The Cheating Husband

Submitted into Contest #102 in response to: Write a story about someone losing faith in an institution.... view prompt

81 comments

Thriller Crime Fiction

Draping the pallu of my saree around my waist, I tucked the loose end of it into the petticoat to avoid getting ketchup and oil stains on it as I helped serve piping hot samosas, ordered fresh from Narula’s bakery in Indiranagar, into the Corelle plates. The whiff of the spicy mint chutney I dolloped into each plate made my mouth water. Next, I served vegetable spring rolls, paneer tikkas and semolina idlis flavoured with mustard seeds and curry leaves into each plate, adding chicken tikkas into the plates for the two non-vegetarians in our group of friends.

“Umm,” said Mira, tasting the cream of mushroom soup from the ladle as she leaned over the stove where the soup had been simmering.

“Careful, darling,” I said, grabbing her pallu as it slipped down her shoulder and nearly licked the flames of the stove. “You should tuck it in.”

Mira turned around, facing me as she smoothed her lavender Chiffon saree. “What do you think?”

The layered diamond necklace around her slender neck and the diamond studs in her ears shimmered under the bright kitchen lights. The make-up, expensive and excessive, had done its bit in covering the fatigue that comes from working long hours in an HR leadership position at an IT services multinational corporation, but it couldn’t camouflage her dissatisfaction with nearly everything in her life, including her husband, who I thought doted on her.

“You look stunning,” I lied. “Beautiful saree.”

She scoffed, rolling her eyes. “One thing Raj does well after years of practice—picking up the right gifts for me.”

“You’ve trained him well. You know, Adi doesn’t even know what the various fabrics of sarees are, let alone buy a saree for me.”

There are many other things my husband, Aditya Gulati, does not know, including the surprise I’ve planned for him tonight, which he should be receiving any minute now.

“Oh, come on. So what if he can’t buy a saree for you. He brings home enough money,” she said, winking at me.

Well, that’s true and an added incentive for what I was about to do tonight. I’m his only family and the next in line to inherit his business empire should any misfortune befall him.

I would’ve preferred to sit on one of the cosy couches in the living room, sipping wine with the rest of our friends, pretending to be interested in the gossip and the conversations, but if I didn’t help in the kitchen tonight—as I usually did when our fortnightly get-togethers were held at Mira’s place, just like she helped when the parties were held at my place—everyone would notice. And tonight was not a night I would want to be remembered for behaving oddly in any way, however inconsequential. People adhered to patterns and routines unless something was on their mind and there was absolutely nothing on my mind. Nothing I could talk about, anyway.

As we carried the plates to the living room to serve the five women gazing hungrily towards the kitchen and I accidentally glimpsed at the wall clock, my heart raced with the knowledge of the unfolding events at 211, Palm Springs. It was 9.02 p.m. He would be breaking into the house right about now with his expert gloved fingers working the lock on the back door. The light click of the lock would go unnoticed by the two adults in the bedroom or in the bathtub, enmeshed in each other’s arms, oblivious to everything except the immediate, stark sensations of the flesh. He would then go to one of the rooms and rummage through the drawers and the wardrobe for jewellery and other valuables and keep at it until Adi, finally alerted by the strange noises coming from the adjacent room, would cover his toned body by a robe or a towel and go to the next room to investigate. My breath caught in my throat as I pictured the long-bladed dagger piercing Adi's torso, quick stab wounds, at least five of them. As the victim’s wife, I’d receive a detailed post mortem report and my contact would receive the full payment only if the work was satisfactory. After finishing off Adi, he would then stifle the woman’s impending scream with a hand over her mouth and a dagger in her heart. The spicy tang of the mint chutney flooded my mouth as I pictured blood splattering white walls, the Police dubbing the double murder as a burglary gone horribly wrong, and closing the case after being unable to find any trace of the suspect at the crime scene or any other lead even after months of the investigation.

