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Fun with fiction #2



Twentieth birthdays are always special. From that day on, one is no longer a teenager. And girls seem to make more of a deal about birthdays and other occasions that they deem special. Especially a teenager who is just about to no longer be a teenager. And Lipika was no different. She was very excited about her twentieth birthday. About no longer being a teenager.

Her friends had planned a birthday dinner for her at one of Bangalore’s posh Mexican restaurants, Sancho’s. She was thankful that it was a Friday evening when the restaurants and pubs would be open beyond midnight, allowing her to celebrate her birthday in a nice place by doing a round of Tequila shots before feasting on a red velvet cake on the stroke of midnight. She wouldn’t have been able to celebrate it the same way at home, where she stayed with her parents, who disapproved of such celebrations. Especially those involving Tequila.

A student in the Computer Science department of Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, and easily among the sharpest in her class, Lipika was back home in Bangalore for her summer vacation. But this had been no vacation so far. Her father, one of the founders of a successful Internet startup, had nudged her to take up an internship in her father’s company, although it was technically no longer her father’s company as the investors now had a majority stake in it. The company was gearing up for an IPO, and the work had been frenetic even for an intern who happened to be the daughter of the founder. It was another reason why she was happy that her birthday was on a Saturday. She could go out and celebrate on the Friday night.

She had come back from work and was just lying down on her bed listening to her favourite song from the Original Soundtrack of Furious 7 by Charlie Puth and Wiz Khalifa. While Charlie Puth was crooning “It’s been a long time….” into her ears, she tapped twice on her OnePlus Two to check the time. The screen lit up to show that it was ten minutes past eight. She had to be at Sancho’s by half past nine. She decided there was enough time for a quick shower and paused Charlie Puth and started to undress.

Lipika got out of the shower and opened her wardrobe to pick the outfit she would wear for her birthday dinner. She had several options, but there were two that she really liked among them. One of them was a gift from her ex-boyfriend on her previous birthday. She hadn’t worn it since she broke up with him three months ago, and she wasn’t going to change that tonight. So, she picked the other and pulled on the bright yellow top with varying sizes of black spots all over it. She had always liked bright colours and especially so in summer. She then stepped into her black skirt, zipped up and tapped twice on her phone again to check how she was doing on time. It was half past eight. Enough time for her to drive down to Sancho’s if she left now.
Although she liked the occasional drink, she had friends who tended to binge on drinks when they went out. So, she always preferred to drive down to meet them so that she could use having to drive back as an excuse to not have more than a drink or two.

She put on her black stilettos to match her skirt and having checked that her parents were still not back home from work, she picked up the car keys and the house keys, locked the door and took the elevator down to the basement of her apartment building where she had parked the spare car her parents had lent her for commuting to work during her internship.

She located her Honda Brio to her left as she walked into the parking lot and clicked the unlock button to hear two beeps within half a second of each other. She climbed onto the driver’s seat and began to reverse out of the parking spot. As she turned towards the exit, she noticed a man sitting in a white Maruti Swift Dzire, who seemed to be engrossed in watching a video on his phone. She assumed that it was the driver waiting for the owners to come down. Her parents had offered to appoint a driver for her as well, but she had refused by telling them that she enjoyed driving the car and wouldn’t get to do it once she was back in her campus after the internship. The truth was that having a driver would have restricted the things she could do without telling her parents and she wanted to keep the degree of freedom that she had gotten used to while she had been on campus.

She turned out of the exit gate and headed on towards Sancho’s.

“Distance. Eight point five seven kilometres. Time. Forty five minutes. Average pace. Five minutes fifteen seconds per kilometre.” Called out the robotic voice of a female from the Runkeeper app that Vinod liked to use to track his runs.

Friday was the day that Vinod had set aside for running. At forty years of age, he was in perfect shape with no extra fat on his body and muscles that made him look like an English football centre back in his prime. And he owed this to the fitness routine that he religiously followed. The routine itself would change once every few weeks to account for changes in the level of difficulty and the muscles he’d like to work. He would constantly push himself to do more to stay as strong and agile as he had been when he was in his early twenties. Currently, he spent four days a week with weights and conditioning in the gym, one day of running ten kilometres and one day of cycling twenty five kilometres with a day’s rest to let his tired muscles recover.

Every Friday, he aimed to cover the ten kilometres quicker than the previous week. And with just over a kilometre left, his pace was three seconds better than the previous week. He would sprint the final half a kilometre and would look to better that difference to five seconds. That would mean a fifty seconds improvement on his previous timing of fifty five minutes and thirty seconds. This made him smile, although it failed to surface on his face as he continued to push his body to hit that mark.

