deadly crossword alignthoughts

Part-1

It was almost half past six; Marie was going to shut down her desktop. Her assistant Tanya had already left. Marie was about to close her office, but sudden knocking on the glass door broke her contemplation. Feeble Streetlight was casting a distorted shadow of a tall man against the opaque glass door.

“Yes, please.” Before finishing her words, a man stormed into the chamber and said,

“Thank God, you are still in the office.”

Marie stared at the man. She had never seen him before. He was not only exhausted but also sweating. He put his hand inside the trouser’s pocket and brought out a piece of folded paper. “I am sorry, I could not book an appointment, and I am late too.”

“Please sit down and tell me in details.” Marie assumed the man might have some urgent requirement.

“I need your help; I am in grave danger…”

“Unless and until you’re in danger, no one comes to a private detective.” Marie smiled.

“Please sit and relax.”

The man sat on a chair next to her desk and started saying his story, “My wife Hannah Hoffman’s name you must have heard. She was a crossword puzzle editor in Review Times newspaper.”

“Yes,” Marie replied, “It is unfortunate that she committed suicide three months ago.”

“Yes, but she was compelled to die.” The man said.

Marie raised her eyebrows, “What do you want to say? It was not a suicide, Mr. Hoffman?”

“Charles Alexander Hoffman,” he said, “Well, I should tell from the beginning. Hannah and I were married for two years. Before our marriage, Hannah was a widow with a five-year-old son. Her son Edward lived with us. We were a perfect family, but,” he paused a while and said, “My wife had a dispute in her office. She resigned, and on the very next day, she committed suicide from a multi-storeyed building, named Ashfell Tower. A suicide note was discovered.”

He gave Marie a piece of paper; she unfolded it. It was a printout, It had few letters in the capital “SHE FALL WROTE- HATE MAJOR JENNY.”

“Jenny Major was her boss; she had a dispute with her.” He said. “Police thought that due to workplace dispute she committed suicide. They conducted an investigation, interrogate Jenny Major, but she is a big catch. Police could not find any evidence against her.”

“So, you want me to gather pieces of evidence against her?” Marie asked.

“No,” Charles said, “I think the case has a deeper mystery, which is not yet solved. There is an unknown person, who is trying to harm me and my stepson, Eddy.”

Marie said, “Well, may I know the incident in detail?”

“Hannah noticed her crossword puzzles were getting leaked to another newspaper named ‘Informer.’ It is not as famous as Review Times, but a close rival. In Review Times Hannah’s crosswords were popular, every Saturday, readers were waiting for it. Recently, Hannah decided to try cryptic crosswords and anagrams, instead of normal ones. She made her draft, but before submitting it, she discovered that it had already appeared in Informer. The incident repeated two more times. Initially, they thought that some colleagues or rivals were leaking it, but later Jenny started blaming her. She was confirmed that Hannah wanted to join Informer in lieu of better pay-package.” Charles went on, “She felt insulted and resigned. Hannah was not unhappy; she knew that she would find a better placement. On the very next day, she told me that she had to meet someone. I thought it was job-related. She went, and two hours later I received a call from the police about her death.”

“How far is Ashfell Tower from your house?”

“Only fifteen minutes walk. It is an under-construction site. It was morning, seven o’clock when she left and when her body was discovered it was already nine. When workers came to the site, they found her mutilated body. Police came, and a post-mortem was conducted. She fell from the tenth floor.” Charles stopped.

“Is not it out-of-bounds for commoners?” Marie asked.

“Yes, but people go there when workers leave. There is no guard.”

“What about a CCTV camera?”

Charles looked confused, “I never thought about it.”

“They got this paper from her body?” Marie asked.

“No, I later discovered it from her study; it was inside the drawer, within a dossier,” Charles said.

Marie looked at the paper, read it again and again. No one keeps suicide note in essential files “So, she did not take her car?”

“No,” Charles nodded.

“Then why were you thinking that she was going for an interview?” Marie asked.

Charles remained silent for a while and said, “Police closed the case after post-mortem. I conducted her funeral, and everything was over. Last Sunday when I was dusting the study, I found another paper with weird words.” He brought out another paper and unfolded. It was another printout saying, “DEAD WILL WIRED.”

“What do you think of them?” Marie asked.

“Anagrams, these are anagrams. Someone was sending her message through anagrams. It is not a suicide, but a murder.” Charles said.

“Well, your case is interesting,” Marie said, “may I know about your profession?”

“I am a self-employed editor, a freelancer,” He replied.

“Now a personal question,” Marie composed herself, “Where is Edward now?”

“He stays with her sister Alicia,” Charles replied. “She took his custody.”

“Well, I am taking your case, Mr. Hoffman.”

Part-2

Tanya entered the office and greeted Marie; she sat on the chair and said, “I have collected relevant information regarding your client.” She brought out a diary and handed it over to Marie. Marie opened it; Tanya had already visited two newspaper offices, met Jenny Major and tricked her to speak about Hannah. Jenny did not talk about any dispute. She thinks that crossword puzzle leakage was an accident or some rival’s work, but she never asked Hannah to resign. It was strange that Hannah told her that she knew who was doing it. She wanted to stop it and resigned.

“Strange,” Marie said, “she knew her rival?”

“I have got more interesting news, Marie,” Tanya said, “Hannah’s late husband Jonathan Jeremy and current husband Charles both worked in Informer. Jonathan was a crime reporter and died in a car crash. He was making a report on drug mafias, and Hannah suspected that the accident was actually a murder.”

“Strange, the case is still going on or closed?” Marie asked.

“Hannah tried to continue the investigation, but after her death, everything closed down.” Tanya said, “Now her death is a mystery too.”
Tanya also added, “She has a sister named Alicia Millwood. Alicia is the only living relative of her and Edward is currently living with Alicia.”

