The lone figure in the rundown building studies his torso in the shadows. The only source of illumination is an old lamp with a dull shade, courtesy of years of accumulation of grime. He is becoming used to the fading scars acquired from nearly 17 years in captivity in some remote place in South America.

He was abducted from the family farm as he took care of the few goats that roamed the yard one early morning. It was just him and his brother tending the farm since their parents passed and had left the farm to both of them. They had both been in their thirties, with nearly a nine-year gap between them. He had been dating a girl then and they were going to get married, but things hadn’t worked out between them, as the girl did not want anything to do with living in a farm anymore, being raised in a farm herself. She had wanted to live as many miles away from the nearest farm as possible and had felt that living in the city was easier.

He gives a grim smile as he thinks back to the time of his abduction as he was being driven under the watchful and volatile presence of four armed men who had struck a drug deal with his brother, from what they had callously told him. They had driven for almost three days and finally got to Mexico. They were courteous in their manners towards him, except for the abduction part and the way they gleefully explained about his brother’s involvement. It had been a great shock of insurmountable proportions to him, as his initial thought when he was abducted was that his brother would definitely find a way to arrange for a search and rescue team for him.

Everything had changed dramatically for him when they arrived at a hacienda. This was an impressive looking one-story home built with bricks in a ranch style and sitting on about 500 hectares of land. The garden was luscious with a lot of exotic flowers. He had come out of the vehicle uncertainly and was sharply prodded to move forward with the nose of a semi-automatic. He had felt bereft at his brother’s betrayal and treachery and had wondered for the 100th time what could have driven his brother to be part of such a cruel plan. He had no long to wait for his question to be answered as they entered a vast room in red and gold décor, where a thin, wizened man seated imperiously on a black leather sofa waved his thin hands for him to sit down.

The man, who looked about 70, had begun by apologizing for the way and manner that he had been brought to his home, and had admitted that he hated having to use such gangster tactics. Then he had introduced himself as Señor Julio Santos and inquired about his brother’s welfare. He had looked stupefied for a moment, then, recovering quickly, had replied silently that he didn’t know that he had a brother. This comment had been followed by a click of the gun as the safety was released. The man, giving a lope-sided smile, had then made it clear that he would be shot if he made any wisecracks again. A tray containing a lone cocktail had been brought to him by a squat woman of average height with sharp-looking features. She had looked like one who was more used to giving orders than taking them, which left one wondering whom she could be giving orders in this superfluous grandeur of a place. He had refused to take the drink, however, on seeing that there were no other drinks provided for his companions and had been prodded politely again with the gun to comply with the courtesy of accepting the drink. He had taken a tentative sip, silently cursing his brother. He had felt their eyes on him as he sipped his cocktail, realizing that he was correct in his suspicions about the drink as he felt his hands going numb, then gradually, his whole body. Then he had collapsed on the floor.

He had woken up to a nightmare where he was instructed, in no uncertain terms, the duties he was to perform. These included carrying out illegal activities that involved drug peddling and other atrocities that he felt too ashamed to mention, usually under the threat of being shot outright if he did not cooperate. He had been tortured severely when he dared to protest against some of their heinous activities. This had gone on for years until six months ago, when an angel, in the form of the squat woman who had given him a drink, had whispered conspiratorially to him when he served him his breakfast at his quarters to look inside the teapot. He had casually opened the teapot after she left, wondering what could be possibly hidden inside it, and had seen a note nestled there. He had opened the note, which seemed to have been folded several times, to see a neatly scripted writing. Still wondering what this could be about, he had started reading the note, then had felt his skin prickle after reading a few lines. He had stood up then to gently lock the door for fear of being intruded upon. Tortillas forgotten and cooling on his plate, he had read the scripted text, and by then, he was sweating as he contemplated what he had just read. He was loath to consider the possible fact that this could be a ruse to entrap and get rid of him. But Maria—the name of the Mexican stewardess—had whispered again to him when she came to collect his half-eaten breakfast to get ready in two days for the escape plan.

