This is the second and concluding part of a mystery thriller begun by Shweta. Please click here for the first part.
The insistent ringing of phone brought back Deshpande from the dreamland. He looked at the watch and cursed. People don’t even let a soul rest on a weekend! Even God rested on Sabbath after creating the world! He picked up the phone, muttering obscenities. Before he could say hello, an irritated voice came over.
“Where the hell are you, Deshpande! I have been waiting for you since morning! Just come over to the police station. I’ve a surprise for you.”
“Bansal! It’s a Saturday!”, Deshpandeprotested, “A body need to have rest! I’ll be over there in half an hour.”
Bansal was sitting on his table in Yari Road police station with a slim blue file in his hand. He smiled broadly at Deshpande when he saw him.
“So, what’s the big news?” Deshpande said while sitting heavily in one of the woven chairs. “What made you drag an honest guy from his bed during the middle of the night on a weekend?”
“Middle of the night be damned! It’s nearly noon. Anyway, the Sharp Cut case has taken a nasty turn. The forensic and post-mortem reports are in. Here. Have a look.”He handed the file to Deshpande.
Deshpande rubbed his eyes and started reading it. He suddenly sat up from his slouched position and looked at Bansal incredulously.
“Yes. The cause of death is not dueto excessive hemorrhage through a lesion on upper limb as believed. It’s due to a massive internal injury in cranium.” Bansalsaid, enjoying the expression on Deshpande’s face. “Yes, she died due to a blow on her head and later the veins in her wrists were opened to give it a look of suicide.”
Deshpande kept the file back on the table, pickedup the tea glass, which a constable hadoffered him and mused, “It was a planned murder then and not a spur of the moment accident.” He looked up, “You will need to interrogate all the characters of this drama again, I guess.”
Bansal laughed self-importantly. “My friend, whilesome lazy guys wereenjoying their beauty sleep, the Protectors of Law and Order were hard at work to safeguard that sleep. Still we are never appreciated! You will be surprised to know that we havecracked the case and found the culprit, and he’s behind bars.”
“Reema’s boyfriend Rohan.”, Bansallit a cigarette under the no-smoking sign and continued, “He has admitted that he was with her the day before. also, he admitted that they fought because he wanted to start his career as a model choreographer and needed some cash. He’s nothing but a hopeless playboy. Reema denied to pay and called him a useless parasite. This caused him to flare up and theyfought. He killed her in anger.” Bansal explained, waving his lighted cigarette as a semaphore.
“Has he admitted this?”
“Do you expect him to?” Bansal laughed at the simplicity of his friend. “He has admitted to the fight. But, murder is something no one in their right mind admits easily. He can get hanged for that.That’swherewecomeinpicture.We have booked him under circumstantial evidence and are interrogating.”
Deshpande looked at his empty tea glass moodily and said, “Bansal, something doesn’t fit in! Rememberthat message in lipstick about killing her? If he’s the murderer, why would he write it with a lipstick? After all, a murderer doesn’t proclaim their intentions. And, why will a man use lipstick to write such a message? It can be a woman. Also, you said that it was a pre-meditated killing. And, by what he said, it was a flare up. How can he plan it then? Did you check his whereabouts at the time of murder?”
“Yes. He said that after the fight, he went to Hot Lips bar at Ville Parle and got drunk. He came back to his home at midnight and slept till noon the next day. according to the post-mortem reports, the death occurred at 1am. So, Rohan doesn’t have any alibi, as according to him he was sleeping his drinks off.He’s been singing that he didn’t kill her as it would be to his loss.”
“What he said makes sense in a way, you know! Did you check for other angles? May be jealousy or a love triangle and resulting revenge killing? Or, any other link, which we aren’t aware of? May be money as everyone knew that Reema was loaded. Possibly blackmail of some kind? You see, Bansal? This guy seems to have a motive, but in fact he doesn’t. Fights do happen, but they also make up. He would have gained by her life, not death. Furthermore, if he was a murderer, don’t you think that he would have a better alibi than saying that he was at home with no witnesses? What you have are simply circumstantial evidences and not proofs. I wouldn’t hang a dog on these evidences! Markmy words!” he prophesied, “The first magistrate on the Bench will grant him a bail.”
