Present Day…

 September 2006, Montreuil(Paris suburb):

“Let’s welcome the Legendary Thriller novelist, Mr Samuel Clooney. A big round of applause for the indomitable writer.” The whole auditorium reverberated with claps and cheers as Mr Samuel takes his seat. This is the inauguration of his last book in the thriller series, “Till You Die.”

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Clooney(44), now an accomplished author was previously employed with the National Police of France. After the sudden demise of his wife, due to chronic illness, Samuel took voluntary retirement(at 35) and dedicated himself in the upbringing of his daughter, Chloe( 22). It was only after he quit his job that he felt the urge to follow his passion and tried his hand at writing thrillers. His job profile garnered him much experience in crime and helped him to write on serial killing.  

“Sir, you mentioned this is the last book in this series. So will Dr North get arrested or will he still be wandering free?”, a journalist queried. Much to his displeasure, Clooney with a wicked smile replied, “ what’s the book release for?”

That same moment Clooney’s phone beeped. He checked to see a message from an unknown number. He knew it was him. Drops of perspiration trickled down his choked throat as he read it. “Are you safe?”, petrified, he thought.

Debilitated, his hands started to shake, just when another journalist proposed, “ Sir, how would you relate to the recent surge of serial killings in the city of Paris and its outskirts? The police, as you know says it’s following the same pattern that is mentioned in your series.” 

Gulping his saliva, unmoved, with gawked eyes, Samuel stared at the journalist. It was evident that his physical presence didn’t compliment his mental state. A pat from the event conductor brought him back to reality. 

“That’s a coincidence.” With these words, Samuel stood up to leave. His urgency to move out was visible in his behaviour. Suddenly his calm, composed self transformed into a fidgety attitude as he rushed backstage. His immediate withdrawal created an uproar amongst the media persons.

“Sir, any issues? You can’t leave like this.” The organiser responded, agitated. Dismissing the claims, Samuel checked his phone that flashed a new message from him. “Dessert’s ready. Meet you at 10.” The message sent a shiver down his spine. Grabbing his cloak and bag, Samuel hurried out and ignited his car’s engine. 

Winters in Montreuil had never been too harsh. As he drove his car along the lonely vacant road in the misty, wintry night, the only thing that bothered him was her safety. Fearing the drastic he headed to the destined location. His heart thumping as he powered the engine. 

 

March 2002, Louvre, Paris : 

“Wait, wait..”Chloe kept screaming as she saw the tourist bus leave without her boarding it. She was on an art exchange programme to the city and now stranded on the busy lane with a coffee mug and few maps of the city. 

“Can I help you Lady?”, came the warm gesture. She turned to see a stout, well built, fair-skinned gentleman with blue eyes, mostly in his 30’s. His coquettish voice pierced her soul.

“ Ya… Actually, ” she continued hesitantly,  “I am on an exchange programme and as you see missed my bus.”

“Oh… Unfortunate. So where are you staying?”

“Hotel Gilmore.”

 “That’s close by. We can take a stroll up there. Would you mind my company?”

Chloe’s heart was pumping with excitement and there was the least chance of denial. 

Before she could introduce herself, the gentleman spoke.

“Oh! Sorry, I am North. Dr North.”

Suddenly she paused and her scary, inquisitive face was easily read by the young man.

“Oh no. You’re mistaken. It’s just our names are similar. I m not that psychic killer.”

Smiling sheepishly she continued, “I didn’t mean that… it’s just a…”

“Never mind. I understand. Your name please.”

“Chloe… Chloe Clooney.”

“Daughter of Samuel Clooney?… No doubt behind that gesture.” And they both cracked into laughter.

That first encounter paved way for a stronger bond. In no time, they befriended each other.

“Tomorrow I’ll leave. When are you visiting Montreuil?” asked Chloe impatiently.

“Very soon, dear,” North replied.

 

August 2004, Montreuil :

Chloe was busy preparing the breakfast and Samuel cleaning the kitchen garden when the news flashed the series of brutal killings:

The city of Paris and its outskirts are totally gripped by the series of brutal murders happening for the past few years. This time devastation struck Montreuil. Every year a murder where the murderer leaves behind the decapitated bodies in a mutilated condition. He targets young girls for unknown reasons and then rapes the dead bodies. The psycho uses thin iron wires to tie them tightly. He then disposes of in sparsely populated areas. Over time, due to injury from the wire, scars occur and blood ooze out. Decomposition and nauseating smell awaken the locals who only to their horror encounters such an uninviting sight. This time again a young lady of 27 years found brutally raped and murdered, and her naked stabbed body was recovered from a park. The National Police of France is suspecting it the case of that psychotic killer though his real motive is still unknown. The pattern of the killings resembles the one mentioned in the novels by Samuel Clooney. The killer targets girls between 20 to 30 years, behead them and escapes with their respective heads. The convict leaves behind a note that reads, God is my strength. He makes no mistake of writing it rather uses cut-outs of alphabets.  Though psychological gratification has been assigned as the real cause behind these murders yet the police are in search of…”

“What the hell, Dad? Montreuil? The killer is applying your thoughts. Each year a victim… with an added note. What does this note indicate? Are you in trouble, dad?” An intimidated Chloe spoke. 

