A drop of sweat rolled down his cheek. The atmosphere was intense. He, on the other hand, was calm and composed.
With every passing second, he was losing his calm and with every step, the nervousness hyped up.
Axel, with a very careful glance around the corner, made his way up to the safe in front with utmost care so as to not alarm the residents.
Evident from his calm and composed characteristics, this wasn’t his first time doing a job like this.
But, who could have ever imagined that he would break into the richest and most powerful man’s house?
Breaking into the Mayor’s house was a scary deed but an attempt to the burglary was a heinous crime.
The house was a true beauty to feast one’s eyes on. It was a ginormous structure with a well-established porch, huge windows and a beautiful, wide terrace.
Set in a Victorian fashion and dressed in all whites, the house was a monument and stood out from the neighbourhood.
Back to Axel; he was a crafty crook. Young but highly experienced for someone of his age.
He loved risking it all and for that very reason, was he hired for this particularly herculean task.
But something didn’t feel right. A Mayor’s vicinity is highly guarded and to be able to break in so easily was a huge doubt.
The further Axel went into the house, his senses warned him of the catastrophe to befall.
Was it a setup? Were they already aware of his plans?
These doubts kept recurring to him but what has to be done, has to be done.
Slowly and steadily he made his way to the safe in-front of him. Till now, it was all going Axel’s way.
Finally, behind the doors of the very safe, was an artefact from the 15th century; a bracelet to be precise and all that was left for him to do was pick the lock.
So, with a little pep talk with his own self, Axel got down on his knees and examined the lock.
It was a regular four number combination lock. Nothing was special about it, thought Axel. “Would it be wise to go ahead and open the lock?” this question
Bugged him for a while.
Gathering all his courage, he took out his ever-reliable equipment and got to work.
The night never looked like it was ending. No sounds could be heard except the constant rolling and clicking sounds from the lock.
Every now and then Axel looked over his shoulder to make sure no one was around.
With a little bit of luck and the rest owing up to his unmatched skills at lock picking, Axel managed to break through three of the four numbers on the lock.
It was a child’s play for him to get the fourth number.
As soon as he started picking the last number, sirens went off. The loud sound on such a situation would have frozen anyone but not Axel.
For some strange reason, he was calm. Maybe he already anticipated something like this might happen. With a slight grin, he tried for the lock one last time.
Within seconds, that calm and composed look vanished. Nobody told him there were dogs too. The barks were terrifying.
There was no time to lose. Not anymore.
Axel started to make his way back to the entrance quickly.
All this commotion got on his nerve and he stumbled down the staircase. Trying to get a hold of himself, he held his head.
What felt like sweat at first kept flowing and it took a while for him to understand what it actually was.
The floor was full of red stains.
The panic factor was overwhelming and magnanimous.
Axel got back to his senses amid the shouting of guards and barking of dogs.
A little blood loss and the fear of getting caught affected his decision-making skills due to which he decided to leave the house through the main door.
As he stepped out, a German Shepherd pounced at him from nowhere. High on adrenaline, Axel tried fighting back.
The dog was a beast and took down Axel.
Even-though Axel was tired, he did not lose his quick reflexes. Took a quick glance around and reached out for the nearest stone.
Keeping the huge beast of a dog at bay with one arm, he hit him twice with the stone between the eyes.
The dog scurried away in fear.
Axel got back up and shouts which called out to him to stop, intensified.
Without taking another look, he started running. He ran and ran for what seemed like an eternity.
Raced through the field as fast as his feet would take him. Threats from the chasing guards kept him going for the extra mile and after some running through some thick bushes, he managed to shake the guards off.
On the other side, a few guards went into the house to make sure everything was fine.
Through the door, as they went. The first thing to catch their attention where the small red stains on the floor.
They were smart enough to comprehend that it was for sure that of the hooligan who ran off.
A loud wail caught the guards by surprise. They made their way up the staircase to see a guard absolutely horrified.
He was unable to speak. All he could do was a point to the door.
The eyes followed the hand. Taking a gulp of the saliva and with anticipation, one of them proceeded to open up the door.
The sight left all of them frozen to the ground.
A blood pool in the very room where the Mayor rests.
The guards, still in a state of shock, searched the house but to no avail.
Nobody could be found.
The guards were extremely shocked and they decided to summon the local police. Next day, the police came and after investigating the entire crime scene they came to the conclusion that the mayor had been kidnapped, so the guards were now pretty sure that last night more than one person had broken inside the house. Everyone was at a loss for words. The mayor’s wife Amanda was weeping profusely; the chief police investigator was trying to console her and he assured her that the entire police force would try their very best to rescue her husband.
