hey mister !

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Recently, a number of files were burnt by the police, which were outdated clerical records. One of them was not a record but a case file, which was marked UNSOLVABLE. It was burnt by mistake and dealt with the murder of one Thomas Robert Fortham.

Its number was A139062.

************************

It was on Wednesday that Thomas saw him for the first time. After ten years, two months and eleven days. He recognized the hard and stony face almost instantly. Immediately, he felt about for the small Browning that he always carried about on his person. The documents for the gun that he had filled out said that being a successful businessman, and being scared of any threat that he might face in the course of his normal day, such as extortion and mugging, he had purchased the gun. What the documents did not say was that the weapon could – or more correctly – would be used for murder the day that Thomas Robert Fortham met with the killer of his father and mother. Staring out into space over the sea that evening, a vision of his dead parents came back to him. In that posture in which that god damned killer had left them. And they both seemed to be passing him, going back to the Great God of Them All. “Mother, father, come back.” he croaked as his throat clogged with his intense feeling. “Revenge”, they mouthed to him, as they passed, “we want revenge. Only then will our souls be peaceful in heaven.” Even as Thomas stretched out his hands to them for support, a hug, anything, they disappeared in front of his eyes.
“Revenge”, they had said, “revenge”.

Even as the thought appeared in his head, he automatically slunk back into the shadows keeping his target in sight. The rush of emotions that he had succumbed to on seeing the man whom he had seen but once before in his life, was slowly starting to fade away, being replaced by memories of the terrible time after he, an innocent fifteen year old, had felt his dead parents’ pulses, hoping against hope that the bullets had missed.
The calling of the neighbours, their utter disbelief of his seemingly fantastic story, all of it came in a rush into his head as Thomas kept his eyes on his quarry, who seemed to be walking to the nearby building whose name was obscured by the darkness.
“Revenge”, they had said, “revenge”.
As he tried to control his emotions, which threatened to force an involuntary cry from his mouth, Thomas jerked himself back into the present on seeing his target vanish into the darkness near the building.

Watching his surroundings carefully for any protectors of his enemy, Tom, as his friends called him, moved silently towards the building. On reaching it, he circled around the building, keeping a wary eye out for any hiding places, hidden segments, any suspicious sounds and, as such, being as cautious as possible. Given that his enemy had killed two people, and had calmly walked away, all evidence pointed towards his being a man it would not be advisable to getting on the wrong side of.

Convinced that the killer had entered the building, Tom quickly proceeded to follow his example. He found himself confronted by a signboard saying that he had entered an office of some sort. The exact nature of the business that it indulged in was in darkness. Tom would have used the pencil torch in his pocket, if not for the fact that it might have got him killed. Hearing a noise to his right, Tom disappeared into the darkness provided by the shadow of the board.

His eyes darted from side to side, and his right hand gripped the gun more tightly. His left checked the silencer, the safety catch and the bullets. A man emerged from the far end and a lighter flared as he lighted a cigarette. Tom screwed up his eyes in an effort to make out the visage of the smoker. Immediately, he shrank back into the shadows as the killer of his parents went towards the door, unaware of the armed man preparing to summon up his courage to perpetrate his first kill, barely thirty yards away from him.

Furiously considering all the possibilities that lay open to him, Tom continuously checked his gun to make sure that when he fired it lead bullets would come out and not the puff of a blank, or worse, the click of an empty chamber. His target, having satisfied himself that his cigarette was properly lighted, turned to open the door. Meanwhile, thoughts surged into Tom’s head.

“Should I do it now? There’s no one around to see. But…this man has obviously has come to see some one in this building. It can’t be robbery or murder; or else his entry would be more silent and the door would have been forced. No other noises are there. It is then to complete some work. But no…not in the building. Someone else can be here…”

Even as he slunk behind the board, the man he had been seeking for over ten years opened the door and turned to his left. Tom knew from his earlier reconnoitering that on the left there was an abandoned alleyway, the other end of which were the back entrances to some apartments. In general, it was abandoned. After waiting till when he estimated that his man was nearing the halfway point in the alley, Tom silently ran on his rubber-soled shoes out the door, and into the alley.

************************

“Hey, mister!”
The man, unknowing of the gun, turned when he heard the call. He waited till the caller had reached him, and then waited for him to speak, all the while wondering who it was at this late stage of the night. His caller spoke after a few moments, which he had spent in scrutinizing his target’s face. Just to make sure it was the right man.
“Excuse me, do you have a match-box?”
“Sure.” The man immediately handed it over.
Tom lighted his cigarette, glancing at the man’s face in the light of the flame.
“I believe I know you.”
“You think it’s possible? What’s your name?”
“Fortham.”
The mention of the name seemed to have no effect on the man.
“Are you in a hurry?”, Tom asked, “or would you mind standing and talking for a while? It’s pretty lonely out.”
The killer assented to the conversation.

