It was late in the evening. Cold air found its way into the debriefing room through the little gap under the door. Isaac and Sarah stood at one end of the room. Sarah was already shivering from knowing that her dead brother was the main suspect in the case she was investigating. Chief Inspector Murugan was going through the case files. He had to decide if he could let Sarah carry on with the case or if it should be handed over to another officer. After going through the files very carefully 
for about ten minutes, he lifted his head and said,”Please step out of the room for a while. I’ll call you back in a little later”. The duo turned to walk out. “Not you Isaac. Just Sarah”.

Sarah knew what was going to happen. She was going to be asked to stay away from the case because she was too close to the main suspect. She sat herself on the couch in the waiting room. From there, she could only see the door to the debriefing room. She closed her eyes and thought about what would happen at home when everyone found out that Tony was still alive. She didn’t want to tell anyone because there was a possibility that the suspect was someone who looked like Tony. In her mind, she knew that the odds of that were low. She put her head in her hands and shut her eyes, deep in thought.

Inside the debriefing room, Inspector Murugan asked Isaac about Tony’s story.
“There isn’t one sir. He died of a heart attack in his sleep. Natural death, no foul play.”Isaac replied.
“Then why was he at that crime scene?”Murugan asked.
“I..I don’t know sir”Isaac stuttered.
“Look. Sarah is too shaken to continue with this case. First of all, I want you to find this guy. If it is actually Tony Joseph, Sarah is off this case. If it isn’t Tony, Sarah can decide if she wants to take the case back or not. Until then, you’re in-charge. Either way, it’s your job to find this guy.Whoever it is”
“Yes sir.” Isaac replied.
“And what happened to that baby? The one that Purva said fell off the balcony” Murugan asked.
“Sir, If that baby really did exist and fell off that ledge, there is no chance that he survived. But we didn’t find a body or traces of blood. Purva was probably hallucinating.” Isaac replied.
“I’ve been a cop for 34 years. Everything in my experience tells me that you’re right. But go back to the apartments and make sure of it. If word leaks about a disappearing baby, the newspapers will be all over it. Add to that, the news about  the investigating officer’s dead brother being our main suspect and we’ll have reporters camping outside our office.I don’t want that” Murugan told Isaac. “Now go call Sarah back”.
“Yes sir.”Isaac replied and stepped out of the debriefing room.

Sarah got up from the comfort of the couch and walked to the large window across the room. She couldn’t stop thinking about Tony, her lovable brother, 4 years younger than her.
As she gazed into the night sky outside, her view only obstructed by the swaying branches of a nearby silver oak, she heard a soft gurgling voice say “Vapa”. She craned her neck to look outside. No one was there. She thought her mind was playing tricks on her when suddenly, she heard it again. This time, clearer than before. She went closer to the window and looked to the left and then to the right. Still nobody there. “Vapaa!!” she heard again, accompanied this time by the soft sound of clapping. She looked to the left again, from where the sound was coming. There, on the ledge sat a little baby, a haunting smile on his face.
Sarah screamed. She wanted to shout out for someone to help the baby but she could barely bring out any voice at all. Fighting her non-responsive vocal chord, she laboured and shouted as loudly as her body let her, “Isssaaaacc! ICE!! ICE!” and then dropped to the floor as her knees weakened and gave in from shock.

Issac had just stepped out of the debriefing room when he heard Sarah’s screams. He ran towards the waiting lounge and found her lying on the floor, with her back rested against the back of a chair. She was pointing to the window and trying to say something. Issac took out his revolver not knowing what to expect and looked outside. Nothing there. He turned his gaze upwards and saw something move. Something was hanging along the side of he building and moving up. He fired a couple of shots at it. It stopped moving. “Lock down this facility NOW! We have an intruder! Nobody leaves. Shut the gates and get a team to search every floor. I want this guy caught. NOW!”, he shouted over the wireless. He went to the window and looked upwards again. The object was still hanging. “Who’s scanning the roof? I want a team up on the roof and someone lower that thing. Whatever it is.”
A constable ran up to the roof and found some strings hanging over the railings. They were connected to the thing hanging from the side of the building. He slowly lowered it towards Issac. As it got closer to him, Issac realised what it was. A doll. A puppet that looked like a baby.
He turned to Sarah and showed it to her. “Calm down. It’s just a puppet” he told her and turned his attention back to the missing intruder. “Did you find anyone on the roof?” he asked over the wireless. There was no response. “Hello? Didn’t anyone in the team that went to the roof carry their wireless sets? Someone respond! Did you find anyone?” Issac asked again, getting angrier by the minute. He looked up from near the window and shouted, “HEY! Who’s up there? Viren? Sunny? “.
Finally, someone responded on the wireless, “Sir, Constable Ramesh went up the roof”.
“What?! He went up there alone? I Asked you to send a team up there.” Issac said as he began running for the stairs to the roof.
He pushed the door to the roof open and looked around for Ramesh. In a corner, behind an old unused desk, he found him. Unconscious.
“Oh god. No” he muttered and looked around for any sign of the intruder.
“I need a medical team here as quickly as you can. I have an officer down.” he said over his wireless. Just as he sent out that message, he saw someone running on the roof of the neighbouring building. Issac jumped over to the other roof and ran behind him. “You! Stop right there”. The man ran into a room on one of the roofs. Issac ran to the door and called for back up. “Suspect is locked inside a room on a roof three building next to ours. He is armed. I need cover”.
Issac tried to look through the window to see what was happening inside, when suddenly, there was a loud gunshot from inside the room. “Gunshot!  There was a shot fired!! Where’s my backup?!!” Issac shouted over the wireless, running for cover but keeping an eye on the door to the room. A couple of minutes later, 5 officers arrived.
“There was only one shot. No one has come out since. The guy who fired the shot is still inside. I want him alive, but if he tries anything smart, shoot him.” he instructed.
The team members took their positions. One of them broke the lock to the door with a controlled explosion. The 6 officers barged into the room, “Police! Put down your weapons and keep your hands where I can see them.”Issac shouted but his voice trailed off when he looked around the room.
In the middle of the room, the man who was running from him, lay dead with a bullet wound in his throat. A gun was on the floor, a few feet away from the body.
 “Suicide. He shot himself in the throat.” Issac declared.
 “No sir. The entry wound suggests that he was shot from some distance away. Doesn’t look like a point-blank wound that we normally find when someone shoots themselves.”
“That’s impossible. Nobody went out of this room. The window is intact so it couldn’t have been someone from outside. Besides, I heard the shot from inside this room.And the guy was carrying a gun when he was running and it’s right here.”Issac reasoned.,but he knew that he was wrong when he looked at the entry wound closely.
This man was killed. And the killer, had vanished into thin air.

Read the first two parts here:

Pareidolia: Part 1
Pareidolia: Part 2

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