Continued from “The Hunt Begins”
10th July 2010; 10.30pm
As the inspector moved in, he was led into a living room where the family was watching TV. The moment they saw the inspector they all moved out of the room leaving the inspector and Jagdish behind.
As they sat down, inspector Raj asked, “Where is Sandy?”
“He is at work...on a tour. He would be returning tomorrow.”
“How long has he been gone?”
“He has been out since 8th July. He left for work in the morning and went on a tour, straight from his office.”
“Do you know Bobby Patel?”
“Yes, of course. He was Sandy’s partner when they had a garments business together. Inspector, I request you to tell me what has happened, please!!”
“We have reasons to believe that we have found Bobby’s charred body on the highway and have circumstantial evidence leading us to conclude that he was killed.”
“But what has that got to do with Sandy?? Ever since their fallout Sandy’s not been in touch either with Bobby or with Joy. He quit business and got a regular job in the garments’ industry.”
“Well, their business endeavor was a disaster. They had compatibility issues and could not align on many aspects resulting in loans and lawsuits against their partnership firm.”
"Which Sandy and Joy conveniently washed their hands off, leaving poor Bobby to clear the mess all alone, all by himself,” interrupted the inspector.
“Well, not entirely, there were some loans which I had picked up from my acquaintances for them which Sandy repaid all by himself. Bobby paid most of them but even Sandy paid some. It was only Joy who wriggled out easily without having had to pay anyone anything.”
“Do you have Joy’s whereabouts?”
“No. I am sorry, I don’t.”
“What were the compatibility issues?”
“Well, there were several but the major was that Bobby was not very ambitious, he wanted to tread cautiously but you see, you have got to take some risks in business, Sandy and Joy always had a different opinion. They took risks, wanted to grow fast so took loans. It is all a part of normal business strategy, but Bobby never wanted to grow that fast, he wanted to grow steadily but in the garments’ business you cannot let your competition move faster than you. Bobby never understood this and was therefore, stalling their firm’s growth.”
“When it was a partnership firm then why was the firm not dissolved properly by fixing liability equally amongst all the partners? Why did Bobby pay most of the liabilities?”
“They had a fall-out and then I do not know what really happened,” replied Jagdish.
“Alright, I guess it’s very late right now, I should be on my way out. You give me Sandy’s cell number and ask him to call me tomorrow as soon as he arrives,” said the inspector as he stood up and moved out of Jagdish’s residence.
As he walked toward his car, he checked the time to realize that it was almost mid night and he had a long drive back home. He was certain that a lot of answers would be unfurled in the next few days. For now, he just wanted to get home to his shower and his mattress-less bed. He looked at the yellow building once again as the silence of the sleepy neighborhood was rudely broken up by the sound of his car being cranked up by him.
11th July 2010; 11.30am
It had rained the last night to give the people of Delhi some relief from the heat. Inspector Raj disliked rains as it caused a lot of dirt, diseases and chaotic traffic conditions all over the city, however after the heat even he did not mind this rainy spell. He remembered how it used to be such a pleasurable experience during the rainy season when he was a young boy and Delhi was not as populated as it was now. The great city was so peaceful and sane back then, unlike the chaos now.
Inspector Raj was seated in his office behind a stack of files, as usual. He was working ferociously on his laptop, trying to wrap up the concluding report of his last case. As he worked through the report, he could not help but remember the cries of the small kid who was now orphaned as his father killed his mother and then committed suicide himself. Every case had its own sad story. The inspector had witnessed so much of sadness, cruelty and crime for more than two decades that he himself felt emotionless most of the times...however, cases like his last one had even jolted his emotions out. Even in the current case, he could not bear the plight of the young widow, Mrs. Patel, especially knowing that she had no support system whatsoever left for her now in this world and that she would have to fend for herself all alone. These were very disturbing thoughts.
As he typed his last line in the report, he was informed by a constable that he had a visitor. The inspector asked the constable to send the visitor into his office as he knew who this was. He had in fact received a call from Sandy in the morning who had made an eleven o’clock appointment with him; however, he was half an hour late.
