“Amma, I’m late. Will you just bring my lunch box?” Vijay said, screaming to be heard over the mixer grinder’s loud noise.
He was sitting at the dining table with his morning cup of coffee.
Amma came out with the grinding jar, full of chutney, “This Saturday, go get this mixer repaired. It makes a lot of noise”.
“Amma, not idli again. Day before also you packed idlis in my box.” Vijay groaned.
“It’s not idli today. Finish these two dosas as you read your newspaper”, Amma said while pouring out some chutney into the lunch box, “I’ll get some more dosas for your lunch box”.
“Amma please, I’m getting late. I don’t want to lose another half day of leave”. I already have lost two this month. “I don’t want to exhaust my leaves like this Amma. You have told me to save some for Radha akka’s wedding in December”.
Knowing Amma well, Vijay knew he had no escape but to wait. Mothers aren’t going to quit being mothers. He picked up the daily.
Andhra Pradesh plunges into gloom; the headline read.
I’m sure that the first three pages will be full of discussions and diagrammatic representations of how, when and where the Andhra CM Rajasekhara Reddy’s helicopter crashed, taking his life.
Vijay flipped directly to page 4.
I have already seen this whole thing on news last night. But yes, it’s ridiculous that his helicopter was missing for more than 24 hours. An article on a recent suicide suddenly caught Vijay’s attention. He read it at once. Girl in Usha Swaminathan College Hostel… ends her life…found hanging from the ceiling fan… case of pre-marital pregnancy… Drug overdose… Anti-depressants… Parents shocked with the news…flew down from Gurgaon…
He put the paper down. This news certainly disturbed Vijay. He ran to his bedroom.
“Amma take your time with the lunch box. Got some work. I’m leaving late”, he screamed as he switched on his computer.
“What happened suddenly? This morning you said that your presentation is ready. Why are you switching on the computer now?” Amma said in a worried tone, “And why haven’t you finished your dosa?”
“Amma, everything is fine. I just remembered something. It’s important. I’ll go later, may be in an hour or so. Now just let me finish my work”
“Will you drop me at Pushpa maasi’s place on your way?”
“Amma” Vijay frowned.
“It is on your way, that’s why I asked. No need to make that face, as if I was taking you on a matchmaking trip”, she said walking back to the kitchen.
“Yeah fine, I’ll drop you there. Why does every topic in this house always end up with my marriage? I’m just 27”, Vijay shouted at Amma’s back, regretting it the very next moment for fueling Amma’s favorite topic.
Vijay shut the door of his room and settled down in front of his computer. His Yahoo Messenger connected with the auto login mode and a Window with his offline messages popped up.
They can surely wait. Vijay minimized the offline window.
He pressed ALT + C + M, to open the Message Archive of the Messenger. He scrolled through the list of contacts and found the one he was looking for. He clicked for the archives of conversations with that person. It contained only one entry. 8/25/2009. As Vijay clicked open that conversation, the events of that particular night popped into his mind. He could recall every single detail.
* * *
Vijay had just come back from his office. It was rare for him to hear 8 gongs in his family cuckoo clock on weekdays. He usually returned way past 11 PM.
When I come home late at night, Amma asks me to come early. Then why does she stares me in wonder when I return early? Mothers!! He shrugged.
He switched on the computer. With the boot up sound, he heard Amma calling from the kitchen. “Has the sun set in the east today that you reached home early and now you want to sit with that stupid computer of yours? Don’t you get to use it enough at the office?” Vijay chose not to pay attention.
He remained invisible on the Messenger as he was too tired to talk to his friends. While he was browsing through some random topics, he stumbled upon a link in Google. It was a Yahoo Answers link. The question appeared very strange and that’s what had caught Vijay’s attention.
What are the ways in which a murder can be made to look like a suicide?
Why on earth would someone want to know this? Vijay was puzzled.
