Life sometimes takes a turn into bizzaro lane where you can almost feel fiction meeting reality. This lane is much easier to face if you have some premonition of the impending doom, but like its all other quirks, life springs its crazy on your back when you least expect it.
I woke up like I always did- Late. It was my first day at office and I knew I needed to fast forward the whole morning to reach office on time. It had been a tough arduous year . With the economic slowdown, securing a job was herculean task for a newly graduated communications manager(aka Me). To top it off, I had a loan to repay and banks hardly took the Job scenario into consideration and agree to extend your payment period , as I found out with a long, embarrassing and frankly terrifying phone call with my branch’s manager. Desperate I gave interviews and searched for Job Postings every waking hour and finally struck gold at Altec Co. My new roommate Adam was a Jock who also worked at Altec. I found him through a common friend and was glad I did - Adam was fun and a spanking basketball player.
At speeds which would have amazed my evil gym teacher I showered, dressed and was breakfast ready.
“First day of Office eh? How do you plan to go?” Adam asked
“Will mostly take the tube” I replied , washing up the dishes as Adam ate up.
“You can take my pass for the day. Its in my wallet. I have my girlfriend in town and will be back tomorrow morning”
“Ooohh big day today then eh? Should I make myself unavailable for the night?” I winked
Adam laughed his ‘Adam Laugh’ as I thanked the heavens once again for whatever good luck brought Adam to me and opened his wallet.
“Naah - we are staying at the Ritz for the Night. I am taking her out for a movie and some sightseeing, then have a candlelight dinner at Carl’s, go to the new Irish Pub near the tube station for a nightcap and then retire.”
“Yeah - I have the ring prepared as well”
I promptly dropped the wallet. All that came out of me was “whaameann”
“ Yeah - It’s been like six months since I met her and it’s been hell of a ride. You gotta keep a gal like her man, don’t wanna lose her, So I wanna get engaged. Maybe I will marry her when we are both settled better, but I wanna make a promise to her now and be legally bound by it.”
I shook my head in awe and collected the wallet. A photo of a very handsome man and a blond woman who resembled Adam had fallen out.
“Yeah. I am lucky to have them in my life.”
“Well” I sighed, handing his wallet back “I honestly hope she says yes”
“Yeah me too” replied Adam. He looked a bit forlorn.
I punched his shoulder “ She will say yes. If she is smart, she won’t ever let you go.”
“Oh she is smart.” He laughed “ She is like this badass businesswoman in jewellery and apparel”
I took off with a smile on my face. As I walked out the apartment I felt a push on my back and stumbled. I turned and realised that a basketball was the reason and its perpetrator was grinning at me holding his subway pass. In a valiant attempt to retaliate, I took the ball and made a feeble attempt to throw it back at him - little had I realised that I was holding a live grenade. The ball slipped my fingers at the wrong angle and hit the CCTV instead. In order to maintain my dignity in front of Adam who was now rolling on the floor in mirth, I took the ball and dropped it on the sofa gingerly - the way you would keep newborn baby.
My induction at the office was a tedious and boring affair. My teammates I realised to my chagrin were all middle aged men whose topics of conversation ranged from their ailing bodies to their wailing wives. As a token of team building, my manager decided to take us all out for burgers at the nearest McDonald. I let my eyes wander around and suddenly found them caught in the snakelike gaze of two onyx eyes set in a pale almond shaped face. The intensity of her gaze felt like a knife stab through my heart . Her pretty face was fringed with violent red hair and I felt the knife which seemed to have permanently sunk in my heart, twist , as my brain registered the expression on her face. The girl was anxious and scared to death. Her hand grabbed an empty cup of coke with a grip that could have left dents on steel cup.
“Isnt it right John?” I found myself hearing from a long long distance. I shook my head trying to wake myself from the reverie and turned to my manager. I smiled at him and nodded as he ploughed on with his story. I didn’t turn around to look back at her. I had my fill of trouble and was in no shape to get myself entangled with someone else’s problems. Ten minutes later we all rose to go back to work. I was out the door and suddenly stopped in my tracks.
“Whats wrong John?” One of my teammate whose name I didn’t remembered , queries.
“Forgot my phone on the table. Will be back in a sec.”
I entered the restaurant, took the phone and almost reached the door when for the third time in a day I found myself stopping. The read headed beauty was holding my hand in what felt like a death grip.
“Do not return to your home tonight.” She said in a low but firm voice as if my coming back had somehow helped her come to a decision.
“ I am sorry what ?”
