The cold mountain breeze caressed her cheeks and tossed her golden locks playfully. She tried to shove the rebelling strands behind her ears, but failed. Then having finally reconciled, Cynthia gazed at the narrow serpentine road, as it coiled its way through the hills, stretching far beyond. Not a soul in sight. Not that she was surprised. It wasn’t the first time Cynthia was visiting this place. In fact, this little point surrounded by the snow covered hills and overlooking the emerald green river had been her favourite spot since she was 13.
She was 22 now, but the place hadn’t changed a bit. It was still as calm, serene and isolated as it was back then. The occasional cawing of the ravens and the rustle of the elephant grass that covered some areas of the hill were the only sounds that resounded. Cynthia felt an inexplicable sense of tranquillity whenever she dropped by here. And she did so quite often.
But, today seemed a little different. There was an eeriness to the whole place that aroused a sense of unknown dread in Cynthia. She shuddered all of a sudden, breaking out in a cold sweat, as a new and growing fear now began to overwhelm her. Cynthia felt she was being watched.
But in the very moment her thoughts shifted to him. And spontaneously, her fears subsided, her body now submerged in a wave of warmth that made her cheeks blush and her heart flutter.
Stephen – how she missed having him around, with her. She still remembered the day when she first laid her hazel brown eyes on him. It was her fourth day in her new work place, The Gilbert English Grammar School, as an English teacher and Stephen’s first. Cynthia recalled how Mr Brian Redfield, the senior school Mathematics teacher, introduced him to everyone in the staff room.
‘A very good morning to all of you. Looks like we have another new addition to our Gilbert School fraternity and believe me, this one is exciting! ’ announced Mr Redfield, with a deliberate pause. Disappointed that nobody in the staff room shared his excitement or bothered to bombard him with inquisitive questions, he continued, ‘Well for some time we have been looking for a music teacher and it looks like our search has finally come to an end.’
Cynthia was observing the new entrant with an almost childlike curiosity. She had been unable to turn her gaze away from the young man since the time he had set foot into the room. No, he was not anything close to being a Greek God. No rippling muscles, thrusting out to be noticed from under the sleeves of his plain white shirt. No sideburns… no tan. The height was above average but he wasn’t exceptionally tall.
But one look into those gorgeous light brown eyes would make any sane girl go weak in her knees. They were like two dark pools, mystifying, deep – yet inviting.
When Mr Redfield called out her name, Cynthia turned away her gaze abruptly. Her heart was pounding and she could feel her cheeks flush in embarrassment. ‘Cynthia, since you are a new appointment too, it is only likely that you two will be able to share your anxieties as well as your excitement with each other. And if you both ever need any help, we the staff of Gilberts are always there to help you both. ’ declared Mr Redfield reassuringly.
Cynthia struggled to bring her lips to smile. She felt like a guilty child caught stealing sugar. She could only pray that Mr Redfield had not noticed her ogling Stephen so unabashedly. The latter was listening attentively to the senior Mathematics teacher, and responded occasionally with a shy smile.
It was only when Mr Redfield had finished speaking, that Cynthia relaxed her muscles. It was then she felt it. From a corner of her eye, she could sense Stephen’s penetrating stare. Cynthia felt her heart flutter like a trapped bird.
As she inched forward to her desk, averting his warm gaze, she felt a hand on her shoulders and shuddered. ‘Oh, my…I am sorry if I scared you dear!’ said Mrs Brown , her already wrinkled face now creasing further, apologetically. Then without waiting for Cynthia’s response she continued, ‘I just wanted to ask you if would be kind enough to let me borrow your pen for a day. That is, of course, if you have two. You know I seemed to have lost mine somewhere.’ ‘Yes, of course, you can have it if you please’, replied Cynthia, smiling at her. Then she bent down to open the drawer of her desk and took out a pen, handing it over to Mrs Brown, who seemed very grateful.
As she watched Mrs Brown scurry past the door, into the corridor, Cynthia felt her discomfort returning. Stephen who was the only other person left in the staff room, sat on his newly acquired desk flipping through the pages of the school rule book.
