The Devil's Apprentice

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Chapter 6- Junior Inspector Ayesha Khan

A picturesque view of Islamabad with its rolling hills and proud evergreens overlooked the FIA headquarters. The mundane atmosphere of the city seemed to creep into the very offices of the country’s elite investigators. Each ranking officer was hunched over their paper work, sorting files and sipping tea. Men in suits and ties talking of their weekend with their trophy wives and days spent catching up with their children. Every corner of the office seemed to be replete with men. Men watching the news, men filing paper work, men making the tea, men shouting orders. Every officer was dressed in black, white or grey stuck in their grey cubicles watching Islamabad’s grey clouds roll across the grey skies.

In all the lack luster grayness within a man’s world walking across the dimly lit halls was the ticking of heels that echoed to the main offices. They were approaching the Director General of Crime’s office.

The Director General of Crime was seated across a large mahogany table with four land lines neatly placed to the left opposite of a desktop system. But the havoc in the center was filled with files and paper work. Across Director General (DG) Abdul Ghani was Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mansoor Ahmed and Shahid Raza head of Punjab’s Investigation Branch. The gentlemen were discussing the predicament at hand.

“You do realize Mr. Ghani that I wouldn’t be asking if the matter wasn’t swimming over my head”, Mansoor stared into Ghani’s hardened quite eyes. Shahid was immersed in the file in front of him. His whole weekend was consumed with looking into over eight murder cases. Each with their own grotesque pictures captured by the on sight crime scene units. In over twenty years of service Shahid had never came across such heinous murders. He has seen relentless killings and objectionable displays of angry and manic. But this, this was beyond the very paramount of his experience. IGP Mansoor seemed to echo his thoughts with DG Ghani.

“In over twenty-five years of service I swear by my mother’s grave I haven’t seen anything close to this. Yes, Javed Iqbal was bad but he was murdering highly marginalized people like children, and he had accomplices” Mansoor whispered to Ghani. His eyes were strained and tired from the long hours and ridiculous amount of stupidity that he witnessed over the span of his career. Mansoor wasn’t used to being pulled into such murder cases. These were always handled by the local police of the area. But these killings seemed to be crossing district lines with the police in dismay.

Shahid looked over to Mansoor and nodded in agreement.

“If I may, sir; Mr. Ghani these murders would not have been even connected if it hadn’t been for two station officers (SHO) meeting over dinner unexpectedly”. Shahid pulled out the bottom two files from the pile and handed them over to Ghani.

Abdul Ghani wasn’t surprised by this fact, there was no official form of communication and information sharing in murder crimes in the country so these crimes would have gone unrecognized and lost in the system.

“It was out of sheer curiosity and luck that the station house officer in Kharian found a similar murder in Gujar Khan and Jhelum. When they compared the murder’s M.O. they found that the victims were murder in exactly the same manner, with the same time and spanning across the same dates per month”, Shahid past on a further three files to Ghani.

“The same method of murders was also found thrice in varying vicinities of Lahore, one in Gujrat and the very first one right here in Islamabad. We don’t know if there are any other in the Punjab area”, Shahid passed a copy of the files to the IGP as well.

“Only then did it come to my attention Ghani, one of the SHOs in Lahore is a friend of Shahid’s and asked him to look them over to confirm that there is a similarity or he’s imagining it. Shahid then contacted me immediately to let me know”, Mansoor took sips from his tea cup while trying to avoid the images in the file. His nights have lost their charm since Shahid brought him these files.

Ghani let out a cold sigh, as the Director General of Crime in the FIA he has seen pretty funky stuff. But never in thirty years of service has he seen anyone commit such a meticulously composed murder. This was murder he often read about in international news, particularly crimes that the famous FBI of America came across. He contacted a friend in the FBI over the weekend, supervisory special agent (SSA) Johnathan Goodman. They had met at the University of Pennsylvania ages ago studying for an undergraduate in criminology, and since then have been inseparable.

“Jesus Christ Ghani! You do realize you have a serial killer at hand, right?” Goodman was screaming into the phone as Ghani read over the files again.

“Ghani look at the precision with which these murders have been executed. This person is meticulous with lots of patience and even more time on their hands. I’m guessing your squaring off with a typical psychopathic killer.”

“A psychopath, here; in Pakistan?” Ghani was flabbergasted by the very idea.

