Short Story: “Nursery Nightmare”
This time something REALLY out of my speciality zone, a genre in fact that I’ve dabbled in minimally – Crime Fiction. I think my only successful attempt at it was “An Evening To Remember” which I wrote quite a good while ago and has since spawned a much larger world around it that hopefully I’ll have the confidence to share with the world someday!
In the meantime, here’s a basic idea that I’ve tossed around from way back when I read Agatha Christie stories in my much younger days, the idea to use a piece of pop culture iconography like a movie or song or some other art form as the eventual basis around which a mysterious crime was built. Originally I thought that this could make for a nice long crime-thriller novel – and it would – but then I saw this weeks “Two For Tuesday” challenge over at Andy Black’s and he suggested using a children’s song as a plot device, so I decided to accept that challenge and try and create a short story version of a bigger crime story.
This one gets a bit dark and twisted in bits and might not be for everyone, but if you have a curious mind and willingness to see something a little different, let me know what you think of this (as I now call it) hyper-compressed-crime-novel. If you guys like it, perhaps I’ll try another someday soon. Cheers!
A short string of whispered curses spewed forth under his breath as the floor creaked beneath his feet. Rajesh could ill afford to alert his quarry to his presence here this late in the game – and despite how much it irked the young policeman, it was most definitely a game. No, he had to be more careful and pray to the Gods that he was right that this nightmare might finally end.
It was just his luck to stumble onto such a sick and twisted series of events so early in his career. Some of course would say that it could make his career and reputation for life, but none of them finished that thought, for if he failed, he would be a hated failure who allowed numerous deaths to go unpunished.
So here he was, slowly, cautiously making his way down the dank corridor of the aviary section of the Delhi Zoo in the near pitch dark of a moonless night. It was a fleeting suspicion and possibly a shot in the dark that had made him come here when everyone else on the investigating team had thought him foolish. But he knew that it was too much of a coincidence.
Rounding a corner with his side-arm still raised and a constant trickle of sweat on his brow, he strained to keep his breathing from getting louder and trying to will his heart to stop beating so hard that he could feel it pounding in his ears. In the distance he saw a tiny glimmer of light coming from underneath the cellar door he was looking for and taking a deep breath, he gingerly started walking again.
The occassional bird-call and squawking from the cages in the building around him did nothing to ease his already frayed nerves. It was these birds that had given him his clue – outlandish though it seemed even now, despite the palpable fear just being here brought out.
But Raj knew that he had good reason to be afraid. The man they had been after was utterly insane but also more than a little brilliant. He had summarily and brutally executed half a dozen people and left no trace behind for even the most highly trained forensic experts to uncover. Not a hair was out of place that this madman, this serial killing sociopath, did not want that way. Every murder was a new horror that had shaken up the entire city and in fact the country itself – never had they been faced with such a viciously creative and twisted individual.
His first had been shot by a dozen arrows, all at the most pain inducing points in the human body. The second victim was brutally decapitated by a blunt edged metal serving dish. The third was perhaps the one that sickened Rajesh the most as the victim was left to starve in the trunk of a car parked in an abandoned building with his every orifice sewn shut, even his appendages sewn to his body and no one finding him until the smell caused by the searing summer heat started attracting attention. The fourth was bludgeoned with a shovel and left buried alive while the fifth was left atop a pyre of old books and immolated in the centre of town. The sixth and most recent victim was by far the most convoluted – strapped to the bell-clapper inside a churches belfry, she was pummeled to death as the hour was chimed, her battered body found only when the inconsistent ringing of the bell caused the parish priest to go and inspect it.
Counting them down and going over it all again had a strangely calming effect on Rajesh, getting into a more intellect and less gut-driven state. Despite his visceral reactions, he had to admit to being impressed by the creativity, efficiency and dedication of the animal he hunted – truly he was a living example of why man was considered the most dangerous creature alive.
Now mere inches from the door, he listened a moment and on hearing nothing, nudged the door open with one hand while keep his gun raised and ready at the opening with the other. The door swung open and he made his way down the handful of steps into a small but empty room with a tiny workbench on which sat a basic emergency medical kit and a few cabinets of avian medication nearby. Nothing out of the ordinary.
