A NIGHT FULL OF MURDERS (CHAPTER 1-9)
HATE YOU TO ETERNITY
By Neel Anil Panicker
“Are you sure. I mean he’s your husband, father to your child”?
Simi stood ramrod straight, her hands firmly clasped behind her back, her eyes a cold, granite stare. When she spoke, it was as if a harsh winter morning had just smashed through the windows sills and dislodged the autumnal warmth of a late October that was resolutely refusing to die out.
‘One hundred per cent freaking sure. There’s no going back. He deserves to die.’
Completely shaken by the sheer nauseating malice in her hate fuelled voice, Akshay withdrew a couple of steps, pushing himself further into the room.
Despite the air conditioning, he found himself unbuttoning his top two shirt buttons as hot beads of sweat began to trickle down his nape.
Still lost and his mind a quagmire, he almost didn’t hear her next words.
‘Aks, are you going to stand all day and do nothing, or simply help me execute this plan’?
“What?…Oh!…yeah…yes…let me think…well…ughhh…I need a smoke…no cigarettes…will be back in a minute…”
His voice was a trail as he raced out of the room.
By the time she realised and opened her mouth to say something, he had already emptied out of the seventeenth floor flat at Jacaranada Heights and had taken the lift that was hurtling down to the basement.
There, he half ran to his car, and lit the long awaited cigarette that he so desperately was dying for.
As the nicotine entered his bloodstream and he felt his muscles relax a bit, his mind slowly began to clear out.
It was only then that the full import of what his lover was suggesting struck him. As his mind wrestled with the dilemma, he knew in his heart of hearts what he would do.
The realization made him curse himself for having fallen in love with such a crazed woman.
The sound of car tyres screeching on the rough asphalt made Simi sit up.
He was going out, again!
The third time since morning; his first after the threat.
The word ‘threat’ made her break out in cold sweat.
She bolted upright, raised her arms and extricated the half emptied whisky glass from the bed table, and swallowed its contents in one swig.
As the searing liquid rushed through her throat, it singed her lungs and she felt raw molten heat invade her inner self.
Instantly, her body began to shake uncontrollably.
After what seemed an eternity and much after she had downed another glass of whisky, this time minus the appendage of any colourless water added to it, she got up from the bed and after a long cold shower, sat down with a cup of steaming coffee only to contemplate at the situation that was plaguing her.
What was it that he said he would do to her? Circulate her intimate photographs? Put it on porn sites? Make sure the whole world sees it.
Simi puffed vigorously into her cigar taking deep breaths as she did so.
The slimy blackmailing bastard!
He had the audacity to threaten her.
Red hot rage burned inside her and Simi pursed her lips; and as her nostrils flared she tightened her grip on the glass, ultimately breaking it into two.
As the shattered shards of glass fell onto the tiled floor, its remnants spilled and formed little pools that glared at her under the reflection of the revolving chandelier.
As Simi stared down at the mess that had formed under her feet, a resolution began to take birth in her mind.
He will pay; yes, Indraneel surely will have to pay heavily with his life for having made the threat.
Now, it was all a matter of logistics__the how and when of it___whether he would drown to death, or accidentally fall down the stairs, or find himself leaving the Earth with a noose around his neck, or worse, gulp down a glass of rum mixed with snake poison.
As her mind raced with the various possibilities, another thing also competed parallelley alongside to gain her attention: the slight matter of the inheritance that Indraneel would leave behind were he to die in the immediate future.
‘Make it large, no ice’, spats out Akshay as he pulls out a cigarette and raises it to his lips.
At this hour of the day, with the hour needle still hovering around ten, the bar’s all but empty.
Blowing concentric smoke circles into the air, Akshay’s sleep deprived eyes do a 360 degree arc of the dimly lit basement place, and finally they rest on a far corner table by the window that he knows leads to the garden area.
Something catches his attention and as a smile creases his lips, he does a bottoms up of his first drink of the day, signals the waiter for one more, and then heads his way to the table.
“No small talk. Just leave a name, lay the money, and scoot. Work will be done.”
Akshay’s momentarily stumped by the stranger’s staccato no nonsense bearing; nevertheless, he drops a wad of notes even as bends down and whispers into the man’s ears the word ‘name’s Indraneel and it doesn’t make a difference how you do it but just do it and do it fast’.
Amruta cups her soft fingers around the wooden handle and watches as a sea of kaleidoscopic panels make concentric circles above her head.