Vinod managed to cover the ten kilometre stretch in just over fifty five minutes, and was satisfied with that as he stepped back into his house to grab a glass of Orange juice and take a quick shower.

As the stream of cold water from the shower hit him in the face, he closed his eyes, and just stood there listening to the water hitting the floor and circling into the drain. He found it therapeutic to stand in the shower after a tiring workout. A cold shower was a ritual for him to calm his mind and prepare for a big assignment that he had to execute. And today would be one of the most important assignments of his life so far.

Having turned twenty just an hour and a half earlier, Lipika had returned from Sancho’s and was just about to enter the parking lot of her apartment. As she was reversing into her allocated parking space, she saw that the driver who was in the white Maruti Swift Dzire earlier had left, leaving the car behind. She wondered why someone would buy a white car now when every taxi on the road was either white or grey. She stepped out of her car, smiling to herself as the scenes from the birthday party were still fresh in her mind, locked it and turned to walk towards the elevators.

As soon as she took two steps towards the elevator, a hand shot out of nowhere in front of her and pressed a cloth hard against her nose. She tried to scream, but no voice left her throat. She felt like she was pushed into a brick wall as the hand tightened it’s grip on her. Before she could get her hands up to prise herself free, the smell that reminded her of her days in her college Chemistry lab started seeping into her nostrils, and the rows of cars in front of her seemed to blur and the grip of the hand on her seemed to loosen. Within seconds, she had collapsed, unconscious.

Vinod took his hand away from Lipika’s nose, and her head fell limp on his chest. He returned the chloroform laced hand towel back to his jacket pocket. And in one swift motion, picked up Lipika onto his shoulder and walked towards the white Maruti Swift Dzire. He opened the trunk at the back, placed Lipika there, leaving her in a curled foetal position and closed the trunk. He walked back to her car, ran his hand under one of the windshield wipers and locating something, plucked it out and put it in his pocket. Then, he walked over to the front of his car and got into the driver’s seat and turned on the ignition.

He fit his phone in the phone holder attached to the windshield, turned on the headlights and drove down towards the exit. The security guard was still up, as many cabs would be going out of the apartment complex, since this was a Friday night. As soon as Vinod exited the gate, he turned towards left and stepped on the accelerator to head towards Cubbon Park, which was at the centre of the city.

Kidnapping Lipika was only the first part of the assignment for Vinod. But he knew this was the hardest part. The part that needed the most amount of research and preparation. He had spent the last one month preparing for this.

Four Fridays ago, Vinod had booked a cab using the taxi hailing app, Uber, and had selected the car-pool option in that. This was third such booking in three days, as he was hoping to have a co-passenger who stayed in the same apartment complex as Lipika. The first two attempts had been fruitless as he had had co-passengers from among the row of independent houses opposite the apartment complex that he was interested in. But he was lucky the third time.

A Mr. Shekhar from the same apartment complex was his co-passenger. When the cab tried to enter the apartment complex to pick up Mr. Shekhar, the security at the gate asked the driver who he was going to pick up. When the driver mentioned the apartment number, the security guard asked him to call the person he was picking up so that the guard could confirm that the driver was legit. The driver made the call and handed his phone to the security guard. Who, after having a conversation in Kannada, satisfied that the driver was legit, let him through. After picking up Mr. Shekhar, the exit was through a different gate where there was a different security guard who let the cab through without a glance.

Vinod managed to do this trip into and out of the apartment complex three more times in the next two weeks and observed a similar sequence of events on each of the times. This was the first hurdle he needed to clear.

Three days after his last such visit, Vinod decided to put the next part of his plan into action. He rented a white Maruti Swift Dzire, and drove down to the apartment complex. When stopped by the security guard, he mentioned that he was picking up a Mr. Shekhar and placed the call on his phone. Only this time, he had paid someone to impersonate Mr. Shekhar and to say that he had indeed booked a cab and was waiting to be picked up. And the security guard returned his phone and let him pass.

Once inside, Vinod drove straight down to the parking lot, found an empty space and parked his car there. Then, he walked around looking for a Honda Brio that belonged to Lipika. He had seen her leave the apartment complex at ten every morning for work and checked that he still had an hour to carry out his task. After walking across two rows of cars, he located the registration number he was looking for and took out a tiny device from his pocket. This was a simple video camera with a sim card that could connect it to the Internet. It would record and transmit a video to a private channel whenever it detected motion in front of it. It also had a GPS tracker that transmitted it’s position on the same private channel.