“Why? Is Pakistan prone to not having psychopaths running around? Don’t you remember Javed Iqbal and Amir Qayyum. Ghani, don’t look at this in any other light. Pakistan or America; doesn’t make a difference, a psychopath is a psychopath. And the faster your catch this person the better, I have a feeling that they won’t stop at all.”

“Gentlemen, I’ve spoken with an expert and they confirm that this is the work of a serial killer and this person won’t stop any time soon” Ghani put down the files and spoke directly with Mansoor and Shahid.

“That’s why I’ve selected the only person in this department, maybe even in this entire country that can handle this case. Her name is Ayesha Khan, she’s young but well prepared. She’s spent all of her academic life analyzing serial killers and was even trained by SSA Johnathon Goodman of the FBI before she joined us this year” Ghani was surprised to see that Mansoor looked utterly confused.

“Ayesha Khan? Ayesha as in a girl, Ayesha?” Mansoor was practically babbling.

“Yes Mansoor, Ayesha as in a girl, a female, the opposite of a male; unless you’ve began to call one of your sons Ayesha” Ghani gave a piercing stare towards Mansoor.

“I’ve heard about her, in fact I remember my department working on a case with her a few months back. I second your choice Ghani, no one else is better for the job. She has my entire department at her disposal”, Shahid beamed at the thought of Ayesha working on the case. She had a spunk and wit that kept all his officers in line.

“Have you gone mad Shahid? You couldn’t hold from vomiting at the images we saw and you think some woman in all her innocence is able to actually work on this case!” Mansoor was turning red from anger.

“Calm down Mansoor, its 2016, you even proposing that thought makes me want to tie a loin cloth around you and send you into the Margalla hills to live out the rest of your days as cave man”, Shahid laughed lightly towards Mansoor.

“Ghani are you mad!” Mansoor screamed.

The DG of Crime was not used to being spoken in this tone nor having his decision questioned. He raised his hand to silence the men across from his table.

“I’m sure you’ll change your mind immediately after seeing her. If I’m not mistaken she’ll be here in 5, 4, 3, 2...”

A light knock came at the DG’s door, a round head stuck into the opening.

“May I come in sir?”

“Of course Ayesha”, beamed Ghani.

Ayesha strode into the room, Mansoor could tell that she wasn’t very tall, in fact she looked only about five feet but the heels she wore give her a three-inch boost. Mansoor gawked at the unruly auburn hair watching the twirling curls fall down on her round cheeks. She reminded Mansoor of a child and nothing close to a grown woman. Her big round eyes popped from her round face oozing a hazel honey color. The color of Ayesha’s hair and eyes seemed to be shifting with the dancing light as she confidently walked out from the door and to a seat next to Mansoor.

“Good Morning Director”, Ayesha offered her hand to Ghani for a swift shake.

She approached Shahid too with a handshake and when she came to Mansoor he sat there looking at her hand to her face and back to her hand again. Ayesha sensed that the IG of Police was a bit hesitant. She didn’t mind at all, after all shaking hands was just a custom between two men and her assertiveness made her a bit alien. She just smiled at Mansoor and nodded before taking her place before the DG.

“I’m glad you were able to join us under the circumstances. I understand you were heading an investigation in Lahore. But that can wait Ayesha as we have more pressing issues to deal with”.

“It’s my pleasure to be of some help DG. The case in Lahore really doesn’t need me. I’ve provided my expertise and I’m sure they can handle it now”.

“Good, that’s what I like to hear. I understand the case file along with the victims’ files have been sent to you over the weekend. Have you had a chance to review them?”

“Oh, yes sir I have. May I just say DG that I haven’t seen anything like this happening here in Pakistan in terms of a killer crossing district lines. I know it’s been a short while for me in the service, but literally no one in the department has encountered anything like this.”

“Well, don’t be alarmed, with thirty years of service from me and more than twenty years of the IG and Shahid here we haven’t come across anything like this either.”

“Well, digressing from the present murders at hand, I think DG there may be other cases like this one all across Pakistan. We just haven’t had the luck of stumbling on them. Maybe solving this case will set the initiative of expanding crime investigations in the country.”

“Why? So that the FIA can start meddling in the local polices’ affairs?” Mansoor retorted with despise.

