Mr Jodhpur's Tale



Diane Browne


I was at my desk, it was late, but I had to get the story finished. The editor was a stickler there should be no errors, even if the articles did have spelling mistakes when it came to print. Today had been worse than usual, the spell checker saying there was no such word. Eventually I got out a large dictionary that had been pushed away in a bottom drawer. I had been sure the words existed. It meant me having to rephrase certain paragraphs and sentences. Giving the spell checker one more try, then I would be finished and could go for that cold beer I could already taste.

Everyone had gone, the banks of desks were empty. There was none of the clicks of fingers working on computer keyboards. No incessant drone of cell phones with their silly little tunes. I wasn't really used to the silence. I liked the field work, being out and about, a roving reporter with a nose for a good story, that's me. But I also like to type up my article in good time for the early edition and be out of there.

I saw the guy come into the room, looking round, it wasn't hard to spot me. As he approached I looked him over, his shabby suit, grubby chequered shirt with no tie, the thinning hair blackened with grease, a slight limp to his gait.

`Mr Sudbury?` He asked as those dark eyes took in my cluttered desk. I couldn't well deny it. In one of my egotistical moments I’d purchased a wood block with a brass plate spelling out my name in bold black lettering. Fully knowing he had already seen it, I gave a nod of my head.

Looking round, he pulled a chair across the aisle from the next desk to sit beside mine. I knew I wasn't going to get away for that beer, not yet. I gave a faint smile, not wishing to appear rude, but whatever it was could wait till morning.

`My name is Mr Jodhpur,` in a broken English accent he introduced himself. `I have a confession to make,` he said as he let himself sink into the plastic coated foam seat, the air hissing out in the silence that followed.

Before having said anything I had him down as a weirdo. All part of the job. I wondered how I could put him off. Then there was the thought of how he had got into the building in the first place. He didn't have a visitors tag hanging from his lapel, and it was normal practice for the guard to telephone up prior to sending any visitors. Everyone had to be careful in this day and age of terrorism, and with newspaper offices being prime targets.

`How did you get in here?` I suddenly began to feel a little edgy.

`I asked at the door if there was any reporters and they said you would see me,` the man scowled, giving the impression he didn't like being questioned this way.

`Okay! So what's this confession?` Resting back in my chair, trying to look relaxed, I had to stall him. There was no way security was going to allow anyone to wander round the building, not without an appointment, and certainly not without issuing a visitors pass.

`I've killed someone,` that deep, bass voice became thick with emotion as he wiped the tears from his eyes.

My eyebrows shot up in surprise, though I don't know why. It wasn't hard to imagine him killing anyone, or anything. The guy had the face of a serial killer, swarthy skin, dark starring eyes and an aired lip; I could well see him in a horror movie.

`Who do you think you've killed?` I was wishing the security guard would come on his usual rounds, and then I could have this madman evicted from the building.

`My master,` there was fear on his face at telling me this.

`Don't you think you should go to the police? ` This brought a vigorous shake of the head. `Do you want me to contact the police for you?` At this he stood up, the chair tipping over, I didn't realise how tall he was until then, well over six feet, looking menacingly down at me.

`I did it to save others. He would have gone on killing innocents. I am not a criminal, ` the accent was more prominent but I couldn't make out if he was Russian or Polish.

`I don't understand what you want me to do, ` I remained calm, it seemed to help as he pulled the chair back in position and sat down once again.

`I want you to tell my story so people can know. So they can realise the danger, yes, ` there was more enthusiasm now.

`And what danger is that? ` The only danger I could see was this bulk of a man claiming to have killed his master.

`There is more of them. If they find me they will kill me for what I have done.` he looked round as though expecting to see whatever he was frightened of, his fear seeming genuine. `My master, he has killed so many that I became sick of what I was doing, having to dispose of the bodies, ` he saw my look of surprise. I was trying to rack my brains, thinking of anything on file, any major reports of missing persons, anything that would suggest there was yet another lunatic out killing for the pleasure of it. But there was nothing, not for months had anyone mysteriously disappeared. It was as though he was reading my mind.

`We moved here to Chicago from Florida. We never stay long in one place. There is an advert in your paper. It asks young ladies looking for love to contact my master, ` he looked at me as if I knew what he was talking about.

I did in a way. The newspaper ran half a page of ads, a lonely hearts column, but that was out of my department. There was so many, all having a box number to contact that it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. And anyway, there was no law against placing an advert looking for companionship.

`My master was going to meet one of these ladies tonight,` he looked down at the large hands resting on his lap, the fingers entwined, moving in a nervous gesture.

Thinking I could easily check out his story, these serial killers always used the same methods like a signature. `How did he kill these people?` I wasn't even sure if all these victims were female.

