He knew the very second their eyes locked that she desired him. And that she was his type, the adventurous one. No, they had never met before, never knew of each other’s existence until now. He crossed the whole length of the sprawling lobby, looking at her, smiling his mischievous smile. She took it all in shamelessly imagining what lies beneath his well-tailored shirt.
“Shall we?” he said.
“Sure,” she replied swinging her laptop into its bag and got up to lead the way.
Her room, then. By leading, she had decided. Words were redundant when intention spoke louder.
She slid the card to light the room, dropped the bag on the floor but refused to let go of his lips that had stayed on hers from the time they alighted from the lift. His hands were where she wanted them to be feeling her up. She held him against the wall with her body while her hands searched for his zipper.
His moans egged her on.
He pulled her up, cleverly, not wanting to end too soon. His wet tongue played with her earlobes while his fingers efficiently unclasped her brassiere. She gasped in anticipation as his hands searched for more. Each clothing was discarded hurriedly.
They collapsed on the bed, she on top, when he let out a cry.
She unrolled away to find him clutching his chest, face contorted in pain. She ran to the bathroom and returned with a glass of water.
There he was! A stranger, in her bed, naked, dead.
She shook him, slapped him but failed to resurrect him from his permanent slumber. “Oh shit, no no…. please don’t die on me,” frightened, disgusted, she mumbled. “I know what it is. A dream, a nightmare. It will be over in seconds,” she pinched herself. She felt the pain, and the nightmare continued.
Rapti Bhasin, the creative head of an ad agency of repute was on the verge of collapse. She slapped herself hard to get her hemispheres back to senses. And, the only name she could think of to vent her anguish out on was Sumer.
Five years of live-in, which started with two love-drenched souls building a nest together, had ended in insecurities and regular violent squabbles. “Casual flings could work as an ointment to the broken heart and anyway, I have every right to enjoy life,” thought she when the handsome stranger eyed her. Now, she was about to be ornamented with a murder allegation.
“Should I inform the hotel authority first or shall I just slip away? Oh, this is my room, and they have installed those bloody cameras everywhere. Police can easily identify me with him. ”. After several minutes of riots inside, she put her clothes on, got him covered, and picked up the receiver to call the manager of the hotel.
“We came here to have some drinks in quiet. But, a sudden chest pain and he collapsed. Please call the doctor immediately,” she told the manager with a panicky voice shadowing the fact that the man had already left the mortal world.
“Please, calm down ma’am. The doctor will reach in no time. I will arrange,” he observed her and the room and replied. His facial expressions were loud enough to let her know his displeasure and doubt.
“We need to inform the police immediately,” the manager uttered in anxiety and dialed the number as the doctor declared the stranger dead.
Within an hour, police reached. Rapti almost got a heart attack as the investigating officer entered. “Of course. This hotel comes under his area of jurisdiction. How did I forget”?
Inspector Sumer Sanyal observed the dead body closely and moved towards her. Was she feeling guilty inside? Why? Rapti couldn’t fathom.
“Tell me what happened here,” Sumer asked in a cold voice. She cleared her throat and began, “Sumer..”.
“Inspector. Inspector Sumer,” Sumer corrected her in a displeased voice.
Rapti fumbled but continued, “Yes, I am sorry. Inspector Sumer it is. Inspector, I have never seen this man in my life till this evening. I don’t even know his name. We met at this hotel only. Later, we came to our room, as we wanted to have some drinks in private. But, within minutes, he clutched his chest in pain and collapsed before I could offer any help. I called the manager as early as I could”.
Sumer fixed his stare on her. She lowered her eyes. “You don’t even know his name and still invited him to your room. Are you sure you only intended to have a few drinks with him?” Sumer shot again.
Rapti looked at him. “There was a time when this man was one possessive lover. It’s been seven months since we broke up. Is he mad to see me with some other guy?”
“The rule says I can’t take you with us right now. But, tomorrow morning you will have to come to the police station. Till then, one of our officers will keep your residence under observation,” Sumer instructed snatching her chance to reply.
“But, I didn’t do anything”.
“Let the police decide,” Sumer threw his words and walked towards the door.
The pale light, police officers around, the weathered chair and table…. the ambiance was making Rapti nauseated.
“Do you have any idea who he was? Alex Sandler. The right hand of a notorious drug dealer, James Logan. A yesteryear national level athlete who got kicked out after a failed dope test. Eventually, he had joined James. Soon, media will barge in. And, there will be absolutely no place for you to hide your face,” Sumer uttered the words in anger.
“God, I’m screwed. Please help me. I honestly don’t know this guy,” Rapti pleaded.
“Since when you have started lying around with strangers? Slut, that’s the term for girls like you,” Sumer maintained his tone.
“Shut up. How dare you? I broke up with you because I had gradually become invisible to you. I was lonely. You didn’t show up even when I had suffered the miscarriage. Saving the city… huh, you couldn’t save your own child and our relation. I had an important meeting this afternoon with an overseas client. It couldn’t turn into a profitable one. I was pissed off with all these personal and professional failures. He seemed interested. I got along. Yes, we were going to heat it on the bed. I am not with you anymore. Why is it bothering you? ” she replied in anger and disgust.