Sandy was five feet, seven inches tall, he had a lean built and a kind of worn out look on his face. The inspector noticed that he walked with a slight limp as one of his legs was shorter than the other. They shook hands but the inspector was not getting positive vibes from Sandy. First, he came in late and then, he had a limp. The inspector hated people who did not respect other people’s time and as per his experience he had formed a perception that people with one leg longer than the other were unreliable and very shrewd. Sandy smiled at the inspector, he appeared confident unlike most of the first timers who visit a police station. As Sandy took his seat, he dialed a number from his cell phone.
“Sir, I have reached. I am sitting with inspector sahib,” spoke Sandy into his phone and instantly stretched his hand out to hand his phone to the inspector who very reluctantly took the phone.
“Inspector Raj, speaking. May I know who am I speaking with? ... yes…yes… but sir it’s only for a routine enquiry that he’s been called in here for! ... don’t worry sir; I will take care of everything... good day sir, Jai Hind!”
Apparently, Sandy had got in touch with one of the senior police officers and had asked for his intervention to get the matter sorted out amicably between him and the inspector. It was a common practice in Delhi to use influence while dealing with important people, especially with the public servants.
“So, how do you know DCP sahib?” enquired inspector Raj.
“Oh! He is an old family friend!” replied Sandy.
“But do you know that neither do I fall under his jurisdiction nor do I report to him!” The tone used by the inspector was so grim that Sandy froze in his chair. His face became pale and his heart missed a beat. He looked back at the inspector, nervousness, was pretty evident in his eyes because something told him that he had managed to really irk the inspector.
“Sandy. Why the hell are you trying to act so smart? Coz you don’t look stupid to me”
“No sir, I…I was just trying to ensure that I don’t get a raw deal. It’s nothing personal, sir.”
“Well, I am a fair person and if you are innocent then you don’t have to worry at all”
“I’m sure you are sir, thank you.”
“Well, I’ll come straight to the point. I’m sure Jagdish would have given you the background. So start telling me everything between you and Bobby Patel....everything!”
“Sir, I first met him in 1991 when I mentored him at one of the garments’ manufacturing and marketing companies which was based out of Okhla industrial area. He came across as one of the brightest of the lot and learnt the tricks of the trade extremely fast, he was honest and hardworking. We used to work very closely and soon became incredibly good friends. He worked there for two years and then moved on, but we stayed connected and then we got together again for our partnership enterprise along with another friend, Joy. Bobby was a great professional with intricate knowledge of sales strategy, operations and marketing. The enterprise was my idea, but it could not have been possible without Bobby as he was very well networked in the market and would have ensured instant success, therefore I convinced him to come on board. However, he always had a typical middle-class mindset and was afraid to take business risks. We all came from a middle-class background, hence did not have enough funds so it was very natural to raise them to grow, Bobby was against taking loans. He wanted to grow slowly and through our own means. We all worked really hard and the business started flourishing. Both Joy and I pressurized him to consider taking loans to ensure success, therefore, he could not help but agree to take loans, not only because the business growth demanded it but also because he was outvoted by Joy and I. We were a new company so raising loans through banks was an issue thus we had to go to private money lenders who charged a bomb as interest. Bobby started becoming uncomfortable with all this, especially when we took a loan from one of his cousins. His cousin had loads of money which he lent at remarkably high interest rates and Bobby was against getting his family involved. We all approached a co-operative bank, but they did not give us sufficient amount of loan. That is when Bobby agreed to raise loans against his mother’s and wife’s names as well, only because he wanted to avoid going to his cousin. We were managing well enough, however suddenly the fashion trends changed, and our existing stocks got redundant. It was an awfully bad phase. Our debtors were not releasing our funds for want of more stocks and we did not have the stocks to supply for want of the newer fabrics as per the trends. We again had to take some loans from some of the private guys but slowly and steadily the situation was pushing us toward Bobby’s cousin as he was the only one who could have trusted us with a huge amount of loan.”
