John was ecstatic yet nervous. If all went well, then this would be a hattrick, the third successful investigation. Though this was just his sixth month as a police officer, he had garnered a nack in investigating his cases already. The various books he read as a teenager helped him now and then. After all, who wouldn’t love to impersonate Sherlock Holmes?
The courtroom was extremely calm. The kind of silence that would muster anxiety in the hearts. Hasty footsteps broke the eerie atmosphere. The accused arrived in handcuffs. It wasn’t customary to find a young and pretty face in handcuffs. As expected, it led to a lot of commotion. John was extremely surprised when he narrowed down his suspect to Jane. She looked like a sassy and ambitious youngster. Yet her face had a demure look like the Monalisa painting. Jane had an optical illusion to her expressions; was she sad, happy, frightened, or indifferent? It was left open for the spectator’s interpretation. She dressed well, presented herself with poise, and spoke very politely and well cultured. It was impossible to imagine her as a person who could even think of such a heinous crime, let alone committing it. John suggested that the case be called the ‘Monalisa Case.’
The hubbub soared exponentially in the room, which led the judge to thump his hammer intensely. Now that everyone had settled down, the hearing started.
“Honourable Sir, Ms. Jane is a prime suspect in Mr. Peter Rodriguez’s murder case. The photographs clicked at the crime site, and the victims’ call records are in the envelope for your perusal.”
After scrutinizing the entire charge sheet and the documents produced, it was clear that the investigation had loopholes. The judge declared, “As of now, Ms. Jane is granted bail; however, I expect the police department to conduct an exclusive and extensive investigation. It would be better if Inspector John does not get ahead of himself.”
The judge’s comments felt like a tight slap to John. Yes, he wished to catch the culprits but did not want to fast track the case at someone’s expense.
It was difficult for John to concentrate on any case. Failure derailed his thinking. The only clues that the police department had were a blood-stained torn photograph that had the fingerprints of Jane and a few call records.
Jane had pleaded that she had never seen Peter before. She had no clue how her fingerprint was on the photograph. Secondly, Jane had changed her mobile number a month ago. The reason being that she was receiving incessant prank calls from someone. To get rid of it, Jane cut her sim card and threw it away. When asked as to why she didn’t complain to the cybercrime department or surrender the sim to the service provider; she gave sarcastic comments about how the system works and that it is not female-friendly. If not wholeheartedly, yet everyone was convinced with her defense.
John had met rock bottom in this murder mystery. The act was extremely gruesome; however, there was no murder weapon found. Mr. Peter was a forty-something bachelor, leading an exceedingly ordinary life. He had quite a savings and recently had donated massive amounts to various causes. Enquiring his near and dear ones revealed that he wasn’t the kind of person anyone will have a grudge. Then why murder?
John wanted to join the missing dots desperately. So he thought it would be fitting to start from the very beginning – questioning Jane. He sympathized with his Monalisa, so he went the untraditional way and gave her a friendly visit.
Jane saw John standing at her doorstep from the peephole. A chill ran down her spine, ‘ Ain’t I released from the case? Oh good Lord, help me.’ and she flung the door open anxiously.
“Hi, how can I help you?” her apprehension was quite visible in her tone.
Jane wore a floral knee-length dress with her wet hair kept open. Her face flushed with blush sans make-up. She looked gorgeous than the last time he saw her. He couldn’t shift his gaze. Jane snapped her fingers before his eyes, “Hello, I asked how can I help you?”
John woke from his trance, embarrassed. He asked, “Sorry, won’t you invite me inside? I am highly apologetic for all the trouble,” scratching his head, “I was passing by so thought of having a chat with you.”
“Oh, sure. Come in,” turning away, “My house is a mess. I wasn’t expecting visitors.”
“No issues, mine is worse. I think every bachelor’s house is disorganized, right?”
“Are you saying or asking?” Both burst out laughing.
“Oh wow!” walking up to a wall with small plants, “These wall-mounted plants look amazing. I believe it’s in vogue these days, keeps the air fresh. I must say it’s a nice lavish house. You must have spent a fortune in interior decoration.”
Jane was immediately defensive, “I earn well. I am a freelance writer, and moreover, my parents have left me with a comfortable amount of savings.”
“I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you. I was just curious. So you are a writer? Great? Have you authored books then?”
Irritation visible in her expressions, “So you came here to enquire about the case? I have already come out clean. What more do you want to ask me?”
“I didn’t come here for that. I felt that I rushed through the case. I feel so ashamed to drag an innocent person into the trial.”
“It’s ok; you were doing your job. Let’s start afresh.” And Jane sat on the sofa at a little distance from him.
