Tanya opened the pen drive in her laptop and said, “Marie, Jamie, it has only one video file, probably a short film, named Incubus.”
“It is an old horror movie of the 1960s,” Jamie said, “Oh, I expected some clue.” He sounded disappointed.
“Mr. Laurence told us that the members of Afterlife required watching at least a horror movie per night. It helps to keep their nerve strong. I am damn sure that both Laurence and Woolman were watching the same horror movie before their death.” Tanya said, “It caused the heart attack.”
“No, Tanya, it is not possible. They regularly watch it, and habituated in this routine,” Marie said.
She clicked on the movie file and very soon realized that it was not the old movie, but a recently made short film based on a crime thriller.
Three University students named Harris, John, and Simon believed in ghosts, and they wanted to prove it anyhow. Natasha and Rachel discarded their claim. Harris firmly said that he could prove that Incubus demons do exist. Rachel took the challenge and agreed to meet them in an empty manor house at midnight.
Harris collected date rape pills and mixed them with mineral water. His friends Simon and John helped him. Unaware Rachel kept the water bottle in her bag and entered the house alone. She took water from the bottle and lost her sense. Harris and his friends entered the house in disguise and raped her. They tried to prove that an evil spirit did it, but had no idea that Natasha had already kept a microphone inside Rachel’s wristwatch.
Rachel did not survive, and the microphone was lost in that haunted house. Natasha later found it out and recovered its recording. She wanted to give it to the police or Rachel’s relatives but found that the case was already closed and marked as an accident. Rachel’s parents were long dead, and her brother was a minor. But, decades later, Rachel’s younger brother rediscovered the incident and decided to take revenge.
At the end of the movie, a hooded figure forced these three men to confess and killed them one by one.
“Oh, My God,” Tanya almost shouted, “It may not be a horror movie, but a suspense thriller no doubt. I had almost accepted the fact the demons exist.
Hey, Marie, what is Incubus?”
“Incubus is a mythological demon,” Jamie replied, “It makes sex with sleeping women and kills them to offer their souls to the Satan.”
“Interesting storyline, but we are still in the same place; having no clue….” Before Tanya could finish her words, Marie suddenly left the chair and hurriedly walked towards the bookshelf. She took Afterlife’s newspaper in her hand. She read it carefully and suddenly said, “We have to go to Forest Hill again, but this time I’ll drive.”
“But….”Jamie’s words remained unfinished. Marie draped her brown coat over her shirt and ran downstairs. Both Tanya and Jamie followed her. As they entered the car, Marie took speed. They crossed Kew Gardens and entered Forest Hill, but Marie did not turn her vehicle towards Laurence’s apartment.
“Where are we going?” Jamie finally asked.
“67th Ave,” Marie replied.
“But Laurence’s apartment is on Jewel Ave,” Jamie tried to say.
“I am not going there, Jamie,” Marie replied, “I am going to Orley Simon’s house, the last surviving founding father of Afterlife.”
“But, why? He never bothered to meet us.” Jamie could not understand.
Marie did not reply; she continued driving and finally stopped before a white two-story picturesque house. She opened the car, almost jumped onto the ground and said, “You guys stay here.” She ran towards the white fence and opened the gate.
“Hey, lady, what are you trying to do?” A middle-aged pulpy woman with a shovel in her hand appeared before her. She was looking exhausted and muddy; probably working in the garden.
“Good afternoon, ma’am,” Marie greeted her, “If I am not wrong, it must be Mr. Simon’s house?”
“Yes, of course, but who are you?” She asked grumpily.
“I….I came here to meet him,” she gasped.
“Purpose?” She sounded abrupt.
“I want to join Afterlife. Actually, Rafael has sent me….”
“Oh, another crazy young child,” she nodded her head, “please, don’t waste your life and career behind this odd thing.” The woman sounded concerned, “my husband runs after all these unholy things and one day I am sure that it would kill him too.” She remained silent for a while and replied, “He’s not at home, just left the house. I think you’ll find him at the lakeside. I guess Rafael is there too.”
“Thanks,” she replied and ran back.
“Hey, Marie, what are you doing?” Jamie sounded confused.
“Please alert the police; we are going towards the lakeside.” Marie ran her Camaro toward the lake. They parked it just outside the angling point and entered the area. They were asked to show license, but Jamie showed his ID card, “We are not here for fishing.”
They hurriedly crossed the wood and reached the waterfront. The place looked isolated; no one was there, except a man with a large cane hat sitting idly at the waterfront though he had fishing rods and all other necessary equipment but was not using them.
