The latch locked with a clicking sound and then a screech as the heavy metal bolt was slid into its place by a hydraulic arm. The lasers were activated without a sound and the camera was as vigilant as ever. Once the outer metal door was secured the green light on the inner wooden door lit up indicating it was ready to open. Pete placed his palm on the side panel palm reader. The wooden door opened noiselessly and as he walked inside and pushed the wooden door into its place. Pete could hear the soft click-tick of the latch. Pete enjoyed listening to these sounds. They meant that he was finally home. His beloved five bedroom pent house with an amphitheatre and warm water terrace pool. He had dreamed of such a home since his childhood and it had taken immense hard work and perseverance for this son of a Lower City janitor to reach here. Very few people now knew that this famous criminal lawyer had his roots in the very underbelly of crime in the City.
Pete knew that Loila would not be home by now. He had met Loila in a party and asked her to marry him on their second date. It was always like this with Pete, fast and impulsive. He had so less opportunities as a slum dweller during his childhood that as a grownup he could not see even one opportunity go waste. Their marriage had been a happy one and when their son Arjen was born some claimed them to be the ideal family of the City. That was a decade ago. Now all they did was fight. And sometimes in front of Arjen who Pete thought was old enough to understand what was going on. Their marriage was falling apart but Pete held on to it for Arjen’s sake. And he believed it was this constant bickering in the house that was making Arjen mischievous and ill-behaved. Anita was the fifth nanny they had hired for Arjen. Last one, the fat lady from down south, had quit after Arjen had poured ink over her in a fit of rage. But Anita was different. Arjen seemed to like her and listen to her. Anita usually took Arjen to play in the garden in their complex at this time. So Pete hoped to catch some quiet moments.
He took off his shirt and threw it in the laundry bin and slumped on the sofa as he flicked on the television. He first changed to intercom channel giving live feed from the video camera in the garden. Seeing that Arjen was playing safely with his friends from the complex Pete settled for a football match. Not that Arjen was in any danger in the garden within a complex surrounded by a thick concrete wall that even a tank could not barge in, but it was Pete’s habit to check on his son wherever he was. He had subscribed to the feed from the video camera to be delivered to his cell phone in case he had not reached home. The crime in the City was on constant rise. Though it meant high income for him and his doctor wife, it also meant living in the City was getting tougher by the day. Crime was no longer confined to the ghettos of the Lower City as during his childhood days. The new younger criminals had brought violent crime to the doorstep of the rich.
It was only last week that there was a break in at the Sunshine Villas, one of the most heavily guarded residences of the Upper City. And then a month ago nine year old girl was kidnapped for a record ransom demand of five million. And the worst part was that even after the money was paid, the girl was delivered to her heartbroken parents in sixteen pieces. The only beneficiaries of this situation were the security companies. Apart from the eighteen grand he paid as his contribution for the security of the housing complex, he spent another twenty five in biometric security for his house and SOS service that was supposed to respond with help if any of the three family members or the nanny pressed the little red panic button on the bracelets they wore around their wrists.
The football match was getting monotonous and unexciting as both the teams played defensively and passed the ball without scoring. Pete slowly started to drift into sleep as he slumped deeper into the sofa. As he closed his eyes gradually the fraction of light that got trapped in his eyes formed an orange screen against his eyelids. Images formed on that orange screen like shadows. As the orange turned green and then black, the images took color. First he could see his son playing in the garden against the green and then as everything turned black he saw Loila’s face sneering at him. Then there was Kumar, Loila’s Asian boss whom Pete suspected Loila was having an affair with. When Kumar smiled his teeth were red as if he had been eating raw flesh. Blood dripped from Kumar’s mouth. The face again transformed into Loila, this time smiling kindly with love in her eyes. She came closer to kiss him and suddenly stabbed him in his chest with a kitchen knife. Then she screamed so loudly and menacingly that Pete woke up from his dream. He was sweating profusely.
The football match was over and it was dark outside. He got up hastily and fumbled on the corner table for his watch. It showed 9:20. He had been sleeping for three hours. His wife and son should have been home by now. He looked around and called for Loila and Arjen. There was no answer. He picked up the remote and switched through the camera feed for all the rooms in hi house. All empty. He switched to the garden camera, only to see an empty garden lit with floodlights and a lone security guard standing at the gates. He grabbed his cell phone and tried calling Loila, but her phone was out of coverage area. He called the nanny. Fortunately she picked up the phone.
“Mr.Longvault?” She asked surprised and confused to receive a call from him at this time.
“When did you leave? Where is Arjen?” He asked frantically.
“Why is everything alright? Mrs.Longvault picked up Arjen from the garden so I left from there.” Anita answered sounding alarmed.
“Was anyone with her?” Pete asked desperately, slowly an image forming in his mind.
Pete knew the answer before Anita answered, “Yes, I believe Mr.Kumar from her hospital was with her.”
Pete cut the phone without paying attention to Loila’s questions. He knew this would happen someday. Loila was on the verge of walking out on him and she knew that with his influence in the judiciary she could never win custody of Arjen. So she had come home early, waited for him and drugged him when he slept. Then she had taken off with their son. Maybe she had poisoned him. He rushed to the bathroom and pulled out the toxin test kit. He slit his finger with a razor and spilled a drop of blood on the glass slide which he inserted in the black square box with a small LCD screen on the top. The test would give result of tests for all kinds of known poison in three minutes. This was the best test kit in the market. As he waited for the result he did what he had prepared for in case of this thing happened.
His work with criminals had given him quite and expertise in the dark matters. He had doubted Loila would try something desperate if he kept on refusing her requests for divorce. So once while Loila was in the bathroom he had picked up her panic bracelet and taped a piece of special cellophane to its bottom. Between the bracelet and cellophane was a highly potent dose of cyanide toxin which could penetrate skin and cause death within five minutes. Once into the body, the toxin had no antidote. The cellophane was such that it would melt if there was a strong radio signal emitted within few millimeters of it. Pete knew that if any one of the family members pressed the panic button all four panic bracelets would become active sending radio signals to give out the location of the wearers for the safety teams to arrive. He drew a deep breath and pressed the little red button on his wrist. At that same instant he could hear many sounds simultaneously. The almost inaudible tchick of the panic button, the beep of the toxin test kit accompanied by green light indicating that he was not poisoned and click, screech and the click-tic of the front entrance. He heard Arjen calling for him and Loila telling Arjen not to run around in the house.