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Chapter 22 - Inquest

 

 

 

As it turned out, Mohandas was very lucky that Bianca had been in the building.  Had she not called the brigade so promptly the 'fiery' robot may not have arrived in the nick of time to cast foam over the burning bed; cut his ropes; wrap him in a fire blanket; and get him out before the bedroom too was completely engulfed.

He was unconscious and suffering from some nasty looking burns to his torso and his feet were already gone.

Bianca had never been in Mohandas' apartment block before. 

She told the investigators that she'd received a strange message from 'M' asking to meet her there on level fourteen.  She knew it was his block so she assumed it was from Mohandas. 

When she got to the nominated floor she said that she'd found a paper note on the open door saying: 'Something urgent come up.  Just come nad make youself home.  Back son.' The alleged note had been burnt to ashes.  But she remembered thinking the grammar was odd and that it contained a number of spelling mistakes.  Mohandas is a classical poet and a code writer and is unlikely to have bad grammar. She concluded a neighbour must have written it to his dictation.

Inside, she claims she saw a picture of Mohandas in an old style frame on a side table and a tray set for tea with a plate of her favourite cookies.  She was surprised that he knew that much about her. We have to take her word for it, as all that's gone too.

She claimed that she'd spent the time, prior to the fire, sitting in the spacious living area of what turned out to be a stranger's apartment on the next floor, above.

When flames from below simultaneously shattered all the windows down one side of the apartment and it began to fill with smoke, she ran to the fire stairs but they were blocked by thick black smoke and flashes of flame.  The fire door on the level below must have been wide open, as was this one.  She closed this door and went back to the apartment; called for help; and looked for a means of escape.

Initially the Central Fire Computer doubted that there was a fire because the building heat sensors were reporting nothing.

Fortunately she'd found a long climbing rope in a service cupboard.  She'd been a rock climber at University and occasionally went to one of those indoor places.  Fourteen floors was a long way down but there was plenty of rope and it was a relatively easy decent provided the fire below did not burst out while she was still on the rope. She tied the end securely, dropped the rest out a window with no fire below then quickly climbed out and slipping the rope between her legs and over her shoulder, played it out with her hands, abseiling to safety.

She then helped to get the lower floor tenants out; waited to give her account to the police; and for the brigade to extinguish the upper floors and check for bodies.  To her surprise, there was Mohandas being carried out on a stretcher suffering from burns and smoke inhalation.  Until that moment she'd been certain that he was out of the building and safe.  So she went with him in the ambulance and eventually took him home to recover after the automated hospital amputated and discharged him with prosthetic legs below the knee.  

She realised that she'd been incredibly lucky to find the rope because the four upper floors were totally destroyed and the fire stairs and lift well had been impassable. 

A kid left at home alone by his single mother in one of the upper apartments was not so lucky.

When Mohandas had been under sedation for his wounds he had initially recoiled from Bianca, in fear, declaring her to be a witch.  It had taken her some time to reassure him that he was mistaken.  When she later questioned him about it he became tight lipped but it was evident that it was something that he'd come to believe in some traumatic manner because he'd begun to cry and started trembling in fear again.

***

Mohandas took over a month to get his voice back and his stumps below the knee needed time to heal and toughen sufficiently for him to become mobile again.  As a result of his injuries he was rather confused and very distressed.  He was getting used to the idea that Bianca was his friend but kept asking after someone called Kat, who he was sure must have been burnt too.

There was no burnt body in the bathroom and absolutely no evidence of any one resembling his description of Kat at the scene.  DNA and other forensic tests proved inconclusive.

The inquest into the little boy's death did not go well for Mohandas.  He had been careless in leaving a deep-fat-fryer unattended.  His unusual furnishings also came in for condemnation when he foolishly told the investigators about them.  Candles and drapes and incense sticks were a certain fire hazard, not to mention traces of a lot of oil throughout the apartment and other accelerants in the remnants of both the kitchen and his bedroom. He didn't admit to the oil fight, even when investigators found the oil traces.

He was public enemy number one for a while. But then the manufacturer of the fryer was implicated.  An enthusiastic forensic team examining the twisted wreck of the fryer reported that there was evidence that the thermostat was faulty. 

The media turned their attention to the little boy's mother who would certainly have been killed too had she been there but was nevertheless condemned for leaving an eight year old boy at home unsupervised.

"Should she have been there to share his death? - Sports stars give their opinion - an MV documentary that's not to be missed."

At one stage it was thought that Mohandas had been trying to commit suicide until the controller of the fire robot that cut him loose was called and testified that there was no way that he could have tied himself like that.  "Like a chicken waiting to be cooked on a rotisserie," he said, "naked and doused in oil and wax." There was video from the robot to confirm this.

