“Honey, where are you running off to?” Pooja Kapoor shouted after her daughter. “Do not venture too far into the woods, dear, you may not know what you may find there.”


“Alright, Mommy,” little Nikita answered.


“You have such a beautiful young daughter, Mrs. Kapoor,” Seema Dutta commented.


“Thank you, Mrs. Dutta. It is after a lot of hardship that we were blessed with Nikita. Mahesh and I wanted to have a child for so long, but luck didn’t favour us; until we had Nikita,” Pooja answered, giving an endearing glance towards her husband, Mahesh. 


The Kapoors and the Duttas were neighbours at the Orbit Reserve, a beautiful area consisting of forests and a river that cut through the woods. Though the Reserve was a government property, it did have summer retreats that were privately owned. The two families owned a retreat each, right next to each other.


The retreat consisted of a small cottage and the surrounding area spanning five acres. This type of luxury didn’t come cheap and the owners of the shacks had to shell out quite a sum of money for it. Since each property was so well spread-out, privacy was of no issue. One could spend their time in leisure and not worry about anything else. The pleasure of living off the land, totally cut out from the rest of the world and its problems, was one that the two families were happy to pay for.


The cottage was like a normal wooden shack, neither too fancy nor too big. It was modest, to say the least. But on a closer inspection, one could see that it was built with the best quality wood available in the country and was equipped with almost everything that one needed for survival.


The retreats that the Kapoors and the Duttas owned were special, owing to the fact that they were on the bank of the river, right at the corner of the Reserve, giving extra privacy to the owners. The Dutta’s retreat was in the middle with the Kapoor’s to their left and another retreat belonging to a doctor to their right. The doctor’s retreat was the last one before the Reserve ended.


Both the families loved to come here as often as possible. They had met the last time they were here and had grown quite close, becoming the best of friends. Now, five years later, Seema was overjoyed to meet Pooja again, and the reason for that happiness was Nikita. 


“How is your son, Abhinav?” Mahesh asked Suraj, Seema’s husband.


“He’s doing well, but as it is his Board examination year, we couldn’t bring him along,” Suraj answered Mahesh’s unasked question.


At that instance a piercing shriek rang out through the surrounding area. The adults, hearing it, had only one thing in their mind.


“NIKITA!” Pooja gasped, running towards the direction from where the sound had come with the others at her heel. Heading east, they came to the end of their property.


“Nikita, where are you child?” Pooja called out. She could hear someone sobbing nearby and headed towards that sound.


“Be careful, Pooja.” Mahesh caught hold of her just as she was about to walk into the barbed wire fence separating their property from the doctor’s. Suraj helped separate the wires so that the group could cross over to the other side.


“The voice is coming from that side,” said Seema, pointing towards the cottage belonging to the doctor.


The two couples quickly made their way towards the source of the sound, searching for Nikita. They came to an abrupt halt near a ditch. Pooja carefully peered into it and let out a scream of her own.



*        *        *



“This is Usha Bhalla reporting live from Orbit Reserve, where an unusual incident has just come to light. Earlier today, Nikita Kapoor, aged five, ventured out of her parents’ retreat into the neighbouring one. She accidentally fell down a ditch and was found later by her parents. An innocent escapade into the summer retreat property of Dr. Ajay Chawla turned into something entirely sinister as her parents discovered Nikita amidst a pile of skulls and bones. The Kapoors immediately informed the police of this discovery and are now assisting them in the investigation. We have with us Mrs. Seema Gupta, friend of the Kapoors, who was also present during the whole incident, with us. Mrs. Gupta, tell our viewers what you saw.”


Seema, visibly shaken from the day’s developments, narrated the entire course of events for the reporter and her viewers, right from Nikita’s disappearance to the finding of the ditch and Pooja’s scream at seeing her daughter crying amongst a pile of skeletons.


