Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Excerpt: MAYA (A Novel)

Chapter 14
Saturday, September 8, 2012
HE RESTED FACE DOWN, his upper body sprawled over the computer desk; his hands limp by his side; he seemed dead. The word TRAITOR popped out of the computer screen above him in screaming red. That was the scene that greeted Maya when she entered Mike’s house around nine o’clock in the morning.
Still carrying a plate of home-baked cupcakes, Maya stepped backward instinctively, making a muted scream that vaporized in the droning noise from vehicular engines in downtown Harmony City. She judged she had a murder victim in her hands.
Maya’s mind raced, visiting possible killer of her young lover. Did Raul kill Mike for violating me? Maya asked in her heart. Could the killer have been Mike’s boyfriend? Yes, the one Mike had referred to as a “he” when he was leaving my house.
She was thinking on her feet, retreating in fear, wondering how she would explain what she was doing early morning in the house of a death—a “mere toddler” in relative terms—carrying a plate of freshly baked goods. Still walking backwards, she hit the first of a three-step concrete stair. She was outside in the morning sunshine feeling public exposure, oblivious to the chill of fall.
Maya turned around, instinctively looked left and right then hurried across the street, wondering who could have seen her make the journey to the cursed house. Panting heavily, gasping for air, she entered her house, pulled the door shut, and clicked the latch into place. She threw the plate of cakes into the garbage bin, ran to her bedroom and locked herself inside. She thought of sleeping until the police swarmed the neighborhood, checked the street cameras and knocked at her door, but she couldn’t lie down. It was as if the walls were closing in on her. She collapsed into a loveseat in her bedroom, but she couldn’t sit for even a minute; the image of the dead man crying in her hands was all over her mind. She jumped up, walked out of her bedroom, closing the door behind her, hoping to leave the haunting image behind. It was still there, a drunk staggering into her kitchen. Still in panic, she walked over to the kitchen window and looked across to Mike’s house only to meet his image, staring accusingly at her. She jumped backwards, knocking over several plates on her food preparation table; she fell down hard.
“Maya settle down; you didn’t kill the man,” a voice told her. She stopped crying instantly. She continued to whimper amid the broken furniture. Broken hearted, sore bodied, and unable to gather herself up, she eventually succumbed to the power of sleep.
There was a knock on the door. It was four hours since Maya fell asleep.
“O Maya, where am I,” she cried, looking about. “Yes, this is my kitchen. “What a mess,” she said, looking about. Her four-seat kitchen table had collapsed under her weight. There were pieces of broken chinaware all over the floor. She couldn’t remember what had caused the mess. Whoever had knocked at the door was ringing the doorbell.
Maya collected herself and using the full strength of her arms she pushed her body up from the floor. She had fallen awkwardly, but she was okay. There was intense pain on her lower back, but she assumed it was from her heavy fall.
She heard whoever had rung the bell cautiously open the door and walk in hesitantly. She could hear his slow footsteps. Outside, lights were flashing in the cloudy early-October evening. Her kitchen clock read two o’clock.
Maya made her first step out of the mess. She slowly was recalling last night’s events: She recalled the man in her bed for the first time in over a year. She recalled crossing Eagle Street to Number 277 only to meet Mike’s body sprawled over his computer keyboard; he seemed dead; now the police outside.
“What a mess,” Maya mumbled, resigned to her fate, the events of hours before seemed to have been in the distant past.
She was fully awake. She judged she was her own witness to the events of the night before, and she resolved to tell them as vividly as she could recall. No amount of shame shall intimidate her.
Yes, I’m Maya and not Angela Browne; yes, I had spoiled the dead man last night, but I didn’t kill him, Maya said in her heart.
The man coughed.
Raul. Could that be Raul? Maya chanced a moment to remember her husband whom she last saw after a fight with a rabid dog. Yes, the dead dog that sent her to 277 Eagle Street to start with.
No. That can’t be Raul, said Maya making a step toward the door. The thought of picking up a kitchen knife for self-defense crossed her mind, but she desisted, arguing that the neighborhood had witnessed too much tragedy in hardly fort-eight hours. She wasn’t going to risk adding another tragic event.
“Who is there?” she asked.
“May I come in? I’m Officer Jimmy Depuy,” announced the now famous police officer.
“Come in Officer Depuy. I hope you come in peace,” said Maya.
“Ms Maya, confirm that that is your name,” said the police officer, anxious to cover a lot of ground in a short time.
“I need a lawyer, Sir,” said Maya.
“You may need a lawyer for other reasons, but I want you to know that Raul, your friend, has been placed under quarantine. He could have exposed himself to the germs from the dead dog of two days ago. Excuse me, Ma’am, but I’m assuming that you’re Maya, and that you’re the same woman known as Angela. We have conversed before,” said Jimmy Depuy, talking as calmly as he could muster.
