14 mins 17.6K 14 mins 17.6K

“I wish I’d been there earlier. It might have made all the difference. So all I can tell you is why he was murdered.”

Wiping her tears, Shirley started telling the policeman who inquired her about Alden Smith who is lying dead in the living room. She was not able to articulate a word as her tongue was stuck with grief. The policeman went and brought her a bottle of water. After she gulped a few ounces of water, she speaks out in a whimpering voice:

I know Alden Smith for past two years. We first met in a bus; I was sobbing on my memories of ‘X’ boyfriend. An azure-colored full-sleeved hand extended towards me with a white-colored hankie. I ignored the hand and took a tissue from my bag and wiped my tears; I was feeling so shy to even look at his face. However, I turned to look at him and he was spreading a warm smile. I said, thank you, I have tissue papers… He interrupted and asked me whether I was alright? I wasn’t able to speak out. Then he offered me the coffee he was holding in his hand. Unfortunately, I didn’t carry my water bottle that day and so I took the coffee shamelessly and swallowed my memories of sorrow. He said he didn’t find a seat anywhere else, so he had to disturb me. I said, sorry and thanks for the coffee. He said,“it’s alright” and stood up to get down; He turned and said, “don’t cry with such child-like face;chirpiness suits you better” he winked at me and turned as the stop arrived. It was a very brief moment but worth remembering.

She drank a few ounces of water and continued…

When the guy I loved for almost 6 years rejected me saying I was annoying and stupid, Alden’s words made me feel better and gave little confidence to get through my dejection. I didn’t meet him until the winter was gone. After two months, in the mid May of 2016, he came in the bus with the sun shine of the summer. Though the bus was not that crowded, he took the seat next to me. I was so happy to see him again. We shared our names and whereabouts. Alden told me that he is running a construction company. He usually takes his car to office, if at all he has given his car for repair, then he prefers to take bus for commuting rather any other means to keep in touch with his past. At the time, I was also working in a construction company as a public relation manager. So, we shared our opinions on the business and market. Then he asked me for my number as he may not come in the bus in future. Our friendship blossomed in to love after 5 months of chats and conversations.We have been dating for almost 7 months now.

Only two days ago we met in a restaurant for dinner. He was inviting me to his home for dinner this weekend. Shirley couldn’t resist her tears and she drank some water and continued… I called him in the evening around 7:20 PM to check whether the dinner tomorrow is confirmed, he picked the call with a shrill of pain and then he muttered “come now… help me…” I was asking him “Alden, are you okay? Where should I come?” he replied with a groan “my home…” I was saying many hellos, there was no response and he didn’t cut the call either. I assumed it to be a prank to make me come home; even in my wildest dreams, I never expected this, when I got here by 8:40 PM. It was too late, I couldn’t help him.

Shirley started to cry…

The policeman interrupted, “Mam, you said you might know the reason of his murder.”She gulped back and continued: yes, when we were out two months ago for dinner, Millennia Construction’s owner Terry Johnson and Alden had an unexpected fistfight. As I worked in Millennia Constructions, I was able to identify Mr. Johnson. When I came back from the washroom, I found them holding their shirt collars, which was intolerable sight of both gentlemen I knew. Mr. Johnson gave me a scornful look and cursed both of us. Even Alden scolded him back. We didn’t discuss about the incident that day. When I later inquired, Alden said it was because of a business rivalry of a big contract. I believe Alden has many business rivalries which he never discussed much with me. He must be murdered due to one of his business rivalries. As far as I know him, he is an honest and kind-hearted person. We discussed a lot about music, food and literature.

Again tears trickled from Shirley’s eyes…

Police: Mam, could you please let me know the exact date and locality of the incident?

Shirley: Sorry! I don’t remember the exact date. As I said already it happened approximately 3-4 months ago at Hotel Western Park.

Policeman: Where are you working now?

Shirley: In Landmar High School as a language teacher.

Policeman: When were you working in Millennia Construction?

Shirley: I worked there for 2.3 years from March 2014 to June 2016.

Policeman: Did Mr. Smith ask you to quit your job at Millennia?

Shirley: No. As I told you, I submitted my resignation in April 2016. I know Alden only by May, though I met him before once.

Policeman: Any particular reason for quitting Millennia?

Shirley: I was doing my education degree in correspondence, as I love teaching. Once I completed the course, I got placed in a reputed school, so I quit Millennia.

Policeman: That’s all for now, Mam.You can leave now; it will take a while for the forensic people to reach here.

Shirley was trying to take her phone out from her bag to book a cab. But she slipped it down and the phone went off. The policeman picked the phone and said, “You seem weak; shall ask my driver to drop you at your home?”

Shirley: That would be very helpful officer.

