Was it love? Luis Brown twisted this abstraction, this indefinable question, in his mind. It was the only puzzle that remained after he had answered every other Conundrum. No matter whatever else was in his head, he could not escape her image, nor that cruel, hard question. Shouting and blearing like anti-heretical music over the monastically lived life, almost fulfilled and serene, he found himself unable to untie the knots that she had magically woven around him.
Twenty years had passed since Emma had first crossed his path. Thousands of days, nights and other people had populated his life, his memories and his emotions. Now with the sun was setting, not just on his career, but also on his life. Those that told him that he had conquered the world, his small world, he would add, her image remained. Even when he was in the MRI scanner, listening to Rachmaninov through the headphones, he could see her. He could sense that she was close by. A whisper away from him.
Emma Jones was eighteen, Luis Brown was twenty seven. He was in his first full year as an Inspector. She was at university. This was his first posting away from the town where he had grown up. Emma had decided to stay in the town, close to her parents.
Throughout his career, Luis had solved some of the biggest crimes in the land. He sought corruption of top politicians, he had blown apart the financial scams of organised crime and he had put behind bars some of the worst criminals the courts had ever come across. However, each day ended with the image of her. No matter what he was doing, Emma Jones was there. A mythical presence.
He wondered what their life together would have been like?
Sometimes at the end of day, he would walk from his office to the pub, sit quietly at the bar sipping his whisky, smoking his cigarettes and pondering where she was. Her youth was eternal, whereas Luis aged. He had became gaunt, his blue eyes growing milky in colour and the black bags under them more defined. The creases in his features more pronounced, a craggy face that wore a pained expression. His hair greying, his beard even more so. His accolades grew too. A scourge on the criminal world. He was not part of any club, nor did he want to be. Books were his faith and from there he entered the world each day and then each evening, he retreated back to those sacred tomes.
In the dim light of his flat, he would select a book to match his mood and then think, ‘would Emma approve?’
A glass of whisky on the small table by his chair, sometimes, he would close his eyes and imagine she was there.
Luis never told anyone he was ill. He didn‘t utter a word that cancer had come to kill. Carrying on as normal, even though, he often had to disappear to the toilets and spew up blood and bile. The pain never let up, and the drugs only seemed to last minutes to alleviate the distresses that cursed his benevolent self. In those moments when the disease drove through his core, he was grateful that they had given him his own office, with bookshelves and a view across the ancient capital. In those moments, he would swivel around on his chair, and count the places where he had solved a crime. At the height of his powers, his reach over those that broke the law seemed almost legendary. His name was synonymous with catching any criminal.
An ironic smile would cross his features and from the desk drawers pull the brown envelope and then he would place the file before him. It was the only case he had never solved.
The missing teenager, Emma Jones.