The chief police investigator Thomas was one of the brightest men in the police force. He was regarded by many and was also known to have solved some of the most complicated cases ever. He was an extremely gregarious person, full of positive energy even in the worst situations but for some reason he looked extremely vexed when asked by his colleagues as to why he was looking troubled, he stated that he couldn’t decipher any link between the kidnapping and the robbery. Why would a person even after acquiring the artefact, still kidnap the mayor? But the weirdest thing was that no one knew what the artefact was, not even Amanda. The mayor was a very reserved person and no one knew what was kept inside his safe and the number lock to the safe was known to the mayor alone. So, the investigators could deduce this much that whosoever was behind the robbery and the kidnapping was a person who knew the mayor well enough and probably the mayor even shared with that person as to what was inside that safe of his. Just then one of the guards came up and told everyone that he had found a letter underneath the bed sheet of the mayor’s bed. The content of the letter had only one word “HATED”. Now, what could this possibly be? The investigators retired for the day but Thomas decided to linger a bit longer, trying to make out what the message might be implying. Just then, some guard passed by commenting, “The person who had done this should be hanged to death”. Thomas immediately got up from his chair, took the letter in his hands again and started unscrambling and rearranging the letters and to his utter shock, he found that it was an anagram for the word “DEATH”. He immediately summoned upon his men and informed them that the mayor’s life was in grave danger and that they had to assemble a team and act as quickly as possible.
Meanwhile, nearly fifteen kilometres away from the mayor’s house, there was a small deserted house by the river. Apparently, it seemed abandoned, neglected and brooding, but there was a dim light glowing inside and if one observed, one could easily make out two figures discussing something. There was a young woman who was asking the guy in front of her whether her stepbrother had revealed as to where the key was to open the chest inside which the artefact was hidden to which the guy in front of he, kept silent. She went to the adjacent room, where her brother was tied up with a chair, his forehead was bleeding profusely. She asked her stepbrother impatiently as to where the key was hidden in their house but the mayor was a stubborn fellow and was unwilling to speak. He tried to shout for help but there was no one to listen to him as the place was totally isolated from the main city. After a lot of hassle, the mayor finally opened his mouth and asked his sister as to why she was doing this as she already had enough to which she kept smiling and answered to her brother that since their childhood they had been discriminated by their father and when it was finally the time to pass on the priceless bracelet, his father decided to give it away to his natural son, in spite of knowing that she was more worthy. The mayor was extremely shocked after hearing this, begged for forgiveness but it was too late. Meanwhile, Axel walked into the room looking tensed, he informed them that he had come to know of the fact that Thomas was investigating the case. The stepsister was psyched. It was more like a challenge to her now. She wanted someone with brains to investigate this case, and everything seemed perfect to her. Meanwhile, the mayor was trying to untie the rope with which his hands were tied. Probably he still had some faint hope that he might be able to get away from that place.
Meanwhile, Thomas had gathered all his best men in the mayor’s house; although, he still didn’t have any clues as to where to find the mayor. He decided to search the mayor’s family history records because somehow his intuition told him that the person whom he had been trying to seek for the last couple of hours was a relative of the mayor’s. As he received the file containing the records, he started flipping through the pages vehemently.
Just as he successfully untied his hands, she jumped at him and pushed him down again with the strength of a man. With a look of pure evil on her face she said, “Dear brother, you think I’d let you get away this easily? You took away my father from me John! And now our family heritage? I cannot just sit and watch. I too am a part of the Harrison family. And you know it very well too that I deserve to have that bracelet.” Saying that she tied him up tighter. John didn’t protest this time. Why would anyone go to such extents to get one bracelet? Yeah, it was a family heirloom but if she had asked he’d have handed it over to his sister in a heartbeat. He still remembered growing up, the consistent animosity she had for him. He always treated her like his own sister. And her mother as his own. That was what his mother had taught him before she passed away, to always be a gentleman. He tried his best but the mother and the daughter never let him in. As he grew up, he realized not to try anymore with them.
