Michael Davis, one of the best detectives in his police department was married to Shirley, a third grade teacher in a local school. Thanks to his persistent attitude to work and his ability to garner team commitment, a lot of organized crime groups had been busted and the leaders locked behind bars. Most of the investigative work involved going undercover which brought some strain in his courtship with Shirley. But Shirley was understanding or maybe because she had always wanted to marry a man in uniform. She was madly in love with him and that made the strain more bearable.
Thankfully, when they got married, Michael’s direct involvement in undercover operations was reduced to coordinating works at the office. So he spent more time with his wife. After two years of marriage, Shirley gave birth to a bouncy baby boy whom he named after his brother whom he lost to drugs, Marvin. Life was comfortable and Shirley was happy to finally have a husband who returned home from work every day. But that was about to change.
Information reached Davis’ office that one wanted man suspected of pushing drugs and trafficking sex slaves was running a seemingly noble business: laundry services. It was ironic for a laundry business to be set up as a cover for a money laundry business as well.
The mastermind behind such a carefully crafted lucrative business was Louis Cortez. He vanished under the radar for years and was even presumed dead at a point following a raid on one of his compounds. But the feds had to take that back when he somehow arose out of the ashes with reports that he was operating in another city. So far, nothing concrete had been found on him to bring him in. A few detectives who attempted to get close were found out and terminated…with no trace back to him.
This was probably the last chance for Michael Davis and his team to catch Cortez and bring him out to face justice. It was a dangerous task and it demanded the best amongst them to go undercover if they were to have a chance of getting close to him. After many deliberations, it was decided about who was to take up the task.
“Why does it have to be you?” Shirley screamed.
“You’re the boss now, right? That means you get to delegate responsibilities. Why do you have to go into the field?”
“Because there’s more chance at success if I do this myself,” Michael said.
“Then you’ve done a terrible job as a leader, Mike! You have a wife and a two-year old son to take care of, do I need to remind you of that?”
“I know this would be hard but it is for our country…” “Marvin and I are your country, Mike! I don’t care if the target is a drug lord or whatever, if some crazy guys prefer to sniff stuff till they drop dead, why should you have to put your life on the line to save them?”
“I need you to stay strong for Marvin, Shirley. It might take a while this time but I promise to be back.”
“That isn’t good enough. What would happen to you if you’re discovered?”
“Let’s not think about that, dear. Hopefully, it won’t come to that.”
“You can’t tell me it’s not a possibility to consider. You have a family!”
“And that’s why I’ve determined to come back safe and sound. I just need your blessing.”
“And if I refuse to give it, would you change your mind?” “I’m sorry.”
“Then so am I.” She entered the bedroom and slammed the door. Michael could hear her crying. This was difficult for him too, having to leaving them behind. He’d miss many precious moments of his son growing up but this was his job, his duty. For God and country.
After an extensive meeting about the details of his cover and kissing his son goodbye and hugging his crying wife, he took a bus to start his mission.
Maureen was an attendant at a local restaurant in a small town. Nothing much used to happen in the town till one Louis Cortez opened a laundry service in the town. The business seemed to be booming and a lot of new faces seemed to be surfacing in town. This was good for Maureen and her colleagues because it meant good business for the restaurants and a lot of tips from the customers. Since it was a small town, Maureen knew almost everyone making it easy to spot a fresh face the instant he or she walked into the restaurant.
Her eyes darted to the door when a good-looking man came inside. He gave her a smile when their eyes met and he walked toward her.
“Good day. What’s on your menu today?” She gave him the menu to glance through.
“Which one would you recommend for me?” She pointed to the third on the list. He smiled.
“Then that’s what I’ll have.”
“Coming right up. Please make yourself comfortable.”
“Do you mind if I sit here at the counter?”
“Nope.” She made the order.
“Will be ready in a few minutes. Want a drink?”
“A glass of water will do.” She placed the glass in front of him. He thanked her and gulped it down.
“New here, huh?” He chuckled.
“You can tell?”
“Uh huh. Passing through or settling in?”
“The latter. Lodged at a motel not far from here. Care to help me with a cheap place to rent?”
“Yeah, I think I can.”
“I’m Derek Thorne,” he introduced himself, offering his hand.
“I’m Maureen,” she replied, taking it. He had a firm grip.
“Welcome to my humble town.”
“Thank you, Maureen.”
Within a week, Derek had earned a working spot in Cortez’s laundry thanks to Maureen’s help. Since she knew quite a lot about the township, she helped him settle in quite fast. They began to hang out more often. After a month, Derek found himself falling for Maureen. For his life here to be stabilized in the eyes of the locals, he had to ‘settle down’. And who else would he do that with if not Maureen?