Just as Cynthia was about to dig herself into her English textbook, she heard a voice, above her. When she looked up, Stephen was standing next to her desk. ‘Hi…’, he spoke louder than before. For a second, she felt lost. Then having regained her composure, she spoke in a do-not-disturb-me-I-am-busy tone, ‘Ehh.mm…Hi…’. This didn’t seem to dissuade him as he went on to enquire, ‘Would you be free for a coffee sometime soon?’ Cynthia wanted to ask, ‘Do I look free to you?’, but when she opened her mouth to speak, the words that came out were, ‘Yes, I am for the next two hours.’
A rustle of leaves, behind her brought Cynthia back to the present. She froze.
He crouched behind the bushes, eyeing her. She was sitting on a rock, lost in thoughts, blissfully unaware of the danger that lurked around. ‘She is beautiful’, he thought, letting out a sigh. But in the very next moment his expression hardened.
His mind wandered off to the day he first saw that pretty face. It was a photograph of her, actually. ‘Wow! She is gorgeous …’, he exclaimed, unable to tear his eyes away.
‘Unfortunately, all things beautiful have to come to an end some day!’ his boss had said, mocking a frown. As he stared back at the picture, he could not help feel a little sympathetic – an emotion hitherto unknown to him.
She seemed to have sensed it, for she snatched the picture away from his hand and glared at him. After a long pregnant pause, she started speaking, in a carefully measured tone, ‘So you know what to do now. You have five month’s time but not a day more. Is that a deal?’
‘Well…uhh…. I …. I need some time to..’, his voice trailed off when he saw his employer signing a cheque in his name. He was blinded by the number of zeros in the amount filled against his own name.
He no longer wished to linger on the subject. The decision was made.
Cynthia’s grandfather stared at the clock, worried. His granddaughter had been away for quite some time now. She had promised to be back by five in the evening, but it was almost past six now and there was still no sign of her.
As he paced up and down the hallway, his anxious eyes were drawn to the row of family portraits that adorned its medieval walls. Just as he was inspecting them, with unusual interest, his eyes came to rest on one particular family portrait.
This one looked relatively new, while its neighbouring frames were now beginning to show some signs of wear and tear. There was a man in his early thirties, with a round face, puffy eyes and flowing moustache, sitting beside a petite yet graceful looking young woman in her early twenties. And in between this odd looking couple, was sitting an adorable little girl, about three years old, with a smile that seemed to light up the whole picture. Mr Sullivan placed a palm of his hand gently on the picture of the little girl, his eyes moist with tender affection.
Roger Sullivan, Cynthia’s grandfather had been born with a silver spoon. By the time he was 18, he was the sole heir to a vast business empire set up by his father and grandfather. And in the manner that was expected, he planned to pass on his legacy to his only son, Ralph.
But Ralph was nothing like his father would have wished him to be. He was a compulsive alcoholic, who shirked all his responsibilities, including that of being a single parent to his daughter Cynthia. Ralph’s wife had passed away in child birth. As a toddler, Cynthia spent most of her time with her grandpa, walking the streets, eating ice creams and playing scrabble.
But all this changed when Ralph remarried. His new wife, Alicia, who happened to be his former secretary, sent her away to a boarding school.
And Cynthia would have continued to stay there had it not been for the untimely death of her own father-Ralph. It was an apparent suicide, but Mr Sullivan had his doubts. The death of his only son, albeit an alcoholic, shattered him, but the fears that came to haunt him after that made life miserable. So frightening were the thoughts that begin to torment him, that he decided retire to his lonely mansion in the countryside. Only this time, Cynthia clung to his side.
It was time, he decided. Without wasting another moment he stood up and stretched his muscles. Having inspected the surroundings one last time, he crept out of the bushes, walking stealthily in her direction. She had her back turned to him. It couldn’t get more convenient. There wouldn’t be any witnesses in this God forsaken place. It would all be just an accident. A slight imbalance of the feet, a loss of grip….. He was only an inch away… He closed his eyes and just as his hands touched her body, she wounded around. He opened his eyes, and saw her staring down at him, her mouth agape.
Mr Sullivan felt exhausted. He walked up to his medicine cabinet and quickly gulped down a pill that the doctor had prescribed him along with a glass of water. Then he walked back slowly and reclined on his armchair, rocking to and fro. He must have been half asleep when he was woken up by an excruciating pain in his chest. He groaned in agony as he could barely breathe. Within seconds he was drenched in his own sweat. Panting, he tried to call for help, but no voice escaped his throat. Clenching his chest, he struggled to get up, but realizing the effort it required, slumped back on his chair.