“Fanatic killer, the killer in my series has iciness in his attitude. How can it be wholly transpired in person? Ruthless.” Grieved and agitated, Samuel sat on the armchair.

Chloe’s phone rang. “Hey, when? You’ll stay with us. No. That’s final.”

“Who’s coming?” enquired Clooney, his eyebrows raised.

“Soon you’ll come to know. Let the mystery build.”

Clooney’s sixth sense diagnosed a lurking danger.

 

September 2004, Montreuil :

“Chloe… Can you hear me? Wherever you are, reach home. Now.” Clooney’s voice sounded orotund.

“Dad, what’s the matter? I am at a party.”

“To damn with your party. Just be home.” His anger was visible in his ogling red eyes and screaming speech.

Within an hour, Chloe returned.

“Is everything ok?” she asked bewildered.

“Where’s your friend North? I checked his room today. And I found these.” 

“He went somewhere.” Came the cold reply.

Dr North is on a visit to Montreuil for a Medical Conference. He had been staying at Clooney’s place for the past 2days and since his visit, Samuel was always on his toes. Though Chloe assured him that it’s just a similarity of the names yet he was ambivalent of North’s character. So since the latter’s arrival, he was stalking the young man everywhere.

“These sharp weapons? What are they used for? Rolls of iron wires?” She felt defeated, infuriated. Puzzled she dialled North’s number but Clooney seized and disconnected it.

“Not now. We’ll notch him at the right time.” Clooney replied in aforethought tone.

The next morning, North returned, inebriated. Furious Samuel thrashed him out of his house. Perplexed as well as humiliated, North sat at their doorstep for an hour. Seeing no positive signs, he stood up, unsteady. Staggering he walked down the lane with intermittent gaze at the house. 

“Yes, he just left. Be ready.” Clooney spoke over the phone. 

“Dad, North called me. He wants to meet.”

“Where?”

“Behind the Cathedral. 7, evening.”

Contemplating, Samuel nodded, “Meet him.”

The chilling winds bit Chloe’s gentle, fragile skin as she made her way through the dark forest. The cathedral was on the other side of the woods and it was quite a frightening path. Yet mustering courage she braced herself against the scary surrounding. Suddenly in the near distance, Chloe felt something snap and crackle. Horrified she waited for it to resurface. “Bloody hell! You mouse!”,  shrieking she continued her journey. Eventually, she saw a faint light peeping between the woods, “Cathedral lights.” She sighed gleefully. 

A dark figure was waiting at the other end. The misty black night did not permit her to see the face. Wondering it might be North, she was about to call when a hand from behind, covered her face. She felt claustrophobic but battled to loosen the grip. But the masculine hands withstood her defence and she surrendered. Within moments her feet stamping stopped. The two shadowy figures dragged her down the grass; while on the other side of the cathedral, Samuel and his men wait for the killer.

Since that day, the next two years had been a suffocating journey for Samuel. Every time an unidentified, young girl’s body is found, he waits outside the morgue for identification. His old lonely eyes wait for the arrival of Chloe.

 

Present Day…

September 2006, Montreuil :

“It’s been two long years but at least there is hope.” Samuel thought intimidating. The eerie night and the perilous drive was bone-chilling but the pent up desire to see her minimalized his apprehensions. 

He stopped his car near the old bridge. It had been drizzling for a few hours and rendered the pathway muddy. Owing to the softness of the earth, it was impossible to drive and Samuel followed the pedestrian route. The breeze blowing over the tall grasses swayed them creating a whistling noise. The rustic, quaint bridge creaked as he stepped. The silence of the night felt ghostly. Samuel kept walking in a sauntered manner.  Suddenly his phone rang. Terrorized, he immediately received it. 

“He…llo…” he stammered.

“Take a right from here. You will notice a jasmine pot. Take the keys from there and move straight into the house that you see. Shoes outside” The call disconnected.

Samuel kept repeating, but there wasn’t anyone to answer.

He did as he was told. 

