The Arrant Closure

The Arrant Closure


Fifteen years ago, Elephant-head point, Mahabaleshwar

He stared at the vast expanse of the Sahayadri range, the beauty mesmerizing as the hills played hide and seek with the overbearing fog. He smiled, waiting for Yamini, his classmate, and crush for the last two years. The newfound freedom on turning an adult last week was to yield fruit. 

A robust chilly draft swayed him, the quavers feeling like an unexpected brush of a moth’s wing. He was irked by the strange tingling sensation, consistent ever since their college group had arrived at the picturesque hill station a couple of days ago. 

The approaching footsteps became audible in the breezy discordance. Was Yamini here already?

His ravenous yearning in tandem with his racing heart came to a sudden halt when he saw who it was.

He was furious, but before he could react, the hand hiding behind the intruder’s heavy overalls emerged with something resembling a hammer. Even before he could select between the fight or flight options, the hand came down heavily on his head. He felt the cracking of his skull before the flooding of his face by the gush of gore.

The final kick to his abdomen sent him flying down the ravine, his scream lodged somewhere in his throat as he lugged towards his doom.

Chapter 1


The past has tapped me on the shoulder
The memory rush meant to be pleasant
Why does it feel I am not cognizant
But bogged down by a giant boulder?

Fortis hospital, Mulund, Mumbai. 

Raghav Jindal walked towards the I.C.U., on the eighth floor of the enormous hospital. The waiting area was a sea of the men in the camouflaged combat uniform. The Army had explicitly requested for the Crime Branch. 

“Jindal, we have only 3 days. Use all the workforce and expertise….” The D.C.P. had bellowed into his ears, waking him from a disturbed slumber early that morning. 

He had just wound up a case and was supposed to go on a short vacation with his girlfriend of five years, Ramya, but unfortunately, duty called again. Ramya was with the forensics and knew the perils of his job with the Crime Branch, but a woman had dreams too. At 33, they weren’t very young, and every step he took towards the I.C.U. bogged him down with guilt. Both, for Ramya and the man lying comatose in there.

He saluted the man in charge of security. Nodding, he walked inside unimpeded and looked through the glass separating him from the sterile unit. 

The doctor emerged getting rid of his sterile scrubs sanitising his hands.

“How is he doctor?” Raghav knew it sounded more rhetoric than ever.

“Captain Sudhir Mishra is precariously vacillating between life and death. We have induced coma to reduce the swelling in the brain caused by the impact of whatever hit him.” the doctor spoke, staring at the supine form of the man in question.

Captain Mishra lay mummified with bandages blending with the white walls. The ventilator stuck out out of his mouth, a mute spectator to his fight with death. 

Raghav walked out to murmurs, and a shrill voice he would identify anywhere greeted him.

“Raghav…? Oh my God, is that you?” 

He hadn’t had his morning cuppa. Was his head playing games or the hospital antiseptic redolence affecting his senses? He only stared at the beautiful petite Sunaina.

Sunaina Mishra, his classmate and long-time crush from school, furiously blinked away her tears. 

“Su…Sunaina. What are you…? Wait… Do you know Captain Mishra?”

“He… he is my older brother….” Sunaina wailed, the tears streaming unhindered down her cheeks even as she irascibly wiped them away.

“Don’t worry, Sunaina, I will get the perp to justice,” Raghav muttered and walked away towards the elevator. 

Emotions he had thought were hibernating forever in the deepest crevices of his heart, were all competing to come to the forefront. The elevator doors shut, and as he descended, he wondered what was on in Sunaina’s life. She had been a coy girl with pale skin endowed with a sprinkling of rare freckles. A paradox personified, she had once had saved him from a couple of bullies, and Raghav had been amazed at her strength and agility. 

She barely spoke to anyone in the class and often remained absent for days together and Raghav, always helped her with the missed syllabus. He later got to know Sunaina liked his best friend, Aman. Raghav had been heartbroken, but then on he had stayed away from her, finally transferring away after tenth grade. 

The click-clack tone of the elevator doors opening on the ground floor brought him back to the present. He smiled at the little flutter in his heart as he strode towards the Crime Branch’s makeshift corner office in the hospital premises, built to work round the clock. 

