Chapter 14-The room
I put my bag in the backseat and close the door before making my way to the passenger seat. I only open my mouth when I am finished putting on my seatbelt. “Why did you come there?” Something must have happened. But what? Why did he come there so suddenly? Without informing. He is still not saying anything.
Ryou starts speaking once we are out of the university, “There is an emergency. Mr. Safan is...was the head of the Extander Intelligence System and he was found dead in his house an hour ago... At first, I was going to go alone since I was not sure you can handle seeing a dead body but Ada called me to ask to bring you so I changed my mind. You will be seeing many bodies in the future anyway because of our line of work so I decided to bring you at last...Will you be okay?”
A dead body? The case is so sudden. It’s true it will be my first time seeing a body but I will not turn away. I will have to get used to it at the end. But why did Ada especially call him to bring me with him? Is she looking out for me or trying to get me used to this? Must be. I let out a sigh, “Yes, I will be okay...I think so...When did he die? Are we going to his house or EXH?”
“His house. His body was found in his house by his housekeeper. I don’t know the exact time of death or cause. But Ada told me the Members of the Council are thinking those turned humans can be behind it but I can’t say for sure. We will only get to know the full story, on reaching his house. It might be crowded since all the Members of the Council and their duo will be coming.”
“Oh...You must have seen a dead body before, right? Do you still remember the first time seeing one? Do you still remember it?”
“Yeah, I saw one for the first time when...I was six.” He mummers. I shut my mouth and turn my head to look at him with a jerk. What did he say? Am I hearing right? Six? He was six when he first saw a dead body. At such a tender age? I fall silent. But only children of age 17 and above are allowed to become an Extander then why? And how did he see a dead body at 6?
If it was not related to Extander cases then it could mean...Let’s not draw to a conclusion without asking, it could be by accident as well. I take a peek at Ryou and find his expression unchanged like he has spoken about many times. I look away and change the topic, “How many bodies have you seen since becoming an Extander?”
“...I try not to count but you can’t help yourself when you are seeing dead bodies every now and then...I have seen about 50. It should be close to 50 if I am not wrong.”
“50?” I say to myself. As I rub my forehead, the sound of pitter-patter draws my attention. I look at the droplets as it rapidly strikes the glasses of the windows and front windshield. The water slide down the smooth surface, soon covering the whole glass and making my view blurry as the view outside keeps on changing. I immerse myself in the silence which is occasionally obstructed by the sound of the wiper.
I raise my hand and slowly trace the water dripping on the glass from inside. “Do you like rain?”
I answer without turning my gaze away, “Yes, I love it. Sometimes, I would purposely forget my umbrella in high school so I could get wet in rain. My mother knew it but she never said anything to stop me.” I reminisce with a small smile, “You? Do you like rain?”
I open my eyes when I feel us slowing down. He slows down the car as we reach the lifting barrier gate where guards are stationed. The line is clear so we stop just before the barrier gate. “Are we there?”
“Not yet, we have to go through inspection to get to the manor. It will take 5 minutes at most from here.”
It is then a guard comes forward and knocks on the window on Ryou’s side. Ryou rolls down the window. “You are not allowed-” As soon as the guard donning a black rain suit sees Ryou, he straightens up and gives Ryou a salute. “Your grace,”
“Have Ada and Cai already passed through?”
“Elder Ada and Elder Cai just passed the gate a few minutes ago. The forensic and investigation team came around 20 minutes before. Other than that no one has passed till now.”
Ryou shoos him away after taking in the information and rolls up the window. I can see the guard barking orders at the other guard, who is most probably in charge of the barrier gate from the windshield. Ryou starts the engine once the barrier is lifted.
“Is the inspection team always stationed at this place or it is due to Mr. Safan’s death?”
“It is because of the death. It is basically to stop an outsider from knowing and media from entering if they somehow get a gist of it. Though I doubt they will be able to keep the news hidden for long. It will come out in two days at most.” He glances at me and turns back to the steering wheel.
After passing through two more checkpoints we reach at last the mansion. As Ryou parks, the car beside the white SUV, a neoclassical mansion in white and brown comes into my sight. The entrance of the mansion is crowded, I can see some people in uniform sealing the area. The sound of the light rain pours in as soon as the door is opened before it is silenced with a small thud. Ryou walks around the car and holds the door open for me as I take shelter under an umbrella.
I enter the hall first while Ryou closes the umbrella. I find many people in uniform are standing in one long horizontal line while the person in front of them addresses them. Just how many people are in the line? They must be staff, judging by their black and white uniforms. “Mr. Kang” Ryou calls the man out once he joins me.
