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Short Story Writing Contest # 2 - VOTING! *CLOSED*

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U-No-Poo

IF-Sizzlerz

U-No-Poo

Joined: 15 June 2007

Posts: 23464

Posted: 16 July 2010 at 8:20am | IP Logged

 
 
Yes folks, the voting has begun! Approve
 
 
 
Pooja, Radz and Nandini have shortlisted 7 deserving entries! Although each one of you did a great job, 7 out of 21 were the gems we had been looking for Big smile Here's a huge round of applause for everyone who participated! Clap
 
 
 
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Some rules for voting:
 
 
 
1. Please vote for one entry each, for the following titles:
 
 
a) Best Story
b) Best Concept
c) Best writer
d) Best title
 
 
2. If your entry has been shortlisted, you cannot vote for yourself.
 
 
 
3. Do not advertise your story; it will lead to disqualification instantly.
 
 
 
4. Do not make MID's to vote for yourself.
 
 
 
5. Voting closes on 25h July, 2010! Big smile
 
 
6. Please read every entry carefully before voting. We want the most deserving entry to win :)
 
 
7. Post your votes here!
 
 
8. You can vote for the same entry for more than one category too :)
 
 
 
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Without further ado, here are the brilliant entries:
 
 
 
ENTRY # 1
 

The Two Sisters

 

The name was not Priti. Their mother had named her Pratima ' a mere 'impression'. But Priti - the name - had a good ring to it. Being called Priti made her feel ' well 'pretty. Even though she was good-looking, it was Shirley who was the endowed one in the family. As a matter of fact, Shirley, her sister, younger than her by one year, was no other than the renowned actress Shirley, the woman of immense riches, power and fame, the shining diamond in the sky of the nation! Oh, she was flawless!

Yet, for Priti, there was just one truth: up there was her sister, hovering like a cloud; and down here, well within the perimeter of the immense gray shadow of the cloud, was spread her own sad existence. And that troubled her.

All that changed; of sudden there was golden sunshine to bask in when sister Shirley perished in an awful car crash. It was strange. The body was lost in the ravines, never to be found. In the sadness that ensued all turned to Priti, the lone surviving kin. In her face they found traces of their dear departed. They asked her tidbits, anecdotes, innumerable questions about their beloved star. Hesitatingly, they asked her, perhaps, if she could ' if she would - hum a tune or two of Shirley's songs, as a remembrance, a last token to adhere to. In the days and the months that followed, Priti wallowed in the attention.  Plans to write down accounts of their childhood days with the help of a writer of renown were in the works. And like the sweet, red cherry-at-the-top was the not-so-light package from the folks at the insurance company, husband Sid would add.

Now, with complete freedom she could pursue the very contented life of a mid-level corporate woman. Painstakingly, she had built her career, but it had seemed pale when confronted with the achievements of her sister. But all that was before the demise of her famous sister; was history. She was a happy woman now. Oh, for the sweet justice that prevails even as the ways of the world meander!

 

 

Then one day '

It was not yet lunch time, that day, when she sought Latika, her assistant. Not finding her at her desk, she guessed she was in the Program Manager, Rambo's office. Indeed, the door to Rambo's office was shut, the blinds were pulled down. "Can't wait to see her face when she reads that report I am formulating in my mind right now!" she muttered to herself as she stomped away from Latika's desk. She had to be subtle, of course. In the hierarchy of things as they stood, while every member of the team watched out for Priti, her own report was penned by Rambo.

She decided to step out to catch some fresh air. Usually she had many succulent pieces of information to exchange with her office-workers but today it felt different.

"All those campaigns-shampaigns that go on inside, not for me," she muttered on.

Worrying about promotions and sudden transfers seemed unnecessary now. Slandering, suggesting surprise demotions for others or together imagining dizzying descents of people they bitched about felt tiresome too.

It was nice to get away for a while. The cafe was the perfect place to be away from all the office politics. At mid-morning, it was quite empty too. Warmth oozed out of every crease of the smiling Gurkha's face as he attended to her. And when, taking her order, he left, she started to look around self-consciously. Not many people had arrived yet for lunch, still (this had become her sweet addiction) she looked around for eyes prying at her. There came the feeling that she was not alone. She heard a rustle, the rustle of silk. Behind her, a woman lit a cigarette and sat down in a chair. She smelt the cigarette, mild and minty. Turning about-face would not do, so she just sat and patted down the pleats of her sari. But when the wafts of smoke coming from behind her brought along another scent, a familiar one, she felt a light shudder run down her spine. She breathed hard. There was no mistaking the elegant smoking lady sitting behind her was wearing her sister's favorite perfume. Like a sacred ritual, Shirley would dab five drops of Chanel No. 5 at "all those places" where she wanted to be kissed.

She heard a cackle of laughter, then she heard the words, "May I shatter into a thousand pieces if my own sister fails to take notice of me!" She spun around.

Sitting statuesquely behind her, holding a cigarette between two slanting fingers up in the air, silk-clad and smiling radiantly was Shirley. Her head angled on one side, her eyes like two long daggers held Priti in their gaze.

"You look so well, my love." She laughed again her long pleasant laughter and sucked at the cigarette.

"What is it, my sweetness?" Then she spoke softly. "Aren't you happy to see me?"

Priti had been looking at Shirley with eyes filled with shock. She had not moved an inch from where she stood, two tables away from Shirley. Her mouth had become so dry, she could barely form any words.

"No," she managed finally in a raspy voice. "We thought-" she whispered, "the accident!"

Shirley blew out a thin ribbon of smoke and laughed again, "Accident? There was no accident. It was just an attempt to kill me. I am here now in front of you, am I not, my darling?" Her voice jingled in laughter. She raised her hand, stopping Priti as she finally proceeded towards her. "No, don't come closer. Do you think I have forgotten how smoke bothers you?"

"And yet," exhaling a big cloud of smoke, she spoke through the haze. "And yet, every young man who you loved was a chain smoker. How ironic!" Once again she laughed and stubbed the cigarette.

Priti had stopped looking at her sister and had instead lost herself in the sweet days of their youth. She knew what Shirley was referring to, when every year come summer the sisters found themselves in a new locale: Sikkim, Kerala, Goa, all venues of conferences for their father who was a professor in a university. Everywhere they went, things arranged themselves such that the sisters found themselves surrounded with boys their own age. And while Shirley was way too charming for the young men to handle, Priti, invariably ended up living a summer romance.

"I approved of each one of your lovers, Priti. But Rinka was the best." Shirley declared with a giggle. Yeah, she still remembered that one. Rinka, dribbling the basketball in the mist that cloaked the school-grounds in that boarding school in Kalimpong, his friends pursuing him and then suddenly he stopped his game just to look at the two sisters 'from the plains' who watched them from a distance.

"Everyone, except the last one, Sid." Shirley continued. "And he's the only one who does not smoke. Is that the reason that you married him?" She had lit another cigarette and was eying her carefully now.

"Oh, he's a changed man now." Priti pouted.

"Why did he tamper with my car then?" Coldly and in a low voice she asked.

"Don't say that. That's not true. He likes you, Shirley."

"I control you too much ' that's what he had said when he walked away with you. Now look who controls you. In my view, sweetie, the problem lies in you. You love to be controlled." Shirley laughed so loudly Priti was worried the people around her would be alarmed. But no one said a thing.

"Shirley-" she thought she had lost her voice. "Shirley, it's not true that Sid tampered with your car."

"You really mean it?" Shirley said, rising from her chair. "Look at me whiling away my time when I should really be somewhere else. That waiter must be lost in thoughts of his sweet faraway Nepal. He has completely forgotten my dosa. Never mind. I'll forgo lunch, I guess. Gotta run."

"Shirley, wait! You can't leave."

"I'll come for your birthday. The day-after-tomorrow, right?"

Priti shook her head.

"Wait!" She stopped Shirley midway as she swayed her way towards the exit like a handsome swan sails on a tranquil flower-studded pond. "Were you serious about- about Sid and the car? You are being unnecessarily suspicious. Why would anyone want to kill you?"

Her cigarette held up in the air, she turned around and let out a thick puff of smoke. She gave an eye a wink and said, "Many reasons. Fame, power, money ' all these are pretty heavy things, honey. The truth is: it takes a strong head to carry that crown. Even I am not that tough, it seems." She laughed and blew a kiss her way. "But really, that errand can't wait. Shall I call you tomorrow at 10?" Without awaiting an answer she left.