“As you just heard from Mrs. Gupta, there was not just one skeleton, but numerous of them; so this obviously rules out the possibility of the ditch being a grave. This raises several questions like what does Dr. Chawla do at his retreat? How did these skeletons get buried here? And above all, how are the police going to go about investigating this case? Along with cameraman Manoj Tiwari, this was Usha Bhalla for KK News reporting live from Orbit Reserve.”



*        *        *



“What the hell is this?” Dr. Ajay Chawla shouted, outraged at the news broadcast he just saw. “How can this be happening?”


This is not good news, not good at all. Picking up the phone, Ajay quickly dialled his lawyer’s number. “Hello? Mr. Mehra? Good evening, sir. This is Ajay. I need to meet you urgently. Yes this is about the case on the television. No, I do not want to discuss it on the phone. Fine, I’ll be there in fifteen minutes. Thank you.”


Grabbing his coat and car keys, Ajay headed for his car. He pulled out onto the road and sped off towards his attorney’s house, not at all caring about the speed limit.



*        *        *



“This is Usha Bhalla reporting live from Ome City, where a large crowd has gathered outside Dr. Chawla’s house. This is the same Doctor who has been accused of raping, killing and then burying thirteen children in the backyard of his retreat at Orbit Reserve. This case came to light a few days ago when two families accidentally uncovered the makeshift grave. The crowd that has gathered here are parents of those unfortunate children. They are demanding justice from the law authorities and want to see the man inside the house behind bars. We have with us Mr. Chaturvedi whose nine year old daughter was one of the victims.”


“This man is a barbarian. He has not only murdered my daughter, but several other children as well. This sadistic bastard leaves no one in his quest for sexual gratification, be it young boys or girls. I want him behind bars, and hope that he is hanged for his crimes. The likes of these people should never be allowed to live in a civilized society.”


“As you can see, there is huge outrage over Dr. Chawla’s crimes and if the law enforcement authorities do not react quickly, this situation may well go out of hand. With cameraman Ankur Bali, this is Usha Bhalla repoting for KK News reporting from Ome City.”



*        *        *



“Do something!”


“We cannot do anything, Ajay,” Mr Mehra calmly replied. “The case is stacked against you, DNA evidence has confirmed that you are behind all this and frankly, I am disgusted with you. How can you drop to such a low?”


“Don’t even bother going there!” Ajay snarled.


“I won’t,” the lawyer snapped at Ajay. “The only option you have is to turn yourself over to the police, otherwise that crowd outside will break into your house and divide your carcass among themselves. They’re rabid, Ajay, rabid for your blood.”



*        *        *



“Doctor Ajay Chawla, you have been charged with thirteen counts of rape and murder. Do you know the seriousness of these crimes?” Investigating Officer Arun Mehta asked.


“Yes,” Ajay replied.


“Do you know that you can be sentenced to death if these charges are proven; not that they won’t be as we have evidence that proves that you are behind all this.”


“Yes, and I am prepared to face that sentence.”


“Fine then; you will be taken to court tomorrow morning. Have fun in the jail cell.”



*        *        *



“Doctor Chawla?”


Ajay was woken by someone calling his name. He was surprised, wondering who would be visiting him at this hour and that too in the jail.


“Dr. Chawla, this is Ketan. Do you remember me?”


Ajay got up from the bunk-bed and made his way to the bars that separated his cell from the hallway outside. A man in his mid-thirties was standing at the entrance to Ajay’s cell.


“Umm…No, I’m sorry, I do not remember you,” Ajay answered hesitantly.


“I figured as much. I am here to help you out of this situation.”


“No one can get me out of this mess; I am way too deep in this shit.”


“Trust me, Doctor Chawla, I can. I will be there in the court tomorrow. Just tell your lawyer to call me into the witness box. I will handle everything from there.”



*        *        *



“All rise.”


The judge entered the courtroom and nodded for everyone to sit. The courtroom was packed with people and journalists. This case had become a national event and every news channel was present inside the courtroom.


