12/06/2015

Posted by Dr A in | 12/06/2015 No comments


CHAPTER I: THE DREAM


Jason and Helena were ready to jump at the count of 3 when the siren went off. Alarmed at the sound, they stood still staring at the police cars surrounding the building they were in.  The car doors banged open and shut as the police officers took their positions and a large net was put in place while the loudspeaker blared a warning "...you are under arrest..."

Standing on the top of the 10 story building, the scene below appeared like that out of a child's toyroom. With the heart pounding and numb brain, Helena realised that the game was over.  There was no escape,  no suicide only more suffering.  This thought made her wake up with a start and found herself drenched in sweat on her bed. 

"Darn! It was just a dream," she mumbled to herself.

Just then Aunt Becky knocked on the door with a breakfast tray. "Are you okay?" She asked with some concern.
"Yeah, just a silly nightmare," replied Helena.
"It's 10.00 am. Jason was here to see you earlier but I did not want to disturb you so I asked him to call you later," informed Aunt Becky.
"10.00 am! I overslept," Helena hurried towards the bathroom. "We have a meeting in an hour," she finished as she shut the bathroom door behind her.
"Atleast do have your breakfast," Aunt Becky stood up shaking her head, knowing very well that this was routine.

Helena was a pretty young blonde at 23 who worked with her collegue Jason, a goodlooking  25 year old lad. Both were private investigators and worked for a famous firm known for solving unusual cases.


CHAPTER II: THE ASSIGNMENT

"Right on time!" Remarked Jason as Helena entered their office an hour later." How do you manage to get up so late, have breakfast, look pretty and yet be on time?"
"Secret," whispered Helena with a twinkle in her eyes.
"Seriously, beats me", said Jason shaking his head.
"Aunt Becky said you had come over earlier today, whats cooking?"
"Nothing much. Just thought seeing your pretty face first thing in the morning might do me some good," Jason winked mischievously to which Helena punched him in the arm playfully.
"Getting to the point, we were assigned a case this morning," Jason revealed taking a chair at their work desk.
"Really?" Excited Helena asked sitting opposite him. "What is it about?"
"A bank robbery."
"A robbery? Why would they need us to investigate such a case?" Helena was puzzled.
"Apparently, it's more complicated than you think," supplied Jason as he leaned on the desk.
"I'm all ears," said Helena as she removed a notebook and a pen from her handbag.
"Few weeks back The Bluebird Bank was robbed by five people, all masked up. They managed to escape with 30 million dollars." Jason tapped on a newspaper article showing this bit of news. "Yesterday, a strange thing happened though. The bank manager got a call from apparently one of the robbers saying that he is ready to return the cash but in turn he wants the bank manager to kill five of his bank employees publicly without getting caught by the police!" 
"What? Jesus, is this guy a psycho?" Helena asked angrily. "What kind of demand is that anyways? If he wanted five people dead he could have done it himself while he was robbing the bank. Why now?"
"Exactly!  That's why we are in the scene", Jason clarified.  "The firm has been given the task to find out the real motive behind this demand and help the police catch the robbers."
"Hmm.." muttered Helena taking a deep breathe and somehow calming down. After thinking for a while she got to her feet and said , "Okay Jas, lets get down to work. " 

She went to the centre of their tiny office where a whiteboard with a marker stood. She began to jot down the facts in hand on the board, The Bluebird Bank, 5 robbers, dates, time, demand etc. She started discussing the possible reasons for such a demand.

Jason listened in silence.  He admired her the most when she worked her brain to the edge. She was logical and preferred to have all her ground covered. She was thorough in her work and clear of her concepts. Jason on the other hand, was an action freak. Young and dynamic, ever ready to combat if need be, he was the best out in the field their firm had. Together they made an excellent team that everyone in the firm admired.