Sipping the bitter steaming concoction rendered by the coffee machine he took updates from his deputy.

“So, what’s up? We only have 36 hours.”

Chapter 2

I jumped on the romantic bandwagon
Anticipation exciting me while she was shy
Sleeping carnal embers blew alive wanton
But alas, there is always more than what meets the eye.

Day 1

Raghav was on his tenth cup of the filthy brew. Three hours had passed, and he had tried to figure out the circumstantial evidence, his mind often wandering to the enigmatic beauty probably weeping upstairs. 

Raghav was a prolific record-keeper, in-charge of maintaining the national criminal database, and his elephant’s memory was a part of every meeting’s grapevine. 

After hours of thinking hard, Raghav zeroed in on two other cases with similar modus operandi. 

In the next hour, the tiny office smoke-filled as Raghav puffed away to glory engrossed in the case files. 

The current case had garnered tremendous media attention. A decorated Army officer was attacked when he vacationed at his home in Mumbai when his sister had been away at the local market. Was it a robbery gone wrong? It didn’t seem plausible for a person well trained in combat since there seemed to be a single perp. There was no CCTV footage available in their wing and no one in the housing society claimed to see anyone suspicious. 

Raghav’s strong investigator instincts told him this was just the tip of the iceberg. 

“Sir…” Raghav answered the buzzing phone from the DCP. “… I have found two cases resembling this one and need the permissions to access further details and re-investigate them if needed.”

“That would be time-consuming, Jindal. Besides, those cases happened years ago. We need to find the perp ASAP…”

Raghav had emailed the requirements to Ramya. He checked his inbox; she had sent what he wanted. He knew she was upset and decided to make it up to her soon. 

Ramya had retrieved the detailed information for the two cases he had requested.

Case 1(2009, July): Dr. Aniruddh Ranganathan, 49-year-old psychiatrist from Porur, Chennai. Hit on the head with a heavy object, suspected to be a hammer, killed immediately on impact. No fingerprints and nothing in his home clinic seemed to be missing. Dr. Bansal was a bachelor and had a good social standing because of his philanthropic endeavors. Most of his patients vouched for him—no evidence of threats. 

Case 2 (2009, December): Kalyan Kutti, 30-year- old, alcoholic who worked in the renowned Sri Sai Mental institution in Chennai, whenever sober. He was killed in a dark alley behind the institution; body discovered two days later in the drain, bloated beyond recognition. Post mortem revealed a hit on the head with a heavy object, the impact disabling him and he was probably too inebriated to realise what had happened. It wasn’t clear if he had fallen or been pushed into the drain.

Raghav hadn’t bothered much about these cases to date. They were just a statistic in his mental folder. 

However, he knew there was a connection between those cases and the captain lying comatose. If the perp was common, the guy had to have incredible strength and good knowledge of stealth to catch his victim unawares. 

The guy also had to know both Ranganathan and Kutti and probably captain Mishra. But what on earth was the connection between the victims? He texted Ramya and his subordinates to dig in more and recheck the statements received from people around the two dead men. 

“Also, check out…” He told her. “… the list of people who last met the doctor.”

Chapter 3

The forbidden fruit tastes the sweetest
Once close-up and personal, the spoils we detest.

Day 2

Raghav met up with the Army guys to update them. As he returned to the elevator, Sunaina joined him.

The doors shut, and the capacious elevator interior was filled with her classic vanilla scent sending him down the memory lane in school. Sunaina, dressed in her fitting sweatshirt, moved closer to Raghav.

“Raghav, please find the person responsible for this. My brother is all I have in this world and…” She moved closer, almost touching him.

“Relax, Sunaina…” Raghav interrupted her, holding her shoulders. “…you have to trust me. Alright?” 

Why was the eight-floor descent so damn slow?

She suddenly moved away as the ground floor arrived, her body language different from moments ago. She started at the doors till they opened and briskly strode out of the elevator. 

Raghav sighed and walked towards the office. He had left his mobile phone behind and now 25 missed calls awaited his attention, most of them from Ramya, who had plunged into the investigation using all her resources. She was an ace with computers and left no stone unturned to get him the needed details. 