Maureen found Derek intriguing. She could tell something significant brought him to her otherwise insignificant town but he kept saying he had had a tough life before and he just wanted a chance to start all over. Maybe it was love because she believed him despite her inner misgivings.
Slowly but steadily, Derek became one of the top guys working at the laundry. Maureen already had her suspicions about the activities at the laundry and would often question Derek about it but he would dismiss her claims saying they were just rumors. Derek convinced himself that marrying Maureen was the right thing and he proposed. And Maureen said yes.
They got married at the city hall. The priest looked unfamiliar but Maureen was too excited to give it much thought. They moved in together and life was great. Derek was paid pretty well for his job, one whose specificities were still unknown to her. He had an office which was out of bounds. She wasn’t to touch anything in here. He would clean the office himself. Maureen thought it was strange but he didn’t give her any reason to suspect anything and decided to leave it be.
A year later, Maureen gave birth to a lovely baby girl and was named Chloe. Derek was overwhelmed with her and would spend hours just admiring her. On Chloe’s second birthday, he threw her a party which was grand considering the size of the town.
A few months after that, after a romantic night out, Derek told his wife how much he had grown to love her and how he appreciated her love ever since he came into the town.
“Are you okay?” She asked.
“Yeah. When I first came here, the last thing on my mind was to find love here and enjoy it this much. You and Chloe have brought me this much joy. I want you to know I really love you…for real.” “I love you too, Derek Thorne.”
Some days later, news broke that Louis Cortez and some of his guys had been arrested on some drug and human trafficking charges and the whole town was in disarray. Maureen tried calling her husband to find out if he was okay but his phone was switched off. She went to the police station to find out if he was among the ones arrested but he wasn’t. She went back home but he wasn’t there.
That morning was the last time she set eyes on him.
Shirley was happy to have her husband back after more than two years. Apparently, his operation was a success but he didn’t seem as excited as he used to be with his previous operations. Something must have happened to him on the field, Shirley thought. He only said he had to do certain things he wasn’t proud of to make his cover story air-tight. He wouldn’t say exactly what he did. He said he did nothing really illegal but he knew what he did was wrong.
“That’s behind you now, honey. After testifying against him in court, you can move on.”
“I hope so too.”
Thankfully, the evidence Michael was able to gather about Cortez was solid enough to earn him some prison time. His job was considered so well done that the governor gave him a badge of honor. He should have felt content but his unfinished business kept him from celebrating his success. If only he could go back and tie the loose ends…
But Michael Davis didn’t get the chance to. He was fatally shot by one of the Cortez’s guys who had gone rogue and he died hours later. Tears had flowed from his eyes during his last moments. He didn’t want to leave like this. But it was too late for him.
Shirley mourned him for months. He blamed his department for what had happened to her husband. She couldn’t get the chance to spend enough time with him because of his undercover duty which took him out of town for more than two years. Marvin was too young to understand what was going on. But he grew up learning that his father was a hero who had died in the line of duty.
Chloe grew up into a lovely girl. Never known her father and seeing how perpetually morose her mother was, she wanted to find her father and tell him to his face what a terrible man he was. They had had to move out of town to resettle in a new place after Cortez was arrested. The police said it was for their own good but they wouldn’t say what had happened to her father, Derek Thorne. Time will tell, she told herself.
She went out of state for college and there she met Marvin Davis. They became friends and found they shared similar stories. One common ground was them growing up without a father.
“My father left my mother without a word and never came back.”
“My father died a hero but I never knew him. Kind of sucks.”
“Yours was a hero; mine a coward. I’ll choose yours any day.” “I know. Sorry about your dad.” She shrugged.
“No love lost…there was none to begin with so I’m cool.”
“I hope to be a better father than yours,” Marvin said.
“I hope so too. Being a crappy father messes up the kids.”
“Are you messed up?”
“Can’t you tell?” They both laughed.
Chloe told her mother all about the sweetheart she had found at college. Out of curiosity, Maureen asked her to invite him over for a weekend. He seemed like a nice boy. And he made her daughter happy. Hopefully, he’d give her the life that Derek denied her. So she gave them her blessing.
One fateful day, she came across an old newspaper with a photo which looked strikingly similar to Derek Thorne. She picked it up and read it. It was a tragic story about a detective called Michael Davis who went undercover and brought down the notorious drug dealer Louis Cortez.
