Murder of a Professor
A Prince in the Mountains
Jenny tried to raise herself by standing on her toes to see through the awning window. Outside was lit enough to see everything clearly. She could see the Shelton building which was right across the street from her dorm. She could see the garden and playground next to it, and the two cars parked in the garage next to Shelton. If she craned her head enough, she could see the faculty residential colony in the left and the pavement that leads to the classroom buildings in the right side of the building.
“Get away from the window, a bullet can come through any time, you know”, Noori sounded panicked.
Jenny looked back into the window without answering her. “He is probably not dead, “She narrowed her eyes, and “I think I saw him move a just now.”
She was talking about the person who was lying a little away from the parked cars. He was the security guard who worked at the campus. There was a pool of blood next to his shoulder in the ground. There was some blood on his legs as well. It is hard to say if he is dead or just unconscious from this far up here.
“Please, let’s just go back”.
Jenny complied this time .She got back to her feet to her normal height and moved toward Noori. She was about to say something else when the phone rang. Startled, both of them dashed to the door. Once they reached the hall they were composed again. It was Noori’s phone that was ringing, which she was holding in her hands. Instead of answering it when it first rang, she ran out the room. Now she tried to act normal to shake off the embarrassment of that reaction.
Noori walked toward the stairs as she put the phone to her ear. It was, unsurprisingly to Noori, her father who had called. Even in normal times he calls at least 3-4 times a day. And now, there was active shooting going on in their campus. He had been on phone with Noori constantly for the past half an hour and only hung up when she had to charge it. During that time he called on Jenny’s phone twice to speak with Noori again.
The shooting started around 9 p.m. at the Shelton building at the campus of the Central Hillside Royal University. Shelton is a two storied building which is home to two of the professors of the university. Professor of Mathematics, Stuart Paul lives in the first floor. Professor Gaur who teaches History lives in the second floor. All the other faculty residential buildings are situated close to each other behind the garden next to Shelton. Shelton sits separately a few meters away from them. Opposite of it is the girl’s dorm named”Laboni”. Laboni was built originally a residence for the founder of the university. He used to stay here whenever he came back from the city. After his death it sat empty for a while. It was only a few years ago when it was turned into a student dormitory, as the existing ones were not enough to house new students, who were enrolling in rapidly increasing number each semester.
Laboni was mostly empty at that time the shooting started. Most of its 30 odd inhabitants were at the dining hall for dinner or in the library studying for the finals. Only around 10 students were inside or around the dorm. After the initial shock passed, they gathered in the first floor common room trying to piece together what happened.
Geeta and Suchi were hanging out in the front porch swing when they heard yelling. When they saw a man running out from it with blood on him, they ran inside. They were closing the front door of their dorm when they saw a security guard run toward Shelton and getting shot by a bullet coming out from the building. Ana, from her window in the first floor, saw the man running on the fields towards the classroom buildings. Two fields on both sides of a path separate the faculty buildings from the classrooms and the rest of the student dorms. Laboni is the only student dorm on this side of the campus. It’s quite isolated and it seems dangerous to try to leave the dorm and make the journey across the large fields to get to the main campus for help. They deemed it wise to stay put in the dorm and lock everything until the police comes and deals with the situation. Their friends on the other side of the campus are now crowding on social media to get more information from them. They have heard gunshots from the direction of the faculty buildings. Everyone is just staying in their place now and waiting for the police to show up.
Noori and Jenny had gone up to look out from the awning window in their room to see if they had in fact come or not. They came down to tell everyone that there was no police yet, but there was an injured security guard on the ground.
“But Neel texted me that he saw a police car enter the campus.” Geeta showed her phone so everyone could see the texts.
“You said you saw the security guard moving?” Preeti asked Jenny. Jenny nodded.
“We should try to help him. I know first aid, maybe we can do something.”
“You want to go out now? The one who shot him is still inside maybe.”
“But we have to. Won’t he die lying there for so long without help? And besides, things have been quiet for the last 20 minutes or so. Maybe the other shooter has left as well. Maybe it’s safe to go there now.”
Everyone gave Preeti a dubious look. She was the Joker of the dorm. She joked around in class as well. But now there was no sign of humor in her face. She was dead serious. Maybe it was her military training kicking in. She was in the army for years until last year when she left the army to pursue engineering in CHRU.
“I’ll come with you. I also don’t think any of the shooter is around anymore.”
Noori’s words surprised Jenny, just minutes ago Noori didn’t even had the nerve to look out the window.
“Is there a need to, we should just call for help. Let’s call the nurse’s office. We don’t know anything.”
Jenny was concerned for them.
“Yes, this is serious………….” Preeti hesitated, “Professor Gaur might be dead.”
This shocked everyone.
“How do you know that?”
“Professor Stuart saw it. He was on the roof of their building when he heard noise. He came down the stairs and saw Professor Gaur was bleeding in his sofa. Stuart ran down to his own apartment and called the campus head for help. He’s quite sure that Gaur was dead when he saw him.”
