HelloÖ

 

It was a summer afternoon as usual. People were getting up after siesta; some were sipping hot cups of tea. The muezzin called out from the nearby mosque, just as he had been doing for all the ten years he had been living in the gulf. Smart young salesmen were hurrying to the shopping complex as they had to sign in or the electronic clock would punish them. R was getting ready to go his office too. Another routine day, he thought.

 

R had been working hard recently to make up for the days lost when he was on his honeymoon. He was recently married and his wife though not a beauty looked good to him. That was more important to him. He had grown up a ruffian. His childhood was far from ideal. After a stint with the underworld he ended up in, to make a new beginning as the saying goes. None knew his atrocious background. The murders he had committed as a child and the armed robberies and high profile criminal history were all a distant past now. All he cared for now was to get on with his office work and see that his bank balance was at a comfortable level. Today he was a businessman and anyone who saw him driving around in his shiny 5 series BMW had anything but contempt for him. He rarely talked to the neighbours. The occasional chat with B, the building watchman was about maintenance in the building. A few guys said Ďhií to him occasionally, hoping to get a free ride one day in his shiny BMW. He preferred to mumble a few curses under his thick moustache which they mistook for acknowledgement. It never really got further from there.

 

G was a nurse by training. She had been working for a decade at various clinics. She was a good nurse and no doctor would even feel like scolding her, leave alone punish her. She had been working nights recently and hopefully in a day or two she would be off for three days. The shifts were getting a bit too long, however her present employer paid her well, so she didnít mind working overtime. Not sleeping in the night meant she had to sleep all through the day.

 

Today was an unusually hot day and the air conditioner was working at full blast. Yet the room was hot. She woke up at 11am unable to bear the heat and humidity. R we have to go for a centrally air conditioned flat next time, she said. I will not live in an oven like this all my life. After all I am earning too. He was preoccupied  with something else and was not listening. Ok he said, half knowingly.

 

They could afford to live in a bigger more luxurious house. R had promised her a new house when his business earned Ďthe first million.í For now they lived in a small flat with dreams in their eyes of going to a bigger house one day. It was a single room flat with a small kitchen just near the door. They both had keys to their flat and so used to come and go independently. There was a big shopping complex nearby and plenty of small eateries, so even if G could not cook she bought some food on the way back to home. It was at a walk able distance from their workplace and so it sort of fulfilled their requirements for now.

 

What are you cooking for dinner today, he asked. I have not ddeicded yet but maybe rice and some chicken gravy, she said. How is that doctor you are working with now? R said. I mean I heard a few rumours about him from my friends. How does he behave with women in general and you in particular?

She was very upset. What do you mean R? Are you accusing me? It is one thing to clarify your doubts and quite another to accuse me of adultery. He was calm. He persisted in asking her.

 

Look here G, I love you so much. We have been married for just a week now.  But I think I should have known you more before we got married. I donít like the things I am hearing about you. First it was just an occasional comment. Yesterday at my friendís party we were all drunk and I was the dart board for everyone. They say you have an affair with the doctor.

 

That was it. She came fuming from the kitchen. R that is enough, OK. I will not hear anymore of this rubbish. You are taking too much liberty with me. I maybe your wife but not your slave. My personal life is for me to live. You are no one to dictate how I must live. I told you  clearly before we got married that you should accept my past life. You were so docile that time and nodded to everything I said. What happened to you now? You seem to be interested in all kind of rumours. I donít have to answer any of your questions and I will not tell you anything.

 

He was getting late for the office. He had to sort this out before going to office. It was making him restless all night and now he had to ask her. He said, Look here just tell me you donít have any relationship with that doctor. I will believe you. Pleas darling I love you. Please.

 

She would have said that but the fact was she was in love with the doctor. It was something which grew out of sympathy rather than lust. She never realized how she fell in love with him but it was partly affection, partly faithfulness and partly thankfulness for helping her out when she was jobless. She had been with him for a good five years. The doctor was a nice chap. He was strict with the staff but that was for a purpose. He had employed this nurse as a trainee five years ago. How time flew. So many things happened. His son grew up to go to college, his wife died of cancer two years ago. His life was never the same again, especially after his wifeís death. His only son was in college in a foreign country. When he returned home late at night it was just that, an empty house. How he wished his wife was alive to talk to her about that interesting case he had seen, to tell her about the small mistakes that happened that day and the way that gentleman came all the way to thank him for his help in diagnosing his sonís leukemia early. Now it was just him and his pillow. Many nights he pretended his wife was there and spoke to the pillow.

 

G filled the gap his wife left like a missing jigsaw puzzle piece. He liked the way she took care of all the office paper work, he had never liked doing it anyway. She would come home on some days to cook dinner for him. They sat though many a night sipping wine from a glass. It was more of a help, she rationalized, than eloping. Who can explain that to this male chauvinist husband, who in a weeks time questions her? She was confused and angry, very angry.

 

The knife she was using to cut the chicken was lying on the table in the kitchen. In a minute it was in his hands. He was the juvenile delinquent once again. The beast had taken control of him. He was in a correction home at the age of 8, for killing a friend who took his favourite boomerang. In a moment it was over. Before she realized he was behind her and the steel was sharp enough to go through the entire thickness of her neck smoothly. She felt no pain, it was over in a jiffy. There was a lot of blood on the floor and she just sank to the floor.

 

He cursed himself. He was shocked. Then the gravity of it all sinked in. He quickly left the scene and drove as fast as his shiny BMW would take him to the airport.

 

After coming out of the city, he buried the knife in a roadside patch. He could not forgive himself for letting it happen again. He had managed to live normally for ten years. He felt helpless when he became angry. Emotions were always bad news for him. He would become a different person when emotionally charged.

 

The flight was fully booked. He swore and went to the reservation desk. Some currency in the right hands and he managed to land a seat.  Then his genius snapped again. He thought; now that she is dead why not get the doctor into it, to take the blame for it. He called him and said, I have been trying to reach G for a long time. I donít know if she is alright. Could you please check?  The doctor was wondering why she had not turned up for work too and left for her house. It worked, police were waiting for him when he arrived at Gís place.

 

The neighbours had noticed blood leaking out of the flat and called the police. They broke down the door and it was a mess.

 

Though it was his first case, the investigating officer was smart. There was nothing much left at the scene of crime. He asked the neighbors about her husband. No one knows anything about him. Some one said he usually stays in the office, till late. Do you know his office number? No he never talked to anyone really you know, said the watchman.

 

Then he saw the mobile phone lying on the table. He put on a pair of  gloves and picked it up gingerly. Thank God, it was charged and working. It was used recently, the last call had been dialed that morning, when G had called R to say that she was cooking at home. He called the number. Rís mobile phone rang  and he pressed the answer key instinctively, and said HelloÖ

 

The police traced the call to the airport and he was nabbed before he realized what had happened. He calmly accepted the murder. The instrument of murder which was buried by him a few hours ago, was recovered.

 

Dr A Thanga Prabhu, UK 2005