SHORT STORIES FRIDAYS (8)

THE CASE OF THE CYBER VIGILANTE (3) A CRIME THRILLER SHORT STORY BY ME

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Chief Inspector Lester King started preparing for his upcoming journey to India. He decided to check Sarah Sylvester’s Facebook page and go through a list of her friends and followers. None of her posts were out of the ordinary or alarming. She had updated and modified her Facebook page. Lester was in awe of her audacity to hide her crime. He also wondered about the possibility of claiming thirteen lives across the world from one remote location.

Lester had already sought the approval of his superiors before embarking on a journey to India. He made a reservation at a Star Hotel for a week after reaching Goa. He called his teammate Lucy and told her about his safe arrival. Lester checked into his room and had a shower, followed by a breakfast of French toast and scrambled eggs. He went to visit Jamie with a box of pastries. It was 9 AM, and Lester thought Jamie might be at home.
No sooner did he enter Jamie’s neighborhood than a curious neighbor peeked at him. Lester had an idea. He decided to ask some questions about Jamie and his family from the old lady sitting at the porch. He approached her with a pleasant smile.

He said, ” Good morning, I am Chief Inspector Lester King, from London. I hope I am not bothering you. But I want to ask you a few questions about your neighbors, the Sylvesters.” The old lady looked thoroughly alarmed. She probed him, ” Are they involved in a crime? Well, I am not surprised if they are.” Lester raised his eyebrow in response. The old lady continued, ” Sorry, I didn’t introduce myself. I am Mrs.Vinita Sharma, a retired school teacher. Why don’t you join me for the morning tea?” Lester followed her inside the house. She made him sit on the couch while she went to prepare tea.

Lester cast his look all over the house. Beautiful paintings adorned the four corners of the walls. There was the LED TV plastered to one of the walls. He noticed a family photograph on top of a filing cabinet near the plastic chair. Mrs. Sharma carried a tray containing a teapot, two cups, and saucers with the cookies. Lester was very impressed with her hospitality. They exchanged pleasantries over the tea and cookies. Mrs. Sharma resumed her speech. She said, “The Sylvesters have been acting pretty weird since last year.” Lester listened to her attentively and encouraged her to go on. She continued, ” They came to live here five years ago. I found them very friendly and invited them for dinner. They hosted parties and invited everyone in the neighborhood. We thought they were a perfect family. Problems started cropping up for them a couple of years ago. Jamie became an alcoholic and would bring his drinking partners to his home at untimely hours. One day I heard screams for help. It was Sara. Something had happened to her. My husband forbade me from getting involved. But I couldn’t sit idly and watch a helpless girl die. Jamie and his friends left in a hurry. I saw some of them zipping up their pants.”

Lester listened to her tale of horror in shock. She told him that she had discovered Sara lying unconscious in her house. She had lost plenty of blood, and her daughter, Emma, was missing. The police investigated the case and got her admitted to a hospital. She returned home after three months. She had a big fight with Jamie that everyone heard in the neighborhood. Jamie and his friends continued their atrocities. She said, “I was so frustrated with Jamie that I decided to confront him with my friends. He had started consuming alcohol in the morning. When we knocked at his door, Sara wasn’t available. Jamie opened the door with a liquor bottle in his hand. He started using foul language. So, we decided to get away as quickly as possible.”

Lester shook his head in disappointment. How could Jamie stoop so low? Mrs. Sharma added, “We avoided them for quite long. The Sylvesters knocked at my doorsteps after eight months. Jamie offered me a bouquet and apologized to me for his rude behavior. Sara hugged me and thanked me for saving her life. I was also pleasantly surprised to find little Emma flashing a grin. I invited them for dinner, but Sara refused. She said she wanted to visit the other neighbors and apologize to them for the ruckus her family created. It was the last time I saw them interacting with us. Jamie’s weird friends completely stopped their visit within these eight months. I was sure something was fishy with their sudden disappearance. Jamie’s attitude completely changed. I never saw them going out together to enjoy their family time.”

Lester asked her, ” Sorry to interrupt you, Mrs. Sharma. Can you tell me something more about Jamie’s friends? How many of them visited his house? ” The old lady answered, ” He had five close friends who spent most of their time in his house. I am sure all of them were scoundrels.” He thought, “How could any person vanish without a trace?”

Lester left her house and stopped for a while. He decided to call off the surprise visit to Jamie as he might have already left for his office. Lester went to the nearest police station. He introduced himself to Inspector Ajay Patil and briefed him about the case that he was currently working on.

He said, ” Inspector, My cousin, Jamie Sylvester, went missing from London five years ago. I learned about his marriage to Sara and settling in Goa. Last month this couple went abroad. We had a mysterious murder of Mark Staines. We found that he had been blackmailing Jamie’s wife, Sara, into having sex with him. According to his phone records, he made the final call to Sara. The next day, we discovered his dead body in the hotel. The Sylvesters returned shortly. Now, here is a great puzzle. After they returned to India, there were thirteen murders from all over the world. All the deceased were male and womanizers. Because of their lewd messages and nude photos, women blocked them. I was shocked to find Sara Sylvester chatting with them. I thought all these fourteen murders were interlinked. I also learned from Mrs. Vinita Sharma, their neighbor, about an unfortunate incident involving Sara a couple of years ago. I was also stunned to learn about the disappearance of five men. May I have a glance at the case files on Sara Sylvester?”

Inspector Ajay replied, “Sure. We have been under tremendous pressure to solve the missing persons’ case. Jamie’s friends Raghav, Dinkar, Sunny, Aman, and Matthew were last seen on 13th June 2020. It’s 2022 now, and we haven’t even discovered their dead bodies. We fear Sara might be involved in their mysterious disappearance. But we don’t have enough evidence to incriminate her.”

Lester had to be careful before he approached Sara. He thanked the Inspector after getting the case files(copies )from him. Lester went to a nearby hotel for a quick lunch before heading towards his room. He was eager to uncover Sara’s secrets.

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