When the life of an average office worker changes completely as a murder takes place in the neighborhood.
The phone started ringing for the fifteenth time and I at last decided to switch it off.
I was tired of these phone calls that I have to attend to right after I get out of work. I was carrying two heavy folders, my office bag and my purse. It was late and my cab just broke down a while ago. I am walking down this deserted road, carrying all these things, I do not have the patience to answer stupid phone calls every five minutes. All I could think of was the re-runs of my favourite tv show that I’ll get to watch and the tub of ice cream that I’ve been saving so long.
It had been a really tough week and I have been waiting for this weekend more than anything. I know I will be buried under much more work the next week, but right now, I didn’t want to think about that. Even after living in this city alone for all these years, I still prefer walking than using transport if and whenever I can. But right now, I am cursing my luck since my cab broke down.
Today has been definitely been one of the bad days.
I tried to think of better things, happier things as I turned towards a short cut that I usually take when I’m on foot. The lane here is so narrow that only people and bicycles can use this lane. It was really quiet around this time and the narrow lanes looked pretty dark.
Even though there were people living on either of these lanes, it still looked very eerie. Any other time, I would’ve avoided these lanes and taken the longer route, but right now I am so tired I am willing to take the risk of being robbed.
I started huffing and puffing through the lanes with my heavy luggage. It was so quiet in the lanes that my own heavy breathing and my footsteps sounded too loud. I constantly kept looking around and turning back, immediately regretting my decision. But I was already inside, so I might as well just go through with it.
I started walking faster than my body was agreeing to, thinking that someone might be following me. At the back of my mind, I knew it was just in my head and the darkness was getting the better of me, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I started panting louder and kept turning back more than I was facing in the direction I was walking. Something kept telling me there was another pair of footsteps that was close to me but I somehow couldn’t see that person in the dark. I clutched my belongings as tightly as I could and kept walking. I kept wondering if these lanes were usually as long as they seemed right now.
After turning a few corners, I was sure there was someone following me. I could faintly smell cigarette smoke. The footsteps I was hearing weren’t the echo of mine, they were being slightly dragged on the ground and sounded a lot heavier than mine. I was definitely in trouble and this time I only have myself to blame.
My feet were absolutely killing me and I couldn’t feel my arms anymore. My shoulders were straining under the heavy weight I was trying to almost run with, but I couldn’t stop. I didn’t have even one second to catch my breath or even slow down so that I can take out the water bottle and relieve my parched mouth. I kept cursing my stupid decision as I could feel the footsteps clearly getting closer.
I was preparing myself to use the weight of the heavy folders to my advantage, when I turned the last corner with a sigh of relief. But my relief was immediately replaced by terror when I saw the two men at the end of this lane. One man looked thin and fragile, his tattered clothes barely hanging on his frame and the other man was big and stout, but what actually caught my attention was the gun the bigger man was pointing. This lane was dimly lit and had high walls on either side of it, and the men were standing as considerable distance from me. When I realised what exactly could be happening between the two men, I immediately walked back and hid behind the corner I just turned. What was suddenly wrong with this neighbourhood tonight?
I had a man following me through the lanes, intending to rob me, and there were two men in the next lane with a gun. I knew the man who was following me would definitely catch up to me, but I don’t know what would happen if he tried to do anything and the men on the other side hear him. Would anyone help me? Would someone end up shooting me? What should I do?
I hugged all my belongings together, my heart beating very loudly at my throat. This is not the way I wanted to die.
I stood there frozen in the dark for a few seconds which seemed like hours, but no one with heavy footsteps came to rob me or anything. The lanes were actually very quiet and it gave me the unfortunate opportunity to be able to eavesdrop on the conversation the other two men were having. I was still super cautious in case someone jumps at me from the dark and tries to grab my purse.
I could hear the bigger man asking for some “whole package” and the other man constantly saying that he couldn’t afford it. The conversation was getting heated very quickly and I had no idea what might happen in a few seconds. I wanted to get out of this situation as soon as possible before I end up witnessing something I shouldn’t. But what if as I start walking the other side, the robber comes out of the darkness? What did I ever do to deserve this kind of a luck right now?
