THE MYSTERIOUS STALKER

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

This brought the curtain down to this strangest of romances, but left Nivita emotionally shaken! Tears often gleaned in Nivita's eyes for Vardhaman, her rejected lover whom she would never have but who would always stay in her memories!

THE MYSTERIOUS STALKER

 

Nivita Sabarwal shut down her desktop on her work desk, got up, hung her purse on her shoulders, picked up the briefcase, mobile phone, and walked out of her office after digitally signing off. The time was 7.17 p.m.

This late Saturday winter evening in Meerut’s suburban office complex, she found that she was the last to leave her office. That was not unusual as her duties generally made her stay late on almost all working day; another reason was that her residential flat was located not too far away, requiring about thirty-five minutes' walk to reach;  so, she could afford to stay those extra hours. She also preferred to stay in shape as she walked at every opportunity.

As she stepped out of the office building onto the main road and turned left, she found that some of the streetlights at a distance were not working, thus throwing patches of lights and shadows on the road winding ahead.

The area opposite the office building, covering the other side of the road, was expansive and empty till eyes could fathom, with some half-constructed buildings barely visible afar due to the sporadic lit bulbs in those places.

Her office was situated at the end of a row of buildings on the right end, and so she had to walk about a kilometer on the road towards the left side to reach the next chain of buildings. The intermediate area had no office, with an enormous public park with bushes, flowers,  large trees, and well-manicured lawns.

This evening, aggravating the partial darkness, the roads were utterly deserted since all the offices in this area had closed a long time ago, and the people had gone home.

In any case, all these neither posed any problems for her nor was she scared of any known or unknown dangers, which she thought were very unlikely.

She knew that Vikram, her fiancé, would disagree with her risk-taking attitude, but that was who she was.

Apart from being courageous, Nivita was a pretty woman in a conventional sense. She was without any makeup, had long black hair tied tightly in a bun, wore black-rimmed glasses that partially hid her lotus-shaped eyes and had a petite nose and thin shapely pale pink lips. Her slim figure was attired in a simple cotton blue saree with a woollen shawl thrown over her shoulders. With black utility sandals encasing her feet, she walked briskly after glancing at the wristwatch strapped to her right wrist.

Since this walk was a routine, always uneventful, her mind was more preoccupied with the work she had to plan for the next week than about her security or any other danger.

-----------------------------------

However, she had an unexpected experience that evening.

While walking briskly when her attention was more on her mobile phone, she perceived something was amiss. This was the first time she sensed danger, and it was an uncomfortable feeling. Semi darkness prevailed in the area, as one of the adjacent streetlights did not function, and she was about halfway along the length of the public park to the left.

Stopping for a moment, she looked towards the deserted park with low railings, which had decorative mid height lit lamps scattered inside; then, not finding anything suspicious, she turned to the other side of the road. Apart from the open space and the dimly lit constructions at a distance, she could not see anything else. She then glanced back sharply but could only see the deserted road. Not being any wiser, she shook her head slightly and resumed walking, albeit faster, although she was not seriously worried.

Moments later, she again felt the same danger, and now without stopping, but slowing down, she squinted at the park and suddenly realised that she could have momentarily seen a shadow of a person moving behind a tree and heard a rustling noise. Were her eyes and ears playing tricks on her? She stopped and watched intently. The fact was that nothing else was visible or heard, and she did not think fit to stand and walked away rapidly, reaching the next chain of buildings on the left where she could see human activities.

Subsequently, she reached her flat without any incident or uncomfortable feelings.

Not giving importance to the incident, Nivita did her usual activities the next day, and by Monday, she was in the office wholly immersed in work. When the office was over, she thought for a few seconds about the Saturday night's unpleasant experience before coming out but soon pushed it out of her mind for more urgent matters at hand. With her two colleagues who accompanied her at the beginning of the evening and the road not being deserted with sufficient traffic, her trip was absolutely uneventful.

-----------------------------

Almost a month had passed, and by that time, Nivita had forgotten entirely about that experience when she was returning home from the office. An important meeting had just concluded, and the office closed late. The time was almost  9.00 p.m., and after refusing an offer to give her a lift to her home by her seniors, she was walking on the same road as she had been doing for the last so many months. The winter fog was setting in, and the atmosphere was tranquil, broken only by the sound of a few vehicles; even the gentle noise of insects like Katydids, crickets, and cicadas could be heard from inside the park.

