Room 168 

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“In our latest news, a twenty-four-year-old woman was found dead, inside her chalet. Reports show that the husband might be involved in this murder as he was taken for further investigations. Neighbors affirmed that the couple was on bad terms, which led to their separation earlier that year, and that the woman (aka Lara) had been beaten several times by her so-called husband. A true tragedy…” Another murder story on the news… It’s the third one this month and all of them involved women mistreated by their husbands. I started hating this patriarchal, misogynous country I live in. But this story affected me the most. It took place in the same resort my family and I stay at. During the next few days, reporters and investigators constantly visited the crime scene in search of evidence, although the court had enough proof to consider the husband guilty. The night of the murder, he had signed himself in the resort at 10:07 PM, an hour before the victim was found dead. The security measures of the residence made it mandatory to track visits and a surveillance footage confirmed the suspicions, showing the musclebound husband walking through the gate, carrying a Samsonite briefcase and a bottle of wine.

That night I was riding my longboard across the chalets. The sound of the wheels gripping the concrete beneath it absorbed all the tension and stress accumulated in my temporal vein. Longboarding was my way to neutralize the negative vibes. As I was pedaling, a flickering white light pierced my eyesight, leaving me blind for fractions of a second until I finally accommodated my vision to the changes. It was the backdoor light of room 168; the chalet belonging to Lara, the woman presumingly found lying on her bed, bruises covering her face and body, bathing in her own viscous blood. Looking through the window, I identified a feminine figure, moving in trimmed and sequenced pictures – an illusion created by the strobe light and assimilated together by my brain. I stepped down from my longboard and carried it under my arm to halt the noises I was producing. Through the dark silence of the night, glass and wood breaking echoed from room 168, and the shadowed silhouette seemed responsible of this rumpus. Something bad was happening inside and I wanted to get a clearer view of the scene out of both curiosity and concern. Even being six feet tall, I had to change the purpose of my longboard to a stool in order to reach the window. My oxygen intakes decreased, though the frequency of my respiration hastened. I was unable to rationalize my fear, since my body was only responding to the adrenaline flows, produced by my own consciousness of doing something bad. Every heartbeat against my chest generated seismic waves through my nerves, weakening my arms and legs. I tracked the woman’s movements in the room. She was traveling from one corner to another as if she was searching for something. After a while, she stopped and while she kneeled to the ground, I tiptoed on my longboard to get a better view… a view that stimulated a stronger tachycardia, transferring the wave straight to the wheels, dropping me to the concrete.

A body… she was dragging a body!

When I heard the news, the flashbacks haunted me again. I was a strong witness to this case… maybe a suspect as well. When I fell down from shock, I left my longboard at the crime scene and ran as fast as I could to my chalet. Blood drops from my elbow wound could possibly be found and if investigators asked the neighbors about the owner of that longboard, I could be dragged to court right now.

“Updates about the murder of the twenty-four-year-old woman named Lara: An autopsy confirmed that Lara died from a clean deep cut in her neck using a sharp piece of wine bottle glass, slicing the carotid artery which usually leads the oxygenated blood to the neck and brain. This murder is similar to the two previous ones, the cases of Alia and Julie, who were also mistreated by their husbands and finally killed by a sharp slice in the neck. Investigators believe that the three homicides might be linked to a secret sect pushing men to kill their wives.”

I spent my whole day watching TV, expecting to hear about a found longboard which could be linked to the assassination. My eyes were getting red and itchy due to the long hours focused on the screen. The news anchor appeared again turning my paranoia into a justified fear. She was talking about a new suspect, that might be involved in the murder. I was losing sense of my surroundings; the sounds were deeper and slower as I was anticipating what could happen to me during the investigation, court and even jail. My expectations were confounded when I understood that the suspect was a woman, alleged to be the husband’s mistress. They had met on a dating website called “Hook’d” and she invited him over that night to her chalet for their first live meeting, the resort his ex-wife stays at. The conversation they had together on the website shows that she had asked him to bring a bottle of Bordeaux, the same bottle that was used as a weapon to kill Lara.

The murders gave rise to mass protests and awareness campaigns about women’s rights. Carol Malek, the founder of an NGO called “I’m h.er Fam” for abused and battered women, gave an emotional speech about gender equality. Lara visited the NGO several times because she was fragile and needed help. The main objective of “I’m h.er Fam” is to offer a Family – as the name suggests – to women like Lara, as well as a moral and legal support.

