My Wife! My Killer!
A writer of crime thrillers believes he will be the next victim of a crime. And the perpetrator will be none other than his wife. The strange story unravels slowly. Sneha Pathak spins a tale that melds mystery, fear and intrigue in equal parts.
My wife is trying to kill me. There, I’ve said it! This secret which has been eating me up for a long time is now out. These past few months, it has been impossible to live with her, knowing well that anytime, just any time, the axe will fall and my head will be chopped off. By now it is too late to get away from her nefarious plans, but I am going to make sure this diary reaches the police if I die. I might not be found with a bullet hole, or a knife embedded in my back, but even if there is any kind of accident – from a car gone wrong to a food poisoning to a fall from stairs – they must treat it as murder. I feel like a character in one of those horrid novels that my wife reads with relish. The ones where characters are trapped in a locked room, or an island or a house with no escape. Sometimes, just sometimes, one of them manages to get away. But I have no idea how they do it because I never read them.
My wife, on the other hand, devours every book of the kind that comes in the market. How can someone enjoy reading about things as serious as murder so casually and take pleasure in it? And what about the mindset of those who write such books? Aren’t they all sick, these readers and writers both?
Really, this should have been my first clue that something is not right with my wife. On our very first date, she had shown up with an Agatha Christie book which had a skeletal hand pointing at a house on its cover. I had shuddered at it, and she had laughed at my reaction. She was surprised that I had never heard of this novel. I had bitten back my reply, that some of us had better things to do than spend our time reading stories, because it was a first date, and I didn’t want to start things on the wrong note. She had spent that date narrating to me the story of that deplorable book. She was reading it for the fifth time, she had told me.
And she reads all her books in the same way, as if she is going to write a thesis on them. I have come upon her diaries – which she keeps hidden by the way – where she analyses all such books and writes how she would have committed the crime. This is all part of her preparation to kill me. And no, I am not crazy to accuse my wife of planning to murder me just for this reason. Something has changed about her these past few days.
I have caught her staring at me with a strange expression on her face when she thinks I am not looking. And as soon as she realises that I have caught her, she changes her expressions in an instant. Her eyes become guileless where only a moment before, an urge to murder shone in them. At such times, her eyes have this strange shine in them, and her lips are curled in disdain. But the most terrifying is what she does with her hands in those moments – she starts either shredding something to bits or squeezing whatever is in her hands as if her life depends upon it. And her gaze isn’t really fixed on me, she seems to be looking beyond me – even through me – at such moments.
The first time I caught her like this, I was genuinely worried. But she told me that I was imagining things, that I was tired after a week’s hard work, and wouldn’t it be better if I had a drink of my favourite malt and then settle for dinner. I followed her advice because I was not afraid of her then, just a little bewildered. Or perhaps I had begun to distrust her subconsciously, because that was the day after which I started keeping an eye on her, even though I couldn’t have articulated why I was doing that even to myself.
Since then, I have been on my guard. I started noticing things like the pair of binoculars she had bought for ‘birdwatching’. We live in a small hilly town where there is no dearth of birds, but she had never shown interest in birds before. It was a flimsy excuse, but I didn’t press the matter. I did realise why she wanted the binoculars – to track my movements as I climb up the road to our house. The office bus leaves me on the main road from where I climb up a kilometre to reach home. Was she planning to push me down the mountain? Was she timing me? Was she looking for a secluded turn at which she could stand and kill me? All these possibilities crossed my mind, and they seemed equally likely. Since that day, I have started taking one precaution: when I leave for office, I call a friend on the phone everyday so that if anything happens to me, there would be someone who would immediately know something was wrong. I return home with two other people from my office, whose houses are further above mine, to ensure she never catches me alone.
Another strange thing is that my wife has become bosom friends with our nearest neighbour Vishakha, whom she hated till a few weeks ago. I often find Vishakha in our sitting room when I return home. Why such sudden friendship, I wonder? And then there are the knives. My wife has always claimed to hate cooking. We had hired a cook who specialised in chicken preparations soon after our marriage. The cook always complained that the small vegetable knives we had made cleaning the chicken difficult and asked us to buy her a set of suitable knives. But my wife always said that the cleaver like knife gave her the shivers, and that having it in the house felt dangerous. Then a month ago, my wife fired the cook for no reason and told me that she would cook from now on. To my surprise, she has served meal after delicious meal ever since. Last Sunday, she even prepared a chicken dish, and it was then that I noticed a set of three knives gleaming on the kitchen counter. One of them had a long, sharp blade and another was a cleaver. I was too stunned to ask her anything but she herself explained how she had decided to overcome her irrational fears of the knives and bought them a few days back. Not only had she bought them, but she had also used them to prepare our meal. How can a person, who claims to hate cooking, not only become a great cook overnight but also overcome a fear that has always stopped them from using something? Has she been lying to me all along? But why? Has anything she told me about her so far been true? I don’t know.
I can think of only one explanation. As long as an outsider was present in the kitchen, there were no such knives. If she was to kill me today using them and then claim that it was a break-in, that someone else killed me because we simply did not have these weapons, who would doubt her? Which shopkeeper would remember a woman buying a set of knives? And would the police even go that far when our old cook would corroborate my wife’s statement?
As all this happened, the question that gnawed at me was why she wanted to kill me. And now I know. She is planning to kill me because she has a lover. I overheard her talking to someone on the phone this morning when she thought I was outside. She plans to kill me today, and she is not working alone. Their plan is to put a mild sedative in my evening tea and then, when it gets dark and few people venture outside in this cold, she will take me outside where her accomplice will be waiting, and hand me over to him. He will carry me towards the forest which starts a few metres from my house and simply hurl me off the cliff. I will die from the fall and my dead body, if not eaten by the wild animals, will be discovered by the shepherds the next day. My wife will go and visit Vishakha while all this happens and later, play the part of the distraught wife when I don’t return.
But I have taken measures to avoid the fate she has in mind for me. I have the knife from the kitchen, and I will not drink the tea she brings me. If she forces me, I will not hesitate to use the cleaver. I must hide this diary now because the clock has just chimed five times and I can hear her footsteps getting closer.
“You found this diary on the dead body discovered two days ago, inspector?”
“Yes sir. We used it to identify him. We spoke to his neighbours. They told us that he had shifted here three years ago for health reasons and that he kept to himself. We searched his house and found several notebooks filled with illegible handwriting in his study. There was also the phone-number of a Delhi based doctor on his table, and I spoke to him this morning.”
“The doctor said that the deceased had come to live here on his advice and that he had been a minor success as a crime writer who had a breakdown three years ago. He also confirmed what the neighbours said – the man never had a wife.”