At Death's Door

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

In a world where everyone hides a dark secret behind closed door of our heart, you don't know which door will open to a dark end. (I am writing after a long hiatus)

1. The Distress Call

Rainy clouds cloaked the dark night looming over the city. The windows in the skyline were void of any light and apart from the sighing cold wind, the city had fallen silent in its sleep.

In the zero hour of the night, a police operator working night shift received a distress call.

Hello? Police? There’s a dead body in my neighbor’s house.” An elderly female voice, trembling with fear, said on the call. “I think someone killed her!”

Don’t worry, ma'am. Are you safe where you are?” The operator said.

Yes, I think, no one else is in the house, just the body bleeding.” The neighbor said.

Okay. Tell us your name and where are you calling from.”

I am Anita, Ashok Nagar, at the small houses behind Pallavi Apartments, um, near the grass circle cross roads.”

Okay. I am sending officers from a station in your jurisdiction. Don’t touch or move anything. Help is coming to you. Do you want me to stay on call?”

No.”

Okay.” The operator said and cut the call.

The phone in the police station rang frantically, piercing through the silence. A constable seated at the table across put his mobile down and got up to answer the phone. He picked the receiver up.

What is it?” The constable said irritated by the unwanted distraction.

The operator without wasting any further time said, “A possible homicide in Ashok Nagar.”

The constable’s pulled a face and took his pen out to note down the details on a paper. “Okay, yes, we are going.” He said and put the receiver down almost slamming it.

A lightning struck within the distant clouds, it sounded as if a bomb had exploded in the sky and the night would fall upon at once.

 

2. Rotting From Inside

Earlier that day. The morning sun wasn’t as potent as usually in the February month. The gray clouds scattered across the rather frozen sky and cold wind slowly slithered through the city. In the slums at Ashok Nagar, Monika was preparing her breakfast inside her old house. She was a 31 years old woman, brown skin and slim body, the darkness under her eyes and the slight wrinkles on her face made her look ten years older.

Her house only had one room which was build with uneven concrete mixture and half bricks, and all the walls were seeped in rain water from previous night. The paint had started peeling off and it added a mild but foul odor to the air inside. It was erect with three similar houses adjacent to it and across four more similar houses in a row. In contrast, other houses had newer paint, better wall structure and also had their window open. Her outer walls were blue-white, rotting and broken at the foot, and her dusty window was shut.

Inside; she changed into a clean yellow saree, she combed her short hair into a pony tail and got ready to leave for work. She checked the steaming rice and turned the gas off, beside it the chicken curry was ready and smelled spicy. She took a disposable plate and served some rice in it and layered some curry over the rice. She placed the plate on a chair next to an old wooden cupboard. She moved the cupboard away and pushed the curtain uncovering the wooden door behind it. The door was firmly bolted to a recently build brick wall and the house’s wall itself. It had a slit at the foot, it was so dark that no one could see through it, perhaps it was the only way for air to pass through. She banged on the door once, took the plate of rice and slid it in through the slit. Something, or someone moved and noises came from inside as if an animal rushed toward the door. She pulled the curtain again and replaced the cupboard. Picking up the house keys, she checked her hair in the face mirror which was tied on the window bars. She locked the main door from the outside and left.


 

3. At The Door

Thirty minutes past the zero hour, the clouds were suffocating from inside and eventually broke into rain. First it drizzled slowly, then it poured as if pitched knives fell from sky. A police SUV drove on the narrow roads that shimmered under the orange street lights, its siren wailed and it was headed to Ashok Nagar.

The police car arrived at the murder scene, at the slums in Ashok Nagar. Anita, aged about fifty, peeked outside from inside her window when she heard the siren. Other neighbors came outside covering their heads with plastic bag. Anita opened her umbrella and walked outside to the car. The driver cut the ignition, and a police officer stepped out. He and the other constable with him had black hooded raincoat.

Sir, there is the body.” Anita said, her voice shivered in cold.

You are Anita? You are the one who first saw the body?” The officer asked in his deep voice.

Yes I am Anita.” She said.

Okay, lets go.” The officer said.

As they walked with quick steps toward the victim’s house, bystanders watched with confusion and fear in their eyes. One constable followed the officer, the driver and the other constable started asking questions to the neighbors.

Anita didn’t follow the officer inside the victim’s house. The officer froze for a moment at the doorstep when he saw Monika’s rotting stiff body on the floor. The house was lit by a single white LED bulb hung on its wire from the ceiling, and the view wasn’t easy to digest. Top of her saree was drenched in blood, her forearms had visible red marks that resembled fingers and scratches. The back of her head, that faced the main door, was shattered in and was still oozing, a small puddle of blood had formed around her head.

He carefully walked in watching where he stepped and stood over the body. Monika’s eyes were wide open and reddened. Her face was partially covered in her blood, her nose was beaten up and had turned blue. To the officer’s surprise, the possible weapon used for the attack was left beside her. The bloody padlock that was probably used to hit her was heavy and made of steel, it still had the key jammed in it.

Meanwhile a constable started questioning Anita as he recorded the conversation in an audio recorder.

You are Anita? Do you know the victim?” The constable asked.

Yes. I am her neighbor. Her name was Monika Allen. She never troubled anyone...I don’t know why.” Anita said, her voice lowered and pitched in pain.

What happened? Can you tell me?” He asked.

Yes, I heard a loud noise” She said wiping her tears. “She screamed and again a noise. When I came out I saw her door was open. I looked the other way and a man was speeding away in his bike.”

A man?” He asked.

Yes, it was very strange. Then I saw inside...she was dead.” She looked down and covered her eyes, hiding her tears.

He paused briefly before continuing.

Do you know who the man was? You saw his face?” He said.

No. I only saw back of his head, but I think he had covered his face. Could it be her husband? After her divorce she became reserved and lived alone. She was an orphan so no one knows about her relatives or someone.” She said.

Tell us about her husband.” The constable said.

The officer took a step back looked around the house. He didn’t find anything else that could have been used as a weapon. The kitchen utensils and knives were clean, the chair had a red hand print on the armrest, there were no pictures on the wall, and the face mirror on the window remained untouched. The cupboard, however, was pushed away. He went closer to the cupboard and didn’t find any blood marks or hand prints on it. The curtain behind it was partially cloaking the secret room. The officer stepped closer to peek inside and saw nothing but darkness. He pushed the curtain away and covered his nose from the appalling stench. Inside the small secret room, he found a stained pillow, a blanket, pile of dirty disposable plates in a corner, a blue T-shirt and black shorts small enough to fit an eight to ten years old kid.

Looking further, he noticed that the room’s door was pulled inward, unhinged and ruptured at the bottom as if someone jerked it back and forth. He took his pen out and used it to move things around, when he lifted the pillow, he found a photograph under it. In the picture Monika stood with her back facing a hilly vista and she held a young boy, about fiver years old, in her arms. Something about the picture disturbed him. He searched the image gallery in his phone and, in an image he had of the missing people’s bulletin-board at the station, he found the boy’s photo.


Submitted: February 14, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Akshay Raj Chovhan. All rights reserved.

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