The yellow bus was on a jet black road separated into left and right by a broken yellow line. At the end of the road a snow capped mountain towered above the horizon. On the left slope was nested a group of small wooden houses.
Below the picture was the name of that hillstation followed by the logo and details of the tour operator. It was a random marketing postcard – the kind that normally ends up in junk.
That postcard was the only pleasant thing pinned on the cubicle wall. The other pictures were gory details of various crime scene investigations – mostly splattered blood and innards which were passable compared to the bulging eyes and gaping mouths of the corpses.
But his gaze was fixed on the beautiful view in the postcard – his vacation plan. It was a tiring day for him. Yet another case was done and dusted. Any moment he would be informed about his promotion to Senior Detective. The vacation was just around the corner.
He was the brightest in the Academy. ‘Aced every test’ was an understatement about him. Six months in the department and he was already making serious contributions for his team – Homicide.
He pinned those crime scene investigation photos as trophies – one for every case solved. It was disgusting, true. But that was not the only thing which repelled the other team members from him. There was this slow-talking bespectacled frail aura around him, which yelled ‘not sociable’. And there was the fact that despite having more years under their belts a rookie scored over them.
He had exceptional ability in piecing together whatever had happened in the scene much before the most hard-boiled investigator in the team did so. He somehow got clear shots from difficult angles. He always saw things hidden from plain sight as if he had xray vision. But what baffled everyone was the way he ,seemingly talking to himself, reconstructed the crime in the most foolproof way.
Like the time when he found out the murder weapon from inside a car from the scene of crime – a junk yard. There were lots of derelict vehicles there awaiting the ‘crushing’ fate, how could he zero in on the correct one? Fingerprints on the weapon helped in nabbing the murderer in only a few days.
Or the time when he found that there was another body in the swamp – that of the victim’s twin sister. A police dog would never have smelled that out due to the stench. Thus the Castle Creek murder case became the infamous Twins Murder case. Their stepfather turned out to be the culprit, eventually.
You cannot blame him for displaying the pictures of those hapless victims or whatever remained of them as trophies. But for his rivals it was a constant reminder of their failure.
They conspired. And they complained, because that was the only thing left to do. They confronted the Chief frequently.
“He does not socialize much. Kind of a loner.”
“That is his character. We should never interfere in a colleague’s personal life. That’s kind of a department rule. ”
“His cubicle wall is adorned with questionable photographs. Cant stomach those.”
“That is normal. You are in the Police. You’ve got to get used to such stuff. But still, you can look away if you want to.”
“He is too young to be given a Senior Rank”
“His work is exceptional. Everyone knows that. And if you are talking about experience, there are quite a lot of experienced heads here. But is there anyone here who can match this guy? Just think about the heights he can climb in his prime. ”
But that was unthinkable.
The complaints never stopped. And they finally got a breakthrough.
“He talks to himself”
“Is that normal?”
“Dont we all do that”
“No this isnt that. This isnt normal. It is as though he has a disorder of sorts”
“Professional jealousy is understandable. Ganging up on a teammate cannot be tol..”
“We have only his best in our minds. After all he is our teammate. We were talking about a psychiatric evaluation.”
“Hmm. But he had one when he joined. What is the point in making another one? ”
“We are not questioning his ability. We want to know that the best detective in Homicide is holding up alright. We have been knocking down a lot of cases recently. Our man came in six months ago and have seen a lot, a lot more than what is pinned on the wall. It might be taking a toll on him. ”
“Thats sounds right. Let’s see what he thinks about. We can’t force him to take an evaluation. Then we better do it for everyone else. ”
It was an outside chance. Maybe he would fail. Maybe he would get expelled for being mentally unfit. Hope was afloat.
He didnt say no to the evaluation.
The psychiatrist was meeting the Chief with his evaluation report.
“How does it look?”
“I would say interesting. ”
“Is that good?”
“Lets say it not as simple as ‘talking to oneself’. Some sort of talking to an imaginary person. A long lost brother in this case”
“So just an imaginary brother? Thats it? This should be alright then?”
“Like I said, it is bit more complicated than that. The imaginary one was borne out of a guilt complex.”
“Guilt? Of what?”
“Of killing. You see, he had a twin brother who was dead on arrival. Apparently our man had choked the other to death while in the womb. He has carried this burden for long while. Coupled with the loneliness – his mother died due to complications of child birth and his father leaving him – he was forced to imagine his brother was still around. It was just a habit to cope with the isolation at first. But gradually the other personality has become a part of his life.”
“You mean to say dual personality disorder?”
“No. He knows the line here. His brother is a different person to him. It never takes him over. It only helps, as our man says”
“He has remarkable intuition and reasoning skills. He thinks those abilities are his brother helping him out. He thinks his brother sees through things. He is not talking to his imaginary brother. He is just thinking out aloud. He could make a very good chess player but not without his opponent knowing his next move. ”
“So all in all, not so serious. But cant we cure the talking problem? It might make him more acceptable in his team. He might start discussing his findings with them first than directly reporting to me. ”
“Hmm. That is reasonable. We can plan hypnosis sessions for him. It might take while though. It is like curing smoking.”
“Good luck then. ”
A few weeks later.
The yellow bus was heading towards the snowcapped mountain on the horizon. The bus was the only vehicle on the road with dotted yellow lines running in the middle.
Sitting in the front row of the sparsely populated tour bus, he could see the wooden houses now, slowly materializing on the left slope of the mountain. He had left his job for good and kept explaining about everything around to his brother who sat next to him, for his brother was now blind due to those hypnosis sessions.