Detective Jai was puzzled. This was the third murder in the last couple of months that he was not able to solve. Jai had the reputation of being one of the best detectives in town. He had solved many cases of mysterious murders in his 15 years as a detective. But, the three recent murders had left him clueless.
Jai arrived at the crime scene at 7:30am. He noticed police inspector, Mr. Shankar at the location.
“So, what have you got so far”
“Nothing much. Just like any other murder, it was the maid who had noticed the body and called the police. The murder victim, Mr.Kumar usually leaves to office by 6:30am. The maid said that she usually arrives at 6:45. She has an extra pair of keys and usually unlocks the door by herself. But, today, she saw Mr. Kumar’s car still parked at the apartment and so she tried ringing the bell. When no one opened the door for 10 minutes, she decided to unlock it herself. And, you might have guessed by now – when she entered, she found Mr. Kumar’s body on the sofa, with blood spilling from his neck. She immediately called the police.”
“Sounds like a standard murder scene. Tell me about this Kumar”
“Mr. Kumar is 47 years old, a widower. His wife died 2 years back. He lives alone in this house. No children. Not much family contacts either. He works in some IT company. He usually leaves to office by 6:30am and returns home only by 9pm. The neighbours have rarely interacted with him. Our men are enquiring about him in his office, and we are also interrogating the maid. We will let you know if we find anything.”
“Motive of murder?”
“Unknown. We have even checked Mr. Kumar’s lockers. All money and valuables seem to be intact”
“Any clues – Fingerprints, murder weapon, etc?”
“Again standard stuff – The killer seems to have used an ordinary knife to slice the victim’s throat. No fingerprints or clues. Only thing we can even consider as a clue is that there is a X mark on the right palm and a Y mark on the left foot of the body – same as how we saw in the other two murders.”
“So, we definitely have a serial killer or a psychopath on the loose. Let me take a look at the body.”
Jai and Shankar went to Mr. Kumar’s single bedroom apartment. The body was lying on the sofa.The room was full of police investigating the scene – some taking photographs of the body, some searching for fingerprints on the various objects in the room, some taking measurements, etc
“How did the murderer get into the apartment?”
“That’s a mystery as well. There are only two keys to the main door – one with Mr. Kumar and the other with the maid. The lock was not broken. So, the killer somehow had a key to the door, or was too good and picked the lock.”
Detective Jai spent some time taking notes and then returned to his office at 10am. He sat on this chair, laying back. He closed his eyes and started to recollect the scene –
The killer took out a pin from his pocket. His hands were covered with thick black gloves. The pin was about an inch long and was coiled at one end. He inserted the coiled pin into the main door’s lock. He turned the pin to the right few times. He then pulled the pin a few inches, then turned it to the left, then pushed it, turned it again to the left. After a few more pushing, pulling and turning, there was a click sound. The killer then turned the door knob… and it opened.
He entered into the apartment and went to the living room. Mr. Kumar was sleeping on the sofa. The murderer moved closer to the sofa. He was wearing a large black overcoat. He took out a knife from his coat’s pocket, came closer to Mr. Kumar, placed his left hand over the victim’s mouth, and without any delay slicked his neck with the knife. He continued holding his hand over Mr. Kumar’s mouth and the victim struggled. Mr. Kumar tried to push the killer’s hands, but was too weak. The body was shaking, and the killer tried to stop it from falling on the floor. After a few minutes, Mr. Kumar’s body became stationary. The killer then took out a black marker from his coat. He placed a X mark on the body’s right palm, and a Y mark on the left foot.
Jai opened his eyes and sat upright on his office chair. He was not visualizing how the murder might have happened. He had actually dreamt of the exact scene last night. Not only this murder, but he had seen the earlier two murders as well in his dreams. He had not told anybody about his dreams – People might think he is mad.