Vijay decided to find out and opened the link. It was a question asked by someone called ‘A_Married_Bachelor’. The person claimed to be a writer and asked if anyone knew a murder technique which can be made to appear as if it was a suicide. Few people had suggested various ways to do so, which varied from poisoning to hanging from the ceiling fan. Some had taken the liberty to suggest ways to make it look like an accident; like in the case of an electric shock with a faulty iron. At the end of this thread A_Married_Bachelor had posted again. This post was made a mere 4 minutes ago and it nicely summarized all the suggested ways and added that all these suggestions could be classified into two broad categories; traditional suicide methods or accidents. He had appealed once more to the others asking them to suggest some unusual methods. He asked if there is any other way.
Answer Question. The button appeared to be waiting for Vijay.
Yes, there is a third way, Vijay posted.
Vijay pondered if he should have replied to this guy. He was hesitating to post the third way directly into the public thread. He feared what this thing would lead to. It was then that a Yahoo window had suddenly popped onto the screen, startling Vijay.
* * *
The sound of a door knock brought Vijay back to the present. It was a Yahoo alert indicating that some contact had come online. Vijay checked and the creases on his forehead curled deeper. It was him. A_Married_Bachelor. Vijay did not want to talk to him now. Each passing moment was making him more agitated. He was scared.
He had read the entire archive from that night twice already. The same conversation was still open in front of him on the computer screen. He sat there puzzled. Are these two things related? Could he be the one behind this suicide? Is it really a suicide? Pre-marital pregnancy? Married Bachelor? Any connection?
Vijay couldn’t stop himself from reading the chat for the third time.
A_Married_Bachelor: hi, m sure i nid no intros.
vijay.srinivasan: hello yes you dont need any introductions
is this your first book or you have written before
vijay.srinivasan: i am sorry but i am not very fond of books
i am a software engineer you see
so i stay a bit away from books
vijay.srinivasan: and i dont use chat language because i dont want to make it a habit and affect my project documents
another sign of me being a geek
vijay.srinivasan: since i started with my job technical reference books and project documents are like novels to me
vijay.srinivasan: sorry i talk a lot dont i
A_Married_Bachelor: no its k. so u sed u hv d 3rd way?
vijay.srinivasan: yes the third way
google this string and you will know what i am talking about
“combined drug intoxication”
vijay.srinivasan: the first link you get will be a wiki.
article on wikipedia.org is called a wiki
vijay.srinivasan: i am sure like the word google, wiki is also going to find its place in official dictionaries soon
vijay.srinivasan: anyways coming back to our discussion
you must be reading this article now
A_Married_Bachelor: hmm its 2 technical.
vijay.srinivasan: wait i will paste the important part from the wiki
i was reading about this a few weeks back
vijay.srinivasan: here it goes…
vijay.srinivasan: Combined Drug Intoxication or CDI, also known as Multiple Drug Intake (MDI), is an unnatural cause of human death. While it is sometimes reported as a simple "overdose", it is distinct in that it is due to the simultaneous use of multiple drugs, whether the drugs are prescription, over-the-counter, recreational, or some combination
vijay.srinivasan: The combination of OTC and prescription analgesics like NSAIDs and paracetamol (acetaminophen) can (potentially fatally) damage organs including the kidney, liver, and pancreas. Certain drug combinations can cause a mechanical interaction with blood, leading to excessive clotting. Clots may then travel into the heart, brain, or lungs and block blood flow, depriving tissue of oxygen and causing unconsciousness and then death (thrombosis).
vijay.srinivasan: OTC is Over-The-Counter drugs
vijay.srinivasan: what brought me to this wiki was this …
vijay.srinivasan: wait pasting text…
vijay.srinivasan: …Michael Jackson, who died on June 25, 2009 after a lethal overdose of the anesthetic propofol, and two other sedatives.
A_Married_Bachelor: dis sounds gud. yes she is on anti-depressants.
vijay.srinivasan: she? she who?
A_Married_Bachelor: chrctr in my story.
vijay.srinivasan: oh, ok for a second i forgot its for a book
vijay.srinivasan: hey i need to leave now its late and i have office tomorrow
i guess i would like to read your story
You can search for more on this topic and use it in your story
let me know when its out
A_Married_Bachelor: u wil soon find it in news ppr.
vijay.srinivasan: oh, ok it’s for newspaper column
A_Married_Bachelor: yes… kind of.
vijay.srinivasan: which one? will buy that
A_Married_Bachelor: not sure as of now. but whn its out m sure u wont mis it.
vijay.srinivasan: ok ok… see you… good night
its late and i better be sleeping.
