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Crime Fiction Suspense

'Are you coming tonight'?

Anna almost texted back, 'Yes, I will'. Then, better sense prevailed. She had remembered something her mother had told her year ago: "Remember my baby, when you want to say NO to a man, make it sound like a YES."


The wisdom in her dear departed mother's adage had served the thirty year old well.

Three marriages, over a baker's dozen live ins, and umpteen slam bam fortuitous encounters were proof that she had been an industrious student. In the game of hearts and darts, the    

sultry siren was the ultimate rockstar, the queen bee of romance. And aiding her in her endeavour were those porcelain china high cheek bones and a perfectly chiselled milky white oval visage that one of her 'followers' had gushingly expressed as a worthy rival to the legendary Cleopatra. A gym toned figure made all the more voluptuous by a gruelling daily regimen of zumba and power yoga and voice dipped in honey ensured a geometric her list of admirers grew in geometric progression.


'And mamma, if you really like someone then?'

Her mamma had cupped her cheeks, and with a coquettish glint in her eyes hissed, "Baby, keep them on tenterhooks. It's never too late. All men are dogs. Make them salivate. Create a heightened sense of anticipation. Keep them close, let them sniff around. Do this, and they will wag their tails all their lives, a loyal puppy on permanent leash.'


Vikram Chandra was her latest dog on leash.

In the totem pole of desirability, the upcoming dealer of 'only branded' smart phones would rate a low medium.

Anna slithered into her comfy light brown sofa 

and mulled her future course of action.

For the next few minutes, her left brain took over.

Her mind began a quick profit and loss review.

Vikram was pushing his 30s, an only child (that means none to cleanse his mind should things go wrong!) lived in his own two room house in Lutyens' Delhi (the location if not the size was a definite plus), was benevolence personified. In their seven month short courtship she had gone on a European holiday, an Asian backwater cruise, three animal safaris (animals, of the four legged variety too, were one among her many weaknesses!), received a limited edition Luis Hutton, two gold and diamond encrusted bracelets with her name encrusted on each in bold diamond letterings, and a top end model mid segment SUV in red, her favourite colour. Besides, of course, a fully paid annual membership to La Damsels, the best spa in town.

Not a bad catch at all, murmured Anna as amorous fingers caressed the all pink latest edition IPhone. Another one of Vikram's showerings.


Well, gladdened no end, she almost stabbed the speed dial. Was about to call her beau and let him know her affirmation. Yes, she would be coming tonight. Tonight, and the way manna is dropping from the sky, for all nights to come.


At the nth moment, Anna checked herself.


Wait Anna, hold your horses. Don't commit. Let him sweat it out. And then, strike when the iron is hot.


An hour later, her reply landed on Vikram's Samsung message box.


"Ok, will be there at 10. Just an hour. Barun's flight lands at 10.45."


*

23, Bidyasagar Lane 

Salt Lake City

Kolkata


Vikram checked on the hidden cameras he had installed some six months ago_ one in the master room, the other in his wife Isha's room, the one she retreated to after the two had a fight, something whose frequency had increased from twice a month to almost four times a day.


Satisfied that were all in working condition, he then stepped out into the lawns. The hexagonal black box lay hidden behind the thick bark of a massive gulmohar tree that faced the massive wrought iron front gate of ISHA'S BUNGALOW.

The all black stone house was perimetered by ten feet high electric fencing.

The lone security guard, septuagenarian Biswanath Deb was not in his post manning the entrance.


A shiny thousand rupee note slid into his eager palms was the bait.


Officially, he had called in sick.

At 9.45, with 15 minutes to go before Anna's arrival, Vikram slipped into Isha's room.


*

At exactly the same time, Anna stepped into an Uber outside her apartment. Within a few minutes, the black vehicle had snaked it's way through the myriad lanes and bylanes and hit the near empty highway, Enconsned in the rear seat, Anna flicked her left wrist.

The minute hand in her golden dial watch (another gift from Vikram!) touched 10.

Another five minutes more, she sighed.


*

"You look ravishing tonight"!


Anna turned over and looked into her lover's eyes.


'What do you mean tonight?' Are you telling me I don't look beautiful...'


Vikram was quick on the uptake. His palm pressed against Anna's reddened lips. The lipstick had smudged, faint red lines appearing on her left dimpled cheeks.


