And He Wanted Me Dead - 2
Continued from “The Deadly Highway”
10th July 2010; 10.30am
It was the usual scorching day. More than the heat it was the humidity which was killing. The hot blowing wind actually pierced the face and reached straight into the brain. The body burnt, so much so that some of the drops of sweat that were evaporating were leaving behind a peculiar strong odor, the kind one gets when one irons slightly moist clothes. Conditions were really inhumane. It was the beginning of the day and not even a single stray dog could be seen roaming on the streets. However, inspector Raj and three other constables were huddled together in a moving oven on four wheels and were going on an empty patch of road leading toward the address of the deceased, which they had got from the Road Transport Authority.
“Whew! I wish I was born in a foreign country. At least they have air-conditioned police cars there,” blurted Tiwari, one of the constables.
Inspector Raj looked at him coolly and with a wry smile on his face remarked, “Sure, you could have been born in Bangladesh or Pakistan or even Uganda, they are also foreign countries. Be thankful to God for what you have and stop complaining.” At least one thing was for sure that inspector Raj had his sanity and sense of humor intact despite the harsh conditions.
Soon they reached their destination. The building, they were facing was not very old and seemed to be in an impeccable condition. There was a small nursery school next door where the kids were creating a ruckus. The moment they saw the police car and the posse disembarking from it, they fell silent. Their innocent eyes were asking a million questions. Most of these kids were fed with terrifying police tales by their parents to discipline them, thus their reaction was not completely devoid of reason.
Inspector Raj, sensing the terror in the kids’ eyes got down on his haunches and extended his hand for a shake to one of the youngsters, in an attempt to break ice. As the kid shook the hand, inspector Raj winked at him, extruding a wry smile from the kid. Seeing this, most of the other kids were relieved but nonetheless, they ran back into their school.
Meanwhile, Tiwari went and rang the bell of the house next to the nursery, the one that they had the address for, to locate Bobby. An old lady opened the door and seeing the constable at her doorstep was definitely startled.
“Is this where Bobby Patel lives?” the constable asked her. The lady looked perplexed and shook her head in the negative.
Just then another woman, in her early thirties joined them all, “Bobby sold this house to us and moved out a year ago!” she replied.
Apparently, the Road Transport Authority’s data was not updated because Bobby had not bothered.
“Do you know where has he gone....I mean the new address?” asked Tiwari.
“No! However, our neighbors, the Kohli’s were very friendly with the Patel’s, probably they might know,” asserted the lady, almost as if she was desperate to get rid of the police nuisance and the undue attention their arrival had attracted in the neighborhood.
Although she was trying to put up a brave front, her embarrassment was very clearly depicted on her demeanor indicating the turmoil that she faced within. Inspector Raj, being a veteran, understood the whole situation and immediately took charge. He appealed aloud to all the onlookers that they were looking for anyone who knew where Bobby Patel lived now, as he had met with a serious accident and his kin had to be approached and informed. The moment she heard this, the lady had a mixed expression on her face, she was relieved that the neighbors now knew the reason why the police were at her doorstep and that it was nothing to be embarrassed about, but at the same time she was also worried for Bobby and his family. Although she had interacted with Bobby only once but whatever she had heard about him from her husband and from the Kohli’s, she knew that Bobby was a decent bloke.
After spending some time with the onlookers and the neighbors, it was apparent that not much would come to light. The only ray of hope now, were the Kohli’s but their house was locked. The lady informed inspector Raj that the Kohli’s were a working couple and that they returned back late in the evening. She also told them that Sumesh Kohli worked at LMRC and that his office was nearby in Pitampura. Unfortunately, she did not have Sumesh’s cell number with her. She even called her husband but even he did not have the relevant information, neither of Bobby’s nor of Sumesh’s.
