The Sanguinarian

The Sanguinarian

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Chapter #1: Channing McGregor: The woman who lives

I am sitting in the darkened living room, staring apprehensively at the land line telephone on the side table next to the sofa. I expect the phone to start ringing off the hook anytime, and shatter the deathly silence of my Upper East Side apartment. It's still light outside, but I have drawn the blinds of all the windows in my apartment, turned off all tube lights and only left on the two lamps I have kept in every room of my house. I like this kind of ambiance when I have the urgent need to feel protected; somehow the semi-dark rooms seem to envelop me in a safe cocoon of their own.
I get up from the sofa and go to my study-cum-library, where, on a huge teak work desk, my MacBook sits patiently, screen glowing, waiting for me to come and start working on it. The beginning of the first draft of my next book lies open in MS-Word, just the way I had left it after a wave of writer's block had unexpectedly hit me earlier today morning. I have mails to check and answer, and articles to edit and write. I have to write the weekly post on my blog, Women's Weekly as well. Yup, I'm a very busy woman with a lot of stuff waiting to be done.
After all, I am Channing McGregor, author of one non-fiction and two fiction books, founder and editor of a firebrand women's magazine called The Feminista, a blogger and a women's rights activist as well.
I move from the study to the kitchen, where I proceed to make myself a cup of tea. Even this simple task seems tedious and daunting right now- that's the extent my mind has been muddled with recent events. Still, I persist, in order to make myself do something and get rid of my mental paralysis.
While the water boils in the kettle, I sit down at the kitchen table, picking up a book lying there and leafing absent-mindedly through the pages. My gaze involuntarily goes towards the bathroom door towards the left of the hallway outside the kitchen. Anytime, I expect my boyfriend, Tory, to come out of the bathroom in his robe, saying "What's on the menu tonight, precious?" with a huge smile on his handsome face and his hair dripping wet.
Which is when I am rudely reminded by my rational brain that Tory is now my ex-boyfriend. He is out of my life, so I should put him out of my mind as well. Which is a little hard for me. Not only because I still love him a lot, but because he is the owner and MD of the media house that owns and publishes The Feminista. Which means that we still see a lot of each other for work related purposes. It's not one bit easy for me. I am really eager to know how it affects him.
The break-up has also been hard on me because this was no ordinary break-up; but a high-profile, scandalous end to a high-profile relationship between two people constantly in the media spotlight because of their work. My ex, Tory Adams, was caught in a compromising position, inside his car, with none other than my blonde, buxom secretary at my magazine's office, Layla- that too by a particularly tenacious tabloid reporter. You can easily imagine what happened next. Sleazy reports in tabloid newspapers by sleazepot journalists, being chased by these same people for 'sound bytes' on my knowledge on, or opinion about Tory's infidelity, photos of him with Layla splashed across the front pages of second grade magazines and being repeatedly telecast on news channels, request for interviews describing the 'break-up process' and how I am coping with it, incessant questions about why Tory had cheated on me and what I will do with Layla, and speculative articles about the same everywhere on the internet as well.
Strangely, it's been three weeks since I and Tory went our own ways, but the media and public's interest in our private lives seems insatiable. The controversy refuses to die down, and wherever I go, I feel like people are talking about the break-up behind my back, promptly stopping the conversation whenever I come within hearing range. This is happening at the office, at author speaking engagements, seminars for women, functions for women's rights activists, and just about everywhere I go. The whispers and gossip, at least in my assumption, are still raging on like a fire that refuses to be put-out, and I'm still getting phone calls from over-inquisitive reporters and acquaintances. That's one reason why I'm afraid of the telephone nowadays.
On top of all this is the problem that has been nagging me for some time now. It's not a full-blown problem yet, just a small, niggling threat that creeps up on me every now and then.
As editor of a women's magazine that openly discusses women's issues, especially abuse and sex crimes against women, I have, unsurprisingly, managed to make many enemies. Both local and international enemies, since The Feminista has offices in London, Paris, Stockholm, New Delhi, Istanbul and even Lahore and Hong Kong. I also work with women's organizations to rehabilitate victims of domestic violence, another tricky terrain where husbands and boyfriends threaten to make life hell for us.
Lately, I've been getting anonymous calls from someone who claims he will kill, one by one, all the victims of domestic violence and sex crimes whom I have managed to help get justice and have their perpetrators prosecuted. A part of me thinks I should ignore this type of empty threats, which aren't new to me. I've been called names and threatened with rape, acid attacks, mutilation in the form of letters or phone calls or Twitter and FB messages and mails; once, my car was punctured and graffiti consisting of cuss words painted all over it. I am used to this and know how to ignore it and go on with my work.
But a nagging doubt at the back of my head says that this guy could be an actual killer and will come true on his claims, thereby harming innocent lives and undoing all the work I have done all these years to give these women a new lease of life. I'm afraid to go to the police, lest this news leak out and augment the media gossip and interest in my private life and matters head out of control. I'm not exactly close to my family, who live in Alabama and am hesitant to share this with my friends and colleagues, not knowing how they will react or of they will take me seriously. I keep thinking that this will stop if I ignore it, but it won't and i know it. And if I don't tell anyone or take action soon, this may escalate into a full-blown disaster.
A loud hissing noise shakes me out of my thoughts,and I see that the water is overflowing over the sides of the kettle now. I run to the stove and turn it off. And then, the loud, shrill trin-trin of the land line phone penetrates my senses, and I dash to the living room and pick up the phone with trembling hands.
"Hello?" I speak apprehensively into the phone.
"Hello, this is Detective Brenda McKinsey of the NYPD. Am I speaking to Miss Channing McGregor?" came a professional female voice from the other end.
My feeling of apprehension grows even more pronounced.
"Yes, Detective?" I say.
"We found a body on Fifth Street today. It's a female in her early twenties, and we found your number in her pocket phone dairy. Can you come to the station to talk to us?" the detective replies.
It must be someone I had once rescued from a rapist, a stalker, or an alcoholic boyfriend or husband or father- I always gave my number to all these woman and asked them to keep in touch.
"Was it murder, Detective?" I ask, my heart beating very fast now.
"Yes, we have reason to think it was. Why don't you come down to the station and I will tell you all about it?" she replies.
With a feeling of lead having dropped into my stomach, I say, "Sure. I will be down there ASAP Detective."

No comments:

Post a Comment