Bansal was thoughtful. Like all stubborn people, he didn’t want to change his mind once made, but in his job he couldn’t afford to be cocksure. He decided to summon each character of the drama again. The police around the world interrogate in what’s called in Bombay lingo a’Panchnama’. A person is made to give his statement to five different officers separately. The logic behind this is the ancient adage that ‘One doesn’t have to remember the truth’. If a person is lying, they will slip before one of the officers and contradict themselves. Also, it’s possible to miss some minor detail in one statement, which is unearthed in another. Bansal decided to conduct another Panchnama. He sent summons to everyone to be present in the evening.
Deshpande arrived at Yari Road police station inthe evening and saw Bansal already busy taking statements. He took a chair and sat in a corner inconspicuously and started doodling on his notepad. He also periodically kept referring to his notes, which were already jotted down on another sheet of his notepad. Bansal was focussing on their alibis at the time of crime. Nearly everyone stuck to their previous statements.The onlynew thingthey discovered was that Rajeev had come in the afternoon inthe salon with a portfolio of his client, inspite of his week-off and forgotten it there. Due to that, he missed the photoshoot that evening and had to conduct it the next day. Finally Sheetal Verma arrived and she repeated everything in her bored and fake husky voice. Deshpande stopped doodling and sat straighter.
“As I said earlier, I gave the spare key to Reema, so that she can simulate the style on the simulator and I returned home by 10pm. I had a shower and went to my room by midnight. AsI suffer from insomnia, I stay up late at nights, watching movies. On that day, I watched a movie till 2am and then slept. My servant is a witness to that.”
Bansal had already interrogated her servant, who vouched that his mistress was in her bedroom, watching a movie till early morning and, when he went in to deliver the morning tea at 6am, she was already up as usual and was waiting for him. Bansal scratched his head and ended the interrogation.
Deshpande cleared his throat and asked, “Ms Verma, since when are you in this salon business?”
She looked at the ungainly man lolling in a chair in the corner and answered as if doing a favor, “I don’t know what that has to do with this, but we started it three years ago and are one of the most sought after salon with the glitterati.”
“If I’m correct, the current market value of your salon, including the equipment and setup must be in excess of Rs 3 Cr. Do you have any partners or do you own it yourself.”
“I’m the sole proprietor.”
“Are you sure? I have the copy of your license, which I obtained from the Shops and Establishments department of Municipal Corporation, which says otherwise.” Deshpande waved a paper towards her.
The cool aplomb and panache of Sheetal was replaced by an agitation. When Deshpande repeated his question, she replied unwillingly, “Reema was a partner.” Sheadded hastily, “But, she wasn’t an active partner and didn’t care for the day to day running of the salon.”
“So, now after her death, you are the soul proprietor. Right?”
Sheetal didn’t say anything. Bansal was looking at her speculatively.
“Also, according to the evidence of Priya taken today, you had a flaring argument with her the day before her death. Which was one of many similar arguments, though nastier. Also, you omitted this in your statement to us. Isn’t this true?”
“Reema had a bad temper. However, it was a normal argument and I didn’t think it necessary to let you know as it has nothing to do at all with her death!”
Deshpande asked Bansal to summon her servant, who was already waiting in the reception area.
“What did you do that night, after Ms Verma went in her bedroom?”
“Sir, she went inside and locked the room. I could hear the sound of the TV as usual. She sleeps very less and sometimes is awake all night.”
“Did you see her yourself anytime between midnight and morning 6?”
“No sir. I just heard the sound of TV.” The scared servant repeated.
“So, if she left the house after midnight and returned before six, you wouldn’t have been aware. Right?”
