Highly Commended Story - Two Birds with One Stone
“Two Birds with One Stone” by Neel Kiran Naik, Rustomjee Cambridge International School, India, is the Highly Commended story in the senior category of the second biannual Short Story Contest 2019.
Two Birds with One Stone
“Cheep-cheep”, was the sound that I heard as first ray of sunlight gently hit my eyes in the bright autumn morn. I looked out of the tiny window of the Boys’ Hostel of The University of Portsmouth and admired the view of two birds chirping happily and bathing in the sunlight. My name is Neel, I am a University-going general average person. I am from London, where my family stays. I went to have my breakfast in the University mess. The mess is a massive mess, literally. There is lots of food all over the place, people running along, bumping into each other, and the fact that it is enormous, doesn’t help. I met my best friend Jason in the mess. Jason Freeman is kind of an odd person. He joined the university last summer and has been my friend since then. He notices unnecessary things and is absolutely paranoid about things that don’t matter. He asked me whether I had noticed something different about the people present today. I looked at him in disgust and asked him what his stupid mind had. He told me that two of our classmates, John Canary and Stanley Fowler, weren’t present. I looked around and saw them nowhere. That’s when Mr. Smith, the Dean of the university, walked in on the stage. Suddenly, there was silence as the Dean doesn’t come often. Mr. Smith with a deep breath said, “We are very humbled by the loss of one of our most sincere and brilliant students, Mr. John Canary.” I saw the look on everyone’s faces; shock, sorrow, confusion spread like wildfire. The rest of the day passed quiet sadly, with no one talking. This was the first time something like this had happened. Back at the hostel in the evening, I saw Jason walking in circles. I asked him what had happened. He said he thought that something was peculiar. He said, “The explanation for the death of John is very unsatisfying. There was no reason for him to commit suicide, why do you think he died?” I didn’t know what to say. I replied, “I don’t know, and I think you’re assuming that there was no reason for him to commit suicide.” He said that I was missing something, that I was ignoring something. “He surely hasn’t died of some health problem, and the possibility remains that somebody else was involved”, he said, “Are you implying that someone murdered him?”, I asked in astonishment. He replied with a confident yes. There was only one way to find out whether he was right, to do some research ourselves.
The next day, we set out to do some investigations. We narrowed down our suspects to a few people in our class: The Brown twins, James Wilson, Seth Johnson and Rene Beaumont. Meghan and Susan Brown were twins, who were two of John’s best friends. James was very popular and used to make everyone laugh. Seth was the quiet kid who was seen with John often, they probably were friends, and Rene was the French kid who was a misfit in this University. He barely had any friends, although weirdly John was one of them. In the morning, for the usual breakfast, we went to the mess. Jason was looking very confident and had a happy grin on his face. He loved investigating things like this. We were talking about Stanley, the kid who did not come for breakfast on the day John’s death was announced, Jason said that his disappearance had to be related to the death of John, that was when Jason bumped into someone. That someone was James Wilson, one of our suspects. I told James about our thoughts on the death, about it being a murder and asked James if he knew anything. James said that he did not expect the death to happen. Then we decided to ask him whether he knew of the disappearance of Stanley. He said that Stanley had decided to drop out of the University, as he wanted to follow in his uncle’s footsteps to become a farmer. That eliminated any chance of him being related. We bid farewell to James and went for breakfast. After breakfast, we met the Brown twins in the hallway. They looked distraught because of the death. We decided to ask them whether they could give us any information. They could not say much, probably because they had been overflowing with emotion. Meghan, in broken sentences, said that she agreed with us that he may have been killed, and Susan said something which perked Jason up. She said, “He must have done it… I think Rene did it… that foreigner was up to no good.”
In the evening decided to meet Seth and Rene. They were both very perplexed, as if the death had never even happened. Rene said, “Eh, I feel bad, John and I used to have so much fun together, he took me under his wing when no one trusted me just because I was not from England.” Seth agreed said that he didn’t deserve to die. We were tired from all the searching and went back to the hostel room to sleep. Jason said, with some hesitation, “I know who it is, but I don’t know how, or why.” That night, I tossed and turned in bed. I woke up to see that Jason was gone. The next day, he was up and ready. He said that he’d figured it out. At breakfast, Jason revealed, “James Wilson murdered John. Stanley was with us all along, just, dead as well, lying in James’ room, I saw this last night. James was afraid that John would steal his popularity and decided to kill him. Stanley was the witness, so he killed him as well. This couldn’t be solved with knowledge of just one death. The poison, a stone of chloral hydrate was used to kill both, matched. James killed two birds with one stone.”