said. “However, because this is a delicate matter, we are putting you under witness protection. We’d also like to help you retrace your steps. If we can jog your memory, it could potentially produce leads in our investigation.”

Hearing this put Tiffany at ease. She reclined back, wearily, and sighed. “If you could lead me to bed, that’d be great.”

The room filled with silence.

“I didn’t mean it like that!” she stammered.

* * *

– To Be Continued

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