After discussing all the plausibilities, they zeroed down to two: either the robber was a psycho serial killer or he had a grudge on the bank manager.  According to Helena, given the first scenario if the guy was indeed a serial killer than he might have killed his gang-mates by now and perhaps wanted to see some more bloodshed. In this case they were probably just looking for one very dangerous guy but if it was the other possibility,  than they were up against all five.

"What if he was just bluffing? He probably doesn't even have the cash, may be he is not even the robber?" Helena challanged. "Besides why would they still hang around weeks after the robbery, they might as well have left the town by now."

"You do have a point but that's not the case as the bank manager had a live video call with the masked robber who showed him the cash. The manager is pretty sure that it was the same guy from the bank robbery as he recognised a reddish mark over his left eyelid and the police verified this with the CCTV camera footage from the bank." Jason paused for a second before continuing, "From the day of robbery, the police have placed a tight security at every outlet of the town. So the robbers are forced to hide within the boundaries."

"What about their location?" Helena inquired.
"Negative, the guy is just too smart."
"Okay, so what's our plan of action?" Helena asked coming back to the desk and taking her seat.
"Before you got here, I managed to get the CCTV camera footage of the day of robbery. May be we should go through it before proceeding," Jason informed as he set up the player and pressed the play button.

After about 40 minutes of play and replay, both Helena and Jason stopped the player.

"Hmm, that was hardly informative but atleast now I can identify the reddish mark," said Jason.
"How much time do we have Jas?" Helena sounded serious.
"About 3 days. The robber wants the five people dead within 3 days from today."
"Poor manager, he is in hot soup. The police knows of the demand and hence he can't just kill people and get away with it. The irony is, the robber is also aware of this. Moreover, this is the only chance of recovering such a huge amount of money. What an unusual demand, isn't it?" Helena asked shaking her head.
"True. But it's our job to make sure that the cash is returned safely to the bank, the guys get caught and no one is harmed in the process." Jason emphasized.
"Tough job, but I love challanges," Helena said defiantly.  "I will go interview the bank manager while you try to get a lead on the robbers. What say?"
"Aye Aye Madam," saluted Jason jokingly.
"Ciao." Helena shouted back as she grabbed her bag and started towards The Bluebird Bank.


CHAPTER III: THE BLUEBIRD BANK. 


Located on the 4th street, this branch of The Bluebird Bank was recently inaugurated. It was one of the many branches spread across the country. The bank had a good reputation and many customers.

As Helena approached the bank, she noticed the neat car-park with few expensive cars. She parked her bicycle in the stand nearby.

It was a quiet neighbourhood mainly occupied by private bungalows, most of which were vacant at this time of the year. Many people travelled during the Christmas season. "Probably one of the reasons why this bank was an easy target for the robbers," she noted mentally.

Going through the glass doors and the security check, she noticed that the bank was spacious with several counters. Few customers were being attended to while others waited patiently in a comfortable looking lounge area.

Helena went to the help desk and explained the purpose of her visit. After communicating with the bank manager through the extension, she was accompanied to his office on the 1st floor of the building. She introduced herself and was offered a seat. The room was comfortable and self contained.

 *****        *****        

Fifteen minutes later, she was cycling down the street to a near by coffee cafe to exchange notes with Jason.     


CHAPTER IV: THE COFFEE DATE.

By the time Jason arrived, Helena had already finished a cup of coffee. 
"Sorry, I kept you waiting," he apologized as he took a seat opposite her and ordered coffee for both of them.
"No problem, I love coffee. So, got any leads?"
"Well, I got all what the police had gathered after the robbery but we need to review those evidences in a new light I believe," Jason said.
"They had found a cigarette lighter with this distinct print on it, said Jason showing the lighter's photo on his cell to Helena. "The police matched the fingerprints on it and found out that they belong to a Robert Van, from their database. According to the data, he is about 34 year old, a localite, arrested twice in two different robberies but walked free both times due to lack of evidence against him." Jason paused as the waiter brought their coffee. "They tried to trace him to his old hideouts, contacts and his residence but he is nowhere to be found. His accomplices in the previous robberies are all still behind bars."
"The police also found a key  with 'JZ' engraved on it. There were multiple fingerprints on it of which only one matched to a John Zuckerberg. Coincidently, he too is a professional robber, around 35 years of age, a localite, previously involved in five different robberies but always managed to walk away clean. He couldn't be traced back either." Jason sat back as he sipped his coffee. "So how did it go with the bank manager?"

