Duncan was checking in when he saw Bones entering the hotel. Their eyes met; they pretended that they did not know each other. But the pretension couldn’t last for long.
‘It’s been a long time.’
‘Twenty years, five months and fifteen days,’ Duncan answered sullenly.
‘How come you recall it so precisely?’
‘How come you can’t?’
‘Did you meet Corbin and…….?’
They were not aware but Corbin and Jack too had checked into the same hotel.
None of them had even imagined that they would all be staying in the same hotel for one week. They had studiously not maintained any contact with one another for twenty years, five months and fifteen days.
They met in the bar; it was not a planned meeting. Each one had come to enjoy a quite leisurely drink, not knowing that others would also be there. They met reluctantly, their past weighing heavily on each one of them.
The conversation was desultory and difficult. They avoided any definite eye contact with one another; and there wasn’t even an oblique reference to the days gone by.
Suddenly Bones got up; he wanted to leave. At that very moment a woman, walking past their table, tripped. By a strange coincidence, she extended her arm towards Bones who instinctively grabbed it. She was lucky; she had avoided a nasty fall.
‘Thanks, what an awkward thing to do. You often help falling beauties.’ She looked straight into his eyes. Bones averted her gaze. All four of them looked at each other, sheepishly.
‘May I, if it’s not a bachelor’s party?’
‘It would be our pleasure….’ Bones almost mumbled.
They threw surreptitious glances at one another. Everyone was harbouring doubts in his mind. No one was even willing to indulge into pleasantries. But the woman seemed totally unaffected by their mysterious silence. She did not even wait for an invitation; she ordered a drink for herself.
‘What’s wrong with all of you? Meeting for the first time? I thought you were friends, no?’
No one answered; instead they quickly got busy ordering fresh rounds of drinks.
Slowly their past loosened its hold on their minds. They observed that not only was she very charming but she was also a pleasant person to talk to. But something about her was disturbing Corbin; she vaguely reminded him of someone else.
Either it was the intoxicating influence of her company or of the extra drinks they had, they began to talk of their past.
‘But you haven’t been meeting for last twenty years.’
‘Last time was precisely twenty years, five months and fifteen days ago,’ Duncan said rather sourly.
‘That’s the day the blue-eyed girl died; or did you all kill her?’
Her words stunned them.
‘No, it was just an accident. She threatened us; she had come of her own choice. Why would we kill her?’ Bones blurted. But the moment he uttered these words he realized he had blundered.
‘It was not an accident and you know that.’ Her words were painful like a whiplash on a bare skin.
Corbin looked around; the bar was almost empty. He looked at his watch it was past midnight.
‘Who are you? How do you know about that girl?’ Corbin asked in a slightly threatening tone.
‘Look at me; can’t you recognise me? I am the girl you killed that day.’
They could not believe what they had heard. Stupefied, they looked at her fearfully but they were unable to comprehend what she had said.
‘No, it can’t be; you can’t fool us.’ This was Jack.
‘We had burnt her body in the incinerator, although it was the most abominable thing to do. I have hated myself ever since,’ Duncan spoke vehemently and then he shrank into himself. Soon he was sobbing; he had carried the weight of his sins far too long.
‘How could you do such a horrible thing?’ the woman had tears in her eyes.
‘Who are you?’ Corbin’s eyes were burning with fear and hatred.
‘I am the dead girl’s sister, I have been tracking you for years; you are here because of me, not because of some stupid conference.’
She paused for a few moments. She glared at them and then said, ‘I wanted a confession before I killed you all.’
‘You can’t do that,’ hissed Corbin.
‘I already did.’
All four of them were stunned.
‘Your drinks were poisoned. You will not die tonight. But you will all die, surely.’ She looked towards the bar and smiled at someone on the counter.
You may like to read previous storiesA B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U