“Albert, Albert! Are you there ??” cried the walkie-talkie.
I opened up my eyes slowly. I reached the receiver while still resting my head on the steering wheel. “Am I still drunk?” wondered I as I put the receiver to my ear.
“Sir,” I whispered while rubbing my eyes.
“Idiot! Where the hell were you! I was trying you for an hour. Do you have any idea what time it is?”
I glanced at the watch. To my amazement, I found that it was already eleven in the morning. Shrugging off my shoulders, I leaned back into my seat.
“Get here! We are at the Winstein High School. A dangerous situation here. A group of terrorists has taken the school, keeping the students and teachers as hostages.”
“Terrorists? In our small town?”
“Yeah. It was so unexpected, I know.”
“We have never dealt with such a situation in our town before,” I remarked anxiously.
“Yes. That’s why we need more men here. Come right now.”
Washing my face with the water in the jeep, I became fully awake. I set off to Winsten High School. While driving, I tried to figure out whose voice it was. Definitely not Chief Inspector Tony Angsten. I know his voice too well. Perhaps someone more superior. It was more evident since the terrorists were involved. It was a long drive. An hour later, I turned to Winsten Lane and saw myself at the high school gate.
“Where were you?” Tony Angsten asked as I crossed the compound, “I couldn’t reach you on the phone.”
“I dozed off a bit too deep, sir,” I replied. How can I say that I was drunk while I should be handling that missing case? A woman and a child. No leads at all. So upsetting.
“It’s a serious issue here. We need to infiltrate the building now. We have information that the terrorists moved to the basement, taking some students with them,” Mr. Angsten explained.
“What are their demands?”
“That’s the strange part. They put forward none,” replied he, “In fact, they denied any form of communication. But some hostages managed to pass a message to us. All hostages are locked inside a room except some kids. Taking those kids in their custody, the terrorists are trying to escape.”
“And bargain later using those kids ? ”
“Most probably. But we have no idea how they are planning to escape. I mean, this entire compound is surrounded by our men.”
“Then what’s the plan, sir ?” I asked curiously.
“The hostages are locked in a room on the ground floor. We go on either side of the ground floor as two teams to find that room. We free them, join together again and head straight to the basement.”
Winsten High School was one of the oldest schools in the country. Its ancient architecture said it quite well. Never knew I would be back in my school in such a scenario. We learned the map of the school while equipping ourselves. I gazed at the media people outside the gate. They were so desperate to hear from us that they started shouting. It reminded me of an incident that happened here when I was in high school—the suicide of my friend Claudius in the basement. Media was just like this back then, yelling from the gate.
We six people entered the ground floor quietly and split into two. Our team heard some noise from the study room. We broke into that door and freed the hostages. The principal informed us that the terrorists had kidnapped two kids – Robert and Claudius.
Then we six banded back together and headed for the basement. We broke down the door with force and charged quickly into the room. To our surprise, there was no one in the room. Leaving three at the door in guard, we went down the stairs to the basement. They must be hiding somewhere in the room. An attack can be expected at any time.
As we advanced, I remembered that incident. I looked at the metal bar high above our heads. The very same metal bar on which my friend hanged himself to death. Suddenly, my ear got some metal sounds in my back. I turned back and pointed the gun. To my disappointment, it was just some mice going into the craps of metals dumped at the corner.
“Where the hell did they go ?” asked the chief in frustration.
Out of curiosity, I began to take away the scraps from the heaps. I felt something strange in doing so because the smell of damp soil began gushing into my nose. The heap gave way to a secret underneath.
“Chief,” I called out, “ I know where they vanished into. There is a tunnel here.”
“A tunnel under this school! Impossible!” cried Mr. Bunker(the third man), looking at the hole.
“Go and ask the principal about the tunnel,” Mr. Angsten told me, “He may be useful.”
I found myself moving to the entrance. But as I passed the bathroom door, I heard some noise from inside. It was like someone was hitting the door. So I entered the bathroom and opened the closet door from where I heard the sound. A little boy jumped onto me as I did so. He hugged me in fear.
I asked him what happened. He looked at me in wonder but didn’t reply. Instead, he showed some gestures in the air. Sign language? But I couldn’t get at all what he was saying. Realizing that, he wrote on my palm with his tiny finger. “I am Ben. I was locked up here.” I couldn’t let him finish because I had little time. I took him and walked to the entrance. Leaving the kids to the teachers outside, I approached the principal.
