The Seven Circles
In a huge hall that could have housed a few hundred men, seven people sat in a formation that would have been weird in the eyes of those who were normal. They were seated in seven directions – the north; the south; the east; the west; the North West; the South East and the South West. Each man had an unshaved face which was covered by black curly hair. They wore black robes that would have looked better on karate masters and sat with their legs folded on the cold ground.
A white circle was chalked around each man who seemed to be in a deep meditation. The circles were joined to a huge yellow colored star by white lines. The star consisted of eight sub-regions. In each sub region was written a rune in quite an unintelligible language. At each point of a star was a candle which burnt in a bright yellow flame.
At the centre of the star, five candles were lit in a straight line. The whole formation was encircled by a fierce ring of fire. The whole room was gorged in smoke except the innards of the circle of fire. On the other side of the ring was an ashen line mixed with a white combustible material, which flamed with a unique orange flame.
The entire mansion was devoid of light save that coming from the dancing flames of fire. Three small windows lay closed on either wall beside the ring.
Suddenly, the fires rose high and the flames danced with renewed vigor. The smoke barged in through the ring, choking the meditating men. The windows opened up all of a sudden, letting out the glutted smoke.
As the smoke cleared, the fires still raged but in the circle, lay seven dead men, hands on their necks, their shoulders were bent towards their front, their pink tongues out of their mouth, their lips charred beyond reason, their eyes bulging outwards and their faces full of fear. Their hair was nearly singed off their head.
The fires danced closer to the dead men almost burning the dead bodies, as if to give them a cremation, an indecent one at that.
The door was broken open and five men rushed in, bearing blue colored garden pipes. Clear water drowsed the fires which subsided after much effort. The half burnt bodies were removed from the circle in which ashes were strewn about.
One of them called up someone through his mobile.
At the Investigation bureau, just five miles away, four men in casual uniforms discussed the increasing crime rate that plagued the city. At that heightened moment, a telephone rang and one of them rushed to pick it up.
"Hello, Central Investigation Bureau?" asked the caller.
"Yes." said the one who had gone to pick the phone up.
He was Inspector Rax. He was one of the most courageous officers of the entire home security department and one of the most loyal. He had been assigned to the CIB seven years back, the board which solved complicated criminal cases. A tall and fair man with black hair streaked with red in some places. He wore a black blazer underneath which was a white shirt and he also wore a black trouser.
"Sir, I would like to inform you that at the mansion of Avir Neir, there are seven men lying dead and there was also a huge fire. The situation here is somewhat unrealistic and we request you to come down here as soon as possible."
"How many men are with you?"
"Some four, Sir"
"Make sure that none of you goes outside. Stand where you are and do not touch anything. Not even the bodies. Expect us in fifteen minutes."
"As you say, Sir."
The Inspector put down the receiver and rushed towards the other officers. The group of four was the most deadliest group of the CIB. It consisted of three men and a woman. One of them was Inspector Rax. The other two were as prominent as Inspector Rax; they were Inspector Kacken and Sub-Inspector Roy. They had almost the similar features as Inspector Rax but both of them had a dusky complexion. All these men were siblings; brothers in heart and in blood. The woman was shorter than the other three; she was Inspector Joyce. She was fairer than the others, had a lissome figure, and a bright attractive silver chain hung from her neck. She wore a V-shaped blue colored dress, her midriff showing slightly the curves of her full breasts, she also wore a black jean.
Inspector Rax informed them of the situation.
"Avir Neir? Is this not the old mansion some ways away from Lexington Road?" asked Sub-Inspector Roy.
"Yes. A queer place. Wonder what the men were upto?"
"Let us go and see."
A police van cruised into a huge plot of green land. The plot was encircled by a thorny fence. The gardens were too many arranged in a rectangular fashion, some were triangular shaped – those that were near the fence; they surrounded the whole mansion that sprawled itself in the center. A myriad of flowers could be seen growing; the gardens almost looked a huge plant nursery.
A gravel path led from the gate to the porch. The police van halted just in front of the stairs that led to the main door of the mansion.
The officers alighted from their vehicle and sprinted up the staircase. They found the door open. They marched through a small corridor which led to the huge hall at the center of which a huge mess of ashes gathered and hinted at a huge fire. Seven partly charred bodies lay on the left hand side corner, just beneath one of the windows. All the windows were left open and a heavy wind whiffed the room.
Five men stood in a small circle beside the bodies, engaged in a deep conversation. One of them noticed the officers walking towards them. He was a young chap with a dark face. He faced the officers and said, "You must be the CIB."
"Yes." answered Inspector Rax. "Which one of you called us?"
"Me, sir." said the same young man.
"What is your name?"
"What about the others?"