There was surprise on his face as he gave me a sharp look. Then realised I didn't know, that he hadn't fully explained. `I came into my master’s service only two years ago. He found me in a shelter for the homeless. It was like I came under his spell, that I could not stop myself from doing whatever he told me,` he creased his brow at some memory. Those dark eyes bore into mine as though searching to see if I believed him.

It was so intense you could cut the air with a knife, and I was still waiting for him to answer my question. `Go on,` I urged.

`My master gets girls from bars or the streets. They always willingly accompany him home,` he paused for a long time and I wondered if he was going to continue. Mr Jodhpur's tale was beginning to sound plausible as I took a pack of cigarettes from the top drawer of my desk. It was an absolute no smoking zone, but I needed something. After all, I could be sat there all on my own with a potential murderer. I needed a cigarette to calm my nerves. Clicking the button of the fan on my desk, as it whirred into life I noticed my gruesome visitor jumped, but I figured it would help disperse the smoke, disabling the alarms.

Offering the pack, he shook his head and I let him continue as I put the flame of my lighter to the tip, inhaling deeply. I sure needed that.

`I would wait until called and then be shown the body. It was my job to remove them,` he gave a shrug as though it was all so simple.

Shuffling things round on my desk, looking for something to act as an ashtray, finding a metal foil container that encased an egg custard from a couple of days ago. Flicking the ash into it I turned my attention back to the man intently watching me. I was acting like a jerk really, and must have given the impression I wasn't interested.

`Perhaps I can see someone else,` placing his large hands on the arm rests, he was going to get to his feet.

`No, please, I really want to know.` I could hear the panic in my voice, and although I was still stalling, waiting for security, he was getting me interested. If this turned out to be the real thing I had the headline clearly set out 'Interview with a Murderer'. It would also stand me in good stead with the police, that’s if this guy was genuine.

His body relaxed and he continued with his story as I took more smoke into my lungs.`It is simple to dispose of most when there is building and such work in the area. Some I have buried in the grounds of the houses my master has rented,` it all sounded so simple, but I had to disrupt this monologue. Being so full of emotion at killing his master, there was no remorse for the victims. It was so matter-of-fact.

`When did you kill your master?` I asked, wanting to get round to where the body was, some evidence to give the police. I wasn't quite buying this serial killer stuff, the reason for murdering his employer.

`I thought about it for days. I don't know how I managed to hide the thoughts from him. Perhaps he was too confident that I would not go through with such a thing,` he looked at me with such sadness that I couldn't help but feel some pity for him. `I paced up and down in my room for hours, but I knew I had to do it, ` he took in a deep breath, letting out a heavy sigh. `I went down to the cellar and opened the lid, ` he squeezed his arms against his sides, his knees pressing together. `Then I hammered the wood I whittled to a sharp point into his heart, and knew the vampire was dead, ` letting his body relax, he was breathing heavily, like it had been physically exerting going over the event.

`What!` I blurted out, wheeling my chair away from him. I was ready to heal it, but once on my feet something ground me to the spot.

Mr Jodhpur seemed somewhat perplexed by my behaviour. `Would you like the address so you can see for yourself?`

I was waiting for him to laugh, to tell me which of my friends had put him up to this absurd idea, but he didn't. Instead, he took a pen and rummaging round, found a piece of paper and began to write.

Unnerved, stubbing my cigarette out in the foil tray, another was out of the question. `Would you like a coffee or anything? ` I needed a break. He looked up, giving a shake of his head. Without another word I was off, going through the door into the hallway. Pulling the change from my pocket, I rooted out the coins, putting them in the vending machine and watched as the plastic cup fell into place before being filled with coffee, sweet, white.

Returning, from the door I could see no one was sat by my desk. Looking round as I moved further into the room, there was no way out other than the large double doors. Mr Jodhpur couldn't have left without me seeing. If he had used one of the fire exits it would have set off an alarm, but I checked anyway. They were all secure.

Going to my desk, there on the keyboard rested a piece of paper. The words scrawled in large childlike letters was the address, a remote area in the outer suburbs. It had to be someone's idea of a joke, perhaps a jealous colleague. But it was me who was going to have the last laugh.

Picking up the receiver, I pressed the numbers on the keypad to get an outside line. Flicking through my contacts book, I dialled the number of a detective who had given me some interesting leads. But that worked both ways. I was lucky. He was still on duty. Telling him of my mysterious visitor, he was more than willing to turn the tables on my practical joker.

I never did find out who Mr Jodhpur was. None of the security would even admit to seeing him, let alone allowing him to enter the building. As for my detective friend, all he found was a skeleton in the cellar, lying in a very expensive coffin with a stake inserted in its ribs. Whoever it was had gone to a lot of expense, but no one would admit to such a thing, especially as I wasn't going to fall for anything like a vampire story. Everyone knows they don't exist, don't they!

Copyright Diane Browne

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