“This is Derek…my Derek. How is it possible?”
She rushed to the city hall to confirm her marriage to him but apparently, her marriage was a hoax. There was no record of her getting married there and the priest never existed. She went back home in tears. Her life with Derek was a sham and she had kept holding on to memories about someone who was just an illusion. She entered the storeroom which contained most of his things from his office. She had not touched or searched through them since she moved into her new place out of respect for him but she had to find out more. She found some unsent letters to one Shirley. She didn’t have to read too much to know it was his wife and he kept asking about how his son Marvin was growing. She blinked.
“Marvin? Marvin Davis…Michael Davis?” This was too much of a coincidence.
Chloe had graduated from college and was talking of getting married to her sweetheart. She had to confirm her fears before an abomination happened.
“Mum, Marvin and I having been looking at apartments to settle in when we get married. I’m so excited!”
“I’m happy for you, dear but I need to see his family.” “I know. I figured after we’re done with the planning, we’d have one happy family dinner.”
“No, I need to see his family as soon as possible.” “Is something wrong?”
“Not too sure but I hope not. I’m coming over in two days. Can you arrange a meet?”
“Sure, of course. I’ll let Marvin know. Are you sure all is okay?” “Yes, dear. I’ll see you when I arrive.”
Maureen didn’t know what to expect. Whether to have her fears confirmed or debunked was a hope she couldn’t decide on. She wanted her daughter to be happy but she wanted to know the truth about the man she had loved and lived with.
So off she went and was warmly welcomed into Shirley’s home. After having lunch, Maureen politely asked to have a look at the family album. Shirley handed it to her and the first page made her heart sink. It was him. Derek Thorne.
“I read in a newspaper that he was involved with the Louis Cortez’s case. How involved was he?”
“He went undercover for over two years. It was a very difficult time for me. Kept wondering what he was doing, how he was faring in such a danger zone,” Shirley replied. Maureen nodded, tears filling her eyes. She looked up to see her daughter with her boyfriend holding hands, chatting, in their own little world. She cleared her throat.
“I’m sorry honey but…you two can’t get married,” she announced.
“What?” They all looked at her, shocked.
“Mummy, why? I thought you liked Marvin.”
“I do but it’s not possible.”
“I’m sorry, did I say something wrong?” Shirley asked.
Maureen brought out a photo from her bag and showed it to Shirley.
“This is why.” Shirley stared at the photo. She took it from her. It was a photo of her with her husband, holding a baby. She gave her a confused look.
“What is it?”
“To me, he is Derek Thorne; Chloe’s father.”
Chloe stood up. What’s going on?”
“Have a look at Marvin’s father, dear.” She looked at it. She blinked.
“He looks like…”
“Your father; yes because he is.”
“What are you saying?” “You are half siblings, Chloe.” “Is that a joke?” Marvin asked.
“Apparently, marrying me and having a family was part of his undercover operation. And I recently found out our marriage was a hoax as well. I’m sorry, honey.” Chloe broke into tears. Marvin hugged her and tried to comfort her.
“I had no idea he had stayed with another woman out there. He never mentioned it.”
“Why would he?”
“But we are in love,” Marvin said.
“Maureen is right. The wedding is off.” “Just like that?”
“This is non-negotiable.”
“This is not fair. Isn’t it possible that they just look alike?”
“I know this sounds like a nightmare but it is what it is.”
“Please tell me you didn’t sleep together.” The lovebirds stared at each other.
“What do you mean?”
“I think I’m pregnant.”
“What?!” Both mothers screamed.
“Okay…how far long?”
“It needs to come out.”
“Oh no; it’s not.”
“You can’t give birth to that.”
“That? It’s my baby!” “I’m sorry. But this can’t work out.”
“Says who? We’re getting married and we’re having this baby. I am Chloe Thorne getting married to Marvin Davis. That’s it.”
“But Derek Thorne is Michael Davis. You can’t ignore that.”
“No one has to know that.”
“I’ve spent more than two decades thinking my husband had abandoned me not knowing he has been dead this whole time. You have to understand. I’m sorry I didn’t find out about his past. I guess I didn’t want to know. I knew there was something there but I refused to consider it,” Maureen said.
“It’s intriguing how fate has made you two cross paths but at least you find comfort that you share the same blood. I noticed something was off with him when he returned but I never thought it could be about another woman, ” Shirley said.
Chloe and Marvin stared at each other. Ignore the facts and fight for their love or accept them and let go? What about the baby?
Any lessons to be learnt?
© Josephine Amoako 2016