“What is Bobby’s cousin’s name?”
“Hmmm... go on....” muttered the inspector.
“We went to Damien and he willingly gave us the amount.”
“How much was it?”
“Seven hundred thousand rupees in four installments. Initially everything was going on very smoothly, but later things started getting out of control. The economy was slowing down, and we were struggling. There were a couple of occasions when we could not even pay the interest to Damien on time and he got really upset. Damien is a very well-connected man; I mean to both sides of the law and he himself is a thug. He started coming over to our office and created trouble. He even thrashed Joy once. I had no option but to give him postdated cheques to pacify him. Things were getting uglier day by day and we were all getting stressed out. Besides Damien there were other creditors as well who had also started hounding us. Then one day Bobby came and wanted to opt out of the partnership. Joy and I tried to reason with him, but he was adamant. Finally, we had to agree, and he moved out. That’s it!”
“Are you sure that, that is all? I have reasons to believe that Bobby had to pay all the loans that you all took for the firm.”
“All of the loans?? Sir, for your information, I also paid some, I must have paid around one million rupees myself.”
“How much was the entire loan amount?”
“Well.....around five million rupees, including the interest amount.”
“So that means, Bobby paid around four million rupees?”
“You said that Bobby moved out of business, so who was in charge of business after he left?”
“Joy and I.”
“So why did Bobby pay four million rupees?”
“Because that’s what we had agreed upon.”
“Do you have a copy of the agreement?”
“No, it was a verbal agreement. Besides legally the partnership was not dissolved, making all of us equal partners.”
“Alright, even if I accept your argument, then you should have all shared the liabilities equally, right?”
“See, the partnership was not dissolved and in the meanwhile even Joy and I decided to go our separate ways. When the pressure from the creditors mounted then whosoever had taken the loans had to fend for himself. I took care of the loans I had raised while Bobby took care of his share.”
“What about Joy?”
“Joy had not raised any loans, so he got away from the liabilities.”
“Wow! What foolish arguments! Do you think I will accept this nonsense? Tell me, I heard there were lawsuits as well, how come you all were not made to pay the liabilities equally by the judge?”
“Well... ask the judge!” was the stern reply from Sandy, who by now had gotten fed up with the interrogation.
This reply was enough to shoot the inspector’s blood pressure sky high, however the professional he was, he maintained his dignity and calmly got up from his chair, walked across the room and looking out of the window, asked, “Where is Joy?”
“I don’t know. He used to live in sector 15, Rohini about three years ago but I don’t have his latest whereabouts. He was always living in rented accommodations, y’know, kept moving a lot.”
“What about his relatives or friends?”
“His parents had died years ago, he had a younger brother, but he also died of cancer a couple of years ago and since Joy was a bachelor, there is no one else. As for his friends, nobody I know would have his information.... besides he was a recluse and never had many friends.”
“You are not shielding him, are you?”
“Why would I do that and get myself into further trouble than what I already am in? It would be in my best interest to tell you everything that I know, right?!”
“I need his photograph, along with yours.”
“I can give you mine, but I do not have his.” Sandy reached for his photograph in his wallet and handed it over to the inspector.
“Are you on Friendbook, the famous social networking site?”
“Then would you not be connected to Joy?”
“Yes sir, I am. In fact, I only created his FB profile as he was reluctant to do so. I wanted to him to have some social life, but he never relented.”
The inspector immediately went online and within a minute got Joy’s photo. He got it identified by Sandy and asked his technical team to flash the same to the Police headquarters and to every police station in the city. He also made Sandy leave Joy a message on FB for contacting him on the cell phone number which was actually not Sandy’s but the inspector’s.
“Do you have Joy’s cell number?”
“Yes! But it is very old and not in use anymore, nonetheless here it is,” Sandy checked the contact list on his cell phone and scribbled one number down on a piece of paper and handed it over to the inspector.
