The Club from Hell
Chapter THIRTEEN, by Will Gens
He missed Sam, achingly so, thousands of miles away, he needed Sam here…he needed Jill here too, he didn’t care how or why but he was going to get her back. “Sorry, my friend, I’m going to have to do it without you, as much as I hate that,” he smiled, proud that another close call with his Scotch friend had come and gone. He hoisted an empty shot glass, “Bottoms up!”
John must have dozed off because the chimes of his cell indicating a voicemail woke him out of a troubled sleep, his neck hurt too because he fell asleep awkwardly on the second-hand love seat, which he had garnered from the alley behind his building — discarded (and no doubt for good reason), it smelled a bit of urine, cat urine, but he couldn’t prove it, doing his best to douse it in rubbing alcohol. He used to tell his kids when he was cleaning the house and Jill was at the club, “Alcohol will kill any bacteria, it smells good–ah, tastes even better–and it’s good for the environment.” Their house always smelled like the hallways in a hospital, the kids used to make fun of him if they made a mess, “Nurse dad, get the swab and alcohol.”
He fumbled a bit with the cell log and didn’t recognize the incoming call, thought twice, and went to his voicemail. “John, this is Bianca, John, where the fuck are you, pick up…it’s Jessica, I mean it’s a lead, a big time lead, I need you to call me back ASAP…shit, I hope you aren’t passed out. John, please tell me you didn’t…”
“John, what the hell, are you sober, clear-headed?”
“Yes, Bianca, as a judge, but what is the lead, cut this other crap, what do you have?”
“Okay”, her heart raced, she tried to catch her breath, “I received this very strange email from a Mr. Chander Sivilingam, out of Chennai, India.”
“Bianca, Chennai, India, what does this have to do with Jessica!” he shouted.
“John, I’m getting to that, don’t interrupt…” John eyed the bottle of Scotch, he was really unnerved, he thought, a quick shot or two could really steady him. But he snapped to his mantra (sober, clear-headed and ready).
“Mr. Sivilingam owns a very successful outsourcing technology company in Chennai, India, which is in South India about four hours’ flight from Dubai.
“What is outsourcing?” John asked.
“It’s when companies, big companies, pay cheaper prices to have their technology developed and maintained for a fraction of the cost for doing it onsite in the UK or the US. Mr. Sivilingam was one of the early players and built a mega firm that has 30,000 employees billing at around five billion pounds per year!”
“Okay”, said John, waiting for more.
“So he said he read about Jessica’s disappearance in the papers, he usually doesn’t read the English papers, but he happened to be at the Chennai Cricket Club one morning, eating his usual 15 yokeless hard-boiled eggs, I think he’s a health nut, and there was a British couple there as guests of one of the members, and he overheard them talking about this missing girl and how it baffled police and investigators…when they left, they left the paper on the table and he picked it up and started reading it.” She paused “I haven’t gotten to the best part…so he’s reading it and he told me later that his blood went cold, literally ice cold, he–”
“What do you mean?” John interrupted.
“Just wait, give me time to explain it then you can ask questions, trust me you won’t believe it.” She added, “I didn’t at first believe it.” She continued, “Anyways, his voice was quite shaken when he called me and said he read the story in the Mirror and the case seemed almost identical to his daughter’s case four years ago.” She added quickly, “Of course my first question to him was how did he get my number and how did he know I was involved in the case? To which he replied, and I quote, ‘I have many international business connections, including significant ones in Dubai, UK and the US…it didn’t take me long. But to put your mind at rest, I can give you some references in Dubai, the UK and the US.’ John, he dropped some names at Scotland Yard and the FBI. I didn’t check Dubai, and someone named Jim Folks or Faulks — couldn’t get a hold of him, but the others at Scotland Yard and FBI knew Mr. Sivilingam and vouched for him.
John shot back, “What does he mean, his daughter’s case!?”
“John, I’m getting to that, hang on, I have another call coming in, and it’s from Mr. Sivilingam.”
The phone went dead, “Damn,” said John.
He tried calling Bianca back it went straight to voicemail, he heard the beep, his battery was dying. “Shit, shit, shit”, he yelped as he stubbed his toe on that infernal love seat that smelled like urine as he went for the charger behind it. He stood by there as far as the charge could reach, and thinking that he had to get rid of this loveseat, it really does smell like cat urine. 15 minutes went by as he waited, eying the Scotch, his mind racing: Jessica, Jessica, what could be the connection?
His cell chimed, he answered it immediately, not checking who it was, “Jill! What, I can’t hear you…Steve and what…you’re breaking up?…Call me later.” He noticed an incoming call from Bianca and it crossed his mind that Jill was calling him awfully late.
“John, I have Mr. Sivilingam conferenced in. Mr. Sivilingam, are you there?”
He responded distantly, with an ever so slight hint of South Indian accent, “Yes, I am here. Mr. Smith? I hope I haven’t caused you undue alarm, it wasn’t my intention. But I felt it my duty to contact you and Ms. Bianca because your case, from what I read in the paper, is so strikingly similar to what happened to my daughter…Mr. Smith, are you there?”