When she reached the same halfway spot near the park on her left side, she distinctively heard a different noise emanating from behind a large tree. It sounded like somebody was calling her by name! That night all the streetlights illuminated the area well enough to enable her to see that a man was definitely standing there, hidden. She thought that she should face this problem squarely.

"Who is there?” She called in a loud voice. A few pedestrians walking nearby paused to glance at her.

There was no reply, but Nivita had by now decided to check this and swiftly walked towards the side gate of the park next to the tree; then she heard a footstep noise of somebody running away.

And when she saw the man who had turned his head fleetingly to see her, she was shaken to the core!

What kind of nightmare was that? Was this man, Vardhaman Saha, her former lover? His face with a beard and more so his long curly hair, faintly visible even from that distance, seemed to suggest that!

How could that be? He was her past, her admirer during her days in the City College in the adjoining town of Hastinapur;  it was the period of third-year commerce graduation! How many years had passed since then? She tried to remember; at least seven years had gone by.

During those days, Vardhaman, a brilliant student, had fallen head over heels for her, and they did have a little more than a year of togetherness. He had a certain charisma, and perhaps the relationship could have blossomed, but tragedy struck when, one day, she realised that he was also a so-called Casanova,  trying to woo some of her close friends – Juhi, Rachna, to name a few. It made Nivita furious and upset. She was always an intense girl by temperament and took her relationship quite seriously. This unfaithfulness of Vardhaman was totally unacceptable. Soon she parted ways with him, and by that time, she had completed her graduation and moved to another college to complete her MBA. After that, there was no communication of any type with him, and he seemed to have evaporated from her memory over the years. Or was that the case?

But now, so many years later, she had come across  Vardhaman! And that too in such a weird circumstance. Why was he acting like a stalker? Why did he run away when they knew each other so well? The entire incident of today made no sense at all. And what about the earlier incident? That meant he was repeatedly following her over time and perhaps intended to do that in the future. What was his intention? Was it to win her back?

She knew Vardhaman very well and felt that he could never behave in such a way even with all his faults. In the end, she became almost sanguine that the man was not Vardhaman, but her mind still vacillated. Who called her?

All these thoughts had made her stay rooted to where she was standing for some minutes. Then, as she was turning away, she thought she heard a rustling noise! Had Vardhaman come back? Stopping, she tilted her head towards the sound to listen better, but was no wiser and slightly shaking her head, she started walking; she had enough for that night.

-------------------------------------

After that night,  Nivita became wary of this kind of harassment. Whoever that stalker was, she seriously thought that she should complain to the Police. The local SHO, Ramveer Yash, was known to her; however, she would not disclose her doubts about Vardhaman.

When she finally met the SHO two days later, he was willing to help but had his limitations.

"Madam, this type of problem is becoming serious in our city; I have received many complaints from women from various walks of life, but with our limited patrolling resources, I can only advise you to take precautions…."

That night after retiring to bed, she could not sleep. Her thoughts were continually on Vardhaman. Should she check about him from their common friend, Suparna?

--------------------------------

The following day when she called Suparna, the friend was unsure.

"Vardhaman is neither in Hastinapur nor in this city, that I can say.” She replied.

"Where has he gone? Any idea?" Nivita asked.

"Don’t think so. "

"At least do you know what he does nowadays?"

After these years, Nivita was suddenly curious to know.

"Nothing much, I believe. After completing his degree course, he somehow became a waster… had no ambition, no perseverance, nothing positive … did some jobs in the  IT Sector but did not persist."

"I see. Any reason?"

There was a pause at the other end. Then Suparna said, "You should know better… not getting your love was what broke him completely."

"What are you saying? He loved so many females. This could be due to any one of them.” Nivita responded in a faint voice; her voice seemed stifled.

"I'm not so sure," Suparna said.

After the conversation, Nivita felt troubled. Somewhere deep down, she realised that Vardhaman meant more to her than she wanted to admit to herself these years!