As he called Ramya, Raghav wondered about Sunaina. Something about her demeanor irked him.

“Hello, Ramya?” 

“Raghav, you should know this…” Ramya’s excited voice breezed through the earpiece giving him the calm he always found with her. “…guess who met our doctor on that fateful day… it was captain Mishra. There is no evidence of any scheduled appointment, but he had visited nonetheless. I got hold of the entry register and wondered why the name was skipped or maybe because he was an Army guy so automatically out of the suspicion boundaries.”

Raghav felt the adrenaline rush that happened whenever he was close to cracking a case. He had been right all along about the connection. 

“That’s amazing, Ramya. See if it’s possible to find people who can remember anything out of the ordinary on the day the doctor was murdered. Check into the other guy…”

“…I was about to get to that Raghav…” Ramya interrupted. “…Kalyan Kutti had been employed as the doctor’s driver when the latter was murdered.” The call was disconnected, yet Raghav held the receiver to his ears.


But the questions remained. Why did Captain Mishra need a psychiatrist? 

Raghav set the query in motion, and the Army responded in his defence immediately. Captain Mishra was a revered officer, compassionate, and patriotic to the core. He was to take up voluntary retirement soon, citing family reasons.

Family reasons?

The letters on the monitor stared back at Raghav. Captain Mishra was unmarried, and Sunaina was his only living family. So, what was it that called for early retirement when his career was looking up? 

His phone buzzed. It was Ramya again.

“Raghav, this just came in. I connected with the old investigating officer who suggested something, but at that time, he didn’t feel it was relevant enough.”

What is it?” Raghav’s curiosity was reaching increasing heights every passing moment

“The officer said, Captain Mishra had visited the local police in Mahabaleshwar then and asked about a guy named Aman Chopra who had passed years ago. Fifteen years now to be precise, and Raghav… this Aman was…”

“…My classmate… my best friend….” Raghav completed her statement choking on his words. 

He was suddenly thrown back to that monsoon years ago when he had got the news of Aman’s passing. Since he couldn’t face Sunaina he didn’t attend the funeral, a fact he always regretted. She had been heartbroken and disappeared soon after Aman’s death. 


Oh, Goodness gracious… was it…? No…NO NO NO … it couldn’t be, could it?

Chapter 4

The pack of cards may tumble
Bursting your affiliation bubble
It ain’t essential what hand you’re dealt with,
Cards now open up, destroying your myth.

Day 3

Raghav hadn’t slept for about 48 hours, relying on caffeine overdoses. He was sure that his post mortem would reveal the brownish concoction rather than blood flowing his veins if he passed here. 

Pressure was mounting up and he needed concrete evidence.

He obtained Aman’s post mortem report, but it wasn’t much. The body had been maimed beyond recognition given the height from which he had fallen to his death. But what was Aman a cautious individual, doing on that dangerous point? 

Raghav caught up with his old friends who were there in that ill-fated college trip. 

Towards the end of the evening, one of the old classmates recalled an argument in the resort corner between Aman and Sunaina. He hadn’t heard the details, but Aman had stormed away, and Sunaina had been seething in anger. The following day Aman had fallen to his death. 

The final nail in that coffin came from another call to Aman’s supposed love interest Yamini.

“Hi Raghav, Aman spoke a lot about you…” Yamini spoke sombrely. “…We were… dating in secret. That morning in Mahabaleshwar, he had invited me to come to that hill point. Unfortunately, I got delayed because of a phone call but… I just wish I had gone earlier. I would have probably saved him…” Yamini sniffled back tears.

“Sorry about that, Yamini. As his best friend from school, I should have been in touch too…but, I feel he didn’t fall. He was probably pushed.”

Yamini gasped. “Why would someone want to kill Aman? He didn’t have enemies.”

“Are you sure, Yamini? I heard he argued with Sunaina the previous evening.” Raghav laid the bait.

“Oh, that bitch… she had been stalking Aman for a while. But… you think she, did it?”