“Ten years, two months, and eleven days ago, my father came home from his job in a grocery store. My mother was making curry. The doorbell rang and a man entered our house, and it never remained the same again. An argument ensued, the topic of which I have no idea, and at the end of it, the man departed. Before he did so, however, he helped my mother and father depart as well. To the next world.”
On listening to this singular statement, the killer seemed to flinch.
“Your name again, Mr…”
“Thomas Fortham. And my father’s was Ronnet Fortham.”
The killer’s memory seemed to recall the incident and he nearly turned when Tom caught him. He started straining against Tom’s vice-like grip on seeing a gun drawn from the inner recesses of Tom’s coat.
“No, no, no don’t do it! I swear to you, I did not mean to kill them. Not the mother at least. Your father had stumbled on my drug dealings and was going to reveal them to the police. If that had been done, the mafia would have killed me. I swear to you, I never planned to kill him. Just wound him that’s all. Teach him a lesson. Stick him in bed for a few weeks possibly. Don’t do it, I beg you. I…”
“That’s a lie! You coolly, calmly and deliberately shot my father when he refused to listen to you, and my mother when she saw you do what you did. You murdered them in cold blood, god damn you, and then walked away without a backward glance!”

“Revenge”, they had said, “revenge”.
Thomas Robert Fortham never heard the rest of the man’s pleadings as the latter fell to his knees begging for mercy. He cocked his gun and pointed it out in front of him, the muzzle pointing to the man’s forehead.
He then carefully levelled the gun on the centre of the man’s forehead.
“Revenge”, they had said, “revenge”.
Taking a deep breath he then shot the man point blank in the forehead. The silenced gun let out two more spits as he shot the killer of his father and mother twice in the heart.
“Revenge”, they had said, “revenge”.
The begging man, who had crumpled to the ground on the first shot, gave two shudders as the bullets entered his heart.

Thomas Robert Fortham felt peace after ten years, two months and eleven days of his father’s death.

************************

As he finished throwing the body of his erstwhile enemy into the dustbin a few yards down from the spot of the murder, he suddenly heard a noise behind him. Even as he turned, two words reached him.
“Hey, mister!”
Tom turned and waited till the caller reached him.
“Did you see a man walk down this alleyway fifteen minutes ago?”
Tom paled.
“You see, he had come to my office some time ago to buy tickets from me. For tomorrow’s train. He forgot something in my office. Maybe you saw him?”
Tom barely heard the man, as he reeled under this new shock to his system. Somebody had been inside the building with the man. “Maybe…maybe he had seen something. Or heard something…he must be a police agent trying to trap him into incriminating himself…”
“Hey mister, mister, what happened? I’m talking to you!”
Tom stared at the questioner blankly. Everything suddenly started to go dim. The gun, which he had been holding in his pocket, suddenly slipped out of his hand and fell to the ground. Thomas Robert Fortham then slipped to the ground in a dead faint, leaving his questioner staring at him and the gun, which clattered on the ground beside him. Then the latter noticed the dark stain on the trashcan, where the body had brushed when Tom was disposing of the body, which had been blocked by Tom when he was standing. The man touched it and smelt his fingers.

He ran screaming back to the street and ran towards his car. The phone lines were down and the nearest police station was at least a half-hour drive from the office.

************************

The frightened clerk led the skeptical police officers to the alleyway, but refused to enter. He had seen enough blood for one day, he said, and did not want to enter the alleyway while that man with a gun was there. He smelt his fingers again and entered his office to wash them for the sixteenth time.The officers found nothing in the alleyway at first, and definitely no fainted man on the ground as the clerk had said. They were about to turn back when one of them noticed the stain. Once they examined it, one quickly ran back to their vehicle and radioed their headquarters, as the other stood guard on the body of the man they had found in the trashcan. He had been shot once in the head and twice in the chest and was very dead.

************************

The police squad went over the crime scene again and again and fingerprinted the body and the surroundings. Unfortunately, they found no evidence of the murderer ever having been there. The entire place had been wiped clean. Except for the visiting cards in the man’s pocket. In the name of Thomas Robert Fortham.The case file was sent to the archives after a lengthy investigation. Finally, having no clues regarding the identity of the murderer, it was marked as UNSOLVED.

The file number was A139062.

© Satish E Viswanath 2005

Content copyright protected by Copyscape website plagiarism search

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