John watched as his step-sister, Stacy paced around the room brainstorming ideas for some master plan. She resembled her mother quite some. The raven hair cut into a neat bob, the slender body, the auburn doll eyes, the pale skin and the elegance with which she carried herself. She was surprisingly strong for her physique. She was talking to someone over the phone and all he could hear was, “John doesn’t even know what he has let us in on. If we can’t find the key to this chest we’ll have to break it. But that little good-for-nothing thief of yours would rat us out immediately for breaking his precious chest. We shouldn’t have ever offered him this deal. He wants his share now, and the chest is way too valuable than the job he has done. Can we not offer him money instead?”
Who was Stacy talking to? What did John not know of?
He had to get out of that place. He had to figure it out before Stacy and whoever else she was working with.
As night fell, Stacy took off. John could hear her getting into her car. As soon as he heard the screech of the tyres fading into the distance, he started working on his tied up hands. Being a boy scout helped him through it. With a lot of tugging and bruising his wrists, he managed to get his hands free. He untied his legs and got up to get the blood flowing onto his feet for the first time since his kidnapping. He paced around the dingy little room for some ten minutes before he saw some light slipping into the room from the crack of the door. He tried to push it open. It didn’t budge. He pushed harder. It moved ever so slightly. He went back, picked up the chair he was tied to and banged it against the door with all his might. And to no surprise, the door threw itself open. He looked around. There were stairs at a distance. He figured he was in some sort of an attic. He slowly crept towards the stairs and looked down. The room beneath him was dimly lit. He tried hard to focus and saw one lump of a man snoring on a dirty couch. The guy seemed in deep sleep considering he didn’t get disturbed by all the commotion upstairs.
John slowly descended the creaky wooden stairs. He checked again, to see if there was anyone else. As soon as he knew there was no one other than that one guy, he ran out the door. He walked out and looked around. The water in the river glistened from the moonlight. The whole area was quiet except for the sound of the leaves rustling in the breeze. He looked down at the gravelled path and noticed the tyre marks. He followed those as far as he could before he reached a road. It seemed familiar but took him a while to realize it was the road that led to the town. He realized he was somewhere between fifteen to twenty kilometres out of town. Being the Mayor taught him at least something about the intricate geography of the area. He started walking towards the town in hopes of getting a ride. And he wasn’t wrong, soon a woman stopped by him and agreed to give him a ride as soon as she recognized him. She kept throwing questions at him but John was lost in his own thoughts. What could Stacy possibly be planning? He looked at the chest he had swiped from the house before he left. There it lay on his lap, a simple looking wooden box with no apparent traces of mystery to it. He wondered what could be so important about the bracelet inside it.
Before he could reach anywhere with his thoughts he arrived at his home. He thanked the lady and got out of the car in a daze. He was weak from all the trauma he had endured for the past forty-eight hours. He walked towards the gate, the guards noticed him and raised an alarm. Everyone now knew the Mayor was back. He was taken into the house and his doctor was called. After making sure that he was not severely hurt, the doctor left and John finally got to meet Amanda in peace. She looked miserable. Her brown eyes glistened with tears as she went up to him. The worry had sunken into her beautiful brows and creased her tan forehead. Her long brown hair was matted. She didn’t look like herself, her well-maintained-always-elegant-self. He caressed her and told her all about Stacy and her plans. She listened to everything he said with utmost attention. After he was done talking, she got up and said in a calm voice, “We will get to the bottom of this. She cannot get away with hurting people. But first, you must rest. You look so famished and tired. She obviously didn’t even let you eat. No more discussion about Stacy until you are back to being okay.” And she turned at her heel to go get him food. She was one of the most caring people John had ever met. She took care of everyone whether she loved them or not. Maybe that’s what kept him in love with her for this long.
After he was done eating, John dozed off into a deep slumber. He woke up early in the morning to some chaos downstairs. He ran downstairs to see what it was all about. The whole ground floor was flooded with press and police. Thomas walked up to him, “We’ve got it all covered Mr Mayor and you don’t have to worry about your security anymore.”
Words seemed to roll off of his tongue in such a smooth fashion that it almost seemed rehearsed. The tall man was one of the strongest looking men in the room. He looked angrily at all the media people who kept yelling out questions at John. John looked around and decided it wasn’t time to address the media just yet. He requested for Thomas to be sent to his office upstairs in an hour.
John’s office was a cliche old workspace, lined with wooden shelves and books, the huge oak wood table at the centre, the room was an amazement to the few who got to enter it. The reserved person that John was, he didn’t let a lot of people in.
Thomas looked around and sat down at the plush chair right across the table from John.