Just as Tanya, our plump saree-clad friend with diamond-studded stubs for fingers, began waving her pudgy hands in the air and describing the sordid details of a high-profile divorce case her husband was working on, my phone began vibrating in my purse. Not my ordinary phone, but my burner phone, the one I’d bought recently for one specific purpose.

My heart plummeted on seeing the name Sheela Sharma flashing on the screen.

I’d saved the investigation agency’s number by this name to avoid any suspicions at home. Even if Adi had stumbled upon the phone by chance, I would have told him it was my new office phone.

The subject was seen entering house number 211, Palm Springs at 2 p.m. in the afternoon on March 19th. The subject and the female resident of 211, Palm Springs were seen on the balcony having drinks at 2.35 p.m. and embracing at 2.49 p.m. Holding hands, they went in towards the bedroom at 2.55 p.m. The subject emerged from the house at 4.45 p.m. and left the house in his car.

There were many such reports I’d received in exchange for the total bill amount of Rupees 450,000 I’d shelled out over three months. My husband was cheating with a much younger unmarried woman who worked as a receptionist in his office. He hadn’t yet brought up divorce, but I had a feeling it was on his mind and he was looking for the best opportunity while building up his courage to talk about it.

I stepped into the cool air on the balcony and closed the sliding door behind me.

“Hello,” I answered the phone.

“Mrs Gulati,” said a deep, cultured voice at the other end.

I immediately recognized him as Mr Arora, the managing partner of the agency. But why would he call me himself? It was usually the manager assigned to my case who communicated with me. The protocol was that the secretary would first call me up and set up a meeting with the case manager at my convenient time. At the allotted time, she’d call me again and patch me into the call with the case manager.

“Mr Arora,” I said. “What’s the matter?”

“I’m really sorry to be calling you up at this time and I apologize if this call has caused you any inconvenience,” he paused. “I’m afraid I have some bad news.”

“What?” I blurted out.

My mind was spinning. I had made the last payment to the agency a week ago and terminated our contract after receiving all the evidence they had collected over the past three months, everything I needed to set my plan in motion. What could have possibly gone wrong?

Mr Arora cleared his throat. “There was a mix up at our end. The file and the evidence we gave you was for another case, not yours. It’s a grave mistake, I know and I personally take full responsibility. We are willing to refund your full amount...”

My knees buckled under my weight. What did he mean? Was my husband not cheating on me with the pretty receptionist? But even before I had hired the investigation agency, all the signs were there. Adi was returning home late every day, many a time with his clothes smelling like a woman’s perfume. He was distracted and extremely possessive of his mobile phone, taking it with him to the toilet as if he needed it to wipe his ass. No, my husband was certainly cheating on me. All the signs were there.

“I want the correct file,” I said, finally finding my voice.

“Of course,” said Mr Arora, his voice heavy with relief. “I have it here with me. I can have it delivered to your office tomorrow morning. Would that be okay?”

In my purse, my other mobile began vibrating.

Why was Roy calling me at this hour? I had spoken to him two hours ago on my way to Mira’s house. He knew I’d be occupied today and how critical it was for everything to be perfect tonight. One call in one evening could be attributed to work discussions—we worked together, after all—but two calls on the night my husband got murdered could arouse suspicion.

I groaned inwardly. “Sorry, did you say you have the file on your desk?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Read it out to me.”

A pause. “Sorry, Mrs Gulati. Transmitting this information over the phone...”

My head was exploding with fury, splotches of red blurring my vision. “Listen to me, Arora. You’ve fucked me by giving me the wrong information. I could sue you for lakhs of rupees. I could have your ass arrested. Read me the information right now or you’ll pay dearly for your mistake.”

I could hear his mind’s machinery whirring over the mobile phone. “Arora,” I said in my best intimidating voice.

“Just a minute please,” he said.

Some papers rustled.

“Your husband indeed is cheating on you, Mrs Gulati. The address of the woman in question...”

