NOBODY

This short story is a result of my over-obsession with murders, mysteries and murderers. For most of my free time apart from spending it on other hobbies, I spend  on watching crime documentaries. A strange way to relax, I know! But I swear I am not taking notes from these various sinister killers throughout time…Mr. A would readily attest to my sanity. Well…except for my obsession with my special spoon and the crease-free bed. But hey…we are all allowed our share of quirks. That’s what will make me an interesting study in psychology.

Anyway…this story is told through the eyes of the protagonist (the police officer) and the antagonist (the killer) in equal parts. The parts which are attributed to the antagonist are italicized for the benefit of the reader. I hope this story entertains you in a different way than the ones I have written before!

Have an intriguing read!

Photo by Elti Meshau on Pexels.com

“It’s the fifth in two months.”

Jay picked up the file which his superior had placed before him. He already knew the contents inside. The killings had started two months ago. The first murder was ruled as suicide. A headmaster accused of molesting students at his school, suspended and undergoing an investigation, had shot himself in the head. A suicide note placed to be found had read: ‘Nobody killed me.’ Pretty simple, right? The local police had certainly thought so and had taken up little to less time to declare it as such. Everyone had their minds made up until another death came into light. This time a woman, divorced from her husband. She had filed a dowry case against him and had won. The man continued screaming his innocence until he finally hung himself. The woman was also found hung in her apartment, ironically in the same manner as her ex-husband. A suicide note found simply read: ‘I am guilty. Nobody killed me.’ Once again, the local police had closed the case after preliminary inquiry. But this time, there was a difference.

It had caught the eyes of Jay, an officer for over 16 years in CID.

The similarities had raked up doubts in his mind. Both accused, possibly guilty. The use of ‘Nobody’ in their notes. Could it be that a killer was using the name Nobody to declare his presence?

“Just like the Zodiac killer Sir”, he had pitched his suspicion to his senior, who, having known him as a credible officer, had given him the get go. In less than a week of opening both the cases, he had been proven right. A well-known local businessman which even more notorious business ethics had been found dead in his farmhouse, killed by the poison he had consumed. He owned a chemical plant outside of the city with little to less safety regulations. The plant had been the cause of poisoning of small water bodies around it, effectively killing and crippling thousands of slum dwellers who used to live in the vicinity. As always, the rich underwent investigation, while the poor buried their dead. The note found by him said: ‘I killed them. It’s my time. Nobody killed me.’ This, by itself, was enough to convince Jay and his superior that he was on the right track. But the right track was yet to lead him to any identity of the killer, his latest victim being a young woman who had accused and successfully put her lover behind bars on charges of rape, enraged at his denial for marriage. Only recently were her chats to her friends uncovered and she had been under investigation. Her lover however, was still in jail. She had slit her wrists. Apparently.

“How close are you to catching this guy?”

Jay took a moment, reading the suicide note, before answering. “We are doing our best Sir. But this man, if it is a man, this Nobody, stays several steps ahead of us. He leaves no prints. Nobody has seen him enter or commit the deed. The security cameras never show anyone other than the residents of the building from entering and exiting. We are no closer to putting together a profile for him than we are of finding his face. It is as if he really is a Nobody.”

His superior sighed. “The media has picked up the story. I don’t want the department to become a freaking spectacle. I don’t care if you and your team have to spend sleepless night or their days hallucinating. I want this Nobody caught before the vultures come looking for meat. Are we clear?”

“Yes Sir.” He saluted and exited the office, the case file clutched under his arm. 

“Mr. Nobody…” he mumbled, “…which vigilante Somebody are you…?”

***

He knew when Jay would enter his apartment. His schedule was like clockwork. Extremely predictable. From the moment he found out that Jay would be the one investigating his crimes, as they’d like to call it, he had enjoyed their little game. A game of which he was the instigator and Jay, an unwilling participant. Actually, an unconscious participant. He didn’t know what he had gotten himself into.

On the other hand, he respected Jay immensely. Although the man never talked about it, he had been a covert operative for plenty of years. A spy, if you please. Mastering the art of blending in, going unnoticed. In ways more than one, Jay was actually his inspiration. But he needn’t know that. At least not now. As much as Jay would like to and he would love to, they cannot be introduced. It would be an interesting meeting to witness. Nobody grinned. Yes…he would like that very much! Just not right now!

After dinner, Jay would spend some time studying the case. Then talk to his parents. Then watch the news. And then finally drift into a deep sleep after popping some pills in his mouth. PTSD he knew. The job wasn’t as glamorous as entertainment media projected it to be. The experiences and scenarios of such intense jobs rarely left their patrons unharmed. Smart ones sought help. The ones who thought themselves to be smart, like Jay, popped sleeping pills. And other idiots drowned themselves in harmful recreations.

