The Timekeeper: Chapter 3

Detective Taylor was in better spirits the following morning. The idea of being present at the crime scene placed things in an optimistic light for him; he was sure he would be able to unravel overlooked evidences.  Any definite pointer would have been greatly helpful; he knew that his team felt as though they were pursuing a lost cause. Most of the times, a lost cause resulted in a lost case. The very thought made him more determined.

As was his custom, he reached half an hour before the team arrived.  It was 6.30 in the morning, a light mist still hung around the greens. He opened the iron gates, carefully to avoid creaking, and let himself in. Walking through the wide driveway, he noticed how the high hedges almost blocked the view from the neighboring houses. If Mrs. Turner could give a statement about the guest, she must have been in the garden, which meant he came in from the left. He smiled to himself. They finally had a start.

Detective Taylor walked up to the door, scrutinizing the gardens. The walk from the driveway to the building took almost five minutes. A good amount of time to notice someone, or at least have a flash of the face, if someone was present, he thought to himself. Why wasn’t anyone present? The mansion was huge and well-maintained. Surely, there must be lot of people behind it.

He walked up to the camera to get a proper look at it. The placement was strategic; there wasn’t any angle the camera would miss, no matter where the person approached from. To have his face covered properly, the intruder would not have had just a wide brimmed hat, but a high collar too. This also meant that he had a good knowledge about the security system out here. Detective Taylor nodded to himself slowly. Still, he thought, a slight part of his face would be visible. Even this would be crucial. He made a mental note to re-view the security tapes today.

He donned his gloves, and turned the door knob slowly with his forefingers. He pushed open the door slightly, and glanced around. The living room seemed not lived in, except towards the end of the room, where there was a sofa placed in front of the mantelpiece. The carpet was upturned, a vase lay broken at the floor and the side tables had been moved from where they were supposed to be. But only that portion of the room.

Looks like she didn’t try to escape, or didn’t have the chance to, Detective Taylor thought to himself, crossed the yellow tapes and walked up to the setting.

The sofa had also been moved from its position. The one kept next to it, had also been shifted closer. An intense conversation, thought the Detective. He bent down to see if there was something underneath the sofa, or anything relevant that was fallen on the floor. When he found nothing, he walked around the mantelpiece. It was sparsely decorated- a photo of a young girl with a slightly older woman, a bronze soldier, and an hourglass, kept next to the clock.

He walked back to look at it all. The lady was terrified, and yet she made no attempt to escape. There were scratches on the arm rest of the sofa; the cushions were on the floor. The vase that had fallen down had cracked, a sure sign of it being thrown off with force. “Strange,” he muttered, and turned around. His eyes fell on the spot where the white carpet was scrunched.

Detective Taylor straightened out the carpet with his foot. The carpet was stained a deep shade of crimson; the detective flinched at its sight. The investigation team had just begun to get in. He signaled for Hailey, the investigation head, pointing towards the stain.

“Is it-”, he asked as Hailey approached him, and Hailey nodded gingerly, even before Detective could complete his question.

“Blood. According to the reports, it belongs to Ellery,” Hailey replied. Detective Taylor furrowed his brows. Everything was supposed to get clearer, yet as they delved deeper into the case, with every step they took, it felt as though someone was letting in more fog. He had only a couple of cases where his team could not track down the culprit, but even in those, he didn’t feel as crippled as he did now. The case was not complex, it was absurd.

He pulled his mind off the thoughts, thinking about the next course of action. The very moment Detective Anderson entered the house.

“Detective Anderson,” he called immediately, pointing to the stain, “why wasn’t this reported yesterday?”

“Gregory handed me the reports only this morning. I wanted to make sure before it was reported. I didn’t quite feel that so much blood could flow from a pinprick wound,” Detective Anderson explained.

Detective Taylor stood silently, arms crossed, waiting for an answer.

“It is the victim’s blood on the carpet,” Anderson continued, nervous.

“I know Anderson. Hailey told me about it. At least you were supposed to bring this to my notice. The Gilberts have requested for the burial tomorrow morning,” Detective Taylor said all in a breath. His hands were balled up in fists; he was using all his concentration to contain his anger.