As his eyes began to shut, and his vision blurred, he could vaguely make out a female form watching him from the shadows. By the time he recognised her, it was too late…..
‘Aww…Stephen I missed you so much!’, cried Cynthia as she wrapped her arms around him. Stephen did not move. ‘But how did you find out I am here?’ she questioned. ‘Any way, I am so glad you are here!’ she said, her face beaming as she hugged him even more tightly. But Stephen just stared blankly at her, contemplating his next course of action. He knew this moment of weakness might prove to be disastrous for him. Nothing made sense to him when she was around. Her soft brown eyes were so bewitching. He felt ensnared by her innocent charm.
He had been smitten by her ever since his first day at Gilbert’s. He had seen her watching him from the corner of her eye while Mr Redfield was giving his speech. And then, when everyone else had gone to their respective classes leaving the two of them together, he decided it was time to act.
Mustering courage, he had asked her out to the school canteen for coffee. And although she didn’t look too pleased with the offer, she had – albeit reluctantly – agreed. Stephen had crossed the first barrier.
But his feelings for Cynthia were anything but professional. And they only seemed to grow deeper (much to his own frustration) especially after Mrs Brown’s unfortunate accident.
The poor old lady had apparently lost her footing and rolled down the steep flight of stairs at Gilbert’s. Such was the force of the fall, that by the time she reached the landing on the ground floor she had been long dead. Cynthia was utterly shocked by the event, which was not surprising in the least. It had been only a week since she had joined the school, but in this short span the two women had developed a wonderful equation, and to Stephen it seemed that Cynthia had started looking upon Mrs Brown as her own mother. Hence, the unfortunate news of her sudden death had left Cynthia heartbroken and morose.
Following that day, Stephen and Cynthia had become inseparable. Stephen, of course, had to remind himself from time to time that all this was just an act and not be taken seriously. But the heart often does its own bidding and the more time he spent with Cynthia, the more he craved for her company.
The constant phone calls from his ‘boss’ served as a reminder for him to stay focused. And very soon he got her to sign the documents as well. He had cleverly concealed them among the papers that Mr Patrick, the office clerk had given him, to be filled in and signed by each member of the teaching faculty. When it was Cynthia’s turn to sign, Stephen quickly snatched the papers from her and pretended to read each one of them out aloud, only returning them to her for her signature, which she did without a speck of suspicion on her beloved Stephen.
Once he was back in his room that day, he rang up his boss to give her the good news. Later in the evening ,as he slouched on his couch, he read to himself the contents of the document according to which Cynthia was aware of health problems that plagued her and made her unfit to fulfil her obligations as a Director of ‘The Sullivan Enterprises’, the company run by her forefathers. Hence, she deemed it proper to donate her shares in the company to her widowed step mother Alicia Sullivan, and appoint her as one of the directors of the company.
It was Cynthia’s voice that shook Stephen out of his reverie. One look into those deep soulful eyes and all his doubts vanished into thin air. Hesitatingly, he confessed everything to Cynthia, who stood staring back at him as if hit by a lightning bolt.
Alicia Sullivan looked down at the cold lifeless body of her father-in-law as she held up his wrist and examined it. It did not require a degree in medicine to know that nothing in the world could revive Roger Sullivan from the dead. She picked up the phone and dialled a number.
Stephen spoke into his phone, as Cynthia watched, wide eyed. ‘No, it did not…I mean …I could not..There is errr…. a problem. Could we meet right now? Yes…the same place. No, she is gone. I shall be waiting for you….’ The engaged tone told him she was already on her way. So he hung up.
As Stephen observed the perplexed expression on Cynthia’s face, he smiled reassuringly.