10th July 2010; 12pm
Inspector Raj had no other options but to go to the LMRC office in person and meet Sumesh. So he took the directions to the LMRC office from the neighbors and proceeded toward it. Once there, he walked into the LMRC office alone, lest cause a commotion with his entire posse walking in. He approached the reception and asked for Sumesh. The receptionist was as perplexed as most of the folks present there, however, Sumesh was informed. As inspector Raj took his seat, he picked up the newspaper and started glancing through it. He stopped midway as he came across a report on the Alipur accident. He admired at the speed with which the media reacted. While he was still flipping through the pages, he noticed a middle aged, almost bald man walking briskly toward the reception. His pace and his worried demeanor confirmed that he was Sumesh. The receptionist pointed at inspector Raj, all the while eyeing Sumesh suspiciously, making him all the more nervous. To make things slightly comfortable, inspector Raj kept the newspaper back on the shelf and walked toward Sumesh to meet him halfway across the hall and just to demonstrate to the suspicious onlookers that he was Sumesh’s friend and not his foe, he extended his hand to him. Both shook hands and Sumesh gestured him to be seated. Inspector Raj told Sumesh the purpose of his visit and did so rather loudly, ensuring that everybody present there heard him so that nobody ostracized poor Sumesh later on for getting a visit from a policeman.
“How bad is the accident?” asked Sumesh.
“Very! The car and the contents were charred beyond recognition,” the inspector deliberately avoided naming Bobby as the victim here since he did not want to disturb Sumesh.
“How is Bobby?”
“Dunno, but the person driving the car is dead.”
“I hope it is not Bobby but someone else driving his car.”
“I hope so, too.”
Sumesh scribbled the address and Bobby’s cell number on a piece of paper and almost simultaneously dialed the same from his cell. The cell was unreachable. Unfortunately, Sumesh did not have Bobby’s wife’s number neither did he have their residence number. He then looked up to inspector Raj as if imploring him to suggest the next step. Inspector Raj was flummoxed himself and really did not know what to tell Sumesh. Nonetheless, he thanked him for the information and gave him his cell number.
As he was walking away from the LMRC’s reception toward the main entrance, he heard the familiar shrill musical tone of his cell phone; he reached for his pocket and fetched the small, old and dilapidated handset. Inspector Raj had earlier asked one of his team members to just check up and see if there was any missing person’s report filed for Bobby Patel in any of the police stations all across the city. It was the same team member calling him back. The voice on the other end of the line confirmed that indeed there was a missing person’s report filed for Bobby Patel and when inspector Raj asked for the address he got the answer he was most expecting. It was the same as what Sumesh had scribbled down. Therefore, confirming that the charred body was indeed, Bobby’s.
10th July 2010; 4pm
Inspector Raj was standing in front of a small bungalow, the iron gates of which had these Greek figures neatly carved into them. This was the posh South Delhi – “The South Extension”. As inspector Raj stood, admiring the architecture, he was wondering as to how, in such a short frame of time did Bobby rise so sharply that he moved from downtown Rohini to uptown here? And that in the process how many enemies would he have made? As it was a fact that successful people always had a string of discontent and jealous people following them. He had to break the bad news to Bobby’s family, thus he was preparing himself mentally for it too. Although he had faced similar situations several times in the past but every time, he felt pretty awkward about it. Every time he did this, a part of him would break down along with the grieving family. It was never easy to be the bearer and deliverer of the worst news, especially when the family had elderly parents or young kids. Thankfully, such was not the case here. Inspector Raj had met and taken a complete brief from SI Tokas earlier and therefore knew that in this case there was only a bereaved wife....but a young one, who had no other support system, making things even more complicated as this news would shatter the new widow’s entire world. How could someone tell her that now she had no one left to look up to in this world anymore? Inspector Raj could have easily opted for SI Tokas, who was also accompanying him to do the needful but being a man of principles and being a senior to SI Tokas, he decided to break the news himself. He took a deep breath and rang the doorbell.
Harry opened the door. The moment he saw two policemen standing at the door, his expression changed from astonishment to gloom as if almost sensing the seriousness and grief in the atmosphere. Harry left the door ajar and stepped aside, thus inviting the men in uniform to come in. Both men moved in slowly and found a grand looking living hall on their right. Seated on the orange majestic sofa was the bereaved wife....Nira Patel. She got up the moment she saw the duo enter. Her eyes were asking a million questions. Inspector Raj took two steps toward the lady and looking straight into her eyes broke the bad news to her. Nira went pale on hearing the news and almost collapsed into the sofa. She felt so numb and devoid of emotions. Her heartbeats rose drastically. The three men in the house did not know how to reach out to Nira during her distressing moment. Harry, being the only family member, rushed to her and hugged her. It was then that Nira let out all her emotions and let out a loud wail and started to weep. She became inconsolable. Even, Harry who was controlling himself till then broke down, seeing her sister-in-law in such a state. Inspector Raj asked the lone domestic help there to fetch some water and handed it down to Harry. He gestured Harry to gather himself up so as to look after his sister-in-law.
