She ran…

Like she had never run before….bare feet.

She couldn’t remember where she had left her shoes.

Was it a pair of shoes? Or sandals?

Uff…This was not the right time to think about such trivial things.

She only knew she had to get away and get away fast before somebody else could….

She didn’t let herself think further…there was no time for even that.

Her feet felt cold…. and sticky.

Looking down she found a slim streak of blood coursing down her leg….left leg.

The road felt rough and rugged underneath.

In the dark…..pitch dark….it was impossible to make out why the terrain felt so uneven.

Was it unpaved?  Wasn’t it a proper road? She had no way of finding out.

When she had left, the house was in absolute darkness. Most probably the lights had gone out.

Or they must have switched off the lights before leaving.

She was not sure.

The road leading to the house was unlit. She remembered that distinctly.

Never mind that. Once she was out somehow she would be able to make out the direction.

She had that instinct fully developed from years of driving.

She knew the road ahead bent leftward.

And then straight down….was her destination.

But everything was so foggy.

The roads….the trees lining the roads….the night sky…..the stars twinkling high above….the crescent moon staring down with a crooked smile…she could figure these out but through a film of mist. No…it wasn’t the mist…it was the tears that rolled down her cheeks incessantly…..she realised she was crying. Crying out of pain…out of sheer fatigue…out of a kind of pukish feeling which was knotted at the bottom of her stomach desperately trying to well out again and again.

She bit her lips hard…her tongue tasted salt… 

The wind blew ferociously. It was moist and prickly. The rains had stopped just a while ago. But the dampness continued. It was not a much-wanted-rain. It came in torrents without any notice and stopped as suddenly as it had started. What remained was a chill that froze the bones…. a draught that was determined to be wayward… and  a night sky surprisingly awash with button-like stars and a scornful moon. 

Her pace was becoming erratic because something kept coming between her legs. A flapping thing…a torn piece of cloth …Oh! It was her salwar. She couldn’t recollect when it had got torn. Perhaps when she had run out of the house in a hurry. No, not hurry….it was panic. She was driven by panic then. Panic was driving her now.

Ouch!! She was almost going to fall headlong but balanced herself on time on all fours. A twig, like an amputated limb, lay askew on the road. In the dark she had missed it.

She scrambled up. And as she did so, she saw the lights…further down…dim but steady…a sign of life and civilization.

***

Palampur was located on the outskirts of the main city.

It could neither be described as a sleepy small town nor could it be called a back water village.

Similarly, Palampur Police Chowki was somewhere between a full fledged Police Station and a Beat Officer’s roadside Booth.

It was generally headed by a bored Sub-Inspector and a grumpy Havildar, both, waiting for their turns, to grab one single opportunity to show their prowess in investigation and (man)handling the most wanted goon.

But unfortunately, nothing happened in Palampur. Nothing whatsoever, not even a case of petty theft or pick pocket.

The residents were too docile…too contented in poverty….too God fearing to go astray, which was a pity.

However, the stature of Palampur Police Chowki had recently been elevated as an Officer of the rank of SHO had come to be deputed to head the post.

Although, for Kaamesh Baraat, it was a virtual demotion but for Havildar Ram Bhuvan and SI Nidhiram it was something to boast of and brag about.

Baraat, fondly called KB Sir, spent his days killing flies and drinking innumerable cups of chai in tiny earthen cups and the nights dreaming when he would be reinforced to the mainstream where his reputation of being a formidable cop would once again be restored in full glory.   

He regretted his foolhardiness in the previous posting where he had knowingly locked horns with the wealthy and the influential.

Now, at nights, when sleep evaded him, KB Sir made elaborate plans of making amends.

Tonight, he lay on a convertible bed (which also doubled as his work desk) in his office, unblinkingly staring at the ceiling fan with a twisted blade and thinking from where to begin…when he heard a muffled commotion …and then a soft knock on the door and Havildar Ram Bhuvan entered with an incredulous look on his face.

“Janaab”, He stammered, “There’s a woman out at the front office who wants to lodge an F.I.R. “

An infinitesimal pause…

And then he blurted out, “She says she is witness to a gruesome murder.”

***

Kaamesh Baraat literally leapt out of his office and reached the so-called front desk or reception or whatever one could call Havildar Ram Bhuvan’s work station where the woman stood shivering like a leaf.  Kaamesh’s eyes took it all in…in one swift roving glance…She was most probably in her late thirties….not a beauty but definitely not a forgettable face…her hair, dark brown streaked with grey, rested limply on her thin shoulders. Her Salwar was tattered…her kurta had one slashed sleeve…bare feet in this cold, KB saw she was bleeding. A thin line of blood trickled down her left leg…the flapping sleeve barely covered a hideous looking bruise on her upper arm. She looked fragile but her eyes shone with….what was it rage?….hatred?…or something else? KB couldn’t pinpoint. But one thing was sure…the woman was desperate.