"The bank manager sounded innocent and said that he has no enmity with anyone nor does he know why would anyone ask him to commit such a hideous crime. He is totally confused. He has no family and is 'clean' as per police records."

Helena continued to sip her coffee while she scrutinized the photos of the evidence. Suddenly her eyes brightened up. Jason knew that look, "Yes? What have we all been missing?"
"The key!" She exclaimed. "I've seen it before, but where?" She mumbled to herself racking her brain.
"Oh that!" Jason relaxed, "Well, the police said that it probably stood for the initials of the robber 'John Zuckerberg'."
"No. It's something else, we're missing it." Helena insisted unconvinced. "It's not the initials of the guy; but yes! They are the initials of a hotel," she cried all excited. 

Jason almost broke the cup of coffee as he put it down with force, all excited with the new lead. "Are you sure? How do you know?" He asked standing up as Helena had already left the bill amount on the table and was heading towards her bicycle.

Catching up on her, Jason heard her explain, "I've been to this old hotel in the outskirts of the town with my dad many times when we had our outings. I remember sitting on the cash counter as a child, playing with the hotel room keys with these initials. It's got to be it." She said excitedly as she mounted her bicycle.
"Wait now. You did mention outskirts right? You aren't really planning to pedal all the way, are you?"
Shaking her head Helena smiled, "No dumbo, I'm gonna leave the bicycle at home and ask you for a ride in your old jeep."
Jason grinned sheepishly as he headed for his jeep.


CHAPTER V: HOTEL JZ

Hidden among tall trees and shabby background, stood the JZ hotel building. One glance at it confirmed that it had seen better days.

The reception was old but spacious and almost empty except for an old woman at the counter. "How may I help you?" She inquired politely as the duo reached the counter.
"Hi, I am Helena, a private investigator and he is my collegue, Jason. We're here on a case and would like to ask you a few questions."

*****      *****

The wind had picked up the speed as Helena and Jason stepped out of the hotel about half an hour later. Helena checked her watch as she climbed in the car, "Drive to the birth records office", she said.
"What?" Jason was puzzled.
"You heard me right." Helena explained as Jason started the car engine.  "While going through the CCTV footage,  I had noticed that one of the robbers had an extra digit on his left hand. All of them were wearing gloves," she continued to clarify before Jason could interrupt her, "but when I zoomed in on one of the guys, I saw an extra digit silhouette and realised that he had a 6th finger in only his left hand."

"But why birth records office?" Jason asked suprised.
"The two robbers you had mentioned earlier were about 34-35 years of age and both were localites, chances are that these too could be about the same age and localites too. The birth records office keeps the records of all the birth marks like the reddish mark and an extra digit."

"Genius you are. Kill two birds with one stone. Wow, great going love." Jason was impressed.

The information from the receptionist had only added on to the positive photo identification of the guy with the reddish mark over his eyelid. Jason had taken his photo while going through the CCTV footage. The five robbers had indeed stayed at this hotel three weeks back and had checked out on the day of the robbery. The duo had thoroughly checked the rooms they had stayed in and except for a cigarette butt behind a sofa the room was well cleaned. Jason had collected the cigarette butt carefully for further examination by the forensic department. Helena had requested Mrs. Parson for her cooperation for the sketches of the five robbers, for which Mrs. Parson agreed readily.


CHAPTER VI: BIRTH RECORDS OFFICE

It was already 5:25 pm when they reached the birth records office. It wasn't their first visit here and Mr. Franklin was always happy to help them.

