The Times of India is running the Write India initiative – “the country’s first ever Short Story Contest of the kind, providing a writing platform unlike any other”. Since July this year, each month a designated ‘Author of The Month’ has been sharing a passage. The writer has to develop that passage into a story. Read more on the Write India site here.
My son Gautam, all of 13, who quite enjoys writing, attempted the August contest, with Chetan Bhagat being the Author of The Month. The writer needed to use the following passage somewhere in the story. The story also needed to have a ‘life lesson’.
“She sat in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf.”
Here is Gautam’s story.
Blue Silk Scarf
By Gautam Manay Yajaman
Wyatt Benjamin exited his Sunshine City apartment block on a cold windy night. He was dressed in a conspicuous brown coat whose collars extended up to the ears, matching trousers, a red flat cap and a pair of red undercover sneakers. He was carrying an envelope in his hand, with the letter inside, seal broken.
The alleyway that led up to his front door was shabby, littered with newspapers and toppled over trash cans. Wyatt took care not to stamp on the stray banana peels. The ground all around was wet. He walked over to his Volkswagen that was parked next to the newly opened Starbucks café, and drove off in the direction of his investigation office.
He turned the corner onto his destination street, and parked his car opposite the small building that served as his office. It was a one-storey, one room building, not very attractive, and intentionally so. ‘Wyatt Benjamin, Detective, SP – Crime (Retired)’. The police still took his help when required. The walls were painted white, and there was little décor. The only piece that was visible was a black and white photograph of Wyatt and his family when he was young.
He sat down on his chair, and wheeled it close to his oak wood desk, which had a desktop as well as a printer on it. He opened up the unsealed letter, and placed it onto his desk after unfolding it.
The letter, note actually, that had been pushed under his front door, read:
This is Amanda Grant, wife of the Late Xavier Grant. My husband died yesterday. It was a very tragic incident. Sorry for the ink stains on the paper. The police’s main suspect is me, but I can assure you that I have nothing to do with it.
I’d like you to meet me at my house. The address is enclosed in the envelope.
It was evident that the lady was crying as she had written the note. Wyatt exited his office almost immediately, after packing his kit of cotton buds, zip lock pouches, a set of magnifying glasses, a notepad and pen, and a pair of gloves. He got back into his Volkswagen, and drove off in the direction of the lady’s address.
“Number 10…” Wyatt said to himself as he rang the doorbell of the house he was standing before.
The door was opened by a hazel-eyed woman in her late thirties, wearing a white blouse with blue highlights and a blue silk scarf around her neck. Her face lit up as soon as she saw the figure of Wyatt standing at her doorway.
“You must be Mr Benjamin,” she said, as she let him in.
“Yes, ma’am, that would be me,” replied Wyatt.
“Come, come, sit down.” she said as she gestured towards the sofa in her living room. Her house was very posh on the inside. A spiral staircase led to the second floor, and the roof was rather high to accommodate a chandelier.
Wyatt took his seat, and without beating around the bush, began talking about the case at hand. “Mrs… Grant, was it? I’d like to know all the details of this murder, as well as the circumstances in which it was committed.”
“Yes, yes”, she said eagerly as she took a seat adjacent to Wyatt’s. “Yesterday it was, yes. It was Friday when my husband went on this trip to I don’t know where. He returned home safely early last morning, but as he was approaching the house; I was waiting for him… I saw him through the window…” she paused for a second, took out a handkerchief, and wiped the tears that had swelled up in her eyes. “A-a man,” she continued, pausing in between to sniff, “with a knife, fully masked suddenly stopped him, put a knife through his chest and ran. He fell to the ground. He was not breathing by the time I got out. The funeral was today. The police are investigating but I know you will find the killer.”
“An interesting story”, said Wyatt staring at the floor. “I’m sorry about your husband.” He then looked up, turning to Amanda, “May I know your alibi, Mrs. Grant?”
“Like I said, I was in the house when he was killed.”
“I’ll need to check every angle of the case.”
“I understand,” replied Amanda.
“Do you have any suspects?” interrogated Wyatt.
Amanda thought for a minute, then said, “There are several.” Wyatt nodded took out his notepad and pen and scrawled down ‘Suspects’ in writing that you would see in doctor’s prescriptions.
“My husband was an FBI agent”, she continued, “There was an oil mafia which he had busted recently. The leader managed to escape, and he might have been the one.” “Very interesting”, said Wyatt to himself.
Amanda narrated several other cases that her husband had told her about. After patiently listening to all of them, Wyatt found two likely suspects – the oil mafia leader, and a banker who Xavier Grant had nailed for siphoning the bank’s money for personal use.