Then cupping her warm face in his hands, he kissed her gently on her lips, and before he knew it, she was kissing him back, first softly, then vigorously. Flames of wild passion swept through both of them as they were entangled in a sensual embrace. As she leaned against him, her heaving bosom against his own pounding chest, Stephen realized how much he had longed for her touch, how much he had desired her. He let himself loose in this magical moment. As he pressed his lips gently on the nape of her neck, he felt tingled by the lingering scent of her golden locks. He could sense her body quiver with excitement at his touch. Her soft moans intoxicated his senses, consuming him. Every ounce of flesh in his mortal body wanted to possess her, to love her, to belong to her.
His heart had won this battle. And now he was waiting for the moment when it would all be over and done with.
Just then, he heard the horn of a car. Moving away, he saw a black Mercedes screech to a halt on the narrow road behind them. Cynthia hid behind the bushes, just as he had asked her to. He would sort this out, now and forever, he had promised her.
Alicia Sullivan rushed to the spot, looking dishevelled and very unlike her usual prim and proper self. ‘What went wrong now? Weren’t you supposed to kill her?’ she interrogated, without a sign of remorse. Just as Stephen was about to explain, Alicia climbed up the nearest rock overlooking the deep dark valley. Then letting out a sigh, she continued ‘It has been a horrible day today. Nothing seems to be working in my favour. Cynthia is still alive. And….Roger Sullivan is dead! Cardiac arrest my foot! I know…’, her voice trailed off when she saw a figure moving out of the bushes and sprinting in her direction. And before she could make sense of what was happening, she was in the air, falling headlong towards an inevitable death.
As the Doctor examined the medicines from the bottle that Sergeant Lewis had discovered in Mr Sullivan’s medicine cabinet, his face turned pale. ‘Is everything alright?’ enquired Inspector Giles, inquisitively. ‘Well, it is not actually. The bottle that Sergeant Lewis found has the label of the medicine Roger Sullivan was supposed to be having in order to lower his blood pressure.’ replied the Doctor. ‘Supposed!’ exclaimed Inspector Giles, clearly not amused by the Doctor’s choice of word. ‘Dr Joseph, may I know what you mean by the word ‘supposed’ ..? ’ asked the Inspector, thereby making it clear that he was not interested in any guessing game.
Dr Joseph drew out a long breath as he stood up from his chair. Then walking up to the Inspector, he whispered ‘I meant exactly what you understood Inspector. The bottle is the same, but the medicines inside are not. Somebody intentionally switched Mr Sullivan’s original medicines with these pills, thereby causing the cardiac arrest and his resultant death. Inspector Giles, Mr Roger Sullivan did not die naturally, he was murdered!’
Stephen froze in his tracks horrified. Everything had happened so suddenly and in such quick succession, that he had no time to act. Only twenty minutes ago, he had called Alicia Sullivan, his employer, to meet him, so he could apologise to her for failing in his final mission and tell her that he wanted to withdraw from the contract as he found himself in love with the very person he was entrusted to kill. He knew she may not have agreed easily in which case he resolved to return her the advance he had received for his job.
And now here he was witnessing her murder at the hands of the girl he loved. Stephen had never found himself more helpless in his life. Then as though he gained back his senses all of a sudden, he shouted ‘Cynthia’. But even as he did so, he knew it was too late. Alicia Sullivan must have hit her grave by now.
He watched Cynthia’s dark form as she stood at the edge of the cliff, her whole body quivering like a leaf. ‘Oh my God, what just happened!, cried Cynthia, looking like a ghost, under the pale gleam of the moonlight. Her eyes were open wide as she stared down into the deep dark valley, aghast. The colour had escaped her otherwise beautiful face, which was now ridden with fear and anxiety.
Stephen leaned forward, taking Cynthia is his arms. He was just about to kiss her on her forehead, when all of sudden he sensed something wrong. Cynthia’s body felt oddly frigid and distant. And then, in the very next moment she had pulled away from him. Baffled, Stephen strained to discern the expressions on her face. What he saw left him dumbfounded.
Cynthia’s soft earthly features had hardened. There was something queer about her face, something unusual – something cold. Her eyes had the glint of a lunatic and were rather unsettling. ‘Cynthia…’ Stephen whispered as he inched closer. But the face staring down at him now was nothing close to the one he had been kissing just a while ago .
‘Cynthia is not here’ she spoke in a voice Stephen hardly recognized. ‘I am Rebecca’, she announced, her face contorted in a smirk.