A sudden chill blows in through the half-opened windows, and he grabs his shirt from where it was hung on the backrest of a chair. The rest of his clothes (there are just three pieces) are in his backpack. He buttons up his shirt and looks towards the direction of the farmhouse in the distance. The place where he was raised, along with his brother: an outright criminal.

A hard gleam enters his eyes as he thinks back to the evening all hell broke loose and a team of heavily-armed policemen had arrived at the hacienda, based on an anonymous tip given to them about illegal drug trafficking going on for years there being masterminded by Mr. Julio Santos. Maria, who was actually used to giving orders rather than receiving them, just as he had rightly predicted when he met her in the hacienda for the first time, had made the anonymous call that set things in motion. She had known the right people to contact, which was not an easy feat because of the huge risks involved, especially if one made a wrong contact and word got back to the señor. He had made good his escape in the melee that had followed, having packed a few belongings of his earlier. He would be forever indebted to Maria, who had made this possible. It had been a crazy plan. Almost bound to fail, but the fates had worked in favor of them. She had revealed in the note he had given him that she had hatched this plan right from the moment she applied for a position as a domestic servant in the hacienda, after she discovered that the señor was responsible for her brother’s death. Her brother had been a policeman and a law-abiding citizen who was strongly opposed to drug trafficking. But he was tragically killed one day while in pursuit of some armed men that had turned up in a motel for a drug deal that went sour, leaving two men dead.

Andy spreads a sheet on the old sofa and lies down. This has been serving as his bed for a few days now. He gives a small smile which seems more like a slight grimace as he dozes off in the semi-darkness. He had left the lamplight on, as it provided a muted shade. It’s about time he paid a visit to his younger brother. He deserves answers for the wasted years spent in Mexico, involved in activities that would make their parents turn many times over in their graves. He falls later into a troubled sleep, filled with memories of his recent escape.

Heart pounding furiously, he had crawled on his belly in the darkness while in the perimeter of Santos’ grounds, through the small orchard where grapes were grown along with some poppies. Maria had given him this direction, which was the least guarded area of the estate, accompanied with best wishes that he makes it safely to the dirt road at the end of the property. He was almost caught as he neared the end of the estate. He had been exhausted in his belly-crawling exercise at the time, and almost brushed up against one of the guards taking a nap, with legs sprawled out in front of him. The guard had been leaning against a tree stump where another guard sat, acting as a sentry while his partner slept. But it seemed his senses were not very alert to another presence in their midst, or his mind was focused elsewhere, but Andy had held a bated breath, waiting for a time to strike, as it was dangerous for him to remain in the grounds much longer, particularly with the arrival of the armed policemen. There had been a crowd of them. Maria had left the hacienda earlier as it was a half-day for her. This had been part of her plan, coupled with the fact that the señor was spending more time at the hacienda, especially with the successful drug-bust activities occurring more frequently in different locations of the city.

Unslinging his rugged backpack from his back ever so gently, Andy had stood up quickly and knocked out the second guard with it, rendering him momentarily unconscious. He had knocked out the sleeping guard on the head with same improvised weapon as well, rendering him unconscious, too. Then he had noticed a thin blue light cutting through the darkness. Policemen! They’re coming this way. Grabbing his backpack like it was lightweight, he had sprinted a few meters towards the road and had crossed to the other side, where there was a field with tall weeds of about three meters. He had hidden in these fields praying for adequate coverage and had patiently waited for about three hours. Upon seeing no apparent threat to himself, he had allowed himself to take deep, even breaths. He had come out of hiding and trudged along the road in darkness, occasionally running off into the bush anytime he saw a shaft of light or heard the engine of a vehicle. Then, in the early hours of the morning, he had been able to hop into a truck moving towards the next town, where he was able to rent an inn, clean up himself and started heading towards Abbeville.

At this point of his rambling thoughts, he slips off into a deep, relaxed sleep which had eluded him for days, unmindful of the discomfort of his current sleeping arrangement.


