Sunday, August 24, 2014

CHILLED BEER – Short Fiction Story

Short Fiction - A Murder Mystery 

From my Creative Writing Archives:
On this warm Sunday afternoon, let me delve into my creative writing archives and pull out for you one of my earliest Short Fiction Stories  CHILLED BEER –a Murder Mystery – and post it once again, revised, abridged and updated, for you to read.

I wrote this story long ago, for a creative writing competition, and this story won the first prize.

This story features in my anthology COCKTAIL

By the way, this story, CHILLED BEER, has been made into a short film too.

Cheers  how about a glass of CHILLED BEER?

CHILLED BEER – a story by Vikram Karve

It’s a lazy Sunday morning and I sit languidly in my balcony reminiscing.

I think of the good old days of my wonderful past.

I am overwhelmed with melancholy as I mourn the gloomy and depressing present.

And I speculate with foreboding about what the ominous future may hold in store for me. 

The doorbell rings.

I curse at being disturbed from my reverie, and wonder who’s come to meet me on a Sunday morning.

I open the door.

I am dumbstruck.

Standing in the door is my wife Anjali's friend and colleague, that gorgeous snooty pompous beauty called Monica, who lives across the street.  

“Anjali is not at home,” I say tersely.  

“I know,” Monica says, “I have come to see you.”  

“Me...? You have come to see me...?” I ask in bewilderment, and I stare at her, for until now, the pretentious haughty Monica, who does not care for losers, has always ignored me as if I did not exist.  

“Yes, Ajay, I know Anjali is not at home. I have come to see you. I want to talk to you alone.”  

“Alone...?” I am curious as I can feel a shiver of anticipation rising within me. 

We, Monica and me, have never been alone before.  

“Yes. Alone. I want to see you alone. Won’t you ask me to come in...?” she says.

“Of course. Please come in. Shall we sit in the balcony...?” I suggest.

“No. We’ll sit inside here, so no one will see us and we can talk in private,” she says.

Monica looks chic and ravishing, in tight jeans and a close fitting pink T-shirt.

I try not to stare at her.  

The moment we sit down on the living room sofa, she says, “Suppose you found out that your wife was being unfaithful. Tell me, Ajay, what would you do...?”  

Taken aback by the bombshell, I exclaim: “What...?”  

“Suppose you caught your wife having an affair. What would you do?” Monica asks.  

“What nonsense...!” I say angrily.

But inside me there germinates a small seed of doubt.

Does Monica know something...?

Why is she saying all this...? 

So, trying to hide my fears, I put up a solid face, and I say, “Come on Mrs. Kumar. It’s impossible. You know Anjali for so many years and you know how much she loves me.”  

“Hey, stop calling me Mrs. Kumar. I have told you that before, haven’t I...? You just call me Monica...”

Then she looks provocatively into my eyes, and asks, “Now think carefully...Suppose, just suppose, you caught your wife Anjali having an affair, cheating on you, betraying your trust with infidelity…”

“I’ll kill her,” I say instinctively.  


“How...? What do you mean ‘How’...?”  

“I mean ‘How’. How will you kill your wife...?” she asks.

“Well, I don’t know,” I say getting up from the sofa, not wanting to continue this conversation.  

“Let’s hypothesize. Will you shoot her...? Strangle her...? Stab her to death...? Suffocate her with a pillow...? Push her over the balcony or shove her off a cliff...?  Electrocute her...? Drown her...? Douse her with kerosene and set her on fire...? An ‘accidental’ gas cylinder explosion...?” Monica asks.  

“What do you want from me...? Why are you harassing me...? Please go away Mrs. Kumar. Anjali will be here any moment,” I beseech her. 

“No, she won’t. I know she has gone to the health club and beauty parlour for her Sunday session. Anjali will be back after twelve. We have enough time together, haven’t we...?” Monica says mischievously looking up at me.

I say nothing.

After a pause of silence, Monica says, “Okay, you just tell me how you would kill your wife if you caught her having an affair, and I promise I’ll go away...!”

“I’d probably use poison,” I say, and start walking towards the entrance door.  

Monica remains seated in silence for some time.

She she looks at me intently as I walk towards the door, waiting for her to get up from the sofa and leave my house.

Then Monica speaks, her words clear and deliberate: “Poison... The way you finished off Nisha, your first wife...?”

I stop dead in my tracks.

Stunned, pole-axed, I can sense a sharp, cold fear drilling into my vitals.

I look at Monica, into her shining eyes.

She knows...

And she wants me to know that she knows...

And now I know that I have no choice.

I walk back to my sofa, sit down, and I say to her, “So you want to kill your husband. Just because you think he is having an affair.”  

“You killed Nisha, didn’t you...?” she asks, looking directly into my eyes.  

I feel very frightened, very scared.

How much does Monica know...?

Or is she just speculating, guessing...?

Maybe she is just trying a shot in the dark...

But seeing the venom in her eyes, I realize that I dare not take any chances, so I smile, and I say: “Well, Monica, you have got your manacles on me, haven’t you...?”

