Fiction: Transmutation Chapter Fifty Seven

Chapter Fifty Seven

Daaem’s head pounded. He’d had the television on for the past hour for some background noise – he couldn’t stand it when the apartment was completely quiet, it felt like a grave – but even that little noise was worsening his headache.

He looked around for the remote but was distracted by what had just come up on the screen. A photograph of Qasim with a slowly moving line of text underneath it.

Qasim Amal, son of convicted millionaire Mehmood Amal, found dead earlier today.’

The blood drained from Daaem’s face and he lunged for the remote to turn up the volume. The newscaster briefly rehashed Mehmood’s crimes and then moved on to the next item of news.

Aabirah. She’d told him… How could he ever have doubted that she truly was in danger. Daaem remembered refusing to hire her a bodyguard and bile rose up in his throat. God, he’d been a fool.

Was she alright? Did she even know what had happened?

Daaem grabbed his cellphone and dialled her number, waiting impatiently for the call to connect. If she didn’t answer, he’d… Nothing. He had no idea where she was.

Aabirah answered before he could dwell on this new worry for longer than a moment. “Hello?” she slurred, voice thick with sleep.

Are you alright?” Daaem asked urgently.

Daaem? Why are you calling in the middle of the night?” she asked grumpily.

Sorry, I didn’t realize the time,” Daaem lied, relieved. She was fine. And she clearly didn’t know what had happened to her older brother.

Should he tell her? Daaem couldn’t bring himself to. It was the middle of the night – surely someone would tell her in the day? If she didn’t know by the end of tomorrow, he’d have to tell her. But for now, for now she could fall back asleep still unaware of the tragedy.

Go back to sleep,” he told Aabirah. “Sorry for waking you.”

Night,” she chirped, smothering a yawn. “Talk to you tomorrow.”

Yeah,” Daaem agreed. “Tomorrow.”

That’s a horrible thing to say,” Aabirah whispered, staring at Jake. “Take it back.”

Aabirah, I’m sorry but it’s true,” Jake told her miserably. “I’m so sorry,” he said again. “Qasim’s gone – it’s all over the news.”

Aabirah shook her head. “Stop it!” she snapped at Jake, furious now. “Stop saying that! It’s not true, it’s not.”

Jake handed her a newspaper and made her look. “It’s true,” he said, unyielding. “It’s right here, it’s true.”

Why was he being so cruel. Aabirah tried to pull away. “Let go of me. Let go!” Her voice rose to a shriek.

Jake dropped her wrists. “I’m sorry,” he told her again. “I’m so sorry.”

They’re wrong,” Aabirah insisted. They had to be. Qasim couldn’t be dead. Her older brother could not be dead. He just couldn’t. He was on a beach somewhere enjoying the sun. He wasn’t… wasn’t -.

Aabirah looked pleadingly at Jake. “Take it back,” she whispered. “You have to take it back.”

I can’t,” he said sadly. “I can’t take it back Princess.” He seemed to droop, defeated.

He’s not dead,” Aabirah insisted again. “They’re wrong.”

Aabirah, listen to me,” Jake made her look at him. “They’re not wrong. Too many people are saying the same thing.”

Aabirah shook her head stubbornly. “Qasim’s smart. He wouldn’t let this happen to him. He’s too clever for that.”

Jake sighed and collapsed down onto their couch. “They found a body,” he said robotically. “There are photos,” he indicated an envelope lying on the kitchen table.

Aabirah reached for it and Jake shot back up. “No, don’t-!”

It was too late. Aabirah had already yanked it open. The envelope dropped from her suddenly numb fingers.

Jake swore and grabbed her. “Don’t focus on it,” he instructed her. “Let it go, don’t keep thinking about it.”

Aabirah wasn’t listening. “He’s dead,” she said. “Qasim is – he’s dead.”

Yes, he is,” Jake agreed.

She felt cold.

You’re in shock,” Jake told her, guiding her to the couch. “Just sit her for a second, okay?”

Aabirah nodded dumbly.

Here,” A cup was thrust into her hands. It was swaying lightly. Aabirah looked up at Jake.

Why is the cup moving?”

He laughed, looking strangely sad. “Your hands are shaking Princess.”

Oh,” Aabirah examined her hands. They were shaking. “That’s funny,” she observed. “Why are they doing that? The tea’s gonna spill.”

Drink some of it,” Jake suggested.

Aabirah took a few swallows of tea. Qasim flashed in front of her eyes again and the mug fell from her hands, dumping hot tea in her lap.

My brother’s dead, Jake.”

Aabirah wasn’t answering her phone anymore and Daaem was ready to climb the walls, he was so frantic.

Not knowing whether she was safe was driving him insane. He’d been useless all day and had in the end just cancelled all his remaining meetings to sit on his laptop and try to dig up information. He just needed to know that she wasn’t hurt. That was all.

But he hadn’t even managed to find her the first time around – Adam had done that.

Adam! Adam knew where Aabirah was. He just needed to call Adam to find out.

Voicemail.

Daaem groaned, resisting the urge to fling his phone against a wall. Why was no one answering his calls today?

When his phone began to ring, it made him jump for a moment before he snatched it up. “Hello?”

Hey, Daaem. What’s wrong, you sound odd?”

Daaem outlined the situation quickly, feeling even more panicky now that he’d said it all out loud.

There was silence on the other end of the line.

Adam?” Daaem asked uncertainly. “Are you still there?”

I’m coming to your office,” Adam announced abruptly. “I need to finish a few things here but I’ll be there soon.”

What? No! I need to know where Aabirah is! Tell me where she is.”

I’ll tell you when I get there,” Adam said tersely.

But she’s in danger! I couldn’t get hold of her at all – I can’t wait for you to get done with your business day!” Daaem shouted, outraged. Didn’t Adam understand?

Daaem, I’ll make sure she’s safe, okay? Don’t worry, let me handle this.”

How can you make sure she’s safe?” Daaem asked, thoroughly confused.

The same way I could find her in the first place. Just trust me, okay?”

Okay,” Daaem said finally. “But hurry.”

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