Number 21 – Part 4 Final

Posted: March 7, 2013 in Short story
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Chapter 4:

(Read chapter 3 here :

They had to stay up the whole night. The bodies of the kids were sent for autopsy, but Alan did not have any high hopes from it. Alan pinned his hopes on finding a shot of the murderer in the cctv footage of the supermarket. He got the Tech team to work on procuring the films and filtering the data.

At around 1 AM, James came running with the stills from the cctv footage from the traffic cams around Mary Newton’s Apartment. Many cars had plied on the road but a black van stood out. It was the type of car which could be used to kidnap a person, or move a body. It was confirmed that Mary was neither killed in her apartment, or in her car. So, either she was murdered in the getaway vehicle or taken to be killed in someplace lonely. Alan asked James if the Tech team could enlarge the number plate, but she replied that Tech team had already tried but there was mud on the number plates. This was a standard detection avoidance technique. Alan felt frustrated. There were thousands of black vans in the town, how was he going to get that exact one? He asked James to get the Tech team to list out everyone with a record and a black van registered in his name.

He called up Howard Bracken’s wife on phone and apologized for calling so late. He asked her if she knew Bracken’s whereabouts just before he went missing. Mrs. Bracken said Howard always went to a local bar near the fisherman docks by the river on Saturdays after work. She thought he went there that day too, but she had no way of knowing. Alan hanged up saying he would follow the lead on that bar. The bar wasn’t going to open till 11 AM next day, so that would have to wait.

Finally, around 5 in the morning, James walked in with the stills of the cctv records of the supermarket. She looked tired. Alan sensed disappointment even before looking at the photos. She showed him the stills. There was this hooded guy pushing the pram away through the service door. It was a man about 6 or 6’1″ in height, wearing a black sweatshirt with his head covered with the hood. Alan asked if there were any other angles to see his face, but James answered in negative.

There was nothing else to do, except follow the lead on the bar. Alan asked James to leave for home and be back by 10 AM. He himself went to catch a nap in the department dorm.

He woke up at around 10 AM and walked back towards his desk. On the way, he heard deputies whisper that He was the main reason for the deaths of innocents and if it wasn’t for some kind of a vendetta against him, they would still be alive. He heard someone even suggest that Alan was killing them himself and writing his initials on the bodies to make himself famous. He just couldn’t believe his ears. He felt betrayed and his resolve to solve the crime as soon as possible, became even more stronger. But what could he do when not a single evidence or clue pointed him towards any solid direction? He called Fred and Jerry and asked them to go and fetch information if Bracken had visited to the bar on last saturday, and if he had, then if anything remarkable happened.

James came back to the office around 11 AM and showed Alan the newspapers. They were full of stories of the murders. 4 bodies found in almost 24 hours. That had shaken the entire town. One paper even named the killer ‘AC-DC’, though how was it even relevant, Alan couldn’t understand.

Alan was sitting there waiting for the deputies to come back with the report when Conrad Higgins walked in. He enquired the status of the investigation and if Alan had made any headway into the case. Alan confessed his utter lack even a small break in the case. He told Higgins about the van and the hooded guy in the supermarket. Higgins asked if Alan had pursued his idea of the murderer fan. Alan replied that he had no time, and it was becoming hard to keep up with the count of bodies being piled up in so short a time. He also expressed his frustration about his own team talking behind his back. Higgins asked Alan not to lose hope and that all will be well. Alan requested him to stay and help him on the case.

Alan and Higgins sat sipping coffee and analyzing the case when Fred called Alan. James came and stood near Alan to get the information. Fred informed him that the bartender in the dockyard bar had revealed that Bracken was involved in a brawl with a guy outside the bar. The guy was about 6 feet tall and sturdily built. The guy was recorded on cctv while having drinks on the drinks table. Alan asked him to get the recordings and report back to the station. Alan updated James and Higgins about the same.