“I know it is a very difficult and trying time for you but I need you to be courageous, Mrs. Patel. Courage is the only solace you would have to rely upon right now. I know I might be sounding very callous but you would have to gather your wits as we would need you composed and clear headed to get to the bottom of the mystery and to the murderer of your husband,” stated inspector Raj.
10th July 2010; 4.30pm
The last four words spoken by inspector Raj resonated in the living room, so much so as to evoke astonished gasps along with wide eyed reactions from everybody including SI Tokas, who was oblivious of this fact until now. Nira and Harry were yet to recover from the earlier shocking news and now they had to endure another bolt. Nira looked imploringly at inspector Raj as if begging him to tell her that none of this was true.....alas! It was not to be.
“Yes! You all heard me right. Although the forensics are yet to report in, but prima facie, the investigating team on the site has strong reasons to believe that it was not an accident but a murder. Therefore, Mrs. Patel, we need you to compose yourself and gear up for a flurry of questions and strings of enquiring sessions to help us nail the son of a bitch.”
“Are you sure that it is a murder?” enquired Harry.
“As I have said....prima facie, that’s likely what has happened!”
“I am really sorry to be breaking this bad news to you all but I can’t help it, that’s what my job is. I know that I can never understand your pain right now. I also know that I can never empathize with you coz I have not lost one of my own, however please believe me that every time I lose a citizen of my city, I lose a part of myself. I am not saying that I have an impeccable police record but I assure you that I will give more than one hundred percent to crack this case....but I need your cooperation to enable me to do so. Mrs. Patel, I hope you understand and also forgive me, for I am only trying to do my job and get your husband....justice,” asserted the inspector.
There was a stunned, pregnant pause and gloomy silence in the room which was nastily broken by the ringing of the doorbell.
Harry opened the door to find the neighbors standing there. They had heard Nira’s wail and had come in to check if all was well. Seeing the two cops there, their jaws dropped and without uttering a word they just silently made their way in.
Inspector Raj looked at SI Tokas, as if indicating that it was time for them to leave and let the Patel’s soak in their grief with friends and relatives....if any. As they were about to move, Nira asked inspector Raj as to when can they get the mortal remains of Bobby’s, emanating surprised gushes from the neighbors, who were till then unaware of the events. Inspector Raj, took a deep breath of relief, more so as he somehow had a feeling that Nira had already started to cope up with her loss. He asked Harry to accompany them outside for a moment to explain the formalities to claim the body after the postmortem was done.
10th July 2010; 8.30pm
Inspector Raj was a man of principles, that is, when he was forced not to be otherwise. He had promised Sumesh that he would keep him posted so there he was, sitting with him in his living room with a cup of hot and steaming coffee but more than his promise it was his hunch that he could extract a lot of useful information from Sumesh that might help him crack this case that had got him there.
“I am really sorry to be bearing this bad news of the sudden demise of your good old friend.”
Sumesh just nodded silently but his eyes were already moist as he was really trying hard to come to terms with the news. He and Bobby were really thick, Sumesh felt as if he had just lost a brother. He was sad and also angry at the same time because he just could not understand as to how could anyone murder someone like Bobby?
“He was such a good guy, a delightful friend and a person so full of life. How could someone be so cruel to end such a life? ” asked Sumesh.
“Sumesh, I need you to tell me all you know to help us nail the bastard. Would you help?”
“You bet I would! I also need to see this person punished. So, what do you want to know, inspector?”
“How long have you known the Patel’s?”
“I guess, for more than twelve years now. I knew them ever since they shifted here from their earlier residence in Old Delhi at Azad Market. We became close as both of us loved to play cricket. Bobby even played for LMRC under my captaincy for some years till he got injured and quit playing. He was a good and honest guy who not only worked hard but also partied hard.”
“Hmmm....so how did he become so rich over night?”
