The Sanguinarian

The Sanguinarian

Sunday, 29 December 2013

The day that rocked the world

Remember 16th December 2012? Those of you who diligently read the newspapers certainly do. A 23-year old physiotherapy student, going back home with her friend after watching a movie, was brutalized, raped and left for dead by a gang of six men.
Let's do a fast forward of what exactly happened that night, according to the police and the newspapers. The girl and her friend, who happened to be a male, were returning home on a bus at 9.30 p.m. after watching a movie. Somehow, a group of five drunk men happened to be aboard that bus the same time, one of them a juvenile. The men must have felt that a young girl, travelling at night in Delhi in a bus with less passengers, in a country like India, was fair game. So they forcibly evacuated a vendor from the bus, and as the driver, acting as an accomplice, drove around the city, they beat up the girl's male friend, dragged her to the back of the bus, and raped her. If that wasn't enough, the juvenile among them first disemboweled the girl, then inserted a rod into the girl's innards. That was to make sure she bleeds out as much as possible and dies. Then they threw the girl, and her boyfriend, out on the road side and left them there, to die.
Passing vehicles saw a disrobed, terribly injured girl and an injured boy lying by the side of the road, on a cold December night, but none of them bothered to stop and help them. For an hour, the girl and her friend were lying there, in the biting cold, robbed of their dignity. Later it was said that this one hour delay resulted in the girl losing her life.
When the news of the gang-rape reached the public, somehow the whole thing erupted into a huge controversy. As the girl lay in the hospital, fighting for her life as doctors attempted to see how to put her life back on track, the six rapists, including the driver, were arrested. The Delhi police was on one hand scorned by the public for its shoddy functioning and execution of duties, while the Commissioner was praised by a prominent politician for his diligence in carrying out his duties. Confusing, no? The wave of outrage rooted in years of frustration moved on from Delhi to other Indian metro cities like Calcutta and Mumbai, leaving in its wake thousands of men and women, both young and old, out on the streets, peacefully but firmly protesting the incident on the streets. They were not only protesting the wanton brutalization of the Delhi girl, but also what the incident showed about how women are treated in India today.
The rapists said they had no regrets for what they had done to the girl, and they did what they did because she was out at night with a man who wasn't her brother or father. A popular Godman, now behind bars for sexually assaulting a girl in his ashram, said the girl should have begged with the rapists to leave her alone, since they were her 'brothers'. The head of a prominent religious outfit said that rapes are happening in 'urban' India because of 'Western culture'. As if women in villages don't get raped and killed over either caste and feudal and communal riots or personal grudge between families or just plain lust of misogynist, perverted men. A minister in Andhra said that the girl deserved what she got because she was on that bus, at night, with a boy. Other such derogatory and regressive comments were made by various people living in the Dinosaur age, especially a senior BJP minister's contention that the girl has been turned into a 'zinda laash' (living corpse) and a Bengal minister's 'dented-and-painted' comment that took the media by storm.
All this while, the girl showed extra-ordinary courage and fought for her life, asking her mother to deliver justice to her rapists, talking to the police and the doctors and thinking of her life after she recovered from her wounds.
Remember December 29th 2012, exactly a year ago from today? Today of last year was the day the girl finally breathed her last. Her death somehow gave a lot more impetus to the protestations by the public. The Verma commission released its laudable report, recommending the GOI to take certain corrective measures to ensure proper handling of incidents like the one in Delhi,  to see that affected women got adequate psycho-social and legal help to get justice, to increase conviction rates for rapists and to increase sensitivity and awareness of medical professionals and policemen towards rape victims. Eminent academicians like Harvard's Dr. Jacqueline Bhabha came to India to help the government frame proper laws to award punishment to rapists and other sex offenders. Looked like things would change finally for women in India.Fat chance.
All the government did was pass an utterly useless Ordinance that had no proper steps on how to actually help bring down incidents of sex crimes and ensure speedy justice for the victims. The juvenile, who was actually responsible for inserting the rod inside the girl's private parts and to a large part contributing to her death, got off easy because of the Juvenile Justice act. One of the rapists committed suicide and four are sentenced to death. That's good in a way, but not very good when you see the long-term ramifications. Still I read incidents of brutal rape and murder of women in India- not to forget the brutal, sadistic violation of a 5 year old girl in Delhi not long after the gang-rape of the student, and the gang-rape of a press photographer in Mumbai. Still the chauvinists continue to make insensitive statements, still the police continues to either act insensitive or dumb, still the political parties use such incidents for their own benefit ( Mamata Banerjee saying confidently that the spate of rapes in Bengal were a ploy by the rival party to discredit her government). The furor that the rape had created last year seemed to have died down by now, the outrage has receded and this isn't a hot topic of discussion anymore.
As to why I'm writing about this today? Because this incident somehow managed to pierce my heart, make a hole in there, make my blood go cold in my veins ( when I heard about the iron rod from a male friend who lives in Delhi and who attended the protests), and confirmed all my notions about what happens to many women in India who chose to live life their own way.
As to what I did about it? As a student of health sciences, I wrote a paper about the poor state of healthcare for rape victims and lack of proper resources for investigation of sex crimes( as we found out through our research) with a colleague and dear friend. The paper, if it gets accepted, will hopefully bring the Delhi incident into the limelight again and maybe somewhere, somehow, life for women in general, and for rape victims in particular, will change or at least more people will talk about it and try to change their mentality towards women.
As a crime author and as a woman, I think sexual violence against women is a global issue, and I shall continue to raise it, both in my stories and future articles. As a wannabe mental health professional, I will try to find out the reason why crimes against women are perpetuated- is it pornography combined with misogyny resulting in psychosexual aberrations? Or is it the culmination of psychopathologic rage of weak- minded men who take it out on women because they think women are weaker? Or the above factors combined with other factors? Someday I hope to find out. Till then, I hope that the Delhi girl's family finds peace in whatever little justice was accorded them for the atrocities committed against their innocent daughter, and strength to move on with life.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