Anderson stood there looking at his feet.

“It is alright, Detective Anderson. There was nothing much you could have done anyway,” Jillian Torres patted his shoulder. She looked at Detective Taylor and smiled slightly, “Good Morning, Detective Taylor.”

“Good Morning Jillian. Have you got–”

“The reports are here, sir,” Jillian replied, cutting him off. She handed over the reports to him.

Detective Taylor sighed loudly, thankful to have someone on his team, who had enough brains. He looked through the reports, and they had been comprehensively done. “You come in good time. There have been some interesting developments,” he said to Detective Torres. He was almost feeling sorry for being too hash on Detective Anderson. Everyone must be feeling the same, as if someone had been purposely muddling everything.

“Like a pool of blood from a wound too small to spurt out that much?”, Jillian replied nonchalantly.

Detective Taylor was taken aback. “How did you know?”, he asked, looking again at Anderson. Detective Anderson just shrugged.

“There was an eerily similar case that happened back in 1885,” she said, handing over another file to him

1885. Too old to be the same person, Detective Taylor thought. “Coincidence?”, he thought out loud.

“I don’t think so. The past is staring back at us,” Jillian said, bending down to look at the stain.

The Timekeeper: Chapter 2

Detective Jillian Torres hurried, almost raced, to her flat.

The image of Ellery Gilbert was fresh in her mind. Expressionless, beautiful in death as it must have been in life, serene. Serene as if she were just sleeping.  That kind of serenity only came along with painless deaths, and no murder she knew of till date had been painless, even if the pain lasted for an instant. Except if Ellery was willing to embrace it. And yet, they knew, that moments ago she had been crying for help. The mystery troubled Jillian incessantly; the pieces were different enough to belong to separate puzzles.

As if the complexity of the case were not enough, she had a nagging feeling that returned to her time and again. The case strongly felt like a Déjà vu. She had never handled anything like that previously, she was certain of that. A dream could have been a possibility but Jillian hardly remembered any dream, and even if she did, the details never stayed. She narrowed her eyes in focus, straining to recall as she went up the stairs, for any similar case she must have read about.

The sudden recollection hit her like a gust of cold air.

1885. The Murder of Janet Williams.

Jillian Torres stopped midway, sitting on the staircase to steady herself. She put her head in her hands as her mind began to draw out uncanny similarities between the two cases.  Beautiful girl, married to the rich businessman, no trace of wounds or asphyxiation. Neighbors reported a man of medium built and tall height going inside the house before the crime happened. Could both the victims have been linked in some way? Was someone notoriously repeating the methods of an old serial killer? Her mind buzzed with endless questions.

She would have to look into the case. But first, the homework given by Detective Taylor had to be completed.

She rushed up the stairs, jammed the key in the keyhole, nervous with excitement. She closed the door absent-mindedly before heading to the study. Without a moment’s delay, she started to fish out all the potassium manufacturers and dealers in the locality. Detective Taylor wanted things to be thoroughly done, even if it was not required. Jillian didn’t mind following it; thoroughly done researches more or less helped them in the long run.

It was eleven in the night when she finished the compilation. Throat parched and stomach rumbling, she put away her laptop, tiredness finally taking over her. After she had grabbed some fries and coffee from the kitchen, she took out the file containing all the information she had gathered about Janet Williams Murder Case. She noted the facts of Ellery Gilbert’s case on a scratch pad, and flipped open the file on her desk.

She flitted through the pages until she came across the most comprehensive version of the murder she had gotten from the internet.

Murder in Broad Daylight:
May 25, 1885

The Rotterdane town witnessed yet another crime yesterday, when Janet Williams was found murdered in her own house. Mr. Williams, who returned early from his trip to Greenesville, entered his home to find his wife lying dead in the living room. The living room was in a state of distress, with vases on the floor and table overturned. Mrs. Williams, 35 years old, looked serene as if she were sleeping.

Jillian smiled at the statement.

There were no stabs or cuts on her skin, although there was a pool of blood on the floor, where the body had been found. The coroner has pointed towards asphyxiation as the cause of death, though there were no marks on the neck.

