She darted her eyes to the left, her breath heavy and her face contorted with dismay.
The room was dark and dingy, the water leaking through the walls as well as from the ceiling. She sat balled up in a corner, trying hard not to cry.
“Help…” she whispered, her throat dry.
Dried up tears stained her pale cheeks. She tried to stand without placing any weight on her damaged foot but kept falling backwards. Blood soiled the floor with its terrifying red, reminding her of the time her parents committed suicide right in front of her eyes. Suddenly, she had an idea. Unwinding her scarf from around her head, she tied it to her foot and bit her tongue from screaming out in pain when the cloth put pressure on the open wound.
Breathing deeply, she gritted her teeth and tried to stand one last time. Leaning against the wall, she let her feet settle. Where was she? Why had he left her here?
Limping across the tiny room, she tried the door, knowing fully that it wouldn’t open. When she pulled with all her might, the handle came off in her hands and she fell back, leaving all her struggle to go in vain. Groaning in pain, clutching her leg tightly from the throbbing pain, she laid, her hair grubby from all the muck. As she turned her head, she saw something shining in the other corner of the room. Gathering all her energy, she dragged herself across the floor, knowing that it would be pointless to try and stand now.
“Come on, come on,” she told herself. “You can do this.”
It took a painstakingly long time, her body betraying her, the blood leaving stains all over the floor as she continued to drag herself with her hands. Her effort seemed to pay off, because the shining thing in the corner was actually her own battered phone. Flashes of the strange man throwing it across the room and slapping her unconscious crossed her mind.
Picking it up with trembling fingers, she dialled the first number on the list. The display was broken, but the keys still worked. As the phone rang, she lay on the floor, exhausted. There was a cackling noise and then she heard a voice.
“Hello?” the male on the other end said. “Hello? Thank God you called. I was about to call the police. Where have you been? Come back home, darling. Please.”
Her eyes went wide. It was him.
“Doll,” the voice continued. “We are getting married in a week. Do you have to run away now? I said I was sorry. Can we please not fight anymore? Please?”
She closed her eyes, trying to shake the ego away.
“Help,” she croaked. “Help, please…”
“Hello? Lis? Are you alright? What’s wrong? Where are you? Hello?”
“Lis, where are you? Just tell me where you are. I will be right there.”
She saw no other option.
“Shed,” she said painfully. “Shed… Outskirts… Street 23…”
The line went dead. She breathed in again and finally let herself cry. It was too much effort to even sit up. Her stomach was empty, there was no food in sight and that monster just left her to die.
As the phone buzzed with another call, she closed her eyes and slipped off into oblivion.
When she opened her eyes, she was in a room. She felt a bit relaxed and realised she was on a bed. She touched her face and found that there was something like a bandage across her forehead. Looking down, she saw that her whole foot up to her ankle was completely wrapped in cloth. It felt numb.
“She’s awake,” she heard someone shout. “Doctor! Nurse! Anyone!”
She turned her head and saw her fiancé staring down at her with love in his eyes. How could he pretend so beautifully?
“I thought you were gone,” he said, holding her hand. “I love you, Lis…”
She tried a smile.
The doors burst open, but the doctor did not walk in. Two officers did.
“Good afternoon, ma’am. My name is Ben and this is Joe. We need to be able to question you now. Are you up for it?”
“No,” her fiancé said. “Can’t you see she is unwell?”
“I’m fine,” she insisted. “I am ready to answer your questions.”
Her voice was back, she found out in a pleasant surprise and smiled inwardly to herself.
“Alright,” one of the officers said, “Sir, you will have to leave the room!”
Her fiancé chuckled.
“We have no secrets, right, Lis?” he said, shrugging.
“But they have to follow protocol,” she told him.
With a heavy heart, he walked away.
“Can you please tell us everything you remember?” one of the officers asked as the other switched the tape recorder on.