“One of your students was locked up in the bathroom,” I said, “A dumb one, he couldn’t speak.”
“But we don’t have any dumb students,” replied he, instantly.
“I just gave him to the teachers,” I was puzzled.
“The boy must have been pretty scared,” he said, “There is a reason for everything!”
I smiled on hearing the exact phrase my principal used to say. I informed him about their escape and the tunnel we found.
“A tunnel? Impossible!” he exclaimed.
“So, I assume you never knew such a tunnel under your building.”
“I didn’t know it.”
“They would have built the tunnel as a part of their plan. It means they had started this plan pretty earlier than the attack,” I said thoughtfully, “ So the terrorists…You said they were only three?”
“Yes,” he said assertively, “They wore face masks – the happy face, the sad face, and the…I don’t know what to call it…maybe the puzzled face. The puzzled face was giving the instructions to the other two.”
“So he is the leader, then?”
“I guess so.”
I informed the chief as soon as possible.
“So nobody knows about the tunnel,” said Mr. Angsten disappointedly, “Then I think we have no option other than to go through the tunnel and catch him before it’s too late.”
“What if there are bombs in the tunnel?” I enquired, “They might blow up the tunnel.”
“I think we can take this risk because we have a chance to catch him. It hasn’t been much time after they left.”
And thus, three of us got down into the tunnel. It was a pretty big and dark tunnel. As we advanced carefully, the scent of damp soil pierced through my nose. Unaware of what lies ahead, we moved on and on. From the intense light of our lamps, we could see the tunnel taking a turn a few steps ahead. On taking the turn, we encountered a situation that I disliked most. In front of us, the tunnel split into three.
“What the hell?” cried the chief, “They planned it very well in advance.”
“Yes,” I agreed, “And they are very cautious. There must be a lot of traps awaiting us in those tunnels.”
“Be careful. Always remain in contact,” Mr.Angsten instructed as each of us went into separate tunnels. I moved carefully forward amidst the cloud of loneliness around me. I am really uncomfortable in this scenario. It’s mostly because I have isolophobia. Being alone made me crazy, especially in the dark.
“Fear not, for I am with you,” murmured I, while walking ahead. Biblical verses are quite helpful in such times. On moving further and further, I became slower and slower.
“The Lord is my light and my…,” before I could finish, I saw a light up ahead. It was coming from above. The end of the tunnel! I raised up my pace. I was happy to be finally out of this darkness but was also worried about what awaited me there. As I moved closer, I saw a figure in that light. I pointed my revolver at it and walked. I communicated this message to others, but no reply came back. As I approached the figure, I saw that it was a boy. But as I went further, the figure vanished into thin air. I wondered, “Isolophobia trick?”. It paced up my trepidation, but I was already at the end. With some effort, I climbed up and got off the tunnel.
The tunnel opened into the Marvill Woods, a forest far away from the school. Except for the chirping birds and the gust of the winds, the woods was silent. Maybe this is not the tunnel through which they escaped? One of the misleading ones? I talked into the wireless to assess the situation of others. Nothing. No reply. Here I am, all alone in this dense forest. I looked around to find a way out, but a cloud of mist surrounded me. Despite some breathing difficulties, we advanced through that white mist. I tried hard to see the way but couldn’t really see anything. Fear and anxiety started to sweep over me as the world around me got darker and darker. Damn, my isolophobia! Suddenly something caught my eye. Is that a glow over there? Not just that. It was a window. It was something good to go upon. But it’s most probably the kidnapper’s hideout, under the given circumstances. To hell with them! I began moving towards the window.
As I got closer, the picture became more clear. It was a cabin. It reminded me of the many movies with a cabin in the middle of a forest. A cabin in the woods is always a spooky spot for horror movies. As I stepped in front of the door, a voice gave me a shrill shaking my entire body.
“Hey, Albert, are you there?”. It was Mr. Angston. Finally, the communication was restored!.
“Oh my god, you scared the shit out of me !” I said with a sigh.
“What is your position? We all got nothing here. Dead end.”
“My tunnel opened into the Marvill Woods. I found a cabin here. Seems someone is inside. There is light.”
“Marvill, huh? That forest is a crazy maze. We will catch up with you as soon as possible. You look around the house and try to find an opening. Be utmost careful. Remember that two lives are at stake.” Mr. Angsten cautioned me.