When Priti turned around again, she saw her food on the table, cold now. The Gurkha raised a shy gaze and asked, "Is something the matter with the food, Mem Sahib? You have not even touched it. Shall I bring something else for you?"

 

Next day in the office she sat puzzled on the chair. She had a new number which meant it was not possible that Shirley would call. Still Priti was nervous and waited.

Suddenly her phone rang, cursing the caller, she picked it up without looking at the caller ID, "Hello?", she said and heard a familiar voice at the other end. But before she could respond, two hands clasped her shoulders from behind and as she turned around to look who it was, the call got disconnected.

"I wish you had not done that, Sid." She said with irritation. "You know she already suspects you. This would make everything worse."

"Honey, I don't trust that woman. You told me she will come tomorrow for your birthday. Let's talk with her to our hearts' content then."

 

 

Even though it was just seven in the evening, Priti had dismissed the servants for the day. Soft music played in the background and Sid sitting on a tall stool next to the kitchen counter took little sips of his Martini and watched Priti pace back and forth the kitchen floor. Every so often, she would issue a sigh and rest her head on him and gently petting her head he would comfort her.

"Oh, I feel so unpleasant!" She would say.

Or, "How selfish of her to spoil my birthday in this manner! I don't remember the last time I had such a lonely birthday."

His eyes fixed at the gate outside, he kissed her forehead. "I got somethin' for you, baby." He muttered. "Upstairs ' in our room."

"Still my 16th birthday was the best," she went on. "Shirley had planned it from the beginning to the end," she added.

When the clock in the living room chimed eight hours, Priti ran upstairs to her room to freshen up. Finding it unusually cold in the room, she moved towards the open window to shut it. She was fumbling with the latch when her nostrils started to flare. Chanel No. 5! Who brought that fragrance to her house? Is that what Sid meant, she was thinking when she saw Shirley sunk deep in the arm-chair next to the bed.

She lit a cigarette and said, "I heard you telling Sid about your 16th birthday. Aw, that was sweet."

Priti was looking at her with shocked eyes. "I didn't see you come in."

She laughed. "I came some time back, my sweet. I must have dozed off. I woke up when the servants left, I think."

The smoke she exhaled wafted in the air snake-like. She was smiling. "May you live a thousand years and the year be comprised of 50,000 days!"

"Who are you talking with, Priti?" It was not long when hearing voices, Sid too came running upstairs. Seeing Shirley his face turned dark and he said, "You?"

"Yes, it's me. Surprised to see me alive, brother-in-law?"

He muttered inaudibly and sternly she returned, "Why did you want to kill me? I did you no harm."

"He did nothing of the sort. I cannot believe I am standing here quietly listening to you talk to my husband like that, Shirley."

"What other course of action can you take, girl?" Then turning her gaze at Sid, she spoke in a firm voice, "I have come here intending to get an answer to my question and will not leave until I get one."

"No, Baby! My house, my rules, my way! We need make no replies and you will jolly well leave." He said moving right in front of where she sat. He stood there with a gun pointed at her. As calm as water, he stood there absolutely, unwavered by the woman's fame and power. For others, this may be a crime, but for him, it was business. He smiled as he slowly took 2 steps back. "This won't hurt baby, it's going to be fast, and quick", he said to her, slowly and deliberately. He may not be torturing her physically, but he was torturing her mentally, Priti was thinking. "Finish it- quick- please- Sid!" she spoke under her breath. 

"Now you're being silly. So you will let him shoot at your sister, Priti? Shouldn't we at least talk first?" She looked their way through her thick eye-lashes. A mild smile stretched her lips asymmetrically. She pulled again on her cigarette. In the past, she smoked only occasionally, only when it looked stylish to smoke, never like this. Now, one cigarette followed the other.

His finger curved around the trigger and the last word that escaped her mouth before a loud shot sounded was 'No'.

She was gone ' enveloped in a cloud of dust and smoke. There was no scream, no cry, but Priti thought that after the shot had died she had heard her trailing voice say, "I will not leave till I have your reply."

And when all the dust had settled and the smoke had cleared they kept looking but could not find her corpse.

 

 This is one volatile couple. They snap at people, jump up like rabbits at the slightest unexpected sound and argue unnecessarily with everyone. Friends and foes alike avoid them. And with each passing year they are worsening. Now they have even started to lose their sleep. They have stopped looking searchingly around them, for a long time they were doing that. They are aware that somewhere in their vicinity is reclined on a chaise, or seated on a chair or a bar-stool or perched on the kitchen counter that woman Shirley, at ease, pulling on her cigarette, watching them, smiling and waiting for their reply.

 
______________________________________
 
 
ENTRY # 2
 
 

The Phoenix


She looked out from the balcony of her 12th floor apartment and inhaled deeply the fresh air '..today she is on top of the world'..six years'she has waited for six long years for this moment '..She is now the owner of the largest hotel chain in the world'.she has beat him'.beat him at his own game. Nikita smiled contentedly '.revenge is sweet'.the very people who had written her off, thought she will not survive the rat- race'those very people are now wanting to do business with her'.Rajiv Verma is finished'.she has killed him with her own hands, robbed him of everything, he is now almost like a pauper'.she has made sure he suffers the way she had suffered all through her life.

 

20 years ago

 

Nikita, a pretty little girl of eight, walking with her dad along the beach, wearing the new frock he had given her for her eighth birthday; her eyes were shining brightly as she chattered away excitedly to him. For Nikita, her dad was her best friend; she was never that close to her mother'.she was always her dad's girl. But little did she know that today is the last day that she will be able to hold her dad's hand, the last day that she will be able to talk to him.

 

It was almost 9:00 PM when they returned home from their beach walk'they had just sat for dinner when the phone rang'.Nikita heard her father arguing with someone over the phone. He kept the phone down after sometime and walked up to the dining room. Nikita had never seen her father looking like that, he looked haggard, defeated, gone were those twinkling, and smiling eyes that she loved so much.

 

"What happened?" Nikita's mom Swati asked, looking concerned.

"Everything is finished Swati, I have lost everything, Rajiv Verma my manager cheated me, now I am left with nothing" Anuj could not control his emotions anymore, all his years of hard work gone within a few seconds, he broke down. Swati tried to console him but she knew it was of no use. Nikita could not understand much but she knew someone called Rajiv Verma has hurt her father a lot, and she hated that person.

 

The next day Nikita found her father hanging in his room. Her mom went into recluse after his death. From that day onwards Nikita's struggle for survival started, and each day her hatred for Rajiv Verma increased. She was barely sixteen when her mom died of cancer. It was that very day she swore that she will destroy Rajiv Verma, the man who destroyed her perfect life, her family, her childhood and her future.

 

*******

Today as Nikita savoured her success, she suddenly felt something wet on her cheeks, she touched her cheeks in surprise, she is crying, crying after 20 years, she has not shed a single tear since her dad died. But today ruining Rajiv made her cry, she began to sob uncontrollably, it was like she was letting out the pent up feelings of so many years. As her sobs reduced she noticed someone is calling her on her cell phone, the name flashing on the screen made her smile through her tears'Rishi, her best friend, confidante, guide, the sole person who stood by her all through her ups and downs, he was her college friend and he knew everything about her, it was he who had helped her when she wanted to set up her own hotel, it was he who had encouraged her all along when she felt defeated.  

 

 

He cut out the article carefully from the newspaper; the headline read "Seashells Enterprise is the largest hotel chain in the World." He looked fondly at the smiling picture of Nikita, "some day you will be mine" he sighed, folding the article and keeping it in his drawer.

 

*******

 

A woman lit her cigarette and sat down in her chair. It was nice to get away for a while. Cafe was the perfect place to be away from all the office politics. Suddenly, her phone rang, cursing the caller, she picked it up without looking at the caller ID, "Hello?", and she heard a familiar voice on the other end. But before she could respond, two hands clasped her shoulders from behind and as she turned around to look who it was, the call was disconnected.

 

Sonia screamed out loud, and when she saw the face of the person who was clasping her shoulder she began to laugh, "you scared the wits out of me, you naughty girl, it was you who called me isn't it?"

 

"Sorry Sonia but I just love to scare you" Nikita replied grinning

 

"How did you know I am here?"

 

"It's your favourite hide-out; you were not in your office so I guessed you are here, always remember I am your best friend and I know everything about you" Nikita winked at her.

 

"Yeah I know, but Rishi is your best friend, alas I am not your best friend" Sonia shook her head in mock sadness.