My strong curiosity led to my further investigation. The mistress was nowhere to be found, so I created a fake account on “Hook’d” hopeful to track her IP address thanks to my limited IT skills. Her account had been apparently deleted right after the incident.

In his testimony, Lara’s husband declared that he got stood up by the girl from the dating website, so he left the bottle of wine in front of the door of her chalet and went back home.

A couple of weeks later, the verdict considered the husband guilty of the murder of his wife. He was sentenced lifetime imprisonment. His fingerprints were tainting the whole crime scene, and no DNA belonging to the other suspects was found.

“I’m h.er Fam” inspired more women to break the wall of silence and to talk about their despairs. It even attracted young volunteers like myself, to support their cause. After the tragedies, I emailed Carol Malek, the founder of the NGO, to apply for a volunteering position during the month of August. She rapidly called me for an interview at her office.

I got up the next morning, two hours before the meeting. I put my blue suit on, shaved my aspiring beard and tied my hair in a bun, adding some wax on the sides to fix the small stubborn hair. The secretary welcomed me to Ms. Malek’s office. I entered through the door, holding my resume in my hand, and while waiting for my interviewer to come in the room, I tried to familiarize myself with the space. Her wooden desk was decorated with souvenirs from all kinds: little snow globes from around the world, some pictures of herself, files, papers and other professional objects…

I turned around the desk, to sit on the chair again but my pointy shoe got stuck into something, propelling my weight forward. I balanced my mass to save myself from falling, then I got to my knees to look for the cause of my drop. The blood flow pressured my tympanum again, inwards and outwards consecutively, similar to a drum roll. My respiration quickened as well, and holographic images from the night of the murder surfaced once more in my mind.

What was my longboard doing inside Carol Malek’s office???

The door opened, and here she was entering the premises. Shocked, I banged my head against the desk.

“Excuse… Excuse me Ms. Malek… I tripped over this longboard and I… I was trying to get up again.” I stuttered, still in a state of trauma.

I stood up, fixed my suit and extended my arm to shake her hand.

“Mr. Farhat” said Carol “You and I, know exactly what brought you here today. I would be smart if I were you.” She continued.

Still confused, I couldn’t grasp what she was insinuating: “I’m sorry Ms Malek, I’m just here to learn more about the volunteering opportunities offered by your NGO.”

“Cut the bullshit Mr. Farhat. When Lara died, you were at the crime scene. I found this longboard in front of the door of her chalet. It didn’t take me long enough to discover who its owner was. If it wasn’t for me, you could’ve been a suspect by now and dragged to jail. When I received your email, I knew you were up to something. Don’t you dare do anything dumb, or I will make sure to sink you with me.”

It was her… The woman dragging the body! And I just made sense of it.

“But why?” I asked. “Why did you do it? You’re a founder of “I’m h.er Fam”, the most feminist NGO in the country. And you end up killing the women that come to you asking for help?? You’re an animal!”

“You don’t get it, don’t you? I did a favor to those women. Do you know how many times they have wished to commit suicide? Their lives do not matter to them anymore. The only thing they cared about was the security of their children. Not only did I grant them their wish to become free, I made sure to pin it on these bastards. Driven by testosterone, they thought they could get away with beating their wives until their noses bleed and their eyes get swollen, raping them day after day, just because the law allows these acts under the roof of marriage. I saved them; I saved their children. I created a fake account on a dating site, knowing that men only care about getting laid. As soon as they fall into the trap, I make sure to cover the crime scene with their fingerprints and DNA samples, from objects I ask them to bring. The women are relieved, the men receive the judgements they deserve, the kids are safe and the world becomes a better place”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. She was crazy. I gathered my strength and said: “Ma’am you’re a psycho. I can’t leave you wandering in the streets, knowing that you might kill another innocent person. I’m calling the police.”

She stabbed me with her look and grinned.

“Call them and I will frame you, just like I did to the other men. It’s very easy for me to do it. I built my whole NGO on framing other people. Let’s play a game… Look closely at the name “I’m h.er Fam”. Why is there a dot in the middle of the name? think… play with the letters… change their order.”

I squeezed my eyes to concentrate on the logo and to find the secret message.

“I’m h.er Fam … Fame rhim? … Fear himm? …” I couldn’t see it.

 

“wait I do…

 

FRAME HIM”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Room 168 ”

  1. Joyce says:

    I just loved reading this article! I was afraid, I couldn’t stop reading, I wanted to know more! Well written! Scary though 😁

  2. Anthony Nemr says:

    Now, that’s a thriller. When i think that now it’s going to be boring and expected, you just surprise me. <3

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