A few silent moments passed.
“Don’t leave the town and you will be called again,” Sumer uttered in a stone cold voice.
“We were in love. We were happy. What happened to us? I had blamed him but, I had my ambitions too. Those two accidental pink lines didn’t make me happy. In fact, I was happier after the miscarriage, and I had hidden this truth from Sumer. I refused when he proposed marriage and left him. I am as guilty as him,” Her random thoughts streamed down with the streams of the hot shower.
She turned off the shower, dried herself, and slipped into her nightdress. “Many more sleepless nights to come,” she whispered to the wine glass she was holding.
Sumer lighted one more cigarette. His mind went far away. “I have always admired ambitious, adventurous, and self-dependent women like Rapti. Then why did I restrict her from following her dreams? She was right. My work had become my only priority. But, her ambitions, I stopped valuing. I forced her to keep the baby. I wanted to chain her. If only, I were more compassionate….,” he sighed standing at the shadowy terrace of his apartment.
“She is telling the truth I know. Camera footage and gossips of the hotel staff need to be restricted. I won’t let her name reach the media. Once I had failed to be there by her side. This time I won’t,” he mused.
Next few days went in a jiffy. Hotel staffs were instructed by the police not to pass any comment to the media. The owner cooperated. His hotel’s reputation was at stake.
Sumer watched all the footage. Rapti could be identified clearly. Alex had entered the bar at 6 pm and had had two drinks. He showed no sign of physical discomfort. Later, they had taken the elevator together.
The postmortem report arrived. A deadly plant poison did the trick.
Sumer researched the plant. Though each part of it was poisonous, the nectar was the most effecting to kill someone by causing severe chest pain and cardiac arrest. It could be injected or swallowed. After consumption, it would take at least two hours to react. The victim wouldn’t even know its presence until death lurked in. Alex was a regular drug user. Needle marks were prominent on his body. It was impossible to identify one particular. Could it be possible that someone had mixed the poison in his drink? But, who? When? How? The brainstorming was about to reach at its frustrating peek, forgetting the passage of time.
The café was quiet. Only a handful of customers were there.
“Tell me what happened,” Sumer asked.
Fear was visible on Rapti’s pale face. “Someone called me this evening. He asked me how do I know Alex? What information did he share with me”?
“Give me the number”.
“It was from a telephone booth,” Sumer tried the number and told Rapti. “Whoever it was, he wanted to make sure that you know nothing about Alex or his trade,” he added.
“If I get caught up with this scandal, my career will be ruined. I do have my ambitions. I wish my parents were here. Well, you know the truth. After divorce, they both are happily settled with their new partners. Obviously, I’m not welcome. I had wanted someone who would love me for who I am. But, fate again cracked a joke, and I have become lonelier,” Rapti blurted out in one breath.
“I know I didn’t do everything right. But, have trust in me. I will find out the truth soon,” Sumer consoled.
Rapti folded the newspaper and threw it on the bedside table. It slapped the vase, and within seconds, broken pieces of it were strewn all over the floor. Rapti plopped on the bed in fear and anguish. Her identity was revealed. The news was honking about her association with Alex as if; she was one of his team members.
Her phone buzzed, and the screen flashed Sumer’s name.
“I am done, finished, dead,” Rapti exclaimed.
“Listen to me carefully. Do not leave your apartment. Do not make or receive any call until my further instruction. I will be away from the city for a few days. Meanwhile, one trustworthy constable of my team will guard your place in civilian clothes. Don’t worry. Soon, you will get your life back,” Sumer uttered and disconnected the call.
Rapti broke into tears as she read the news. Tears of joy, tears of sorrow.
“It was a well-planned murder. Billy Butler, another drug peddler, and Logan’s rival was the mastermind. James Logan was operating and enjoying the major chunk of the business. Billy knew if he could take Alex down, James’s business would screech with a jolt. A perfect opportunity to win over him.
Billy had hired Vicky, Alex’s close acquaintance. On the day of the murder, Vicky had called Alex, and both met over drinks. There, Vicky had cleverly slipped the poison in his drink. Billy was the one to supply the poison. To distract the media and police, Vicky had scandalized Rapti Bhasin. The bartender of the hotel was also involved. He too was a drug user, and it was easy to get Rapti’s details from him in exchange of drug shots.
The police department has done a commendable job and successfully arrested Vicky and three other team members. Unfortunately, during the mission, Vicky shot Inspector Sumer Sanyal. Though, his condition has been stable as per the last report of the doctors,” the news read.
Rapti booked her ticket and began packing. No, she was not ready to revive the relation again. All she knew was that Sumer needed a friend at this crucial time, and so did she.
Do share your reviews in the comments and rate the story out of 10.
If you are planning to participate in ArttrA-2, add a hashtag #rulfy at the end of your comment/review. The author of this story would return their comment/review when your story is shared.
You may use the rulfy tracker and add your name in the first row if not already available and start writing ‘R’s in your column for the stories you’d rulfied on the left.
Rulfy tracker: https://1drv.ms/x/s!ApiLwn00sMcLgXQ1QE-1l4tIL_Q6