"My darling, you are a Greek goddess. You look beautiful every single moment. But today, in that jet black knotted saree you look divine, my Helen. Remember, my love, yours is the face that could launch a thousand ships".


Vikram's flowery words, liberally soaked in honey, had the desired effect.

Vain and not immune to male opprobrium, Anna melted, her heart softening enough to allow Vikram to rush in and squeeze her in a tight amorous embrace.


An hour later, desires of the flesh satiated, the two sat upright as Anna lit a cigarette, took in a couple of puffs, and passed it on to Vikram.


Vikram inhaled and exhaled deeply.

A minute later, he turned around and looked Anna in the eye.


"Isha is lying in the other room. Dead. I've murdered her."


*

"I killed her. I had to. Had no choice. Why did I do it?

Well, I will tell you. I shall lay bare the truth. But first, a little backstory. I promise, once I have laid bare her past, our sordid past, you would be a little more sympathetic if not outrightly empathetic. You see, my wife, my now dead wife...her name as you may have known by now, is err...was Isha. We fell in love, at least I did, some five years ago. And, it was she, who had proposed marriage. To tell you the truth, I was totally taken by surprise. I mean, I was 28, had some five years of corporate life behind me, was doing not too bad on the financial front, and if the array of past girl friends were to be believed (all casual relationships by the way!) was not too bad in the looks department-all attributes that invited me into the hearts and bedrooms of quite a few city slickers, adventure loving girls ever game for a roll in the hay.

It was during such footloose and fancy free

times that the bait of marriage and the high life dangled in from of my eyes.


I took no less than half an hour to decide.

I psyched myself and fell, hook, line and sinker for what I believed was the King sized life that awaited me.

For her, I was nothing but a dog. Worse, a slave who she kept for her amusement. Five years ago, when she married me, I thought I was the luckiest person in the world. I mean, who wouldn't want to spend his life with a ravishingly attractive young woman, a cosmopolitan girl born with a proverbial silver spoon in her mouth. A person who shopped at the best international cities and shopping hubs, vacationed at the most exotic destinations every quarter, city slicker, a stylist who spoke seven languages, plus, someone...


*

What? What did you just say? Did you really...?

Anna couldn't believe her ears.

Yes, it's true. I have murdered my wife. I killed her minutes before you arrived. She..."

Anna's head began to swirl. She felt a pain shoot through her chest. Her hands, feet and lower limb went limp; her mouth went dry. Momentarily stunned, ber mind went completely blank; it seemed she was in the grip of a terrible seizure.

"Are you okay...Anna, is everything all right with you? Please speak. ?"


Anna, her shoulders sunk deep into her chest, her mind still in a daze, shook her head before mumbling incomprehensibly, "I need to go to the washroom."


She didn't wait for Vikram's reply.

She stumbled and fumbled her way out of the bedroom.

'I just need to go out. Get some fresh air. I will be alright then, she muttered to herself.

As she headed towards the washroom, which was on the other end of the bungalow, adjacent to the sprawling backyard, she passed by Isha's room.

It was open, half open, rather.


As her eyes adjusted to the near darkened room, she saw what she had feared. Under the faint glow of the nightly sky whose rays had sneaked in through the polka dotted laced window curtains, she could make out the silhouette of a woman. She inched towards the doorway, and looked a bit more closely. There, sprawled on the giant bed, and clad in a

pepper brown nightie lay a woman, as still as death itself. It was Isha, Vikram's wife. She knew that face, round and beautiful, her skin the colour of the morning sun, now fast turning a purplish hue.

A muffled scream escaped her lips. She ran straight into the washroom and there she lay, for God knows how long, her heart a cauldron of emotions, her petite frame frail, her mind benumbed to utter inaction.


*

"I had to kill her. Not only was she cheating on me, but she had also been threatening me with divorce. "I will see that you don't get a single penny...no house, no money...nothing...'

These were her exact words. Tell me Anna, what was I to do? What other option did I have?"

