Becky readjusted her glasses as she read the papers. Another murder. A single girl strangled to death. The same red scarf. She sipped her coffee nervously as she read the whole news article in detail. The city was becoming a menace for single women like her. Her toast lay untouched on the table.
That’s getting cold you know, Eddie, the portly cafe owner remarked, as he walked past her to serve another customer. Becky was his regular for breakfast and dinner. And really was fond of the “kid” as he called her.
Becky rushed off from the cafe. She didn’t want to be late for work. She always took off her glasses when she stepped out on the road. She didn’t know why she did it. But that’s how it always was. She walked briskly towards her office.
The travel agency she worked in had 4 others working alongside her. In these days of Internet and self-bookings, business had been understandably slow. There were always fears of them shutting down. But then Mr Smith was a large hearted kind man. He would keep things going as long as he could. Becky knew how much he cared for each one of them.
As she sat on her chair she kept the folded newspaper on the table in front of her. As her laptop was coming on her glasses were back and she quickly checked herself on her mobile phone camera, pouting just once to check her lipstick. She smiled to herself as she admired the new shade she was wearing. It was time to begin work.
Becky’s routine hardly saw any change. Every day just seemed like the previous day, with the next day promising to be just the same. She wound up work around 7 and walked right back to the cafe for her regular dinner…black coffee and a couple of chicken sandwiches, before she walked back home. The entire journey from her office to the cafe and then to her single room apartment took her around 18 minutes. With another 15 thrown in for her dinner. She was usually in bed by 8.30, watching television.
The next few days went the same way.
And then again she read of yet another murder. Her coffee went down faster as her eyes followed the gory news of yet another similar murder in the newspaper. Eddie knew her toast would be uneaten again. He sighed as he walked past her engrossed in her paper.
It’s alright Ma, I’m only reading, Becky laughed out loud, making her colleagues look up at her from their work. It was unusual to hear a raised voice from her. They looked at each other and smiled as they heard Becky chat animatedly on her phone.
My mother thinks I am the next victim of his killer, she laughed at her colleagues, as she hung up. She thinks every single girl in this city is doomed, she said, her eyes twinkling. Her colleagues too laughed. But she’s right. You do need to be careful you know, Andrew said. Becky knew Andy had a thing for her. She smiled and went back to doing her job.
There were cops all over office. There were at least 5 of them in that small area. Some asking questions, others looking around the space for clues and fingerprints. Andy was a good man. Happily married. He had no enemies. Mt Smith sighed as he handed some documents to the cops.
Becky sat on her seat. Transfixed. She couldn’t believe the murders had come so close to her. Till now she had read about the victims as unknown people. This time it was different. It was not a single woman. But a married man instead. And someone known to her. Becky couldn’t even sip on her coffee that morning. These murders are really killing your appetite I see, Eddie growled as her breakfast lay untouched.
Mr Smith decided to close the office early that day. He was too shaken up by the events as were all the others in the office. I’m glad his wife never knew of his affection for you, Marjorie winked at Becky, trying to make light of the heavy atmosphere that pervaded in the office. Becky smiled back meekly, as she took off her glasses to walk out of the office.
She didn’t go to the cafe that evening. It was too early for dinner and she never liked anything to go out of routine. She went to the park nearby instead and sat on an empty bench. She watched the children play in the park and the sounds of their laughter seemed like a balm to her troubled mind. She smiled to herself as she watched them, feeling a sense of calm she thought she had lost. As the evening sun went down, she decided to walk towards the cafe for dinner.
I’ll have the pie instead, she told a surprised Eddie. And warm it nicely please. And get me a glass of warm milk tonight Eddie.
Eddie kept her revised menu dinner on her table, his surprise writ large all over his face. It was the first time in the last 2 years Becky was doing something outside her routine. I hope you’re ok, he whispered to himself as he left her table.
Becky looked at her in her mirror in the apartment. The new lipstick shade was something she had never used before. It had been a gift from Andrew. It’s for you my darling, were his last words as he embraced and pulled her closer to kiss her on the mouth in that lovely alley away from their office. He couldn’t say a word after that as Becky had rendered him speechless. First with her passionate kiss and then the cold steel knife that pierced him from the back. She loved the look of shock on his face as he struggled and fell face up in alley. Blood splurged out of his mouth as his eyes remained open and unfocused as his body went lifeless.
Becky didn’t want to waste a red scarf in him. She wanted to break the chain she had started a couple of years ago. A single woman who had ruined her mother’s life by taking her father away from his wife and daughter. All single women were the same Becky had reasoned. They must be done away with. Her mother being in the institution amused her at some level. Every-time she spoke to her she felt that she instead of her mother or maybe alongside her mother should also be there. Don’t worry Ma I’m fine, she’d told her Ma the night she ‘met’ Andrew on the alley. This one is for dad, she thought to herself. These married men, she shook her head as she smiled at herself in her mirror.
Becky opened her cupboard to throw Andrew’s purse which she had taken from him. She opened a drawer in the cupboard to keep it along with a few brand new red scarves that lay there. So much more work to do she sighed to herself as she closed the cupboard shut.
The next morning Becky sipped on her black coffee alternating her sips with a bite from her multigrain toast. Eddie was happy to see her eat without any “newspaper distraction”. That’s a good girl, he whispered to himself as he watched her eat properly, after a long time.
Becky took off her glasses as she walked towards her office. There seemed to be an extra spring in her step that morning.
The cops were clueless about the “single-woman killer”…now a married man had been added to the list. They had no way of even connecting the victims with one another. They continued their baffled investigation without making any headway, as life went on…
Copyright (c) Pratik Majumdar, 2021. Any article, story, write-up cannot be reproduced in its entirety or in part, without permission. URL links can be used instead.