The call ended with Raghav promising Yamini to update her on the progress in Aman’s case.

He picked up his phone.

“Ramya, check the patient list of Dr. Ranganathan in detail. Check for anyone with the surname Mishra or S.M as initials… or any pseudo name.” Raghav waited with bated breath as Ramya scanned the document in her possession.

“I am not sure if this helps. There are a few aliases to protect patients’ identities if needed. But this name stands out… ‘angelic optics.’”

“What was the age and diagnosis?” Raghav’s heart threatened to race out of his chest confines.

21-year-old female, diagnosed with long standing bipolar disorder*. Instances of violent behaviour were reported during her sessions. A few of her sessions were not recorded, which is strange because the doctor had meticulous records. It means…”

“…the records were destroyed.” Raghav concluded. For the first time in his career, his heart fell on cracking the case successfully.

Everything about Sunaina fell into place like a completed jigsaw puzzle. Her absence from school, her mood swings, her bizarre behaviour, drug-induced strength etc. 

The lone question remained, WHY?

Raghav devised a plan to get the revelation from the horse’s mouth. The Army investigators agreed to cooperate as well.

The same night at 3 AM, Raghav waited in the dark corner in the special room where Captain Mishra had been moved, the lone-rhythmic ventilator beeps, indicating the man was still breathing. Everyone was informed that Captain Mishra had woken up and would be first seeing the Crime Branch officials the following day to give his statement.

Raghav struggled with his sleep-deprived body but he had to do this. He owed it to Aman.

The door creaked open and a dark silhouette against the dim night light walked in slowly. Raghav’s heart stopped as he saw the person hurry towards the plugs and switch them off, causing the buzzer to ring.

Right then, Raghav switched on the lights and held the blanket-covered intruder even as the doctors kept on stand-by rushed in. Raghav dragged the struggling encroacher outside to the waiting investigating officials and removed the blanket to reveal a furious Sunaina.

“You bastard… you planned all this, didn’t you?” She hit his shoulder making him wince.

“Why Sunaina… why did you kill them…?” Raghav found his voice cracking.

“They were assholes who took advantage of me….” Sunaina began her tirade staring into oblivion, her face devoid of emotions. “…Aman used me to make Yamini jealous, knowing I was in love with him. I punished him aptly. Doctor Ranganathan was a good guy, but he found out about my tryst with Aman’s death during one of our sessions. He wanted me to surrender… can you beat that? I had to get rid of him. That driver, he read my reports clandestinely and blackmailed me. He didn’t know what hit him…”

“…Why your brother then…?” Raghav had to get the final answer.

“…brother?” Sunaina creepily chuckled. “…He wanted me to come clean. He was to retire and pursue this. Why Raghav? Why did you all ditch me?” Sunaina wailed and held his collars, shaking him violently.

The hospital authorities dragged her away. She was sedated and placed under protective custody, handcuffed to the bed.

Raghav rubbed his face even as Ramya rushed towards him. He pulled her towards him hugging her close, digging his fatigued face in the crook of her neck. He had never been sadder…


A week later

Raghav looked at Ramya beaming at the picturesque scenery on the famed Elephant-head point in Mahabaleshwar, the breeze blowing her unruly curls across her face. He took out a tiny box and went on his knee as Ramya gasped.

“Ramya, will you marry me?”

Even as Ramya agreed he offered a silent prayer looking upwards to the vast expanse of the cerulean sky.

Aman was probably smiling from up there….
Author notes:
*Bipolar disorder: bipolar disorder, formerly referred to as manic depressive illness, is a mood disorder with two extremes: depressed (“low”) and manic (“high”). It varies in severity, and mild cases may appear ordinary for many years. Symptoms vary; a person may be predominantly depressed, or predominantly manic. In between episodes, a person is likely to be quite well and able to function.
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2 thoughts on “The Arrant Closure

  1. It was a very engrossing story. The couplets in between was a wonderful touch.
    Just a couple of places I thought a few cliches were used ( puffed away to glory), but that’s just nitpicking

  2. What a brilliantly penned story… Nail biting.. You kept us engrossed till the end.. It actually felt like reading a novel 👌👌❤

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