Once again, I was summoned at 8:30 in the morning. This time it was by the mall around the corner near a building twenty-eight stories high. There I was to meet Mr. Gregs, the Captain of the Central City Police Department. It was already eight o’clock and I still had to get ready. I was in a hurry since the Captain was a punctual chap. I grabbed my suitcase and left.

Thoughts of what would I have to see today were disconcerting my mind. I reached the designated location but I could not see Mr. Gregs. There were a lot of policemen, maybe twelve or more. I couldn’t care less, but there were more policemen this time for sure. My search for the Captain continued and amidst that hurry and confusion, I bumped into a gigantic person whom I had not yet recognized, because my mind was preoccupied by thoughts of where could I find the Captain and how I could persuade him not to be angry on me for being late.

That is when I heard somebody say from behind,” Oh! Mr. Russel here you are”. I was sure I had heard this name Russel somewhere before but amongst the chaos, I chose to overlook it; then suddenly it struck me. I turned around and saw Mr. Hanma, the Commissioner of Police calling out for me. It was a rare sight, to see the Commissioner but since the murders were increasing at a steady rate it might be that he had taken charge of this.

For the people who have not grasped the situation completely, I am Tony Russel. I am just a private detective but since the series of murders have started, I have worked with the police to solve this case, not because of the monetary compensation neither because of the recognition I would get, but because I just knew that I had to solve the case and bring the criminal to justice.

I put aside all thoughts gushing through my mind and asked plainly, “So, Mr. Hanma have you seen Mr. Gregs today? Or is it that you are now looking into this case”.

“Very sharp indeed! Anyway, the victim this time is a 26-year old teacher Ms. Olivia Lewis."

For those who are wondering, these murders have been going on for over a fortnight. Every night an innocent lady falls prey to the attack of this mass murderer. There have been fifteen deaths until now but the perpetrator has not been caught yet.

I took all particulars of the victim and headed back to my office. This case was troubling, very troubling. For the first time in my life I felt that a case was troubling.

I had a record of all victims and their specifics. I sat down trying to figure out a correlation between all these people. I did everything a first-class detective does; arranged all the victims by the date they met their deaths. All I could perceive was that the victims were killed in alphabetical order first Annabeth, then Betty followed by Catherine, Diana, Emily, Felicity, Grace, Hannah, Iris, Julia, Karen, Luna, Mary, Nova and now Olivia. I was bewildered, what could be the connection between a teacher, banker, receptionist, doctor and other women from
completely discrete fields.

It seemed like a psychopath was killing women alphabetically just for amusement. But to repeat the same pattern for murders, killing everybody while they were in the kitchen making something, seemed suspicious. Even the weapon used was something you would find in a kitchen like a knife, a meat tenderizer, etc. To top it all, the women were between the ages of 25 to 30 years.

The thing is that no one had seen anybody suspicious enter the buildings. It might point to the fact that the criminal is someone who resides nearby, and is acquainted with all the targets. Something to note was the fact that all the murders happened to either those who lived alone or either to those whose relatives were not in the house at that time. The criminal could be a psychopath who just kills for fun or there could be some deeper story that no one knows about.

The real hassle is that who will the murderer strike next, it could be anyone. If the perpetrator is going alphabetically, the next victim should be somebody having an initial P. Well, Central City has a million people and there may be many women having initial P. How could one possibly figure out who the next target would be!

It was almost noon as I sat clueless finding the next target. Days of research led to nothing, simply nothing. We were not even aware whether the murderer was a man or a woman, what was the motive, what could be the other possible connection between all the victims except for the fact that they were all women. All these thoughts were perturbing my mind. For days I had been at unrest trying to solve this case. And then a thought struck me, to search for a common thread between them. They might belong to different fields but there could be a possibility that they might be going to the same primary or secondary school, might be a part of the same yoga club, or going to the gym together. After digging into this matter, I realised that all of them had attended the same secondary school the ‘Harvey’s Secondary Education Institution’. I felt a bit relieved because now my probabilities of discovering the next target and capturing the perpetrator had increased.

Now, I had absolutely no time to think about why these murders were happening. I just had to go to Harvey’s institute to get the list of the students there. It was past three in the afternoon. I rushed to the school to get the list of all students who studied there in those five years. After coming back, I studied the records, found out which of these ladies were still there in Central City, where did they reside, how many members were there in their family, if at any instance during the evening or night was, they were alone. After putting in lots of efforts, I came to the conclusion that either Petty, or Perla could be the next target. Overjoyed, I called Mr. Hanma to inform him to provide security to both of them.

I was comforted that I had solved the case. For the past fortnight I was so engaged in the case, I was mentally exhausted. I did not get proper sleep nor did I eat properly. I now had no energy even to drive back home. So, I decided that I would drop by my sister’s house which was just a block away from my office. When I reached her house, I told her that I was very tired because of the case and that I would just go off to sleep because I was sleep-deprived. My sister, being sympathetic about my situation did not say anything. At about ten o’clock in the night, there was a knock on the main door. I was very tired and did not get out of the bad thinking that she would open the door.

I could hear a man speaking to her. It seemed to be a friend and so I did not bother. They were chatting for quite some time. It seemed to me as if she was meeting a very old friend, or perhaps even her boyfriend. My sister asked the guy if he wanted coffee. The guy agreed and insisted to help her because he had dropped by without any prior notice and he did not want to trouble her. Both of them headed into the kitchen and suddenly there was a gunshot. A knife dropped on the floor as the man started to wail.

It was me who had shot his hand; the hand that had tried to murder my sister, Phoebe. He was horrified and shocked, he did not anticipate anyone to be there. “Surprised?”, I asked. “How did you know I would come here?”, he said.

“You did not come here, I brought you. There were actually three people on the list of the next possible victims that you could strike. For the coward you are, pretending to be friends and murdering people, with weapons you procure from their houses, you would dare not go to a place if it is guarded by the police. That is why I gave the police the information about those two and not about Phoebe.” He was still writhing in pain. I asked him “Why did you commit these murders, why did you take the life of innocent people?”

He replied, “I was in the same school as them. I loved a girl, I loved her a lot. I loved her to the extent that I could do anything for her. I remember that day, I remember it very well. It was twenty-eighth of March, the school was holding a function. Everybody was enjoying, laughing having fun. Amidst all that, I was nervous since I had planned to propose her. I was fine if she did not accept it, I would still have loved her. But when I went to propose her, she not only rejected me but ridiculed me, humiliated me, mocked me. And all these girls, all they did
was laugh. That hurt me, shattered my self-esteem, crumbled my ego. I could not show my face to anyone in school after that. They took away all my pride. That day, that scene of humiliation, those people, their laughing faces, all of it was etched into my mind. Every time I think about it, I remember that humiliation, that suffering. They took away my will to live. I would have been long dead but I decided that I would surely exact my revenge. I had to make sure that they had to pay. Till that day, I considered them to be my friends; friends who would back me up, who would support me in any adversary. But they…all they did was betray me. That is why I pretended to be their friend so that I could backstab them and take my revenge. That is why I started my killing spree from March twenty-eight this year. It served as a commemoration of that time when they turned me into this. They have no right to live. This is retribution for their sins.”

Hearing this, I burst into anger. I could no longer control myself. Just because someone hurt your ego you decided to kill them. I felt like my blood was boiling. Scum like this should not be allowed to live, that was the only thought running through my mind. Full of anger and rage, I shot him through his heart. I knew it was wrong for me to do that. But at least I had avenged the death of my dear wife, my dear Diana.

Aahil Khambhawala