“Dont go home. Crash at someone else’s place or go on a long drive or stay in the office. Just dont go home.”
And with this cryptic message she took off.
The rest of the day my mind refused to register anything new and stubbornly revolved around the mysterious woman and her cryptic message. ‘Dont go home.’ What in the name of seven princes of hell was that supposed to mean? At the end of the day I took my coat and started walking towards the tube station. It was 10 pm at night and drizzling slightly. I sighted the Irish Pub that Adam had talked about and on a whim strode inside. The Pub was in full swing and all the bartenders were busy. I asked for scotch on the rocks with a twist and stared at my hands as they twined and unwinded themselves.
“Hi” The voice that had erupted a volcano in my mind greeted me. My head snapped up and I saw that , my bartender was no one else than the crazy girl from McDonalds.
“You wanna pass out in the bar for tonight?”
“Who are you? What do you want from me?”
Her eyes widened as she snapped “ I thought it was perfectly clear what I wanted from you.”
As she strode away to service another customer I felt a volcano of ire surfacing. Not only had this girl wrecked havoc in my mind, but she had the audacity of questioning my intellectual capability. The anger helped clear my mind and I started to think .
She worked as a bartender in a pub near my office. She could have easily kept watch on me and my roommate who was working at the office for the last three years, Adam after all certainly seemed to be a regular at the pub since he planned to take his girlfriend for a nightcap tonight. And then it hit me- the house was gonna be empty tonight and a stranger had warned me not to go home. If I listened it would be cakewalk for burglars. I looked at my drink served by her with suspicion and decided against my heart to get out of the pub. Besides her red hair wasn’t visible anywhere.
It was past midnight as I took slow steps towards my apartment. My heart wanted me to listen to her warning whereas my brain burned with curiosity. I had decided to chuck the tube and take the bus route which took me home via longer route. As I reached home, I knew something was wrong for the door was unlocked. I switched on the lights and gazed in horror as the scene unfolded before me- Adam lying dead shot in the chest in the middle of the living room. My head whirled as I looked at the lifeless body of my friend. Suddenly the sound of sirens broke the silent veil of death and before I knew it I was taken in custody on the charge of Murder.
“I didn’t kill that man” I yelled through the solid iron bars.
“The man was shot between 12 to 12:30. We saw you at the crime scene at 12:15. Forensics say that no other person’s prints were found except your and the victims. The revolver was found in the swimming pool which is easily accessible through the window next to which we found you standing. The CCTV Cameras were broken purposefully by you”
I was bailed out the next day by a red headed woman.
I realised I had sunk at the deepest bottom in my life , when I saw that my company had fired me as soon as the news of Murder reached them. I reached the tube station. Now Hopeless, I suddenly fancied jumping in front of the train that was running towards me with full speed. As my legs buckled to bound, a body slammed against me. I groaned as I shook red hair off my eyes.
We sat on a bench and I asked without much ado
“ What the hell do you want? Why can’t you let me be at peace? ”
“You tell me what is happening. I bail you out and what do you do? Throw yourself in the path of a upcoming train. Are you that big a wimp?”
“I knew this was gonna happen” She went on screwing her eyes shut. That broke the dam of frustration which flowed freely.
“Oh yeah - care to explain that? How you knew that Adam was gonna get murdered and that I would be arrested and that I would , I would…..”
“Kill Yourself?” She said her voice uncharacteristically soft. “I dreamt about it. I dreamt that I would see you at McD and then in the newspapers the following day : ‘Innocent Man charged with Murder commits suicide at the subway station’. I thought it was just a dream , until I saw you at the restaurant. I couldn’t just sit there and do nothing.”
“Are you insane? Are you the murderer?”
It was her turn to look horrified. “No I didn’t kill that man, you know it in your heart.” She shook her head “Do you believe in Destiny?”
I was too shocked to frame an answer.
“Well its my destiny to save you I guess from this whole rigmarole. Why else would I dream this?”
It must be the incredulous look on my face that brought her back to being snappy
“ And You, instead of waiting around to drop as a corpse in the path of hurtling trains, why dont you make you stupid butt useful and think of ways to prove yourself innocent?”
With that, she sashayed into the train that stood on the platform.
“At least tell me your name” I yelled as the train doors closed and it jerked to speed.
This Vivacious, Snappy weird girl had somehow ignited a ray of hope in my heart. As I walked back my eyes suddenly fell on something she had left on the bench . I picked up the wad of paper that turned out to be today’s edition of The Times. I scrolled the first page and was startled to see Adam’s parents staring up at me. Mr and Mrs Richter were currently staying at The Hague hotel.