Inspector Giles was drinking his morning tea, as he examined the medical reports sent to him by Alicia Sullivan the previous evening after their phone conversation, just after she discovered Roger Sullivan’s dead body. He was lost in the medical details therein when his phone rang.
It was Sergeant Lewis. Alicia Sullivan had fallen to her death from a cliff in the Rockford region, a rather isolated part of the quaint town. Her car, a black Mercedes had been discovered there this morning by a shepherd, who then reported the matter with the local police. After a wild search, led by Sergeant Lewis, her body was discovered (if it could be called one) in the valley below. Initial reports suggested that Mrs Alicia may have accidentally slipped and fallen to her death.
But Giles knew otherwise.
Inspector Giles stared down at the corpse in the mortuary. The eyes were almost out of their sockets in an expression of shock making the body of an otherwise handsome man, look scary and unnerving.
As Giles inspected the body further, he saw three deep ugly gashes, probably caused by some sharp weapon, in the chest region, one of them directly above the heart which may have led the young man to his untimely death.
Inspector Giles lingered around for a while, trying to reconstruct the crime scene and picture the events preceding the murder. Frustrated at being unable to arrive at a clear conclusion, he was just about to leave, when his eyes were momentarily blinded by the reflection of some shiny object on the wall. As he turned to see the source of the reflection, he was taken aback. From the gap between the fingers of a clenched fist of the dead man, he spotted something glittery.
Giles tried to open the fist to reveal the object but the fingers refused to budge, owing to rigor mortis. ‘No wonder nobody noticed it till now’, he mused. After few minutes of patient struggle, he pulled it out with a victorious grin. It was a diamond encrusted locket, shaped like a heart. It did not take him too long to remember where he had seen the locket before. ‘Aha!’, exclaimed the inspector pocketing the pendant as he dashed out of the door into the corridor. Stephen’s naked corpse lay in wait for its ultimate execution.
As Inspector Giles stared the picture of the teenager in the medical file, he couldn’t contain his excitement. The picture may not have boasted of great clarity, but it was proof enough. His mind replayed the events of the day Mr Roger Sullivan was murdered.
He was idling away in his office when he received a phone call from Mrs Alicia Sullivan, the widow of Ralph Sullivan and the Director of ‘The Sullivan Enterprises’. She informed him about the death of the Senior Sullivan, while providing him with valuable inputs on the case. She let him know that she suspected foul play and that her father in law was murdered by his own granddaughter.
However, this the Inspector doubted to be a ploy to misguide the police and malign Cynthia Sullivan’s character so that she, Alicia Sullivan, could be the whole and sole beneficiary to the Sullivan legacy. But Alicia refused to give up and went on to claim that she had evidence to prove that Cynthia Sullivan had been diagnosed with mental problems ever since she was thirteen, and would send a copy of the same to him for his perusal which she did without delay .
Little did Inspector Giles know then that it was the last he would ever hear from Mrs Alicia Sullivan.
‘Ah’, sighed the Inspector. ‘I guess she had been right all the while!’ he continued as he placed the medical reports on his desk.
The picture of a thirteen year old girl peered out from one of the pages of the open file. She was wearing a silver chain around her neck, with a pendant in the shape of a heart.
Psychiatrist Dr Joel Wilson was known to be an affectionate person but she had no sympathy for murderers. But Cynthia was different. She had never come across a more docile subject in her entire medical life. When she was first brought to the clinic, Dr Joel thought that the police and the judiciary had made a mistake. In fact she would have retained that belief till she began Cynthia’s Psycho analysis. It was on her third sitting, during a session of hypnosis that she first met Rebecca. But it took another week’s sitting for her to bring Rebecca to the forefront and make her confess to her crimes.
Before long she concluded that Cynthia was a victim of Dissociative Identity Disorder, formerly referred to as the Multiple personality Disorder or Split Personality. Rebecca was Cynthia’s alter ego, a diametrically opposite personality state with a whole and distinct set of individual traits. It was probably Cynthia’s unhappy childhood , the absence of her real mother, her father’s alcoholism and her step mother’s indifferent attitude which may have contributed to her present mental state. But then again this was just a hypothesis.
Cynthia’s case was not uncommon in the field of psychiatry. It was as though another completely different individual was sharing the same body along with Cynthia ; gradually taking control over the latter’s body, behaviour and actions.