A_Married_Bachelor: gud nght.
Vijay had almost finished reading the archive when a message window popped up on the screen. It was a buzz from A_Married_Bachelor.
What does he want from me now? As it is he has cluttered my mind.
Vijay closed the message window. The window collapsed, bringing the focus to the friends list in the main Messenger window. He saw the status for A_Married_Bachelor. One More Chapter Ends.
What does this mean? Does it hint about that news in the paper? Or is he really a writer and just wants to say that he has finished one more chapter of his story? Vijay’s mind was in turmoil. Should I ask him? But what if he really is the murderer? Will he get suspicious, if he finds out that I have my doubts about his plan? Can he find my address and get to me? Vijay froze in his chair.
I’m not even married! Vijay thought. Although shit scared, he couldn’t help but smile that Amma had finally succeeded in putting this marriage bug into his system.
What should I do? Vijay thought, hovering his mouse cursor over A_Married_Bachelor’s name in his contact list.
Should I get involved in this? Or maybe I shouldn’t poke my nose into it? Still, if I decide to do so, will I be able to I solve this puzzle? Or may be its better to go to office and resolve those 36 issues assigned to me in that stupid bug tracking system.
Vijay looked at his watch. It ticked to 11:35.
Yahoo announced one more status change for A_Married_Bachelor. Ready for the next hit.
I will only have 6 leaves left after today. Vijay calculated as he double clicked on Bachelor’s name.
* * *
I can't spend one more night here. It’s so horrible here.
Kritika was sitting in one corner of the room with her knees bent, arms wrapped around them, head resting on her crossed arms and eyes tightly shut.
Darkness, before this day, was never a phobia for Kritika. It was her comfort. She loved the dark corner of 'Athena', where she often sat alone, sipping her vodka, late until closing time. She would enjoy puffing on her cigarette in the darkness, lost in her solitude. But now, the darkness of this room was sending shivers down her spine. She did not like the cries she heard, nor did she like the silly laughter which echoed through the room occasionally.
It feels so sick here with these people around.
Kritika would constantly pray for her release sooner. Flashes of Pitsy's motionless body haunted her all the time.
It was almost a year now that Kritika had known Pitsy. She was Kritika’s junior in college. It was the first week of college and Kritika and her group were visting Pitsy's class for a ragging session. When it was Pitsy’s turn, the group had made her walk the ramp in front of her whole class. All the guys in Kritika's group gave Pitsy's curvaceous figure a 9 on 10. Kritika still felt they had let her off easy, real easy.
But the same night, Kritika had cornered Pitsy in the hostel corridor. With the help of her classmates, Kritika had for a second time ragged Pitsy and the other junior girls. This time Kritika was content and she enjoyed it thoroughly. The girls were made to stand there in the cold corridor, all through the night, with their hands folded behind their heads. Pitsy had protested against it and Kritika did not like it. Pitsy had to sacrifice all her clothes for the rest of the night. Pitsy had spent the whole night standing there with fiery amber eyes.
Kritika could still remember the scene as if it had happened yesterday. Kritika thought that Pitsy looked hotter that night compared to the same morning.
Many days passed and Kritika did not trouble Pitsy again, until one tragic night.
Kritika was returning from Athena. She was really drunk, more so than usual. The whole day had been hell for her. She wanted to get some more drinks but the manager had requested her to leave as they needed to shut the bar. She took three cans of beer and started for the hostel.
Now, sitting in this dark room, Kritika wished she could erase that night completely from her life. She could never imagine even in her wildest dreams that something like that would have happened to her. But what happened that night changed her life completely.
* * *
"You? What are you doing here?" Pitsy barked at Kritika, who was standing at the door of her room.
"Shhh!!" said Kritika as she managed to slide past Pitsy and enter the room.
"What do you want? You, you..." Pitsy held back.
"I want you, darling", Kritika declared, "and I'm not going to leave until I get what I want".
Pitsy pushed Kritika away. "Leave me alone. You are not in your senses".
Although Kritika was heavily drunk, she still managed to overpower Pitsy. She pushed Pitsy on the bed, "Nothing can stop me, Pitsy".