I went around the cabin to see their movements. Unfortunately, I couldn’t catch any. Surprisingly, the back door was ajar. Did they already escape? I went in quietly, only to see a horrific scene. In the bedroom, two dead bodies were lying covered in blood-soaked white sheets. A woman and a child! I approached and checked for any form of life left. None. Both of them were bludgeoned to death with a very sharp object. It didn’t take long to find what the object was, for there was a bloody pickaxe lying on the floor below them.
The disfigured woman was holding a mobile phone in her hand. I took the mobile phone and examined it. To my surprise, the mobile was recording audio. For nearly five hours. I stopped the recording and played it.
“Ma…mma,” a child’s voice.
“Call me again, my sweetheart,” a tender woman’s voice. I heard the sound of a door opening in the background.
“Honey, our son called me Mama. Come, come over here”, the lady said. There was some grumpy unclear noise in the background. Someone was walking, closing in. A door opened.
“Just who do you think you are !” it was a man’s voice. A voice that I heard before.
“Who are you?” the woman shot back. Just then, I recognized the man’s voice. It was the same voice that I heard in the receiver back then—the guy who called me to the school.
To my horror, two loud thuds followed the dialogues. Simultaneously, two loud cries. Repeated cruel blows and screams followed. Then, finally, I heard the pickaxe falling on the floor. I paused the recording, horrified.
What the hell happened here? So the terrorists (or one of them) killed these two and escaped? Or was he her husband? A secret lover? Ex? Although the woman called the man ‘Honey,’ she didn’t see him/them as the door was locked. If there was some way to know about these people…
I quickly went through their belongings. I could find an identity card. It belonged to the school, and the woman was a teacher in that school. Her name was Margaret Rovinson. Could it be? No, no… Suddenly, my receiver began making interference noises.
“Albert…” I recognized—that same voice.
“You, killer! Who are you? Where ever you are, I will find you, you moron !”
“Of course, you will,” said the man, laughing. “Who wouldn’t, if I killed their wife and child !”
A thunder passed through my heart. It was really them! The moment I saw her ID, I wished…that disfigured face not to be her. And my child… my son Erik!
“I swear upon God…,” started I, tearing up while holding my son’s hand.
“Nah, nah, that’s not just it,” said the killer, “There is another gift waiting for you, in that same cabin. Go ahead and open it.” Then, with a psychotic laugh, the call went off.
Desperately, I glanced across their faces. So disfigured like two wild kills that I couldn’t even recognize them. Controlling my tears, I communicated this information with others. Then, I began to search the cabin. And I found a locked room.
In front of me sat a kid on the chair turned against a mirror. I identified him without a doubt. Ben!
“My job is done !” he shouted to my surprise. It wasn’t the killer’s voice. However, it resembled that voice, like a younger version.
“It’s time for reflection,” said he as he disappeared into thin air. It gave way to my clear image in the mirror.
The me on the mirror had a slight variation. Blood on the hands! I looked at my hands. It was red in blood!
“You will not be you if you don’t do this treatment. You may do things in your episodes that you don’t even remember.” Voice of a typical doctor. Then the voices started to mix up into a mess, and it went all silent. Black.
“Albert, Albert! Are you there ??” cried the walkie-talkie.
I opened up my eyes slowly. I reached the receiver while still resting my head on the steering wheel. I was puzzled as to what happened. I replied, “Yes, sir.”
“You were absent yesterday. Where were you? Just now, someone found the bodies of a woman and a child in the cabin in the Marvill Woods. I want you to go there and find if it’s them. Better not get lost there. ” Mr. Angsten said.
I got down from the jeep and looked around—the Marville Woods. There, I saw a cabin up ahead. I walked into that cabin and saw the bodies. They were rotting with flies and a foul smell.
“I found the bodies, sir. They aren’t them. The heights don’t match. These were killed about a day ago, I think.” I reported. I stooped down to watch them closer. My eyes teared up¬…I finally remembered.
There were no terrorists. No attack. No tunnel. Just me having a nightmare. And it ends now.
Amidst the envelope of isolation, I removed the safety of my gun. Before I lose the last glint of sanity, I brought the gun to my head. Before I pulled that trigger, I recognized that boy. The body without a voice.
I recognized that voice. The voice without a body.
Mr. Albert Ben Rovinson’s voice. My voice.Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in