Mr. Kang’s widen when he turns around to face Ryou, he quickly gives Ryou a full 90-degree bow. “Your Grace.”
“Where are Ada and Cai?”
“They are in the living room, Your Grace.”
“I see.” Ryou looks at me before motioning at Mr. Kang, “Nadya, this is Mr. Kang from the Investigation team. Mr. Kang, this is Nadya, my duo. I am sure you already know.” Kang raises his head and gives me a polite smile and extends his hand for a handshake. I return the smile and extend my head for the firm shake.
Taking a step back, I turn to follow Ryou to the living room. Before we could enter the living room, we were asked to wear a plastic shoe cover. Ryou raises the no-entry tape for me before getting inside himself as well. As we enter the room, I notice Ada and Cai are standing at one side, talking to a lady wearing a lab coat.
As I throw my gaze around the room, I find some members of the forensic team continuously clicking the photos of the body while others are checking the body and dabbing something on the chair on which the body is. The body is laid on the armchair, still in the position he died. Looking at his face, I can guess he looks should be in his late thirties and he dies in his sleep. There is no visible injury on his body but the sight of a dead body is still somewhat disturbing. The room is perfectly fine, there is no sign of something happening, everything is in its place.
“.....I can’t determine the estimated time of the death before post mortem. The AC was on so the temperature was affected but if I have to guess then I would say he died 9 to 10 pm, last night.” We stop beside Ada and Cai when the woman in a white coat is finishing her sentence. “Now, if you may please excuse me, we have to move the body.” The woman leaves.
“What happened?” Ryou asks Ada and Cai while eyeing Mr. Safan’s dead body. Cai has a frown on his face as he turns to answer, “Safan was found dead 1 hour ago. We don’t know how he was killed, but we might have an idea after post-mortem. There is no visible injury on his body.”
“When was he found exactly?”
“Around 9:30. The head butler saw him first when he came to call him for the breakfast.”
I hesitantly raise my question, “Then no one came before that? Even when the light of the living room was on all night with so many staff in the house?”
“Safan often stays up all night so no one suspected anything.” Ada places her hand on my shoulder. “For now we know that he came home yesterday at 8 pm from the EXH so he died or was killed in the next two hours if he died between 9 to 10 pm.” She continues.
“What about his wife? Wasn’t she at home?” I look at Ryou. Wife? He was married?
“Out of the city, I have contacted her she will be back today by evening,” Ada says while looking at the dead body. “We don’t even know who should we suspect, he had many enemies. The list of enemies is too long. But the most possible possibility is a turned human. A tuhu could have killed him.” I observe Ada’s expression when I hear her voice. Why does she look so pained? Were they friends? Must be since they were working at the same place.
I move beside Ryou and nudge him in the ribs when Cai and Ada are not looking at us. I point at Ada and Safan with my chin when Ryou meets my gaze, “Were they good friends or what?”
He leans towards me as his whispers reach my ears, keeping his eyes to the front, “They dated for 5 years. I am not sure but...I think she might have still liked him even after he got married, which is also the reason she and Safan’s wife never got along well.”
I look at Ryou in surprise and mouth ‘what’. Ryou nods when I open my mouth in surprise. So...she still might have feelings for him? Wow, that’s some gossip I never expected to hear. While I am still reeling in shock, a man comes into the room and stops in front of Ryou before giving him a bow, “Your Grace, Mr. Kang is asking for Ada and you.”
“He didn’t tell me that.”
Ryou turns to me, “I will be back soon, stay here.” He goes to Ada and says something to her before all three of them exit the room. I stay here for a few minutes, looking at the people working on the body before walking out of the room. I don’t want to stay there and stare at a dead body.
I will just wander around for some time and go back to the room. I look left and right before making my way to the right. I just follow my instinct. But as I walk deeper to the right corridor, the noise starts dying down as people around me start getting lesser and lesser. I stop at one point and look back.
Maybe I should head back. The air of grave silence and haunting atmosphere makes me rethink my way. The scent of dust reaches my nose as cobwebs and dust has fill the corners. Should I head back or keep walking? I turn back to the front. Should I continue? Should I? I gulp and take another step forward. Since I am here already, let’s continue till the end.
This place looks like it has been not used for years. Just where does this place lead to? The light from the afternoon sun peeking from behind the grey clouds which are gradually clearing the way penetrates the windows, lighting the dark hallway. I stop before a wooden double door with the wooden carving on it as soon as I reach the end of the hallway. I stare at the cravings on the door. It looks like some kind of language, what is this language?
