Paul opened the door with a wolfish grin on his face. He was a tall, well built, mysterious man with blonde hair and a face like that of a movie star. He was dressed in casuals with an apron which had blood stains on them. I wasn't surprised. Paul owned a ridiculously successful restaurant. Some secret “ingredient” in his red meat had given him a monopoly over the hoteling business in the city. People loved his meat and often came from outside of town just to dine at his restaurant.
“Come in, please” he said and ushered us inside. Not quite expecting us at this hour.
“Whatʼs that container out there?” I asked him, pointing towards the metal freight container in his front yard. “Itʼs cold storage” he said, with a short laugh.
I was a former cop. However, I had been recently relieved of my duties due to corruption charges having been leveled against me and consequently my loss in the legal battle that ensued. I came to know Paul through a case I was earlier in charge of, hardly a month ago.
A family had accused that they had got food poisoning after eating at his restaurant. Feeling insulted at having to take charge of such a trivial matter, it was easy for Paul to buy me over and ask me to close the case. Since then Paul and I have become good friends.
I still had friends at the department from whom I learnt that Paulʼs wife had mysteriously gone missing and so my wife, Laura and I decided to pay him a visit.
“Some wine?” Paul asked us as he held out the bottle to me. I declined. He did not pour any for himself and disappeared into the kitchen. As he entered the room, carrying some freshly barbecued steak, I took the opportunity to ask him: “What happened to your wife?” Suddenly his face turned pale. He spoke softly “I love her, man. She is been missing for the past 2 days. I really miss her. I hope the authorities find her soon. Anyways, you want some steak? Itʼs fresh.”
“What about Jane?” I asked Paul, about his six year old daughter. “She has a different diet. You know, growing kids, they need all the proper vitamins” he said as he put the steak in the plates on the table. We chatted along until suddenly Laura started choking.
Her face became as red as a ripe tomato. She started making throaty sounds and convulsing. I sat frozen in my place, petrified by the scene unfolding in front of me. However, Paul didnʼt. He pushed the plates off the table, sending them crashing on the floor as he jumped onto the tabletop and leaped towards Laura. Rather than giving the regular Heimlich manoeuvre, he stuck two fingers deep into her wide open mouth. Rather than removing the thing she was choking on, he pushed it down her throat and she took a deep breath. “Oh my god!” She said, tearing up. “Excuse me please” she cried as she got up and went to the bathroom.
Paul and I got up as well. Suspicious why he had acted in this strange way, I put my hand on his shoulder. I pinned him to the wall and in a low but menacing voice, asked him place his palms up flat against the wall. “What are you doing? I invited you into my home and fed you my food and this is how you repay my hospitality?” He said.
“Shut up , I saw what you did” I said to him as I checked his pocket. Removing a strip of orange tablets, I asked him “What is this?”
“Itʼs my anti depressants “he said.
“Stop lying, I saw you shove it down my wifeʼs throat. Tell me what it is right now” I screamed.
“I didnʼt shove anything down your wifeʼs throat. She was choking on a fish bone. And the best way to save her was to push the bone down the throat. Stop accusing me. I was just trying to help as a friend. But clearly you donʼt trust me. So get the hell out of my house” he said in a distant voice as I backed away from him.
Hearing the chaos, Paulʼs daughter, Jane came skipping to the hall “Dad, is dinner ready? Mommyʼs for lunch today, right?” A wave of nausea gripped me. Laura suddenly appeared in the hallway between the bathroom and the dining room. “Honey, Iʼm not feeling so well” she said. “Paul, where the hell is your wife!?” I demanded. “Sheʼs here” he said in an eerily calm manner. I quickly scanned the surroundings but there was nobody there. “Paul, where the hell is she !?” I screamed at him. “I said, sheʼs here” he said, getting up onto his feet and turning around to face me.
All of a sudden, Laura bent over and vomited out everything she had eaten. I stared in horror as I saw what had choked her some time before- an eyeball, glazed over and covered in spit and blood, yet hauntingly staring at us. I stood frozen, watching Laura collapse and stop breathing. I just stood there, not blinking, not moving, just staring at the spit covered eyeball.
It was too late when I came to my senses. I rushed out the front door. My knees started buckling. The world around me started to spin. I reached for the holster on my belt as an instinct developed over my years in service, but it was empty. My legs gave up as I stumbled onto the grassy lawn. My vision was starting to blur. I yelled for help but there was absolutely no sound anywhere except for my heavy breathing and Paulʼs heavy footsteps as he dragged something down the hallway, accompanied by his daughterʼs panic filled voice as she frantically told him “Daddy, heʼs getting away, heʼs getting away!”
As Paulʼs footsteps grew closer, I crawled as fast as I could, dragging my limp legs as I started losing control of my abdomen as well. I managed to reach the cold storage unit just as I heard a thud from behind me, as Paul brought Lauraʼs body down the front steps. I was finding it hard to breathe as rapid muscle spasms started to spread up my chest. My breathing became shallower as I somehow managed to open the door of the storage unit.
“Oh no you donʼt” said Paul as he realised what I was doing. He dropped Lauraʼs body and started to sprint towards me. With one final burst of energy, I threw myself into the container and closed the door. It was pitch dark inside. Propping myself up against the heavy door as Paul repeatedly tried to open it, I felt a satchel nearby. I reached for it and rummaged through its contents and found a pickaxe.
Triumphantly yelling, I screamed “Why donʼt you come and get me.” Strangely, it was all quiet outside. I found myself suffocating. Suddenly, Paul switches the lights on from outside. Panic surged through me as I saw about twenty corpses propped up against the sides of the container, coated with a thick layer of ice. My vision blurred to the point where I could no longer make out any details and could only see shadowy figures instead. My arms began to go limp and the pickaxe fell to the floor with a loud clatter. Paul cautiously opened the door and peeked inside.
He looked behind the door and exclaimed “Ah, there you are”. Sliding inside, he yanked me from behind the door and propped me up against the wall like the rest of the bodies.
“Itʼs nothing personal man, I had to do it” he said as he slit my throat using a large kitchen knife.
“Ah hell” he said under his breath as the warm blood started running down, soaking my clothes and pooling on the floor around me. I closed my eyes and a single tear squeezed out and fell into the frozen pool of blood as I started to lose all my senses.
As the life ebbed out of me, I could hear Paul say “Jane, darling, help me clean this up will you? Weʼll put the woman in here once we clean all this mess up, okay? Weʼll barbecue them up just the way you like it: chewy and juicy. A growing girl like you needs her nutrients, right? Mommy didn't get it, did she? Well, donʼt worry, mommy no longer makes the rules around here anymore. Daddyʼs taking care of you now but remember, thereʼs no food better than mommy.”
Author ~ Rohan Mali
Editor ~ Karan Agarwal