“Yes,” I said breathlessly.

“C-401, High Garden, Indiranagar. The woman is...”

“I’ll call you back.”

I snapped the phone shut, holding my head between my hands. Mira! My best friend, Mira. Adi and Mira. I could not believe it. I was going to ask them to bring photographic evidence this time. I wouldn’t believe just the report like I did the last time.

With trembling hands, I dialled my contact’s number. Maybe it was not too late for the couple in 221, Palm Springs—somebody else’s cheating husband and his mistress. Maybe, the dense Bangalore traffic had delayed my contact. Maybe...

Call waiting. He was talking to somebody else. Fuck.

Roy’s name flashed on my mobile once again.

“Hey, is everything okay?”

I froze on hearing Mira’s voice behind me. She had appeared silkily out of nowhere and was now standing less than three feet away. I gazed into her brown eyes, trying to find the answers to my questions. Was it really you who was having an affair with my husband? Why did you betray your best friend?

“Uh, all’s well. I need to use the washroom,” I said, sliding in through the door past her.

I went directly into her bedroom and closed the door. Two or three minutes was all I had before she became suspicious. I began rummaging through her jewellery box on the dresser. If she was the woman Adi was having an affair with, she’d be missing a leaf-shaped diamond stud, one of which I’d found between the bed and the mattress while changing the sheets in our guestroom. So many earrings and rings and chains in gold and diamond, and the woman was still unhappy.

Aha, there it was! A single leaf-shaped diamond stud, just one. I closed the jewellery box quickly and went to the washroom to splash some water on my face. So it really was true, huh. My husband and my best friend. Unimaginable.

I grabbed my burner phone from my purse and dialled my contact once again.

Thankfully, this time he picked up on the second ring.

“Ma’am,” he said in his hoarse voice. “The work is done. I’m out of there. Everything went according to plan.”

I sat on the toilet seat and began hyperventilating. Somebody else’s cheating husband and his mistress were dead, thanks to me. If I got rid of the burner phone, there still wasn’t anything to link me to the murders. In fact, given that I had no idea who the victims were, there was no way the murders could be tied back to me. The investigation agency would keep quiet. I’d make sure of that. I’d pay the contact discreetly as I’d originally planned. Anyway, he was a professional killer who wouldn’t get caught. There was nothing else.

Roy’s name flashed on my mobile for the third time in the past ten minutes.

Roy was my married colleague, my long-time friend and now my lover for the past six months, ever since I began suspecting that Adi was cheating on me. He’d been such a source of comfort to me and had become a very special part of my life. Did I love him? I don’t know. I certainly missed his ribald jokes and his infectious laughter, the confidence he exuded and the affection he showered upon me, his sharp intelligence and his precise meticulousness when he wasn’t around. Once I’d got rid of Adi, I looked forward to spending more time with Roy. Our first night together would be very special, I was sure of it.

“Hello,” I answered.

I was greeted by a sputtering sound.

“Roy? Are you okay?” I asked, alarmed.

“I’ve been...” The rest of the sentence was wiped out by a fit of violent coughing.

I stood bolt upright. “What’s wrong? Where are you?” 

“Stabbed. I’ve been stabbed,” he managed to blurt out.

“What? Where? Have you called an ambulance?”

“He said... when he stabbed me...”

“Roy!” I screamed into the phone.

“When he stabbed me, he said... courtesy of Mrs Gulati.”

My phone slipped through my fingers and clattered to the tiled bathroom floor.

My first instinct was to scream, but I simply collapsed on the cold, hard floor. As the sound of the wailing Police sirens pierced the night air, I stared bleakly out of the window, contemplating the swiftly approaching karmic retribution. 





July 11, 2021 10:21

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81 comments

K. Antonio
20:15 Jul 17, 2021

Oh wow, I didn't expect that ending. I loved the cultural flare you added to the story, but the twists and the reveals were great! Nice job!