Exactly 30 minutes after Jay would pass out, would he emerge from his hiding place.

What for?

To study the case of course. Track the progress. See if there is any threat to himself. Because if the time arrives before he decides to surrender, he must either flee or kill himself. There was no other way. He was bringing those to Justice whom the system had enabled. Before his list was complete, he must stay hidden. The game must be played on his conditions.

Can’t say he wasn’t a little disappointed by Jay. An experienced officer like him must know better than to take it for granted that his house was safe. How hard did he think it was for someone to hide themselves? After his work was done, he has to leave immediately, but not before setting everything precisely the way it was. He will let himself be found as the person he was, just not yet.

Until then, he would just be a Nobody.

*** 

“What the hell Jay!” His Superior flung the papers on the desk, agitation visible on his face. The newspaper fanning itself before him.

“NOBODY CLAIMS EIGHTH VICTIM. POLICE AS CLUELESS AND IMPOTENT AS BEFORE.” The headlines read.

Jay picked up the paper and smoothed it out, reading the article carefully as his Superior stormed around the room, unable to contain himself. Jay knew that the word Impotent in the headline had angered him more than the rest of the harsh scrutiny. He sighed inwardly. Men and their frail little egos nestled safely within their masculinity. He read through the article. The journalist had got almost everything correct. The victim, a middle aged man who had beaten to death his wife and infant daughter because she couldn’t give him a son. The case was on trial and the accused out on bail. He was a lawyer. A reputed and well-off lawyer. The details were correct, except for one error.

“They are wrong.” Jay said quietly, folding the paper neatly and placing it on the desk. The Superior stopped pacing and glared at him. 

“About what?’

“About us having no leads.” Subjected to the same glare, Jay continued. “We know now that this man disguises himself as people familiar to the victim. At least to be disguised on the security cam.”

“And that has lead to?”

“There are not many people who are so adept at disguise. We also know that he is a leftie and drags his right foot a little when he relaxes. We have him on camera.”

“Show me.”

A half hour later, Jay and his superior sat quietly. The man who had entered the house disguised as a milkman. The same milkman who had been caught arriving and departing in a week’s worth of footage. Only this time, there had been a miss. The real milkman had arrived an hour after the fake one. In fact, it was him who had discovered the body. 

Jay and his superior followed the fake milkman on camera. He was caught a few lanes ahead on the bike by the CCTV of an ATM. A few yards ahead, the bank CCTV caught him walking, no bike in sight. But with a light drag. Slight to miss, yet prominent if paid attention. Two miles ahead, the CCTV of a jewelry shop had no record of any man. He had vanished.

“It’s quite easy to vanish amidst these small alleyways. We are still looking at all the possible cams we could find in a set radius. We are also conducting a search in person. Investigating possible escape routes. I am sure we will find something of value.”

“What about his possible list of victims?”

“We have identified potential individuals and they are placed on watch. We are only looking at those accused within the past year. His MO has been clear. He is traveling from the present to the past. Our men have been watching these people closely. Any unusual movement around them and they have orders to act.”

The Superior leaned back, looking at Jay. “It’s just a few months until I retire Jay. Please close this case for me. I do not want an unsolved case tarnishing my retirement. Is that clear?”

“I’ll do my best Sir.”

***

Tonight was different. He could feel it. Jay was closer to him. The agitation within him arose as tonight Jay took a longer time than usual, staying up to study that case. Finally, when the pills took hold of him, Nobody emerged. The case file lay open on the small desk in his office. He had caught the scent. The disguise. The drag. Even the offender he had next intended to target. The mention of his MO caught him unawares. ‘Present to Past’ Jay had written emphatically, underlining it several times.

Rage arose in him. This man was at his mercy. If he wants to, he could just shoot him while he stayed drugged with those pills. For a heartbeat his feet guided him towards the bedroom. But then he stopped, forcing himself to think calmly.

His goal was to deliver justice. Does it matter whether offenders were of the present or the past? Of course not!

Well Jay…only for you. He would change his MO. This will not be over until he said so. Until he made Jay surrender in defeat. The showdown between them was fast approaching. It will likely result in the death of one, or more likely both. He’d like that!

A silent laugh escaped his lips.

Ah…at long last…he felt so alive…time to leave a little surprise for Jay…

The Nobody will soon become a Somebody…

***

A heavy air hung around the crime department as it does when one of their own dies. It felt ominous, like a large cloud cackling with lightning, yet straining to not burst. Waiting for the moment for the doomsday to arrive so that it could unleash itself, majestic in its fury.