John slowly responded, “Mr. Sivi-Sivi…”
“Sivilingam” Mr. Sivilingam finished for him, “Mr. Chander Sivilingam, President and CEO of Universal Outsourcing, LTD located in Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore, with offices in London and New York.”
“Mr. Sivilingam, please tell John what you told me,” Bianca said. “John, just listen, questions later,” she added.
Mr. Sivilingam proceeded to explain how his then 13-year-old daughter was an avid squash player who trained out of a Chennai institute run by a renowned coach of Indian squash, Syrill Sancha. She was quite good but a bit of a hot-head, especially in tournaments…
Mr. Sivilingam’s voice faltered, John noticed and he wondered if she was still alive. Mr. Sivilingam sort of gathered himself a bit and continued, “She was playing in a tournament at the Institute and there were junior players from all over, a big tournament. Her ‘nanny,’ Vidya Suriya, a most diligent woman who helped raise — sorry, my daughter’s name is Shamini — raised her from the time she was a baby, took her as she always did to the tournaments. After her second-round match, which she won, she went to the locker room and simply vanished.”
John had to interrupt. “Is she okay, is SHE OKAY, Mr. Sivilingam, I need to know, ’cause if they hurt her and they are the same people….”
Bianca jumped in, “John, just let him finish, she’s alive and at home with them but there’s more.”
It was 5:00 in the morning by the time John got off the call with Bianca and Mr. Sivilingam, his mind racing. He had to find his passport. “Where the fuck is the passport? I can never find this stuff, I swear if God lets me fix all of this and my family is safe, I will change, I will change this — entire damn…Jill, I’ve got to call Jill.” He pressed the return call on her number and it rang, her voicemail picked up….he paused, thinking of her in a sexy negligee in the arms of Steve, Steve the home wrecker, the bastard. He shook that from his head, “C’mon, focus,” and left Jill a cryptic message.
“Jill, some big lead on Jessica, I’m going to track it down…” He stopped himself, something told him don’t give the whereabouts, don’t give her too many details, she had a right to know, but Steve, Steve he didn’t trust and besides Steve would usurp him and somehow claim the heroics. John was only thinking about Jessica. He dashed off a quick email to Sam, Sam, he didn’t even know where Sam was, something about New York.
He and Bianca settled into the first-class British Airways seats, compliments of Mr. Sivilingam. “John, this is crazy isn’t it, what if there is a connection to his daughter’s case?”
He seemed lost in his own world as he stared out the window while the plane was taxiing to the runway. “I need some sleep, I need my friend, Mr. Scotch, or maybe some of those small little jigger relatives of his, what I wouldn’t do for a double and a cube of ice,” he thought as he closed his eyes. Bianca was a nervous flier and furiously thumbed through the airline merchandise catalogue, not really stopping to check anything out, just furiously flipping through the pages.
They had an eight-hour layover in Dubai before flying on to Chennai. Mr. Sivilingam had arranged for them to clean up in one of the very elegant and posh spas in the airport. “Bianca,” John said, “This guy must have a lot of pull.”
“Yeah”, said Bianca. “He seems like he’s on the up and up.”
“Let’s hope so,” John added.
“The shower, steam and massage will feel great,” Bianca said as she looked at John. “You holding up okay?”
“Yeah, I’m okay, need some food I think and a stiff…“
“John! Don’t even think it, if we get through this and we find her, I promise I’ll take you out and get you shit-faced with the best Scotch on the planet.”
While John was waiting for Bianca to get her massage, he got out his lap top, connected to the airport Wi-Fi and Googled Chander Sivilingam. He was quite stunned; there was a lot about his business, then a lot about his daughter’s disappearance, then some amazing articles about Shamini Sivilingam and her squash. She was a squash phenomenon, known throughout India, nothing short of miraculous. He couldn’t believe what he read over and over: “ShaminiSivilingam, blind squash player, wins again.” “Blind Girl Defies Squash Reality” – why hadn’t anyone in the UK mentioned her. Blind squash, is this something out of science fiction? Then John thought, “Well, they have blind golf. He read how the girl had been a rising star before a terrible accident four years ago had blinded her.
A tune came into his head John hummed that “Pinball Wizard” song from the rock opera “Tommy” by The Who – and then a thought panicked him about his own daughter: did the same people who had done that to Shamini plan to do that to Jessica as well? Bianca came bouncing out of the spa and snapped him out of those panicked thoughts — they walked a bit before they were heralded by a smartly dressed limo driver and taken quickly through security into an awaiting black Mercedes.
“…But I ain’t seen nothing like her
In any squash hall.
That — blind kid
Sure plays a mean squash ball!”
John played it over in his head while they zipped through the streets of Dubai.
WILL GENS writes the blog SquashDashersbashers.blogspot.com.
He is passionate about poetry and squash. He is pursuing a graduate degree in Poetry at Adelphi University, writes about squash, coaches squash and when not on the court is working on Wall Street in software testing.
He lives with his wife, Shyamala, and his son, Kyle, a semi-professional squash pro and classics student at Hunter college. He also has a daughter, Alexandra, living in Florida and planning to attend medical school.
He would someday in this lifetime love to see both a U.S. born player reach the top 10 on the world squash tour and witness the total elimination of petroleum driven cars.
Next Up: Chapter FOURTEEN by Tracy J. Gates