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Kanika G
15:41 Jul 20, 2021

Thank you so much for your kind words! I'm thrilled you liked my story. :)

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Michael Martin
23:49 Jul 11, 2021

Damn... so many twists and turns. I've come to expect them from your stories but they still get me every time

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Kanika G
14:42 Jul 12, 2021

Thank you so much, Michael. I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)

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Keya Jadav
12:32 Jul 11, 2021

Oh my god! Now, this is a killer story, just wow. That plot twist in the end, still got my head swirling. I just can't believe it. I-I Okay.*deep breath* Now better. I was saying, I love your story. It's an amazing spill on paper. It makes the readers cry, smile, scratch their beard (if they have any or let's just stick to scratch their forehead) and make their mouth wide open in horror (like it did mine). JUST WOW Keep writing!

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Kanika G
14:45 Jul 12, 2021

Wow, what a great comment! I feel very flattered after reading it. Thank you so much for your wonderful comment. I'm so glad you experienced various emotions while reading this story. Thank you. :)

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Keya Jadav
14:52 Jul 12, 2021

You are worth it :)

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Ravi Srivastava
17:37 Jul 11, 2021

A stunningly well-crafted story, Kanika. It is not easy to write in this genre, and you have done it so well. The twist in the end is a real shocker. Great work!

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Kanika G
14:43 Jul 12, 2021

Thank you, Sir! I'm pleased you enjoyed the story. :)

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Jon R. Miller
13:10 Jul 11, 2021

Terrific story! I really liked the twist at the end. Congratulations on a great job!

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Kanika G
14:43 Jul 12, 2021

Thanks so much, Jon! I'm glad the twist did its job. :)

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Ruth Smith
13:06 Jul 11, 2021

Wow, talk about unexpected twists! This is a very exciting story.

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Kanika G
14:44 Jul 12, 2021

Thank you, Ruth! I'm glad you found the story exciting! :)

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Bhaskar Kaushesh
10:36 Aug 26, 2021

Astounding ! The way you shape a story/ies is staggering. Fairly amusing to read these !

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Kanika G
10:00 Sep 15, 2021

Thank you. :)

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Sam W
03:51 Aug 06, 2021

Yikes. Yikes yikes yikes. I loved this story, Kanika, the karmic ending, the mix-up and the complicated maneuvers, the innocent get-together as all of this was unfolding. This mundane setting was my favorite touch. Amazing read!

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Kanika G
05:44 Nov 30, 2021

I don't know how I'm only seeing this comment now, but thank you so much for your wonderful comment! I'm sorry I missed seeing this somehow. Thanks a ton!

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K A
22:07 Jul 28, 2021

This is gold! I was gasping at every twist. I loved the suspense and also how cunning Mrs Gulati is. Incredibly well written. Great job!

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Kanika G
13:58 Jul 29, 2021

Thank you so much! I really appreciate your comment. :)

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K A
18:54 Jul 29, 2021

You're welcome! I'd love it if you could take a look at any of my work too :)

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Kristin Neubauer
20:20 Jul 27, 2021

Hey Kanika - I'm sorry I'm so late. I haven't logged onto Reedsy for a couple of weeks because of an avalanche of work. This was such a fabulous story! So many twists...just when we thought we knew what was happening, you zinged us somewhere else. What fun and, as always, great writing. I loved it!

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Kanika G
10:28 Jul 28, 2021

Thank you so much, Kristin! I'm glad you got a chance to log into Reedsy and read my story. I have been busy too and haven't submitted a story for over two weeks now. :( Hopefully, I'll get some time next weekend. I will check out your latest story soon. take care!

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Kanika G
10:43 Jul 28, 2021

Oops, your latest story is the food story, the one I've read and commented on. I will wait for your new story. :)

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Gaurav Thakur
16:10 Jul 26, 2021

Awesome plot and what an unexpected ending. You kept me hanging by a thread in the end. Keep up this incredible writing dear Kanika 👍🏻

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Kanika G
10:32 Jul 28, 2021

Thank you so much, Jiju. :) This story flowed very easily and I conceptualized and wrote it in four hours.