 

"Hey, don't you dare say that, Rishi and you both are my best friends" Nikita replied slapping Sonia on her arm.

 

"Ouch , relax, ok fine , wont say that again, but congratulations dear on your success , I am so happy for you , at last you got what you wanted'lets celebrate your success'.lets go out this evening to a restaurant'you call up Rishi too"

 

Nikita nodded at her smiling.

 

******

 

 

Nikita smiled to her-self as she got ready to go to bed'.it had been a long and exciting day 'she had enjoyed her outing with Sonia and Rishi a lot'.they celebrated by drinking champagne'...now she is feeling tired and sleepy...tomorrow will be a hard day again. She will have to confront Rajiv Verma , her smiled faded a bit as she thought about it, she knew Rajiv wont take this blow lying low, he will attack her, he is a ruthless man, and he is out to get her some how.

 

Suddenly her cell phone rang, she looked at the screen and the name flashing on it made her heart skip a beat, she took the call, "Hello"

 

"Congratulations honey" the voice at the other end said

 

 Nikita blushed hearing the voice and replied "Thank you"

 

"Wish I could be there with you now, but you know this office work '" he sighed

 

"I know, I miss you too, come back soon" Nikita said sadly

 

"I am coming tomorrow"

 

"Really, I will pick you up from the airport then"

 

"No don't you bother, I don't know which flight I am going to take, I will call you once I return, good night dear, and I love you"

 

"Ok, bye Sam, love you too" Nikita replied a bit disappointed.

 

 

Samuel, she had met him at an office party 2 years ago, and their attraction towards each other was instant, he was not a very rich man neither was he the most handsome man on Earth but Nikita knew she could trust him, he was a patient listener and a person with a golden heart, he was everything she ever wanted in the man of her life.

 

As Nikita settled down to sleep she thought before closing her eyes "Time has come to talk to Samuel about their marriage, tomorrow she will do it"

 

 

******

 

Everything was working according to plan Rajiv smiled as he put down the phone. "Enjoy your last day on earth Nikita Khanna, sleep well"

 

"She is such a foolish girl, trying to outwit the great Rajiv Verma. She will be sorry for this. I agree I am a pauper now, but only for today, tomorrow Seashells Enterprise will be mine and you will be no more Miss Nikita Khanna, no more"

 

Nikita was eagerly waiting for Samuel; she kept looking at the clock, as he will arrive any moment. The bell rang and Nikita ran towards the door opening with a big smile.

What she saw made her blood freeze; she felt her whole world is spinning.

 

He stood there with a gun pointed at her. As calm as water, he stood there absolutely un-wavered by the woman's fame and power. For others, this may be a crime, but for him, it was business. He smiled as she slowly took two steps back. "This won't hurt baby, it's going to be fast and quick", he said to her, slowly and deliberately. He may not be torturing her physically, but he was torturing her mentally.

 

His finger curved around the trigger, and the last word that escaped her mouth before a loud shot sounded, was 'No'.

 

 Samuel carefully walked over the lifeless body of Nikita, and smirked, "It was so easy to trap her, she was a nice girl though, very pretty, pity she had to die, she should not have messed with Rajiv" Samuel quietly closed the door of the apartment and walked away, leaving Nikita in a pool of blood.

 

 

Rishi kept the phone down, and knelt down sobbing, he could not stop crying, today he has destroyed Nikita, the person he loved the most in this world "I am sorry Niki, I had to do this, I knew you would never be mine when I saw you with Samuel, I knew you would never fall in love with me, I could not take it, I agreed to work for Rajiv, hoping that if you would lose everything , may be I will come closer to you again and you will learn to love me, today I have done it, I have destroyed you, I am sorry Niki, but I love you, and you will understand that one day", Rishi took out all the newspaper cuttings from the drawer , and some old photographs of Rishi and Nikita together, took out his lighter and began to burn them.

 

******

Nikita opened her eyes, lying on the hospital bed, her head throbbing; she remembered all that had happened to her. She was in great pain but this pain was nothing compared to what Rishi and Samuel had given her. Two people she had trusted the most destroyed her. If it had not been for Sonia, she would have been dead by now. Sonia had come to meet Nikita that fateful day, when Nikita did not open the door Sonia opened it with the spare key she always had of Nikita's apartment , and was shocked to see Nikita lying in a pool of blood. She immediately took her to the hospital and after four hours of surgery and three hours of observation the doctor announced that Nikita was out of danger.

 

News of her destruction greeted her once Nikita gained consciousness. Sonia came to meet her and grimly handed over a letter, the last letter written by Rishi before he committed suicide. It read:

 

Dear Niki,

 

I am sorry, I have ruined you, I never wanted this to happen but I was blinded, blinded by hatred, and love. I knew you would never love me like the way I loved you, I knew I would never get you, so I decided to ruin you by taking away everything from you, so that you will become dependent on me. I sold all the shares I owned of your company to Mr. Rajiv Verma, I made you sign a deed on sly that mentioned you are transferring all your holdings to Mr. Rajiv Verma, the day we went out for celebrating your success, you remember I gave you a piece of white paper and asked you to sign saying that I wanted to check whether the pen is working?. I know you will never forgive me for what I have done to you and I can't live with this guilt anymore, neither do I have the courage to see scorn for me in your eyes. So I have decided to end my life. I know you hate me now but please remember Niki I have always loved you, loved you till the last breathe of my life

 

Love you always;

 

Rishi

 

Nikita re-read the letter for the tenth time now; she could not help her tears while reading it, "I forgive you Rishi" she whispered as she folded the letter carefully and tucked it under her pillow. She switched on the small TV in her hospital room and began to watch a news channel. Rajiv Verma is every where, smiling away to glory and the news channels are also flashing her pictures every now and then. The mighty Nikita Khanna has fallen. Nikita's eyes hardened as she watched the news; yes she has fallen, as someone had very rightly said 'the higher you rise the harder you fall'. But she is Nikita Khanna, the phoenix, who will rise from the ashes, and this time she will see that Rajiv Verma is destroyed completely. This is not the end, this is just the beginning. The end will come and the end will be written by Miss Nikita Khanna.
 
 
 
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ENTRY # 3
 
 
HOPE

Lunchtime at Kate's Caf was usually a frenzied and hectic time for the staff. This Wednesday was no exception. Kate's Caf served the best sandwiches in the area, so it was hard to find a place there where one could sit down and enjoy a peaceful lunch.

One woman, who was lucky enough to get a table, lit her cigarette and sat down in her chair. Smoking was a bad habit, she knew, but each and every attempt at quitting failed. It wasn't her fault she had such a stressful job. She drew deeply on her cigarette, closing her eyes as she breathed out. It was nice to get away for a while. And Kate's Caf was simply the best place to be away from all the office politics. (Sure, she slept with her boss, but that was after she had gotten where she was.)

Suddenly, her phone rang, disrupting her hard-earned peace. Cursing the caller, she picked it up without looking at the caller ID. "Hello?" She heard a familiar voice on the other end, one of the many famous clients who came to her because she was, after all, one of the best PR personnel in the business. But before she could respond, two hands clasped her shoulders from behind, and as she turned around to see who it was, her phone slipped from her hand, disconnecting the call.

A pair of extremely familiar hazel eyes stared at her intensely, dark eyebrows furrowed in concentration. The skin around the eyes was pale, slightly wrinkled, with a scar running along the right cheek.

She had caused that scar, three years ago.

Fear flared up in her, but she quelled it immediately, her face cool and expressionless as she regarded the man.

"Sarah Lancaster." It was more of a statement than a question. His face was mere inches away from hers, scrutinising her features.

Sarah Lancaster. That was a name she hadn't heard in a while. Her heart began to pound furiously in her ribcage. Trying to keep her hands from trembling, she reached up and pushed him away. "I'm sorry, I think you have the wrong person. I'm Tabitha Hope." She turned away, hoping he would take the hint and leave her alone.

He staggered backwards a few steps, caught off-guard by her action. A bitter smile curled up the corners of his lips, and Sarah ' no, Tabitha ' suppressed a shudder. He pulled out the chair across from her, sitting down.

"No, I know who you are," he said, a vicious look in his eyes. His lips were pulled back in a smile, but to Sarah, it seemed more like the predatory snarl that a lion gave to a deer just before the deer went down under the lion's teeth. "You can change your name, you can change your hair, you can change everything about you, but I will always ' always ' know who you are, Sarah." He hissed her name.