The police carried out an investigation in the house, but could not find the weapon or any other significant leads to the killer. They questioned the housekeeper Mr. Glendron and the parlor-maid Miss. Wysdean, both of whom stated that the no one except Mrs. Williams was there in the house, since the rest of the helps had gone to attend a funeral.

No weapon, no evidence, nothing to link to the killer. The house was devoid of people-servants or family members. Jillian wondered if the time was well chosen.

She read on further.

Several people reported a man who was seen nearby around the suspected time of crime. Mr. Witherby, who lived opposite the Williams said, “Around 11 a.m., a tall man with medium built was approaching the William’s residence. Even in this heat, he wore a brown overcoat and his face was shadowed by a wide-brimmed hat that he wore. I am sure I have never seen him in this place, yet he seemed to know all the ways.” Mr. Witherby, who claims to have been gardening, denied seeing him leave. He also did not hear any sounds of struggles or help.

What baffles the police is the fact that the mansion had no other escape route, since it had been built on the banks of the river, and had walls 8 feet high. A reward of $1000 has been offered for anyone who can provide significant details for the mystery man. Mrs. Williams will be buried today evening in the St. John’s churchyard.

Jillian flipped over the page, scanning the contents of the file, thoughts unsettling in her mind. Were there some more cases like these, scattered along the decades?  Or did this killer pattern repeat itself after some years? It was highly unlikely that the same person could be involved, as this case was way old. Maybe an heir? Or a cult?

Or maybe, Jillian thought as she opened the window of her study, someone was doing this on purpose, just to throw them off-track. The semblance was perfect to the minutest degree, as if someone had tried to resurrect it. And the method of killing was…supernatural.

The whole case looked as if they were pursuing a ghost.

Technology — A Root Cause for Impatience?

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       Courtesy: http://prontecs.com/wpp/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/technology.jpg

We live in a very efficient world. Over a span of just a century, the progress that technology has made is truly impressive.  Communications can happen in span of microseconds, you can have almost everything delivered at your doorstep, no matter what part of the world the thing has been manufactured in. Within hours you could be sitting in other part of the world, all the while making an efficient use of the “travel time”.

We are so used to this way of living, that we now  expect everything at a lightning fast pace. And that makes me wonder- has technology made us impatient beings? Or have we always been impatient and technology has just aggravated this quality?

Checking cellphones every few minutes has become so instinctive to us.  A moment free? Well, let’s check cellphones. Even though there have been no notifications, there is a lingering feeling that something must surely have been missed.  Some more time to kill? What about going through Facebook posts or tweets or mails? Some of these things are going to affect our lives in no possible way, yet it is preferred to spend time this way rather than looking around or talking to people sitting next to us.

I would still categorize it as acceptable. Fiddling with smartphones or equivalent stuff has become a habit now, and annoyingly, it has started to creep up during conversation. As soon as a person loses interest in the conversation/monologue, it is imperative to check cellphones. Surely, we can better utilize our time by playing some game on our cellphone while listening to the person (who is not making sense anyway!)

What with the great progress of movies, reading has taken a relative backseat.  Yes, the movie/season is going to tell the whole story with added effects so why bother reading a million words? It is easier and much more interesting to play cricket or golf on computer that it makes absolutely no sense to play games in real time.

And these are only some examples of our newly developed impatient nature. The major problem is impatience has slowly seeped into every part of us. We have also become impatient to get results. We put in a bit of work into something, and automatically expect it to show results. Commitment and discipline have slowly started to fade into the background, because now we have shorter and more efficient versions of everything. Delayed services, or a bit of slip in time, can make us frustrated in a jiffy. Losing calm over long queues and traffic jams has become second nature to us.

I am not anti-technology. As a student of science, I can appreciate what it took for humans to go from plow-wielding creatures sweating in fields to the ones who now manage all the work sitting in front of the laptops in glass offices. It has definitely made world a better place to live in. It has opened up a lot more avenues. The point I am trying to make is that patience is important. It was patience and years of research and development that brought us to this stage of advancement.