I offered my condolences to the Richters.
“Adam had mentioned you.” Mrs Richter smiled through her tears “He seemed happy to have met you. Please tell me, how was he when you last saw him?”
“He was radiant” I said recalling our last moments together. “ He was gonna propose to his girlfriend and had the ring prepared as well. He must have been so happy”
“ Girlfriend? What do you mean girlfriend? Adam never mentioned this did he ?” Said Mrs Richter turning to her husband who seemed to be just as perplexed as her.
“What is she like? Do you know her name?”
“I don't know her, I haven’t even met her. All I know is that she worked in Jewellery and Apparel business.”
Few more minutes later, I realised no further information could be obtained from this grief stricken couple. Adam’s brother benefitted from his death in terms of inheritance but he was with the Richters in a Casino at the time of death. As I took my leave, Adam’s brother asked “Did Adam mention anything about the ring? Did he give away the ring to his girlfriend?
“ I guess he did. He didn’t mention anything about the ring”
This focus on the ring suddenly brought a new question to my head. Fervently hoping that the News of Adam’s murder hadn’t spread , I called up Carl’s and asked them whether someone named Adam had made it to their reservation for candle night dinner.
“Ah Yes- A Mr. Adam did make a reservation and (10 seconds pause) He made it to the restaurant.”
“Could you tell me whether the lady he accompanied accepted his proposal?” I hazarded
“I am sorry , but may I ask who am I speaking to?”
“Oh I am a friend of Adam’s, and me and couple of his other friends wanted to plan a surprise party for him to congratulate him on his ummm good fortune. But in case , the lady refused him, we didn’t want to ahh make things awkward you know…” I trailed off
“Sure Sure sir, I distinctly remember the young lady in question accepting his proposal. He slipped the ring on her fingers himself. The Ring must have cost him a fortune- The diamond was the size of a pigeon’s egg”
I had a hunch that Adam was murdered for this (heaven knew how much dollar’s worth) pigeon egg. Something struck me and I asked “Just to be sure we are talking about the same Adam, his girlfriend had dark red hair right? Like a bush around her head”
“No sir, the missus was platinum blonde” he frowned. I felt a knot loosening in my chest as I weeded out the mysterious girl from a possible list of suspects.
My next course of action was to go to Ritz. I went to the reception and asked for Adam’s reservation.
“ No sir, there is no room booked under the name of a Mr. Adam”
I swore and cursed myself for not knowing the name of Adam’s girlfriend. And then it struck me -
“Can you tell me who stays in Room No. 21?” It was Adam’s jersey number.
“Sorry sir, that information cannot be indulged.”
“Please?” I implored and slipped a 50 dollar bill “Its to surprise my friend”
The receptionist smiled and said “ It is booked under the name of a girl”
“Is she Blonde?”
“Yes Sir, and she was accompanied by a very handsome man. They haven’t returned since last night”
I confirmed it was Adam by showing his photo and passed the receptionist another 50 dollars along with a slip with my number on it.
“Let me know when she returns.” I said and took off towards the waiting lounge.
I dont know whether it was the sweet smelling air freshener or the cranked up AC, but I found myself getting wrapped up, in the velvety darkness of sleep. I woke up to the sound of my phone ringing. I picked up and the receptionist confirmed that , the said blonde had asked for a checkout within 15 minutes. I reached the hotel room and once again to my alarm found the door slightly ajar. I entered and for a second time within 48 hours witnessed another dead body lying sprawled on the living room with a gunshot to the chest- except that , this time it was the red headed woman who had
saved me. As the Police stormed the place, I screamed for the pain of losing her ripped through my chest…And found two strong hanks shaking me.
I woke up a second time. Not bothering to reassure (or thank) the waiter whose strong hands had ended my nightmare. I ran towards Room No. 21. I was half way there when my phone started buzzing- I already knew who was on the line and didn’t stop to pick up. In my heart of hearts I knew red head had , using her bizarre ways found out about Adam’s girlfriend and was gonna get murdered in Room No 21. Sure enough, I saw her walking briskly in front of me. Without hesitating, I caught up to her and dragged her aside as the Police Department arrested Adam’s adoptive parents for theft and murders of Adam and his girlfriend.
I later found out that Adam and his Parents were part of a notorious gang who had committed numerous thefts and were under the risk of getting caught due to Adam’s recklessness. But None of it mattered. Red Head had asked me whether I believed in Destiny. The truth was, she was destined to be my guardian angel to save me, and now it was my destiny to save her. The game was afoot.