He gazed at the photograph of Vimla aunty in the missing persons section in the newspaper. Deep brown eyes encircled by a rectangular black frame stared back at him. The closed-lip smile stressing her cheekbones was similar to his mother.
The way aunty looked at him; even the snippets of conversation they shared had always conjured up the memories of his mother. Vimla aunty, a retired government clerk, lived alone in the brick house down the road. He often delivered cigarettes to her after closing his corner shop.
Inspector Bhuvan’s voice broke his reverie. He poured piping hot tea in a tumbler and slipped it towards the inspector along with a pack of Marlboro.
“Sir, is there any news?” He sputtered.
“Bhola, have patience. I will let you know.” Inspector Bhuvan picked up the foam cup and turned away. He did not wish to be the bearer of bad news once again.
Six months had gone by since Mrs. Vimla Narayan went missing. The investigation had long since switched from pursuing a live person to trying to locate her body. One could merely speculate whether it was a suicide, homicide, or accidental death.
Bhuvan balanced the beer bottle on the sill and looked out the back window.
First, his parents and now Vimla Narayan! Bhola always got the short end of the stick. After his father succumbed to a drug overdose, his mother worked two shifts as a janitor. The devastated face of Bhola when his mother went missing five years back still tormented him. The poor fellow was barely fifteen-years-old then.
Vimla Narayan was a nuisance to the neighborhood; her lifestyle steeped in alcoholism, debts, mental issues, and medical problems, but Bhola had forged a bond with the lonely lady. No wonder he was the one to report her missing.
He unfastened the creaking door to the backyard and stepped out. A mishmash of voices from the past rushed upon him.
“You’d never amount to anything. Like father, like son, a thief, a gambler, and an idiot.” His mother had derided him for looking like his father.
Vimla aunty was just the same. After catching him overcharging a few times, she ranted nonstop.
“You’re a wimp! Sponging off helpless ladies like that, shameless!”
Moron, jerk, dimwit! His mother, Vimla aunty, and so many like them always formed fault lines in his defenses. Their taunts had hounded him all his life.
Bliss washed over Bhola as the visions of those vile women whimpering for mercy surfaced from the depth of his mind. How the mighty had fallen! The first time he had snapped, he was frantic, but then the rapturous release had kept him going. It had not been too hard to keep the act with the police alive.
He always meticulously discarded their mangled remains except for the severed head. It was a souvenir to be buried in a unique place- in his backyard under his feet.
He always wanted the ladies to look up to him.
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