“Something is amiss… All this does not make any sense…” Eric murmured to himself. His lips puckered into a tight smile and his pen flipping between his fingers.

Eric Barak, a detective superintendent at Police’s National Operations Department (NOD) had been cracking his head on a ghost case. Well, it was a ghost case as no incident had been reported but a major catastrophe had just been avoided. He was dumbfounded with nothing but darkness to grope at.  

Eric made the note of the people present on-site and took their statements and went through them and the site with a fine toothcomb. One of the ladies was able to give the facial description of the suspect who had fled the site without accomplishing his mission.

The sketch of the suspect was almost perfect. It lay next to the statement diary on the table. Eric was at great unease as it was not the way it should have been and he couldn’t place the parts of the puzzle correctly. It was an unsolved case going cold as nothing had happened but still there was someone who could have been convicted for such a notorious plan.

“Care for some coffee with sandwich…?” Jason asked holding the door of Eric’s glass chamber. Jason was a junior officer at the department and the partner of Eric, rather a good friend than a colleague.

“I’ll have just a decafe… This whole thing is sucking a hole in me …” Eric tossed his pen on the table and leaned back to stretch his tired back. It had been a long day for him…

“And what’s the shit that’s draining you out?” Jason walked in and dropped his sloggy body in the cranky metal chair. Eric turned the sketch and case notes towards Jason to have a look at it.

“Can’t believe you are still stuck with this suicide bomber thing.” Saying so, Jason snapped close the diary and continued.

“Boy, it’s over… What are you still digging in it? There is no dead cat.” Jason lit his smoke and blew the streak of smoke up towards the ceiling.

“That’s the point… Where has the cat vanished without hunting?” Eric replied with a heavy sigh and got up to stretch out his body some more.

“Let’s have coffee first. Can’t talk without a shot of caffeine.” Jason winked and took a last long drag of his smoke before stabbing it in the ashtray.

The duo walked to the cafeteria outside the building and settled down with their coffees and sandwiches. Eric lit his smoke and taking a sip and drag of coffee got lost in his thoughts.

“What’s on your mind?” Jason asked carefully sipping his coffee without taking eyes off Eric.

“I don’t know… This sounds weird. If I go by the statement of the people present there, the guy was definitely a suicide bomber but then why didn’t he press the button…?” Eric took a long drag of his smoke and tightly closed his eyes.

“Maybe he was an amateur who chickened out at the last moment. I don’t expect a change of heart, at least with a terrorist.” Jason added his views.

“Okay… Considering the possibility you just said, where is he now…? I mean we had his sketch on every exit point and every commutation mode that is possible. How can he vanish in thin air just like that?” Eric, playing a quick pinch asked Jason…

“And the worse thing is that we don’t have a clear CCTV footage. The guy had covered himself under a hoodie and he knew the angles of CCTV.” Eric opened his eyes to see Jason scratching his unshaved face. He too began to ruminate over what Eric had just said. “How can a guy with a bomb just disappear in thin air?”

“What had that lady said in her statement?” Jason asked finishing his coffee. There was one witness who bumped into the suspect while walking out of the cafeteria. The target was one of the busiest cafeterias in the city.

“She was very sure that guy was up to something. In the cool wind, he was sweating like pig. And the suspect was in a hurry to do something, his cell phone was buzzing but he didn’t care to reply.” Eric replied as now every word of the statement that he had noted down was itched into his mind like a carving on stone sculpture.

“But how much her facial description about the guy is relevant? No offence, just asking…” Jason asked raising his hands back.

“Very much relevant. And when she was with sketch artist I was there. She was so clear about every narration she was giving.” Eric taking a sip of his coffee.

“Hmmm… Maybe the bomb was to be triggered by cell phone and that’s why he wasn‘t answering and had an obvious reason to chicken out.” Jason replied lighting his smoke and leaning back with satisfaction at his contribution.

“Maybe… But my concern is where is the GUY…?” Eric stamped the empty mug a bit louder on the table.

“You are the boss. You need to figure it out. I gave my teensy contribution.” Jason winked and paid the bills as they both headed back to their office.

“What I think is… There is no THREAT now…” Jason added as he picked his bag to leave for home. Eric just nodded and pushed open the door of his chamber to get back to where he left the case.

Couple of hours later, Eric too, was tired. He too could not get ahead with any potential clue. Leaning back in the chair, he thought about Jason’s last words.

“Maybe Jason is right, there is no threat.” Eric sighed and left his office to head back home. He had no further plan as his wife and children were out on vacation.

Eric parked the car in the garage of his house and walked to the main door. The set of his keys jingling in his hands as he finally dropped the cold case out of his head.

The moment Eric was about to insert the key in the keyhole, he felt that the lock had been picked. He immediately pulled out his Glock from a shoulder holster and swiped it from left to right. It was dark. He peaked through the glass window but curtains were down so he couldn’t see anything inside and the lights were out too.

Eric immediately went back to the porch in the backyard of the house and checked the back door that opened into the kitchen but it was locked. Eric kept sweeping in dark and reached the front of the house. Holding the doorknob, he turned it very softly to avoid any noise.

Darkness prevailed in absence of the lights and Eric thought it would be wise to avoid switching them on. If someone was inside, he did not want to alert them. He went through every inch of his house to find nothing. There was no sign of burglary. As he returned to the living room just to turn the lights on, a heavy blow on the back of his head knocked him out cold for a few mins. His gun slipped from his grip and slid under the sofa, out of his reach.

When Eric got up with his head throbbing with pain unlike his heart, he found himself sitting on the sofa and a guy sitting in front of him with a gun pointed at Eric. The bright lights avoided clear vision after the blackout. He blinked a couple to times to get rid of the blurry vision.

“What do you want?” Eric asked rubbing the back of his head.

“Get your car keys and do as I say.” The guy ordered, ignoring Eric’s question.

Eric tried to figure out who he was but couldn’t. He was wearing a balaclava and hoodie over it. Not a strand of his hair was even visible to Eric. He knew that there was no option except following what the masked man asked him to do.

“Okay… But where are we headed? If you want my car you can take it, you won’t need me for it.” Eric tried to play it calmly, suppressing his anxiety.

“Just do as I say.” The masked man pulled the hammer back. The sound of it was enough for Eric to understand the gravity of the situation. This masked guy won’t hesitate in pulling the trigger and this is not just a burglary but much more than that.

Eric quietly picked his car keys and walked out with gunman behind him at a distance of few feet to avoid Eric from making any nasty moves.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Written by: Hemang
Sketch: Paranj Sankdecha

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