Ayesha stared hard into Mansoor’s eyes not blinking for a nanosecond. She saw the disgust in his eyes. It was already bad enough that the IG of Police was practically begging for the FIA’s help, what made matters worse was a woman having to handle such a sensitive case.

When will these old men finally realize that times have changed? A woman could fly a fighter jet in your respected Air Force, but give her a little more authority and all hell breaks loose. Ayesha sighed at the thought and couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for the IG of Police. Ayesha had heard about him; he was a typical man’s man.

“With all due respect sir, if your definition by meddling is sharing information, having a unified database, and opening more paths of communication; then yes we’d love to meddle”

Ghani was pleased by Ayesha’s retort, pride swelled in him as he saw his protégé take on the IG of Police. But there was no time to quarrel, matters of internal bureaucracy were not of the most important issues.

Ghani looked back at Ayesha and give her a glance asking her not to push any further on the matter. Ayesha immediately understood and back tracked to the cases at hand.

“Shahid’s investigative team has established the MOs of the victims are related. But there seems to be no other information linking up the eight victims. There’s also the vast amount of time that has spanned between the first murder and the most recent one. So there is no chance of scavenging the previous crime scenes to look for anything new. They must be tampered with by now. That’s why I was thinking of focusing on the most recent murder that happened about a week ago.” Ayesha spoke to all three men in the room shifting through the pages in the files.

“That’s right, Sakeen Mushtaq is the most recent victim, she’s twenty-six years old resident of a small village name Maiman Chak just a few minutes’ drive from main Kharian city. She was a physics teacher at NISA Girl’s College Kharian and a visiting professor for the National University of Science and Technology here in Islamabad. She’d done her bachelors of Physics at the same university and went on to receive the Gates Cambridge Scholarship for her post-graduate studies. Sakeena was also providing her expertise to The National Space Agency of Pakistan. Her parents informed us that she was engaged to be married to a classmate of hers in about a few weeks”, Shahid read off the small bio that was composed of the first victim.

“Is there anyone suspected? I mean it’s a small village there are bound to be some form of family feuds or maybe an enemy?” Ayesha was lost in thought as she stared down on the attached image of Sakeena. She’s just about my age. So full of life and potential. But what are you hiding Sakeena? How can a golden child like you be so brutally murdered?

“Much to our chagrin there are none. Her father is Sakib Mushtaq is a local farmer in the area whose been farming for the last twenty-five years. His identity card shows that he was born in Faisalabad. Her mother Zainab is a house wife who was born in the Kharian area. Both parents are highly respected in the village”, Shahid continued.

Mansoor swiftly cut into the conversation, “Miss Ayesha, the SHO there is a highly respected man and has confidently told us that Mehmand Chak has a zero crime rate. No murder, robbery, theft, assault. Not a carrot nor a cow has gone missing in the area.”

“Well, that is something quite commendable, indeed sir.” Ayesha rolled her eyes knowing the game that Mansoor Ahmed was trying to play. She had to stay vigilant with what she said. Last thing she needed was the IG of Punjab Police talking down on her.

“However, IG sir, it is necessary to establish these things in order to push the investigation forward in one direction. So Shahid, are there any other aspects that may connect Sakeena with our other victims?” Ayesha began to look through the other victim profiles. She had them all memorized from in-depth study of each victim and their crime scene over the weekend.

“Well Ayesha, again to my disappointment, there is absolutely nothing that seems to connect them. All women were found murdered in different cities, different age, ethnicity, jobs, and level of income. The only thing that obviously connects them is that they are all young, female, educated, and very much dead” Shahid was slowly getting further frustrated. He had spent the last few days digging for information on each of the victims. Nothing seemed to be connecting them and it made it frustrating that he was missing something.

“It seems also that the victims were raped several times based on the medical examiners’ reports. All women were virgin as their hymens showed severe tears. There was also signs of bruising around the mouth and throat, wrist, arms, in sides of the thighs. All resultant from rape.” Ghani read over the report and died a little more inside.

“It’s seems as if rape was not the only thing that happened to them DG. The women were also stabbed multiply times with some sharp object across their chest and back” Ayesha looked up from the report and stared right at Ghani.

“Rape and being stabbed isn’t something that has shocked the lot of us Ayesha! What I can’t fathom is why the hell would the bastard tear open their chests and take out their hearts!” Mansoor turned bright red, Ayesha was afraid if the IG got any more crimson he may as well explode.

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