“I am done for now, you may leave. However please do not leave town without intimating me in advance as I might have to interact with you some more and email me the list of all the people that you think might know Joy’s whereabouts in the next twenty-four hours with their contact details.”
Inspector Raj concluded that whatever Sumesh had told him was all correct and that both Sandy and Joy had taken Bobby for a ride and stabbed him in the back. He knew that Bobby was cheated but then there were so many chinks in the armor which he needed to figure out.
He had a feeling that somehow Sandy or Joy were connected to this case but…how? Why would Sandy or Joy kill Bobby? They could only have the motive to kill him in case he was now harassing them to get his money back from them. Nira could also be instrumental in orchestrating the killing but at the moment it looked highly unlikely. Things were very inconclusive at that moment. The inspector knew he needed answers.... more answers.
As soon as Sandy left, the inspector deployed two constables to keep a strict vigil on all his movements on a twenty-four hours basis. He also asked his team to provide him a call track record for both Joy’s and Sandy’s numbers for the last three months along with instructing them to start a technical online and offline location hunt for Joy.
Sandy was right about Joy, he did not have any friends even on his FB profile, only Sandy and Jatin, his dead, younger brother. Not many leads to follow as this profile was not even updated for almost two years now. The inspector checked the net search engine and even checked on LinkedOn, GetJobs etc. to see if he could figure out Joy’s location or workplace but could not find anything, not a single clue.
Inspector Raj knew it was important to trace Joy but he was also aware of the fact that it would turn out to be a herculean task as Joy was not at all social, he had no family and there might be a chance that not many would know his whereabouts. The guy was virtually a ghost, non-existent. The only hope was from the list that Sandy would provide or a very bleak one from the other police stations.
It was at this juncture that the inspector decided to get Joy’s photo released in the newspapers. This was a tough call as he was going against the protocol in this case and could get into a lot of trouble from the top brass but then, what the heck.....he knew he had to take all the chances that he could possibly think of. He had a very strong hunch that if he could lay his hands-on Joy then this mystery would unravel by itself.
The inspector was deep in thought when Tiwari handed him a sealed envelope. One look at the envelope and he intuitively knew that the forensic report had come in. Like an excited child, he tore the side of the envelope and spread out its contents on the table in front of him. Although the report was incomplete since it usually came in two parts, it was clear that the deceased found in the charred car off the Alipur highway had not died as a result of the accident.....it was indeed a Murder! The skull had been smashed by the very rod that was found in the bushes as the abrasion and its size on the skull matched with the rod. There were fingerprints found but only on the rod. Since the heat and soot generally erase fingerprints in crimes involving fire, the forensics had very cleverly used the cold-water rinsing technique to retrieve fingerprints. Unfortunately, they did not match anyone in the crime branch’s record. The canister that was found at some distance from the scene contained gasoline but it did not have any finger prints, however the soot traces on the canister matched the soot found on the car, proving that the canister was definitely used in the crime. The shoe found on the body also had traces of gasoline.
There were a couple of observations made by inspector Raj which confirmed that the canister was definitely connected to the crime.
Firstly, the canister contained traces of gasoline which matched the gasoline found on the shoe of the victim; secondly the canister had no traces of finger prints - an obvious act of the killer in his endeavor to leave no proof behind. Thirdly, the victim’s car was diesel-run but the canister had petrol which has a greater volatility than diesel to burn faster, therefore re-confirming that this very canister was used by the killer to douse the victim’s body, which was also corroborated by the soot match. However, what really seemed out of place though was, why would a canister of petrol be there in a car which ran on diesel? Normally, diesel cars would carry diesel as a backup in case it ran out of fuel and on top of that, inspector Raj knew nobody who carried backup fuel in a city with ample fuel stations all over. Going further, why did the rod have prints while the canister did not have any? All these leads indicated to only one logical conclusion that though the job had been meticulously planned, however like all criminals the killer had made a mistake by leaving the rod with prints behind, a drastic one at that. What seemed probable was that Bobby was hit on the head by the rod much before he was burnt. The killer might have then kept the rod inside the car to dispose it off later on, but might have forgotten, must have driven the car to that secluded spot and then put it afire, suddenly he would have remembered the rod, tried to retrieve it but it must have become very hot by then, prompting the killer to pick it up in a jiffy only to fling it off in a sudden jerk as it might have burnt his hand. He might have mistakenly flung it far enough for him not to be able to trace it back again, especially in the dark. He must have tried to locate it but due to the paucity of time and the urgency of the situation might have abandoned its search hoping it would not be found out even later.....but to his ill luck now this rod would take him to the gallows.
