The 12 Slits

Darkness had swallowed the entire sky  hours after the sun dropped into the horizon, welcoming the horridly depressing night. It rained heavily, causing the wheels to lose traction over the slippery and narrow curves of the ascending slopes of Azibath.

“Is November always this bad, Inspector Freemont?” asked his assistant with a voice that was expressively dejected.

“It always is, Willy. Given a choice, I would work every day of the year in return for a holiday for these 30 dreadful days of this ungodly month,” replied Freemont.

The ascent vanished. The road was seemingly straight but neither of them knew how the road was ahead. The feeble distance that they could manage to see was guided by the headlight, which was overpowered by the depth and thickness of the dark night. The torrential fall of the rain made it worse.

Freemont was an inspector of a kind who had served the region for several years. He never kept a count, but his annual awards of excellence for which he cared only a little, did. Willy was new to his job and this was only his seventh case. First one under the guidance and leadership of the most popular and venerated Inspector of Azibath, Svent Freemont.

Freemont parked the car outside the humble house of the victim. He donned his coat, wore his hat and flicked his hand towards the house, indicating Willy to come along. They covered their heads with the enlarged collars of their jackets and made a quick run to the door. The rain fell like God’s wrath. It made Freemont lose his usual calm and relaxed temperament. He hoped that the victim’s family were not affected so. Willy rang the bell upon receiving a nod from Freemont.

A humble lady who was supposed to be in her late forties as per the records, opened the door. Her appearance was startling to both the men, but it was evident only from the naive face of Willy. Svent knew better than to react. Mrs. Lumen had a dry face, robbed of all the shine and fervour. Her hair was crispy grey that hung out from the edge of her forehead. There was no make-up on her face and her dress had a floral design over a false yellow background, illuminated by the gloomy yellow light at the door.

Freemont pulled his badge out from the inside pocket of his jacket. “We came as soon as we received the call Mrs. Lumen. I am assuming that you are the beloved of the victim.” Freemont was used to this kind of talk. Willy could barely speak. He intended to learn and get accustomed to situations like this. Willy was keen on leaving a good impression on his boss tonight. If not something right, Willy was determined to keep himself from making mistakes and lose credits.

The lady pointed to her right, towards a set of stairs that led to the cellar.

Willy took the first step in. He flicked on the lights and the stairs were lit up. Freemont and Willy were left to their business after Eva Lumen locked the door ahead of her. The cellar seemed to be equally dismal, washed with a dim yellow, highlighting the small plastic crates that dominated the space of the damp room.

“Alcoholism,” stated Willy instantly upon the smell of liquor all around the room. Freemont glanced at Willy, allowed himself a little smile and went ahead of him to discover the body. It was lying at the far end of the room, in the corner behind a table that seemed like the point where Greg immersed himself into the bottles of misery. The body sat in the corner with his head sunk inside the chest as if it were going to snap and separate itself. The huge body of Greg lay helpless, and despite the carvings he had gone through, he seemed to be at peace.

Willy stepped forward boldly. The pool of blood that surrounded the fat body did not disgust or repel him for he has witnessed quite some blood from the crime-infested neighbourhood of his childhood house. He dug himself closer to the victim’s mouth and confirmed that he stunk of alcohol. He removed a small notepad out of his jacket and made notes of every information he found relevant. “Multiple knife grazes on both the hands and a bloody knife in his chubby lap,” muttered Willy as he made his notes. Freemont made some points and observations with an ease that determined his prowess in detection. A skill as necessary as an observant eye is to a painter.

They returned back to the door, and took an appointment for the next day for further investigations and both took her leave with a heavy and sympathetic heart. The weather had cleared, but the mystery had not.

“What do you think of the death, sir?” asked Willy with a voice that expected an impressive answer from the Master in the art of crime solving.

“Nothing exceptional, young man. Nothing exceptional at all,” replied Svent in a gentle demeanour. Willy could see a faint smile on Freemont’s face under the glowing half-moon that soothed the chilling events of the uneventful night.

