The Cursed Book - alignthoughts

Part-III

“Mrs. Hannah is not paranoid,” Tanya remarked, “I don’t think Prof. Richardson is hiding anything.”

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“Why?” Marie pressed the lift button, “Prof. Richardson has enough reasons to harm Prof. Farey. He was Farey’s immediate junior, and probably a workplace rival. The theory of ancient curse may be a hoax or a trick of misleading us.”

“He is a replica maker too; he made this duplicate copy.” Tanya looked at the lift door. It was descending from the twenty-ninth floor to the seventeenth one.

“Yes, the book is a fake one,” Marie said, “It is neither ancient nor cursed.” The lift stopped at the seventeenth floor. Marie pressed the ‘open’ button and got into the elevator.

“Then why are not you arresting Prof. Richardson?”

“LOL, how can I arrest him?” Marie chuckled, “I am not a police officer or a sheriff like Jamie.”

“Ask him to do that….”

“Tanya, be practical, Prof. Richardson has done nothing wrong. His colleague requested him to make a duplicate book, and he did it.” Marie corrected, “First of all, we have to find out the original one.”

They came out of the Department of History. It was mid-afternoon, students were chatting here and there in groups. Two girls stormed passed them on roller skates.

“It reminds my college life.” Tanya said, “I also attended university and completed a course on Criminology.” She went, “We were often told that criminals sometimes play as victims…..”

“Tanya, we have to visit the faculty quarters.” Marie’s words broke her contemplation. She nodded silently.

They walked across the huge campus and finally reached in a series of two-storied red bricked quarters encircled with a decorative green bamboo fence. Mrs. Farey did not disclose her house number or its location on the campus. However, Marie assumed its position.
Suddenly Tanya touched her right hand softly and pointed out towards a white nameplate attached to the bamboo fence, ‘Prof. Benedict Farey’ was written on it. They walked closer to the gate and Marie restrained Tanya from pressing the doorbell.

All of a sudden, a security guard appeared from nowhere. He asked them directly, “Are you looking for anyone?”
Marie composed herself and replied, “Mrs. Farey called me, I am a private detective. I am investigating the case of burglary recently happened in her house….”
“Sorry madam, burglary is not possible in this area, especially within the campus. No such event was reported.” The man discarded her claim.

With a creaking noise, wooden door of Mrs. Farey’s house was opened. Mrs. Hannah Farey came out of her home. Kitchen apron tied around her waist indicated that the lady was busy with her household chores.

“Afternoon ma’am,” the guard looked at Mrs. Farey, “these two ladies were looking for….”

“Me. I know.” She replied, “They are my guests. Thank you, Mr. Smith.” Mrs. Farey looked at Marie and Tanya, “Please come inside.”
Though Marie had no intention of meeting Mrs. Farey, the circumstances compelled her. Mrs. Farey’s residence was small but well decorated. Marie noticed large packing boxes in the corner of the room.

“I have to shift soon,” Mrs. Farey said.

“So, where are you moving?”

“In the Greenwich village only,” she replied, “I have rented a small apartment and got a job in a local school.” She looked sad, “I have to adjust myself in a new life, in a new routine.”

“It’s our life, Mrs. Farey.” Marie replied calmly, “We have to accept the reality.”

Mrs. Farey offered tea. She went inside the kitchen and came out with a tray. She put the tray on a wooden center table and asked, “Do you like to have Yerba Mate Tea from South America? My cousin John recently came back from Uruguay, has gifted me.”

“I like different varieties of tea.” Marie took the cup and sipped a little bit of tea. It tasted like an infusion of herbal and green tea. Tanya too took the cup and sipped. “Delicious,” she appreciated.

“So, your cousin is staying with you?” She asked.

“How did you know?” Mrs. Farey asked with a little surprise.

“I noticed some men’s undergarments inside the washing machine,” Marie replied.

Tanya looked around. There was a washing machine standing at the corner of the room. Inside it a pile of garments was loaded, most of them were men’s garments.

Mrs. Farey giggled, “Oh, yes, I should not forget that I am speaking to a detective.”

“So, he is staying with you?” Marie repeated the question.

“Yes, he is,” she replied. “We were old friends, very close to each other. Later he took jobs in South America and left the USA.”

“How long he is staying with you, ma’am?” Marie suddenly became aware of her tone and apologized.

“I did not mind your question, Miss Claire. My cousin visited us when Benedict was alive. He would leave if the accident would not occur….”

“So, how long he will stay in the USA?” Marie asked again.

“He will stay in the USA; he has left the job and come back here permanently.” She tried to change the topic.