It was a perfect start. John felt entirely at ease with Jane, and they connected instantly. She was not only bold, beautiful, but also knowledgeable. He was bewitched at how well informed she was. He was falling for her – very quickly. No doubt, he was a sapiosexual. Minutes metamorphosed into hours, and both of them could not stop enjoying each other’s company.
John left Jane’s house with a bright grin on his face. Soon they met each other often. Meeting at malls, theatre, park, the coffee shop had become a routine. They spent hours discussing their career goals, future, politics, their viewpoints on various socio-economic issues, etc. She so enthralled John that slowly but steadily, he forgot that Jane was involved in any murder case.
The next hearing of Mr. Peter’s murder case came to court. John had no solid piece of evidence to produce, and it was labeled a dead trial. His reputation was also in jeopardy. So he took up any other case that came his way. Robbery, bribery trials, domestic fights, you name it, and John was in the case.
A few months passed, fresh instances of murder and assassinations buried Mr. Peter’s case.
However, on a brighter side, John and Jane’s relationship was going strong. They were head over heels in love. The extremely dedicated, ruthless, and a sometimes tyrannical cop had switched into a die-hard romantic.
One such dusky evening, they were walking along the beach. Fingers entwined and toes raising a little sand into the air. Jane leaned her head on John’s shoulder. The warmth of her breath giving a zephyr to John’s heart. John felt this would be the right time. He dramatically flung before Jane, kneeled down in fashion, and pulled out a tiny box from his trouser pocket. Jane was astonished and pulled her palms to her mouth, agape. John opened the box and presented a diamond ring.
“You are a breath of fresh air in my life. You are my sunshine, my Monalisa. Would you be by my side for a lifetime? Would you marry me?”
Tears of joy rolled down her cheeks. The unfathomable had happened in her life.
“Yes, yes, I would.”
John slid the ring onto her finger and hugged her tight, “This is the best day of my life.”
John wished to take their relationship to the next level. Scrolling his fingers through her hair, “Why don’t you move in with me? We could spend more time together. Also, it will be our first step towards a life of togetherness.”
“I am not sure. Everything is moving at rocket speed. This ring itself is a huge commitment.”
“Just give it a try. Let’s see how it works out. In the future, anyway, we will stay together, right?”
Looking away from John, “Yes, yes.”
Soon Jane gave in to his pleas and convinced herself to move in with John. While they were packing her necessities and belongings, the doorbell rang. It was Mrs. Maarsa, Jane’s aunt, the only relative that Jane possibly had.
“Hello darling, how are you doing? You are not responding to my phone calls. I hope you are fine?” Shifting her sight to John, “And who is this handsome fellow?”
“Hello Mam, I am John, Jane’s fiance.”
“Fiance?? Jane, you didn’t even inform me?”
“Aunt Maarsa, I am so sorry, everything happened so quickly, I was about to tell you. Don’t be disappointed in me. Cheer up, please. You talk with him; I will go and make some coffee.” Jane left for the kitchen.
“So, the lucky one. Tell me about yourself.”
“I am a cop. I met Jane when I was dealing with a case. One thing led to the other, and now we are together.”
“Cop! That’s amazing. After all that Jane has gone through in her life, I am happy that finally, she is settling down. You know it’s tough for a girl with no support system to reach this far in life. Sweet child, hope she had a better past.”
“I don’t understand. What happened to Jane?”
“She can be a little secretive sometimes. She doesn’t like talking about it. She never knew who her father was. And her mother passed away when she was just fifteen. Jane has stood on her own feet. The construction business pays her well.”
“Construction business? Jane is a freelance writer.”
“So, what did I miss?” Jane walked into the living room with a tray of cups.
The discussion stopped then and there; however, doubt and uncertainty took over John. ‘Why did Jane tell that she is into the construction business to her aunt? Moreover, she didn’t mention about her father. She said that her parents left her sufficient savings. Which is a lie going by what Maarsa says.’
He just wanted aunt Maarsa to leave so that he could clear his doubts. When questioned about it, Jane felt extremely dejected, “Don’t you believe me, John. Aunt Maarsa was never there for me. Yes, I worked for a construction company a few years ago. I never owned one. Also, I felt extremely insecure about disclosing about my father. It has always been a hindrance to my past relationships. I asked you several times if you were sure about moving together. You are uncertain already. I think we should…”
Before she could say further, John pulled her close and kissed her. “I will never doubt you. You are my queen, Monalisa. I just asked so that we both are on the same page. Now don’t delay, I can’t wait to live with you, Your Highness!” They chuckled away.
They started living together at John’s residence. He went to work in the day and was welcomed by his beautiful fiance in the evening at home. What more could he ask? Everything seemed perfect. But this was just the quiet before a storm.