He opened one of the windshield wipers and stuck the device under it and placed it back. He fired open an app on his phone that received the videos and the location from the device. Having done his job, he returned to the exit gate and left the apartment complex.

In the two weeks after that, he had observed Lipika’s travel patterns every time she took out her car, which turned out to be every time she went anywhere. Even though he only needed this information on the final day, Vinod was happy enough to have two weeks worth of observation time.

Earlier today, he had entered the apartment complex early in the evening, after his run, the same way he had entered the previous time, and had just parked in the basement. Lipika had gone out on both the Friday nights after he had placed his device on her car, and he was hoping that she would today as well. He had checked on Facebook that it was her birthday today, which increased the probability that she would go out. Since he had seen her return home alone in the car on both prior occasions, he anticipated the same to be the case today. And it had been. Had it not been the case, he would have had to wait another week to carry out the assignment.

Now that he was close to Cubbon Park, he slowed down on a stretch of road that had trees on both sides. He would have ideally liked to carry out what he was about to in a more isolated place, but today was about making a statement. He stepped out of the car and opened the trunk to find Lipika still lying in the same position, passed out.

He looked around to confirm that nobody was around, took out a little plastic bag with a string at its neck and held it in front of him, as he separated the two sides that were sticking to each other at the opening. It was time.

Vinod had used the plastic bag for the first time ten years ago and had immediately fallen in love with it. It was the cleanest way to take a life. No blood. No fighting. No noise. Simple. Elegant. And in cases when he didn’t want to take the life, it was the perfect torture device. He could place the bag over the face of the victim, tighten the string for a few seconds, until the victim started suffocating and then release the string to let him gulp in air again. No marks left behind. No blood. Can be replicated several times, each time making the victim feel death creep over him, about to take over. And when combined with chloroform, this was the ultimate killing technique. No need to restrain the victim’s hands either.

He looked down upon Lipika, her eyes closed, her face beautiful, her silky hair sprawled across her face. Vinod felt no pity. No remorse. He was a professional. He had done this several times before. And gone on with his life as though all he had done was squash a cockroach. But today wouldn’t end with the act alone. Today was about making a statement.

He lifted her head up slightly with his left hand and used his right to draw the plastic bag over her head, all the way down to her neck. As he started to tighten the string at the neck, he was reminded of the little Barbie dolls packed in plastic covers. Pretty. Unknowing. Their lives in the hands of their handlers.

As he tightened the string further, Lipika’s mouth opened involuntarily, seeking to gulp in some air, but there was no air left to be gulped in. Her brain must have kicked into overdrive as she regained consciousness, her eyes opening wide with horror. Again, she was unable to let out a scream as there was no more air left in her lungs. The plastic bag was now sticking to her mouth, being sucked in, as the air from outside the plastic bag, trying to get into her lungs, was being blocked by the bag. She tried to lift her hands up to tear open the plastic bag, but Vinod used his own hands to hold them off.

Within seconds, Lipika, devoid of oxygen, lay limp, eyes still wide open in horror, as the life in her started ebbing away. Vinod placed his hand around her wrist to check that there was no longer a pulse, and then removed the plastic bag from around her head.

The act of killing wasn’t in itself enough. Today’s assignment had one final part left. Today was about making a statement.

He returned the plastic bag to his pocket, and took out a stick of red lipstick. He moved the strands of her hair off her face, held her head still with his left hand, and lined her lips with the lipstick, ensuring he stretched it well beyond her lips on either side. As he returned the lipstick to his pocket, he thought she looked like she had a wide ear-to-ear smile on her face. He then took out some white cream and applied it all over her face, except for where there was already red lipstick. Finally, he took out some black paint and applied it in wide circles around her eyes. He then stepped back to admire his handiwork.

“She does look like the Joker”, he mused. And that brought a smile to his face.

He pulled her out of the trunk and dropped her on the road, where she lay spread-eagled. He reached into her purse and took out her phone. He fired up her Instagram app, clicked a photo of her body and posted it to both Instagram and Facebook with the caption ‘Happy birthday to me! Ha… Ha Ha… Ha Ha!’.

He threw the phone down next to her, took out a Joker card from his pocket, threw that next to her body, closed the trunk of his car, took out the fake nameplates that he had pasted on his car, threw them next to her body as well, got into the car, and drove away into the night.

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