Jay sat at his desk, head clutched tightly in his hands. Yes, there had been rumors about this man. That early on in his career, he had encountered and shot dead people who were in all likelihood, innocent, if only to accentuate his credibility and track record. It had stopped once he rose in ranks. Jay had known, so had the whole department. He would have been a probable target to protect had Jay not been confident of Nobody’s MO. Nobody had changed his method. Why? There could be just one explanation. He had somehow found out that Jay and his team had figured it out. They were hot on his scent. 

But how did he know? How???

Jay banged his head on the table in frustration. The cursed man! Several heads turned to look at him but said nothing. “I’ll find you and either kill you or die trying!” Jay muttered under his breath. A slight cough made him look up. Sam, an officer in his team stood before him. Before Jay could ask him a question, Sam somberly said. “You should look at this.”

Jay waited for him to insert the disk into the computer, waiting for it to run. Sam’s demeanor was off. Tensed, on edge. Jay, having worked with him for some time now, knew this wasn’t due to the tragic and enraged undercurrent in their workplace. It was something else.

“The family?” Jay asked while they waited for the ancient system to start.

“Are on their way from the wedding.”

Jay nodded, unable to formulate a reply. The system finally started, the small command box appearing on the computer screen giving them the option to run the disk. Sam hesitated a moment, his finger poised over the mouse. He turned to Jay, a warning look in his eye. “Now remember…this is a man we know is adept at disguising himself. Don’t flare up.”

“Just play the damn footage!” He seethed. Sam complied, something like guilt shadowing his features. He hovered silently beside him as the grainy video came into view.

The man who entered the gates of The Supervisor’s small bungalow was none other than Jay.

Or someone who looked like him. Except for that generally unnoticeable, yet now clearly noticeable drag of his foot.

“WHAT THE HELL…??? THE BAST…”

“Jay relax! We know it’s not you. But he clearly knows you are working his case. This is just to tease you. To lure you into doing something foolish! Don’t fall into this trap! Look here! Unlike other footages, he hasn’t even made an attempt to disguise his walk. He is sending out a message. And this IS the mistake that is going to cost him! Jay…listen…”

Sam made a futile attempt to stop his colleague but he had stormed off. Knowing it wouldn’t do to chase him, he switched off the computer, extracting the disk. He looked at the disk, NOBODY written in bold letters over it. Rage bubbled within him as he pictured their Supervisor lying in a pool of his own blood. A single gunshot wound from his service revolver to the temple.

‘I killed them for my career. It’s time I own up. Nobody killed me.’ The note had read.

Sam knew what it was. To dictate to his victims the suicide letter was beyond cruel. They were all forced to write, no doubt about that. Each note had been verified by handwriting experts to be written by the victims. It was cruel to say the least. Make a man write his own death warrant. They had tried to connect the victims, to find a common ground, but without luck. They have been as different from each other as fish and a mouse. They need to find this guy and soon. His audacity had arisen as they knew it would. This cocksureness of his would prove to be his downfall, he was sure. But for that, Jay needs to calm down and rejoin them.

For now, Sam would wait for some time, and then call Jay.

Everyone was dealing with this unforeseen loss. For Jay it was personal.

***

Jay blindly drove his jeep. It was miraculous that he reached his house unharmed. The image buzzing through his mind like a video on loop.

‘He’s watching me. He knows me.’  He burst into his quarters, almost expecting someone to be there. Wishing for this Nobody to be there so that this could come to an end. This nightmare that had seeped into his reality. Years of undercover work couldn’t do to him what this case had done. Driven him up the wall. He looked around, a crazed look in his eye.

“SHOW YOURSELF!!!” He screamed into the empty quarters. Silence as he knew it would be. Unnerving, brewing silence. A sudden thought sprang to his mind as he sprinted towards the small office area of his. What if this Nobody had somehow gained access to the files, here? Frantically he rushed to open the last case file he had read. In which he had subconsciously underlined his MO several times. Present to Past. Sure enough, there it was written. And below it clung a sticky note. It wasn’t there last night while he was up studying the file. He tore it, and raised it to read. Written neatly were the instructions. As clear as day.

‘See you tonight. Keep your gun and camera ready.’

The insolence!

Jay crushed the note, imagining it to be Nobody’s throat. His phone rang. It was Sam.

“I’ll call you in the morning.” He hung off without waiting for a reply.

His steely eyes glinted dangerously. Very well. Nobody wanted a standoff. He shall get a recorded standoff.

It was rude to refuse demands of a guest.

***

Sam stood with two other colleagues at Jay’s doorstep. It was late afternoon. Jay had neither called nor shown up at the funeral or at the office. After multiple tries to call him, Sam had finally decided to pay him a visit. Maybe the last murder and Jay’s lookalike had put them all on edge, but better safe than sorry. He thumped hard on the door calling out Jay’s name. His colleagues inspected the area around the small quarters. All the doors and windows were closed, curtains drawn to prevent any peep. He thumped harder, the sun scorching his back, condensing into beads of sweat.