There was a hard thud on their door. John was half asleep; still, he managed to drag himself to the door. Two policemen were waiting at the door. “What now?” John asked irritably.
“Sir, we came looking for Ms. Jane. We have bad news for her. Mrs. Maarsa is no more. She was drunk and drowned in her bath-tub.”
Jane was devastated and wailed for hours.
“She was the only relative that I had, and now she is gone. Though we had our differences, still she was a motherly figure to me.”
For the next few days, Jane kept to herself. Her aunt’s untimely death had a toll on her.
One day while John searched the kitchen for coffee, a small box fell. It was an anti-depression drug. John sympathized with Jane but felt helpless that he couldn’t decipher her feelings. ‘Why doesn’t Jane confide in me? And when did she visit the doctor?”
John confronted her, “Jane, what are these pills for?”
“Give it to me. That’s none of your business,” Jane snatched it from his hand and shoved the box into her handbag.
“What did you just say? I thought we are a team. Let me help you.” He pulled the handbag from her grip so hard that it flung in the air and dropped on the floor. “Do you even have a proper prescription?” He ran to the things fallen on the floor to check. Jane agitated but in vain. John checked each and every piece of paper on the floor, along with all her other belongings. There, hiding behind the pile, was a photograph. A half-torn photograph. ‘What on earth is this?” He thought.
It was a photograph of an empty supermarket. John held it out to Jane, “Why have you safeguarded this torn photo? Throw it. But wait, I have seen this somewhere.”
“It’s just a torn picture of nothing. Now just stop acting like the cop that you are. I am sorry I didn’t tell you about my depression and the pills I take for them. Let me make it up to you.” She pounced on him with a passionate kiss. It surprised John because she was not the naughty kind. Slowly she dragged him into the bedroom and forced him on the bed.
“This is going to be a one in a lifetime experience for you. I assure you that my love.” She went to the drawers, got out the fancy handcuffs, and tied it across John’s wrist. He could not contain his laughter.
“What next? You never mentioned you are into BDSM; it feels funny.”
“Just wait and watch,” she handcuffed him to the bed, roped his feet to the other end of the bed. “This is going to be fun.”
“Please, Jane, at least don’t tie my legs,” before he could say anything, Jane gagged his mouth with a scarf.”
“Your investigations never end. You act like a cop all the time. We have come so far; still, you delve in the past.”
Jane pulled out the same torn photograph from her pocket, “This photograph is a testimony to people like you. You bloody actors, hypocrites. Do good unto others, and He will be kind to you. Right? That’s what I believed for years, but it never did any good to me.”
John blanked out. He had no clue where this discussion was going. He tried moving but in vain.
“Stop fidgeting. You wanted to know my past, so here it is. As I said, I also was one among you. But I don’t know who my father is or was. My mother struggled each day of her life. She was the best mother anyone could ever have. So full of love, so altruistic. We never had enough for ourselves; still, she would help others. Share our food with the homeless. But as they say, good things never last forever. By the time I was fifteen, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Food, medicine, doctor check-ups, we didn’t have money for even one of them. I went pillar to post, begging for help. And that Maarsa, she shut her door on my face. “
John wanted to talk and console her. He tried to speak from his gagged mouth.
“Shush my darling! I will do all the talking. You just enjoy the turn of events. So, where did I leave?
I did odd jobs to provide for my mother. She would say this time too shall pass. But it never did. Then the unthinkable happened. A pandemic broke out. Yes,, you are thinking right, the year 2020. All of a sudden, the face of the earth changed. It left me jobless. My mother’s health was deteriorating. I knew she wouldn’t make it. But I wanted to provide her with proper meals at least. I can never forget that day. Every box and utensil in the kitchen was empty. I wanted to get done with the day. I had a little money in hand. So I ran down to the supermarket to buy some food. It was completely empty. Not only this one but every other shop was getting empty. People resorted to panic buying because of the pandemic. I begged to people whom I knew to provide food or groceries, but everyone turned their heads. I ran back home just to find my mother dead. You guys killed her. That was a day of great revelation to me and the big switch in my life. I had some money; still, it didn’t help me buy a meal. To love and to be loved is bullshit. So I decided to take whatever I want from the world.”
John looked in horror. She never had the fortune nor a proper job. Probably she is a thief; still, he could help. But he didn’t expect what was coming his way.
“Yes, I did it,” flipping the photo on his face, “This is the same torn part of the photograph you found at Peter’s residence. I killed him. Not only him, aunt Maarsa and a few others too. Oh! You want to know why. One – for money, two – because I like it, and not all lives matter.” Saying this, Jane pushed a pillow on John’s face and pressed it hard. She did it, till there was no movement left and no sign of life. She scrolled her fingers across his face, “What a shame! You had to leave so soon. Love, Monalisa.”
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