John Hartigan says HELLO

Hello Readers!
                        It's so nice to be finally be able to say hello to you all. I'm John Hartigan.
Now the very first question you 're asking is...John Hartigan who? Well, I would like to introduce myself as your next door neighbor( Sorry if I'm copying Peter Parker's line from Spiderman).
But this pain-in-the-neck author, an entity called Percy Kerry, always introduces me as an FBI Special Agent and a criminologist. Yes, I am an FBI Special Agent. And  because of my interest in observing and understanding criminal behavior, I have a degree in criminology; therefore I analyze the baddies I catch as well, as a side profession-thingy.
But I AM your next door neighbor, literally! I wake up at 5.30 a.m. every morning, like normal people.
I go for a jog every morning, for an hour, like normal Bostonians. I have a job that requires me on board almost 14 hours a day. A government job, which pays me a monthly salary.
I like to celebrate my birthday, which falls on July 13, with a cake, some beer, some nice dinner at a good restaurant which I can afford.
I love to eat everything under the sun, no restrictions on that aspect!
I also believe in burning everything I I jog 4 miles to and fro from 6 a.m. to 7.a.m. like I mentioned before.
I love to read. My taste is crime and spy novels, books on psychology, criminology and criminal law. I also love true crime and biographies.
Last but not the least, I survive on coffee! I have like six-seven cups a day...but not the decaf stuff. Never understood the logic of decaf coffee!!
Oops! Sorry folks...I think I'm getting a call. Let me see. Damn! It's work! I gotta run...but I hope I haven'y bored you with my 'saying HELLO' monologue. I will see you again...when my boss allows me to have some 'me-time' again! Adios! Take care, folks!
                                                                     Your next-door neighbor, John Hartigan

Monday, 16 December 2013

An excerpt from What The Eye Sees


The 911 operator took a call from a much panicked woman at 11.28 p.m. on a cold Monday night.
“Help! Please, I need help,” the lady gasped.
“What is the nature of your emergency, Ma’m?”
“My daughter, my… baby…Astor…has gone missing…” the woman stammered.
“Your daughter is missing, did you say?”
“Yes…yes…my baby…”
“Her name is Astor, did you say?”
“Yes…Astor…my baby…”
“Can you please state your name and address, ma’m?”
“Huh? Of course…Rhonda Marshall, 203, Lincoln Street.”
“Ma’m, the police shall be at your residence soon”
“Thank you…thank you!” the woman gasped, and hung up.
The 911 operator immediately contacted the Boston PD.

Chapter 1

11.44 p.m. The Marshall residence
Boston PD Detective Ansen Cole (Homicide) was standing in the living room of 203, Lincoln Street.
“Mrs. Marshall…please calm down,” Cole said, unsuccessfully trying to calm down the panicked Rhonda Marshall, who had been crying inconsolably since the police had responded to her distress call.
“I’m…I’m…sorry. I…I must…must get a hold on myself” stammered Rhonda, dabbing at her face with a huge silk handkerchief.