She swallowed nervously, struggling to maintain a cool countenance. Part of her job as a PR was to maintain her composure under periods of extreme stress. She pushed her chair away from the table, standing up. "Look, I don't know who you think you are, but you have no idea who I am," she shot back. She grabbed her bag, spun on her heel and stalked away.

John Lancaster watched her as she walked away. Three years. For three years he had been tracking her down. And it hadn't been easy. She had changed her name to Tabitha Hope. She had chopped off the long blonde locks he had loved so much, trading them for a sharp, black bob. But at the end of the day, all that mattered was that he had found her.

Three years ago, she had been lucky.

This time, he would get the job done right.

-||-

"Miss Hope," Thomas Whitmore greeted her, rising from his desk. "Miss Hope, Peter Clay has been trying to get through to you all afternoon. He got into a row with a salesgirl at C-Mart and he wants you to clean it up."

"Cancel all my meetings for the day," Sarah barked. "I've got personal things to take care of. These stupid celebrities can clean up their own messes for once," she muttered, storming into her office.

Thomas frowned after her, confused. Sarah was hardly ever this short-tempered. Something was clearly wrong, but he wasn't sure whether to pry or not. Sarah may have been his boss, but she was also his best friend, he decided, heading for her door. He knocked on it, entering without waiting for a response, knowing he would get none.

In the thirty seconds or so that Sarah had been in her room, she had turned it into nothing short of a war zone. Drawers in her desk had been pulled out, papers were lying haphazardly here and there, cupboards had been flung open, their contents strewn all over the room'Thomas let out a low whistle. This was very much unlike Sarah. He looked around the room for her, finally spotting her rifling through the contents of a drawer. He made his way to her.

"Miss Hope?" he called out. "You okay?"

"It's gotta be in here somewhere," she mumbled, paying no attention to him. "It has to be."

"Miss Hope?" Thomas tried again, afraid of interrupting her manic search. "Tabby? What are you looking for?"

She didn't respond.

"Sarah!" he finally tried, knowing that this time he would get her attention.

Sure enough, her head snapped up, and she whirled around to face him. Out of everyone she knew, Thomas was the only one who knew about her life as Sarah Lancaster. In fact, Thomas was the reason for Tabitha Hope's existence, and Thomas was the reason Tabitha Hope was as successful as she was. "Don't you ever call me that again, Thomas," she hissed, blue eyes flashing.

Thomas gently put his hands on her arms, forcing her to stay still. "What's wrong, Tabby?"

Sarah's eyes filled up with tears. "He's back, Tom," she whispered, fear evident in her voice and in her eyes. "He's back."

His heart leapt to his throat. The colour drained from his face. "Who?" he asked, fearing the answer.

"John," she replied, her voice barely above a whisper. The tears began to fall, rolling down her cheeks, leaving trails of black mascara in their wake. She sank into his arms, sobbing helplessly. "I'm so scared, Tom. He's going to find me, I know he will. He saw me at the caf and now he's going to come looking for me and he'll kill me, Tom, I know he will and I'm so scared, Tom, I'm so scared."

Thomas's eyes flickered to her stomach, where he knew under her white shirt and beige blazer, the scars remained, serving as a constant reminder to her that John had attacked her three years ago. He gritted his teeth. "Hush, Tabitha," he whispered, pulling her close against his chest. "It'll be okay. I'll protect you, I promise."

-||-

For the next few days, Thomas did his best to take care of Sarah. He made her move into his apartment, where hopefully John wouldn't find her. He made sure that she was never alone, that there was always someone with her wherever she went.

And he made sure that all the gifts John sent never got to her.

They had started with a bouquet of roses and a card that read, "Roses are red, violets are blue, no matter where you are, I'll still find you". (That had prompted Thomas to get Sarah to move out of her place.) Then came a basket of blueberry muffins, to which Sarah was deathly allergic to. Then came a bottle of Chanel perfume that had always caused Sarah to break out into rashes, and the gifts kept coming.

To say that Sarah was terrified would have been an understatement. She wasn't eating right, she couldn't sleep, she was as jumpy as a cat on a hot stove, she was seeing John everywhere'she was going crazy.

That was probably what his game was, Thomas thought; he must have been trying to drive her so crazy that she'd jump off a bridge or something just to end the torture. Thomas was not about to let that happen to Sarah.

-||-

It had been almost a month since John Lancaster had affronted Sarah at Kate's Caf. Thanks to Thomas, Sarah hadn't heard from him since then, even though she knew that he was still sending her gifts. She still saw him whenever she went, but she didn't tell Thomas that. She was probably just imagining it. Besides, Thomas was starting to smother her, which she took as a sign that she was getting saner.

Sarah was supposed to be asleep. Thomas had come to check on her before he went for his shower, and Sarah had pretended to be asleep, but she was far too restless. She was dying to go for a walk on her own.

So she slipped out the door, dressed in a white t-shirt and khaki slacks, pulling on her brown coat.

It was a cloudless night, with the moon and stars out in full force. There was a chilly breeze stinging at Sarah's eyes and cheeks. The streets were relatively empty, except for the few homeless people that were eyeing her suspiciously.

Sarah wandered aimlessly, hands tucked in her coat pockets, mentally noting landmarks so she could find her way back. She let her thoughts run wild, savouring her temporary independence.

She didn't know how long she had been walking for, or how far away from Thomas's apartment she was, but she had the eeriest sensation of being followed. There were no audible footsteps behind her, nor was there anyone behind her when she glanced back, but she couldn't shake the feeling.

Then she heard them. The footsteps. They were soft, as if her assailant was trying to be quiet, and they were quick, trying to catch up with her.

She quickened her pace, and so did the footsteps. Soon, she was running, and the footsteps thumped down the sidewalk after her. Before she knew it, a hand had clapped itself over her mouth, and she was dragged into an alley.

Her assailant released her, and she spun around, knowing full well who it was going to be.

John Lancaster stood a few feet away from her, with a gun pointed straight at her. As calm as water, he stood there absolutely undeterred by her fame and power. To him, she was never Tabitha Hope, PR to the stars; she was Sarah Lancaster, unfaithful wife and manipulative salesgirl, unscrupulously working her way up to assistant manager. Anyone else may have seen this as a crime, but for him, it was just business. Just as it had been for her three years ago. He smiled as she slowly took two steps back, backing up against the wall.

"This won't hurt one bit, baby. It's going to be fast and quick," he said, every word slow and deliberate. "I promise you it's going to be nothing like last time. This time, you see, you're not going to live." He smiled at her.

Sarah bit her lip, holding back a whimper. He may not have been torturing her physically, but he was torturing her mentally. "Please," she begged.

His finger curved around the trigger, and the last word that escaped from her mouth before a loud shot rang out was 'No!' She squeezed her eyes shut, bracing herself for the bullet.

She waited a long moment before she opened her eyes.

Instead of John, Thomas stood at the entrance of the alley, a smoking gun by his side, his dark blonde hair damp against his forehead. His eyes were fixed on the ground, and Sarah looked down.

John lay face-down on the ground, a growing pool of blood on the alley floor.

Sarah looked up at Thomas. "What did you do?" she asked, horrified, afraid of moving from the wall.

Thomas turned his gaze up to her, slowly making his way to her. "You're safe now, Sarah," he told her softly. "Let's go back to my place."

He slipped his arm around her, leading her away from the scene. Sarah buried her face against him, not wanting to look at John. He was finally gone. She was safe again. The realisation of it sank in, and she wept silently, mourning for her dead ex-husband amidst her relief.

They left the alley, retracing Sarah's steps, going back to Thomas's apartment.

Neither of them saw John's hand snake out feebly, crawling across the alley floor, closing around the gun.
 
____________________________
 
 
ENTRY # 4
 

Deadly Premonition

 
A woman lit her cigarette and sat down in her chair. It was nice to get away for a while. The cafe was the perfect place to be away from all the office politics. Suddenly, her phone rang, cursing the caller, she picked it up without looking at the caller ID, "Hello?", and she heard a familiar voice on the other end. But before she could respond, two hands clasped her shoulders from behind and as she turned around to look who it was, the call was disconnected.

"That was your husband. He's just checking if you're still alive", the man informed her.

He stood there with a gun pointed at her. As calm as water, he stood there absolutely unwavered by the woman's fame and power. For others, this may be a crime, but for him, it was business.

She slowly shook her head in denial, and chose to trust her phone over the stranger. Call received: 1:45pm. Ben.

Traumatized eyes looked back up at the gunman. "I'll give him the good news in just a second", he continued smugly.