“He must be Simon,” Jamie said, “Waiting for someone.”
“Shhh…,” Marie asked him to remain calm. They were not being able to see his face; only his backside was visible from their position. Marie had seen three of their photos in the newspaper but never met Simon face to face. She looked at Jamie and Tanya. Jamie was looking impatient and Tanya curious.
Suddenly, the noise of a pair of shoes broke their contemplation. They concealed themselves behind a bush.
A young man of thirties or late twenties appeared on the scene. He was heading towards the waterfront. Now the man with cane hat turned back. Marie recognized he was no other than Simon. The young man stopped near him and greeted Simon.
Simon smiled sternly and asked something which they could not hear properly. Marie walked closer, if any of them turned back, they might see her, but both of them were engaged in serious conversation.
“I was busy with the funeral, but Mr. Orley, I expected you too at the cemetery.” The young man said.
“Sorry Rafael, they were my friends. I could not bear the scene.” Simon nodded his head, “Anyway, I have called you here on purpose. For the last couple of days, I could not visit our club; I could not watch a single horror movie or read a book on that topic. I don’t like to break the rule. Can you please give me a movie?”
Rafael hesitated, “Do you have a pen drive, sir? I don’t, I have left it somewhere.”
“Oh, our club provides everyone with a pen drive,” he chuckled, “you should be careful.” He again asked, “Where did you leave it?”
“Mr. Laurence’s home and now it is sealed.” He replied sadly.
“Bad luck, we cannot go there now,” Simon replied, “but you are a filmmaker. Why don’t I go to your place and get a new movie? Anyway, what is the name of the short film, you said that you have made…..”
“Incubus, sir.” He replied.
“Yes, I like to watch it.” He replied calmly. “Are you sure that it is not a remake of the old movie?”
“No,” Rafael sounded eager, “please come with me.”
“But what is the story? Is it frightening enough?” He asked again. Before Rafael could reply, Simon again asked, “Is there a victim in my namesake?”
Rafael stumbled over the fact. He hesitated and tried to leave. Suddenly, Simon brought out a pistol, “I am sure, you know my dark past, but I’ll not let you win.” He smiled wickedly.
Rafael shouted, “I am not afraid to die, bustard. I am here for taking revenge. Rachel was my own elder sister….” He too brought out a knife and suddenly charged it against Simon. It injured Simon’s right hand, and he cried in agony.
“We did not intend to kill her. It’s the drug…..” before finishing his words, Rafael jumped onto the man and tried to strangulate him.
“Enough is enough,” Marie came out from the bush. Rafael looked at her furiously, “Who are you, bitch, trying to save this dog?”
“I am detective Marie Claire…..”
Rafael spat on the ground, “Bitch….”
“She is not alone,” Jamie came out of his hiding place and instructed his colleagues to follow him. Rafael suddenly found himself surrounded by NYPD cop.
Rafael raised his hands upwards and surrendered. He helplessly looked at Marie and said, “You denied me justice ma’am.”
Marie coldly said, “Taking the law in your own hand is an offense too, Rafael.”
He was going to say something; Marie raised her hand, “I am well aware of your story, man.” Helpless Rafael followed the police. But, Simon rose from the ground and walked towards Marie, “Thanks Miss Claire for saving my life from this hooligan.” He squeezed his facial muscle to reveal a smile, but Marie did not respond.
“Nice to meet you, Miss..,”
“Meeting a detective cannot give anyone a long-term pleasure, Mr. Orley Simon.” Marie replied sternly, “Do you know how I solved this case? I reopened the old murder case of Rachel Sterner. Her friend Natasha filed an FIR decades ago, but the case was closed because the girl had no proper family to take care. Her brother was too young to do anything. And, now I know what exactly happened that night.” Simon went pale. He sighed and looked around. Finally, he stretched his hands towards Jamie and asked to arrest him.
“You solve cases like magic, Marie.” Tanya was still in a dilemma that Harris Woolman’s murder mystery was fully solved. “Really, I still cannot understand how did you reach a conclusion?”
“I don’t derive a conclusion, my dear Tanya,” Marie switched on the electric kettle and poured some water. “I try to match the jigsaw fit, and always leave the final piece for the culprit. And, the conclusion automatically comes to me, because the opponent always thinks that I solved it fully.”
“But, I am still in confusion,” Tanya said.
With two mugs of steaming hot coffee, Marie entered the chamber and put the cups on her desk, “Listen, Tanya, I took the case very seriously, since the beginning. When you came, told me about Afterlife and gave their periodical; I realized that the group had a fascinating past. Yes, I was not wrong. In the obituary itself, I found the names of its three founders and their addresses. This secret group does not entirely depend on donation, but they do reviews of horror movies and books. Mr. Laurence confirmed that.