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R. B. Leyland
20:18 Jul 25, 2021

I don't know how you twist a story so much every single time, but you do! Edge of the seat tension, as usual. You can feel the story speeding up as she realises she's made the mistake, it goes perfectly with the panic she must have been feeling at the time. Once again, amazing work!!

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Kanika G
14:01 Jul 26, 2021

Thank you so much, Ben. Reading your comment brightened my day. :)

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R. B. Leyland
14:58 Jul 26, 2021

Glad to be of service! Sorry it took so long.

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Kanika G
15:29 Jul 26, 2021

You read my story, I'm glad about it. How's your novel going? I've been so stuck these days, haven't been getting time to write. Trying to get my schedule back on some sort of track. Hopefully, soon.

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R. B. Leyland
17:45 Jul 30, 2021

I'm getting close now, but doing really long hours at work at the moment so it's slowed down 😴 this is only the first draft too. Yeah it's hard to balance it with life, isn't it? Hope you do, your stories are brilliant!

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Kanika G
07:01 Aug 12, 2021

Thank you! Yes, I've managed to get my writing back on some sort of track. :) Hope you get more time to write too. Your writing is great!

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Tamara Bowman
23:55 Jul 24, 2021

I absolutely loved all the cultural references and suspence.This story was horrifying in the best way possible! I really enjoyed reading it:)

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Kanika G
12:09 Jul 25, 2021

Thank you so much for your wonderful comment. :) Glad you enjoyed it.

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Stevie Burges
08:06 Jul 22, 2021

good story

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Kanika G
12:12 Jul 25, 2021

Thank you so much, Stevie. :)

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Angela Guthrie
00:42 Jul 22, 2021

Well done!😊

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Kanika G
12:13 Jul 25, 2021

Thank you so much. :)

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Theresa Bhowan
17:22 Jul 20, 2021

This story left be gobsmacked in the most wonderful way. Your stories always leave me with a dropped jaw.

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Kanika G
01:23 Jul 21, 2021

Thank you for the wonderful comment! I'm glad the story had the desired effect. :)

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V. Goel
02:43 Jul 20, 2021

As an Indian, this was an amazing story, and your an amazing writer!

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Kanika G
15:41 Jul 20, 2021

Thank you so much!!

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C. Icarus
19:12 Jul 19, 2021

Fantastic story! The plot is incredible and the details of your writing really lend to the story.

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Kanika G
15:42 Jul 20, 2021

I'm so happy you enjoyed the story. Thank you so much! :)

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14:41 Jul 19, 2021

Wow! This had a lot of twists and turns. The suspense was masterful. Your story telling is great. The climax was what climax ought to be-thoroughly shocking and unexpected. Good story Kanika. I shall appreciate if you read every story of mine. Yours comments I shall look forward to. Keep writing.

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11:57 Jul 22, 2021

Thanks KanikaG

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11:57 Jul 22, 2021

Thanks KanikaG

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Kanika G
15:43 Jul 20, 2021

Thank you so much, Neel. Your comment made me very happy. I will surely check out your story soon. I'm a little behind on my reading with some personal stuff going on, but I will get back to it soon. Thanks. :)

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N K
14:08 Jul 19, 2021

This was so so good! You always do such a brilliant job of putting in completely unexpected twists that I am always shocked by and enjoy so much. The suspense was built up perfectly in this story and I was holding my breath till I reached the end. Speaking of, I think the ending was so perfect. It brought a really exciting and well-thought out plot to a good close.

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Kanika G
15:45 Jul 20, 2021

I am so pleased on reading your wonderful comment. Thabk you so much, Natalia!! I'm happy you enjoyed the story. :)

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