"Hi!" Greeted Jason, as Mr. Franklin dragged his nose outta the newspaper he was reading and looked up. An instant smile lit up his old wrinkled face, "Hey you two, how are you?"
"We're fine thank you and yourself Mr. Franklin?" Helena replied.
"Not bad, not bad. What brought you here today?"

Taking a seat opposite him, Helena said, "We need to get 34-35 year old birth records details. Can you please help?"
"Hmm, two years range could mean a lot of work," said Mr. Franklin thoughtfully.
"Umm, I am free now. I can help myself if you just show me where you keep the records." Helena volunteered.
"Yeah. Count me in too." Jason supported enthusiastically leaving Mr. Franklin little choice but to get up and lead the way to the shelf where the records were neatly maintained.
"I hope that this is official work." Mr. Franklin expressed his doubt.
"Of course, it is. You may confirm with our firm head or the local police," said Helena smiling sweetly.
"Best of luck kiddos," said Mr. Franklin gesturing towards the shelves stacked with rows of files with appropriate labels.

It took them about three minutes to decide where to begin, after which there was no stopping them.

"There it is!" Helena cried excitedly pointing to a page on a file she was holding. Jason moved closer and saw the record showing a photo of a newborn with a tiny extra digit on the left hand. The name of the baby read Ricardo Black. Quickly Helena took a picture of the record with her phone. They continued to search with more zest.

This time it was Jason's turn to exclaim, "Hey! I think this is our guy," he tapped on the file as Helena took it to see a face of a baby with a conspicous reddish mark 'hemangioma' over the left eyelid. The name of the baby read Mark Ethan. Again Helena took the picture of the records. The time on her wrist watch indicated 6:25pm. "Let's move," she said.

They thanked Mr. Franklin as they left the birth records office and headed towards the police station.


CHAPTER VII: AT THE POLICE STATION.


The drive took them about 6 minutes to reach the police station. The Cheif of Police ushered them into his office.  After the debriefing and submission of the ciggarette butt for further examination,  the Chief of Police congratulated both Helena and Jason for their good work.

"So now we have details of the four out of five robbers but what about the fifth guy? How do we catch them when we haven't unveiled all of them?"
"Worry not Chief, Mrs. Parson is with the sketch artist as we speak," Jason informed.

Just then the sketch artist along with Mrs. Parson and a police officer entered the office. The artist laid down on the table the sketches of the five man. All three took turns to look at the sketches while the Chief asked Mrs. Parson if she was sure that these were the men she had seen.

"I am positive that these were the men as I interacted with them several times," confirmed Mrs. Parson.

"Right then, cross-check them with our database and see if you can come up with anything," ordered the Chief.
"Yes, Sir," said the officer as he collected the sketches and left the room.
"Thank you Mrs. Parson,  you've been a great help. We'll let you know incase we need you again in future," said the Chief politely.
"It's my duty Sir, I'm glad I could be of some help," said Mrs. Parson with a smile as she left the room.
"I'll inform you Jason if we come up with anything. You two have a good day,"  the Chief said dismissively.
"Thank you Sir," said Helena as they walked out of the office.

*****     *****

"My stomach is growling," said Jason as they stepped out of the Police station.
"Mine too," agreed Helena realising that they had missed their lunch.
"Shall we go to The Avenue Park?" Jason asked.
"Perfect idea," Helena replied brightly.


CHAPTER VIII: THE AVENUE PARK

The Avenue Park was the usual hangout for the duos. Helena was a fan of Mr. Lambert's potato salad. They sat at their usual table and placed their order. Jason noticed that Helena was lost in thoughts, "Penny to your thought," he brought her back with the snap of his fingers.
"Hey, just thinking how the day went in a whirl. Never had imagined that we could progress so fast in such a short time," Helena expressed.
"Well, the best is yet to come."
Just then the waiter arrived with their supper. "Looks delicious," said Helena rubbing her palms together.
"No doubt," agreed Jason.