Her gaze then falls at the umbrella rim from which cascade puffed droplets of wind-washed waters that make a splash on the rain splattered grounds below.
Her heart goes pitter patter.
Beside her, Pranay watches her watch the unfolding of Nature’s pristine glory.
His palms lock hers as waves of spasmodic delight run through the spines of the two lovers.
From a distance, and from under another umbrella, a man watches them, then spits on the earth.
THE NIGHT’S AS YOUNG AS YOU MAKE IT
Much after all the gifting and the talking and the laughing had subsided and the august gathering of Industry Titans and Young Turks in the making had broken up into small rarefied groups of twos and threes and retreated into their discreet corners, Indraneel glanced at her by from across the hallway.
Aparajita caught his eyes right, rightly read his message___the trademark gentle raising of the fingertips to his upper left collar bones.
She looked stealthily all around, and after satisfying herself that the coast was clear, she very surreptitiously threaded her way out, her ears ringing with the cacophony that permeated all around the large dome shaped inner ground floor that went by the rather exotic name La Dezirella.
‘The red gown only embellishes your beauty. You look stunning enough for me to declare that I have won the lottery of my life”.
She turned around with a startle, but heaved a sigh of relief as she looked into the smiling visage of Indraneel ___his thick lascivious eyes as they ravenously devoured every inch of her curvaceous body.
Her face flushed, her cheeks blushed; but almost instantly she composed herself to reply him, “Your insouciance is downright insultful. Is this the way an employee speaks to his bosses’ daughter? Aren’t you afraid, you kangaroo?”
To that he smiled and retorted. “I know I am a kangaroos and easy meat waiting to be ripped apart in a sanctuary that’s teeming with lions and tigers and other wild forms. But then kangaroos are swift movers, aren’t they?”
‘I said, prove it by making me disappear from this crowd.’
To that he simply looked at her at first; then pointing towards the outre door, whispered, “Follow me outside. This cold evening will turn warm with your presence and I__your most humble chauffeur will take you for the ride of your life”.
And with that he tiptoed out.
Within a minute, she too stepped out.
The duo’s presence, especially hers, going absolutely unnoticed by the creme de la creme of Cochin City who had descended that freezing December evening in the coastal town touted as the Venice of the East’s most famous watering hole.
‘I do know in our business you never say no but at least you should have consulted me once before committing yourself, Asghar Bhai’.
The man seated across the table dropped his right hand to his knee, the index finger scratching furiously through the faded blue jeans before looking up to reply, “Hey, listen to me Abdul, the call came after midnight. And it was a take it or leave kind of thing. Plus, the money’s good, damn good I must say, in fact good enough for you to clear off all your gambling debts and scoot this godammed city for ever.”
‘That’s really good news Kareem Bhai. But all I was saying is you should postpone it for a week.’
“Oh is it, big mouth? Being paid, and that too handsomely for a hit is all that should matter to you, right? Pray, tell me what difference would that have made had we executed the contract seven days hence?”
Abdul stabbed the burning end of the cigarette with his left foot and looked up before speaking, “that’s because I was all set to leave in an hour’s time for my annual week long darshan to Shirdi and now this…’
“I’m sorry you’ll need to postpone your train ticket to next week as the person who’s given us the supari is very insistent that we execute it today itself and that too before sun down day after tomorrow and it’s exactly for that reason that he’s paying us almost thrice the market rate.”
SOFT BLOWS THE WIND
‘WHERE THE HELL ARE U ?
Detective Chacko rubbed his eyes as he stared blankly at the Whatsapp message that displayed on his smartphone.
It took awhile for his groggy self to realize what that meant and when he did so he wondered and not for the umpteenth time the entire month of October that now was on its last breath whether his hatred for technology and all that it stands for was after all not entirely unfounded.
‘It makes man servile. Also, at times an entire ass of himself’ was what he had declared to his Man Friday Bose in the middle of an excruciatingly long all night drinking cum eating binge (no less than an high octane extended orgy), after what was a particularly torturous month long police work, one wherein all efforts seemed to have reached a dead end.
What time is it he wondered as he hoisted himself up on the bed even as his phone began to beep again.
He peered into the phone’s screen. The top right hand corner blinked 14:00.
Dammit, he muttered under his breath even as he clicked on the green button.