There are some situations where we need to operate everything with utmost efficiency, and usually such situations are in our control. In such situation, it is the go-getter attitude which would be victorious. Then there are situations we cannot control. Situations that will demand patience, situations that will be a test of patience.  And it is here where we need to get over the seemingly inherent impatience of ours. This way, we will save a lot of energy that would be otherwise be burnt in useless frustration, and will also start admiring those little things in life.

Patience is a virtue. And we will do good to remember it.

 

The Timekeeper: Chapter 1

The air lightly ruffled his hair as he pushed open the glass door. The corridor was long and white; the open window on the front wall unceremoniously broke the stark monotony. Shades of grey slowly crept into the blue sky, enhancing the glimmer of the emerging stars. Detective Eric Taylor checked the time. Ten minutes to seven? He gasped. He had intended to finish the case today.

Detective Taylor turned right hastily, taking long strides to reach the steel wall at the far end. He inserted his ID in the slot and almost smashed his index finger on the scanner. While the machine verified his identity, he donned on his overcoat, cursing the delay. “Brace for the winter,” he muttered, as the machine let out the contended beep of acceptance. The steel doors parted to let him in. Inhaling deeply, he entered the morgue.

The temperature inside dropped steeply; the chill penetrated his skin. The vinyl partition walls reflected the light from the few lighted incandescent lamps, imparting sufficient illumination to the room. He walked down to where Detective Allan Anderson and Dr. Randall Morgan stood; his steps echoed rowdily in the dead silence. Most of the beds he passed were empty. So was the hall, except for those three and a nurse who quietly noted down something on his clipboard.

He greeted them with a brusque nod and said, “I am sorry for the delay. I left as soon as the case wrapped up.”

“It wouldn’t have mattered much if you arrived an hour earlier, Detective. This one,” said Dr. Morgan, pointing to the body, “is going to take more than a week. I doubt we will even reach the end.”

“You are quick to conclude Dr. Morgan,” said Detective Taylor, glancing at the victim, his face passive. Turning to Detective Anderson, he asked, “Information about the deceased?”

“Ellery Gilbert, 35, wife of Ralph Gilbert. Found dead at 5pm by the husband in their living room,” replied Allan.

Detective Taylor moved towards the head. The body lay so serenely, that Ellery Gilbert appeared to be sleeping. The cold had turned the skin pale, giving it a stone-like look. Too unnatural for a murder, he thought. He removed the sheet from the body, and quickly scrutinized it. Creasing his brows, he spread it uniformly again. He looked at the doctor and questioned, “No signs of any fatal wounds?”

The doctor shrugged, “Nothing except a tiny pinprick at the back of her neck.” He tapped at the back of his neck to indicate its exact position.

“Strange”, was all Detective Taylor could say. He pondered for a while before he spoke, “It couldn’t be a heart attack, could it?”

“No. The skin would not have been so pale otherwise. Her relaxed face is the other pointer,” Dr. Morgan replied.

“Yes, I thought so,” said Detective Taylor, “Did you run the blood tests?”

“I did,” said the doctor, “there was nothing unusual. I have given it to the labs for further analysis but I am not expecting much.”

 “We will have to look into minute details. Careful potassium overdoses cannot be traced easily, especially when injected directly into blood,” explained Detective Taylor, tapping the back of his neck.

“It is a wishful thinking. Potassium is also released by the body after the heart stops, and is practically undetectable. But if I speak from my experience, the cause of this death does not seem to be located in the realms of our investigation,” Doctor Morgan stated, cautiously choosing his words.

“It may be doctor, but we certainly cannot base our analysis on supernatural reasons,” replied the detective, as he looked out of the window into the blackness, through their translucent reflections. Where every case presented them with numerous causes which had to be briskly narrowed down, this one hit a dead end everywhere. If Eric Taylor despised anything, it was giving up on a case. That was absolutely not going to happen. He wouldn’t let it happen.

He turned abruptly, thinking out loud, “What bothers me, Anderson, is Ralph Gilbert’s murder claim. He was evidently the last person to see her alive.”

“He is a major suspect for the case, Detective. According to Ralph Gilbert, Ellery was supposed to meet an old friend around 3 pm. It seems that the friend came in a little late, as per the footage seen in the security camera. Around 3.30 pm, a man six feet tall came in –” Anderson was interrupted by Detective Taylor.

