Murder in the Hills

Murder in the Hills

The moon spied from above, its rays sneaking past the thick blanket of forested trees.
She bent down, and wedged herself between two rocks.
Her feet, slightly wobbly, after a struggle implanted themselves onto the gravel pathway.
Near exhausted by the tow hour uphill climb, her stomach was as hollow as the insides of emptied out nuclear reactor.
Three hours had elapsed past Cinderella hour, and Priti hadn’t had a morsel of food.
Ditto water.
She unfastened her backpack, extricated the bottle of water she had bought just outside Ooty Railway Station and ravenously gulped its remaining contents.
It was when she was zipping her military green bag that her eyes fell on the photo album.
She dipped a hand and scooped it.
In the near dark, and against the glow of the cigarette lighter’s flame, she flipped through the pages.
A sepia toned images came alive.
It was of a man and a woman. The man was around 52 and completely bald, his face smiling and heavily bearded.
He had his arm around a woman, who looked not a day over 25, her face, fair and dimpled, and her eyes, two black buttons, and twinkling brighter than a million stars.
The two were smiling into the camera.
A tear dropped from Priti’s eyes as she intently scoured the man’s face, nimble fingers caressing his thick lips.
Then, she looked at the young woman beside him.
A sigh escaped her lips.
Gosh! how much had she aged in the past 5 years, Priti wondered.
Was that what love does she to you?
Or, was that what losing in love does to you?
The howl of a dog afar eased her from the pain of figuring out the right answer.
With a vehement shake of her head she snapped the album shut, thrust it deep into the folds of her bag, zipped, and stood up.
Beyond the valley ahead, she knew, stood a lone bungalow.
The house that housed her enemy.
The man she had come to kill.
With firm steps, she strode ahead, unmindful of the cold that attached itself to her skin like a godzillion famished leeches.

The climb uphill had been not without its troubles.
Yet, Priti, as city bred as she were, had managed admirably.
In a little over two hours, she had somehow hacked her past the dense overgrowth, and strode forward, her weaponry nothing a high beam torch and oodles of energy and a deep knowing resolve.
She was a woman possessed and her eyes only eyed the target.
The target itself was a bungalow, a quaint Victorian era bungalow nestled in the back of  beyond of  Nilgiri Hills.
Separated from civilisation, the dwelling was an ideal getaway;  a haven, a refuge far from the madding crowd, the nearest human inhabitation being no less than two kilometers afar.
Priti extricated a binocular, placed it towards the direction of the bungalow and looked into the viewfinder.

The living room came alive; not a soul to be sighted.
Ditto, the other two rooms, plus the kitchen area.
She squatted down, shifted the focus.
This time she struck gold.
Priti squinted her eyes and peered.
And what she saw warmed the cockles of her heart.
Her prey was visible, albeit barely.
She could spot his back,  quite clearly his bald pate.

A smile creased her lips.
She slowly got up, then, stealthily made her way towards it.
It would be another 10 minutes before she would be there, a mere six feet away from her target.
And another two minutes before she would have fulfilled her mission.
And an hour later when she had boarded the morning out of Ooty, Miss Priti Sachdeva aka Sunshine was smiling, her beautiful face as bright as sunshine itself.

In the Murugan household, Muthulakshmi was usually the last person to go to bed.
It made sense considering that there were only two people residing in the eponymously named Murugans Abode.

And as was her won’t, after she had cleared the dining table, washed the two plates and two cups,  and exited the kitchen, she had walked past the living room, and peeped into the study.
It was a Saturday, and she knew Murugan would be sitting at his chair, and smoking, or penning another chapter of his work in progress maiden  novel.
She gently closed the  door; she needn’t disturb him, deep as he were jn his thoughts, and

That was the last she saw of her husband. It would  be a good eight later that she would see him again.
And she would see him seated on his favourite wicker chair by the window, his eyes affixed at the garden outside, and even beyond at the distant hills, a shell shocked expression marring on a heavily criss crossed visage.


“Sir, how did you solve manage to solve this murder so soon?”

Detective Chacko flicked open his Zippo lighter and lit his pipe with a flourish.
Then, inhaling deeply, he blew concentric circles into the damp air.
As the smoke bellowed and hit the teak wood roof, the air suddenly acquired a tinge of warmth.

The ace cop, 67 and retired, looked benignly at his understudy, and smiled as only he could- a slow as a snail barely there curve of thick lips, the lower left cheek suddenly morphing into a perfect dimple.

Then, the much venerated sleuth elaborated expansive.

“You see the postmortem made it clear it was death inflicted by a blunt edged weapon on the right temple. We found the victim’s blood all over the place, adjacent to the chair where he was found slumped forward.

The place is very secluded and so far from the neared road that even if one were to shout all one would hear was one’s voice bouncing back- the echo reverberating all over the dense hills.

I spoke to the victim’s wife, and she told me that the deceased  her husband was an avid reader. She said that an entire 6-volume of Shakespeare’s works were missing from the bookshelf. I found that quite intriguing. She also revealed one another thing. She said that she the night of the crime, at around 3 in the early hours, she had heard a faint sound. At first she had dismissed it as merely the rustling of the numerous pine tree leaves that abutted their house. But the next morning when she had walked into the study and found her husband dead, she said the sound was plausibly of the windchimes_ a distinct melodious slow cadence. That set me thinking. I started thinking that the killer, whoever it was, was known to the victim. I gathered some facts about the dead man from his wife. Got to know that the couple, who were childless, had bought this place after the man’s  retirement. That he had worked in the Accounts Section of Karnataka State Services Department in Bengaluru for the past 30 years. Something stirred in my head and I then drove down to the railway station and checked the CCTV.
I found that the earliest train the morning of the murder was the 5 am Chennai-Bengaluru Express that had a 3 minute halt at Ooty. I extricated the passenger list, and found that the lone traveller to board that train from Ooty was a certain Ms. P. Sachdeva.

Armed with that love information, I headed to Bengaluru and made some discreet inquiries.
And that’s when I discovered some crucial information. I found that the Murugan had a five year long affair with Priti who too worked innthe same department and was his secretary. From then on, it was quite easy. Thanks to several physical evidences such as the killer’s leave request application, train bookings, her Ren mihyte halt at a hill top tea shack a mere 100 metres from Murugan’s house, and her finger prints on the windchimes  she accidentally touched while ducking under the dead man’s window all pointed towards only one thing: the killer was Priti Sachdeva, Murugan’s ex-lover.”

Elangovan, the 21 year trainee constables eyes wearing a look that was of unabashed admiration bordering on idolation.
Chacko merely smiled and walked out to light yet another pipe.


Barrack No. 2

Yes, I killed him. I killed him because I loved him. I loved him so much that he left me with no choice but to kill him. How do you kill a man you love so much, you may ask. To that I say that when it is the power of love that allows bestows you with the power of hate. Love and hate. Hat and love. They are two sides of the same coin. I loved my boss Murugan. He was kind, very affectionate, and very lusty. I liked me, loved me, liked and loved my body as well. We had a most  beautiful five years of togetherness.. He even promised to marry me. He said he would  divorce his wife and marry me. Foolish me, I believed him! Trusted him and loved him. Gave him my all. My mind, body and soul. Then he wanted no more of me. Said I was a mistake. Ditched me and went back to his wife. I had no choice but to teach him a lesson he would remember all his life…oops all his after life.”

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Neel Anil Panicker
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