The Masked Criminal
Dr Sen felt worried as his patient did not turn up even after five days. He wondered what could have kept her from coming. He tried calling her number but her mobile was switched off. He felt anxious but knew not what to do. He was afraid that further delay might lead to disaster. He opened her file and noted down her address. He called his secretary and asked him to cancel all his appointments for the day. Then he left his chamber and walked towards his car. Whatever the circumstances might be, he had to see her that day.
He reached her residential complex within fifteen minutes. The security guard informed that she hadn't gone out for the past few days. He tried to call her, but her mobile was still switched off. Dr Sen showed his identity card and said that he was her doctor and she was sick. The guard stepped aside and permitted him to enter the premises.
Dr Sen found her apartment and pressed the calling bell. No one answered. After a few minutes he tried again. Still nobody answered. He was about to leave, when suddenly his eyes fell on that day's newspaper and two milk pouches still lying outside, waiting to be collected. It was unusual as the time was past midday. He pressed the bell again but nobody responded. 'Something must be terribly wrong here,' he thought. He pressed the bell of the opposite apartment. A moment later it was opened by an elderly lady.
"Sorry to bother you Madam," said the doctor, "but could you tell me anything about the lady who lives in this flat? She's inside, but not responding to the calling bell."
The elderly lady shook her head.
"I'm sorry, but I don't think I can be of much help. I have not seen her for the past two or three days."
"What about the man? Haven't you seen him?"
"I'm afraid not."
"Strange! Her mobile phone is switched off, she's not responding to the calling bell... Something must be wrong. I think I should call the police."
"Do whatever you must, but please don't bother us in any way. We know nothing about that family." She closed the door on the doctor's face.
A police inspector and two constables arrived within ten minutes. But the inspector was not sure if it would be right to break the door without a court permission.
"I think the lady of this apartment is not well," Dr Sen tried to explain. "I'm her doctor and she had an appointment with me three days back. But she did not turn up. I think something is seriously wrong with her. If the door is not forced open immediately, it might even cost her life."
The emergency note in the doctor's voice made the inspector come to an instant decision. The two constables stepped back, took two steps forward, shouldered the door open and stepped into the apartment.
The entire place was veiled in darkness. Heavy drapes prevented even a ray of sunlight from entering the room. There was an eerie silence that enhanced the unnatural atmosphere of the place. The acrid smell of burning filled the room.
The inspector searched for the switchboard and switched on the lights. There was no one in the drawing room. He ordered the constables to search the bedrooms. The first two bedrooms were empty. The door of the third one was locked from within. The inspector loudly knocked on the door.
"Open the door Madam. It's the police."
No one answered. He knocked again.
"If you don't open the door then we'll have to break it."
Nobody replied. He looked at the constables and signalled them to go ahead. It took a few seconds of their combined force to break the door open. The room was thick with smoke. Nothing was visible inside. Dr Sen and the policemen covered their nostrils and entered the room.
Slowly their eyes adjusted to the atmosphere. They could discern the shadowy figure of a woman sitting on the floor. Candles were burning all around her and heaps of ash mounded here and there. The atmosphere was so suffocating that it became difficult for them to breathe. The doctor leaped forward, drew aside the heavy drapes and threw the windows open. Immediately the room was flooded with sunlight. The woman, oblivious to the people around her, was burning the papers she held in her hand. The doctor picked up a piece of paper from the floor and got the shock of his life. It was the computer printout of a woman's photograph, probably downloaded from some social networking site. There was an expression of insane pleasure on the woman's face as each photograph caught fire and burnt to ashes. Dr Sen moved forward and snatched the photos from her hand.
"Have you gone mad? Stop doing that! Do you want to start a fire?"
The woman turned her head. For the first time she became aware of the presence of people around her. Slowly she stood up. There was a manic expression in her hollow eyes. Her tousled hair covered part of her face. Her crumpled nightgown was full of tiny holes made by sparks of the fire she made. She turned to face the doctor. There was no sign of recognition in her eyes. She glared at Dr Sen and let out a shrill, hysteric laughter.
"How much you may try, but you can never save her. See, how I burnt her!"
Dr Sen felt sick. It was evident that the woman was not in her senses. He requested the policemen to wait outside so that he could talk to his patient in privacy.
"Where is he?" he asked after the police were gone.
"Oh, he has gone to finish them off."
"Where and when?" His voice shook with agitation.
"Why should I tell you? You're not in my team. You always supported her."
"No, I support you. Now tell me where he has gone."
"You won't tell anyone?"
"No, I won't."
"Do you promise?"
"Its a promise. Now please tell me."
The woman said nothing and played with her hair. She was softly humming to herself. The doctor was becoming impatient. He caught the woman by both shoulders and shook her violently.
"Tell me where he has gone."
The woman looked at him. There was unspeakable hatred in her eyes.
"Actually he never told me. He didn't tell me so I cannot tell you. I cannot tell you so you will never know it. You'll never know it so you cannot save her. How's that?" She clapped her hands and laughed.
Dr Sen lost his patience. For the first time in his life, he hit a woman. He slapped her hard on her face. Her change of expression was instantaneous. Her evil laughter changed into an eerie scream.
"Her wicked husband informed the police. They started an investigation and found his secret bank account. Now they're chasing him like hounds. He's on the run, but before leaving he said, 'Before they send me to jail, I will send them to Hell.' That's what he said. And that's what he's going to do. They finished us, and he will finish them."
She laughed and cried hysterically. She screamed and tore her hair with both hands, banged her head on the wall and spat at the doctor.
Dr Sen took out his mobile phone and called a number. Fifteen minutes later, a man and two nurses arrived from the mental asylum to take her away. Mrs Chaki had completely turned insane.