Vedant was tired to the bone and the heat was only adding fuel to the fire, both literally and figuratively. He stretched out and sighed after a long day of work. He had a sudden urge to finish off the tub of butterscotch ice-cream he had safely tucked deep into the freezer the previous night. When he opened the refrigerator, he was shocked.
Beads of perspiration appeared on his forehead and he felt the room spinning around him. He stood there with a lump in his throat, trying hard to fight back tears. He wanted to scream but his voice failed him. Bella, his pet cat was stuffed into the freezer, her throat slit. He moved his hand over her ice-cold body, her eyes wide open and staring into his. He felt the world go dark as he fell on the floor with a loud thud.
Vedant did not know how long he lay there. But it was still dark when he bolted awake and looked into the freezer again.
The butterscotch had melted and pooled around Bella’s body. And her eyes! He closed the freezer with a thud and fell on the sofa.
His heart raced and his fingers hammered on the armrest in fury.
Who could do this to him? WHO?
Definitely someone seeking revenge who knew how much he loved Bella.
Mireya? Livid, because of his acrimonious breakup with her last week?
Or Prashanth, his business rival, resentful because he landed the prestigious project?
Vedant recalled last Saturday’s showdown with Mireya.
She’d proposed. He’d bluntly refused.
Her rage had erupted like a volcano. “You opportunistic, ambitious jerk! You played with me!”
He’d stayed silent.
“No wonder you’re alone in life, with that wretched cat……”
That was when he’d hit her.
No one insults Bella.
She’d stormed out, swearing revenge.
The ringing phone interrupted his thoughts. He answered the unknown number.
A female voice screamed, “What have you done to Mireya?” Expletives followed.
“She’s pregnant, you irresponsible lout! As if you don’t know!”
“And bedridden since she last met you….”
Vedant kept on staring at the phone long after it was disconnected. He couldn’t believe what he had just heard. Mireya had never mentioned being pregnant.
“Is this some kind of trap laid by Mireya to get back at me?” He wondered.
“If Mireya was bedridden since she last met me, then who?” His grief was not letting him think clearly.
“I will not spare whosoever did this to you, Bella.” He muttered while bracing himself to look at her again. He opened the freezer.
There was no sign of Bella. Freezer looked the same as he had left in the morning.
He felt sick with a tight hard knot in his throat that refused to dissolve.
Was he losing his mind?
He looked in the freezer again before continuing to make more frenzied attempts to find Bella.
Her favorite spots. His bedroom. The garden.
His sweet Bella. Finally, he broke down.
“Bella…where are you, sweetheart…”
His mind kept swinging between grief and questions when the last call he had answered came back to haunt him.
Pregnant and bedridden Mireya.
He frowned suddenly, remembering what had jarred him about the call.
Who had called him? How did they have his number?
Vedant pulled out his phone. He had to talk to Mireya. If she truly was pregnant with his child… No!
There must be some mistake. They had not been together since weeks. Mireya had tried to control his life and finances with a deathlike grip. And that’s why he refused to marry her. But this latest turn of events put a wrench in his plans.
Vedant dialled Mireya’s number, a few times, but it went straight to the voice mail. On a whim, he dialled the unknown number.
“Hello?” Said an unnervingly icy voice followed by a faint Meow.
Where was Mireya and… Bella?
“Who’s that?” he shouted in the phone, but the expletives continued. He disconnected. The mobile buzzed again. The same belligerent voice spurted out yet another slew of expletives. Disgusted, he threw the phone in a fit.
The sudden sound of doorbell jolted him. He opened the door in apprehension. A man stood there with a box in hand.
“Parcel for you Sir”, he said, handing the box to Vedant. Then without waiting for a reply, he quickly made himself scarce.
The eerie silence of the doorway coupled with the nameless parcel in his hand were signs of an imminent danger that Vedant could sense.
With trembling hands, Vedant opened it. A little silk pouch stared back at him. He hurriedly undid the pouch to discover a small hair-like strand. It was Bella’s plucked whisker; he distinctly identified the half black tip.
They’re torturing Bella… he drifted off.
The sudden chirp of his phone jolted him back.
“Liked the gift?” The same aggressive voice sounded calmer, “So, out with your locker password.”
How did they know about his locker, how could anybody?
His best kept secret, unknown to everyone else. Securely hidden under the table rug of his very private cabin.