“I…It was a normal day, the sun was shining and everything was beautiful. I was on my way to work when… this part is fuzzy in my mind. There was a man… he hit me… and then he took me somewhere… I was sitting in his car… Next to him… The next thing I knew, I was in a shed, or was it a barn? I don’t know. I tried calling the cops on my phone, but he found out and he slapped me and threw the phone away…”
She touched the wound at the edges of her lip. It was still raw.
“Alright, ma’am. You need to explain to me how it happened… I need the details”
“We found a bullet in your left foot…” the other officer blurted out.
“No,” she shook her head. “It was my right foot and… he did that to me. He shot me because I refused to get into the car…”
“Where were you when this happened?”
She closed her eyes.
“In some garden of some sort… I can’t remember very clearly, but there was grass… On my way to work…”
“And then he got you into his car… Can you explain what this vehicle looked like?”
“It was black. A sedan, maybe? I don’t know but one side mirror was broken. I remember that. A mirror was gone. You know those two mirrors outside? The one at the passenger seat was gone. I think it fell off somewhere because he was driving really fast and…”
“What did he look like?”
“He was a little taller than I am… and he had really rough hands. His eyes… They were a deep blue and very sharp.”
“Alright ma’am. Our team is investigating the shed at the moment for any sign of some sort. We will get back to you as soon as we can. You get well soon.”
Three days later, she was called to the police station. Limping in with her crutches and her fiancé by her side, she greeted the officers with a smile.
“You found the man?” she asked. “Please tell me you found him. I can’t sleep at night…”
“Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any clues from the shed. Whoever did this to you is very clever. However, we do have criminals who commit this sort of… crime. They are on the other side of this door. If we take you in there, do you think you would be able to identify the man?”
When she gulped nervously, one of the officers stepped forward.
“Both of us will be with you and your fiancé will be coming in as well.”
She nodded as confidently as she could.
In the room, five men were standing in front of her, their faces not giving away any expression whatsoever. She scanned them all, tried to remember something from that day. But her mind was not cooperating.
“Ma’am, take your time. Just let us know if any of these men is the one.”
She stood up from her chair and backed up against the wall. Her eyes turned glassy and she began to sweat profusely.
“Lis, what’s the matter? Are you alright?”
Her fingers went up to her temples and she closed her eyes, tears streaming down her cheeks.
“Ma’am… are you remembering something? Is everything okay?”
As her fiancé stepped towards her, worry written across his face, the officers asked him to move back.
“I remember who the man was!” she said suddenly, her breath getting heavy.
“Is he in this room?”
She nodded, terrified.
“Ma’am, you don’t have to say anything. Just point at the man. They are all standing right there and they won’t harm you. We assure you that.”
With shaky fingers, she pointed.
But it was not at any of those men.
It was at her fiancé.
It took two more days to finish all the proceedings and the formalities.
“Thank God, that’s done with,” Officer Joe said. “We make a good team, Ben.”
But Ben did not respond. He was lost in thoughts.
“What’s the matter?” Joe asked. “What is it that you’re thinking about?”
They were sitting in the local cafe, sipping coffee.
“It just doesn’t feel right,” he replied.
“What do you mean? Look, everything checked out. Every single detail. We found a gun in her fiancé’s room. It had his prints on it and the bullet from her foot checked out. It came from that gun. Also, his car is a black one. Not a sedan like she said it would be, but that was a detail she was not sure about. But it did have a missing mirror and there were traces of blood all over the car, especially in the passenger seat, even though he tried to clean it. ”
“Don’t you think it is strange, though?” Ben asked. “How everything just fell into place like that? How, she suddenly remembered that it was her fiancé who tried to murder her? How her fiancé kept calling her deranged? It felt staged to me…”
“You are over-thinking this, Ben. The man pleaded not guilty and he lost. The neighbours did not have any proof of her mental instability like he claimed. There are no medical records. Hell, she grew up in an orphanage after her parents killed themselves. Give the woman a break! Besides, all the evidences point to him. Even the ‘garden’ and the ‘grass’ that the woman was referring to was actually their front lawn and there was blood there as well. You know this, Ben. How can you still be doubtful? The man had a gun without a licence for it!”
