Saturday, August 7, 2010


Mr.Banerjee found himself behind iron gates. The
old corrugated ones one may find in the so-called
collapsible gates. The back of his skull was aching.
As he helped himself onto his feet, he slowly
started to recall the events of the last hour. He
looked at his grey tuxedo, which was now soiled
with some grime. He recalled looking at his
reflection in the mirror of the liquor store
bathroom. He had ordered a scotch, and was slowly
gulping his drink on a cold January evening in one
of the premier bars in the Park Street Sir Hog’s
market. He was interrupted by a man. He was tall,
judging by the length of his dark brown trench
coat . It was not the habit of a retired high court
judge to trust strangers, but something about the
man was striking. Soon, Mr.Banerjee and the person
were talking. He even bought a drink for the
elderly man, remembered Mr.Banerjee.
“Then what?”, Mr.Banerjee could not remember
anything after that. Now that he finally had got up,
he looked around himself, trying to understand
where he was at the current instant of time. All he
could see was darkness. The pale moonlight of a
1935 winter night came in through the only outlet
for air in the vicinity. Those iron gates. The
smell of roaches and stacked rubbish made the air
detestable, if not unsuitable, for breathing.
Slowly, he made his way towards the streaks of
light which were visible, hoping to catch a breath
of fresh air, as well as make his way out from
wherever this place was. “Darn it! These gates are
locked.” Mr.Banerjee was puzzled.
He held onto the iron contraptions. Rusty, un-oiled,
creaky metallic jingles arose from the same.
Shaking them with the utmost energy he could muster,
he roared “Let me out! You scoundrel! let me out
right now !”
Not a soul answered. Ten minutes later, Mr.Banerjee
was still in the same place. His roar had grown
into a meeker “Help!”, and the dose of adrenaline
his body had managed to secrete , was no longer
working. For the first time in life, he felt
trapped and alone. And he could do nothing about it.
He turned around and now realized where he was. He
was somewhere in Hog’s market. Somewhere in the
labyrinth of shops and lanes and by-lanes. The
smell around him must be from the remains of the
farm produce sold during the entire day.
“ But how did I get here? Didn’t anyone
notice ?” pondered Mr.Banerjee. he found it
illogical to believe that he was , actually inside
a deserted market which was closed and shut down
for the night. And the fact that no-one had noticed
him, not even the night guard when he would have
closed the gates, seemed unlikely. “Then again,
” he said to himself “ If I was lying there
beside that heap, and in the dark corner , it is
reasonable that no-one might see me.” Satisfied
with is logical conclusion, Mr.Banerjee decided to
wait for a few more hours till the shops re-opened.
“Then I will see to it that the watchmen of this
place are taken to task!” he murmured in his mind.
A logical argument failed to calm his nerves.
Mr.Banerjee was not as composed as he wanted
himself to be. The knowledge that he was the only
living soul within a hundred paces of this place
didn’t allow him to be totally carefree. Solitude
wasn’t a thing which Mr.Banerjee was not
acquainted with. But solitude in a dark chilly
alley, with no food or water , and little access to
air and light was surely something he didn’t like.
A muffled slam was suddenly heard. As if somewhere
in the labyrinth, some door had been flung open.
Mr.Banerjee could feel his hair standing upon the
back of his neck. “What was that?” the more he
pondered the more illogical his thoughts became. He
reached a point where he didn’t want to know the
cause of the sound. Even in the cold, his forehead
had small beads of sweat. A definite surge of
adrenaline in his body made his heart beat faster.
There was silence, which lasted for two agonizing
minutes. Then again something could be heard.
A heavy repetitive thud: not too loud. Emanating
from somewhere in the far end of the alley in which
Mr.Banerjee found himself. The wooden floor and the
chilly winter air added a dimension to the element.
The wood adding echoes to the sound and the air
making it sound clearer. “ Who goes there ?”,
deep in his heart , Mr.Banerjee was , actually,
A figure was approaching, with a slow and
measured step. The figure was leaning on a stick.
