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Shadow In The Mirror
by Deepti Menon (Book Preview) | Published On:

The book is a relationship based book, written around a murder mystery. 

It all begins with a death. Nita, a pregnant woman falling from her balcony becomes the string that unravels the plot. Her death casts a shadow over many lives; her heartbroken father, her husband and Vinny, a young journalist, drawn in by the whiff of foul play and murder.What follows are stories within stories, eras and worlds colliding with each other, leaving behind splintered relationships and mesmerizing slices of lives that appear to be drawn together and driven apart by the whimsical threads of destiny.As events cast their shadows ahead to link the stories of Vinny, Kavita, Roma, Krish and Nita in an unrelenting knot, a journey starts to uncover the truth. What is the secret that links Nita’s death to the other characters? Will Vinny be able to unravel the mystery of Nita’s death?From intimate diary entries and letters, to bantering over a meal and sharing memories while spring cleaning, this novel de-familiarizes the ordinary, presenting a kaleidoscope of our own pasts, broken edges and pulsating hearts.

This is the second chapter of the book.

WINTRY BLUES
The Mist Wanders in!

“What made her do it?” wondered Vinny, as she gazed at the flat, along with all the other spectators who looked on with unabashed curiosity. Crime and passion always brought out the worst instincts in humans, she told herself. It was a drab evening, with crimson streaks blazing across the sky like bloodstains.

“Wouldn’t that make a good title for my story?” she whispered to herself, and then shuddered at her levity.

Tiny diamonds of rain on the green lawn slid down onto the moist earth. People stood huddled in front of the building, vultures whispering sibilantly, their raincoats flapping in the strong breeze. They stared at the building with avid eyes that sensed a kill.

There was a suppressed air of excitement in the air.

“If one could call it excitement,” thought Vinny, as she leaned against the fence. “I am a vulture as well, even if it is my job that makes me one.” She needed to move on and get a few pointers, yet she was strangely hesitant to intrude. So she stood, notepad in hand, pencil behind her ear, trying to uncover the secrets that hovered within the flat in front of her. Covering a suicide was not the most pleasant assignment in the world, and she shuddered again as she recalled how the body had looked when it was being wheeled away. . . eyes fixed in an icy stare, tongue lolling out, a sight that would give her nightmares for months. The blood had stained the ground and the police had drawn the outline of the figure as it had lain there. Vinny could still see it with blinding clarity.

“What a tragic waste,” was the uppermost thought on many minds.

Nita had been young, attractive, and the only daughter of a wealthy businessman, who had made his immense fortune in Bangalore. Nita was to inherit all of it. She was happily married, or so the grapevine went [as it is known to do], and had been pregnant at the time of her death. Rumours flew around, locusts veiling the face of the sun.

“Pre-natal depression, of course,” said one knowledgeable soul. “The girl had everything but peace of mind, a malady common to the wealthy.”

“Was there an undertone of envy there?” Vinny wondered.

She herself would have termed Nita the pampered rich type, born with a silver spoon in her mouth. A spoon that had got stuck in her throat, mused Vinny sardonically, and suffocated Nita to death.

She regretted the thought a moment later. It was not advisable to talk ill of the dead, as her grandmother was fond of saying. She glanced nervously at the shadowy structure, which seemed to have a life of its own. She could almost feel it breathe, as it loomed ominously in the dusk, wrapped in an air of mystery. The evening seemed to have got colder all of a sudden, and she could feel the wintry blues creeping up her spine.

She shivered involuntarily, as she put her notepad away, wondering, “What actually led Nita to take such a drastic step? She chose the perfect setting for it. . . grey and menacing.”

As Vinny looked around, she found that only a few stragglers remained. The Bangalore chill was seeping into her very bones, fingers slithering down her spine, and she felt a sudden urge to get away.

Yet she could not tear her eyes away from where the building stood in all its isolation. No tenant would touch it with a bargepole, till the ill-luck that dogged it died a natural death. Houses shouldered the burden of their own luck. Tales hung about them like cobwebs that were painstakingly woven, embellished every time they were told. They either died when  a more fascinating tale took birth, or turned into legends and attained epic stature. The legend that was floating around the building was as follows: 

A beautiful young girl had lived here almost four decades ago. She had enchanting blue-green eyes and lustrous hair, which cascaded down her slim straight back, as heroines in the past always seemed to have. She fell in love with a dashing young gentleman, with eyes as black as coal, and mischief lurking within their depths. The mischief proved her undoing as she discovered that she was going to bear his child.

“Marry me!” she pleaded, but the rakish black eyes twinkled at her as he waltzed away into another willing maiden’s arms.

That very evening, when the shadows had lengthened, they saw her, a willowy figure all dressed in black, as she stood at the balcony for a suspenseful moment. The moonlight silhouetted her in silver as the very night waited in trepidation. Then with an ear-piercing shriek, she had plunged headlong into the darkness, and had fallen a long, long way down.

And now, history had repeated itself, as it always does.

