We sat around the table, playing a game of Monopoly. Eleanor, Sophie, Anita,Kate and I. Kate had invited us all over, and since we all had gathered together after about 10 yrs, gossips and secrets were everywhere. Or so it seemed, from the atmosphere.

Kate, who had gone to the kitchen to get us glasses of wine, was dressed stylishly in her orange wrap dress. She was just as bubbly and fun, as I remembered her from our old days in Paris.
Anita was still the nerdy girl, using every pause in-between the game, to read some Agatha Christie novel she had found in Kate’s library.
Ele was wearing a hideous dress, something with violet flowers and yellow leaves. She had never gotten along that well, with Sophie, and the tension was still there between them. All this because Soph had fallen in love with Ele’s boyfriend, and he had unfortunate-ly liked her too. James was an idiot , and why these two had liked that guy, God only knows.

Despite not studying in the same colleges, we had shared an apartment, the 5 of us, but I still didn’t understand these girls sometimes.

The game went on for hours. I was intent on winning as usual, but Anita was winning, despite the book and all. She was also having some intense conversation with Soph, something about a house in London that they both wanted to buy. Anita’s husband was crazy about that house and was even willing to pay twice the original amount, or so it seemed. Soph as usual wasn’t going to back down, now that she saw how much Tina wanted it.

I finished my glass of wine and had started drinking from Kat’s. Tina hadn’t touched her’s ,I think. I was sleepy as it is from the jet lag of flying over from Dubai and wasn’t as attentive as I usually was.
Soph kept making these annoying chewing noises. Damn Ele for giving her biscuits .It was that awful chewy sort of ones which none of us liked except dear old Soph who would eat anything.

I think it was around 4 when Sophie fell down from her seat. I had just then got a text from Ron so I remember checking the clock to see what time it was, back in Dubai. All of us rushed over to her. She was gasping for breath and muttering something that sounded like “Fey”. Made no sense to me. Only Fey I knew was Tina Fey.
Poor Soph then collapsed, and I couldn’t find a pulse or anything. My MD in Cardiology seemed to be useless, if I couldn’t even save my friend.

Everything was a blur after that. Hospital, and then the verdict ‘ Death due to sudden heart attack’. All of us stayed till the funeral, and then left for different parts of the world. We didn’t stay in touch. It was all too painful to think of.

——————————————————————————————————————————–

My first reaction on hearing Layla’s description of what happened that day, was that nearly everyone had motives to kill that girl or the opportunity. And also that we had agreed to look into this only because Layla, after nearly 20 years, had thought that maybe Sophie hadn’t had a heart attack, maybe it had been murder. So basically we had only her description of what had happened that day to go by. We hadn’t even been able to find the others. Not even the file from the hospital about details on Sophie’s body. This was going to be one hard case.

Layla saw us to the door, saying she had a flight to catch. With her jeans, leather jacket and her aviators, she sure was pretty, despite her obvious age.

As I discussed the case with the new detective they had sent from London, something stuck me. Being a cardiologist, that too an expert, the doctors from the hospital must have taken Layla’s word for everything back then. Wait a minute, it’s even possible she knew how to induce a heart attack, and make it look like it had happened naturally. Layla could have been the one to murder her, for all we know. It was going to be an uphill task, but I was going to study every aspect of this case.

A week later the headlines, ‘ Layla Hamid, well known cardiologist, known as The Prankster among her friends, passes away after succumbing to cancer’, gave me a shock. She must have known she was going to die soon. Maybe that’s why after all these years she had decided to tell her story to someone.

Mr Kaplan, the detective, was going on and on about something else altogether. Layla’s vast book collection or something. Authors like Dan Brown, Sophie Kinsella, Eion Colfer, Anita Shreve, Agatha Christie… long list. Oh lord!!

“Kaplan, is there any connection to any of these books, and the names Kate and Eleanor ?”

“Why do you ask?? I guess Eleanor is the lead character of that book Eleanor and Park, that Lalya had been reading that day”” Kate I don’t know… the only Kate who I have heard of recently, is the one who married the prince and is all over the news at the moment”.

It all came back to me. The biscuits her dog had been eating, the painting of the violet flowers with yellow leaves in her corridor, the monopoly game on her dining table that day, an unfinished game or something she had said… Even the orange walls of her room, and the glass memento she had received from some hospital in Dubai that she had once worked in.

The Prankster, had played one last prank, a brilliant one at that.

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