“You may assume that I’m Maya, and that Raul is ‘my friend,’” replied Maya, realizing that her anonymity was no more.
“If you want to visit with Raul, I can give you a ride,” said Officer Depuy.
“Thank you, Sir, but I’ve my own ride,” responded Maya, though, like most of Downtown Harmony residence, she didn’t drive.
“Maya, my friend, I sent you four roses before, when your friend killed the dog. I come here in good faith. This city has camera’s working 24/7. They record when you leave your house, when you spit on the grass, when you look at a young man the wrong way. The same camera knows that I’m here. Do you get where I’m going?” said Jimmy Depuy, surprised at how normal she felt to the rogue supposed relative.
“No Sir!” responded Maya. She found the young officer adorable yet repulsive; he felt somewhat holy to her. But why? She wondered.
“Across the road, we have a dead man. He’s the man who lost his dog. If Raul had not killed that dog, which left a mark on him, I wouldn’t be here, and you wouldn’t have been associated with the dead man and in life and in death. You know that he’s dead. In fact, you were the first person to discover his body. I know that to be the case. The question is why you failed to call 911,” probed Jimmy Depuy.
“I need a lawyer, Officer Depuy,” said Maya calmly.
“Maya, when you get your lawyer, call me as a witness. If Raul’s case ever goes to trial, remember to call me as a witness,” offered Jimmy Depuy.
“Who killed the man?” asked Maya.
“I need a lawyer too. Let’s go, now that they have taken the body away.”
“I’m not traveling in a police car,” declared Maya, wondering why the police officer was bending over backwards to be helpful to her; she wondered why he always spirited Raul from legally compromising situations.
“I used my car. Pull yourself together quickly, get organized; we are going to see Raul, let’s go,” commanded Officer Depuy.
“O Officer Depuy, the nice copy in a strange city. Why did you volunteer to serve in this strange city where a dog and its owner just die in broad daylight? Don’t answer that, you’re still young. Get something from the fridge as I freshen up,” she found herself ranting motherly, her face teary.
Officer Depuy thought of screaming, “Auntie Maya; it is me,” but he again had no courage to do so, before she disappeared into the interior of the house before the perplexed man could respond.
She took her time to freshen up.
Jimmy debated whether to taste something from his supposed blood relative’s fridge. What the heck! I’ll drink a soda, he said in his heart. A blood relative is always one however corrupt and flawed she or he is. So saying, he opened the fridge and grabbed a bottle of a ginger-ale drink.
When Maya was ready for the difficult journey. She recalled the murder of her one-time lover, Mike. Now, she was going to see her husband she had not touched in a year. The contradiction hit her hard. Internally, she was an emotional wreck. On any other day, she could have rejected the offer for a ride, but Raul was in trouble, and she had to go quickly.
“Are you arresting me?” she asked offering her hands.
“No, I’m a friend. I’m not the investigating officer. You must go and see Raul. Make sure you’ve your keys,” he said, letting her lead the way.
“Whoever you are, Mr. Depuy, you are a complete contrast to other police officers.”
“Why do you say that?”
“You are drinking a soda from a strange woman’s fridge,’ Maya said in admiration.
“I did because I love Raul, his habits along Harmony streets regardless,” declared Depuy, opening the right passenger door for Maya.
“I can’t sit there. That seat is for Mrs. Depuy,” protested Maya.
“Mrs. Raul, please!”
She entered the car. His voice overwhelmed her; she thought he sounded like an angry Raul. She believed she heard a voice from the past—a voice of the younger Raul—the Latino boy who gave her a child she was denied the chance to name, a child she didn’t suckle. Forget it, he can’t be! A voice told her.
However, now sitting that close to Officer Depuy, Maya was the more convinced that she was listening to Raul; only Officer Depuy was younger. The similarities in their manners and speech patterns became the more discernible when Mr. Depuy wasn’t giving orders, as was the case in the last series of sentences.
He drove in silence, even as she wished that he spoke again. She thought of asking him whether he was Raul’s nephew, walking in an assumed name. But why would he do that? Maya wondered.
Even with the sonic concurrence, it don’t occur to Maya that Depuy could have had Arkansas roots like her; it don’t occur to her that a past she ran away from could have traveled from Arkansas to New York. Depuy’s name itself was alien to her ears. She never met or heard of a Depuy before she met Officer Jimmy Depuy of Harmony East Police Station.
The police officer took Maya to the hospital, where Raul was under quarantine. He left her at the reception after a brief introduction to the woman in charge.>