The strange noise from the attic startled her. With struggle she managed to open her eyes and switched on the light. The watch was showing 1.30 AM! Oh god, to be awake in the middle of the night, she cursed! The noise of dragging of a trunk, though muffled, was terrifying. Richa broke into sweat and her heart raced, as the noise continued for next minute and then there was a thud, and silence!!She wanted to reach for the glass of water lying next to the lamp but the hand refused to move!! She covered her head with the blanket, as many thoughts crossed her mind. She was too scared to step out of the room. The weather had been playing truant since morning, with occasional shower and strong gust of winds.
She had been living in the house with her husband who would go out on tours frequently, related to business. Richa was married to Ajay for two years and had all the comforts of life. The couple did not have any siblings. A full time maid lived in a small servant quarter with her family of one small child and husband.
Richa had a sleepless night for the remaining night. The day broke as the first rays of sunshine, entered the bedroom, from the slightly parted curtains. The window was partially open, as the gust of wind, brought in freshness. Richa, got up from the bed as she heard the soft knock on the door. She collected the cup of hot tea, her maid had brought for her. She quickly finished the tea and looked out of the window. There were footprints on the grass of some heavy shoes, leading to the gate in front of her house. She remembered about the previous night, and called for her maid.
‘Nirmala, did you hear any noise last night’, she asked, looking at her.
‘No memsahab,’ there was no one, she replied staring at Richa with wonder in her eyes.
‘Ok, come with me; let us go upstairs to the attic’! She wanted to inspect the place, but was afraid to go to the room alone.
She was surprised to see that everything appeared to be in place, but for the huge box, that had been shifted and there were some marks on the floor showing signs of dragging. The lock was open. The window opposite had some stain marks, which appeared to have been wiped to clean.
Richa did not touch anything and returned downstairs. She inspected the wall and the pipe leading to the balcony of the upper room. There were some dirt marks, and then a trail of footsteps in the garden. She followed the same till the main gate after which there was a metal road. She looked around, but could only see an old picture lying on the ground. She bent and picked it up. It was wet and covered with mud. On cleaning, she felt as if a bolt of lightning struck her! This was Nisha, the unmistakable face!! The girl had been her friend till college but had lost track, thereafter. She picked up the picture and returned home as the further search was fruitless. She tried hard to reconstruct the events of the night but the jigsaw puzzle could not be solved. Nisha, had known Ajay at college but later married Kamaljit, son of a business tycoon. That was the last that Richa, remembered about Nisha.
On reaching the house, Nirmala informed Richa that a pair of shoes was found behind the bushes outside the house, which she showed her. Amazing! the shoes belonged to Ajay but were found in the bushes!! The mystery was deepening!! Richa, was unable to figure out where all this was leading to. She halfheartedly got engaged in the domestic chores!
It was evening time and the telephone bell rang!
‘Madam, I am Sanjay Naik’, Inspector / Crime Branch. ‘Your husband was caught accepting a ransom of Rs Ten lakhs( One million rupees) from Nisha for handing over some letters and photographs to her and we caught him red handed!’ He will be produced in the court tomorrow and we will come to your place by evening today for recording your statement!’
The one sided conversation shook Richa thoroughly! She was shattered as she came to know later that Ajay had sunk into debt and to make a quick buck threatened to expose Nisha with the letters and pictures of their past association.
There was a clap of thunder and lightning struck in the sky! The sky was lit up and rain came pelting down. What a coincidence the weather too displayed the emotions of the turmoil of Richa!!
PS : Image kind courtesy Google