She hurled the phone at his feet, and rose from her chair. He smiled as she slowly took two steps back. "This won't hurt baby, it's going to be fast...and quick", he said to her, slowly and deliberately. He may not be torturing her physically, but he was torturing her mentally.

His finger curved around the trigger, and the last word that escaped her mouth before a loud shot sounded, was 'No!'

 

It was 5am. Anna wanted to stay awake. She would have to get ready for work in an hour anyway, and there was no way she could go back to sleep after seeing that horrifying dream. Still shaken, she got out of bed and gazed out the window.

It was just a stupid dream, she quickly told herself. Tip-toeing back to the bed, she gently approached her sleeping husband and kissed his forehead. Ben loves me too much. He could never do that.

 

9:00am at work

Usually, at some point through the day sleep-deprived Anna would fall asleep at her desk and then be woken up by irritating co-workers. Occasionally, even by her fuming boss. Today, she didn't have to worry about that sort of thing happening. She wasn't going to sleep; she couldn't get the dream out of her head.

It bothered her so much because she really had no idea how angry Ben could get when he did get angry. She had never done anything to invite his anger, until yesterday that is'

Ben saw Anna with her ex-boyfriend - one he knew she was madly in love with before their marriage.

"Just listen to me, baby. It's not what you think. We were just'"

But possessive Ben didn't want to listen. Since then he had chosen to ignore her completely, and give no reaction or response to her apologies apart from icy glares.

 

Lunch break. 1:30pm.

Anna wondered if going to the caf today was a good idea. Ok, I'm just being silly now. I'm taking this way too seriously. Get over it already, Anna!

Feeling a little hesitant, she trudged along to the caf. She decided she would get home tonight and sort things out with Ben at any cost.

Now how do you get someone to listen to you? I'm just gonna have to keep talking, whether he wants to hear me or not. Look, honey, I didn't doing anything wrong that day. Promise! We just bumped into each other after all this time and got talking. I don't have those same feelings for him anymore, and he's over me too. He's got a fianc, you know! Believe me, I only love you. Please'

 

Ring ring ring.

Anna stood like a statue at the door of the caf, and peered in to find it empty. She took her phone out. Calling: 1:45pm. Ben.

Dazed, she stepped back, turned around and ran away as fast and far as she could. The phone was still ringing.

"Hello?" she was barely audible. "Ben?"

No answer. Call disconnected.

It's just a coincidence, nothing to stress over. A very strange coincidence though'

Anna walked back to the caf, taking her time again. In her short absence, the silent isolated area had turned into a chaotic crime scene. There were police cars and an ambulance.

Oh God'

Anna nervously squeezed her way through the crowd to find out what had happened.

A woman lay dead, and the gunman from her dream was pinned to the ground by a police man.

"The guy's name is Tom Johnson. He paid me to murder his wife", he cried out.

When Anna took a closer look at the dead woman, she saw that she and the woman shared a striking resemblance. So much that the gunman may have mistaken her as his victim had she been there'


Ring ring ring.

"Hello, Ben?"

"Hey. Sorry about earlier, Anna. Had to run off to a meeting. Alright, I just wanna say that I can't stay mad at you any longer now. I don't want any explanations'can we just forget this and move on?"

Anna was too numb to speak.

"Anna? You still there?"

"Ohh, uhh yeah. That's fine, Ben".

"Ok, I'll see you later at home then. Bye, Ann. Love you".

 

I have learned two very important things today: 1. Trust your morning dreams.

2. Sometimes, crazy pointless suspicion can save your life.

______________________________
 
 
ENTRY # 5
 
 

One Down, Three to Go

 

It was an extremely sunny afternoon in Los Angeles. A woman lit her cigarette and sat down in her chair. It was nice to get away for a while. The caf was the perfect place to be away from all the politics that existed between people at the office. She mused over the fight between her co-workers that had taken place that morning. It had been silly and pointless as all fights are but it had led to a lot of ill feeling and tension between the employees.

 

 Suddenly, her phone rang, and cursing the caller, she picked it up without looking at the caller ID, "Hello?" she said and heard a familiar voice on the other end. But before she could respond, two hands clasped her shoulders from behind and as she turned around to find out who it was, the call got disconnected.

 

"Megan!" she exclaimed, smiling in delight to see her best friend.

 

"What's up, Nicole?" Megan grinned, sitting down at the table.

 

"Nothing much' just the usual," she sighed, tossing her cigarette in the ashtray. "People going crazy over something that the other said at work. You'd think that the employees of Sanders Incorporated would be a lot more sophisticated."

 

"Aw, that's gotta be tough," Megan said sympathetically.

 

"Tell me about it," Nicole said rolling her eyes. "Anyway, what about you?"

 

"Oh same old," she said. "I just missed you so I thought I'd meet up. You're usually here at this time."

 

"Well, you got that right," Nicole laughed. "This place is the only thing keeping me sane nowadays."

 

The two friends started to chat about random things and just like that, it was time for Nicole to get back to the office.

 

In the meantime, something very serious was going on at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Fiona Walter, the movie star, was being held captive in her suite. She shivered and shook as he stood there with a gun pointed at her. As calm as calm can be, he stood there absolutely unwavered by the woman's fame and power. For others, this may be a crime, but for him, it was business. He was an assassin by profession and he was told by his employer to get rid of this woman. He smiled as she slowly took two steps backwards.

 

"This won't hurt baby, it's going to be fast' and quick," he said to her, slowly and deliberately. He may not be torturing her physically, but he was torturing her mentally.

 

"Please," Fiona said, terrified. "I need to know why you want to kill me."

 

"I'm sorry," the man said coldly. "The time for talking is over."

 

His finger curved around the trigger, and the last word that escaped her mouth before a loud shot sounded, was 'No!'

 

She sank to the floor, wide-eyed. She was dead before her body hit the ground and the man stepped over her as he made his way to the door. He shut the door quietly behind him and left Fiona's body where it was. Unbeknownst to him, someone had witnessed the murder. Derek crept out of the sitting room and his face contorted with grief as he caught sight of Fiona's body. He knelt down beside her and gently brushed her hair away from her face. He closed her eyes with his hand and then got up. He left the hotel as inconspicuously as he could, though it nearly tore his heart apart to leave her body lying there.

 

Martin Sanders, the CEO of Sanders Incorporated, leaned back in his chair, with a sinister smile on his face. He was sitting in his office, looking at a picture of Fiona Walter. His grin grew wider as he glanced at his watch. If all had gone as planned, Fiona was lying dead at that very moment. He got out a red marker and slashed it across Fiona's neck in the picture. Then next to it, he wrote, 1 down 3 to go.

 

Nicole was hurrying back to the office after her lunch break when she suddenly remembered the call she had gotten in the caf. It had been her brother, Derek Walter. She called him back and after three rings, he picked up.

 

"Hello?" he said.

 

"Hey Derek," Nicole said cheerfully. "Sorry I didn't talk to you before, I got sidetracked."

 

"That's okay," Derek said.

 

"So' what's up?" she said curiously. It seemed to her that Derek had a cold or something.

 

"Nicole there's no way to tell you this but to just say it," Derek said, his voice breaking.

 

"Derek' what happened?" Nicole said her voice faltering and her blood running cold. "Is everything okay?"

 

"Fiona was murdered this afternoon," Derek said flatly. Nicole felt her knees buckle and she grabbed a lamppost for support.

 

"What?" she whispered, her vision turning hazy.

 

"Our sister was murdered in cold blood this afternoon," Derek went on relentlessly. "She's dead. I witnessed the murder. I could have stopped him but I didn't. Gosh, it's all my fault."

 

"No it isn't," Nicole managed to say before everything turned black and she fell to the pavement, unconscious.

 

A week later, Nicole was at the office, working quietly, her eyes red-rimmed. She had gone to Fiona's funeral four days ago and it had nearly destroyed her to see how badly her brother was handling it. He still blamed himself for Fiona's death and nothing she said could make him change his mind. She had asked her employer, Martin for a month's leave but he had refused, forcing her to come to work a week after her sister's death. Nicole finished typing a letter for Martin and then got up to go and give it to him. She knocked on his office door, which was slightly ajar. No one answered, so she peered in cautiously. There was no one there. Nicole decided to leave the letter on his desk where he would see it later, since she was supposed to go home in five minutes. As she was putting it there, she noticed a picture of Fiona on his desk, half hidden by a stack of papers. Fresh tears welling up in her eyes, Nicole pulled the picture out. She gasped when she saw the red line scrawled across her sister's throat and the caption Martin had scribbled across it. Her mind reeled, unable to process what she had just seen. It was definitely Martin's handwriting. She was standing there, trying to make sense of it all when Martin came in.

