July 25, 2016

Killer's Dilemma
by Charles Chettiar (short, PG-13)
Cover image.
Image credit: Sand Pilarski. More info.

Charles Chettiar is an Engineer by circumstance and writer by choice, working in Mumbai. He started writing short stories when in college, and is working on his first novel.

~~~

If you look at me you will say that I am just an average guy, with an average job and average life. You will not notice the festering wounds I was subjected to in my childhood. Someone had remarked once that there is some amount of nuclear venom inside of me. That person has left for greener shores and is no longer in my life, but that reminds me of the time when I came remarkably close to being exposed.

Not that I was only one of my type. There had been many and will be of my type. Not that I had anything against people as general, but it was something which can never be answered in total.

I won't call them victims, because that would mean that I am a predator. I will call them my projects, because like a project they had a beginning, then peak time and later they tapered off.

Once I was just walking as was customary for me to walk every evening. It had been a benign day as much of the time I had spent in my armchair reading about the great souls who have inhabited the earth. There was a dog, and then there was a woman. The woman, it seemed, had nothing of much of a life and the woman was very much attached to the dog. I don't know, but I had worked in a government back till my retirement and was getting to enjoy the necessary retirement at forty-eight. It was voluntary of sorts, and I, being a very young reproducer, had finished off my duties about marriage of my only daughter a couple of years back. There was no wife as she had expired a decade back, and I had much of the time in the day. I was stuck with an empty house without any hobby in my kitty. The only hobby was watching some amount of TV once in a while, but that too seemed too much of a hindrance now.

Getting back to the woman, I noticed that she was greatly attached to the dog. I noticed it, and then confirmed it when I struck a conversation with her. She was a widow living on rental income from some commercial properties which she had in the city, and she had no other obligations. She lived in the locality and continued much of the time doing some NGO work or another. In whatever she said, she invoked the name of her dog. And after a time it started getting irritating.

I followed her and came to know that she lived some buildings away from my flat. And what was mentioned in the nameplate confirmed that she was what she was telling.

There was something sinister with her, and I couldn't get her out of my mind. Whether it was anything because of my retirement or not, I couldn't say. But I knew that there was something sinister within her, and I wanted to find out the contours of non-normalcy.

With side training of picking locks (you have no idea what all a person can do once retired), I was able to enter in her house and observe that it was immaculately kept. But here also there was a marked non-normalcy. The pictures of the woman and her dog covered nearly each room. Knowing where the act would be held, I positioned my spy cam above the bed.

I couldn't get in the house for some time, as I hadn't the opportunity, but a week later the opportunity presented itself.

When I downloaded the video clip and saw it on my computer, all my suspicions turned out to be true. She fed the dog, washed the dog, strolled with the dog, had sex with the dog, and slept with the dog. She believed that the dog was a re-incarnation of her long-dead husband and it was God's way of keeping them together.

When I drove her own kitchen knife inside her throat, she looked at me with accusation, but then her eyes faded. I gave them both a lover's death.

"So now you can both be re-incarnated in the same species --for seven births!" I said.

The accusing eyes just stared past me.

I won't tell anything about the police because I had left no clues, but the clues that there was a robbery. I wrote letters to the newspapers that it was getting unsafe for individuals to live alone and particularly the senior citizens.

That was my first kill. In a spate of two years I had a couple dozen, without leaving any clues. It was not an ego thing for me. I never wrote to the police or the mayor taunting them about their shoddy work. I had been shy and remained shy. I had always allowed my work to do the talking, and that work was well appreciated, because with the newspaper reports and the TV channel's coverage, it seemed that India had got its very own intelligent serial killer. But it was not just the thrill for me. I knew that I was doing God's work, by punishing the immoral.

I knew that the case of mine had reached a critical level when the media claimed that the city police had requested FBI profilers to help them. Shame on them! Didn't they have psychologists in India that they had to go to US, and import them?

But I started to realize that a net was being spread out for me, and had started to close on me.

I followed the case, not out of an egoistic need, but because I wanted to be ahead of the authorities in their own game. I knew that they were frustrated. They called me the 'knifer' because that was the only modus operandi I used in all my dealings with the immoral.

After every kill, I walked the walk, and did a pilgrimage to Shirdi. The more the immorality, the bigger the pilgrimage would be. This was a kind of way for me to tell God that what I had done was right and to take blessings for the next task at hand. It was this way I came across a couple at Vaishnodevi, who from all appearances hadn't married, but had come to the pilgrimage site nonetheless.