When the first murder happened, he thought that it might be just a coincidence that he had dreamt of it. But, when the second murder happened, he knew that it was more than a mere coincidence. And now, when the third murder was executed in the exact same manner that he had seen last night, he became really worried.
The three victims had nothing in common – one was a young boy of 13 years, the other was an old lady of 75 years, and the third was Mr. Kumar (47 years). They had different status, social backgrounds, etc. The only common theme in all three murders was the X and Y marks.
There were absolutely no clues in any of the murders – something that stumped Jai. He had seen that even the toughest cases had some small clue, but not this one. The series of murders continued over the next few weeks. Each murder only confused the police and Jai. The dreams continued for Jai, but he still avoided sharing it with anyone. He was determined to solve the mystery by himself. He spent hours, days and weeks researching the murders and looking for clues, but in vain.
He finally had a breakthrough one night –
It was a lonely villa by the beach. Actor Suman was staying alone in the villa. The main gate was guarded by a single security guard. The killer was dressed as a police constable. He knocked on the main gate.
The security guard shouted in half sleep, “Who is it at this time of the night?”
“This is the police. Please open up. We just got a call that someone is out to rob Mr. Suman’s house. So, the inspector sent me to check and report back”
The guard looked through the gap between the gates to verify that it was indeed a police. He then opened the gate. The killer then entered, with his right hand concealed behind his back. As soon as he entered, he pounced on the security guard and struck him straight in the heart with the knife he was holding in his right hand. The killer was careful to close the guard’s mouth to prevent him from shouting. Both his hands were of course safely behind a pair of black gloves, to prevent his fingerprints from being marked anywhere.
The killer then walked towards the building’s main door. It was a glass door and had a numeric lock to guard the house. Without wasting any time, the killer immediately pressed the following combination of numbers on the keypad: 2-3-4-5. The door unlocked. The killer entered and closed the door behind him. He surveyed the living room to make sure no one was present. He then walked towards the master bedroom.
Slowly, he pushed open the master bedroom’s door with his left hand, still holding the knife in his right hand. As he entered the bedroom, he saw Suman sleeping on the bed. There was a table next to the bed. On the table was a square shaped digital clock, showing the time as 4:25am.
The killer moved closer the bed. Just like the previous murders, he closed Suman’s mouth with his hand and sliced his throat with the knife. Within a few seconds, the victim died.
Jai suddenly woke up from his dream. His face was wet with perspiration. He looked at his watch: The time was 3:50am. Suman’s house was around fifteen minutes from his place. So, Jai knew that if he acted quickly, he had a golden opportunity to catch the killer. He wanted to call inspector Shankar to accompany him. But, what would he tell him? That he had a dream and wanted to catch the killer using his dream as the tip off? No one will believe him. So, he decided to do this by himself.
Jai reached the villa and checked his watch – It was 4:10am. He had only 15 mins to catch the killer before the murder takes place. Jai hurried to the main gate and opened it, and that the security guard was already murdered. So, the killer was already inside. Jai ran fast to the main door – It was locked. He tried to remember the code to unlock the door.
“1-3-4-5”, he thought. “No, its 1-4-3-5….. no, 2-4-3-5”
Jai knew that he was wasting valuable time. But, he couldn’t remember the code that he had seen in his dream. If he pressed the wrong code, then the alarm would go off and alert the police. Maybe that will scare the killer, and he might come out running. Jai could catch him at that point. He might even be able to save Suman’s life with the alarm.
But, wait a minute. What will he say to the police when they ask him what he was doing at Suman’s house at this hour? He can’t say he was following his dream and came here. Maybe he can say that he got an anonymous call and was checking on the house. Ya, that sounds good. But, why didn’t he call the police in the first place?
Too many thoughts were running into Jai’s mind. Being a master detective, he started thinking what all questions the police might ask him when they find him here at this odd hour. But, there was no time to think about it. He looked at his watch again. It was 4:23am – only 2 minutes left. He decided to take a shot at it, and worry about the consequences later. He pressed the numbers: 2-3-4-5. Voila! The door unlocked.