“My step-sister Stacy was the one who kidnapped me and…” John trailed off into a long narration of what had gone down at the house by the river. “We must search that house for any new clues!” said Thomas getting up. “It’s no use going there now, Stacy is smart enough to have cleaned up and left as soon as she realized I was gone with the chest.” John knew Stacy’s capabilities now. She was always one step ahead of them. He had to crack the puzzle before she did.
He looked under his table and opened a secret drawer, pulled out an old brass key and unlocked the chest. The bracelet was beautiful but nothing that would be worth this much effort. Thomas examined it closely. There must certainly have been something about the gold bracelet that led Stacy to go to such extents. Right underneath the embossed roses was something engraved. He examined it even closer, they were numbers, just a bunch of numbers, 10 digits to be precise. After wondering for about half an hour Thomas checked the numbers again. They seemed like the coordinates to someplace. He picked the first six digits and checked them for a location. It was for a location right in their own town. John asked Thomas not to reveal this new information to anyone else to which Thomas readily agreed. They took off in their car and put the coordinates into the car’s GPS system. As they proceeded following the directions of the monotonous GPS voice, they reached an old house. They got out of the car in front of the huge tree that threw a chilly shadow onto the old stone-walled house. They walked towards it with caution for some reason. Although abandoned, the house seemed weirdly guarded. When they approached the door, it swung open by itself. They peeped in like children and sawdust everywhere.
The house was weirdly warm for being left open. They walked into the house and looked around, the stone walls were as good as new, the floor was dusty and it seemed like no one had ever been there in decades. John was certain he beat Stacy this time, this time he was a step ahead of her. Just as he was embracing his moments of glory, a noise came from under their feet. “The basement!” they whispered in unison. They crept into the basement as quietly as possible. When they landed at the foot of the stairs they saw a shadowy figure move at the very end. Before they could realize it, a torchlight flashed in their face. “We meet again, brother” Stacy’s voice echoed against the cold stone walls of the basement. She started to move towards them but Thomas drew his gun at her. She paused in her tracks and Axel jumped at John and pointed a gun at his head. “Stop or I’ll kill the Mayor.” Thomas looked at John and then at Stacy. He let his gun down and stealthily sent an SOS to his team. He dropped his gun to the floor and raised his hands up in surrender. To kill time, Thomas asked Stacy how she got to the house. “It was my father’s. He wrote it off to mother in his will. She died before we could move into it and it has haunted me ever since. If the Harrison fortune really did exist, I figured it must have been somewhere where Father never thought we’d look.” Thomas looked reassuringly at John and John seemingly relaxed. “Who told you about the existence of any such wealth?” asked a curious John. “When I was in my twenties, I remember him talking to his lawyers about hiding his wealth someplace. He was paranoid and always thought someone was out to kill him and steal his money. He kept hiding money here in this house until he passed away.” Stacy knew her facts well through. ”And you wanted the bracelet to do what?” asked John to see how she knew about that. “Our father was a brilliant man! He knew he’d hand you down the family heirloom and so he hid the coordinates to the hiding place on it. I was sure once he called in the goldsmith to do some touch-ups to the stupid old bracelet,” she said with a smirk.” Enough chit-chat for now. Tie them up, Axel. We’ve work to do.”
The tied up Thomas and John watched as Axel tried to crack the code on the safe hidden behind the trap door. Axel couldn’t figure out the combination. He kept trying. Both, Axel and Stacy were so stuck up in cracking the code that they didn’t hear the sound of footsteps rushing downstairs.
Once they got busted and caught, they were immediately dragged away to be prisoned and tried.
John put in the code to the locker and there lay all the ancient family jewels, all the gold and the stones.
All the jewels were collected and taken to the Mayor’s home. He decided to put some of the jewels up for display in the town’s museum and the rest in their locker.
Meanwhile, Stacy and Axel were investigated and all their computers and phones were seized and combed through. After catching each and everyone involved, all of them were imprisoned and were waiting for trial.
John visited Stacy in prison, “Why did you kidnap me if all you needed was the bracelet?”
“Don’t you understand yet? You were always the beloved son. The only family Father could ever care about. I wanted to get rid of you for good.”
Disgusted at his step-sister, John leaves the prison and goes back home.
Thomas tells him all about the people captured through the phones and laptops seized.
A few weeks later, the judgement came and all the members involved were sentenced to a lifetime of prison. John couldn’t have been happier but the loss of a sister he loved as his own would always haunt him.
– Bhaskar Banerjee
– Abhrak Dasgupta
– Pranathi Bhogaraju
– Aritri Saha