My blood boiled when I saw them going in the same room after dinner, and walking like lovers walk while ascending the stairs to the temple. I knew that I would have to do something about them. That was one of the reasons, this time, the creator had made me come to Vaishnodevi and not Shirdi.

But there was another older couple staying separately, but nonetheless not married. All overt indications of an affair were absent, but I had observed them leave together after dinner, and I had trailed them towards the rooms, where they didn't part company, but shared the room together, in spite of having separate rooms.

I struck up a conversation with them to realize that they were not related by anything like marriage, but were acquaintances. It seemed like more than an acquaintance to me, but this I didn't tell them. I was seeing that they were profaning consecrated ground. But people, most of the time, keep doing the profane as it is pleasurable for them.

And then the flower fell on my palm, while I was praying to the idol.

Falling of a flower meant many things. It does not just mean that your prayers are answered, and you can go about as you want as shown in many Hindi movies. I am saying this because before that, a sanyasi had discoursed with me and he had said, "Do not profane the sacred ground by killing all what is immoral."

And I had prayed for something to show me whether what I was doing was right, and whether I should not kill all of them here.

So the falling of the flower meant that I was supposed to kill all of them here.

But whom to kill?

Who was more immoral?

Who deserved to die more?

Surely the older couple who in spite of their age hadn't learned what was moral in the world. But still it was a quandary, because it was so much deserving. Both deserved to die, but who should be the first?

Who should be the first? That was my quandary. As I watched them every day trudging along, eating and leaving, this idea tormented me. Who should be the first? That first one should be the one who should be the one to die first. If that first one didn't die, then another part of me said that the first one should be the older couple.

I had decided that it would be the older couple when I heard the younger one discussing about another immoral thing.

"My period is already two weeks late," said the girl.

"What does it mean?" said the boy.

Fool! What it means is that there is a seed of evil in her belly, and it needs cutting up. Good young people, you have now become the most deserving to die now. Younger people have beaten the older people in being the most deserving. Tonight I will bring a knife to you.

All goes well, till, I discover another immorality. I had sharpened my knife and was proceeding to the young people's room, when I heard clamorous talking from a room I just passed. It was unmistakably the stench of drunken speech. The room was full of profanities and noise. I could not pass them; it was too clamorous. I didn't know how many, but I must know, so I rang the bell.

A young man opened the door, and framed inside the room, I see a table, and around it, a group of three men sitting sipping drinks. I registered their faces and said, "Mr. Navnath Singh, is he there?"

"No Sadhuji," he said, looking at my saffron garb.

"Sorry, it must be the wrong room," I said and walked away.

It is total disrespect for the holy place that these men were drinking. How can they be taught a lesson? There can be no lessons for these people. They were all immoral and they were all deserving death.

As I stood beside the door to the young people's room, I heard moaning from inside it. And that moaning sound appears as if it is something is grating inside my head. Opposite it I heard another moaning sound and it seems that this was the older people's room. They are also immorally frolicking, with gusto.

As I stood staring, wondering what to do, I heard a commotion at the entrance to the corridor.

A man and the bellhop were talking,

"Four thousand rupees?"

"Yes sir, but now is the on season," said the bellhop.

"But it is exorbitant."

I started walking towards the entrance to the corridor so as not to attract any doubt from the bellhop. But I needed not worry, as the bellhop was not conscientious. He just dumped the luggage at the entrance and made off.

I halted at the open doorway and said hi.

"These people are extortionists," said the old man. "I had to pay four thousand for just a night's stay."

"That is really extortion. I only paid 1500 rupees," I said.

With a look of utter amazement, he closed the door.

The hotel manager was greedy and he was not just normally greedy. He was greedy beyond any redemption. I decided to teach the hotel wallah a lesson first, with blood.

Just as I rounded a corner, I overheard a man shouting on the mobile phone. It seemed to me a local, and he was doing what an abuser tends to do. With the conversation, it appeared that he was talking to a woman, and he was threatening her with dire consequences, if she did not make proper dinner when he gets back. Looking, I realize it is the bellhop who was so hasty and rude to the old man. He spoke threateningly, and in such tone that it seemed that he was a gangster extorting money, and not a husband talking with his wife.

That was not the way to talk with one's wife. And the way he spoke it meant that he was an abuser, and a person who wanted to keep his wife tied to the house, bedroom and kitchen.

Such men can't be allowed to live! They have to be smashed like smashing a cockroach. Then only women can live without fear of physical abuse. I decided to follow that man. I was just following him when I notice a sadhu talking tall tales to a woman.

"A son?"

"Yes Guruji," said the woman.