Wherein he hoarded…well, secrets.
“Secrets, which he’d guarded more than his life!” Vedant smirked.
The locker was huge enough to hold myriad things. Not that he’d really used it all these years, except… except lately. He looked at the table rug apprehensively which hid the locker. And then it struck him. There was only one person who could possibly know about the locker. Oh! This pertinent point had slipped his mind!
A dull but persistent thud broke his reverie. Where was it coming from?
Vedant broke into a cold sweat.
“That’s simply farfetched! How could she?” Vedant’s heart screamed.
“Why not? When money is ludicrously important for life, even loved ones can crouch down to any level.” His mind didn’t want to lose the battle.
His memory took him to the good old days.
“You have given me wings to fly high.” She used to praise him.
“She was the only person who stood with you like a rock when you were none to this world.” His heart murmured again.
“Your heart is tricking you. Don’t believe it!” Mind warned.
She was none other than his loving sister Vidushi who gifted him Bella on his birthday.
Vedant battled in his head. “No, you’re mistaken. Vidushi loved Bella, and she will never harm her. She is certainly not behind this.”
The very next moment, another thought crossed his mind. Vidushi is a voice-over artist too. Was that belligerent voice hers?
Vedant dialled the number again. After the fourth ring, the stranger answered. It was arduous to identify the voice. “Who are you, and how do you know about the locker? Is that you, Vidushi?” Questions flooded.
The silence lasted for sixty seconds before the person on the other side chuckled and said, “If you wish to see Bella alive, reveal the password.”
The call disconnected. But, the fetters of questions manacled his teetering mind.
Perhaps, he had too many adversaries to deduce one face weaving the web of deceit. A brush with fame had reshaped his character; changed his friend circle – tarnished his life.
Leading a unicorn mortgage start-up at its pinnacle of success, Vedant never reflected on his past, the devious paths he strode; the lives he mortified; friendships he exploited; the relationships he fiddled with, and all just for – his repute.
“Yes, those mortgage papers!”
“It’s time I pay for it now!”
His darkest secret – the skeleton in the cupboard.
It was just the start of his career and Vedant was stirringly working to conjure up his company to a unicorn one. He had few options left for a fatty financial investment other than to lure a venture capitalist.
Fortuitously, it was then that Vidushi introduced this friend of hers, Sharon. Sharon was too young and looking after his father’s business. From Vidushi being considerate to Sharon, Vedant could easily learn, she had a desire towards this newbie.
Vedant realized this was the person who brought him his silk stockings. Over time, he got help for more than half a billion from Sharon.
Vidhushi hugged Bella and started crying.
“Vidushi! It hurts but think of all those people who have suffered because of Vedant. He is a maniac who can do anything to fulfil his ambition. He had closed me in that cupboard in an inebriated state and left. If you had not come accidentally, I would have been dead. He got my will papers signed treacherously and hid them in the locker. I am alive but living like a dead person. Thanks to you and Mireya’s make-up skills that we were able to create this masterplan”, said Sharon.
“Vedant is trapped now,” said Mireya.
Vedant’s bewildered mind had lost the power to reason. He dialed a number hastily, and took out his car keys and drove off. He reached the farmhouse where Sharon’s step-brother, Shizenoir, was waiting for him. Vedant threatened to reveal to everyone that Shizenoir was his partner-in-crime if he did not get back his Bella alive.
Shizenoir blamed Vedant for letting go off everything for just a silly cat. Vedant was livid. Just then, Sharon, Mireya and Vidushi arrived with the police and his beloved Bella. Vidushi hugged Vedant distraught. For the world, he was a villain, but he was tied to her by blood after all.
She had found love in Sharon but had lost her only family.
Beyond the Box is the first platform in India to have conducted an Online Write-A-Thon which encourages collaborative story writing. In the month of July 2022, 72 participants created history by being a part of Season 2 of this exciting event. They were divided into 5 groups and each participant in the group contributed to the ongoing story in 100 words approximately. The 15 writers of Group 1 (Adults) who came up with this story are: (Names mentioned in the sequence allotted to them for the Write-A-Thon. A line has been used in the story to indicate change in the writer. )
|Sequence Number||Group 1|
|14||CA Pooja Kabra|
|15||Amanpreet Kaur Mehar|