Ella pauses a moment to wipe off the sweat beaded at her brows,with a flick of her thumb. The weather is cool, but her current activity is making her sweat a little. But she doesn’t mind in the least. This is what she loves most about the farm: the tanginess of the morning air. She smiles broadly as she thinks of Mrs. Worthington and her usual complaints about the effects of the morning air on her arthritis. She had called earlier today about the time her father slept, to say that she needed help with getting her toaster working again. Her father had driven over to her house to get the toaster repaired.

She goes to the shed to grab the feed for the chickens, then makes her way to the poultry and that’s when she sees a faint figure, gaunt in appearance coming towards her from the direction of the Dillards’ place. Her first instinct was to run, but she abandons the idea. However, she hastily drops the bag of feed on the ground and grabs the rake she was using earlier, ready to use it as a weapon if necessary.

She waits for the stranger to come close. Putting up the hardest look she could muster, she asks him what he was doing in the grounds and if he needed any help. To her irritation, the man gives a patient smile in reply. Then he says the oddest thing. “Some goats used to live in a pen over there,” he indicates with a thrust of his jaw towards the poultry where she was headed earlier. Frowning slightly as she feels some raised goosebumps on her arms at this remark, she realizes that her reaction stems mostly from the profile of the stranger, which bears a close resemblance to another person who is not a stranger, by a long shot. Her father! But she discards such idea as being highly improbable as it gets. Could he the one that is staying at the Dillards’ place? She had earlier told her father about her suspicions and he had muttered something about a vagrant, perhaps foraging for something in the place, which was nothing to worry about. She had not given it a thought until now. As she studies the man wearily, ready to attack him with the rake if he so much as proved a threat, she hears the distant rumble of her father’s truck as it weaves its way back home.

“That’s my Dad,” she announces, as a hint for him to head back the way he came or move on towards a different direction away from the farm. But the man gives the irritating smile again in response, then lays a bombshell that almost had her knocked off her feet.

“I am actually waiting for him. You see, I’m his elder brother.” Head swimming with random and incoherent thoughts, Ella turns towards her father, who seems to be dragging his feet after stopping the truck and getting out of it. He stares at the man that he thought he had seen at the pub last week and who now stands in the farm grounds like some silent ghost and hears a cry that escapes from his lips like one tormented: “Aaaaandyyy……!” Then he breaks down crying while his daughter looks on petrified. She is scared out of her wits, for she has never observed her father lose control of himself for one second. She continues to watch the scene unfolding in front of her in horror. The stranger is beginning to cry, too. “Why?” he asks. “Why did you do this to me? To us?” But her father was shaking his head as he mumbles helplessly, gripped by some emotions that are beyond his control. “It’s not what you think, Andy. They told me that you were secretly involved in some illegal drug deal after you were gone and that you had been shot and killed trying to escape.” Ella feels like she was in “some place,” totally detached from what was going on in front of her. She feels like screaming out aloud for them to stop. But the dialogue between the two men continues, irrespective of whether she wanted to hear it or not.

“I was disappointed at the time to learn that you were involved in drug deals and did not care to make the effort to investigate further, especially after they told me you were dead,” Josiah, her father, is saying.

Andy bites his lips as he realizes that he had borne a deep hatred for his brother all these years for crimes falsely levelled against him by his captors, who wanted to create a deep rift between them in order to discourage them for making the effort of trying to find each other.

Okay, stop, both of you. JUST STOP!” Ella exclaims suddenly. “Perhaps we had better go inside and make this crazy tale a bit clearer before I lose it.”

The men look at each other, their features cast in sharp relief and very much alike as they are overcome by raw emotions to utter a word in reply to Ella’s outburst. The three of them move wearily towards the house like travelers from a long journey, which is not so far from the truth as further revelations and confessions would initial a tortuous progress towards full reconciliation.


For all installments of “The Dillards’ Farmhouse,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1