Sheetal was panicked and swore that she didn’t leave the house for a minute. But, her credibility was seriously undermined. Bansal was looking at her keenly and said, “So, you left the house when your servant slept, murdered Reema and made it look like suicide and then sneaked back. That’s why you were awake when he brought you your morning tea. But, you forgot that message which you scribbled in anger, which gave away your intentions.”
“No!”, Sheetal was hysterical.”I didn’t kill her! I did write that note in frustration. I usually do that to vent out the bitterness in me. I have found that it cools me down. ButI didn’t kill her, I swear!” She broke down.
“I agree.”, Deshpande calmly stood up. “She’s not her killer, though even I was wondering, who wrote that note! Can we call Rajeev back?”
As soon as Rajeev sat in the chair, Deshpande thundered directly at him. “Why did you kill Reema?”
Very few people can keep a straight face when asked a direct question about something they want to hide and are secure in their belief that they are safe. Rajeev’s face lost its color, then he vehemently denied.
“Let me explain what you did, then we’d like you to fill in the gaps.”Deshpande stood over the hunk, who had suddenly lost his luster and looked weak and handicapped without his usual bravado. “You forgot your portfolio and were on the way to get the key from Sheetal, so that you can retrieve it. Then you suddenly remembered that Reema was supposed to be working late in the salon and you directly went there.
“You had some altercation about something and you pushed her. She fell and hit her head somewhere and died. You panicked initially and later decided to camouflage it as a suicide. You slit her veins, cleaned all your traces and left, to return the next morning, when the body was discovered. We have evidence of everything and just need to know why you did it.” Bansal gave a surprised look to Deshpande. Evidence?
Rajeev had a hunted look. “I didn’t mean to kill her! Reema was always a bad bitch. She always presented her best face to people, till she wanted to turn nasty. She had many arguments with nearly everyone over assignments. As she was one of the partners, she always threw her weight around and treated everyone as dirt. I had multiple arguments over my own clients with her.I was assigned a photoshoot with ArmanKhan, the superstar and she didn’t want it to be assigned to me.
“That night, when I reached there, she flatly told me that she’s going to reassign that project to someone else and asked me to leave the portfolio there. I already was upset and blew up at this bullying. She turned abusive when I requested her to leave the assignment to me. I lost my temper and pushed her hard. She fell against the table and didn’t get up. I realized that she was dead. My first thoughts were to run away, as no one had seen me coming there, but later I cooled down and decided to play safe.
“I remembered her arguments with Amar andtook out the scissors. I slit her wrists with that. She didn’t bleed much as she was already dead. I removed all the traces and left. I know that I killed her, but that was an accident and not a murder!” He looked pleadingly at both.
Deshpande said, “You were wrong when you thought no one saw you arriving. Your Yamaha RX1500 is quite popular in the locality and couple of kids saw it parked there at night. They remembered it as they had never seen the bike overnight.”
Rajeev was arrested for the murder of Reema and chargesheeted.
“One thing I can’t understand, Deshpande. What put you on him? I agree that even I didn’t like his attitude, but mere attitude is never a reason to get suspicious!”Everyone had left. Rajeev was in the lockup, waiting for Monday, so that he can be presented in the court.
“One thing rankled in my mind. He said that he left his portfolio the day before. The morning the body was discovered, we didn’t find any portfolio. Also, Rajeev came after us and didn’t look for any portfolio himself. We know that he hated anyone else touching his belongings. He himself said that. Now, the only logical answer was, he already had come and taken that portfolio. Now the question was when? A little inquiry revealed that his bike was parked outside on the night of murder. Which meant that he was there. Rest was a simple application of psychology.”Deshpande smiled self importantly. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to get some sleep. And, I’ll be grateful to you, if you don’t wake me up again in midnight.”
And he lumbered away.
Shweta Dave is one of the ace bloggers, specializing in emotional fictions, short stories, poems… you name it!
This story is her brainchild. She wrote the First Part and then turned the helm to me. I just hope that I didn’t sink the boat!