But there was no time to whine about my luck right now. I desperately need to get out of here.
I peeped around the corner to look at the two men. The man with the gun was now more agrily towering over the other man who was now kneeling on the ground. He was begging so helplessly, I felt extremely bad for him. But I would definitely end up dying trying to create a diversion for him if the gun has any bullets. There wasn’t a single other person around who could help us in any way. All the weight on my shoulders and arms seemed to disappear as a quick plan sprung in my mind.
There was small opening the in the wall on the left side of the lane between me and the men. If I could come out from behind this corner and quickly get to that opening, I might make my out and send some help for this man. I won’t be able to help this man alone. So, I took a deep breath and turned around.
I carefully checked and saw that neither of them were facing my direction, so I started to tiptoe out of the corner. I kept looking at them and realised the conversation was coming to an end. I tried to hurry, but just before I could reach the opening in the wall, I heard the loud gunshot. It startled me so bad that I dropped my heavy folders.
My heart stopped for a few moments, when I looked up from my folders on the ground to see the man with the gun looking right at me and the other man was lying on the road. I am as good as dead right now.
I grabbed my folders and quickly jumped through the opening.
I ran across the big dark ground on the other side of the wall and I could see the dim lights of the streets in the other side of the ground. The wet grass was crunching under my feet and the feet of the big man who was now following me with his gun. I did not remember where exactly this open field was in my neighbourhood and I could not understand where I would end up if I keep running like this. But I knew that if I stop, I would be shot dead before I can let out a single sigh.
So I kept running. And the distance between me and the end of the ground never seemed to diminish. My lungs could not take it anymore.
When I tried turning back to see the man who was running after me, I tripped on something and fell down on the ground with all my belongings.
I opened my eyes to see myself in my bed, under my blanket. I looked straight up at the ceiling and let out a sigh a relief. I closed my eyes and stretched, my whole body feeling so sore. A really bad nightmare can really shake someone up.
It was still dark and I decided to get myself some water since I’m already up. But when I pulled my covers away, I saw myself wearing my office clothes, all muddy and dirty. I looked around to see that my purse, my bag and my folders were nowhere in sight.
I quickly got up and ran to the full length mirror on my wardrobe. I looked like a mess and it seemed pretty clear that whatever I thought I dreamt wasn’t actually a dream.
I couldn’t remember anything after I fell down. What happened to me? How did I get here?
My heart was in my throat again as I heard some faint murmuring. I have never felt this insecure inside my own apartment every before. I don’t remember coming home last night. I don’t remember getting in bed. I had no idea where all my things were.
I gingerly followed the low murmuring to the living room where I saw that the television was switched on. I didn’t have time to wonder who has switched it on because the news itself shocked me so bad I couldn’t breathe. The news reader of this local news channel was narrating the news of a murder I just witnessed. The channel was showing the picture of the man who died.
And then, when I thought things couldn’t get any more ridiculous, I saw a picture of myself flash on the screen as the news reader read out my name as the prime suspect in this murder. My purse and office ID card had been discovered at the crime scene and there has been an arrest warrant issued in my name. I could not believe the words as the news reader was uttering them in the plainest way possible.
I couldn’t figure out what was happening. Everything started feeling hot and I felt like I was suffocating. I know I didn’t do this. Someone was framing me – that big beefy man who actually killed the other person. But I didn’t even see his face properly, it was so dark. There was no one else in the streets at that point of time, no one who could have seen us or helped us. There are no eyewitnesses to corroborate with me. How will I make anyone believe me?
It kept saying in the news that the gun had not been found yet. That was the one element that might work in my favour. I ran back to the room and started looking for my phone. I had to tell someone about what happened and what I just heard in the news. I still don’t remember how I got to my own apartment last night, but I knew this was a big setup because I was the only one who had seen the murder. And I needed to be put down.
As I pulled off the sheets of the bed in a desperate attempt to see if my phone was there, my eyes fell on something else. It was the gun. I gulped loudly.
The loud banging on the door made me jump.
‘Police! Open up!’