“But he says he does not even remember buying that!”
“Then how can you explain the withdrawal of the same amount on his name a few days before the incident? Look, we see these cases all the time. Men just like to take advantage of their women. This is surely just a situation of a relationship gone wrong. At least no one died.”
“What if this was not one such case?”
“You know what? Let us just drop it. The man is behind bars, the woman is free and there is no other explanation in our hands. Our only regret should be that we didn’t check him out in the first place. Besides, we have so much more work to do.”
“You are right,” Ben replied, emptying his coffee and standing up. “Let’s go. We have another case in our hands. Some child kidnapping…”
“That’s the spirit, partner!” Joe laughed, patting him on the back.
Back at their house, Lis was taking the trash out. Her foot was feeling much better now and she could even walk, albeit slowly. As she took the garbage bags outside, the ones that had been piling up since a week, she glanced at her face in the mirror by the door. It was almost healed, the scars and wounds on her face fainter than they were a couple of days ago. Her eyes sharp, she slowly smiled, not with relief but with a sense of victory.
She then replayed the events in her head from the day of the accident.
Her fiancé was fast asleep.
He obviously would be, after the sleeping pills she popped into his drink an hour ago.
Careful not to make a sound, she went into their soundproof garage where he did most of his work, and revealed the gun that she had bought on his account almost a week ago. Her fingers trembled a little, but she knew that this was the only way.
Stifling a cry, she pointed it at her foot and shot herself, yelping in pain. Then she tied it up, with the bullet still in as she slipped her bleeding foot into his shoes. Tears streaming down her cheeks, she limped back into the house, placing the gun in his hands without waking him and then, taking his limp hand in hers, she opened the drawer so his fingers would be on that as well, and put the gun inside.
The pain was excruciating and she could feel the warmth of the liquid filling up.
Getting into the passenger seat of his car, she closed the door and slipped her foot out of the soiled shoe, spilling blood all over the mats. Then she ran her nails through the dashboard and the front cabinets as well as the bottom of the seat to make it seem like a struggle. For an added effect, she knocked the side mirror off the car.
The first part of her plan was working brilliantly. This had taken such a long time for her, to be able to lay out its execution without any hint of failure. Now, the more difficult part of her revenge was left and she almost gave up as the pain shot up the leg but knew she could not. Not after she came this far.
“Don’t pass out,” she told herself. “Not yet. Don’t pass out now.”
Catching a cab, trying to look as normal as possible, her scarf tied around her face and sunglasses covering her eyes, she got herself driven to the isolated area and then paid the doubtful cab driver. But he didn’t ask any questions, just reversed his vehicle and drove away
“Thank you,” she shouted after him, smiling and just as he was gone out of sight, she burst into tears.
“Just half a kilometre more,” she told herself and dragged her foot into the shed that she knew was unoccupied for over a year.
Breaking open the lock, she got in, and through the narrowly concealed hole that she drilled a few days ago, she latched it from outside. Then, she beat herself up a bit to add a touch of violence to her carefully schemed plan and when her phone flung out of her hands with the impact, she finally passed out.
Walking outside to the dustbin, she breathed in deeply, thinking about her ex-fiancé rotting in jail.
“Serves him right,” she told herself. “I am not the one who needs psychiatric help, he is. I taught him a lesson, didn’t I?” she laughed to herself. “How dare he threaten to call a counselor on me? For my own good, he says. I showed him!”
And then her eyes turned serious.
“Never mess with a woman.”
In the garbage bin were two bags filled with trash. But also in it were the only two evidences that could ever put her scheme out into the open.
The broken mirror. The bloody shoes.
Now they were gone forever.