“Good, Mrs. Marshall. Now, I must ask you some very important questions about Astor, okay. The sooner you help me get the answers, the sooner I can find Astor, okay,” Cole said in his smoothest voice.
This statement seemed to have worked on Mrs. Marshall like a charm. She immediately stopped crying, sat up straighter on the sofa and even managed a weak smile.
“Go on…ask your questions, Detective.” she said, this time not stammering at all.
“Okay. When did you last see Astor?” Cole asked, holding a pen and small notepad in his hand, ready to take notes.
“9 p.m. last night, when I put her to bed.”
“That was the daily routine for her?”
“Yes. You see, Detective, Astor was only seven. When you inculcate good habits in children from childhood, do they grow up to be responsible adults.” replied Rhonda Marshall, smiling again.
“Yes, yes. Very true. When and how did you find out she was missing?”
Rhonda’s smile faded and her face became grim again.
“I usually go to bed myself by 10 o’clock; but I was up late tonight, preparing a plan for an upcoming function at the local Community Center. I’m the organizer and convener of the Center’s activities. I got up at around 11.15 to get a drink from the kitchen. So I thought to just check on Astor before resuming my work. I went into her bedroom, and…and found her bed empty!” she looked about to start crying again.
“Alright…alright,” Cole spoke hastily to prevent that eventuality, adding, “What did you do then?”
“I proceeded to look for Astor, first, of course, in the upstairs rooms. Bathroom, other bedrooms, study…she wasn’t there. Then I proceeded to the rooms downstairs, and then the front and back yards. I couldn’t find her anywhere”
“Then you called 911?”
“Okay. How many of you are there, in this house?”
“There are three of us. Astor, me and my husband Graham. He’s in the merchant navy…he’s abroad, in England on a trip. I’ve called him, of course, and he’s on his way back here. He stays away from home for more than ten months of the year,” Rhonda replied.
Cole was scribbling away furiously in his notepad.
“Do you suspect anyone of having taken Astor? Any enemies, perhaps? Seeking vengeance?” he asked.
“No…no. Ours is a nice community…I wouldn’t suspect these people for a moment. No…I do not know about any enemies who would wanna take away Astor for settling personal scores,” Rhonda replied.
“What was Astor wearing?”
“Light pink pajamas. With Daffy Duck printed all over them. Her favorite” Rhonda replied, sadly.
“Alright. Any unusual details you may have observed, Mrs. Marshall, when you went into Astor’s room?”Cole asked.
“Of course not, Detective. I was shocked senseless when I saw Astor was not in her bed. My mind was preoccupied and not looking for things out of the ordinary,” Rhonda replied, indignantly.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Marshall. I was just asking so that I could get something to go on with. Even the smallest details can help crack a crime like this,” Cole apologized immediately.
“That’s quite alright, Detective” Rhonda replied, satisfied with his explanation.
“I’ll need a recent photo of Astor, of course” said Cole. 
 Within minutes, he was holding a Polaroid photograph of Astor Marshall in his hand. Astor Marshall was a cute, chubby seven year old girl. Her eyes were blue, like her mother’s and her auburn hair cascaded down to her shoulders in curls. In Cole’s opinion, she was a beautiful child.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Excerpt from The Crimson Dahlia

Hello, I’m Lieutenant Will Masters of the Boston Police Homicide. At this very moment, I’m lying, on my back, on the own huge four-poster bed in my own bedroom of my own house.
My hands are bound together by thick ropes from my own tool shed. My feet are chained to the foot of the bed by a thick metal chain having two circular vice grips which fit perfectly around both my ankles.  My mouth is taped shut with a roll of thick cellophane duct tape. I have been completely stripped of my clothes, which are lying in a heap on one side of the bed.
The ropes are cutting into my wrists. I try to move, but I can only turn over on my side, which is, I think, because of the vice grips in which my feet are ensconced. I can’t move. I can’t scream for help. All I can do is make muted sounds of pain through the duct tape, which no one can hear; realize that I’m a prisoner in my own house and feel waves of great fear and panic.
Yes, I can think too. Think of how I came about to be in this position, and how I’m most certainly going to die. Die like those murders victims for whom I swear to get justice and fulfill my duties as a cop. In a few hours, I’m gonna be a corpse, just like the hundreds I’ve seen. I also realize that my death shall come about after I’ve experienced the extreme pain of torture which shall be inflicted on me, physically, emotionally and psychologically- just like some of the recent homicide victims, whose murders I have been investigation. My death will come as a mercy, a reprieve, and I’ll be made to plead for it; because I’d die rather than bear the pain which shall drive me insane and tear my soul apart.
But before I die, I want to tell you a story. The story of how all my cops instincts were not enough to save me from my current predicament. The story of how this situation came about, and how I never thought I was gonna be taken prisoner and die in my own house. My death shall not go in vain- the world should learn some lessons from my mistakes, and never repeat them in the future.
Time is running out. So I better start on my story, which starts from about a year ago…