“—who should be the claimed murderer. I expect you have already questioned him.”

“I am sorry Detective, we haven’t. The man was wearing a wide brimmed hat and he never faced the camera. The murder seemed to be perfectly staged,” clarified Anderson.

Perfect”, said Detective Taylor, irritation clear in his voice. He sighed and apologised, “I am sorry Anderson, please continue.”

“At 4.30, Ralph received a call from Ellery, who was crying and asking him to come home, aware of the potential threat. Then she screamed and the phone dropped–”, Anderson stopped as Detective Taylor opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again, waving him to continue, “and Ralph immediately rushed home from his office. The mobile lay near the parlour sofa, and there were signs of struggles in the lobby. Ralph Gilbert alibied out, but we still suspect him. For all we know, he might have been the last person to see her alive,” completed Anderson.

Detective Taylor was not wholly convinced. “The victim knew she was going to be murdered. Why did she agree to meet the old friend?” he questioned.

“I suppose she did not see it coming. The housekeeper said that Ellery was perfectly normal today. Maybe she was tricked,” said Anderson, straining hard to figure out a reason.

“I want you to begin with the investigation tomorrow morning. If there are any other cases ongoing, put them on hold. I have a feeling that delay here would cost us dearly. Is Detective Jillian here?”, he spoke to Anderson while he walked around the body.

“She was questioning the neighbours about the murder, but she should have been here by now. I’ll send her up if I see her. Good night Detective,” said Anderson, and walked away.

“Dr. Morgan”, said Detective Taylor, facing the doctor who was examining the pin-prick, “Does this murder remind you of a probable mortal cause, now that you have a background to the case?”

“None that I can think of,” replied the Doctor,

“We will have to wait for the results then. Thank you Doctor, for your assistance,” said Detective Taylor.

“Good night Detective.”

After the doctor’s departure, an eerie silence fell in the morgue. Detective Taylor could hear his heartbeat, which reminded him of the fact that he was the only living person, apart from the nurse, standing in the room. He leaned against the wall, staring at the dead body, going over the whole incident repeatedly. There has to be a loop hole, he thought, now focusing on the possible events that could have happened. His thoughts were interrupted by sharp clacking of heels.

“You called for me, Detective?”  asked Jillian Torres, still steps away from Ellery Gilbert’s compartment.

Detective Taylor waited for her reach before he replied, “Jillian, I want you to make the list of all crude potassium selling industries and the dealers in the town, and their transactions in the last 15 days. It would be helpful if this is done before the investigation starts tomorrow morning.”

“Consider it done, Detective,” she said absent-mindedly. She softly walked up to the body, as if her steps would wake Ellery from her state. She tilted and stared at the body, her face showing clear signs of perturbation.

Detective Taylor was quick to read them. “Do you have any theories?”, he asked.

“No. The story seems straight out of a crime fiction novel,” Jillian replied, after a while.

“You do have something in your mind,” the Detective prodded. Jillian was the best in his team. Her assumptions were usually right.

“It is a hypothesis. Until I confirm it to be a theory founded on a strong reason, it would be safe in my mind,” she stated and changed the topic, “I think you should call it a night, Detective.”

The first signs of weariness showed in his stance. “You’re right, Jillian. I don’t know about time, but this case will demand a lot of energy. I will rest while I can.”

Jillian nodded, and left, still perturbed. Detective Taylor lingered a little while longer, making his presumptions. Ellery’s was the only compartment still lighted, and his watch now displayed eight-thirty. He reluctantly departed, taking a last glance at the body as the steel doors closed. The nurse now stood near his victim, still noting something.

The lights went off as soon as the steel doors closed. A shadow crept to where the body lay.

The nurse was nowhere to be seen.