The biggest lead that the case now had was the fingerprints on the rod. Inspector Raj just needed to get them matched and then figure out the motive to solve the case.
He immediately called in Tiwari and instructed him to pick up the glass kept on the table opposite to him carefully and send it to the forensics to try and match the prints. This was the glass that he had offered Sandy water in and had his fingerprints all over it. The next big challenge was to get Joy’s fingerprints as well but that was not possible in his absence.
“Think... think harder,” the inspector egged himself on. He had a strong hunch that he was missing out something which he was this close to but just could not figure out what. He had to just wait and pray to get some information on Joy through the search efforts that he had initiated. He hated waiting as that made him feel helpless. He hated being helpless.
The inspector was deep in thought when his concentration was rudely broken by the baritone-like voice of a constable on his team, “Sahib, we have to go the court for the Bindra kidnapping case and we are already running behind schedule.”
The inspector looked at the constable, took a deep breath, picked up his cap and dragged himself out of the room toward the waiting vehicle to go to the court. It was a general practice to be present in the court for all the cases that one was handling to bear witness. A task which was important but so time consuming that the inspector disliked it very much, however he could not do much as he was duty bound to bear witness in the court.
11th July 2010; 2.30pm
The inspector was thoroughly exhausted by the time he was done with the formalities in the court room. The heat had dissipated a bit due to the rainfall, but the humidity had risen. The court room was always so full of people that it stank of perspiration, at times making it hard to even breathe. The process was over fast but the time that was taken for one’s turn to come and the wait amidst the heavy, sticky and stinky atmosphere made it mentally and physically very tiring, even for a hardened cop.
The need of the moment was a refreshing cup of freshly brewed tea. Not that the inspector was too fond of it but was not even averse to it, especially when he felt a surging desire to uplift his sagging spirit. While he was sipping his tea carefully so as to not burn his tongue, his attention kept drawing back to the Bobby Patel’s case and the day’s proceedings attached with it. He again started wondering as to how he could get Joy’s details and his fingerprints. As he took the next sip, suddenly an idea struck him – the tea apparently seemed to have worked!
He immediately pulled his old cell phone out of his pocket and dialed Sandy’s number on it.
“Yes!” crackled the voice on the other side.
“Sandy, it’s me; Raj, inspector Raj.”
“Oh yes, how can I help you sir?”
“I remember you mentioning lawsuits against your firm. I needed to ask you what kind of lawsuits these were?”
“Well, some were for recovery of funds and some for cheque bounced cases.”
“Which were the courts hearing the cheque bounced cases?”
“Patiala House Court, sir.”
“Do you remember the year of the case, the name of the Metropolitan Magistrate and the last court room number where this case was being heard?”
“Sir, it was a long time ago, but the year was...uhhh.... 2002 or 2003. I do not remember the court room sir.”
“Do you remember who had filed this case against you?”
“It was one of our retailers from whom we had picked up a loan, called TONY’S at South Extension market.” He then proceeded to tell him in detail how the case was wrongfully filed by the retailer twisting some of the provisions made by the law which unfortunately worked against the partners only because he had their bounced cheque and therefore the law by his side.
“Does he still operate from there?”
“Do you have his name and phone number?”
An evident but wry smile broke over the inspector’s face. He seemed to have solved the puzzle of Joy’s fingerprints.
Continued to The Dilemma