The clock hit ten when Svent and Willy left for further investigation on the matter. Willy sipped his habitual morning coffee as they glided through the sunny and comfortably cold day in Azibath. Willy was on a mission to knock as many doors as he possibly can in a day to acquire information on Greg Lumen. It was a small village, where everyone knew everyone. It wouldn’t be luck in case every person Willy met would have a word or two about Greg. Svent assigned himself to the victim’s family.

The house appeared very different to Freemont under the radiance of the glowing sun, washing its yellow all over the house, casting a long shadow to its right. Mrs. Lumen opened the door with the exact same expressions that marked her face last evening. The depth of her pain was unimaginable. The acrid smell of freshly fried fish hung in the entire house that was cramped between the dried and worn off light bluish walls. The furniture looked ancient and there was nothing adorning the furniture. The interior of the house spoke of the abject impecuniousness that burdened over the remaining two Lumens.

Eva found a wooden chair where she laid back, with her eleven year old boy around her left arm. The boy wore a plain white shirt with holes at its armpits. Both of them. His sparkly green eyes spoke of the loss of understanding of the sudden gloominess that was infused in the environment around him. He looked at Freemont with despair.

“I understand the depth of your loss, Mrs. Lumen, but you know I have to do this.”

Eva and the young boy, Ellain sat obediently in front of the inspector and tried to be of his assistance.

“An autopsy is due, still, Mrs. Lumen. You would be the first to know about the report. I am sorry for your loss. I wish you the best.” Svent’s heart was sunk into the pool of emotions, but he knew better than to let that empathy interfere with his usual poised judgement.

At the end of the day, Freemont was with half as much material than Willy. Eva spent most of the investigation with a fatal silence while the kid knew and said nothing about the ongoing confusion. Willy gathered information from several villagers, which gave him information that filled a bunch of pages that he had meticulously written with a crisp handwriting. Freemont gathered the notes with him to his home and instead of choosing a comfort of his wife’s presence, Svent approached his work table, flicked the lamp on and spent the next few hours studying every note that Willy had collected with an honest zest. It reminded him of his early days in this job. Mrs. Freemont allowed herself to the bed after kissing Svent on his cheek, leaving him focussed at his work.

Svent hoped to find a clue about the people who might be involved or a reason why Greg had several cuts in his hands. Notes from the neighbouring bar that Greg frequented framed Greg as a loner. They understood him as a desperate gambler and an incessant drinker. But, they assured that he was not disliked by anyone there and there was no reason why anyone would want to kill that poor man with a lovely little boy. Some friends at the same bar who seldom drank with Greg knew a little more about him. Being thrown out from the former job, his drinking buddies were concerned about his growing loss of self-confidence and self-esteem. Few years ago, he was among the best looking man among all, desired by women all across this little village. The pride that devoured him upon the realization of his own beauty started to eat him in every aspect of his life. Willy managed to attach an old picture of Greg from few years ago that documented the proof that he had one hell of a personality that must have left several women drooling over him. Svent felt the pity for the man.

Greg’s pride sent him experimenting his charm and he started seducing women. It started with one, ended with a number that he left the count of. He thought his wife did not know, and perhaps she didn’t; his drinking buddies expressed with a doubt. The root of his following misery was pointed towards his job. The job that he loved. It was all about computers and he was good at it. Willy inquired the company that expelled Lumen. “He started to behave oddly. He was bloated with a rising proportion of arrogance, which was fine as long as he did his job. But, then, he didn’t. His focus was unpleasant and disturbing. His aggravating haughtiness sent him resorting to a language that spoke of the loose grip he had on his own character. People started to dislike him. Not one, but all, except for himself.” The employer cut him loose before he plagued the entire company with his greed for a lionizing treatment.

As bad as Freemont felt about the anticlimax of Greg’s life, and the following misery for his family, he concluded this case as a mere suicide. The dejection post the loss of job, frequent resorting to various women in order to gain his self-esteem up, which went in the exactly opposite direction, obsession over gambling and alcohol left him deprived of all the money and hope and he chose to end his life. He delivered the news to Mrs. Lumen, attended the humble funeral and prayed for a bigger quantity of hope in human beings.