 

The Duolingo Experience

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Image Courtesy: http://www.cmu.edu/news/stories/archives/2012/june/images/duolingo_300x200.jpg

I stumbled upon this site as a result of casual browsing on Quora (lately, I have become a quora-addict, it has too many interesting things to read :D), and I cannot be grateful enough for that. I had always wanted to learn Spanish, but either due to the lack of time or due to unavailability of resources, was not able to pursue it. I had tried to learn it through a book, but most of the times it felt like I was merely trying to memorize the words instead of understanding the language. So I gave up the pursuit and planned to learn it when I completed my studies.

Duolingo was recommended by a lot of people, so I decided to try it. I didn’t expect much. I was already preparing myself for a lot of motivated commitment and perseverance. I created my account, then went on to navigated the site. Impression Factor #1: Beautiful design, easy to navigate and locate stuff. It is really very easy to find anything on duolingo. The design is minimalistic yet creative and the colour scheme is subtle.

Next, I went on to the lessons. Here I found the Impression Factor #2: A skill tree is made that almost briefs the amount of time (depending on the time you devote per day) it would take to learn the course at a basic-intermediate level. That also helps you plan your input per day.

Clicking on the first lesson of the first level, I found that the basics were clearly stated out before you started on to learn the language. Impression Factor #3: These basics made the learning very smooth. Once you got hold of the basics, it was easy to grasp whatever words came next.

Soon I finished my first lesson, but did not feel as if I had put in any effort. Impression Factor #4: The lessons are designed in a fun to learn way. Not only your daily and weekly progresses are recorded, you are also rewarded with lingots and points. Points add up to complete a certain level. Lingots get you cool stuff from the Duolingo store. Plus, a bonus lingot if you have done the lesson without any mistakes 🙂

The best part is it is an interactive course. You don’t have a video in which you are instructed; rather you are taught a word and then you are asked its translation. Impression Factor #5: The interactive system helps you learn the right pronunciation. Even though you don’t get to interact with natives, you are not at zero level when it comes to speaking.

There is so much more to explore. Every day, when I am tired of working, I log into duolingo.com and play for a while there. These guys really know how to make learning fun! And, it is all offered for FREE! Could we ask for more?

Forever

Image

 

Image Courtesy: http://www.mostphotos.com/preview/636602/colored-satin-ribbon-in-the-sky.jpg

If only I could keep you forever
If only I had my way
You would be my precious treasure
That I’d protect everyday

I’d bind you lightly, with strings
Of love and joy, comfort and care
And a sense of security that always clings
Just so that I could keep you near

These are but the yearnings of a heart
No matter how much I brood
In time, we must go apart
Bondage never did any good

For winds of change will surely blow
And afflict its nature upon you
Slowly you will grow
Into something different from what I knew

Perhaps, the strings will tighten
Choking your existence
Or so much would they slacken
Losing you in distance

Both the ways, I suffer
You’ll be beyond my reach
Living this life would be rougher
My soul would incessantly screech

Yet, those strings I’d softy tie
To you, and give them their chance
To grow and shrink, to dip and fly
With you, as you advance

No, I’ll not hold the ends of any linking
You are free to soar and shine
I’ll quietly rejoice thinking
For a moment, you were mine

Crimson Vengeance: Chapter 2- Remembered

Leaning carelessly on the door ledge stood Deborah Gander; her presence materializing Jonathan’s wish. His lips made way for an unconscious smile, and for the first time in the night he felt a strange relief taking over him. Was it really five years ago?, he questioned himself. The very next moment, the e-mail, Peter Murphy, the murder-all came rushing in his mind. He could not afford to risk everyone’s life the second time. Best to keep everyone at bay from the very beginning, he thought to himself, as he regained his cold composure again. The smile disappeared as instantaneously as it had come and he inquired, “How did you?”

“Find you?” said Deborah, her casual voice a sharp contrast to his, as she sauntered towards the chair, “I kept a track. A very close track.” She positioned herself cozily, legs on the table, and said, “Don’t pretend to be so disappointed. I know you are pleased to see me.” She flashed her unique sarcastic smile. Jonathan turned to examine the main entrance. It was locked, exactly the way he did it. He returned his gaze to Deborah, his blue eyes narrowed in suspicion.

“Come on!” she shrugged, “the door is not the only way you can enter into someone’s house. Perhaps, you ought to be more careful.”Her open hand gesture cleverly pointed to the study window which Jonathan was quick to notice. His features relaxed slightly, and he silently stared at the documents.

