It was a dark and stormy night. As it always is when these things happen.
Two figures sat uncomfortably in a pub. Their silhouettes clung on languidly, resulting in unusually dull sentences like this, especially for one that has silhouettes in them. Their eyes were glued to the huge screen which stood at one end of the establishment, screaming for everyone’s attention, often literally. Something was not right. And they could feel it.
Figure A suddenly stirred to life and tapped Figure B on the shoulder with a couple of quick, pointed, intent-filled jabs. Figure B, on his eighth pint, wasn’t prepared for the assault. Applying a superhuman strain on his faculties, he tried to focus on his assailant through his spectacles. His eyes argued frantically with each other about where they should look. They eventually settled on a mutually agreeable spot on Figure A’s nose, deftly avoiding the failed attempt at a mustache, which hung around in the vicinity. A micro-eternity later, as his thoughts finally flirted with coherence, he articulated them.
“Oye!” he said.
Figure A blinked back at him. Once. Twice.
“What’s with the brutality? That hurt, okay?” Figure B voiced his disapproval.
Figure A appeared disoriented by the question. Time stood still as his thoughts tried to infiltrate the resistance put up by the alcohol. Then he remembered.
“I know what’s wrong!” he announced.
“You do? Do tell.”
“It’s pretty simple, Bala. Elementary even. I know who the killer is. Quite obvious, really.”
Bala was quite impressed. He silently regretted not having recognized his companion’s glaringly above-average detective skills. He was about to express this to Figure A in no uncertain terms, when he had another moment of coherence.
“Karthik, I can’t be sure of course, but I wasn’t aware that we have a murder to solve.”
“We don’t?” asked Karthik, a little uncertainty trailing in his voice.
“I don’t think so. No. Not today.” Bala replied. A bit more sure of himself now.
“Oh.” Karthik said.
“Yup, I would have noticed if we did.” Bala raised his mug and drained the remaining liquid in one go. He was quite pleased with his astute powers of observation. No murders would go unnoticed past him tonight.
“A pity, I am pretty sure who’d have done it. If he had done it.” sulked Karthik.
“Always annoying, that. My sympathies…” He interrupted the conversation to order another round from a disinterested waiter for his friend and himself. Then added, “…but I’m afraid that this place has been relatively murder-free this evening.”
And of course, right at that moment, a large figure crashed onto their table from above, spilling his as well as the table’s contents all over the place.
“Aha!” cried Karthik. He knew a murder victim when he saw one.
“And I know who’s responsible!” he declared as he got up.
Bala recovered from the shock in time to see Karthik dramatically point his finger in the direction the entity had originated from.
“I give you, my evil twin.” Karthik said. Bala allowed his gaze to follow Karthik’s finger. A gasp escaped him.
There was no one there.
“There’s no one there.” said Bala. Nothing escaped him. Except the occasional shock-induced gasp, of course.
“Hardly surprising. He was always the nimble one.” Karthik said. He cursed his brother under his breath for having ruined his dramatic introduction.
Bala decided to withhold the skepticism. He had been working with Karthik at a detective agency for the last four years. He was well aware by now that Karthik’s crazy babble often led to unforeseen breakthroughs. He was shaken out of his thoughts by a sudden pull on his sleeve. The body that had just crashed their small party was trying to say something. Evidently, he hadn’t graduated to murder victim yet.
“It w-was h-he.” the body said. The shock of the fall seemed to have had an impact on his speech.
“Are you sure? I mean, who even has evil twins anymore?” asked Bala.
“Twins? No…this was…just one man…it was he…the guy who always comes here and orders…tea…I knew….there was something…suspicious about him…asked him who he was…next thing I know I’m…here…on this table…dying…am I dying?” the body said.
“Possibly. We should probably get an expert opinion though. Might be a good idea to get that knife sticking out of you looked at while we’re at it too.” Bala called the ambulance from his speed dial.
“The medical reports just came in. The victim survived but isn’t completely out of danger yet. You will probably want to take a look at it.” said the receptionist as she handed a folder to Bala.
Bala thanked her and settled down in one of the waiting room chairs to read it. Karthik walked in with a couple of coffees and took the chair next to him.
“There coffee hasn’t improved since the last time we were here.” he complained as he gave one to Bala.
“We were here less than 24 hours ago.” Bala stirred the cup and took a sip. He cringed as the concoction slid down his tongue.
“We’re one of their most frequent customers. The least they can do is to take our feedback.”
“Just think of it as hangover medicine and gulp it down.”
“Hmm. Is that the report? Anything interesting?” Karthik asked.
“Nothing much. Just your standard run-of-the-mill stabbing in the chest. The wound isn’t too deep, nor is it anywhere near the heart. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be fatal.”
“Or maybe my brother was just in a hurry.”
“Will you stop with that nonsense already? There is no evidence whatsoever to support your bizarre evil twin theory. Where did he even come from? I didn’t know you had a sibling, let alone an evil one.”
“Well, it all started on that fateful day in 1980. It was a dark and stormy…” Karthik began.
“A quick summary will do.” Bala interrupted, quickly.”
“Mom had twins. Karthik and Karan. Karthik was the smart, intelligent, blue eyed boy who could do nothing wrong. Karan was the black sheep. Karan was jailed for stealing at age 16. Been in an out of prison since then. He sent me a letter a few days ago saying that he was going to kill someone in that pub today.” Karthik paused to crush the cup and throw it in the dustbin. “I hope that’s quick enough for you?” he asked.