"Nody, Shardul, Tommy, Jim and Matthew, sir."
"Tell me what happened. Slowly now."
"We were trimming the weeds in the farther parts of the garden, just near the fence on the eastern side. We saw a fire then. The windows were closed and the room was full of smoke. We ran and broke open the door. By the time we arrived, these men were partly burnt and lay dead, sir."
"Who are these men?"
"We do not know, Sir."
"How can it be possible? They arent the owners of this mansion, are they?"
"No, sir. The owner is Mr. Edmund Longshanks. He does not always be here. Three-fourths of the month he is abroad on business. We are his caretakers. We do everything from gardening to cooking , from weeding to keeping the rooms clean. We are five of them."
"Where can we find Mr. Edmund now?"
"Sir, we heard our master will be here tomorrow morning."
"Tomorrow morning. One more question. How did these men come here?"
"We do not know, Sir."
"You are the land's caretakers. Your duty is to keep it safe and clean. Some people sneak through this property and you do not even know about it, especially since you are on work. Can you give me some reasons for your negligence?"
The men bowed their heads.
"Okay, tell me, the windows were closed you say."
"We opened it sir. We had to let the smoke clear up."
"Tell me, Nathan, was the smoke pungent?"
"As far as I can remember, Sir, no."
Tommy came up. "Yes, sir, the smoke smelled a little odd. Not the usual smoke. It was heavy."
The officers thought for a while as they strode towards the dead bodies.
"A strange death these men seem to have encountered. This is something that reminds me of some horror tales." said Inspector Kacken.
"Before you attribute supernatural causes to their deaths, Kacken, we might as well discern what lead to their death." said Roy in a sober way.
"Just joking, kid."
"There is a very complicated case here. And you - "
"Stop it, guys. Let us take a look at the dead bodies. We might have to send them to the forensic laboratory." said Joyce.
The two officers kept quiet and dropped to the ground to examine the dead ones.
"They died by choking themselves from what I am seeing. Look at the center, the fire must have been there. Weird signs though."
"I know these signs. These are verily the runes of the Black Order. This group is the most dangerous criminal group in the world. They practice a deadly form of black magic." said Rax.
"Black magic?" shouted all the men in horror.
"Yes, black magic. They are known to manipulate people's mind and have them commit murders and robberies, even have them commit suicides. They are one of the most wanted on the Interpol lists."
"Fuck!" exclaimed Joyce.
Rax turned towards Nathan and looked at him sternly.
"These people were practicing black magic here and you say, you know nothing of them. I doubt it. If you are in league with them, you will be sorry, fellers. It is better you vomit out every detail, otherwise we make sure you get the capital punishment. You can rot in jail for all your lives."
Nathan looked afraid. "I assure you, Sir, that we have nothing to do with such horrible things. We did not do anything, sir."
Rax looked at him in his eyes unwavering. "Joyce, take them to the bureau and make them divulge everything that they know about this case. We will be at the bureau soon."
Joyce obeyed the orders and paraded them out of the mansion.
Rax and Roy bent down.
"I know how they practice their magic. They draw a huge flaming circle around a diagram of seven circles joined to a huge star at the centre. The men sit in those circles. An ashen ring again is chalked around the main circle. Candles are lit which cannot be extinguished. They meditate in deep, chanting some devilish incantations in their foul minds. They do it overnight and when the victim enters the house, he is mesmerized. They wake up and look him directly in his eyes. The victim gets hypnotized and starts to work according to their will."
"Where did you learn all this, Rax?" asked Kacken.
"There was a similar case in our directories. The cops could not solve the case. It was too complicated. It is still pending in their courts."
"But what is their motive in this?"
"I have no idea. But after looking at some pages, I have come to the conclusion that they are a kind of contract killers. Look at the victims, they are all rich and influential. For example, consider Mr. Edmund himself. He is a rich business tycoon, well known all over the world. He owns around ten firms on his own. His business is sprawled over the whole world."
"But why kill him?"
"Something is going on that I don't have an idea about. If I had known why, then I would have gone after these men myself."
"How to stop them? These guys are quite clever from what you say. Somehow, they seem to have known when Mr. Edmund was arriving. Who knew except his business partners, these caretakers? Someone close must have leaked the information."
"Yes, Kacken. It has to be a leak. And these guys have loads of money. They have the capability to bribe, let us not forget that."
"A well formed organization, I believe. But why black magic?"
"It is the most precise form of controlling a person. You do not have to utter any threats to the victims, even if they have met the victim, the victim never remembers stuff."
"That is kind of horrible. Do we have anything more to investigate here?"
"Let us have a look around still. But call for some cops. We ought to have someone here the time Mr. Edmund arrives and that is tomorrow morning if the caretakers are to be believed."