15 years later

The sun was shining on the brilliant day at the beach in a Greek summer day. A couple much younger than him was packing up their sun bathing materials back with them. He saw them kiss one another, as they retreated from the sandy beach, Svent saw those sparkly green eyes that he knew he had seen before. He approached the couple, the young man in his prime, to be specific, and before he introduced himself to the young man, the young man had a smile on his face and was delighted to see Mr. Freemont after several years.

“Mr. Freemont,” said the man with an evident excitement. “I am Ellain. Ellain Lumen.”

Those sparkly green eyes were full of life today and Svent experienced a rush of emotions as the case of the alcoholic came back in front of his eyes, playing like a movie that he had seen fifteen years ago with vivid memories of the cold and rainy November night.

“It is such a surprise to see you here, Ellain…Lumen,” responded Svent, unaware of how to return the greeting, at an absolute loss of words.

“Mr. Freemont, you will forgive me, but my wife and I are in a hurry, but how would you like to join us at breakfast tomorrow at eleven?”

“My wife isn’t here, but I am assuming that she has nothing better to do tomorrow, so, count us in, son. There is a lot of catching up to do, I sense.” Svent shook hands with a man who had transformed ever so gracefully from that clueless little boy that he had met so long ago.

Following day, at the breakfast, Ellain and Freemont chatted up incessantly, almost ignoring their spouses. Ellain’s wife was a pretty blonde lady who asked if Mrs. Freemont would like to go for a walk on the sandy beach in the perfect summer sun after finishing up the slices of freshly toasted bread. Mrs. Freemont acknowledged and they left the men with the reminiscence of their early case.

“I sense you have several questions to ask Inspector Freemont,” started Ellain with a gentle smile.

“It is Senior Inspector now, son. And yes, I cannot help but ponder about how these fifteen years were for the both of you. I am curious to know all about it.”

“It is just me now, Mr. Freemont. My mother succumbed to a malignant tumour eight years after my father died. My mother’s health went south after the father’s incident. She spoke little, did little and lived by herself. As if something ate her up from inside. God forgive me, but I am glad that the life of misery ended for her. I imagine those eight years were hellish for her.”

“It hurts to see your loved ones suffer, indeed. How did you manage to live up to this day, Ellain?” Svent had an authentic concern for the young man.

“My life was supported by the relatives from my father’s side. We apparently had nothing to give or spend, I am sure you remember that. This story changed drastically when she passed away and I inherited what my mother had for me. My father had a will in my mother’s name, which he had inherited from his exceptionally rich father. His father had fortunately written both my parents as heirs to his abundant wealth. As a clause, if one of my parent passed away, the other would inherit his or her share. So, in this case, my mother had received a significant amount of money in form of cash and assets. When my father was out drinking and wasting himself, my mother shrewdly slipped his share of money to her account for all the twelve years of their marriage. She tried to save as much money as she could from my father, instead of letting him burn it over alcohol and bets. He lost the job because of his attitude, he cheated on her, sometimes treated her like an animal, but she swallowed it all for me. She did not let her anger over my father affect me. But, the suppression of emotions to this level ate her whole. She died of it. She never used the money she had. In absence of my father, if my mother had spent the money, questions would have been raised over the mysterious source of her income and money being evil, she did not want a shadow of evil over me until I learnt what money meant. I could base this assumption from the values that she tried to teach me all her life. As I inherited that money, first thing I did was repay my relatives who supported us for all these years,spent a part of it to provide a funeral that she deserved and spent the other money in a small business, which now is big enough to endure me and my future generations. That is where I met this lovely woman, who is taking a stroll on the beach with your kind wife.”

Svent felt the hardships of the brave mother who raised the child with enough love and care. She was successful in instilling the right virtues in her son at the cost of her life. “I would be very glad to assume that you have allowed the memory of the tragic incidences in your life to build yourself, and not disturb you.”

“There is one thing that disturbs me, Mr. Freemont.”

“What is that, son?”

“On the evening when my father died, my mom came to my room and woke me up. She was awfully calm and was in a shock. She muttered these words to me that bother me every night: ‘It is over, Ellain. It is over. One slit for every hellish year of the marriage.’ Who knew it was her all the time, Mr. Freemont?”

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