Surprisingly, even after so much had transpired, Cynthia remained blissfully unaware of Rebecca’s presence or the repercussions. Although she was faintly aware of an illness that haunted her. This was due to the memory lapses she experienced almost every day, sometimes for hours, when she failed to recollect her activities during a particular time of the day or night.
It was during these hypnotic sessions that Dr Joel gradually learnt that Roger Sullivan had not been Cynthia’s first victim.
Cynthia was 13 when her illness was detected and her father was informed. When Ralph Sullivan, her father telephoned her to visit him, she suspected something amiss. When Rebecca reached his office the next evening she overheard his plan to begin her treatment at a famous psychiatric hospital. Alarmed and scared that Cynthia’s treatment might pose a threat to Rebecca’s existence and perhaps wipe her out altogether, she decided to eliminate Ralph.
That night Ralph was found dead in his cabin, poisoned. On the basis of circumstantial evidence, it was declared a suicide. And who would suspect a 13 year old for murdering her own father?
But it was not until her next crime that she began to relish it. Mrs Brown was Cynthia’s colleague in school and the two had become quite close in the short time that they were together. That was until one day when Mrs Brown asked Cynthia about her father. Although Cynthia tried to deviate from the topic, Mrs Brown seemed persistent, questioning her consistently and expressing her suspicions about the death. ‘I do not think he killed himself Cynthia. I think it was a cold blooded murder’, she had whispered into Rebecca’s ears.
But those were to be her last words, for in the very next moment she found herself hurled across the winding flight of stairs. As she lay sprawled at the landing , soaked in blood and filled with unbearable pain, she watched Cynthia standing at the top of the stairs, sneering at her.
Rebecca would have continued to bask in this glory if her stepmother Alicia hadn’t informed her grandpa of her illness or shown her medical reports to him. Grandpa knew that Alicia would go to any extent to inherit Roger Sullivan’s fortune. But this time she had managed to convince him, leaving Rebecca with no choice. She had to do away with both of them.
And then Stephen. Cynthia loved him. But Rebecca had always disliked him from the start. There was something ‘not-so-right’ about Cynthia’s Mr Right. And when he confessed about her evil intentions to Cynthia that night, Rebecca knew what she needed to do.
The train rattled laboriously along the tracks as the girl whispered something into the boy’s ears causing him to blush. He stared at her annoyingly and gestured towards the cop sitting opposite them. The girl followed his gaze and immediately fell silent. She then started twirling the ends of her auburn hair while resting her head against the boy’s shoulder. Neither one of them looked a day older than twenty, but it seemed they had been love for quite a long time now.
As they train chugged past the green meadows, the girl started humming a song. The cop, who was until then seemingly uninterested in their affairs, now turned to look at the girl. ‘That is a very pretty locket you are wearing!’ said the girl, pointing to a small heart shaped diamond pendant glistening from under the open collar. ‘Oh…Thank you. It was a gift. ’ replied the uniformed personnel pressing the locket rather nervously.
This seemed to give the girl a new found confidence to resume her chat and end the monotony. ‘So you work in the police department? ’ ‘Yes… I am …an Inspector. ’ came the reply.
Then there was a pregnant pause before the girl spoke again, ‘My name is Catherine. But you can call me Katy. And this is Paul, my boyfriend.’ The boy seated next to her smiled and nodded in affirmation. ‘So what is your name Inspector?’ asked Katy. Meanwhile there was a hiss and a screech as the train slowed down to a stop.
‘I…My name is Rebecca. Rebecca Sullivan. You can call me Becky if you want’, replied the woman in uniform, as she stood up to leave. Then bidding farewell to the young couple, she made her way towards the door.
The glistening tip of a blood soaked knife peered out from one of the compartments of her partially unzipped bag, as she manoeuvred her way through the stream of people scurrying home in the dusk .
Indifferent to the commotion, the train’s doors noisily slammed shut and a moments silence was followed by the gentle electrical murmur as the train slid out of the station.
Author’s Note :
The above story is a mere work of fiction so any discrepancies may please be forgiven.For further information on Dissociative Identity Disorder please click the following link : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dissociative_identity_disorder