17th July 2005, Oklahoma—9:30 AM
It was a lazy Sunday morning. I was a little late to get up on that day.
As I was preparing my breakfast, the telephone rang. It was Brian.
At that time, both of us were working in a secret Detective Agency of the United States called ‘Unknown Phantoms’. The outside world was unaware of our operations and that was the biggest boon for us. With over 25 years of experience, I was the most senior detective in the agency. ‘Unknown Phantoms’ had close contact with prominent members of the Senate and had helped in solving a lot of their personal cases. Even we had secretly worked with FBI a few years back and had helped in unveiling two powerful terrorist-attacks in California and Washington.
“Hey Peter, Good Morning”, Brian was panting on the other side of the call.
“Good Morning, Brian. What happened?” I asked.
“Haven’t you checked the news till now? Robert Brown has been murdered at his residence yesterday night.”
It was shocking. Robert Brown was a popular scientist across the globe and was the proud recipient of quite a few international accolades.
“What are you saying?” I couldn’t believe.
“Come soon to the Agency, Peter. Bill Larry, the Defense Secretary has set up a personal meeting with us at 11 am today. It seems we have got a high-profile case in hand.”
“Bill Larry? Why is he getting involved?”
“I don’t know, Peter. Come ASAP. I am on my way. See you soon.”
I kept the phone down. My head was still throbbing. Robert Brown, the idol of a billion, was murdered at his residence!
17th July 2005, Oklahoma—11:00 AM
Brian was waiting for me at the ground floor. He was working as my junior and this would be our fourth project together. He was almost 20 years younger to me; a sharp, sincere guy with a promising career in front of him.
“Larry’s Secretary just called me up. They are reaching within 10 minutes”, his face failed to control his excitement at the prospect of getting the biggest project of his career.
“Calm down, Brian”, I said. ”Let’s go and get some coffee”, though I was excited, yet I tried to sound normal.
I was going through the newspaper on my way to office. Brown was brutally stabbed from the back but the cause of the murder was still unknown. But one thing had intrigued me the most- Why did Bill Larry personally want to meet us? Was Robert Brown working in some defense project? Was that the reason behind the murder?
17th July 2005, Oklahoma—11:30 AM
We were sitting in the Meeting Room at the third floor- Me, Brian and Bill Larry. Others were asked to wait outside.
“This is going to be confidential. I have heard a lot about you and this Agency. You must be aware that FBI is already working in this case. You will get all co-operation. Actually, I have come to know about you from FBI Senior Officer, Paul Collins and after doing a background verification, I have come”, Larry said looking at me in the eye.
Aged around 50, Bill Larry had a shrewd personality.
“Thank you so much for trusting us with such a big responsibility”, I said politely.
“But, if you don’t mind, why is the Ministry getting involved?”
Larry’s face hardened as he spoke, “Robert was working on a secret project for us. His death is a severe blow to the Nation. I can’t tell you more”, Larry sounded cold. “But let me tell you the purpose of my visit. I don’t want you to find the murderer. I am sure FBI can do it on their own. I am involving you for something else”, Larry’s voice was barely audible. “FBI has discovered a hand-written note beside Robert’s body with the two words ‘MAGENTA DIARY’. This has been kept a secret from the Media and from Robert’s relatives. Since Brown was working for us, FBI has approached the Defense Ministry to get information on the same. But we don’t have any idea about that diary. It may contain a lot of secrets regarding the project. It must not reach the hands of any outsider. I don’t know how, but by tomorrow midnight, you must find out that diary. We don’t have time in our hands.”
17th July 2005, Dallas—6:00 PM
We were standing in front of Robert Brown’s bungalow situated in the suburb. The serenity of the place calmed down my nerves. Paul Collins was with us.
“I need your help, Peter. Forget the murder for the time being. But the diary must be found out”, Paul’s face turned red in excitement. “I have specially requested the Ministry for you because of your exceptional skills in this industry”, he paused.
“Thanks Paul. I will try my best to help you and I am giving you my word that it will be a secret from our side. Can we check the murder-spot once?”
“Sure. Come with me.”
We went to the personal laboratory of Robert Brown. The door was sealed. The body had been sent for post-mortem. Paul opened the door and we went in.