Hannah finished her tea and asked, “So, what about your investigation, ma’am? I need your report as soon as possible. Otherwise…..”

“Otherwise?” Marie looked at her curiously.

“I cannot claim his insurance money and inheritance,” Hannah said.

“But, if it is a normal death and you are the legal wife, then? Marie could not understand her dilemma.

“You are right; I should not face any legal problem. But, the insurance company is not ready to accept the truth. Though Benedict passed away peacefully, the Company is not ready to accept it. He had no cardiac problem or any serious ailment. That is why I want a proper investigation, ma’am.” Hannah finished her words in one breath.

“Well, you could tell me earlier,” Marie said, “I came here to interact with his colleagues and students. Met some of them and….”

“He had many rivals in the workplace.” She said, “What about the book?”

“Yes, the book is vital. It has many clues, and I have deciphered it successfully.” Marie said, “It indicates the location of a lost tomb. And, yes, there is a mention of the curse. Those who will try to find out the Tomb, he or she will die.” Marie confidently said. Hannah’s face went pale for a while, then she composed herself, “Well, but the insurance company may not believe it.”

“I want to know more about the insurance madam? Why did Mr. Farey pay for fat premium insurance, when he had no serious ailment?”

“Actually, the University pays for it. He was about to go for an expedition, so, they did for him. these expeditions are risky.” Hannah replied. She put the empty cups on the tray and said, “Let me keep them in the kitchen. Please wait. I have many things to discuss with you.”
Hannah rose from her couch and walked towards the kitchen.

Marie looked at Tanya and said, “Tanya, go to the balcony and call her immediately. Keep her engaged for a while.”

Tanya did not waste her time and briskly walked towards the balcony. Almost immediately, Hannah’s phone in the kitchen rang. Marie too did not waste her time and walked closer towards the packing boxes. The first two had crockery and utensils. The third one had trousers, shirts and shaving sets, and…. and… there was a book or diary inside those shirts and trousers. Marie unfolded a white shirt and brought out the book. The golden letters on its cover glittered in fading sunlight pouring through the window-glass.

The Rubik’s Cube Killer

Part-IV

Jamie was not ready for receiving Marie in this odd hour of the late evening. He asked worriedly, “Yes, how can I help you, Marie?”

“I want to test these two identical books in your forensic laboratory,” Marie said.

“Two books? But, Hannah Farey gave you only one book, Marie.”

“That was for misleading us. I have recovered the original one.” Marie replied.

Jamie looked at the two books and said, “Give me an hour to find out the truth.”

“Well, in the meantime, I need details about a guy named John Robinson, who currently came from Uruguay,” Marie said.

“What name did you say? John Robinson?” Jamie asked, “I know the name. He was a fraud and a drug smuggler. But, we did not get any information.” Jamie called his assistant and sent those two books to the forensic laboratory.

He showed Marie the file containing all information about John Robinson. Marie read it carefully and asked, “He may be a different person, Jamie? Why are you reacting like that?”

“Maybe, but the same man fled to Latin America decades ago. The FBI is still looking for him. I hope that Mrs. Hannah is not a victim of this man.” Jamie finished the sentence in one breath.

“Well, if it is, please alert the security force and ask them to remain vigilant.” Marie nodded.

“I’ll, but the final decision will be taken only after having reported from the forensic lab,” Jamie replied stubbornly.

******

It was already midnight. Police in plain dress was patrolling in front of the faculty quarters. Jamie had taken prior permission from the authority. They gave consent, just on one condition. The police could not disturb the normal life of the residents, and they could not use firearms. Jamie planned everything accordingly, and now it was Marie’s duty to execute it properly.

Marie strolled nearer to the house bearing Benedict’s nameplate. She entered the garden and strolled towards the window ledge. The light was still on in the drawing room. Marie remained behind a bramble, from where she could see the room’s inside.

Hannah said good night to her children, and almost immediately a man appeared on the scene. He asked her something, and the children went upstairs. They probably went to their rooms. Marie tried to hear their conversation but could not. Suddenly, the man turned back. She saw his full face. Marie gasped in fear. He was the same man, whose photo Jamie showed them.

“We have to leave this quarter as soon as possible, Hannah. Why are you wasting your time here?” The man asked.

“I am…I am waiting for for….”

“Waiting for what? The detective? She cannot do anything. Let’s pack our important things.” He walked briskly towards the packing boxes, opened one of them and almost shouted, “Hannah, did you touch my things? I am not getting my diary.”

“No, dear, I….” before Hannah could finish her words. Marie emerged out from the bush and went to the veranda. She pressed the doorbell.

‘Damn, who it is?” The man shouted, “Let me go inside the room.”