"This is not a good time Kritika. Leave me please", Pitsy cried.
Kritika jumped on the bed and gripped Pitsy tightly, "I've waited enough. I tried winning you straight. I did not force anything upon you till now. I kept asking you politely but that method doesn’t seem to work on you. You don't want to give in. Now, I've no choice but to use the Second Method. You have left me no choice Pitsy".
"This is not a good time, Kritika, I'm telling you, please. You are inviting trouble. It’s not a good time. Leave me, just leave my room" Pitsy struggled to release herself.
"You can’t escape anymore", Kritika tightened her grip.
Pitsy cried in pain and something unexpected happened. Kritika tried to suppress the screams by tightly covering Pitsy’s mouth. Within a minute, absolute silence had filled the dark room.
Exhausted, Kritika also passed out.
Next morning, Kritika woke up after a bad dream. She was soaking wet with sweat and she had a terrible headache. She looked around for some water and she found Pitsy sleeping beside her.
How stunning you look, even when you are asleep, Pitsy.
Kritika put aside a strand of Pitsy's hair which was hiding her beautiful face.
“You are so hard to resist.” Kritika stroked Pitsy's cheek. It felt exceptionally cold. She checked the forehead. Completely worried, she checked the neck. Dead cold.
Kritika broke out with fresh sweat. She checked Pitsy’s pulse. She jerked back and froze.
Kritika was wide awake now. She stood shell shocked beside the bed. The events of the night before flashed in front of her eyes. A sudden wave of panic washed over her body. Many thoughts ran through her mind at the same time. She wasn’t able to think properly. She checked the watch. 10:00 AM. She needed to act fast.
Something had to be done. But what?
She rushed to Pitsy's wardrobe. She had made her choice.
Thirty minutes later, Kritika was sitting at the study table. She looked at Pitsy. Pitsy's body was hanging from the ceiling fan in her room. It rested on a stool.
Everything is going smoothly. No one will ever find out. No one will ever suspect me. It wasn't as tough as I thought it'd be. Now I just need to pull this stool off and it’s done.
Kritika smirked as she stood up and walked towards Pitsy.
“I really didn’t want to use the second method on you Pitsy”, Kritika grieved looking at Pitsy for one last time.
She kicked the stool. It hit the floor with a loud bang. The very next moment there was a knock on the door.
* * *
At the other end of the room, the heavy metal door made a screeching noise as it swung open.
It brought Kritika's thoughts back to this haunted room. Kritika was still sitting in the same position. She pulled her legs closer and tightened her arms around them. She really hated this room. She was scared of its darkness. She preferred the sprawling darkness she found when she closed her eyes. She felt a rough hand over her shoulder. Kritika slowly opened her eyes.
She could hear those cries and laughter again. It was maddening.
"Sir has called you out. Come on", a croaky voice echoed in the darkness. Kritika felt a tight grip on her left arm. She was pulled out of the room.
It took a while for her eyes to adjust to the bright light on other side of the door. She was led till the end of the room and made to stand in front of a table. Kritika stood there silently looking at her toes.
"Today is your preliminary hearing in court. We are leaving now", the inspector said in a grim voice.
"Take her to the jeep", he ordered the lady constable standing beside Kritika.
* * *
I can't imagine Priyanka would do something like this.
Niyati was pacing around her hostel room restlessly. She went to the table and drank a sip of water.
Can't believe this has happened to Priyanka. She would never have done this to herself.
Niyati lay on her bed her face to the ceiling. The fan kept rotating above. It was the same fan where two days back, Priyanka's body was hanging lifelessly. It was very shocking. Niyati had gone out for two days to meet her parents. When she came running over the hostel stairs, she had not imagined that she would find her best friend hanging from the ceiling fan. Niyati closed her eyes tightly. She couldn’t erase that scary scene from her memories. The darkness scared her now. She opened her eyes and looked at the diary in her hand.
On this idle Sunday morning, Niyati‘s mind was flooded with thoughts of Priyanka. To divert them, Niyati had chosen to clean her cabinets. It had instead ended up making her miss Priyanka even more. Almost everything in the cabinets reminded her of Priyanka. Her scrapbook, which Niyati could never find time to fill, tickets of the first movie they had watched together bunking their boring sociology class. They had known each other for barely a year and they had been inseparable. They had shared common interests and had developed a strong sisterly bond.