Vinny gave herself a little shake. She had been lost in her reverie for so long that she hadn’t realized that she was all alone. She had to walk a goodish way to reach home, and the hour was late. Of course she did not believe in spirits hovering around near unnatural deaths, but she decided not to tempt them anyway. She too had been brought up on stories of uneasy spirits and ghosts that walked the earth. However, there was nothing she could find out at the moment. Maybe she could come back later and hunt around.

As she walked back, absorbed in her own thoughts, she failed to notice a shadow materialize behind her. It crept after her unobtrusively. Even if she did hear the snapping of a twig behind her, she put it down to the meandering of her overwrought mind. At one point, she thought she heard a muffled cough and glanced around nervously.

“Who is there?” she quavered, but black silence loomed behind her, dogging her footsteps. She turned once again, but the figure ducked behind an opportune bush the moment it sensed her movement. It watched her open her gate, and hunt for the key in her handbag.

Later, in her snug room in Koramangala, dwarfed by the huge rosewood desk she had bought to prove that she was a writer, she sighed over her scanty notes. Her editor would not be happy if she did not go out and dig for more dirt, scrabble among the bones, as it were. She would not put it past him to place a suggestively friendly hand on her shoulder, saying “Come on, girlie, jump to work! What am I paying you for?”

She hated the condescension but loved the job, which is why she stayed on. Besides, her boss knew exactly where to draw the line, mainly because it had been drawn by a possessive wife who paid all his bills.

She scanned through her notes, trying to find something that would help her unravel the threads, but Nita’s face kept blocking out all other thoughts. There had been so many photographs in the newspapers, some hauntingly beautiful, taken by her husband who dabbled in art and portraits. How different she had looked in death, Vinny sighed. She, who had given up the idea of medicine as a career because the sight of blood made her faint, was now hunting for clues in a suicide.

Her buddies pursuing medicine still teased her about the time she had gone down with a giant crash after witnessing her first post mortem. She had been smuggled in along with the interns, and she had had no qualms in bragging about her nerves of steel a little earlier.

“What do you think I am? A little blood is not going to faze me,” she had boasted.

When her nerves caved in, and a little blood had gone a long way, she had bid Medicine a sheepish adieu and promptly switched over to Journalism, which was proving to be no less gory. Her parents had been disappointed in her choice, which they proclaimed was not as glorious as Medicine, but they created less of a noise than she had expected. Actually, to be fair, they had always been on the same page with her.

Her watch suddenly beeped, well-timed with the rumble in her stomach, reminding her that it was time she ate something. It was around midnight and time had winged its way across the evening. She stood up with a yawn and stretched aching joints that seemed to creak with the effort.

The refrigerator was like a mini cavern, stuffed with leftovers from the day before, and some from eternity. She would have curry and rice cold, washing it down with a healthy glass of milk. She recalled the times when as a child, she had alternatively bribed and forced their maid to drink all the glasses of milk her mother thoughtfully set out for her. All because she had read an article about how young calves were deprived of their mothers’ milk because cruel humans snatched it away from their very mouths.

It was strange how old memories suddenly flash-bulbed in the mind, flickered for one brilliant moment, and were just as soon lost in oblivion. She forced her eyes down to the notes she had made, determined to make sense out of them. Again Nita’s face loomed before her. What kind of person had she been? Just hours ago, she too had lived and breathed. . . did she know at the time that she was going to end her life in that manner? Did anyone ever know something like that, ever?

“I would never jump off a high building,” the thought came unbidden, and she did not feel like eating anymore.

The cold rice seemed more unappetizing than ever as she pushed it around on her plate, eyes still on her notes. Unfortunately, they did not seem anything like the notes detectives in mystery novels jotted down; clear concise points that acted as signposts leading straight to the path taken by the suspect, even if it was only proved in the last chapter of the book. Her notebook was filled with squiggles that looked as though a drunken spider had fallen into a bottle of ink, and crawled across the pages.

The jarring doorbell shocked her out of her reverie. “I really must get rid of that monstrosity,” she grumbled for the umpteenth time, as she put down her spoon and hurried to open the door.

Who could it be at this hour? She was not apprehensive, having lived alone for quite a while, but the night had not exactly been a pleasant one so far. One could not be too careful nowadays.

She kept the chain on, pulled open the door warily and peered out. The mist wandered in, hand in hand with the chill, but there was no sign of anyone. Puzzled, she stuck her head outside, where the gate seemed to take on ghostly proportions, but she could see no one around. As she closed the door, her eyes fell on a crumpled white envelope that lay on the ground.

She had no clue how it had landed on her floor. She picked it up, and found there was no name on it. 

Closing the door with a shiver, she went back to the dining room, and sat down again before she tore the envelope open. Mystified, she ran her eyes down the lines that were scrawled on a dirty sheet of paper inside, scrawled in an unfamiliar, strangely uneven handwriting that stumbled its way across the page.

Nita Did Not Commit Suicide! 

 

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Author
Deepti Menon

Deepti Menon

Written: 10 Stories

Member Since: 22-Mar-2017

Country: India