Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost... But Some Are
Here is my 3rd place "winning" entry for Saarang Creative Writing (posting here just for the sake of it, and because something reminded me of the title). It's a bit of an abstract piece, and admittedly a bit shabby here and there. Commentary shall follow at the end
Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost... But Some Are
"Have you heard about the murder case?"
"Hmm... It seems like I have a particularly nasty homicide on my hands. Particularly nasty indeed..."
"What do you think about it, Father? You must know much about these things..."
"I have to admit, this one's got me scratching my head pretty bad alright. Sure, the modus operandi seems rather straight forward; it's like so many of those hit-and-run cases. But I dare say, what's the motive? I haven't a clue who to suspect. Sure, I have his prints, but there are fifty thousand men, women and children in London today with prints just like his. Or hers, I should say. And a good thousand of those will leave tomorrow, replaced by 'round 'bout the same from all over.
No, a person in my position needs far more to go on than prints. We need to put our feet in that blasted man (or woman)'s shoes. That's how we nab 'em."
"I've always wondered what goes on in the minds of such men. Murderers. That needs some thicker skin, some colder heart don't you think?"
"I've learnt about men I tell you. Homicides; they're more about people then you'd think. Sometimes I tell myself, "John, the reason you've done so fine hasn't much to do with your mind, son. It's your heart." People trust a Reverend; far more than those ruffians in the Yard. Science and Religion, 'tis a heady mix if there ever was one. You'll have the heart and minds of people at the same time; trust me it's worth a thousand times more than either alone."
"Hmm... A thicker skin. I don't have one of those. Don't you suppose one could perhaps, kill a man out of... oh, just entirely by mistake? Haven't there been cases when a jolly 'ol matte smacks his drinking partner hard on the back and that causes the pour soul to chock and... and die? Is that 'ol mate a criminal? Who knows what circumstances cause other men to kill?"
"Criminals, they come in all forms; different shapes, sizes, motives. Most cases I hear are just out of anger, jealousy, some such mundane emotion. The cases that really terrify you are ones caused by some innate wild uncontrollable animalism. They terrify you because you know they just won't stop. Not till they're dead. The others you can reform, hell most of the time life in jail is better than what they have out here. Sometimes, well, most of the time though, they're easier to catch; the perpetrators are far too sloppy, and frankly, stupid.
There's a final category of people, which I'm yet to come across. The aristocratic psychopath. Cunning, intelligent, resourceful. He'll do whatever he wants to, and can throw his money around to get away with it. He's smart enough to make the case look like a complete accident; like this hit and run case. You just never know whether what your looking at is a masquerade for some greater scheme..."
"Does everything happen for a reason? Do all men have purpose? Couldn't one man's purpose, as it were, be to end another's life? How would such a man feel? That his Purpose was to end an man's innings upon this world? I'd be pretty angry to have to sign that contract with God. Surely something must happen just by chance; devoid of reason, and hence of guilt?"
"Nothing happens by coincidence. Not for me. Why, now, would Britain's most wanted, an adept criminal by all standards, one who's been a greased pig for every detective in the Queen's country for over a year and a half now, be lying drowned in a cask of some rather crass lager? In a black as night alley along the River Thames? Under a broken street light? No exciting last chase as the Yard slowly begins to corner him, no famous last words, no stunning revelations. No dignity. One of the greatest criminals of this decade, and I dear say this century, dead without any last tricks that fail by just a whisker. And you expect me to believe this is not the art of some even greater mastermind?"
"Tell me Father, is it a crime to thieve from a thief? Oh, I know of 'honour among thieves', but if I were not a thief? Well, I suppose it may depend on what was stolen. And if it were something of as great a value as one's lives? Several lives even?"
"No, I think not!"
"Then would one be justified in the murder of such an individual? Surely the police wouldn't care much to find the murderer of a murder? Shouldn't he be a hero? Hmm... People always love a vigilante; though what the authorities think is a whole new matter..."
"As a detective, it's my sworn duty to pursue the truth of the matter. Am I glad the devil bastard is dead? Certainly; but to not follow up the case is yet a greater folly. Who knows what the killer of the killer may be up to next. It is more likely than no that this Mastermind is simply eliminating his pawns. Hiding his pieces so we may never see the player behind them."
"I'm no criminal. I haven't the thick skin, see, mine is as soft and supple as that of a scholar's laddie. And see my heart? As warm as the midday sun. I couldn't be capable of Murder of all things."
"Now, I can't go about suspecting anyone. This is a tricky game, yes it is - twists your mind it does. If this Mastermind is mastermind-ly enough, the suspect won't even know what he was doing. He could make it seem like a pure coincidence. I dare say you could be the criminal, and not know it. Would that truly make you a criminal? I don't know"
"Just imagine, committing a crime you did not intend to commit. Imagin the thought of having another man's blood on your hands. How would you feel? Should your life stand still, stop in it's tracks? And it wasn't even your concious doing..."
"No, I suppose not."
"But still, the unholiness of it. Wouldn't you feel as if God had taken smite on you? Wouldn't you question yourself, put yourself through anguish, try to find what sequence of mistakes had caused His retribution in such a form. Surely, He would not condemn a man to murder were that man not condemned already?"
"This man, the Mastermind, he must be a truly remorseless chap. I may err in my reasoning, but no women could be quite so heartless, to kill pawns with pawns, so impersonally."
"Does the Lord have any mercy? This man here, has no great fortune, no wife or children even. And you take away his only hold on reality, his values and faith in you?!"
"An aristocrat. A scholar. One of the two he must be. Oh, manipulation of men and their thoughts is inbred in them. I am certain of it. What could such men want from the world? Wealth and power they have already. Women, well, women can't be got this way..."
"Goddammit, I'm just a boy. Driving my cart, doing my father's chores. I didn't indent to roll off the curb and hit that man. Get my cart jammed in there like that. I tried getting him free. God didn't even bless me with the strength to save him. It's not my fault!"
"I should start by checking reports of all the lord's in this area. This is not going to be easy, no. Wish me luck, 'ol chaps, I'll need all there is to solve this case"
"Sigh... Forgive me Father for I have sinned..."
So a couple of points that I really liked about writing the story:
- It was entirely in dialogues, that too between two characters in completely separated physical locations. That meant I could be inconsistent, and didn't need to focus on my language, as long as I kept a consistent tone. And it was fun sketching out characters entirely by their words, and trying to make their dialogues roughly match each other.
- This was one of the few times I've had to write a story, by hand. I generally think of the story either non-linearly or hierarchically, thus writing out bits and pieces and joining them together. I blame lots of the inconsistencies in the story on it (of course, it couldn't be my fault otherwise).
- I threw in 5-6 themes of the "suggested" list (things like the title, the "setting", etc.)
- I had initially planned to make it something along the lines of the dialogues in Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoevsky), where the criminal describes exactly what he'd done to the detective, but because it was a murder of chance, and rather unconventional, for most part of the story the detective is utterly clueless. Somewhere along the way, I decided to separate the two physically. Atleast initially I had planned for the to-fro dialogues to be roughly coherent, but for some reason, I decided towards the end to skew them apart as much as possible to highlight the irony of the situation, and also to be able to raise to pace to a climax.
- To be honest, it sounded a lot more coherent and "cool" when I was writing it. I swear.
Edit: Corrected some spelling errors pointed out by Suresh Govindarajan. Also added a point to the commentary. Further corrections to Fyodor Dostoevsky (damn Russian names...) thanks to Easwar.