The pricking droplets of rain made me shiver. “This is not the way it should rain!” I thought to myself. “It should rain heavily or drizzle steadily – not these blade like drops.” I walked quickly to a Phone Booth. It had been just a week since I came to this city, and didn’t know my way really well around here. My need for a concept to write about had brought me here. I had realized that publishers would rather pay me double of my life long earnings from non-fiction writing, for just one work of fiction. 

After waiting a while outside the Booth while someone was using it, I lit a Cigarette. Guilty as hell as this was the 15th time I had broken my no smoking resolution. Without caring about it too much though, I puffed away under the piercing rain pellets. Finally, the man using the phone was done and I charged in. “Hello..” I screamed after getting connected to my Hotel, “I am staying in Room No. 8 of your Hotel. I went out around the City and need to know how do I get back there.” After taking directions, I caught a Taxi and reached the Hotel. 

My Hotel was a rather dirty one that reeked of nothing but sleaziness. It was located within a supposedly posh area, which had gone bad. Apparently, the waiter who I tipped rather heavily, told me that owner of my Hotel had links with the organized criminal society. I could see women who dressed and behaved like prostitutes all around and the area stank of something weird. It was cheap out here and most importantly; it allowed me to do my research on places like this. It gave me enough dough for my concept. 

After relaxing for a while, I sat in the lobby (if you could call it one) reading the Newspaper. My first preference was the Sports section always. The female teenage Tennis sensation was handed a tough draw; Thierry Henry had moved to Barcelona. Then I read the front page. “Psycho Killer strikes terror in the City”. I read further on about the report about a murderer who has been killing victims for fun and each time he kills them, he leaves behind a message or a slogan in the victim’s blood. I knew that this is all wonderful stuff for my book and took the paper along with me. I turned to go to my room, but walked out of the Hotel instead, to smoke another forbidden Cigarette as usual.  

Outside, there was a commotion. A passer-by happened to have bumped into someone who was carrying what appeared to be a rather expensive and heavy piece of baggage. The owner of the baggage appeared to be a rather rich man, who had created a huge ruckus about it. The offender was an old man – fighting to stand on his limbs for sure. The ‘offendee’ if I can use that word for the rich man appeared to be someone with enough money to last him a lifetime and also the lifetime of his children and their children even. 

The shouting continued wherein the rich man kept cribbing and the poor man kept begging for forgiveness. Both men were more or less the same age, but what a great divide their class had! The rich man weighed over a hundred and fifty kilos; had a flowing moustache and neatly trimmed hair. He wore an expensive suit that would not have been worn more than once before and had an attitude that made him feel like the king of the planet. The poor man on the other hand was barely about 40 kilos; had lost most of the hair from his head; had an unshaven face; his clothes were faded due to numerous machine washing experiences. His attitude.. well there is nothing one could say about that. 

Some of the people around managed to convince the rich man to forgive and forget and move on. Cribbing and abusing the poor man even more, the rich man went into his palatial bungalow. The negotiators now stood outside his bungalow, staring in awe. After a while, they walked up to the poor man and asked him if he was alright. Not wanting to answer anything, being to hurt and embarrassed, he silently walked away. This was all good meat for my book. I ran over the poor man and started walking beside him. 

“Tiring night, huh?” I asked. There was no reply. “Its ok. I was on your side.” I told him again. No reply still. We walked a little further and I said, “How did you feel when he was saying all those things to you?” No reply still. A little while later, he appeared to have reached his house. It was a small hut like structure that would have been white when it was built in 200 BC! Without even looking at me, he walked inside his hut and shut the excuse of a door. Irritated, that he didn’t answer a single question of mine, I walked back. Just near the Hotel, I saw the palatial bungalow of the rich man. He must have gone right into a nice and warm tub of water with scented foam and oils. The poor man on the other hand would probably be cringing thinking about all that happened. I am sure he would also have been wishing this would have happened when he was young – he would have trashed the living daylights out of the rich man! 

Next morning, I checked out of the Hotel. I was done with my research in this city. I was moving to another one. As I walked out, I could hear another commotion. There was Police and a huge crowd outside the rich man’s bungalow. I enquired about what was happening and got to know that the rich man had been murdered in the night. I knew I couldn’t gather too much detail in that crowd, so I walked on. 

I crossed the hut of the poor man and saw 3 people sitting outside and crying. Next to them, I saw the calm dead body of the poor man. A somewhat white, but mostly yellow sheet had been draped around him, leaving his face in the open. 

Both men who were at conflict last night, were now calm. Very calm. The huge divide between them did not exist any longer. That whole rich man – poor man thing just didn’t matter. It is true.. Death is the greatest equalizer. Yes, even now, the divide does show – there are a hundred people to see the rich man and just a handful for the poor man. A little while later, the rich man will get a handsome final farewell, but I doubt the poor man will get anything other than a municipal adios. However, that is something both of them were no longer concerned about. They were both in the exact same situation as each other. Dead. 

Philosophical, I walked ahead and got a Taxi. “Railway Station” I told him. A few minutes into the drive and the driver asked me, “Where are you coming from, Sir?” I told him the name of my Hotel. “Oww..” He said, “You do know what happened in that area last night, Sir?” I kept quiet, but was hoping to hear his version for sure. “Apparently, last night somebody went to this really big house, just opposite your Hotel. Well, read it in the paper.” He shoved a bunch of pages over to me. I looked through and read the headlines, “Psycho Killer strikes again.” I browsed through the news piece. The killer had knocked at the rich man’s gate. The armed security guard had opened a shutter to see who it was and got a sharp knife into his face instead. He fell down unconscious immediately. The killer had jumped over and then proceeded to climb up the rich man’s house. There was another security guard at the back of the house, who had no idea of what was happening. Lucky for him! The killer stationed himself outside what he expected to be the rich man’s bedroom and somehow got a thin straw-like pipe inside of it. The straw filled the room with a gas that forced anyone who would get a whiff of it to faint immediately. After ensuring that the victims would be drugged, the killer broke open the window and then entered the bedroom. He then brutally stabbed, clubbed and killed the rich man, who died in his sleep. Interestingly, just outside the posh locality, a small suburb also saw a death. A poor man was stabbed, clubbed and killed brutally, after being drugged. Another point to be kept in mind is that this Psychopath killer always writes a message in the victim’s blood. He did so last night too. On both, the rich man and the poor man’s body, the words, “Death: The greatest equalizer” was found written.”

I didn’t read anymore. Just smiled to myself as my Taxi drew closer to the station. So many places to go. So many books to write. So many messages to spread. So many people to kill. Life is busy. And it’s all good. 

Varun Rajagopalan.