Marie used the duplicate key card and entered without waiting for Hannah to open the door. John and Hannah both dumbfounded to see her. Hannah looked furious, “How dare you are Miss Claire to enter my house without informing me? Where did you get the duplicate key-card ?”

“No, Mrs. Farey, I rang the doorbell, but used the duplicate card; otherwise, your friend would disappear. I have received it from a competent authority.” She smiled.

John looked disbelievingly towards Hannah. “Did you tell her about me?”

“Yes, why not? We are good friends and cousins too….”

“You should not…” John sounded angry, “Well, how can I help you, ma’am?”

“I came here with your book.” Marie brought out two identical books from her bag, “Can you recognize which one is yours and which one is a fake one ?”

“What sort of joke, it is?” John roared, but looked uneasy, “These are not my book.”

“I cannot understand, Miss Claire, what you are talking about.” Hannah walked towards her, “It is the book I gave it to you.”

“One of the books,” she said, “the blank one, however, I have recovered the actual one from your cousin’s packet, and its pages were not written in invisible ink but were written in proper English. However, we got the trace of curare on its pages. So, Mrs. Farey, I hope you have understood who has killed your dear husband?”

“No,” she looked John disbelievingly and charged Marie, “It is impossible. John is my cousin. I know him…”

“Do you know why he had left the USA decades ago? Why did he come back?” Marie asked.

“Enough is enough,” John suddenly brought out a revolver; he hugged Hannah from the back and pressed the revolver on her temple, “If you disclose my identity to anyone, I’ll kill her.”

Marie was not ready for this move. She knew John could not cross the campus without raising the alarm. However, John used Hannah as a shield. He came out from the drawing room to the veranda, then to the garden.

“If anyone tries to arrest me, the woman will die.” He grinned broadly, “My foolish cousin, my secret lover Hannah has no idea, why I left the country and why I came back. Yes, I am a convicted criminal, but I came back for her. My Hannah, I always wanted to marry her, but my abrupt departure made our wish unfulfilled.” John spat on the ground. “I found her in a happy family, surrounded by a caring husband and two children. I planned to kill that grumpy faced professor, who was unaware of my true identity. Yes, I came back to the USA as a different person, with a different passport and name. I could do plastic surgery, but then Hannah could not recognize me. So, I used a silicon mask to hide my true face from the immigration officers.”

John had already crossed the faculty quarter premises and was heading towards the rear gate, which always remained closed to the outsiders. Only the campus residents could open it by using their key-card. He brought out the key card and asked Hannah to open the gate. She had no other choice.

“So, you put curare on a book’s page….”

“I heard about Benedict’s forthcoming expedition. He told me about the curse and the legend behind the tomb. He also suspected that someone wants to steal the book. I did it actually, but he suspected his teammates. I advised him to make a duplicate book for deceiving the thieves. He did it, and I put poison on the pages of the original book. Benedict had a habit of turning pages with saliva. Curare slowly went inside his body, and he died. I replaced the original book with the replica…”

“So, the burglary and…” Hannah gasped for air.

John interjected Hannah, kissed on her chin and said, “I cooked up the story, dear. You tried to donate the book in the library, which could expose my conspiracy. I replaced the original book with the duplicate one. Unfortunately, Benedict could not tell you about the duplicate book; I only knew its existence.

On the day of Benedict’s funeral, I broke into your house. I made a mess while searching for the book and finally got it. It would raise suspicion; maybe you could inform the police. So, I put the duplicate book on your doorstep. I wanted to keep the fear alive in your mind; otherwise, you would not leave this place easily. It was not safe for me to stay in a well-guarded campus for a long time. I have already spent a month and hardly afford to go out of your house. I pretended ill, and you believed it.”

“Why?” Hannah broke into tears, “Why did you do this?”

“I needed to marry you; Benedict was my enemy, dear. I found out about his insurance. I require cash as well.” He ventured outside the grounds and compellingly hauled Hannah towards a blue Camaro. Sobbing Hannah had no other option, however, to obey him. He pushed her inside the car and pointed his gun towards Marie, “Farewell, Miss… ”

Before completing his words, he got a slug in his hand. Perfect precision of the target deposed revolver from his hand and another bullet, came almost at the same time injured his right hand critically. Astonished John found himself surrounded by policemen. Blue light of NYPD cars fell all over. At least ten policemen with handguns surrounded him and his car.

With a fiendish grin, John drew out a little remote control. He squeezed its catch, and a gigantic blast made blinded Marie for some time. Before losing her sense, she felt that sheer pain and consuming sensation on her skin, likely it was the end of her adventure. She could not know whether or not the book was cursed, but those who had touched it, probably all went dead.

 

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