Higgins remarked that he had an important appointment to keep and he had completely forgotten about that, being engrossed in the mystery. He stood up to leave, when James  apprised him of a lost button on his jacket sleeve. Higgins laughed and commented upon his wife’s lack of care towards him and left.

Fred and Jerry came back around 1 PM with the footage and both Alan and James hurriedly put the disk into the player. They didn’t want to waste time and send it to Tech. They sat back and stared intently at the video, hoping for the Face to jump out of the video. And boy did it make them jump! It was Higgins, sitting there quietly and drinking whiskey. Alan and James looked at each other. Both realized that Higgins was more than 6 feet tall, drove a black van and had a button missing from his sleeve. And just now he was sitting there with both of them, discussing his very own handiwork. Alan was stunned. He never thought in his wildest dreams, something like this could have happened. His own mentor and partner, blind with revenge and hatred, could do something an animal won’t do. He had to ask Higgins himself why.

Alan put out an intimation to all checkpoints in the town on Higgins and left with James towards Higgins house. The airport security radioed-in, saying they caught Higgins trying to fly out of there. Alan changed his course and drove towards the airport. On reaching, he was informed that Higgins had been detained in a room and Alan was taken there.

Higgins was still wearing the same jacket. The buttons matched with the one found in Mary Newton’s apartment. Higgins eyes were blazing red. He stared up at Alan but did not reply to any of his questions. Only when Alan remarked that he had always looked up to Higgins for inspiration in spite of the bribe thing, did Higgins open his mouth. He cursed Alan for spoiling his life. He told him he had always hated him after that but he did not know how to take revenge. On Saturday night, he got involved in a brawl with Bracken in the bar and had knocked him unconscious. Then the plan hatched in his mind that he could kill the guy and implicate Alan in the matter. He bound and gagged Bracken in his van and then killed him by asphyxiating him to imitate their first case. Then he scraped the letters A and C on his back and changed his clothes to a night-dress, to make it seems as if he had been kidnapped from his home and killed. Then he threw his body in the river.

The body wasn’t found immediately, so Higgins got impatient and decided to kill again. He was sitting in the restaurant when he saw a girl drive up in a red Jaguar, pick up a guy who worked there and drive off. Higgins followed them, saw her drop him at a house and drive to an apartment. He saw her park her car in the basement parking lot and walk up the stairs to her room. Higgins followed her to her floor, waited for 15 mins and broke into her room. He gagged her and then carried her to his van. Then he drove two miles to the wheat fields, stabbed her with a knife multiple times until she bled out, marked the A and C on her back, and brought her to the parking lot and left her in her car.

Bracken’s body was found within 12 hours of Mary. So Higgins visited Alan to check on his progress. He was very happy to see Alan bewildered and frustrated. He thought of increasing Alan’s agony, and he got his chance when he saw the twins outside the supermarket on the same night. This was perfect. These kids were too small but they would do well to imitate Alan’s third case. So, he walked inside the supermarket waiting for his chance. The mother went to fetch some stuff on a far-off aisle, and in that moment, Higgins pushed the pram outside through the service door. He picked the babies, asphyxiated them with their own pillow on the pram, scraped A and C on their backs and dumped them off near the park.

He took great care to miss detection on the traffic cams and in the supermarket cctvs. His only mistake was that he didn’t know about a camera in the bar where he had the brawl with Bracken. He said that if he had known about it, he would have made sure that the footage was removed and he would never have got caught. And of course, Alan could never have caught him with a just a button as clue. After Higgins completed his narrative, Alan handcuffed him and took him back to the station lock-up.

While driving back home, Alan felt sorry for all the people who got caught in the revenge game. He thought of the little infant twins. He recalled how he had prayed for an exciting series of murders when the case began. Now, he realized that he would give anything to change what happened. He did not want exciting cases. Not at the cost of unnecessary and innocent deaths.

*************************************End of story*******************************************

  1. nice suspense…well written !

  2. Dibyendu Sarkar says:

    Well done Writer 🙂 You are doing good. Looking forward to more from you.

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