“I shall meet you later”, said Wyatt, and he exited Amanda’s house to inspect the crime scene, right outside the house.
The area had already been marked with black and yellow tape and said ‘Crime Scene: Do Not Enter’. Blood stains were still clearly visible. The police man guarding the site showed him a picture on his mobile phone – the body of Mr Grant as it was found. Wyatt made a photographic memory note. A tiny piece of cloth under the slumped body and a knife did not miss his trained eye. He took out a cotton bud, deftly wiped up some of the stained blood, and put it in a zip lock case. The piece of cloth he saw in the picture intrigued him more than anything else. It was a strange blue colour, and he felt as if he had seen the same colour that very day, but he let the feeling go.
Wyatt stayed up late at night, searching the internet for information on the oil mafia and any banking scams that Amanda had talked about. Most of the results that turned up were either not in the city or far too old to be relevant.
Data available on the oil mafia was almost nothing. Police records Wyatt had access to also indicated that the oil mafia was not active in the area. So he lightly scratched ‘oil mafia leader’ from his list of suspects.
Then Wyatt concentrated on the banking scam and was successful in getting information on the main accused. He visited the banker’s house where he met the man’s wife, and after interrogating her, the banker was lightly scratched off the list of suspects. He was already in prison on the day of the murder.
“Would you like some tea?” asked Amanda, as Wyatt entered her house on a rainy afternoon, a few days later. “I’ll have some, thanks”, replied Wyatt.
Amanda retreated to the kitchen and soon returned, cup and saucer in hand. After placing it, on the table she asked, “Any leads on the case?” “Not at all”, said Wyatt sipping his tea. He looked frustrated after working several nights on the case. “Both the suspects are ruled out. I need to ask you some questions – where’s the kitchen?” Mrs Grant was surprised at the sudden question, but nonetheless, pointed towards where she had brought the tea from.
Wyatt came back with a jar of sugar, and put a generous amount into his tea. Then, something hit Wyatt. The knives in the kitchen… they had the same design and handle as the one which he had seen in the picture of the crime scene. More and more thoughts started rushing through his mind… the blue coloured cloth: it was the same colour as the scarf Mrs Grant was wearing.
Wyatt quickly gulped the remaining tea. “I need to go, now”, he said in a loud tone, and he exited the house, leaving Amanda in total dismay.
Wyatt went straight to his office, and he did a Google search for Xavier Grant. If this man had tackled so many significant illegal activities, surely something about him would turn up. A few Xavier Grants showed up in the search but there was no investigation-related news. As he suspected, there was no FBI agent called Xavier Grant! Why had he not checked this right at the start! Now, Wyatt was sure who the criminal was.
Wyatt stormed into Amanda’s house later that evening. “MRS GRANT! YOU ARE UNDER ARREST FOR THE MURDER OF XAVIER GRANT!”
Amanda seemed shocked at first, but then straightened her face, though still trembling and said, “What makes you think so?”
“Give me your blue scarf,” said Wyatt, taking out his gun from his coat pocket. She hesitatingly untied the knot from the scarf around her neck and handed it to him. Wyatt grabbed the scarf, and sure enough, there was a tear in it. He turned back to Amanda, to see a knife pointed at him. “Gun down, now,” she said, her eyes looking more evil than ever.
Wyatt put his gun onto the ground, and put his hands up. “Very good, very good” said Amanda, as she walked around him in circles. “You are as good as I heard you were. I was hoping you’d ‘catch’ someone else, but looks like you’ve gotten me. Tell me, how did you do it?”
“The knife, the scarf, the fake FBI agent story. You killed him, you killed your own husband. But – but why?”
Amanda’s face turned darker than ever at the mention of her husband. “Do you know why he went on that trip?”
“He was working in the government, and they were on the tail of a serial killer. You must know that eight detectives have been found dead in the past six months.”
“Little did he know that that serial killer was me. I couldn’t allow him to continue this case further; I knew he would give me in if he ever found out about my true life; he loved his job more than anything else, more than me.”
Wyatt couldn’t say a word, he should have realised it earlier. He should’ve researched Mrs Amanda Grant and her alibi properly. But he failed to do so, and now, here he was, with his life in danger.
“Now that you know all of this,” said Amanda, “it’s time to say goodbye.” As she finished her statement, she grabbed the scarf and put the knife right through Wyatt’s heart. Blood started oozing from his body, and he dropped to the ground. Wyatt Benjamin was dead.
Later that night, she sat in the Starbucks café sipping her coffee looking out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered by her blue silk scarf. Amanda Grant thought to herself happily, “One more detective eliminated, five to go.”
Life’s lesson – Overlooking details now can prove costly in the future.