“Listen, Ajay,” Monica says, her voice soft, as she speaks in measured tones, “I don’t want a scandal, that’s why I haven’t given him even the slightest hint that I suspect. But I can’t live a lie any longer pretending I am happy. The flimsy façade of our successful marriage, the veneer of pretence – it’s all going to blow-up sooner or later as he is becoming more and more indiscreet and careless.”

She pauses for a moment and says, “He’s got to go. Quickly. Quietly. As ‘normal’ a death as you can arrange.”

“Why don’t you leave him...? Ask him for a divorce.”

“It’s much better to be a widow than a divorcee, isn’t it...?”

I think about what she says.

Monica is right. 

It is much better to have all the sympathy of a widow than the stigma of being a divorcee.

Why not inherit all her husband’s riches, money, property, everything he owns, rather than a paltry alimony?

Her husband is rich and successful, and her marriage a social triumph.

“Tell me, who is your husband having an affair with...?” I ask out of sheer curiosity.

“It’s none of your business,” she says angrily, “You just do what I tell you to do and don’t try to delve too deeply.”

“I thought maybe…”

“What’s the use...? He’ll get another one – bloody philanderer,” Monica says with contempt.

Then she looks at me and says: “It is he who has betrayed me and I want to get rid of him fast. You do this for me, Ajay, and my lips remain sealed about Nisha forever. I promise...”

“That’s all...?”

“I’ll clear all your gambling debts, your loans, the mortgages – with the bookies, financiers…”

Inside I tremble with indescribable terror... outside I try to be calm and say, “You know all about me, don’t you...?”

“I have done my homework. Now you execute a foolproof plan. And after it’s all over there will be plenty more to come for you. I will give you so much money, you can’t even imagine...” she says.

“Okay, let’s brainstorm. You tell me everything about your husband. Each and every detail, his food habits, his routine, his programme for the next few days, about both of you, everything. Absolutely everything,” I say.

“I’m thirsty,” Monica announces. 

“Fresh Lime...?”  

“How about a chilled beer?”  

I get two cans of chilled beer from the fridge.  

“Hey,” Monica exclaims holding up a beer can, “you know what...? My husband Kumar drinks the same brand of beer as you do...! It’s his favourite beer.”

“That’s a good start,” I say, and I clink my beer can with hers and raise a toast: “Cheers... To our success... Now tell me everything.”  

Monica tells me everything about her husband Kumar.

I listen intently and carefully make notes.

By the time Monica finishes, in my mind’s eye I am already evaluating the pros and cons of various options of how Kumar is going to die.

“How do you want him to die...? Instantaneous death or prolonged illness...?” I ask Monica.

“I want to finish it off as quickly as possible. Painless. Fast. When he is far away from here. Like maybe during his trekking trip to Mussoorie next week,” she pauses for a moment and says, “but make sure it’s a perfect foolproof job – not even an iota of doubt or needle of suspicion.”

My mind races, exploring and weighing all the options, like maybe an exotoxin which leaves no trace, excretes itself from the organism within a few hours...?

I keep on thinking, my brain cells working at lightning speed, and all of a sudden I know what I’m going to do... 

“We’ll give him something in his favourite beer,” I say.  

“What...? Tell me, please...” Monica says excitedly.  

“Now you don’t delve too much...” I say haughtily. “Just do what I say. Lips sealed. And ask no questions...”  


I look at the notes I have made when she was telling me about her husband and ask, “His weight is only 70...?”  

“That’s right. Seventy kilograms. Five feet ten. Thirty Eight years of age. Ideal, isn’t it... He’s a fitness freak,” she says.

“And he leaves for Mussoorie on Thursday...?” I ask

“Yes. Early in the morning.”  

“Okay,” I say, “I’ll have the beer can ready by Wednesday evening. Make sure you collect it by six before Anjali comes back from office and see that he drinks it…”  

“No. No. You serve it to him. Let him have it here. In front of you. Right here,” she insists.

“He’s never come here to our place before...” I say.

“He will come here. If you invite him.”

“Fine. I’ll tell Anjali to invite both of you to dinner on Wednesday evening. She’s been wanting to call you over for a long time.”

“And...?” she asks.

“I’ll make sure your Kumar drinks the special beer. He’ll be off to Mussoorie on Thursday, and you should have the ‘good news’ by Sunday morning,” I say.

“He shouldn’t pop off here...” she says.

“He won’t. I’ll calculate everything precisely – you make sure there is at least a 36 hour incubation and proliferation period,” I assure her.

After Monica leaves, I realize three things.

Firstly, murder is a rather lucrative business.

Secondly, from an amateur, I am going to become a professional.

And thirdly, infidelity is not only reason why Monica wants to get rid of her husband.

Everything works as per my plan.

I meticulously keep the vacuum microencapsulated ‘special’ can of beer firmly in its designated place in the fridge on Wednesday morning the moment Anjali leaves for work.

Then I leave for my office.

When I open the fridge the moment I return early from work on Wednesday evening I notice that the particular beer-can is missing.

My heart skips a beat.

I feel a tremor of trepidation.

I search desperately in the fridge.

But I don’t find the can of beer.

Soon I am in a state of total panic.