“JAY! OPEN UP MAN!” Sam shouted once more. Maybe he was out. But it was out of character for Jay to flee in the middle of a case. The other two men had returned, both with the same story. Curtains had been drawn carefully, so they couldn’t see inside. None of the neighbors had neither seen nor heard anything. It also didn’t help that the quarters stood a bit isolated from the rest of the houses and the main road. The ominous feeling rumbled in Sam’s stomach. He unsheathed his service revolver, clicking off the safety. “We’re going in.”

When they broke through the door, crashing in the living area, the house appeared quiet. Serene. Almost peaceful. But years of service had taught them to not take it as it was. One by one, they cleared the rooms, pistol ready in hand.

Kitchen, clear.

Bathroom, clear.

Study, clear.

Bedroom held Jay’s body, sprawled on the floor, arms and legs twisted as if mid-spasm. His service revolver abandoned on the bed. Sam rushed to him, quickly checking his pulse. There was none, the body was cold. Dried foam lined his mouth. Sam looked around. An empty bottle of sleeping pills lay rolled under the bed. Jay’s hand lay outstretched towards where his phone had fallen.

“Call the forensics. Secure the crime scene.” He issued command to his colleagues, then stood up to inspect the surroundings. He had ignored the mirror in the room in his hurry to check Jay. Yet now the message spelled clear, written on the silver surface before him.

NOBODY WAS HERE.

Sam turned around as he noticed something reflected on the mirror. One of his colleagues had returned and now stood staring at the message. “What in the holy hell is that!” Sam heard his astounded voice, choosing to ignore it, and made his way to the camcorder neatly placed on the shelf behind. ‘Pick me!’ The sticky yellow note on it read. Sam picked it up, turning it to look at the small screen. It was still in record mode. He pressed stop and scrolled and played the latest video. In his death, Jay had left a message.

Yet as the video progressed, Sam’s confusion turned to bewilderment.

What the hell was that?

Was what he witnessed even true???

***

The Recordings:

Jay came into view, agitated and determined. His service revolver lay on the bed, his hands continuously flexing towards it. He sometimes paces around, sometimes seats himself on the bed. The same movements over and over testify to his agitation. Until midnight, when he suddenly seems to slump back in sleep. It looks strange. It looks stranger still when he bolts upright, his features now distorted into a devilish grin. Slowly, he approached the mirror, the drag of his foot prominent. He turns to look at the camcorder. Then he speaks. A slow, deliberate, chilling speech.

“Hello Jay! How are you? I see you have followed the instructions well. Good! I don’t believe we have met. No…that’s a lie! We HAVE met. We met when you killed that shepherd during that undercover operation. He was innocent. Yet you killed him. You know why? Because you are a murderer in the guise of a protector. Ah…but I don’t need to retell you your deeds…you know whose blood is smeared on your hands. Surely you must now know who I am? I am Nobody. I am You. You are Nobody. We are the same. You tried to trap me inside, but I came alive every night without you knowing. I came alive every time you went to sleep. With or without pills. I killed them. You killed them. We are the same. Different sides of the same coin. Black and White. Light and Dark. Justice and Oppression. I have waited for this moment for a long time. What will you do? It’s time for you to meet me!”

Jay turns around, scribbling on the mirror with a marker. ‘Check the camcorder’. Then sat on the bed as before. A second later he slumped back again, waking with a start, this time with a confused expression. He looked around, as if trying to make sense of his surroundings, noticed the message on the mirror, and rushed to the camcorder. The first video ends.

The second video starts.

Jay stands again in front of the mirror. The creepy grin back on his face. He was Nobody. Slowly, still smiling Nobody swallows a handful of pills, washing them down with water. Expressions change. Jay is back. He is sobbing, struggling to throw away the pills. It seems as if he is grappling with an invisible force. Still sobbing, he forces himself to take another set of pills. Nobody is back, crooning. ‘It’s done…it’s the end…’

Jay returns, pleading. ‘Please let me go…’

Nobody: ‘They all said the same…’

The scene repeats itself multiple times. Until the bottle is empty. Nobody appears, blocking the camcorder for a moment, then walks over to the mirror, erasing the last message and writing a new one. He goes back to sitting on the floor, rocking back and forth, humming a tune. The spasming begins, as Jay gasps aloud. He lays thrashing on the floor, gasping heavily…trying to reach his phone.

Nobody returns, kicking the phone away.

Jay returns for the final time, now out of breath, short gasps could be heard receding in the background.

Silence.

Until several hours later when Sam appears, gun drawn, another man in tow…

***

The End

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