It was an ideal research-spot for a scientist- an unperturbed, quiet place devoid of any distraction. Robert Brown’s body was found on the right-hand side of the main center-table in an upside-down manner with the knife plunged deep in his back. The note was written with his blood and was hidden in the clasps of his right-hand.
“Do you have any idea regarding Brown’s project?” I asked Paul inquisitively.
“Not really, but it was a defense project.” Paul’s tone made me doubt his statement.
“The same thing has been told to me as well. So it seems that we have been given a tough deadline to find out the diary with a limited background visibility of the case”, I mocked.
“When was the murder discovered?” Brian asked.
“The body was discovered at around 8 PM when the Security Personnel were changing their shifts and Tom Hawkins, the Security Officer, came to wish Brown goodnight before leaving for the day.”
“What is the Security telling? Who had come to visit him yesterday?” I asked.
Paul took a deep breath. “From the Security Record-book, we can find that in the afternoon at around 3 PM, Drek Hillier, the famous scientist and Brown’s ex-colleague had come. He was here for around 30 minutes. As per Tom, Brown had some heated argument with Drek. Around 4:30 PM, Brown’s niece, Martina Gadey had come. She stayed for around 45 minutes… but…”
Paul grew silent before eventually speaking up, “Just an hour ago, we have received a shocking news from a reliable source. Bill Larry was here yesterday at around 6 PM. He stayed only for 5 minutes but he was the last person to visit the place. However, there is no entry in the Security Record-book. Tom is under interrogation regarding the same.”
“Bill Larry? But he hasn’t mentioned the same? Is this the reason behind his involvement?” I shouted in shock.
“He hasn’t told this to us as well. But we need to be very sure. This can have far-reaching implications, Peter. This is not going to be easy”, Paul’s voice shivered.
18th July 2005, Dallas—11:00 AM
Brian and I were sitting at Drek Hillier’s apartment at Dallas. Hillier was a well-known scientist across the world and was also a member of ‘Researchers of America’ where Brown had worked as a scientist a few years back. We were sent with false identities- as reporters from a local news channel.
“Good Morning”, a voice came from behind.
We turned around and found Drek standing beside the door.
“Good Morning, Drek. We have come from the CN News to make a biography on Robert Brown”, I lied. Paul had arranged for this meeting with the help of Jim Tomson, the Head of CN News and an old friend of Drek since college-days.
“What information do you need? I am sorry I don’t have enough time”, Drek said arrogantly.
“We will keep this short”, I said.
“Please tell us something about Robert Brown”, Brian said curtly.
“Well, he was a brilliant colleague to work with- always serious about his work. I had learnt a lot from him”, Drek stopped. His body-language spoke of reluctance.
“You have any idea regarding the murder?” Brian continued.
“How can I say?” Drek seemed agitated, “We were not in touch for a long time.”
“When was the last time you met him?” I asked.
“Quite some time back”, Drek stammered.
I was about to speak up when my mobile rang. Paul was calling.
“Peter, we have found out a diary hidden in Brown’s cellar with some formula.”
“What’s the color?” I asked.
“That’s the catch. It’s a Blue diary”, Paul said in a gloomy tone.
“But what’s important is, on the last page it is written ‘HIRED KILLER’ with a contact number. We have verified with the mobile operators. The number belongs to none other than Drek. We are coming there in half-an-hour”, Paul cut the call.
I stood stunned. Who could hire Drek for the murder? I questioned myself. And where was the Magenta diary?
I checked my watch- I had only 12 hours in hand!
18th July 2005, Dallas—12:30 PM
Drek was sitting in front of us at his apartment. By then, he was aware that we were working with FBI. Paul had joined us. He had the Blue diary with him.
“Why did you kill Brown?” Paul demanded.
“I didn’t”, Drek shouted back, ”Wish I had done that long back”.
I was going through the Blue diary. My gut was telling me that the Blue diary was the key to my quest of the Magenta diary, but I was not being able to figure out how. Something was there in front of my eyes but I was not getting the clue. More than the murder, I was interested in the Magenta Diary.
The last words of Drek shook me a little and I looked up.
“Tell us about the Magenta Diary. Where is it hidden?” I asked.