“Case – Ome City vs. Dr. Ajay Chawla,” the assistant announced. “Charges – thirteen counts of rape and murder.”


“This court is in session. Let the proceedings begin. The prosecution may present its case,” the judge ordered.


“Thank you, your Honour,” Public Prosecutor Alok Puri said. “This case is very simple; this man is a barbaric paedophile; who, in order to satiate his hunger for young flesh, raped and murdered six young girls and seven young boys. Your Honour, the manner in which these children were killed was so cruel that it is a miracle that this person is sane, for only a mentally ill person can commit such atrocities.”


Taking a deep breath, he continued, “Here are the forensic lab’s reports that confirm that this man is responsible for the murders and here is the weapon with which the crimes were committed.” He handed both the items to the assistant. The weapon was a small surgical knife with which the throats of the children were slit with precision.


“I now ask the defence to present its case,” the judge ordered.


“Your Honour, the defence pleads…”


“Wait!” Dr. Chawla cried out. “Your Honour, I request that I may please be granted audience with you along with my lawyer.”


“Granted; the court is adjourned for fifteen minutes during which the defence and the prosecution will meet me in my chambers.”



*        *        *



“Yes, Dr. Chawla, what is it that you wanted to say?” the judge asked.


“I have a piece of evidence that can prove that I am not guilty. I asked for this meeting so that I can announce him to you.”


“Very well, you may proceed.”



*        *        *



“This court is in session. Let the proceedings begin. The defence may present its case.”


“Thank you, Your Honour. Defence would like to call upon its first witness, Mr. Ketan Taneja.”


“Objection, Your Honour. The defence did not inform me about this particular witness.”


“Overruled; the court would like to hear what the witness has to say. Please call Ketan Taneja into the witness box.”


“Mr. Taneja, how do you know Dr. Chawla?” the lawyer asked.


“He was a patient in my hospital,” Ketan answered.


“So you are a doctor as well?”


“Yes, I am.”


“That’s wonderful. Which field do you specialize in?”


“I am a psychiatrist.”


“Hmmm…I see. So why did Dr. Chawla need to see you, a psychiatrist?”


“He was mentally ill.”


“And what was ailing him?”


“Objection, Your Honour; how is this relevant?” Prosecutor Puri called out.


“It is relevant, as you shall soon see,” answered Mr. Mehra.


“Overruled; Mr. Mehra, you may proceed,” the judge ordered.


“Thank you, Your Honour. As I was asking, what ailed Dr. Chawla to make him want to see a psychiatrist?”


“He had an unusual illness – the multiple personality disorder, or more commonly known as split personality. You see, Dr. Chawla had an alter ego that was aggressive and unstable. These crimes were not committed by Dr. Chawla, but by his alter ego. It was his alter ego that was a paedophile, probably due to the abuse Dr. Chawla suffered as a child. Dr. Chawla successfully underwent treatment for his illness at my hospital. I personally helped him get rid of his ailment.”


“So you mean to say that what Dr. Chawla did was not in his own state of mind, right?”


“Precisely. When a person is in his alter ego’s state, he loses control over his own body. It is like he is in the back seat of his body, but someone else is the driver. In Dr. Chawla’s case, it was complete dissociative identity disorder, meaning he didn’t have any recollection about his alter ego. And when his treatment was completed, he forgot that he ever had this disorder, let alone got treated for it. That is the reason why he doesn’t remember anything.”


“Thank you, Dr. Taneja.” Turning to the judge, Mr. Mehra continued, “As you can see, Your Honour, this is a case of split personality. My client was clearly not himself when he committed those crimes. Dr, Taneja went as far as saying that Dr. Chawla didn’t even commit those heinous crimes. I request this court to take the medical condition of my client into consideration and then announce its decision, but I would also like to ask this court that is it right to sentence a person for crimes he didn’t commit? That’s all.


I would like to thank Julien Gregg for his unique editing skills that help made this story what it is. Also, a special thanks to Rose for her input on key elements of this story. Thank you both.