 

"What are you doing in my office?" he barked out, angrily. Nicole jumped and she guiltily tried to hide the picture behind her. Martin saw it however and he snatched it out of her hands, making her flinch.

 

"Where did you get this?" he said, dangerously.

 

"It was on your desk," Nicole said bravely, looking him straight in the eyes. "Why did you do it, Martin? Why did you kill Fiona?"

 

"Who says I was the one who killed her?" Martin said, leering at her.

 

"If you didn't kill her then why did you draw a red line across her throat and write that disgusting caption on it?" she asked quietly, her mind made up. She was certain that Martin had something to do with Fiona's death.

 

"Oh, I certainly wanted her dead," he said matter-of-factly. "I just wasn't the one who did the dirty work if you know what I mean."

 

"But why? Why did you want her dead? You never even met her!" Nicole shouted.

 

"I wanted her dead because of what you did to me," Martin hissed. "You dared to contradict me in the last staff meeting in front of everyone in the office. That made me lose the huge contract that I'd been trying to get for months. Did you really think that I'd tolerate that kind of behavior?"

 

"You could have just told me!" Nicole cried out. "Why did you have to go after Fiona?"

 

"Because I knew just how much she meant to you," he said an eerie smile lighting up his face. His eyes were unfocused and his expression insane.

 

"Martin," Nicole said, shaken by the maniacal look on his face. "I' I don't think you're well."

"What, you think I'm crazy?' Martin yelled, slamming his fist onto the desk. Nicole tried hard not to recoil. She stood with her head held high and she cast him a steely glance. Martin averted his eyes.

 

"I am going to tell the police about all this," Nicole said quietly. "You need help and until you get it, you're not safe to be around people."

 

"The police will never believe you," Martin said, the same eerie look on his face. "Why should they? You're just a nobody and I am Martin Sanders, the best businessman in LA."

 

"They'll believe her because I have evidence," a new voice said. Martin and Nicole turned to find out who it was. Derek stood in the doorway, his face grim and his jaw set.

 

"Derek!" Nicole said. "What are you doing here?"

 

"I thought I'd come and pick you up from work today," Derek said, not taking his eyes off Martin. "One of your co-workers said she saw you go into Martin's office a few minutes ago so I came along. I heard you accusing him of killing Fiona so I videotaped everything that happened after that." He held up his cell phone, glaring daggers at Martin.

 

Martin's face contorted with rage and he lunged at Derek. Nicole cried out in fear and tried to stop him. Derek punched Martin hard in the stomach and he doubled over in pain.

 

"Nicole, hand me that stapler," Derek called out urgently. Nicole grabbed the stapler with trembling hands and tossed it to Derek. In a swift movement, Derek brought the stapler down on Martin's head as hard as he could and knocked him out. Nicole covered her mouth with her hand, shocked.

 

"Come on, Nic," Derek said casting a contemptuous glance back at Martin. "We're going to the police."

 

Derek locked the office door behind him and slipped the key in his pocket. Everyone had gone by this time so the office was empty. Derek drove to the police station with Nicole and they narrated their story to the big burly policeman. He listened intently and asked to see the videotape. After watching it, he nodded.

 

"This is hard evidence against Martin Sanders," the policeman confirmed. "You two don't need to worry about anything now. I'll make sure he gets the punishment he deserves."

 

"Sir, when I was talking to him I couldn't help but feel that' that he wasn't right in the head somehow," Nicole said tentatively. "That he was mentally unstable."

 

"You leave all that up to us," the policeman assured her. "We'll make sure the appropriate measures are taken to punish this man for what he did to your sister. Thanks to you, a lot of other people are safe from him."

 

"Thanks, sir," Derek and Nicole said, getting up. They left the police station and drove to the cemetery in an unspoken agreement. They stood in front of Fiona's grave and Nicole pulled some flowers off a bush and laid them on her grave. They stood there for a long time, not saying anything.

 

"I hope she rests easy now," Derek said, breaking the silence.

 

"Me too," Nicole said quietly. They looked at each other and Derek put his arm round his sister and led her back to the car. Fiona's murderer had been caught and the least they could do for her now was to live their lives as happily as they could. Nicole was sure that Fiona would have wanted that.

 
______________________________________
 
 
 
ENTRY # 6
 
 
Together

Run. That was the one thought that crossed Justine's mind, as she looked widely around the grounds in which her captors had brought her. Run as fast as you can, before they noticed that you were missing.  However before Justine could form another coherent thought she saw it. He stood there with a gun pointed at her. As calm as water, he stood there absolutely unwavered by the woman's fame and power. For others, this may be a crime but for him it was business. He smiled as she slowly took two steps back. "This won't hurt baby, its going to be fast and quick" he said to her, slowly and deliberately. He may not be torturing her physically, but he was torturing her mentally. His finger curved around the trigger and the last word that escaped her mouth before a loud shot sounded, was "No".

The scream remained on her lips, her eyes shut tight, while Justine waited for the blessed oblivion, but all she heard was laughter. She had fallen to her knees and slowly, her mind emerged from the fear induced fog that had overtaken it, and she realized  that she was still alive. Ever so slowly she opened her eyes and noticed her captor standing over her snickering. "It won't be that easy for you sweetheart."

Justine had a mixture of emotions run through her as she stared into the unforgiving and evil eyes of the man who held her faith in her hand. His shot had hit the tree to her left, just as he intended. Her heart still beat and her lungs still drew air, which was a blessing and a curse because it meant that the nightmare continued. He grabbed at her arm and half dragged her back in the direction of house in which she had just escaped. How long had she been here? A day? A week? An hour?. Time no longer meant anything to her.

Being pulled along, Justine suddenly realized that the man was not taking her back into the house, he was pulling her towards the back, and then to her eternal horror, she say what looked like a grave in the ground. "Get in." he said with such nonchalance that he could have just offered Justine tea.

"You can't be serious. I'll die in there."

Without another word, the man grabbed Justine's arm roughly and physically threw her into a hole in the ground as deep as a grave. Before Justine had time to acclimatize herself to her surroundings the man pulled a wooden cover over the gaping hole above her and effectively plunged her into darkness. Through slits in the wood cover above her the beleaguered woman could see slits of moonlight above her and heard a disembodied voice say. "No use screaming for help, we're miles away from civilization."

Resigned, Justine crouched in the darkness and hugged her knees to her while holding back her tears. Shivering, she began to do what she had been doing since this ordeal began. Pray that she'll soon wake from this nightmare. Only it wasn't a nightmare, and to wake from it you had to be able to sleep, a luxury that Justine discovered was as elusive as freedom.

A woman lit her cigarette and sat down in her chair. It was nice to get away for a while. Cafe was the perfect place to be away from all the office politics. Suddenly, her phone rang, cursing the caller, she picked up without looking at the caller ID, "Hello?", and she heard a familiar voice on the other end. But before she could respond, two hands clasped her shoulders from behind and as she turned around to look who it was, the call was disconnected.

Angrily, the woman turned to berate the owner of the hands, for disrupting her call. Not that she minded not having to take a call from her ever nagging little brother but still, it was the principle. However staring into the face of a stranger, Jemma Henly, suddenly became uneasy. Justine. The twin connection was real, even if people said it was all press related mumbo jumbo. The thought just whipped into her head as she stared at a man clad in a black coat on the hottest day of the year. He had the beginning of a beard and a subtle scar on his right temple. But his appearance was nothing compared with the menacing look in his eye.

"Justine Henly?" the man asked and Jemma, breathed a sign of relief and started to dismiss that irrational unease that gripped her. Since her sister, the hot shot attorney had successfully prosecuted the biggest mafia don in the city, Jemma was constantly being mistaken for her identical twin.

Plastering a smile on her face, Jemma answered the stranger " Sorry, sir, I'm not Justine."

"I know, you're Jemma, and you're gonna want to talk to me."

Startled that this stranger knew her name, but more worried by his tone of voice, Jemma, held back the retort that seamlessly travelled to her lips. The man uninvited sat across from her and simply stared. Jemma, deeply afraid now, swallowed and felt the dryness of her throat.

"You look remarkably like her."

"Err how do you know me, I mean us?"

"Well your sister and I are only recently acquainted. You see she's been my guest these past two days."

"I thought, Justine said she was going to that seminar in Nashville? Did she come back early?"