Jenny went up to her room again. This time she was checking in on Preeti and Noori who were there to help the security guard through the awning window. She could see them now, huddled over the man. Jenny was impressed with how easily Preeti convinced everyone to agree to her plan. She had noticed it before, Preeti had leadership skills. People around her listened to whatever she said.
They were speaking to the guard now. “He is conscious then”, she thought to herself.
Noori seemed animated about something. Jenny could hear her voice from her room in the third floor. She thought it was bad that Noori was being too loud. She should quiet down a bit.
There was a shuffling noise in the room. She looked behind her. No one was there. And then she heard the cars.
Looking out the window she saw two police officers approaching Noori and Preeti. There were a few more officers behind them in the path. She leaned forward to look more clearly when she felt someone move behind her and turned sharply to look. She hadn’t noticed it when she came in but her room was disheveled as if someone tore through it. It wasn’t like this when she was here earlier with Noori.
What is going on? She looked around nervously. Her bed sheet was lying in the ground, pulled from the bed. Both she and Noori’s pillows were on the floor. She moved a little closer to her bed. Something is not right with the room; she just can’t put her finger in it yet. There was a phone on Noori’s study table. It wasn’t Noori’s, or her.
There was a siren of a police car outside, and a flash of red light came through the window lingering for a few moments. Jenny’s eyes went to the mirror of Noori’s cupboard and she froze. There was a reflection of a man on the mirror. He was crouching under the sink of the bathroom. The door of the bathroom was wide open and opposite of Noori’s cupboard.
The red light went away and the reflection in the mirror moved a little. Jenny held her breath. There was commotion outside and a few other car lights flashed through the window.
Jenny was still staring. She saw a glimpse of his face. And that face seemed familiar to her. She had a feeling that the person hiding knew she was aware of him. A sound came from the bathroom. She thought she heard a few steps being taken. Someone was shouting outside.
Jenny kept waiting for someone to show up on the bathroom door. Through the open bathroom door, she could see the shadow of someone approaching the door. Another rustling sound and her nerve gave way. She turned sharply towards the door to get out of the room and stumbled on her chair in front of her reading table. The noise of it almost gave her a heart attack. She ran out the door, along the hall and down the stairs. The stairs of third and second floor were completely dark. There was absolutely no sound in the whole building. Where is everyone? She reached the bottom floor and ran across an empty common room. When she came out the main door she saw plenty of police outside the Shelton building. They all turned to look at her with alarm when Ana grabbed her.
“Where were you? We were worried when we couldn’t find you.”
“I was in my room” Jenny choked while speaking.
Ana gave her a relieved smile. “Oh, Thank God. We all needed to leave because they are going to search the building. There could be more shooters hiding in the area, that’s what they think.”
Jenny stared at her with wide eyes, breathing heavily.
“It’s so scary, I know”. Ana said looking at her reaction. She held Jenny’s hand and walked her to one of the fields, where Noori, Preeti and everyone else were waiting. Jenny also saw their dorm tutor with them.
“Is he dead?” Jenny asked.
“The security guard.”
“No. But he was hurt. They took him to the hospital. I don’t know for sure but Professor Gaur most probably is dead. I saw Professor Stuart when we came out. He looked distraught”
They joined the rest of the girls waiting in the field. It was around 10.30 at night. In this small hill town in Darjeeling this was considered very late at night. The campus of Central Hillside Royal University or CHRU usually starts getting quiet by this time. But tonight there was a murder on campus. The lights in all the buildings were shining now. Everyone’s social media feed were crowded with rumors and theories. The air was buzzing with agitation. It would have buzzed more if this happened a week ago, when the campus was populated with its usual number of students. Most of them left last week after their finals had ended. Only the Humanities and Business department had a few finals scheduled this week. After which all the student would leave. But this happened before that.
Most were convinced the finals tomorrow should be postponed. Some were bored now and wanted to go back to their dorms. Only Jenny’s eyes were fixated on the entrance to Laboni Dorm. The police team that went in had come out now. It looks like they did not find anything. Jenny’s phone rang in her pocket. It was Noori’s father calling.
“Where is your phone?” Jenny asked as she handed her the phone.
“I left it in my room” Noori hurriedly took the phone. Her father must have been freaking out since she was not picking up the phone.
Jenny looked back again at the entrance. The dorm tutor is now talking to the police and it seems like they have the nod to go ahead. Where is the man that had been hiding in her room? She did not see him come out.
When they got back to their dorm room, everything in Jenny and Noori’s room was scattered. But so was in everyone else’s room. It was the result of being searched by the police.
Noori decided it was best to wait till morning to sort out the room again. Jenny cautiously drew near to the bathroom. She switched the light on and looked around. There was no one there, neither was anything unusual. She went through their cupboards, looked under their beds and checked the hallways.
“What are you looking for?” Noori asked.
“Nothing.” Jenny herself didn’t know what exactly she was looking for.
But she did not waver in her conviction that she really did see someone hiding in the bathroom. She lied down on her bed and stared at the ceiling. She also could think of one way he may have escaped.