As Anna searched for words to respond, Vikram continued. "A couple of hours ago, I sneaked into her room. Her phone lay on the night stand. I went through it. Copious messages were being exchanged with a man. It was her lawyer. His messages filled her inbox. He is due to arrive tonight with the divorce papers. And you know what...it is this same lawyer with whom she had been having an affair for the past one year. I have proof as well. I have secretly recorded their love making. Plus, I overheard her saying a week ago that she would end the marriage within the week, and marry him. Now, tell me Anna, what was I to do: it was either to forver live a life of penury and ignominy, or to take a risk and finish her off? I chose the latter. I did it for me, for you, for us, Anna".


Anna stared on incredulously at the 'changed' Vikram who stood beside her. She noticed his triumphal expression, the arched eyebrows. Even in the dim lights of the room, his eyes, slate grey, shone bright. As she looked on, she saw something else-a steely resolve that sat assuredly on either shoulders, unflappable to the core. To her he looked not unlike one of those Royal Bengal tigers she had seen during one of their most recent visits to the Sunderbans-a Royal Bengal tiger langurously his lips after what was a highly satisfactory kill. That and the ever tightening of his jawline revealed to her things she had hitherto not known about Vikram. Here was a man who was a killer, a cold blooded murderer, a man who was coolly blowing cigarette rings into the roof while in the next room lay cold the body of a woman, the one who was a living fresh and bones specimen until a while ago, someone who was his wife, a living, breathing soul with a heart that beat and throbbed with desires and drives and demands, a human being now turned lifeless, cold and frigid as defrosted chicken yanked out of the refrigerator for what was to follow-on evening of sheer gastronomic savouring.

Anna licked her lips. Unknown to her, almost like a reflect action, her eyes too began to reflect what was seeing in Vikram's. A thick reddish hue began to form around her cheek bones. The skin around the nape of her neck began to turn moist, the knuckles of her hands turned inwards, all five fingers knotting in a firm clasp.

Her moment of epiphany had arrived. In that golden yellow dawn of total clarity she envisioned ghe truth about herself, her drives, the inner machinations of her soul. She knew then and there who she was-a woman with a death wish, a woman who loved to flirt with danger, a woman who was more of a man. A man with zero conscience, a man with zero emotions, a man who would everything in his power and means to get what he wants, to satiate the inner cravings of his crazed soul.

It was then that Anna turned towards Vikram and smiled. It was a slow, conspiratorial curve of the lips. It said more than a million words could ever express.

The two locked eyes, locked arms; and, in a sense, locked their future, too.

And just before she sank into La La Land, the words of her dear departed mother once again reverberated into her ears: Remember my baby, you may have been born a woman but in this world you need to be a man, a man among men. That's the only way to survive and thrive in this bad, bad world.

***























July 28, 2021 16:21

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9 comments

Zilla Babbitt
17:14 Jul 30, 2021

Hi Neel! I had a few minutes and everything else on my list done so I thought I'd come by. I've been meaning to, anyway, each time you comment :). This is an interesting story that starts out a typical femme-fatale romance story and ends with a surprising murder twist. I think Anna is a selfish person who doesn't deserve anyone... except maybe a murderer. Perhaps Anna and Vikram are perfect for each other. My critiques: I won't get too deep into grammar here, just the broader basics. I think you have too much exposition. You describe Ann...

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08:20 Jul 31, 2021

I am so very overwhelmed by your timely response, Zilla. As always, your suggestions are so specific and feedback constructive. I have incorporated the necessary changes, and changed the ending. I do appreciate every response of yours. You are a marvellous support, and it goes without saying I am huge admirer of your writing style. Thanks again, Zilla.

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Zilla Babbitt
14:05 Aug 01, 2021

Yes, of course! I'm happy I could help :)

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Robert Cherny
23:44 Aug 04, 2021

This is impressive work. I did not see the ending coming at all. Well done.

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01:50 Aug 05, 2021

Hi Robert, I had to redraft ending after Zilla came up with some insight. I am glad you looked it. The ending needed to have the element of twist in tune with Anna's diabolical character. Thanks for the read and your appreciation. Such constructive feedbacks do a t as the right tonic for a writer.

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Kendall Defoe
02:25 Aug 03, 2021

Intriguing narrative...you have my full attention, sir!

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05:30 Aug 03, 2021

Woah!!!So overwhelmed sir! I am so very glad you found my story intriguing. Thanks a lot Kendall.

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Asha Pillay
01:17 Jul 29, 2021

Waiting to read the continuation... Good job

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04:20 Jul 29, 2021

Thanks a lot, Asha.

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