"Come to Pipal ped at 9 at night. We will do yagna for the night, and you will be given the boon of a son," said the mendicant.

Yagna, my foot, thought I. What he is going to do is sleep with the woman and make her pregnant, at the same time alleging that it was the spirit of the gods, which made the woman pregnant. I noted that I will have a different appointment with the mendicant, before 9 today. And just then I saw another act of immorality.

A grocer was selling some goods which were not as per the MRP.

"How much for it?" asked the little girl.

"It is Coca Cola, child. It is ten rupees," said the grocer.

"But the price is written as eight," said the little girl.

"It is ten," said the shopkeeper firmly, and I witnessed the girl pay up.

Extortion, I thought. All extortionists should die. Another mark in my diary. The holy city is falling to the dogs now, I thought. That is a very bad thing. I knew that the holy city had to be saved.

The mendicant had disappeared along the way, but I knew all were the same. In the name of holiness, they satisfy their baser desires.

Just after the temple there was an alley and a mendicant was cruising well along it. I followed him, and made do with the kitchen knife I had started carrying with me after my 'call to morality.' I wiped the bloodied knife across his saffron stole and continued at the shopkeeper's shop. Another peddler was nearby selling rights of climb to the coming devotees.

Not all is business. When the right to climb was a devotee's unalienable right! I decided to come to mark this gentleman and proceeded on my way. It was non-entity. The town needed cleansing. It was the worst state the country had gotten to. Nothing was holy. Everything was being made profane, and everything was being defiled.

It couldn't be allowed to happen. The rage I felt for had to be vented. It was a thing which never ever had gotten in the way. It was the way.

All were sinners! I happened to see a woman with her husband, and believed that in a town of grotesqueries at least something was right, and they were bringing a child properly into the world, when I heard the mobile exchange,

"... yes he is good ... and he is the payment ... for all the frolicking nights you ... had with me ... away from ... my husband's bed ... he doesn't suspect ... he looks more like me ... and so he doesn't suspect, except that he has ... your lower lip ... no ... you are better abroad ... with your new wife ... don't get in touch ever ... I have got my payment."

She disconnected the mobile and looked at me and with a stare which is reserved for a holy man,

"Pranaam, guruji," she said.

"Pranaam," I said. "Nice child. His first journey? Where the father?" I quip.

"His father has gone to get something to drink. It's so hot now," she says.

"Jai shri Ram," I say and mark her.

It was not a good way to bring children into the world. A child of sin! I mark her and depart.

All murmurs, whispers and gasps reach me ...

I heard a woman haggling with a man in a coolie's garb, for not bringing her baggage till the rickshaw front.

"I won't pick it," said the man.

"But I paid till here," said the woman.

"No, not quite," said the man and walked away.

Pride doesn't have its minions, I think, and mark him. Time to get all embroiled.

And then the woman speaks, "If it wasn't for that Sharmila bitch, who got two flats, a big bungalow and her son with a four lakh a month salary, I would be good," she says. "I only hope to god that I and my daughter do better than that Sharmila," she says.

I didn't want to mark such an old woman, but she has dug her own grave.

The dusk is falling fast, and as I made my way to the eatery for a meal for my own thing, I saw a fat businessman, gorging on all the food, and most of it wasting.

I looked at him and realized that the world is a warren of immorality, and it would be like this forever, unless I put an end to it. He sat in a corner and a dark corner at that, and he was busy slurping his way to an eternal meal. I got out my knife and approached him from behind. It was time to end all immoralities.

Vaishnodevi, 23rd May:

A middle-aged man went on a rampage in an eatery here, with a knife. The first to be stabbed was a businessman from Mumbai, as he sat on his lunch, after a day's fast. Then the madman proceeded to knife the eatery's owner at the counter, and then an old woman who was waiting for the afternoon bus. From there the trail led to a mendicant busy meditating under a pipal tree, and thence to the hotel where the killer was presumably staying. Right from the manager, the bellhop, and guests in three rooms all were knifed. Inclusive among these were a young couple, an elderly couple and a quartet of friends, who had come to this holy place for the first time. As reports seem sketchy, it was only revealed that the stabber moved to the place where he had started. It seemed that he was going to be apprehended, but as per eye witness accounts, the frenzy which he showed in being restrained, made everyone quiver with fear and flee from his path, as he searched for his latest victim. The victim turned out to be a woman of 25 years and her son who was just six months of age. The stabber was not apprehended and is still at large.








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Announcements:

Thanks, Harvey, for keeping me focused on "Going Hungry."


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