“What are you talking about? I have no clue”, Drek sounded really astonished.
“I need to get the diary by tonight. Tell me whatever you know about it”, I repeated again.
Though I asked, but my intuition was telling me that Drek was really ignorant of the diary and so deep down, I knew my search was not over. I had to find out the diary within the next few hours and I was sure that Drek was not the person to help me out on that.
Paul shouted, “The Police is waiting outside. Co-operate and tell us the truth. We have the information that you had visited Brown yesterday.”
Drek’s face turned white and he stood up. His expression suggested that he was aware of a deep secret. Could it be something related to the project? Would I get any lead from him?
I observed him carefully as he walked to the door. I knew that time was running out but suppressed the urge to check my watch. I took a deep breath and started counting in reverse under my breath. “Ten, nine, eight, seven…” I needed the answer. I needed the truth.
Then he turned back.
“Yes, I was there yesterday. Some days ago, Brown had called to inform that he was inventing the deadliest atom-bomb till date in human history- one that could cause a disaster 10 times in magnitude to that of Hiroshima. He proudly told me that he had used my formula which I had shared with him 5 years ago when we were working together; but, he would never mention my name anywhere. He was almost done with the project and world-wide recognition was just a matter of time. So I went to his place yesterday and asked him to mention my name as well in this invention because without that formula, it wouldn’t have been possible. He denied and we had an argument. I left after that. I don’t know anything else.”
I sat bewildered. So, Brown was in the process of discovering a deadly atom-bomb! That was the reason why Ministry and FBI were so desperate about the diary.
Paul was surely not convinced with Drek’s statement and took Drek under custody.
I kept thinking about the Blue diary. Suddenly it dawned upon me. Paul couldn’t have been more wrong! I heard myself shouting to Brian, “Call Paul immediately. Drek hasn’t done anything. I know the answer.”
18th July 2005, Dallas—3:30 PM
Martina Gayde, in her late thirties, was in front of us with a warm but depressed smile. She was a renowned social-worker and her philanthropy had earned her quite a few accolades. Martina was the closest person to Robert Brown.
Paul was still unsure why we called him so abruptly. His face was clearly displaying the confusion.
“Why did you kill Robert?” I asked without pretense.
“I didn’t”, she was caught off-guard.
“Miss, I have evidence that you did. The evidence was given by Robert himself”, I said. Both Paul and Brian looked at me in surprise. “Help us to understand the motive.”
She grew silent as tears filled her eyes. After about five minutes, she spoke up.
“My uncle was the person I was closest to in my life. My father was in the Army who was killed in the war at Cambodia years ago. I was hardly two years old then. My mother couldn’t take the shock and she passed away when I was around four. It was my uncle who had brought me up. He was my idol. Had he not been there, probably I would have been just another orphan lost in the crowd”, Martina’s voice chocked.
“I knew he was working in some defense project for the last few years but he was never interested to share the details. It was only yesterday when he told me about the success of his project. I couldn’t believe my ears. My idol was telling me about an atom-bomb that could eliminate whole cities in a fraction of a second. So many innocent children would become orphans with a clouded future, so many parents would become child-less; and I would be watching the success of my uncle and celebrating the discovery. The four-year old girl in me shouted for help. I pleaded him not to continue with the project as it would be a disaster. But he said it was too late. The Ministry had already been informed of the achievement and the Defense Secretary would arrive within an hour’s time to discuss the way forward. His name would become immortal in US history; so, instead of criticizing, I should congratulate him”, Martina stopped.
“I didn’t have an option. When I was working with WHO during the Middle-East War, I had seen the destructive power of an atom-bomb. And this would be 10 times. Oh God! I couldn’t believe. Technology was surely not invented for such an evil purpose. Killing him was the only way to save humanity. I am ready to face the consequences of my action.”
Martina was arrested immediately and sent for interrogation. I stood confused- not sure how to describe Martina. Was she the killer of one or a savior of a million?
Suddenly Paul looked at me, “What about the Magenta Diary? Has Martina destroyed it too?”
“That diary never existed, Paul”, I replied slowly. “Robert Brown loved anagrams. So, Drek Hillier became a ‘HIRED KILLER’ and Martina Gayde became the ‘MAGENTA DIARY’.”