On unlocking the room, he felt unnerved.

Bewildered, he exclaimed ”Holy Shit! Blood?” his stomach churned but he controlled. The floor had patches of fresh blood. His bare feet tried to recede back but the strong desire to meet her was compelling him to proceed.

He entered and to his dismay, the room was a creepy, dingy one. Everywhere there was blood… the wooden walls and floors, the bloodstained clothes hang from the ceiling, the weapons, everything. Even the air in the room smelled blood.

The distant cathedral evening choir song came drifting in the moist breeze. He checked his watch. 5minutes past 9.

“Welcome, Samuel Clooney.” Spoke the disembodied voice.

The depth of his tone sounded fearful. A terrified Clooney searched for a face to match the tone.

“Who’s it? Where’s my daughter? Bring her, please. She’s innocent. Please…” Samuel said in a brittle voice before breaking down. 

Following the sound of the other person’s footsteps, Clooney anxiously proceeded into the next room. As he stepped in he stood, immobilized. 

The room was as cold as ice, as dark and grave like a cemetery. The scene inside was blood-curdling. The many heads of young girls hang from the ceiling. Some had closed vision while some displayed a sudden shock with bulging pupils. These unbodied heads were of those girls whom Dr North had murdered for the past few years. The fresh head still dripping blood. He recklessly went around the room in trepidation only to search his daughter. 

“She isn’t here. She will be served for dessert.” The chilling words came from behind Clooney. He turned and  to his horror found Dr North behind him.

“Justin!” Clooney gasped. “I knew it were you but… Spare my kid. Don’t kill her.”

“Sir”, he continued in a gruff tone, “It’s not safe here. Please leave now. He will be here any moment…” his words strangled as he heard a screeching noise outside. “No…” Justin reacted in a wobbly tone and disappeared in thin air.

Before Samuel could analyse the situation, the latch unlocked. There stood a demon-like figure, clad in a black overcoat, and hat. His face displayed a rugged look with a stubble adorning his protruded chin, his venomous eyeballs bulging out. “Finally I will finish your incomplete series… Till You Die… Right Mr Samuel?” Said the cold-hearted murderer.

“You, it was you, who was engaged in this manslaughter. You’re ruthless than a butcher.” Samuel replied, tremulous.

“Ruthless…You talk about that.” 

After a pause, “It was your father who committed the crime.” Dr Gabriel North replied tautly.

“Gabriel, what’s my daughter’s fault? She is innocent. “pleaded Samuel.

“My mother was also innocent. Your father lured her, trapped her, impregnated her; abandoned her when she was expecting. What was her fault?” came Gabriel’s, furious, raucous query.

“But why are you butchering these innocent souls? Those notes? Why you’re following the pattern that I write?” Enquired Samuel in a thick tone.

“I am gifting them with freedom. Freedom from harm, deceive. Their souls have attained salvation.” He continued in a toneless voice,        “These girls, sometime in their life might be cheated, might feel defeated and so I release them from that suffering. My mother died with that lonely pain but these young maids won’t. They are at peace now.” His voice suddenly changed just as Samuel had observed in few psychic criminals during his service.

Samuel scrutinized Gabriel’s every movement; his speech, body language, restlessness, everything. It had striking similarity with the convict of his series. One moment Gabriel felt angered towards his father while the next moment he felt remorseful for his mother and the girls. 

“Justin is my son. He followed my command. Stalked, befriended your daughter in Paris. It was me, who kidnapped your daughter. I fled in front of your eyes yet you couldn’t see.” His devilish laugh angered Samuel. The room was resonating his wicked, sly laugh notes.

“Why did you write those note on the dead bodies? Why did you behead them?”

“Those faces soothe my soul. They give me a kind of pleasure that nothing in this world can give. They appreciate me whenever I kiss those lips.” The beastly glance in his eyes frightened Samuel and he was counting minutes for the police to arrive.

 “Ah! The note.” Suddenly his anger subsided and his voice trembled. In a pensive tone he continued, “ my mother believed in God; her strength, and so named me Gabriel.” 

There was a baffling silence in the room. Gabriel’s queer look surprised him. This sudden dwindle in Gabriel’s tone was overpowered by the loudspeakers. 

“Gabriel, surrender yourself. You’re surrounded.” Announced the police.

A few months later…

Chloe and Justin tied the knot. Samuel’s final novel is a success like the previous ones. 

The shinning summer sun cleared the dullness that loomed over the Clooney family.

*****

==>This is an entry for Artales-17, #DrNorth, an ArtoonsInn writing event.

Check the event guidelines here: https://artoonsinn.com/artales17/
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