“No. Not overnight. He worked very hard, day and night to achieve this success. He had a garments business in partnership with two other guys. They all worked really hard but then things did not go well in their favor and that’s when Bobby started his current business of a sales agency all alone and post that he struck gold. He really did well alone than when he was working in partnership. He saw some hard times during his earlier business. There were loans on the firm and also some lawsuits. He had to sell the Rohini house to pay off the creditors as both his partners ditched him, but he, being a man of principles sold his house, moved to a rented accommodation, paid the loans, settled the lawsuits and then eventually bought this South Extension house all by himself. While he did all this single handedly, one must also concede that Nira stood by him like a strong pillar throughout the trying times. Bobby himself said that nothing would have been possible without her.”
“How was their married life?”
“It was good. Though not devoid of the regular tiffs that one has occasionally but they both were very dependent upon each other and very much in love even after so many years.”
“Do you think Bobby’s wife could have been involved in this killing?”
Sumesh looked aghast, “No way! Nira is a very simple and loving girl. She was totally into Bobby. She is an orphan. Bobby was the only family she had.”
The inspector pondered for a moment....“Why did the partners ditch him?”
“They just refused to help. They enjoyed the profits but when it came to sharing the losses, they just washed their hands off. They did not have any fixed assets and moreover, they had avoided the courts’ summons, therefore putting Bobby under pressure by the law as he was the only one with assets and attending the hearings. The partnership law in our country says one or all the partners are liable, whosoever is present or caught. Thus, Bobby had to pay the creditors since the other partners went “absconding” by bribing the very authorities who were given the responsibility to apprehend and present them in the court. One was residing with his brother, the other was staying in a rented accommodation, hence it was easy for both to make good of their disappearing act, but Bobby could not as he was a man of principles and the only one with fixed assets. So even if he had wanted to, he could not have disappeared like his partners.”
“So where are the other partners now, do you know?”
“Both live in Rohini only! But you know our law and the system; they have remained to allure the law till now despite living in Rohini.”
“Do you think they could be involved? I mean Bobby might have tried to get back at them now, which might have resulted in their killing him?”
“I really do not know how to respond. This was over seven years ago and Bobby had moved on in life since then. He always said that maybe he owed these guys in his previous life and that’s why he had to pay in this life. So I don’t think Bobby would have got back to them, besides he was not in touch with them either. However, having said that, one cannot rule out the possibility of them trying to harm Bobby for want of money or something else since he had become so successful.”
“Would you have their details?”
“Well, I only know the residence of Sandy’s brother, one of partners. He lives in sector 16. I don’t know the whereabouts of the other partner Joy.”
“Fantastic! That’s a good start. Please give me the address.”
“I don’t have the address but have seen the place and can take you there, however I request you to kindly keep this to yourself till something concrete comes up as I don’t want any trouble for my family, I hope you understand my point here.”
“Yes and I promise. Just show me the house; you don’t need to go there with me.”
Sumesh and inspector Raj both left in their respective vehicles toward sector 16, Rohini. After travelling for almost twenty minutes they came to a halt. Sumesh pointed toward a yellow colored three storied building and after seeing a confirming nod from the inspector he started back home. He saw the inspector getting off the car and walking toward the building, in his car’s rear-view mirror. As he was driving back, he prayed that the culprit be caught very soon.
Inspector Raj knocked on the heavy metal door as the doorbell did not ring. The sound from the knocking was very prominent and he heard footsteps approaching the door. He was greeted by a man in his early fifties who opened the door. Obviously, he seemed slightly surprised by the presence of a cop but his reaction was very controlled as if he were habitual of having uniformed men at his doorstep regularly. He smiled and asked the inspector the reason of his visit.
“I am looking for Sandy. Is he home?”
“No. He isn’t but what is the matter?”
“May I ask who are you to Sandy?”
“I am his elder brother, Jagdish.”
“Does he live here?”
“Don’t you think I have a right to know why you are asking all these questions before I decide to answer them, inspector?!”
“Yes, you do. I assure you that it is a very grave matter as it involves a murder and I think that Sandy might be involved therefore I don’t need to be so good to you. I can be nasty as well. Do you want me to be nasty or do you prefer giving me answers and avoid the commotion and inconvenience?”
Sandy’s brother gasped but soon gathered his wits and invited the inspector in.
Continued to "Whodunit"