"Well let me just show you a picture of her, that I took just this morning" the man continued speaking as though he didn't hear Jemma. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a Polaroid photo and offered it to Jemma. Tentatively, Jemma took the photo, still holding this strange man's gaze and then slowly her eyes and let out a gasp of surprise and pain. Justine. Justine in the tattered remains of one of her thousands of power suits, covered in grime arms tied with rope and cowering in the corner of a dark damp looking room.

"What have your done to her?" Jemma fearfully whispered the question, whilst tears welled in her eyes. He sister, her twin, her soul mate.

"You can have her back, but I just need a little favour from you."

"From me? Justine is the one with all the power. What can I possibly have that you'll need?"

Smiling now at the fear that showed on her face and reveling in the power he yielded, the man simply said "You have the keys."

"KKKKeys?" Jemma stammered.

"Keys to the vault at the bank where you work and unlimited access to the safety deposit boxes. Listen closely Jemma, if you want to ever see Justine alive again, you're going to do exactly as I say. Agreed?"

Too stunned to answer Jemma just nodded her head.

"Good girl. You're going to go back to the office and access safety deposit box number 29847. In that box you're going to find a vial with a silver liquid and a map with some documents. You will bring these documents to me."

"But how I'm I going to clear security?"

"You don't need to darling, because the security is mine. Go now, you have 30 minutes after which you will meet me at the corner of Park and Queen Streets and I'll take you to your sister. Tell no one or your sister will die."

Thirty minutes later Jemma stood at the appointed time and a grey Toyota  Corolla pulled up next to her.

"Get in."

Jemma did as she was told and wordlessly handed over the contents of the safety deposit box that she had cleared. The car started moving and Jemma, too afraid to utter a sound, started into her hands as the buildings and houses grew further and further apart and the wooded areas on both sides of the street increased. Soon off in the distance, Jemma saw a cabin's light like a beacon in the distance.

"Is this where you've kept her?" Jemma asked the silent man

The car pulled up at the cabin and a tall man in blue jeans and white tee shirt stood on the porch. Exchanging meaningful glances with each other, the two men grabbed an emotionally worn and physically slow Jemma and dragged her to the back of the house. While Mr. Blue Jeans held onto his quarry, Mr. Black Coat removed the cover and both sisters saw each other.

"Jemma!"

 "Justine!"

They both yelled simultaneously as Jemma freed herself and jumped into the hole to hug her sister. Suddenly, there was a loud bang and Justine's head flew back with a force so violent, it shook her whole being. Blood poured from a neat whole directly in the centre of Justine's head. Jemma yelled and turned her head, just in time to see the gun barrel pointing at her and then nothing as a second shot hit her squarely in the centre of her forehead. The sisters entered this life together and departed together.

Months later, a family still grieved and prayed for two women who would never return, when the story of a uranium bomb explosion in the heart of the Pentagon, was engaging the attention of everyone else.

 
 
__________________________________
 
 
 
ENTRY # 7
 
 

Dreadful Daylight

A woman lit her cigarette and sat down in her chair. It was nice to get away for a while. Cafe was the perfect place to be away from all the office politics. Suddenly, her phone rang, cursing the caller, she picked it up without looking at the caller ID, "Hello?", and she heard a familiar voice on the other end. But before she could respond, two hands clasped her shoulders from behind and as she turned around to look who it was, the call was disconnected.

"Rahul?" Arti turned around shocked, glancing at her fianc curiously before questioning him. "What are you doing here?"

"I came to see you." He seated himself down across from her and pulled the phone out of her hands, setting it aside. "Your mother said you were lonely and made me come to your office to check up on you. You weren't there, but your colleague told me that you ran here for a quick diversion from the heated atmosphere of your work."

Arti shook her head, bemused, while stirring her coffee with a straw silently. For a minute, she stared out of the old window of the cafe and into the streets of the busy, dusty city of Hyderabad. "You just saw me two hours ago though."

Before saying much else, he grabbed the cigarette off the table and looked at her furiously. "I thought you said you had stopped?! You promised me!"

She replied rather vaguely before drifting off into her own world again. Something was wrong with her lately. Her eyes kept throbbing and her knees felt wobbly. Instead of feeling perked up and hyper like her usual self, she felt unusual fatigue run through her body ' a foreshadowing that something ill-fated could happen. "I just, I just don't feel good. Right when I sat down, I got a call and I'm almost positive it was my closest friend's voice. She sounded panicked before you interrupted us, and then the call was disconnected. Now come to think of it, I should call her again."  

Rahul nodded, a concerned expression expertly covering his face, but as Arti looked closer, she concluded something else was written in his eyes. It looked, oddly, a little like ' satisfaction and dread mixed together. Shaking it off as she was already unwell, Arti proceeded with the phone call, waiting patiently as each ring drummed through her ears, passing through effortlessly and making its way to her troubled mind.

 

10 minutes previously

He stood there with a gun pointed at her. As calm as water, he stood there absolutely unwavered by the woman's fame and power. For others, this may be a crime, but for him, it was business. He smiled as she slowly took two steps back. "This won't hurt baby, it's going to be fast..and quick", he said to her, slowly and deliberately. He may not be torturing her physically, but he was torturing her mentally.

His finger curved around the trigger, and the last word that escaped her mouth before a loud shot sounded, was 'No'

 

Something about Rahul bugged her tremendously, so Arti quickly sped out of the booth and into the busy streets, finding a small alleyway and ducking behind it. For the third time, she dialed her best friend Shilpa's phone number. The thing that worried her most was her carelessness. Shilpa was too big of a risk taker, and trusted people much too easily. Not only that, she had just begun her acting career and finished two films, one of them with the most famous actor around town. Anyone could and would wish to be in her place.

A second before Arti decided to hang up with a huff; she heard a slight beep on the other line. The receiver's voice was extremely full of static.

"Arti, listen to me," a voice, Shilpa's, panted. Her breaths were cut short and loud and her voice drained of all energy, as if she was in immense pain. She was struggling greatly.

Arti felt the tension rise up and the bile in her throat shooting upwards. All the anxiety building up in for the past few days was rushing through her veins at once. Why was she suddenly feeling lonely in the alleyway? It was only late morning. "WHAT? What happened? Shilpa, are you okay?! I'm listening, just tell me quickly."

Shilpa paused to cough for a few seconds, and with another painful noise, she continued with slurred words. "I-I won't live much longer, murdered. Just, do not trust Rah-"

"What? Rahul? Shilpa? SHILPA? Are you okay, please say something!!" Arti bit her lip as the tears began pouring down her face. "You'll be okay! Just tell me where you are, I'll come get you and we can go to the hospital! Shilpa, please!"

She received a beep in reply, and then silence. Swallowing more tears that were threatening to fall, Arti looked around, feeling utterly defeated. She had no clue what to do, but she had to find Shilpa because assuming the worst was not an option for her.

Instead, fate decided her next move for her. Footsteps were quickly sprinting towards the alleyway, and she only knew that pace too well.

"Rahul," Arti thought with panic. If she was going to save Shilpa, she had to save herself first.

Thinking quickly, she un-laced her shoes and held them in her hand while turned into another bend in the road and speeding as fast as she could in her socks. Her sight came into contact with a large wall, at least ten feet high, and a bunch of bushes and trees. There was not enough time to climb them, so Arti quickly pried herself branch by branch and up the nearest tree. Not even a minute later, Rahul's familiar figure entered into the opening. She could see him checking around before coming close to the bushes.

"Damn, she's not here," he whispered underneath his breath before shuffling away.

Arti took a slow breath of relief and waited a few minutes before slowly climbing down. She was still terrified that he would reappear any second. The only option left for her was to run back to a place where there were people, and those were the busy streets a few alleyways ahead. Bracing herself for the worst, Arti picked up her speed and nearly ran back to the street which the caf everything originally happened had occurred. Rahul was nowhere in site.

"Oh my God," she thought with panic, "What has my life become?"

The small events in life which caused her to fret were nothing compared to the terror and apprehension she was beginning to feel now. It slowly sunk in that Shilpa was dying, and if she was to survive, she would need immediate help. Without wasting any more time, Arti picked up her pace and ran to the police station about a mile away, checking over her shoulders cautiously for any signs of Rahul. It depressed her immensely that he was involved with her best friend's murder, because their wedding was only three weeks away and nobody knew.

-------

Panjagutta Police Station ' 20 minutes later at 11:45 A.M

"We've finally traced the location of the phone call," the head inspector informed her, facing her anxious figure, "It's not far at all. You'll need to go with a few of my constables, to identify your friend. We'll work on catching Rahul."