Niyati was getting more and more agitated with each thing she found in her cabinet. The birthday card given by Priyanka, the history project book on which they had worked together and various other memorabilia. And then, Niyati found it, Priyanka's diary, bearing the famous ‘four lions’ emblem of the Govt. of India embossed in gold. Her dad had given it to her.
Niyati and Priyanka never kept any secrets from each other, but recently Priyanka had started writing a diary. Niyati was anxious to know the secret and at same time she was angry with Priyanka for keeping it. Niyati had tried to search for this diary many times but all in vain. She had once even gone to the extent of bunking some lectures to search through all of Priyanka's belongings. And now that she had found the diary and had read it, she really wished she had found it earlier.
* * *
"Why the hell is the bell not ringing? It’s already 11:30." Niyati growled.
She looked at Priyanka. She was scribbling something in a dairy. She had a weird smile on her face.
"Don't tell me that you have started writing a diary", Niyati said, trying to peep in.
Priyanka winked, "Yeah, recently".
"Oh! Someone has secrets to hide, hmmm?"
"Nothing like that. It’s just some casual stuff".
"Is it? Then let me have a look." Niyati said trying to reach out for the diary.
Priyanka pulled it away, "You are not going to get it".
Niyati laughed, "We are room partners, Priyanka. You won't even know if I read it".
"Haha, do you think I'm dumb? I know how to keep secrets from you".
"Gotcha. That means there is a secret and you chose these papers over me to share it with".
"Now don't start with your Bollywood drama. You'll get to know when the right time comes. I promise".
"So you agree there is a secret and that you are hiding it from your best friend. Now tell me what is it?"
Priyanka just smiled at Niyati, and held the diary further away from her.
"What is his name?"
"Oh, don't try to fool me. I know it’s about a guy."
"I told you, Niyati. You'll find out at the right time. I'll tell you soon, very soon".
Niyati leaned and tried reaching for the diary in Priyanka's hand again, "No it’s not fair...” A piece of chalk hit Niyati's head.
Professor Chaudhari was staring at both of them through his thick frame of glasses.
"Oops! We’re screwed", Niyati mumbled.
Before the professor could rebuke them, the bell started ringing.
* * *
Niyati looked at her ringing mobile. It flashed Inspector Kadam’s name. Niyati picked it up immediately.
The Inspector Kadam said coming straight to the point, "Ms. Niyati, I wanted to discuss something with you, before I conveyed this to Priyanka’s Parents. Can you spare five minutes?”
“Yes, Inspector”, Niyati managed to say.
Inspector continued hurriedly, “As you know Ms. Niyati, our investigation was primarily treating this as a murder case. The suspect tried to make it look like a suicide. But some interesting evidences have come forward. The suicide note says the reason behind suicide is pregnancy. We all believed it to be a plot. But, the post mortem had a different story to tell. I just received the report and it says ..."
"She was two months pregnant when she died", Niyati said with a cold, damp voice cutting him off.
"How did you know, Ms. Niyati? Why didn't you tell us before?"
"I'm shocked too. I didn't know either. I found out about it just a few minutes back."
"How, Ms. Niyati? How did you find out?"
"Remember Inspector, I had told you about Priyanka's diary? I found it".
"Where? We had searched all of her belongings"
"Yes. All of hers. We did not search my side of the room. It was in one of my unused cabinets."
"We need to read this diary. The post mortem report revealed another strange point. Ms. Niyati, Priyanka died of excessive intake of anti-depressants and not because of suffocation, as it appears. Now this, Ms. Niyati has raised some new questions."
"May be the diary has the answers you are looking for."
"Can I come there now to collect it?"
"No, it’s better if I come down to the police station. I'll leave now. Will be there in 30 minutes."
"Yes, I'm waiting Ms. Niyati".
Niyati cut the call. The diary was still open on the bed. She re-read the lines that had disturbed her so much.
I wish I had got the First Place. I don't want to live my whole life being second to someone. I would rather end it.
* * *