I feel the carvings on through my hand. It looks like some form of message. I wonder what does this means. The door is really majestic and gives an aura of mystery. Slowly, I move my hand downwards still I can feel the wooden handle, I close my fingers around it and hold it for a few seconds. The next moment, my body freezes, and my fingers tremble.
I let go of the handle and at my place before turning around quickly. What? What was that? Where did the sound come from? I let my gaze wander around the empty hallway but no one is in sight. I take in a shaky breath as I try to calm my racing heart. Just from where did the sound come from?
I turn my head with a jerk when something moves in the dark before it comes out in the light illuminated through the windows on both sides of the hallway. I release a sigh of relief. It was just a cat. I thought someone was watching me. I have been feeling like someone is watching me since I entered this corridor. I turn back around and push open the door. The door opens with a loud creak.
My feet remain glued to the wooden floor for one minute while I gather my courage and try to figure out what is inside the room. The only thing I can see from here is old red and golden sofas and a rosewood table in front of it. Soon the sound of my heels echoes in the misty room as I walk in till I am in the middle of the vintage room.
This whole mansion screams vintage, everything her is majestic looking, even this gallery. There is a wall full of pictures on my right and one big picture on my left which covers over half of the wall. I first look at the photos hung on the right wall, there are many of them, I will start with them. I walk closer to get a better look at the photos.
Mr. Safan is almost in all the photos. Well, of course, he would be in his photos. Another thing that I noticed is that there is a woman beside him in many photos. She must be his wife, considering how comfortable they look with each other. I also find Ada and Cai in a few photos, even Jayce is present. There are wedding photos, family photos, and maybe his friend circle photos.
A hollow filled with empathy settles in me when I realize there will be no more photos with Safan anymore. Even though I don’t know him, it feels sad to watch someone leaving permanently. Knowing that we can’t be with him, see him, hear him anymore. There is no more him. Only his memories and leftover things with traces of his living.
I get a grasp of my emotion before turning to look at the opposite wall. Slowly, I make my way past the sofa till I am standing 1 meter away from the huge photo. The photo is in black and white and it is framed in a golden frame. The photo is from around the 1800s if I am not guessing it wrong. Despite being ancient, it has been maintained that it is still in good condition.
The photo is of two men who are standing side by side looking right at the camera. The man on the right looks slightly younger than the one standing on the left. They have some matching facial features, are they brothers? They almost look like brothers. This is clearly not Safan, whose photo is this?
Both men are wearing a black tailcoat, waistcoat, and trousers of the 1800s. The left one is hairier than the right one, he has a mustache and beard. Their eyes are on the camera so that means right now their eyes are staring at the wall behind me, the right wall which is full of Mr. Safan’s precious photos. It feels so weird to look at it from such a height.
I look away and make my way to the window. Since the sun is already out, the weather is somewhat hot but I can still see droplets of water on the glass. Sound of shaking leaves, cars, and birds enter from the small gap opened between the window. I stare at the garden. It is beautiful.
All of a sudden, all the sound dies at the same time and I still. I blink. What happened? Why did the sounds stop at the same time? I quickly walk towards the window and push it open. I look around the garden to find everything the same as before even the birds are still here but somehow I can’t hear there chirping.
I rub my ear. What happened all of a sudden? Panic starts gripping me when I still can’t hear any sound. Why did I stop hearing? What is wrong with my ear? I turn around to walk back out of the room but I stop midway, as soon as I am in front of the huge photo on the left. Wait...something wrong with this photo. Why does it look different? My eyes widen and fear grips my heart as soon as realize what is different.
What..what the..hell? I take a step back involuntarily when my eyes meet pair of eyes is staring at me. The eyes of the man in the photo. Wasn’t eyes trained on the photos on the opposite wall? Then why? Then why the eyes are now facing me?
Slowly, I take another step back while keeping my eyes trained on the man on the right side of the photo and his eyes follow my movement like expected. Oh my god! It really moved. I almost jump at the way his eyes are following me. It is scary and creepy at the same time. Should I turn around and run? But...what if something happens when I am not looking. I will be more scared if I am not keeping eye on him.
How could such a thing even happen? What is going on here? Am I going crazy? All I can think of is to get out of here. I start walking backward slowly while keeping my eyes on him. He follows my movement all the time. Why can’t it look away for a second?
I bump on the sofa two times before taking backward steps towards where the exit should be. Please be right. I will make a run as soon as I am near the door. I am more scared to stay back, I am sure I will never step in at this place again ever. Soon, I will be out of the room. Just two steps more.
One more step...
But before I could turn around something happens.
I scream and close my eyes.
“What the hell?”