After a deep breath, he stepped through and without progressing far into the room, began to scan everything his eyes could see. Eventually he crouched and inspected the floor more closely, looking for something, anything that might be of help. As luck would have it, this was his night it seemed, as he spied a few tassels at one of the the small carpet in the room flutter, but there was no fan nor any outside breeze.
Looking more closely he noted that the flutter was slight but constant and pulling the carpet back revealed what else, but a trap door. As he lifted the door open, a loud creaking groan came from the hinges and Rajesh cursed under his breath again. Seeing the element of surprise likely lost now, he swiftly pushed the door fully open and quick-stepped down the flight of stairs leading downward into the dark abyss. With the light from the room above coming down behind him, he could see a short passage before him, mostly lit but darkening toward the end where a solitary door stood closed.
Checking his gun and steadying himself, he moved toward the door briskly and on reaching the door, took a defensive position to one side of it with his weapon ready.
“This is the Police! We know you’re in there so come out peacefully and quietly!” he shouted, hoping his voice did not betray his anxiety.
No sound came in the unnaturally long space of heartbeats as he waited. He was just about to try the door when he caught a whiff of something familiar, leaning close to the door he took another breath and stifling a cough he leaned back a little before bursting into the room. As he entered, the stench of decay and death hit him like a wall of water, waves washing over and through him.
He held of his nausea long enough to see the man hanging from the ceiling, moments later finding himself barreling all the way out of the cellar, retching his guts out as the noise and early hour caused the cacophony from the birds to suddenly surge into pandemonium.
A couple of hours later, Rajesh found himself sitting hunched over in the back of a parked ambulance, grim and silent as the world around him was buzzing with activity. The flashing lights and constant radio chatter was white noise to him, lost as he was inside his own mind, dealing with what he had been through.
“You doing alright Officer Pal?” asked a deep voice.
Rajesh looked up to see his superior and the lead of this investigation, Chief Inspector Sinha, walk up with a calm face that belied the turmoil underneath that the Officers keen eye saw but never mentioned.
“Yeah. I… I’m pretty sure I am. Shaken up, obviously! But yeah… I’ll be alright.” he replied, not anywhere near as confident as he implied and that said a lot to his own mind.
“I have to ask though, how did you figure out how to find him and where he was?”
Rajesh shook his head a little to clear the swirling haze he was lost in, “It was the killing. I mean, it was how he did it. I didn’t see it until the fifth one, because it was such an unlikely thing… but the sixth… that just cinched it. It was a poem, a children’s rhyme I remembered, twisted and warped but he was using that as his way of picking how each one died.”
“Well that’s a hell of a thing. But at least you know…” said the Inspector as he paused to light a cigarette, “that you got this maniac and you’re going to be a hero. Not just here but country-wide and chances are you’ll be moving up the ranks pretty fast if you can keep this up.”
When there was no reply except for a slight nod, the older man waited a few drags of his smoke and then with a supportive pat on the shoulder, turned and walked back toward the cellar door of evil.
Still sitting, Rajesh felt such a turmoil of emotion. He couldn’t help but ponder on the nature of what this killer had been – first and foremost he had been a tormented child working as a servant and treated as human garbage, a child that was shattered and grew up utterly broken. Innately brilliant, when at the age of 15 he was finally given a chance at a better life, he built one and in fact learnt and evolved himself into so much more, eventually working here as a licensed caretaker for all these birds from around the world.
But that which was broken was not easily fixed and over time he turned his own turmoil into purpose and for years studied and planned – until finally his fury was unleashed. One by one, each of the six people that had torn that hole through him and made him the shell he had become were punished. Painfully and mercilessly were they hunted down, tortured and murdered.
Finally, with the last of his tormentors dead and gone, the poor, twisted soul that once had been an innocent little boy named Robin Singh ended this hideous tale by taking his own life and closing this circle of horror and violence. But for such things sadly, there never was an end, not really. Rajesh knew that and he knew that even though he had taken his own life, it was those six people that had really killed poor Robin way back when – it just took a while for the bullet to find it’s mark.
(“Sinister female” image via Chris Harvey)
(Poster/promo image from “
“, which you should see if you like intriguingly dark movies)