Shirley reached home and went direct into the bathroom and took a shower in warm water. She was not able to resist her tears. She couldn’t believe what she had seen. She found her small house so dark and creepy; she couldn’t close her eyes, as the images of bloody Alden haunted her. She cried so badly and slipped into sleep on her couch. In a couple of hours the sun peeped out. After witnessing the bloody corpse of Alden, nothingness and hopelessness engulfed her. She needed desperate company of a loved one, and so she decided to go to her hometown which is 300 miles away from the city. As she was not in her right sense, she didn't think about the legal consequences. She left to her hometown.

On Sunday, the postmortem report has confirmed that Alden was brutally murdered with a big bottle. The bottle was smashed on his head and the broken bottle was used to stab him thrice. The forensic department has come up with a finding that other than Alden’s finger prints there was a woman’s finger prints and a couple of strands of hair had been found in the murder spot.

The police informed Jenny Smith who is Alden’s cousin and only blood relation who lived 100 miles away. She came and arranged for his burial.

The policeman, Rodrigo, took the case for further investigations. As Rodrigo directly conversed with Shirley on the day of murder, he took the liberty to visit her house for an investigation on Sunday. He was shocked when the doors were closed and nobody knows much about her in the neighborhood. He called her from his mobile before coming to any conclusion.

Shirley picked the call:Hello

Rodrigo: Hello Mam, this is Rodrigo, the police officer. Am I speaking to Miss. Shirley?

Shirley: Yes Sir.

Rodrigo: As today is Sunday, I thought you will be at home. So, I came to your home for an investigation regarding Alden Smith’s murder. May I know when can I meet you, Mam?

Shirley: Actually, I couldn’t stay at my home alone, as I was terrified and depressed. So, yesterday morning, I came to my hometown, Draviland.

Rodrigo: Mam, don’t you know that when you are involved in a murder case, you are not supposed to leave the city without our concern.

Shirley: (with a shaking voice) do you suspect me to be a murderer?

Rodrigo: We haven’t yet found the murderer. However, you are the only one who reported the murder, right? So, could you please come immediately as that will save you from unwanted suspicion?

Shirley: Thank you for the advice, officer! I will be home by tomorrow morning.

Rodrigo: That sounds great! By the way, Alden’s cousin Jenny has arranged his burial tomorrow evening at 5 PM.

Shirley: Oh! I must go. Thanks for letting me know. You can come home tomorrow for any further investigations, officer.

Rodrigo: I’ll meet you tomorrow then. (He cut the call.)

Meanwhile, Rodrigo went and met Millennia Constructions owner, Terry Johnson.

The investigation:

Rodrigo: Hello Sir, I am Rodrigo, the police officer who handles Alden Smith’s murder case.

Terry: Hello (shook hands)! What?!? Did I hear it right? Alden was killed?!?!

Rodrigo: Yes, it happened on Friday. You mean to say that you know nothing about it until now.

Terry: Yes, I am sorry to hear that he is killed. I don’t follow up with daily news except for business. Nobody has mentioned it to me until now. Please be seated. How may I help you, officer?

Rodrigo: That sounds fair enough. He was stabbed by a broken bottle and killed brutally. I came to know that there was a rupture between you and him. It would be helpful, if you can walk me through what happened between you both.

Terry: Certainly! Millennia Constructions was started by my grandfather in the year 1956 as a small builder and my father expanded it to this big firm, now almost 670 employees work under Millennia. In 2010, my father fell sick due to stress and so I took the core responsibility of the company then on. This year our ranking went down to number 2, because we lost the tender of Govt. metro project to Aldsmith Constructions. Do you know when Aldsmith Constructions came into existence?

Rodrigo: I need to check (he took his mobile)

Terry: Alden started the company in the year 2007. His dad Jamie Smith, who is no more, was a small builder agent to our company. So, my dad used to even send small housing projects to Alden for the sake of Jamie’s fidelity. But, Alden is basically a con man who is very greedy and does anything to get things his way. Do you think it is easy to become no.1 in the construction industry within the time span of 10 years? I know how he climbed up so soon in the ladder… He plays his card by spying others’ quotes. I know it is easy to win tenders, when you are in the business for longer period. How can a budding company like his can win tenders of big apartments, hotels, and now even the metro? I found it, when he won the metro project beating my company’s quote.He usually bribes the people or seduces if they are women to fetch quotes beforehand from renowned companies in the market. He seduced my secretary Vanessa to get the quote of my company on the metro tender. I lose my temper whenever I happened to meet him in common places, so I denounced him openly a few times.

Rodrigo: Hmmm. So that’s the story behind your clash in a hotel a few months ago?

