Bewildering Stories

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The Mystery of Numbers

by Norman A. Rubin

The mystery of numbers is intriguing and mystifying, as it is a fundamental principle from which the whole objective world proceeds. Numbers are not merely quantitative, but it a way they are symbolic used in noting specific qualities and the fate of the ones chosen in the turn of the card. Everything is disposed according to numbers, as they are the harmony of the universe. Numbers mark a series of things distinguished by or marked with numerals but in one instance, it marked the scene of a multiple murder.

The newspapers and the television news broadcasts blared the sensational headlines of a multiple murder at 9 Cherry Lane. “According to the police.’’ detailed the brutal killing of the entire Judson family. Words spoke of the demise of John Judson by multiple stab wounds. Phrases told that his wife Alice apparently met her death through strangulation.

Their children also found a horrible fate when the intruders tore through the house in their search for something unknown to the authorities. Betsy a girl of six was found lying in a pool of her blood in her daintily decorated room. Their little boy David wasn’t disturbed of his pleasant dream, as his breath had been closed through the pressure of a pillow. The police issued no further details.

Only the investigators and the forensic department knew of the condition of the bodies. The partially covered body of father was described as being tied and gagged with burnt feet; he was sprawled in the basement of the house. The mother’s manner of death was described in the simplicity of medical terms.

The covered bodies of the man and of the woman were not allowed the eyes of the media; the basement, the scene of the violent criminal acts was closed and guarded by official order. But, the viewers were shocked by the sight of the bodies of the children in body bags as they were carried to the coroner’s wagon.

There was a hesitant pause at the surroundings as the official spokesman for the team of investigators came from the house. He raised his hand for attention, quieting the inquisitive questions of the minions of the media. He spoke in a solemn voice as he told of the murderous event. He told that in the early hours of the morning certain parties had forced their entrance into the house. Evidence pointed to the fact that husband, a Mr. John Judson, was clenched by their hands and brought to the basement of the building where he was subjected to torture; the reason is unknown. That other members of the party had surprised Alice the wife as she left her bedroom for inquiry; then she was dragged gagged and struggling to the basement. The woman met her death through strangulation. Most probably the sound of the little girl was heard during the intruders’ violent search through the premises. They completed their murderous act upon the rest of the members of the family, Betsy a girl of six and David, age two.

He ended by stating that the daily help discovered the bodies when she entered the house and noticed the front door ajar and that there were signs of a struggle. His words ended with the note that the investigation is in progress and that further developments in the case will be made known. The spokesman dismissed the jumbled questions of the media and returned to the interior of the house.

Number NINE, is all-powerful, composed of the Triple Triad, which symbolizes fulfillment and attainment, and, at times, an angelic figure. It is also an ‘incorruptible’ number signifying the limit of numbers, all others existing and revolving within it. The number NINE also interprets the beginning of the end in air and water. The ancient believers circled the altar nine times in honour of Thanatos (Death). And nine is the sign of doom from Durga, the malevolent mother goddess.

John Judson was in the existence of life a typical executive in the busy world of finance, orderly in his ways. His slim body was always seen dressed in immaculate fashion. John was pleasant in his manners seen in his laughing blue eyes and cheerful smile on his florid face. The coming of the middling years added a slight paunch denoting the passing of time.

John Judson had wed petite Alice nee Hodge, reputed to be a sweetheart from his high school years. Alice was somewhat pretty in her looks and the prominence of her dimpled cheeks added to her loveliness; her blonde hair added a touch to her radiance as it was always trimmed and combed. The coming years had added a touch of fatty tissue to her lithe body, but, a chance at employment, in the field of her expertise, namely secretarial duties, demanded a fit and neat appearance.

John and Alice brought into their world, a cuddly little girl by the name of Betsy; a bundle of joy whose life was blotted out by a heavy hand at an early age of six. But, until that fated day she was pleasure in the eyes of her parents. A brother David followed giving joy of full life of the family... till the day of his fateful end.

John Judson’s fulfillment of his dreams came quickly, when promotion and a higher rate of salary offered a chance of a better life. Both John and Alice were happy in their recent acquisition of their home at 9 Cherry Lane. There was time for planning and remodeling of the dwelling to their taste, and they looked forward to the future in their happy home. With pride they tacked the tendril-decorated number nine above the portal of their home. But the number nine, with its symbolism of dissolution hovered.