Jai immediately rushed to the bedroom and opened the door, only to find Suman’s body lying on the king size bed, drenched in blood. He started searching the room for the killer. If the murder had just taken place, then the killer couldn’t have escaped from the house yet. Jai ran to the living room and switched on the lights. He noticed someone trying to get out of the door.
Jai raised his gun and shouted, “STOP. Put your hands up and stay where you are. This is Detective Jai. I have a gun with me. Don’t force me to shoot you”
But, the other person didn’t listen to Jai. He opened the door and started running. Jai aimed for his legs and fired a shot. The bullet didn’t hit the target completely – It just brushed the left leg, just below the knee. He started limping, but was still too fast for Jai. He ran out of the door, with Jai chasing him.
Jai tried firing few more shots, but he dodged all of them, and continued to run fast. Jai meanwhile called up Inspector Shankar and explained the situation (of course, without revealing the ‘dream’ part), and asked him for help.
“Ok Jai. Continue to chase him. I will be there with my guys in 10 minutes”
Jai looked at his watch. It was 4:45am now. He looked up at the sky – The sun had already started to rise and he could see some light. “Seems to be a pretty early sun rise today”, he thought.
Suddenly, Jai felt something heavy fall on his head. He turned around and realized that someone had hit him hard on his head with an iron rod. His vision was blurred and he could not see who had hit him. Jai fell down, unconscious.
Jai woke up in the hospital. His head felt heavy. He had an awful headache. Inspector Shankar was sitting next to him. Jai tried to lift his hand to massage his head, but his hands felt too heavy to lift. He turned to look at his hands… and noticed that both his hands were cuffed to the hospital bed.
“Shankar… what is this? Why are my hands cuffed?”
“Sorry Jai… You are under arrest for murdering actor Suman”
“What? Are you kidding? If you are suspecting me because I was at his place at an odd hour, then I can explain it”
“No Jai.. You are not just a suspect… you have been convicted. We have proof that you committed the murders”
“Stop it Shankar… There must be some mistake. Release my handcuffs first…”
“Sorry Jai… I can’t do that. I know you personally and couldn’t believe that you are responsible for the murders. But, we have solid proof that cannot be questioned.”
“What is the proof”
“You can see it for yourself…” Saying that, inspector Shankar took out his cell phone and showed a video..
It was a CCTV footage of actor Suman’s villa. The footage showed the security guard sitting near the main gate. After a few seconds, the security guard opened the gate, and a policeman jumped on the guard and murdered him. The policeman then stood up and turned towards the CCTV camera. Jai was shocked by what he saw. The man in the police clothes, the man who had killed the security guard, the murderer whom Jai was hunting for all these days, was none other than Jai himself…
It was later found that Jai suffered by multiple personality disorder (MPD). What he saw in his dreams were actually murders committed by his alter ego. Jai had no clue that he was the murderer. In fact, he didn’t even know he had split personality or about his alter ego. But, the alter ego had the same brain of Jai. The brilliance that Jai had gained over the years by solving tough cases, was used by the alter ego to commit murders without any trace. Jai was part of the security team that had put up the numeric lock at Suman’s house. That was how the killer had known the code. But, he was somehow not aware of the CCTV camera.
Doctors continue to find the cause of the alter ego and why he had committed the murders. But, one thing they were able to find out was that the alter ego wanted to provide a challenge to Jai. That was the reason for leaving the X and Y marks as a lead. It was the killer who had slowed down Jai’s watch by one hour so that Jai will come looking for the killer at Suman’s house. What Jai saw there was a hallucination. There was no other person whom Jai was chasing. The CCTV footage showed that Jai was shooting at empty space. And, no one had hit Jai on his head with an iron rod. It was the lack of rest and sleepless nights that had led to fatigue, and caused Jai to black out. But, his hallucination made him believe that someone had hit him….