KB drew closer to the desk. The light here was a little dim. Perhaps the coat of dust on the bulb made it so. He peered at her. Doing so, he was at once taken aback. It took him a few seconds to shake that strange feeling down. Clearing his throat, he embarked upon asking her all the routine and right questions that he was supposed to ask in such a case.

No, the woman was not a local. She told him the place where she lived. The office where she worked. This evening she was late leaving office. As she came out of the building somebody had called her out at the car park. As she had turned around something hit her hard and she lost consciousness.

No, she did not know anybody who would want to harm her. She was just an ordinary office-goer with a routine job. She led an unexciting life. Of course! She stayed alone. Her family lived elsewhere. Her daughter was in the hostel. Her little son was being looked after by her mother. Her husband was posted in another city. A scattered family…nothing unusual though in today’s times.

She did not know what time she regained consciousness. When she did she found herself lying in a room. It was dark. She got up and her whole body ached. With outstretched arms and unsure steps she tried to wade through the darkness and  had almost crossed the room when she stumbled and fell….on a body. She gasped…stood up trembling and almost hit her head on the wall. And then by a stroke of luck she found the door. It was not locked but screeched to her touch.

Did she shout for help? Yes, she kept on shouting but nobody answered. And as her voice echoed back to her she realised she was alone in that house in the midst of nowhere. Somehow she managed to make her way out of the ramshackle building and took to the roads.

How did she know that the other person lying in that room was dead? She felt the body…it was cold and felt lifeless. The person could have concussed but she was positive she could not hear or feel the person breathing. In that pin drop silence of the night even shallow breathing would have been audible.

No, she did not know the address but knew the direction and could take the cops there.

KB gestured to Ram Bhuvan.

“I would first like to visit the scene of crime before writing down an F.I.R?” Who knew if it wasn’t a ploy! The woman could be making up the whole story…

“How far is it?”

The woman looked uncertain.

“Ok. We will take the jeep and go down there.”

The woman nodded mutely.

***

It took almost half an hour to reach to the place where purportedly the heinous act had taken place.

KB said, “Incredible! You said you ran this whole distance…”

“I was a good runner in school.” Was the quiet reply.

“You said you were witness to a gruesome murder. But it was dark when you fell on the body.”

“All murders are gruesome, aren’t they?” Was the succinct retort

“And how do you know it’s murder?”

“You’ll see for yourself!”  

Through a rickety gate they entered the premise. It was really dark. A short path led to the house.

In its hey days, the house must have boasted of a lawn. But now it was a mess of thorny brambles, thick bushes, untended grass beds. This place could well be a residence of deadly beasts, thought KB. Who would require a human hand to wreak havoc? 

The doors stood ajar. The panes dangling on hinges. A winding staircase led upstairs. KB put on the torch he was carrying. He somehow felt the torch light in his mobile would be insufficient. And he was right.

“Was it upstairs?”

“Yes” She replied softly. Very softly.

KB took the stairs two at a time. 

On the landing he moved the light of the torch from one end to the other. There was one room at the far end. The door was open.

He entered and stopped short.

A faint light was glowing in the room.

A light with metal shade hanging by a wire like the ones he had seen in the Police Force’s Recreation Club. Underneath such lights they had once played Carrom and Cards. But that was long…long time back.

He looked over his shoulder and asked “You said it was dark….Where’s the body?”

The woman was standing on the threshold.

She just raised her long arm and pointed towards the other end of the room.

 There was a bed in the middle of the room.

“As per your statement when you fell on the body you hit the wall. But now you are pointing to other end of the room…”

KB said circling the bed.

There was no reply.

He looked back. The woman was not there.

KB frowned. He was immediately on the alert. His hands closed in on the pistol by his belt.

He had now reached the other end of the room.

Yes, there was a body lying stiff on the floor. A woman in white. Her salt and pepper hair was spread like a halo around her head.

Her attire was torn – a sliced sleeve….a torn salwar…a bloody leg…a blue gash on the arm…she was staring at the ceiling.

KB stooped down to feel the pulse. It was then that he saw her eyes – one blue and one brown.

Just like the woman’s who had ran through the night to lodge an F.I.R at Palampur Police Chowki in the dead of the night……

KB felt something wet drizzling down between his thighs.

And then everything went dark.

The story can also be read here

About gc1963

A working woman with interests in reading, writing, music, poetry and fine arts.

5 responses »

  1. Rekha says:

    OMG!!😱
    Fantastic story. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. gc1963 says:

    Thanks Rekha

    Like

  3. Jaya says:

    I just gasped my way through the whole story. Stunning! Congratulations on maintaining nail biting suspense and making the reader shiver!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. gc1963 says:

    Thanks Jaya. I am glad you liked it. Though you said you shivered through the whole story.

    Like

  5. Rupali says:

    Fantastic read.

    Like

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