12th June 2013, Maple Street, Boston
I’m standing in a narrow alley on Maple Street, with my colleagues in blue. We have arrived five minutes ago, after Dispatch received an anonymous from someone reporting a dead body here.
The alleyway stinks heavily of urine and beer- no surprise there as it flanks the left side of a bar. But tonight, there is something else, apart from the stink, which has pervaded my senses. It’s a body, or what’s left of it, lying at the base of the huge wall at the rear end of the alley.
I’m saying what’s left of it because, seriously, the condition of the corpse is so bad I can’t bear to look at it. The head has been severed from the body, is a hand and a leg. The corpse is nothing more than a bloody mass of flesh, arranged in a way to keep the limbs together and yet emphasize the decapitation and dismemberment.
Another thing has grabbed my attention. On the wall behind the corpse, there are words written. In huge bold letters, with something that looks like blood- a crimson hue. I can clearly read the message in the clear daylight.
“What do you think it means, Lieutenant?” asks my colleague and friend, Detective Lance Carter, standing right beside me and staring at the message curiously.
“I don’t know, Detective. You have any ideas?” I ask him in return. I really have no idea about what to make of the message. It doesn’t make any sense. Who is this Crimson Dahlia person? And how can someone be so audacious so as to directly address the cops and say the words ‘with love’? Someone, I suspect, who isn’t afraid of the police at all, and think they can get away by taunting us directly in our faces, apart from leaving a dismembered corpse for us. Their idea of a horrible joke. Well, whoever this Crimson person is, I will soon catch up with them, and then the joke will be on them.
“No, Lieutenant. I’m as confused as you. I think we’ll know more when Dr. Styles is done with this” he says, looking at the corpse.
“Yes, Detective, I think so too. Till then, you go around with Detective Cole and find out if anyone at the bar saw anything last evening. Meet me at the station later.” I tell Lance.
“Yes, Lieutenant. See you.” Saying this, Lance rushes off to his partner, Detective Ansen Cole. One of my most promising young detectives, and, if I’m right, my successor to the Lieutenant position in a few short years’ time.
The crime lab people are processing the scene, one of them taking pictures of the mangled body from various angles. Another one is collecting samples from the message inscribed in red on the wall, and I hope it has not been written with the victim’s blood. It would be too disgusting.
Meanwhile, I watch as the people from the coroner’s lift the body, part by part, onto a stretcher. I have never understood how they can manage to do so with such efficiency, without flinching and throwing up. True, in my fifteen years of police work I have seen a lot of dead bodies, some of them mangled badly beyond recognition. I can tolerate the sight, but not actually having to touch it.
 Its afternoon now and I’m sitting in my office at the station and thinking of grabbing some lunch, as I peruse, on my desktop PC, the report Detectives Carter has just mailed me. It’s the report of the inquiries both Carter and Ansen Cole at Joey’s, the bar beside the alley where we found the body today morning. As usual, the staff at the establishment saw or heard nothing unusual, and if they were to be believed, neither did any of the patrons at the bar last night.
After all this time in the job, I have come to recognize that cracking such cases isn’t that easy. It will be sometime before we can even get our first break.
I proceed to file the report in the PD database, when my phone rings. It’s my wife, Luciana, on the line.
“Hey, Doc. How you doing?” I ask her, in the affectionate manner we had of talking with each other.
“Hey, Lieutenant-husband of mine. I’m not okay because I’m starving like mad, and I hope you will get your butt out of that office to join me for lunch,” she replies, her tone mirroring mine.
“Where do you fancy we should go, Doc?” I ask.
“Sanjay’s. I wanna have that chicken curry with the fried rice thingy again” she replies.
“Okay, honey. Meet me in the parking lot in 10 minutes. See you” I say.
“Allrighty. Love you, hon” Luciana says, bringing an involuntary smile on my face. We declare our love at least a 100 times to each other every day, even after being married for almost seven years now. I know, I know, it sounds silly and too lovey-dovey.
“Love you too babe” I reply, and hang up. After the hectic schedule and other demands my job makes on me, going back home to Luciana makes me so happy and content. Or rather, I should say, going home with Dr. Luciana Masters- we both work for the Boston PD. My wife is a forensic psychologist, and her office is in the station itself, but on a different floor. We come to work together every morning, and leave together every night. Our schedules suit each other perfectly, and we get to spend enough quality time with each other. I love my wife with all my heart, and she reciprocates my love with warmth and care. I am the luckiest man in the world.