Deborah observed him for a while, and then took out a packet of cigarettes from her leather jacket. She lazily flicked the lighter on. Jonathan shot a cold glance in her direction, and said brusquely, “How many times have I told you not to smoke inside the room?”

“I remember,” Deborah nodded, drawing deeply from the cigarette. She stood up and walked towards the window. Puffing out the smoke, she added, “I just wanted to hear it again.”

Jonathan paced about the study, browsing through the documents; Deborah sat comfortably on the window ledge, her eyes duly following his movements. An anticipated silence prevailed for few minutes. After a few minutes, Deborah softly spoke, “They’ve taken Murphy.”

The words awakened Jonathan’s fear. So they were serious, he thought, but Andrew said it was fine.  The pieces didn’t fit together. Baffled, he asked, “Are you sure?”

“I know Andrew told you that Murphy went on a vacation. Andrew will never look beyond the routine,” she replied, tossing her half-finished cigarette out of the window.

“You have been following me as well?”Jonathan asked, disgusted. And you never noticed, a voice in his head added.

“Don’t you think it is quite co-incidental that you receive an email the same day?” she hinted, jumping off the window ledge. She leaned against the study table and watched Jonathan’s features transform. He was livid.

A sudden anger engulfed Jonathan. Why does she never let go? Why does she need to get to heart of everything? Why doesn’t she ever realize the gravity? Angry voices pounded in his head. She had to get out of this. He moved towards her and said, in a ferocious low tone, “Deborah Gander, I know you prize yourself for solving the most difficult of cases, but I would like to remind you that this one is more than just a game. This case was solely mine, and I do not want a single casualty. So let me handle this and leave me alone. Beginning from NOW!” He was shouting by the end.

Deborah pushed Jonathan against the shelf. “This war that you call your own, what do you even know about it, Detective Scott? They took Murphy today, and you know that just because you received that email. Last month, my sister was taken, and she was almost electrocuted. She is safe only because they realized that we did not know your whereabouts. It was rather lucky I think, because I don’t think they are going to show mercy this time. The case may have started as yours, but from the day we started to work on it, it turned its vengeance on us as well. All our loved ones are in danger. That is why I am here. Like it or not, I am going to stick till the very end!” she said, and abruptly turned to leave.

Jonathan hung his head guiltily. They should have told him in the very beginning. How could they?, questioned the voice, you never let them know. He cursed himself for running away.  “Deborah, please,” was all he managed to say.

Deborah turned back and walked towards him. There was an injured look on her face, and from the way she approached him, he was sure she was going to slap him. You deserve it! said that voice, you have been acting like an idiot recently. Instead she just smiled. Then, rather impulsively, she hugged him and said, “We missed you, Jon”. Jonathan was taken aback. After all these years, these people still cared about him. He shed off his usual closed demeanor and put his arms around her. His hands found their way into her soft, raven-black hair that cascaded down to her waist, and he caressed it gently. Jonathan whispered, full of reproach, “Deb, I am very sorry…”

“It is alright,” she spoke before he could complete, “I promise we will finish it this time.” She let go, and said, “But you have to bear with me.” Jonathan let the smile rule this time.

“What do we do now?” he asked, still holding her hands.

“We should go to the headquarters. We are going to need a lot of support,” said Deborah, her brows furrowed in thought.

“But I resigned,” he said. This was clearly not feasible.

“And I burned that letter. DCI Wilson is still under the impression that you are on that Russian case. He believes you died in Siberia, and mourns deeply. He would be very pleased to see you.” she stated plainly.

Jonathan didn’t know how to react. “Deborah, you are–”

“I know. Thank you,” she interrupted, “Now you would better hurry. We don’t have time to lose.”

He rushed to the living room, loaded his Glock, and took some extra bullets. He was putting on his overcoat when he heard Deborah call. He strode to the study. Deborah had switched off the lights.  “We cannot leave right now,” she spoke, her voice filled with anxiety.

“What happened?” Jonathan asked. Something was definitely not right.

“They are waiting for us. Downstairs.”