Mohandas had been very reluctant to admit to writing code at home, while allegedly on sick leave, for fear of losing his job.  But under oath he relented and told the story of Kat engaging him to help with an App and ultimately tying him to the bed. 

But he left out or was not asked for a lot of the details so that the remains of his story sounded incredible.  He failed to mention how the mysterious Kat got in and out undetected.  He was promptly sacked.

Then Bianca came under suspicion. 

She'd been seen entering the building before the fire and her story was unverifiable and as strange as his.  No, she wasn't driven to arson by jealousy.  She claimed that she knew nothing of Mohandas having an orgy on the floor below.

Was she in fact the mystery Kat?

But the owners of the apartment then testified and confirmed their rock climbing equipment had been in the cupboard.  Numerous witnesses had watched Bianca abseiling from the fourteenth level and had cheered her when she got down; and the paramedics testified that she'd been helpful evacuating the rest of the building and had been genuinely surprised to see Mohandas on the stretcher.

In the end the media and the public agreed that the Indian guy had been up to no good.  He'd set fire to his place deliberately while involved in some strange religious ritual.  Indians are well known for their funeral pyres.

***

Bianca worried about Mohandas' mental health.  It was understandable that he was depressed but it seemed to go very deep.  He constantly sang little tunes from the Mikado and called out to Kat in his sleep.  Several times when medicated for his injuries he imagined that she was Kat and either begged her to hurt him more or declared his undying love for her.  Then, when he knew she was Bianca again, he would want long cuddles. 

One evening, while watching MV, and receiving a cuddle, he tried to suck her nipple.  When she pushed him off he called her 'Kat's Witch'; moved her hand to his genitals; and begged her to hurt him.  There was no way that she wanted to become his hand maiden in that way, so she called in a sex-worker specialising in the disabled. 

Despite excellent credentials, Mary was unable to relieve him, saying that he was just too badly injured and traumatised to reach an orgasm.  Nevertheless Bianca was now alarmed at the direction his mind was taking and no longer wanted to cuddle him.  So she employed Mary to spend each night with him, for as long as it took, with a mission to provide him with cuddles and to keep him to his own bed, while ensuring that he was distracted from any further untoward interest in 'Kat's Witch'.   Bianca grew to like Mary and would look in on them to make sure that they were properly tucked-in each evening, like children.  She would sit with them over breakfast each morning, chatting to Mary about her interesting job.  Mary asked Bianca about her job too but found that it was too technical to understand.  It sounded like magic, managing numbers and computer instructions, that somehow ended up as real events, like new cities and population movements. 

Mary reported that Mohandas continued to be impotent despite her best efforts and in spite of Bianca's new status as Kat's Witch, Mohandas still refused to answer her questions about the mystery 'Kat'. They had settled into a domestic routine that was workable but felt vaguely unsatisfactory except that it was obvious that Mary was increasingly playing mother to Mohandas.

It had long been obvious to Bianca that Kat was Margery, yet Mohandas still insisted that his Kat was 'just Kat', even when she demonstrated that there had been no such person on the payroll at work.  It was as if he'd been subconsciously blocked from speaking about her.  Bianca was sure that this was an outcome of hypnosis and considered attempting to hypnotise him to unblock whatever Margery had done; but feared his complete mental breakdown. 

Then one night there was Margery on an MV chat show spruiking 'her' new App: Find-a-loo@Air-ones&twos and declaring that the perfect App was one that married a need to a way of satisfying that need; when neither party was previously aware of, or had the means of, satisfying the other.  "An appy marriage," as she says she likes to call it.

Mohandas was beside himself with joy.  There was Kat on MV alive and apparently completely unharmed and yes she was now calling herself Margery as Bianca had said all along.

"So Bianca is Kat's Witch," he told Mary.

It was now very obvious to Bianca that Margery thought that she was another witch. So she hardened her opinion that Margery had tried to murder them both to secure her rights to Find-a-loo@Air-ones&twos and to get rid of her as a competing witch. 

To Bianca's surprise Mohandas would not hear of it.  He still blamed himself for the 'accident'. 

At least he was a bit put out that 'Margery' as she now called herself, was claiming full credit for an App that he'd worked on so hard and that she'd always said was 'theirs' or even 'his'.  And now that he'd lost his job and his apartment and all his paintings, except the ones Kat had taken, and all his equipment and he needed a credit stream to get back on his feet.

"Assuming I can ever get the hang of these damn prosthetic legs.  I'm sick of getting about on these stumps," he said, putting a brave face on it.

Mary, who now loved him with all her heart as her 'man-child', gave him a big cuddle and tears of pity came to her eyes.

 

 

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