After a frantic search I find the empty beer can in the kitchen dustbin.  

I pick up the can and check it.

Oh yes, no doubt about it – it is the same beer-can.

But the beer can is empty...

I try to think, steady my confused mind.

Who can it be...?

Who could have drank that can of beer?  

Everything becomes clear all of a sudden and I find myself shaking in sheer terror.

I rush to the bedroom, run around the house like a crazy animal.

Anjali is not at home.

I dial her mobile.

It is an excruciating wait as time stands still.

Anjali answers.  

“Anjali...? Where are you...?”  

“In the mall. Picking up some stuff for the evening.”  

“So early...?”  

“I took half a day off. Came home for lunch, got things tidied up and ready for the evening, and am just getting a few things from the market. I’ll be back soon,” Anjali, my wife, says.

“Anjali. The beer...! The beer...!” I stutter anxiously.  

“You want me to get more beer...? I thought we had enough,” she says.

“No. No. There is a beer-can missing in the fridge. I found it in the dustbin,” I say.

“Oh, that. I drank it in the afternoon,” Anjali says.  

“What...? You drank that beer...?” I shout anxiously.  

“Yes. I drank it. I came home in the afternoon. It was hot. I felt thirsty. So I opened the fridge, picked up a can of beer, and I drank it. It’s that simple,” Anjali says.

“You stupid fool... Why did you drink that beer-can...?” I scream into the phone.  

“Stupid fool...? How dare you...? Ajay, have you lost it...? I just can’t understand your behaviour now-a-days...” Anjali says and disconnects.  

It was extraordinary, how my mind becomes clear all of a sudden.

There is no known antidote to the poison I have synthesized.

Clinically, there is nothing I can do.

Logically, there is no point in doing something stupid in desperation.

It is a question of my own survival.

Having sunk to the depths of depravity, all I can do now is to helplessly watch Anjali die.

Anjali is less than sixty kilos, much lighter than Kumar, and the poison will take effect faster.

By Saturday evening it will all be over and she will be dead.

The evening passes in a haze.

Monica and Kumar come for dinner at 7:30.

My heart sinks as I watch Kumar enjoy beer after beer, but what’s the use...? 

That special beer-can, the one I had specially prepared for him, is lying empty in the dustbin.

There is a gleam in Monica’s eye.

What excuse am I going to give her...?

She does not know what has happened and I shudder to think what she may do when she realizes.

At best she may forget everything; but knowing her vindictive streak, anything is possible...

Inside I tremble with fear in unimaginable agony... outside I try to present a happy and cheerful façade and make pretence of enjoying the dinner.

Time crawls.

I feel wretched and suffer in painful silence the longest and most agonizing hours of my life waiting helplessly for Anjali to die.

Thursday. Friday. Saturday.

I closely observe Anjali for symptoms, waiting for the worst.

Nothing happens.

Anjali seems normal, in fact, quite hale and hearty.  


Anjali is still going strong...!

She sits across the dining table devouring her favorite idli-chutney-sambar Sunday breakfast.

I marvel at her constitution, her liver, it’s got to be super-strong; or maybe I have goofed up!  

My cell-phone rings.

It’s Monica.

My heart skips a beat.  

“Hello,” I say with trepidation.  

“Ajay, congrats... You have done it... Kumar is dead. I just got a call from Mussoorie,” Monica says excitedly.  

“How...?” I mumble incredulously, perplexed, baffled out of my wits in consternation.  

“It happened exactly like you said. In the early hours of Sunday morning. He died in his sleep. They say maybe it was heart failure. Painless, instantaneous death.”

“I’ll come now...?” I ask Monica.  

“No... No... Not now. We can’t take chances. I am rushing to Mussoorie now. I’ll finish off everything...cremation...death certificate...everything. I will personally make sure the paperwork is done okay. And when I return, you can come and offer your condolences…” I hear Monica’s voice trail away.  

I disconnect, I put my mobile phone in my pocket, and I look at my wife Anjali.  

“Who was it...?” she asks.  

“Someone from the office,” I lie, trying to keep a straight face.  

“Anything important...?”  

“No. A man died. That’s all...” I say nonchalantly.  

I look at Anjali, into her large brown liquid eyes, and comprehension dawns on me like a bolt of lightening.

So, it was Monica’s husband Kumar who drank that ‘special’ can of beer that afternoon, and not my wife Anjali.

What was Kumar doing with Anjali in my house that afternoon?

What a cuckold they have made me.

It is me who is the real sucker.

My wife Anjali was having an affair with Monica’s husband Kumar and I was clueless.

My brain goes into a tizzy.

I wonder what I should do to Anjali for betraying me?

The possibilities are endless, aren’t they...?

And while I contemplate on my plan of action, I think Ill have a chilled beer...

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

This story is a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.

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Did you like this story?
I am sure you will like the 27 short stories from my recently published anthology of Short Fiction COCKTAIL
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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer and blogger. Educated at IIT Delhi, IIT (BHU) Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and an anthology of short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional  and academic research papers in journals and edited in-house journals and magazines for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing and blogging. Vikram Karve lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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