The supper was indeed delicious. The sudden ring of Jason's phone broke the silence. He attended the call as Helena finished her supper and wiped her hands clean.

"It was the Chief. He confirmed the identity of all five men. They are all on the police database. The sketches and all other evidences tallied. The ciggarette butt had fingerprints of Ricardo Black and a Jim Lord on them. The photos of all five have been circulated around and in media.  The police are also on the lookout. They should be found soon I believe," Jason said as he completed his meal and wiped his hands and mouth.

"What do we do meanwhile?" Helena asked.
"Wait, I suppose." Jason replied.

The watch showed 7:20 pm when Jason and Helena steped out of The Avenue Park. Their town was a small but well developed one. Word spreaded easily in such places. Both Jason and Helena had spent their childhood in this town and knew every nook and corner of it.

Helena called Aunt Becky to let her know of her possible late return and to reassure her that she did have her meal. Helena knew Aunt Becky loved her very much. She was her mother's sister. Helena's mother had died soon after the childbirth. Her father was an undercover agent working for the government and had to travel a lot.

"Hey, let's go window shopping," Helena said suddenly.
"Drat! Girls and shopping," Jason teased shaking his head.
"Oh common," Helena dragged him as they left the car in the parking lot and decided to loiter around in the nearby shopping mall.

An hour later, they were still loitering and having a good time when Jason's phone rang. After he was done attending it he whispered into Helena's ears, "Let's go." The duo left the mall in a hurry.

CHAPTER IX: THE CHASE

The two nipped on over to their vehicle. Jason briefly explained that the Chief had confirmed the location of the robbers. They were suspected to be hiding in an abandoned construction in the outskirts of the town. The five were seen entering the abandoned building a couple of hours ago by a lady living near by,  who had called the police. The address of the location had been texted to Jason so the two headed towards it.

It was already dark when they reached the site.  They could see the seven storey solitary building with noone nearby.  There were no police cars in sight.  Jason parked their car faraway and hidden from the building's view and they decided to walk to the building. Quietly,  they approached the silent dark building and made their way carefully, floor by floor.

Finally as they approached the 5th floor, they could hear some activity. Creeping slowly behind an incompletely constructed wall, Jason peeped and signalled 'five' to Helena who understood that all five robbers were indeed there. Jason ducked back and signalled a 'down' sign. Quietly Helena moved down the stairs. They found a safe spot to hide on the fourth floor. Jason texted the Chief of the situation in hand and their exact location. Jason also informed that he had seen three big bags probably containing the loot cash.

Jason had seen five big guys that greatly matched the sketches that were made by the artist. They were all seated and seemed to be having their dinner in the dim light.

About seven minutes later the police arrived quietly where the duos were hidden. Jason pointed upwards while the Chief asked them to stay put incase of open fire.

As quietly as they could, the police raided the 5th floor. The suprised robbers had little time to react, before they could understand anything they were arrested. There were a total of five bags full of cash which were opened and checked. The criminals were taken down as the duo climbed to the 7th floor which was actually a terrace.

The moon was shining brightly through the clear sky. Helena went to the edge and looked down with Jason on her trail. Suddenly the police siren went off, the building was surrounded by the police cars and officers in uniform. The five offenders were pushed in the cars and the doors were slammed shut. All these, appeared like toys from this height. At first Helena thought it was deja vu but a second later she recalled her dream that morning.

"Oh my God!" Indeed there is no escape only more suffering for the criminals," she whispered a chill running through her body.


******     ******

The police investigation had revealed that the guy with the hemangioma,  Mark Ethan, had a personal grudge on the bank manager. In one of his previous robberies he was arrested and put behind bars because of the timely police alert by the bank manager. Years later, the manager had been transfered to this branch and upon recognising him, Mark had decided to take revenge by mentally torturing him. He wanted to blackmail him into committing a crime that would put the manager behind the bars.




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