------------------------

It was lunchtime at the office when Nivita got a call on her mobile phone.

“ Madam,  I am  SHO, Ramveer Yash. The other day you came to me about your problem. Madam, I thought I should warn you that a man had been spotted near your office area stalking a few women these months. I received complaints from them. This man has been described as having a short height with a mass of unruly hair and beard. According to our confidential sources, he appears to be a psychopath tracking women for sex crimes. Till now, he has been unsuccessful. We will trace and arrest him, but in the meanwhile, please do take care."

When Nivita came out of her office after lunch for her usual stroll, her mind was in turmoil. Her sixth sense was repeatedly telling that the psychopath was definitely Vardhman. He had been tracking her and also other women; his womanising habits of earlier years had not diminished; in fact, he had transformed into a criminal now!

She felt more depressed because she did not expect a man as brilliant as Vardhaman to throw away his life just because of his failed love life.

Her thoughts now meandered. Was she his real love? And did she actually love him and unfairly rejected him only due to his immature Casanova nature? Who knew, if she had accepted him, he would have been a normal human being. Somehow, she felt responsible for all these tragedies. But can she do anything now to rescue Vardhaman from his present condition and usher him into a new life?

During the night, Nivita called Suparna again.

"Do you have the mobile phone number of Vardhaman? I want to contact him." She said.

"No, I do not have; sorry! Any particular reason?"

Unwilling to reveal her tortured thought process about her former lover, she diverted the subject. As she disconnected, Nivita wondered how to contact him, which seemed difficult!

----------------------

The next evening after the office, Nivita walked down the main stairs to reach the road when she saw him.

Vardhaman looked the same as she remembered him during her college days. Of course, she had also seen him that night in the park, running away, but only a glimpse.

His familiar slim build, short height, a boyish face and a mass of curly hair and beard with the casual dress of jeans and t-shirt brought a touch of nostalgia. These years had not touched his countenance.

“Hello Nivita, long time no see!” Even his smile was predictable. When he approached her, his mild body odour, which she remembered over the years, still enveloped him.

At that time, Nivita’s body seemed to go weak, but she tried to cope with her initial reaction by holding on to her briefcase and mobile phone a little more firmly; thence, she smiled back at him.

"Hello! Never expected to see you so suddenly…." Her voice shook a bit.

"I knew you wanted my mobile phone number from Suparna, but then I thought it best to meet you personally. I could not dare to do this earlier since last time you had warned me not to meet you, ever."

With a wave of her hand, Nivita said, "Forget about the past, come to the coffee shop and let us talk."

Walking side by side to the corner coffee shop, Nivita recalled with a touch of the emotion of those years when they used to visit coffee shops so often, hand in hand!

Today, of course, they maintained a discreet distance.

After ordering coffee, she looked at him sitting across the tiny table, thoughtfully. How would she start?

"Vardhaman, so many years have passed, but I have always remembered you…." These words came out spontaneously from her heart. Inwardly she winced; she could have been more circumspect.

He was watching her closely and then spoke in a low tone. "I always loved you, wanted to be with you these years …  meet you … only you did not wish and allow me… " He looked down to hide the moistness in his eyes and to conceal his real feelings.

Nivita understood all his sentiments, her emotions were in resonance, but this was not the time to reciprocate. Life had gone ahead too far, and she could not return to her college days. Her marriage to Vikram, her fiancé, was imminent. Today's mission was, of course, different, to help him into a new life.

Taking a sip from the coffee cup, she chose her words carefully.

"You been following me! You called my name that night inside the park. Why?"

Vardhaman seemed embarrassed. He said, "I have told you; I craved to meet you but could not come near you earlier because you stopped that! What else could I do? "

"This is not the way! Like a stalker! My God! And I was told you were trailing other women, too, with criminal intents. Have you not given up your womanising habits of college years? " She sounded annoyed.

"Who told you that?"

"The police."

He shook his head.

"They are absolutely wrong. I only followed you! Also, to save you from danger and to take care. I am not a criminal; believe me, Nivita!" There was a sincere plea in his voice.