Number SIX, a cardinal number, one of luck and chance. The figure is equated with reason and depicts the totality in the nothingness of death. The number SIX is symbolized in the non-being, the ultimate mystery. But it is a winning throw of the dice, a total figure, and when not attained in the throw it craps the loser.

The opposite house on Cherry lane, number six, was a dwelling run down in the neglect of years. Its surrounding garden was equal in neglect with a poorly trimmed weedy lawn, badly cut bushes and the so-called flowerbeds were strewn with nature’s debris. To an outsider the house looked deserted, but unknown to all, the dwelling had, at times, occupants in need of a safe house well watched by the officers of the law.

The last fugitive that took over the residence was a rat-faced little runt of a man, who took the ten pieces of silver and testified in court in behalf of the law. In fact, he was part of mob of six villainous thugs, who committed a series of bank holdups. The loot of the robberies was never discovered and it was suspected that this lout secreted the cash in a hideout, only known to him.

The judge at the preliminary hearing directed the case to the Grand Jury for the wording of indictment. But fear was cast over the snitch and he reneged on his testimony. Nine jurors cast for indictment whereas the other nine voted against as they deemed there wasn’t sufficient evidence to warrant trial. Since six plus six jurors were required for indictment, charges were dismissed.

The thugs were released and they vowed revenge upon the informer, the sixth member. They took to the ground, but an empty treasure locker was sufficient for them to keep an eye on number nine Cherry Lane. A scruffily-dressed man watched the house at various intervals whose stance was marked by stamped out cigarette butts, much to the annoyance of the neighbors. His face hidden by large dark sunglasses and a large biker’s cap was too menacing and nobody complained to him. But, there was a frightened person who saw him as he peered through a slim opening of the window shade.

The witness noted that the man searched out the dwelling at number six, a few times in the past, but he was unable to specify the correct dates. The snakelike curve of six on the small metal number of the weather beaten house had slithered to nine through a rusted nail and remained in that position for a few days, maybe longer. But to the watcher the number he saw was nine. On the day previous to the tragedy on Cherry Lane, the silver-plated number fell from a loose nail through the blow of heavy winds.

The messengers of Father Death came in the form of three paid thugs hired for their skill in the words of the lawless, ‘rubbing out’. They were brutes of the first order with the limited power of reasoning. They rode in their vehicle in the grey of early dawn carefully noting the numbers on Cherry Lane.

They had the detailed location of the snitch’s hideout and they figured in their stupidity that the man hired as watcher made a mistake in his sighting. “He said the house was on the left side of the street when he phoned. Louie ain’t much of a talker. Spotted no cops snooping around till eight. All he said it was nine on the left. Maybe he meant if we drove from other end of the street.”

They argued amongst themselves. “There is no number nine on this side of the street,” concluded one, “only that deserted wreck over there! No number on it.” Their eyes searched for the number on the nine Cherry Lane and the gaily-decorated numberplate was marked with nine. “Yeah, that’s it. No sign of the cops,” as they searched with their eyes. The chortled in the continuance of their remarks, “With such loot, the bigmouth is really living it up. Let’s go and ask the dearie where he stashed the rest of the moolah!” Without hesitation they parked their vehicle near their target and alighted from their vehicle.

Number NINE is the mark of sacrifice that saw its fulfillment on number nine Cherry Lane; it is the symbol of the beginning of the end that was witnessed in a past murderous act. The dwelling at number nine hides the secret of its mystery and defies solution by the authorities. The house numbered six was fated by destruction of fire, leaving its mark in the discarded bent metal plate of six lying of the ground. The body of its last occupant was found by chance in the following months secured in a weighted plastic bag at the bottom of nearby lake.

Number nine Cherry Lane is closed to the curious, but there were many that delighted in visiting the sight of the multiple murder and spelling out the details and the possible motive. The morbid onlookers decreased in the period of time till the dwelling of a promising future was left in its mourning.

But, if one listens carefully, one can hear the whispered cry in the flow of winds of a little girl calling out from a once daintily decorated bedroom the plaintive cry of “Mummy, Mummy”.

Copyright © 2003 by Norman A. Rubin