Without wasting her time, Marie decided to start her investigation. She brought out her car and went to the suicide spot. Ashfell Tower was still under construction, but very soon it would be opened as a shopping complex. Now she looked for the address which Charles provided her. Hannah and Charles’s apartment was only fifteen minutes away from the site if anyone walks; but in the car, it was closer, probably five minutes or less.

The foreman working on the site informed that workers usually came here at 8 o’clock. Hanna’s body was discovered much before their arrival. When he arrived for work, police was already there and informed that someone committed suicide.

Sheriff Allan Holmes was investigating Hannah’s case. He informed, “Someone called the police from deceased’s mobile. It was near around seven thirty, and within a few minutes, we reached there. Unfortunately, the CCTV was not working; otherwise, Hannah could not reach to the tenth floor.”

“So, her mobile was intact?”

“Yes, but it had no sim.” Allen said, “There were no fingerprints, probably the man had gloves.”

“Did not you record the voice?” Marie asked.

“Yes,” He replied, “but it did not match with Jenny Major.”

Marie came out from the police station and decided to visit Alicia.

Part-3

Charles Hoffman was partially drenched when he entered Marie’s office. He could not wait for formalities and ask, “Is it true that you have decoded the suicide note, I mean the anagram?”

“Yes, Mr. Hoffman I have already decoded the mystery of your wife’s death, and that is why I called you on this rainy day” Marie smiled, “please sit and relax.”

“I knew. You are a great detective. The anagrams must have some evidence against Jenny Major.” He remarked.

Marie chuckled, “You are right, these are anagrams, code messages, which you failed to decode. But please tell me, where did you find those papers?”

“I have already told, I found the paper from her study.” Charles sounded impatient.

“That is the second one, not the first one.” Marie smiled.

“Both,” he replied, “you are playing with me. I have hired you for decoding these anagrams. Tell me what do you think?” Charles sounded impatient.

“It says Jeremy is alive.” Marie smiled. “The word HATE MAJOR JENNY is the anagram of Jonathan Jeremy. ‘SHE FALL WROTE’ stands for Ashfell Tower.”

“No, it cannot be Jo, he is dead.” He shouted.

“No, it is Jonathan, I met him.” Marie confidently said.

“No,” Charles roared, “He was killed, I saw it.” He started sweating.

Marie smiled, “Confession?”

“You cannot prove anything.” Charles brought out a revolver.

“Really? Who told you?”

“Enough is enough, and I have hired you. You cannot go against me.” He roared.

“You cannot win this time,” Alicia came out with a revolver and declared that police has already reached. “Do you prefer to confess here or in the police custody?” She paused and said, “We have enough evidence against you. The sheriff has recognized your voice from the phone call.”

Suddenly Charles broke into tears, “It’s entirely my fault, she died because of me, but I had no intention of killing.”

“Tell everything, otherwise….”

“What he’ll say, he has killed Jo, I have evidence, and I sent those anagrams to my sister…” Marie raised her hand and stopped Alicia.

Charles broke down; he said in a feeble voice, “I was a close friend of Jo, but it was my reckless lifestyle that indulged me in addiction. I lost my job. Yes, I was a drug addict and gradually became a smuggler. They offered me money for supplying some of his personal information because he was covering a crime report on drug mafias. I supplied them with his whereabouts and also the car number, but I did not kill him.” Charles sobbed, “Later I regretted. Hannah was my good friend, I won her love and…” He again sobbed, “I loved her, but one day I saw those anagrams’ print out on her desk and suspected something wrong. She went somewhere but never told me. I felt envious. It was me, who leaked her crosswords to Informer. It was my old office, and I thought those new cryptic crosswords would give me another chance to prove myself. I discovered those two letters from her file and asked her. I said that I found them during dusting. She suspected something and resigned abruptly.

Next morning I followed her secretly, I saw she took an anagram paper. She came to Ashfell Tower and hurriedly went upstairs. The Tower was out of binding for commoners, but still, she went. I followed her. There was no lift; so, when I reached upstairs, it was too late. I saw the silhouette of a woman descending from the other staircase. Hannah saw me, asked what I was doing there. I saw the paper in her hand and asked about those letters. We had an argument. I snatched it and her mobile. She tried to take them back. Suddenly, she lost control and fell.” He sobbed again, “I was panicked. I called the police from her phone, took out the sim and left it with the dead body.”

“Why did you come to me, Mr. Hoffman?” Marie asked.

“I wanted to know the real meaning of those letters. Though Police believed that she left a suicide note in her home, but I knew it was something else.”

“It was me, who called her,” Alicia said, “I gathered some information regarding Jo’s murder. I knew it was you, who helped in his murder. So, I warned my sister, the first anagram “DEAD WILL WIRED” stands for Edward will die. I warned her, if she did not pay attention, Edward would die, because his stepfather was a close associate of his father’s killers. Next letter asks her to meet me in Ashfell Tower. I wanted to say that I knew something about Jo’s murder.” Suddenly Alicia broke into tears, “Marie thanks, and you are amazing. Hope law will punish the entire gang and my sister will get peace in Heaven.”

“You have done a mistake, Miss Millwood. You should not call your sister in an under construction site, out of bound for commoners.” Marie said.

Alicia looked sorry, “I wanted to ensure privacy. I am ready for the punishment.”

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Mala Mukherjee was born in Kolkata, India and began her literary career in her mid-twenties when her short stories were published in various websites during Halloween. She is an academician by profession. She has completed her Doctoral Degree from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India and currently working as an Assistant Professor in a research institute. She is an author by passion, an impulsive writer, who enjoys writing the horror story, paranormal and fantasy fiction.