Nivita kept quiet for some time. This was somewhat unexpected, but she believed him. It was the Police's job to apprehend the real stalker.

"Anyway, please do not follow  me henceforth; if you want to meet me any time, we can do so as friends… as good friends."

As Vardhaman kept quiet, Nivita said, “And please return to your normal life,  follow a career, and I am always with you to support you.”

That day, she and Vardhaman spoke for a long time. In the end, she felt that she could instil positivity and a new purpose in his life.

While leaving him, she shook hands with him.

"Why is your hand so cold and clammy?" She asked.

"I am slightly indisposed, but I will be alright very soon."

  ---------------------------------

More than two weeks had passed since then, Vardhaman had not communicated with her, and she could not contact him since he did not have any mobile phone and had assured her that he would get in touch with her from time to time. That was acceptable to her.

  -----------------------------------

It was Friday night, around 8.35 p.m., and Nivita was delayed at the office due to an urgent assignment. She was carrying with her a load of work that she would have to complete that night itself.

Her mind was preoccupied when she reached the same spot near the public park on her left side, and after that, she distinctively heard a noise emanating from behind a large tree. Vardhaman appeared to be standing there, partially hidden. Why was he up to his old mischief again? She entered the park to admonish him when suddenly she felt a strong arm around her neck from the rear, which almost choked her, then he turned her around forcibly to kiss her, and she saw him. There was sufficient light to see him.

And that man was not Vardhaman!

At that shocking moment, she realised this man also had long hair and a beard, but not curly. This was the real stalker, the criminal psychopath, and unfortunately, she had now become his victim!

She tried to scream but could not as her mouth was brutally covered by his rough mouth, his hand was groping her body; she attempted to strike free, but could not do so; in the struggle, both lost balance and collapsed on the hard ground.

As she hit her head when she fell and was losing consciousness, she faintly heard her attacker give a horrendous scream which faded into oblivion in her departing senses.

She did not remember anything after that!

-------------------------

She woke up on the hospital bed feeling groggy with intense pain in her body and head, and her half-open eyes saw  SHO, Ramveer Yash, standing at the bedside along with a nurse.

Seeing her, he bent down and said, "Madam,  good to see you waking up; you have been fortunate to escape from the clutches of that criminal psychopath who could have raped you, but we cannot understand how he met his end…."

Nivita tried to concentrate; her head was throbbing; she said weakly, "I have no idea…." 

"No problem, we will meet later after you recover, and we get the autopsy done of that dead man."

------------------------------

Ten days later, Nivita met Ramveer Yash in the police station.

He said, "Madam, this man died of heart seizure due to extreme terror. Something had made him so fearful to bring his death in such a painful manner. His face reflected the horror he must have encountered before his death. But what or who did this? A mysterious death! "

The Police would never solve this whodunnit.

Nivita seemed to get the answer a few days later when she received a call from Suparna.

“Nivita, I have news for you; you made enquiries about Vardhaman, well now I know the latest;  sadly, he died about four months ago in Mumbai. It seemed he had committed suicide…."

Suparna went on and on, but Nivita could not listen anymore.  Although her mind refused to believe, she realised with a shiver that she had come across the spirit of Vardhaman during the past two months.  However, this meeting with him had several shades!

Initially, Vardhaman was not visible, near or inside that public park, when she had the weird experience of being watched or stalked by that criminal psychopath who was waiting to rape and kill her. Later, during another night, Vardhaman revealed himself as human to her inside the park, but fleetingly!

After that, when he understood that she recognised him and searched for him, he again appeared in a human form, interacted with her in the coffee shop, and found that she still loved him.

So, being happy, he would have gone out of her life, but unfortunately, that criminal psychopath who was continuously stalking her attacked on another fateful night.  This was when the phantom of Vardhaman reappeared but now in a gruesome visible form before the criminal, to rescue her.

It was, therefore, no surprise that this criminal died unnaturally out of dread!

This brought the curtain down to the strangest of romances, but left Nivita emotionally shaken! Tears often gleaned in Nivita's eyes for Vardhaman, her rejected lover whom she would never have but who would always stay in her memories! 

 

 

AMITAV GANGULY

23rd  November2021.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Submitted: November 23, 2021

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