Terry: Yes, sometimes we have pulled each other’s collars and accused each other verbally, but never harmed each other physically.

Rodrigo: Do you have the proof that he has taken your company quotes beforehand?

Terry: Yes, when he quoted 0.75% less than our quote I doubted it, but with the help of a few loyal employees I found that my secretary Vanessa helped him with the copy of the quote a few days before the tender. So, I fired her a month ago.

Rodrigo: By any chance, do you doubt Shirley Williams who was your company’s former employee would have got hand in this sham?

Terry: No idea. Wait a minute… I don’t actually remember her name.

He dialed to his secretary and asked him to bring Shirley Williams office record immediately.

Terry: As you said she is a former employee, I can’t fetch the details from the office intranet as well. Officer, do you want a coffee?

Rodrigo: Yes. It would be nice.

Terry went to the coffee machine, filled a mug and brought to Rodrigo.

A man in black suit walked briskly in to the room with a file and gave it to Terry and left. Terry went through the file, while Rodrigo was sipping the coffee.

Terry: Oh! I remember her face, now. As I can see, she was a public relation manger and a star performer. She has a clean record. I don’t think she would have been involved directly, as she left the company three months before the quotes were finalized. Also, PRMs can’t access such secret documents of the company so easily.

Rodrigo: By the way, who is Vanessa? How long was she working here?

Terry: Vanessa Simpson, a very intelligent, strong and highly professional young lady, joined Millennia as an admin employee in 2005. After 4 years of her loyal and diligent service, my father promoted her as personal secretary. When I took over the company, I learned many of my work ethics from her. Even once, I didn’t take her for granted, as she was so perfect in sticking to schedules and stuff. I really didn’t know what made her act so stupid in this incident and I strongly believe that Alden would have instigated her to do this.Poor lady! She didn’t even say a word, when she was caught. Now-a-days, I miss her at work.

Rodrigo: May I have a look at her details?

Terry printed Vanessa’s bio-data and handed it over to Rodrigo.They shook hands. Rodrigo left with a formal pleasantry.

As promised, Shirley returned next day morning. She sent a message to Rodrigo and expected him anytime.But he didn’t come and so before getting ready to the burial, she called him. He told her that he will meet and talk to her after the burial. Shirley went to the burial and cried her eyes out. She recognized none among the small crowd except the police man who was with her on the day of murder. He greeted her and shook hand with her. She recognized his voice.

Shirley: Oh!You called me yesterday!

Rodrigo: Yes mam.

Shirley: I expected that you would come home in the morning. If you have any questions you can ask me now. Also, you can call me Shirley, officer.

Rodrigo: (with smile) Shirley, you can call me Rodrigo. As the murderer surrendered herself this morning, I have no question to ask you. Also, I am driving via your home. Shall I drop you on my way?

Shirley: (with wide-opened eyes) what? Who surrendered?!?

Rodrigo: Come; let me tell you on the way.

Shirley: Thank you.

In the car, just after she put the seat belt. She turned to Rodrigo. He didn’t wait for her to ask any question.

Rodrigo: Shirley, truth is always bitter. I don’t know how to put this across you. I don’t want to beat around the bush.

Shirley: Please tell me the truth…

Rodrigo: Do you know Vanessa Simpson?

Shirley: Yes, I do. She is a friend of mine.

Rodrigo: Do you know anything about her relationship with Alden?

Shirley: No. I don’t think they know each other.

Rodrigo: (gave a pity look at her and turned to the road) Alden befriended you on purpose and he met Vanessa in the farewell treat that you host for the friends at Millennia. He used her to know the secret quotation of the metro tender from Millennia. As she is not an easy person to bribe, he played a love game and made her do that for him. He even proposed her with a diamond ring. After she was fired from Millennia, he avoided her and her calls. She realized that he used her for his business. Last Friday, she went to his home to return the ring. As he said her to keep as a compensation for her help,she was pissed off and at the peak of her anger, she smashed a wine bottle on his head and stabbed him. She ran away to her home. It took her a day to come to her normal sense and she felt she was miserable, so she surrendered herself this morning.

Shirley was in utter shock. She didn’t even say a word. Tears started to trickle from her eyes. She turned to the road.

Rodrigo continued: According to me, Alden is a con man and he designed his own death. So, please don’t waste your tears on a worthless person and also one more free advice stop being so naïve.

As they reached her house, she asked him rubbing her tears off and swallowing the lump in her throat:

“Do you mean that the moments I cherished the most and the emotions I felt loved are all fake!?!”

She didn’t wait for him to respond. Her body went numb and her emotions started to freeze. The pain she went through two days ago beside Alden’s corpse seems nothing. With a piercing pang in her heart an unbearable agony, she walked towards her doorstep alone…

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