Saturday, February 25, 2006

Wrong Number

The newspapers these days have been running interesting stories. Well, that is after all their function anyway. But then, what matters is that I have been finding them interesting.

There is one on increase in population of hyenas in the forests of Africa, and its cause-effect analysis. Cause-effect is pertaining to the overall ecological system of the forest, the food-chain and what not. They seem to have their own correspondent placed at strategic location in Africa, who seems to be enjoying his stay there. At least it seems so going by the quality of articles he has been sending.

But all that is besides the point.

It was just to get started with this story. You may call it a real story, for such things aren't likely to happen in fictional stories. You will agree with that as we come to the end of it. Of course the introduction has played its part, and the newspaper per se has some part to play in the story. So it was not a waste of time by any means.

It all started (and ended too) on a lovely Saturday afternoon. It was a fine day in March, with the spring coming of age. A bright sunny day was on its decline after a wonderful innings on the field. I had a rather late lunch and was relaxing on my couch, trying to give my new idea a new shape - why? Of course to write my next story.

After a certain time, I realised that this idea was not worth persuing on such a lovely Saturday afternoon and slowly started to delete it from my memory. Physical things around you help to do this, believe me.

As I was halfway through this procedure, I saw the newspaper lying around. This was a good sign- I was finally able to come back to the real world. I picked it up and started to glance through the pages. Today, being Saturday, the newspaper did not carry my favourite African article. Instead it had an apparently urgent crime report published. Doesn't matter. By the time the last of my mediocre ideas about the next stories were out of my mind, I was already halfway through this crime report.

It was a bit shocking and frightening too. One serial killer was out. Yes, he was out there somewhere, planning murders without any reasons. At least that's what the newspaper report said. I have never understood how could a murder have a reason behind it? To me it was all mindless, ruthless, beastly thing. But that's besides the point: there was absolutely no motive behind these murders, no money stolen, no family revenges, no gangsters either. It was plain ruthless case of a series of murders. As is the case with most of the serial killings (they are called serial killings because it is not done parallely - it's done one at a time), there was one common factor though. This factor alone was able to prove that these murders were a part of the same chain, and related in a pretty strange way.

In all those murders (I forget the exact number now, but it was an alarming number), the victim was shot dead from a distance, and the victim seemed to have written down a number on a paper before he was shot. It was an eight digit number, and obviously, was different in all the cases. And one more thing, all the victims died when they were answering a phone call. A novice sleuth would conclude that the murderer has used the technique of a surprise attack - calling the victim, asking him to write down a certain number and shooting him dead once he has done writing it.

It really was a series of killings, as the numbers written down had a definite relationship. The number written down found to be the telephone number of the next victim. The table on the left carried all these numbers. Quite interesting, I noted, as I glanced through the numbers.

They had traced the 'last calls' made to the victim, and found out that the calls were made from different telephone numbers - all were traced to public phones at various area of this huge city. A dead-lock there too, I thought.

I hate crime. And I hate injustice too. I wish there were no crimes and criminals, so that we wouldn't have the embarrassment of injustice. Sadly, the real world can not be in exact accordance with your wishes, doesn't matter how divine your thoughts are. Maybe that's why I have taken to this profession of writing. That was a nice thought - and I decided to write about it next time around. For the time being this article was just too interesting to let go and start writing.

Another characteristic common to all these murder cases was that they were all carried out on a Saturday afternoon. Well, this was curious. And that particular day being a Saturday, I was all the more curious.



The moment my telephone rang, I was filled with a strange emotion - half fear and half anxiety. I knew it would just vanish once I pick up the call, but it was worth enjoying that emotion.


"Hello. Eh, yeah, please take down this number---"


"I said, please take down this number..."

I had carried the newspaper with me to the telephone. Now I started looking at the table on the left where the phone numbers associated with the serial killings were listed. I wished I had read the table completely before, as the last number there was not my number. Thank God!

"Yeah, please tell me the number-" with the greatest hope, I managed this sentence.




I don't remember what happened next, but it was painful. I thought something somewhere on my body was burning. Something sharp and hot had obviously pierced my body, and it was drilling further and further.

It was the last sensation I guess, before I lost contact with the world.

Well, as it turned out, it was for a finite time. When I woke up, I was lying on a bed, with a worried looking nurse trying to check my pulse. My opening of eyes was pretty much to her relief. I thought I was doing quite well. Fairly well, as I was still alive.

After a day or two, I was questioned by all sorts of police officers and reporters and detectives and all those agencies. Apparently I had the most crucial clue and a vital part to play.


How did it all happen? If my phone number was not on the list, why did I get such a nasty call, and the bullet after that?

And how come the killings stopped after that. I must say that I was very fortunate not to have lost my life.

One theory goes like this - the killer probably had given a wrong number to the last victim or probably the victim had made a mistake in noting it down. The police had obviously been alert with the next number and had installed tight security around the next potential victim's house.

The case with me was a bit different, I did not actually note the number down on paper, but I remember it as if it was my identity.

And that number was, well, the phone number of the very first victim.

What happened next is, well, history. The serial killer was never found, but fortunately, the series was broken. There were no more murders ever after.

Yes, and fortunately, no more wrong-number calls too.

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