“ Impossible …………”
“ The High Court of Calcutta is at session for the
trial of the notorious ‘Gentleman’. Let the
prosecution begin”, Justice Banerjee announced in
a solemn voice.
“ My Lord”, the public prosecutor began, “this
person standing here is a criminal of the highest
degree. His crimes , when summed up, remain the
most brutal and serial homicidal acts in the
history of a hundred years of British Calcutta.”
He paused to catch his breath. Justice Banerjee
flinched in his chair. His powdered wig needed
change , he thought to himself.
The prosecutor continued, “ This man , Richard
Alphonso Wicker , also known as ‘Gentleman’ is
hereby charged with the murder of thirteen servants
of Indian origin throughout a period of six
months.” Justice Banerjee looked at the man. He
was a man with a sickly constitution. Greyed hair.
Eyes which were sunken deep inside their sockets.
Unshaved cheeks. Marked characteristics of alcohol
abuse. His hands were crooked and every aspect of
him made one feel detestation. He stood in a eased
fashion , leaning to a side, as if calmly composed
about his surroundings. The prosecutor continued,
“The mode of murder was grotesque. That was the
murder weapon ,” , he said, pointing to a stick.
Justice Banerjee looked carefully at the object of
interest. It was made from strong ebony , and was
perfectly black. The handle was made with silver.
Heavy and sturdy. “No doubt that this was an
effective murder weapon”, thought Justice Banerjee.
“Does the defendant have anything to say ?”
A meek wry smile formed on the lips of Gentleman.
“ just one thing. There were fifteen. Fifteen
servants who had entered in my service and suffered
death at my hands.”
With eyebrows raised , amidst a shocked courthouse,
Justice Banerjee managed to mumble “Anything
else ?”
“yes, every native I can lay hands upon will
survive a similar fate. You too will die you dog.
Kala kuta !”
With such a cry he jumped, and dashed at Justice
Banerjee. The federal marshals were quicker though.
They apprehended him. And then subdued him.
An hour later, Justice Banerjee was speaking again.
“ By the power vested in me by Her Majesty, the
queen , I hereby find you Richard Alphonso Wicker
guilty of murder of fifteen helpless individuals.
And hereby I condemn you to be hanged to death. To
be hanged, till Death.”
“It can’t be!”, logic agreed with Mr.Banerjee. a
dead man couldn’t walk, and if he had broken out
of prison, Mr.Banerjee would have come to know. The
alley wasn’t as long as Mr.Banerjee had thought it
to be. But there was no mistake. There was the same
back heavy wood stick with the same silver embossed
tip. The same gait Mr.Banerjee recalled from that
day when the court marshals had led him away.
Thirty five years of being a high court judge, and
he had sent only one man to the gallows. It made
Mr.Banerjee spend many a sleepless night before.
But this night was not something he imagined that
would happen.
A muffled hiss like voice could be heard. Now
Mr.Banerjee noticed that this was the same attire
that the tall man in the bar had wore.
“I told u cur, that u would die ….” Jeered the
“No. this is madness ……………..”
A loud sharp thud. Ripples of the same sound echoed
in the passage: followed by a fainter sound of
something collapsing. Then everything was silent
“This isn’t possible. How does the murderer
manage to bring the dead body in here ?” the
police inspector told the other man. He too was
dressed in the same attire. “Grotesque , if u ask
me” , replied the other, “well something
challenging for you huh ?” the former managed a
smile. All that ranting about monotony, in the
restroom of the police cafeteria, was going to be
tested , this time.
“Wait what’s that !” he exclaimed as he pointed
to a thing. A thin long piece of black wood with a
silver embossed handle lay at the side, as if
someone had tossed it in the corner. He recognized
it immediately. At the academy , every police cadet
had studied that case. Without wasting an instant,
he set out for the correctional facility. He
accessed the records with his own hands. He found
Richard Alphonso Wicker 1930 November 5th
Ordered by
Justice K.Banerjee
Status: Carried out as instructed

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