It was from Commissnor of Police Vincent Pala. “Get your ass up here fast. The night’s bursting with murders”
The voice on the other end sounded definitely gruffy, irritable to the core.
Even before the staccatto rendition had ended he was a hit by an avalanche of thoughts and in his mind’s eye zigzagged a multitude of thoughts including all things that were anathema to him, all things he had had buried long, long ago, all things that he knew only led to pain; yet, paradoxically all things he now longed for, all things he knew were missing in his despicable life, and all things he knew would keep him sane, would stop him from finding himself a mental asylum much like his father several aeons ago.
‘Five minutes, Sir. I’m on my way’.
Even before he ended the call, he’s had hauled himself from bed and was heading towards the bathroom.
Two minutes later Chacko was in his car and driving towards Tripunithara, his mind already feeling as free as a caged bird, its wings clipped.
As one just entering into teen hood, he had spent long summer months poring over spy thrillers, his appetite whetted by jaw dropping high octane adrenaline dripping tales of daring all black clad vodka consuming spyglass wielding uber spies flitting in and out of cities and continents and solving hair raising crimes, catching uber white collar fortune hunting criminals who looked as if they had just stepped out of million dollar movie sets.
Alas! How fast dreams turn to dust. The hard rock of reality struck barely a year into his joining the police force, and now after almost three decades of sleuthing (and two divorces, three live ins and several one night slam bam thank you mams’ later,) Detective Abraham Chacko, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Crime Branch, Cochin City Police had come to the horrific, and maybe, even regrettable realisation that life including police work is not always what it promises to be; in fact it’s entirely its opposite.
And so it were that one fine Monday evening he found himself, clad in knee high military boots and spyglass in hand, hacking his way through the dense jungles that ringed the northern periphery of Periyar Forest Reserves, in Central Kerala.
“Aaah…I guess I have hurt my leg”
Detective Chacko turned around and pointed the flashlight first at his deputy’s face, then at the ground below.
The torch beams slowly rose towards the ankles. The lens illuminated a stab of blood that had spurted out of the ankles and shone through the regimentation khakhi trousers.
He lifted the torch beam towards its owner’s face.
Sub Inspector Bose winced in pain.
‘Just a little gnash. Nothing much. It’s rocky out here. Plus, the earth’s all wet. Just go slow and fall back behind me.’
Detective Chacko inched forward; his deputy at his heels; the duo trudging forward, two amorphous shadows flitting in and out of the dreary dark expanse that loomed ahead.
It was Bose who first spotted it.
As Detective Chacko turned the flashlight towards two feet in front of him, the sight that greeted him sent an icy chill run down his spine.
There, in front of him, around a small depression in the ground, stood a almost six feet high monolithic all black stone spire, and just below it, on the marshy grounds, lay, smeared in blood a headless body, a body shorn of all clothes save for an underwear that covered the male genitalia.
As Bose from behind let out a half scream, Detective Chacko once more came to the horrific realisation that in life you didn’t need an opponent to bring you down, the mere sight of a certain human body would do the job just as well.
‘Nothing much except this machete. It was lying beside the body. Also, the Forensics have picked up some prints. Shoe prints, precisely. Of size 10.’
“That’s not much of a start, isn’t it? Check the CCTV footage. See if there’s some some visuals.”
As the constable retreated from the room, Chacko, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Crime Detection Department, Ernakulam District, turned his attention towards the machete.
A 16 inch fine blade with serrated edges at the top and a broad back that ended with a polymer grip at the end___not unlike one used by petty criminals in the region, Chacko surmised.
Turning towards the lone man in the second floor Room No. 2 of Crime Branch Main Office, Kochi, Chacko said, “Any leads on the murdered person, Bose?”
“Our men are on it. As of now all we know is that he had come with his wife and mother for a regular medical checkup at Medical Trust Hospital. The three had just stepped out of the front gate when he was attacked.”
Chacko nodded his head and pulled up a chair opposite Bose.
This was the third case the two men were tasked with barely six months into Bose’s promotion to Sub Inspector and subsequent transfer to Crime Branch unit barely seven months ago.
At that instant Chacko’s phone rang. The moment he picked it up he knew there was more bad news coming.
The voice on the other end was rushed.
“Sir, you need to come to the highway, 65th stone. It’s the one leading to Periyar. There’s a body”
Detective Chacko cursed under his breath, and slammed the phone down.
“Get the car, fast” , he barked as he raced out of his office”.