Did you remember?”
“Well, now when he described how Harris felt sick during planchette session and called himself a sinner; I understood that it was not his personal feelings, but his friends too became a bit nervous after hearing the name. Yes, it was Rafael’s drama. No spirit came that night; Rafael changed his voice and acted like Rachel. This time, Rachel did not say her true story, but falsely alleged Harris, only one out of three. He wanted to see how many of them could remember the name after twenty years.” Marie smiled mischievously and went on,
“Do you remember Mr. Laurence told us that they failed to contact with their near and dear ones, but this strange spirit suddenly came between them? She started addressing Harris as her lover or husband, and that made him sick?”
“I know this planchette is a stupid thing. It always needs a medium, who can change his or her voice and pretends to be a ghost or spirit…..”
“Yes, that night Rafael was the medium.” Marie sighed, “They could not recognize Rafael as Rachel’s brother. So, they did not suspect him. Rafael and Laurence both accompanied Harris to his home. Harris asked for water, and Rafael offered his bottle. I am sure that the water had a strong drug, which weakened his heart and increased the secretion of adrenaline. But, he did not die in that night. He was alive in the morning.”
“How did you guess that?” Tanya surprised.
“See, if he died three days ago, there would be three newspapers and three milk bottles; but there were two. It indicates that he died in the morning after collecting the newspaper and the milk bottle; but he could not go for the regular walk, because he was feeling weak; mainly due to the drug.” Marie explained.
“How did he die?” Tanya asked impatiently.
“He was feeling weak, so, did not go for the regular walk; but he did not want to waste time. So, he decided to watch the new movie given by Rafael. But, when he started watching the movie, he found it exactly the retelling of his hidden past. He could not bear more and die.”
“But, the death was an accident; he could survive….”
“No, Tanya; do you remember, what Laurence told us about their youngest member Rafael? He was a medical practitioner in his early life and later became a filmmaker by choice. But, his filmmaking, photography, and interest in paranormal activities all were recently developed.” Marie looked at Tanya’s confused face.
“Well, so, you want to say that the drug was strong enough to create heart failure if the patient becomes too excited or frightened?” Tanya asked in disbelieve.
“Yes, exactly, because it increases secretion of hormones like adrenaline and it eventually leads to heart failure” Marie sipped from her coffee mug.
“The same thing happened to Laurence?”
“Yes, and this time the drug acted quickly. I am not sure, but Rafael may have increased the dose.” She replied.
“How did Simon suspect him?” Tanya asked.
“It is an interesting question. The man is a bit more intelligent. Though initially, he thought that the first death was a mere accident, the second one opened his eyes. He too was familiar with the name Rachel. Did not you hear in the lakeside conversation, that he asked about his namesake character? The name Rachel actually sounded familiar to him. He must have guessed that video content and realized that Rafael somehow knew his past.” Marie took another sip, “And, one more thing. Rafael could not apply the same technique to Simon. Because the man did not live alone, if he falls sick, he has a wife and children to take care.”
Tanya nodded, “I can understand clearly, but still a bit confused. Whatever, we had watched in the video, did everything exactly happen to Rachel twenty years ago?”
Marie smiled, “More or less similar; these three friends were ardent supporters of their belief. If anyone contradicts, they could do anything to prove themselves right. Did not you see how Simon’s wife called his group ‘bullshit’? But, I am sure; she could not do in front of him. Did not you hear Laurence was divorced, because he had a difference of opinion with his wife, and Woolman was a widower? I don’t know what type of relationship he had with his wife.” She paused and said, “Rafael confessed in the police custody that he came for revenge.
Two decades ago, when his sister was a university student, she challenged her classmates and went to spend a night in a haunted house, labeled as infested with an Incubus demon. These three men were Rachel’s classmates, and Rafael thinks that these three men raped and killed his sister in the name of Incubus. He also claims that he has solid evidence against them, but still, he decided to punish them in his own hands.” Marie paused for a while and emptied her coffee mug, “I am not sure Tanya, how far this man is true. Rachel’s case is a very old file, and it says that her death was an accident. Locals still believe that the manor house is haunted. No one visits the area after Evenfall.”
“Do you…. Do you really believe in demons, Marie?” Tanya asked in a nervous tone.
“Definitely,” she enjoyed the wary look on Tanya’s face and remarked, “demons and angels both live within us, my friend. It is our choice, whom to choose.”