A MURDER COMES CALLING (crime/novel/chapter 1/ scene 1)
By Neel Anil Panicker
Priti Kanojia, debutante detective, who’d just been saddled with her first ever case, broke into a sweat.
She turned around in her swivel chair, her left hands clasping a blood red stress ball, the knuckles of her long nailed fingers tightening around it. Her steely black eyes were fixated on the false ceiling of the second floor office that overlooked an arterial road just off the main road that led to Kanpur Railway Station.
For the next twenty minutes Priti Kanojia Detetive Agency was as quiet as a foggy wintry morning.
Not a paper ruffled, not a cat purred or a dark barked as the 25 year old sprightly girl closed her eyes and allowed the events of the past 48 hours to flashback in slow motion through her mindscape.
…it was Monday morning. Two days ago. She’d just stepped into her office at her usual time, a quarter past nine.
The sun’s rays beamed their pleasure and shone bright on her lovely face, a face that many of her college friends thought had enough magnetic charm to illuminate the silver screen.
…the phone rang. She picked it up. Hello…hello…no response…
Exasperated, she was about to put the instrument down.
It was then that a message flashed on her cellphone.
She stabbed the message key.
The words sprang to life.
“A murder will happen in the next 24 hours. If you want to stop it, meet me at the back lane of Sophie’s. Tonight. 8 pm. SHARP!!!
To Priti’s ever observant eye, the capitalised last word SHARP did not go unnoticed.
What did that mean: SHARP at 8pm?
And before that, who is the guy? This unknown who has my number? What did he mean by murder? Does he have prior knowledge of a crime yet to happen? Is a murder about to happen? If so, who’s murder? And how does this man… or is it a woman?…how does he/she know about a murder that’s not yet been committed?
Does he have any proof? Any knowledge? Is this person, whoever he or she is, does he/she have any prior information about a crime as serious as a murder that as per him/her will happen in the next 24 hours?
Who is this person?
Genuine, fake, a madcap? Or worse still: the murderer himself, or herself?
The last thought elicited a gasp. Her legs shook under the table. Her mind went into a tizzy.
Despite the air conditioning, hot beads of sweat round pools on the formed young puddles on the novitiate detective’s temple, and around the nape of her neck.
She banged her fist on the table in a bid to come out of her stupor.
She gulped a glass on water, stood up, placed the mosaic floor of her oblong shaped spartan office.
She felt better.
Her mind, now more oriented, Priti began to think more logically. She tried to figure out what was at stake.
It took a good ten minutes for her to arrive at at a course of action.
Her mind bow decided, she collected her leather hand bag, dipped her iPhone into it, and sprang towards the door.
She had made up her mind_ murderer, or informant, madcap or genuine case, this was the first case that had fallen onto her lap.
And she was determined to cut her teeth; to prove, more so to herself, that she had it in her, that she had the balls to become a top notch sleuth, a dream the 25 year old English Literature graduate had harboured all through her growing years.
Out on the street, she hailed a cab straight to her house.
A good ten hours were left before the appointed date with the mystery man…oops person.
Enough time for her to hit Rauf’s, and savour its and hers too favourite luncheon meal_ steaming hot buttered naan dipped in delectable Special Hyderabadi Bheja Fry.
Also, enough time for her to call up Raju Bhai, and arrange for a small pistol.
The words of her mentor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala came to her mind: Always plan for the unplanned.
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