"Yes. We must wait till tomorrow."
"It is night anyways and I must reach home. Otherwise, my wife is going to kill me. Then you will have another murder case to solve." said Rax, laughing.
They all laughed.
"Also, ask the cop on duty here to bring Mr. Edmund to the bureau the first thing in the morning. Earlier the better."
"Okay, let us go."
The next morning…
The sun rays hit the ground at an acute angle from the east. A chilly wind blew from the north; some clouds lingered in the azure sky. The bureau was a white building standing beside the O'Connories Super Market on Barbary Street.
Inspector Rax cruised through the gate in his sleek black colored SUV. He alighted and sprinted inside the bureau. As soon as he got off the elevators on the third floor, he came across a recently polished white door which had a silver knob on it. He twisted the silver knob to the right and the door slowly opened.
He entered a huge room which had many tables and chairs arranged neatly. There were nine others in the room. Roy, Joyce and Kacken were already present with the five caretakers who sat down on steel chairs. A clean shaven man in a black suit sat comfortably just a few paces away from them. He got up as soon as Rax neared them.
"I am , Inspector. I am glad that you have saved me from a grave abomination. I heard from your men the details. Thank you."
"It is our duty, Mr. Edmund. Thank your caretakers for taking the pains to call us."
Mr. Edmund laughed. "You have an amazing sense of humor, I must say."
"Humor is all the more important in a serious world that we dwell and work in. Anyways, you must know that you have just escaped the Black Order and they might just make another attack on you. So, I would have to post some guards around you all the time, until we deem the time right."
"Sure, Inspector Rax. I was thinking of hiring a personal guard."
"Then I would recommend Firefox Security Agency. Their men are true and validated by our bureau. I will inform them of your plight. I think we can use the official police for tracking down this criminal organization."
"You might be right, Inspector. Now, I must enquire whether I need to stay here more than I should, I mean, I have a business meeting to attend this afternoon and it is impossible for it to be cancelled or postponed. It is quite important."
"I understand, . Just a few questions and you could leave."
"Do you have any enemies of significance?"
"I am a businessman. There might be some who are jealous of me. But I don't think my competitors would be coerced to using black magic to get me out of the competition."
"That is better left for us to investigate, Mr. Edmund. Tell me, for what business had you gone abroad recently?"
"That is confidential, Inspector. I cannot divulge the details."
"We need to know if it was successful or not. If the deal has gone sour, your competitors might be using you to advantage."
"I don't understand, Inspector Rax."
"Neither do I. I guess, you are fully aware of these dead men as to their identities."
"What are you talking about? Have you gone mad?"
"No, Mr. Edmund Longshanks. You are the head of the Black Order as we know it."
His eyes bulged a little but then he swiftly regained his former composure.
"I do not even know these men nor do I know about the organization you are talking of."
"Do not lie, you may be a business tycoon, but you are a foul man within. I tracked your phone records last night. I found that you had called one Mr. Lestrand on 24th May 2010 in the night. We also have your voice records. We tapped your phone three months back since you were on our suspect list and we have reason to believe the Mr. Lestrand is a wanted criminal on the Interpol list. I sent a surveillance team behind Lestrand and he was caught early morning today. He confessed about the same and named you as prime suspect in this case. He also told, Mr. Edmund that you had told him to perform black magic at your place. They were to conduct the usual process and when you arrived in the morning, you would be under their deadly spell. Then, Mr. Lestrand would order you to kill the Cabinet Minister, Lord Halexley. We then asked him, why not an assassin. He said that you had vowed to personally kill Halexley. Why you used black magic, we all know. Come on, confess it all out. Surrender yourself."
Mr. Edmund stood still, a little fear gathering across his face.
"Then you told, the caretakers to let them in the house. Nathan, you lied to us. So you all shall also accompany your master to the lock-ups."
"Then how did these men die, Inspector?" asked Mr. Edmund.
"See these forensic reports. They say that the smoke has a weird pungent order. We tested it in the laboratory and found it to be highly combustible gas and could cause instant death by choking. It was also responsible for their faces drooping down in a horrifying way. Because all energy and oxygen was removed from their cells. The ash was not normal. It was strewn around and we tested the ashes too. Same results. These men had obviously no knowledge of it and conducted your orders as usual. But you are not guilty of these murders, Mr. Edmund. You are held because we have evidence of you being the head of the Black Order."
"Then who murdered these men, Inspector?"
"Mr. Lestrand. He confessed to providing them with this material. He said that he wanted to thwart you and become the Head himself."
"That bastard! He was my trusted friend and executive. How dare he? I am ruined because of him."
"See you in court, Mr. Edmund and you can exact your revenge in jail for all we care."