The visitor was dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, and smelt of expensive perfume. The visitor’s presence in such a squalid Lower-Income Group locality looked odd. The visitor said with folded arms, “Namaste. I came to meet your son Venkat, who is my son’s friend.”
Narayan Murthy looked at the well-manicured fingers and noted the diamond ring. The visitor was definitely lying. Murthy worked as a sweeper in the Municipality. His good-for-nothing son Venkat can’t be a friend to the son of such an affluent, decent-looking person.
“Ohh… Thank you for coming Saar!” Venkat folded his hands in respect. Irrespective of gender or age, he addressed people who looked superior to him, with a Saar.
Then he added without a trace of remorse, “But perhaps you do not know that he died three months back. The bike he had stolen, met with an accident!”
“Oh, I am sorry to hear that.” The visitor said.
“No, Don’t be. That rascal brought me only shame.” Murthy responded with regret. “If he has done anything wrong to you or your family, kindly faargiv him, Saar.”
The visitor looked at the folded hands, and then departed without saying anything more.
Inspector G.P. Rao was at the crime scene. He was short, plump, and as dark as coal – to be truthful, a few shades lighter than coal. Yet in the social meets of the Police department, the Raos’ scored comfortably above the mean; thanks to his fair and beautiful wife Jaya. Despite all his shortcomings, Rao was an indulgent father who adored his only son Kannan, who has taken after his mother, and was tall, fair, and handsome.
Rao was a promotee and was just a few years away from retirement. Timid and mousy, he was content that his Lingampalli police station had registered only a few cognizable offences. But now this dead body was going to spoil everything.
The body was lying on the cobblestones inside the gate. An umbrella was lying beside the body. Lying nearby, was also an empty hypodermic syringe with some brownish remains.
“Sir, look at the grass around. There is no sign of any struggle. I think it is a case of suicide.” Head Constable Narayan Reddy said.
“Narayan Gaaru” Rao snapped at his deputy, mockingly using words of respect, “Did I ask for your opinion?”
Rao turned to the housekeeper Ram Pratap, “You informed the Police at 6 a.m.. Right? When did you discover the body?”
“As I said earlier Sir, I got up from the bed in the morning and walked towards the gate. I spotted the body and found that the person is dead, I called the Police”
Ram Pratap had already been grilled by the policemen. A native of Bihar, he has been with the Naidu household for two decades. The house belonged to the Naidus who lived in the US.
“What is the umbrella doing here?” Rao muttered. With his acquired stern cop-voice that was meant to frighten the wrong-doers, he growled, “Do you recognize this umbrella? Have you seen it before?”
“I don’t know about this umbrella, Sir, but I have seen similar umbrellas before.” Ram Prasad replied.
“The parents had sent a set of six such umbrellas for Miss Twinkle. She would frequently lose her umbrellas at school, shops, or parks.” Ram Pratap replied with deep sadness, “They had planned to take Mataji and Twinkle to the US. But due to bad luck, the couple met with a car accident in the US. Twinkle’s father died in the accident and her mother was severely injured.”
By that time the Forensic team had completed their crime-scene formalities and the body had been picked up. The ground where the body lay had been marked with a white outline and the area was cordoned off with the usual three-inches wide yellow police barrier warning tape.
The next day, sitting at his table in the police station Rao was in deep thoughts. The Forensic report was yet to be delivered but he came to know that the death was caused by an overdose of drugs administered through an intravenous injection. The syringe had only the fingerprints of the deceased. It couldn’t be ascertained with certainty that the death was a suicide by intention or accident.
“Sir, here’s something interesting.” Head Constable Reddy began in excitement, “I was wondering why it looked so familiar. Five years ago, at the same place, there was a brutal murder of a young girl and her grandmother. I have brought the file too. Kindly see.” He placed the dusty file on Rao’s desk.
The case was about four years old. The occupants of Naidu Villa, a grandmother, and her young granddaughter were stabbed to death. The thieves entered after breaking a window, looted the valuables, and when the old lady raised an alarm, they stabbed her. Meanwhile, the young girl opened the door and ran towards the gate. She was carrying an umbrella as if to defend herself with it. The killers caught her before she could open the gate, and stabbed her. The umbrella was found lying next to her dead body.
The Police found the break-in attempt from the window to be a work of amateurs. They concluded that the thieves killed the occupants of the house in panic and fled from the scene.
In the early hours, the Police rounded up three juveniles who were driving a stolen car. The Police had received the report of the car theft at around 11 PM. However, the Police could not recover any valuables or the murder weapons from the juveniles.
Later the Sessions Court reprimanded the Police for their shoddy investigations and lapses, noting especially the absence of blood spots on the clothes of the accused. The non-recovery of any valuables or the murder weapon to connect the accused with the crime, also invited the judge’s ire.
The only charge that the Police could prove was the theft of the vehicle. The Court ordered the juveniles to be placed in Juvenile Home for a period of three years or till they attain majority, whichever was earlier.
In the morning, Inspector Rao gave a few instructions to his staff, and asked Reddy for a visit to the Juvenile Home.
In the evening they were again sitting on their respective seats brainstorming on the case.
“Sir, isn’t it amazing that K.N. Premnath, the leader of the juvenile gang committed suicide barely a week after his release! That too at the same spot he was alleged to have committed a murder!” Reddy said.
“And what if it was not a suicide?” Inspector Rao retorted, “Now go to the addresses of the two remaining ex-juveniles and report back.”
It was 9:40 PM when Rao received the call from Reddy. Rao was annoyed at being disturbed from watching his favorite TV serial while having dinner with his wife Jaya and son Kannan.
“Sir, one of them Venkat, died three months back. The other fellow P.V. Krishnaiyah is untraceable. His parents said that he did not return home after being released from the Home.” Reddy gave his summarized report.
“We have to locate Krishnaiyah. If it was not suicide, then his life may be in danger.” Rao said.
“Sir, there’s another point. The dead boy Venkat’s father said that someone has had come to his house asking about his son –”
An impatient Rao cut him off, “Didn’t I tell you to look for Krishnaiyah? Forget those who are dead. You have to find this fellow Krishnaiyah ASAP. We will discuss the rest tomorrow.” Rao ended the call.
It was 6 A.M. when the Lingampalli Police Station received a call. The call was forwarded from the Police Control Room.
It was Ram Pratap who informed the Police Helpline, “Sir, I want to report another dead body. It is lying at the same spot as yesterday.”
It was 8:45 AM. The wide-bodied Boeing 777-300ER of the Emirates flight EK-225 for San Francisco had just taken off from Dubai.
Sudha Naidu was sitting in the wide Business Class seat that could recline as a fully-flat bed. She regretted her decision to wear a business suit, as jeans and a T-shirt would have been more comfortable for the 16-hours flight.
Last night, she had taken the late-night Emirates EK-530 flight from Hyderabad. Despite spending the layover of about 6 hours at the exclusive Emirates Business Class Lounge at Dubai airport, she still felt tired and haggard, as she spent the time with a heavy-leaden heart and tears that trickled all night as she wept silently
The plane reached its designated altitude and the sillage from her perfume soothed her nerves. Her mind felt clearer and her conscience lighter. She felt like a man who had finally immersed the ashes of her mother and daughter in the Ganges.
Disclaimer: This story is entirely a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is purely coincidental.
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