The area they drove into a few minutes later was a small forest, but dense enough for anybody in deep to not be heard. The place gave her the shivers. With a few of the constables, Arti trudged inside and started screaming Shilpa's name. There was no reply. A mile or so within, her foot caught on something shiny. Picking it up and inspecting it, she realized it was a gold bracelet.

"I've seen this somewhere," Arti stated, showing it to the officer near her, "I'm just so sure of it. I can't remember though!"

He looked at it with interest for a few seconds before taking it from her hands carefully and placing it in some kind of a plastic bag. "Great, don't touch it anymore. There might be precious evidence on it. Meanwhile, keep looking for anything at all that is suspicious."

Arti nodded ad closed her eyes in grief as a sudden memory of Rahul hit her. At one time, she had thought herself to be in love with him. She still didn't understand if he was in fact innocent or not, but Shilpa herself had told her not to trust him right? Not only that, he had come chasing her. Something was nagging her consistently though. After all, she had only said "Rah," and that could be anyone. Was there anybody else she knew whose name started with those three letters?

"Wait ' Rahul, Rah'Rah," Arti thought frustrated, "I just feel like there's someone else. Wait, Rahas? Why does that name ring a bell? Why can't I remember ANYTHING anymore?!"

Without thinking, she kicked her foot hard on a tree trunk in irritation as a piece of a memory suddenly flashed in her mind. The kicking movement had helped. In desperation, she kicked her foot again and again, earning a few bewildered glances towards her form.

"What are you doing?" an officer asked her, exasperated and slightly amused at the same time.

Arti looked up with an excited expression."I just remembered something! Actually, a lot of things! Rahas, Rahas! Shilpa must have said Rah-"

She was interrupted by the tired looking officer once again. "Wait, wait! Who's Rahas? Start from the beginning!"

"I am, please listen quickly. When I kicked that tree trunk, I remembered Rahas, who was once Shilpa's lover. They were even going to get married before he started becoming creepy and abusive. He used to kick her in the shin and slap her in the face whenever she did something that slightly ticked him off." A dark expression cast upon Arti's face before she continued silently. "She obviously broke it off, and that made him even angrier. This was when she lived in Mumbai, by the way. Anyways, he used to call her late at night and threaten her after that. It got so serious, that she went to her parents and they all took a trip to the police station there. He was arrested for an year before he was let out again. She never heard of him after that. The reason I remembered this was because Rahas is the one who gave Shilpa that bracelet. After the broke up, she threw it in his face and stomped away. I'm almost positive that he is the murderer; you must do something quickly!"

With the valuable information that was just revealed to them, the two of the constables called for another van and left in a rush while Arti continued looking with two other officers for Shilpa's body.

"Even if we do find her," Arti thought with despair, chewing her nails anxiously, "She won't be alive. No! I can't, I just can't think like that'What if Rahas is with her? Oh God, I've never been this frightened! Please God, please save her. She's never harmed a soul in her life."

Interrupting her thoughts, a hand suddenly appeared out of nowhere and shoved some kind of an oily rag into her mouth, causing her insides to turn rapidly and create a horribly nauseous feeling in her mouth. She couldn't even scream; her mouth felt like it was forced into silence due to the oil. A new kind of fear burst through her veins and up her head, and she discovered herself shaking and struggling against this person with all her will. Unfortunately they dragged her a long distance a why before finally throwing her to the ground.

The man spit on the floor, close to her foot, as she scooted away terrified. She was going to die; this was the abrupt end to her life.

"You think you're smarter than me?" he asked, gritting his teeth together. It was obviously Rahas' voice. So her prediction had been correct.

Though her mouth was full of oil and she felt like gagging, Arti still had her arms. (He was actually really stupid)

Spitting as much of it out as she could, she grabbed a nearby tree branch and smashed the gun out of his hands before he could protest. They both lunged at it at the same time, and she groaned as she felt his weight collapse on top her hers. She grabbed hold of the gun just as he thrust it out of her hands with force and pinned her to the ground with his weight again.

"This is it for you," Rahas sneered, seconds away from pulling the trigger. Arti closed her eyes, and due to the oil and her spinning mind, she felt her head collapse back onto the ground before everything went black.

 

6:39 PM that day

Bright lights. Silence. A Headache.

These three things were what Arti awoke to as she slowly took in her surroundings. It seemed as if she were on a hospital bed.

 A constable noticed her movement and rushed to her bedside, knowing that she was eager for information.

"I know you want to know what happened, and I'll tell you vaguely. You need to rest afterwards, okay?"

She nodded slowly, still slightly groggy; so she hadn't died after all. Either that, or this was heaven.

"Rahas was caught, first of all. You were right all along; he shot Shilpa." He paused to gauge her reaction, which was nothing at the moment. "We caught him, as two men fighting are not really hard to hear. Very unintelligent fellow, I must say. Starting from the beginning, your friend Shilpa was cast in another movie, replacing a very prominent actress who first landed the role. She was furious, and contacted her cousin, who happened to be Rahas, to scare her out of it. He was eager to do even more, as your friend and he already have a past as I see. He was paid very well by his cousin, who had no idea of his real intentions. That's all there really is to that story."

At this point, Arti lifted her head up a little in interest before the officer continued. "Rahul knew that someone was targeting Shilpa all along, he just didn't know who. He didn't tell you because he wanted to protect you."

"Too much information at once," Arti thought as she closed her eyes before the tears fell again. "And Shilpa? What happened to her?"

"Dead or alive, we can't find her body."

Arti sniffed and turned to the side, covering herself with a blanket. "Shilpa please be safe; we'll get through this dreadful daylight together."

__________________________________
 
 
 
Finally, I would like to thank Pooja, Radz and Nandini for taking time out and putting in the effort to pick out the deserving entries! Approve You guys rock! Star
 
 
Thanks,
Neeta :)


Edited by CZ.. - 26 July 2010 at 3:35am

The following 34 member(s) liked the above post:

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chhilt

IF-Rockerz

chhilt

Joined: 07 January 2008

Posts: 6449

Posted: 16 July 2010 at 9:09am | IP Logged
a) Best Story Entry #7
b) Best Concept Entry #7
c) Best writer  Entry #3
d) Best title Entry #3

Good job everyone! :)

The following 1 member(s) liked the above post:

..RamKiJanaki..

U-No-Poo

IF-Sizzlerz

U-No-Poo

Joined: 15 June 2007

Posts: 23464

Posted: 18 July 2010 at 3:53am | IP Logged
thankyou for putting this up here :)

The following 1 member(s) liked the above post:

chhilt

pratsy

IF-Stunnerz

pratsy

Khelti Hai Zindagi Aankh Micholi, AM Banner Contest Winner

Joined: 20 February 2009

Posts: 39686

Posted: 18 July 2010 at 6:46am | IP Logged
a) Best Story-story 3
b) Best Concept-story 6
c) Best writer-story 3
d) Best title-story 5
 

ruexangel

IF-Dazzler

ruexangel

BollyCurry Buzzer

Joined: 14 September 2008

Posts: 3758

Posted: 18 July 2010 at 10:21am | IP Logged
Sorry, i realised voting is today, but have not had time to read all stories. But what i've read so far is fantastic, sorry, just ignore this post in counting, i've not had the time.

Edited by ruexangel - 25 July 2010 at 2:41pm

prachimishra85

Goldie

prachimishra85

Joined: 01 April 2010

Posts: 2369

Posted: 18 July 2010 at 11:06am | IP Logged
All the stories were completely awesome guys....
You all are great writers......
But still there should be the best......
So here are my votes....  
 
a) Best Story   Entry#02
b) Best Concept       Entry#01
c) Best writer      Entry#05
d) Best title     Entry#07
 
Heart Prachi
 
 

bmtdluver

IF-Rockerz

bmtdluver

Joined: 21 September 2008

Posts: 9352

Posted: 18 July 2010 at 1:16pm | IP Logged
a) Best Story#2
b) Best Concept#4
c) Best writer#1
d) Best title#7
 
wow! These are all so well written!! Its really hard to choose, great job everyone!!


Edited by bmtdluver - 18 July 2010 at 1:49pm

charmyshah001

Groupbie

charmyshah001

Joined: 24 June 2010

Posts: 79

Posted: 18 July 2010 at 1:35pm | IP Logged
best title- #7
best story #7
best concept #3
best writer #6


i love all the stories :)

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