Continued from Whodunit
11th July 2010; 4pm
After Sandy had confirmed that he had TONY’S details, the inspector asked him to message the same to him immediately. The phone number that was mentioned in the text-message was ringing but nobody was picking it up. Therefore, the inspector had no other options but to personally visit TONY’S. Since the inspector was at the Rohini Courts at that time, he preferred taking the metro to go to the South Extension market as that was the most convenient option at that hour in the city to avoid the hassles of getting stuck up in the massive jams that would soon pile up due to the approaching peak hours. The inspector seldom got a chance to do something like this. It was amazing what technology could do. The inspector enjoyed his trip immensely, moving on, above and under the land. Finally, he disembarked at the Mool Chand Metro Station and took an auto rickshaw toward South Extension.
TONY’S was a posh readymade garments’ outlet. It had all the major brands. All the customers inside appeared very affluent. As the inspector was in his uniform he hung around for a while before stepping inside; actually, he did not want to step in while the customers were still there so as to avoid any commotion. He waited till there was only one customer left. The inspector was greeted with inquisitive stares by the occupants.
“I am looking for Vivek Oberoi,” declared the inspector.
A smart and fair looking man stepped forward, “That would be me, sir.”
“Hi, my name is inspector Raj....from the Crime Branch, Rohini. I am here for a case that you filed about seven years ago against Bobby and his partners,” said the inspector with a stretched-out hand.
“Yeah! What about it?” asked Vivek, shaking the inspector’s hand.
“Well, what was the case all about?”
“They had failed to pay my debt, the cheque they had given me had bounced and I filed a case under section 138 of the non-negotiable instruments act.”
“Was this case against all the partners, including Joy?”
“Yes sir. The cheque that had bounced belonged to their firm which was a partnership firm, therefore as per the law I had to file a case against the firm and all the three partners.”
“Did they all appear for the hearings?”
“Initially, yes but later Sandy and Joy stopped coming in. There were warrants also issued against them, but nothing happened, even their sureties turned out to be bogus. So, the judge confiscated the surety amount and continued with the case. Finally, I settled it outside the court with Bobby who agreed to pay the entire amount to me, post which I withdrew the case.”
“Can you give me the details; I mean the court room number where it was heard the last and the name of the last judge who presided over the case etc.”
“Yes. I think so but only by tomorrow as I have all the files at home.”
“No problem. Give me your cell number.”
The inspector fed the number into his cell phone and dialed it back just to ensure that he had the correct number. The moment Vivek’s cell phone shrieked the inspector disconnected.
“Call me tomorrow with the details by 10 am. I will wait for your call.”
“Sure....just out of curiosity inspector, what is this all about?”
“I am investigating the murder of Bobby Patel!”
There was a momentary look of shock on Vivek’s face but then he gathered his wits before he nervously enquired, “Whew! When did this happen? I hope you aren’t suspecting me for it, sir?”
“Not for now but I cannot rule out anything since the investigation is in a very nascent stage right now. Do you have reasons to worry, though?” enquired the inspector.
“Oh no. Absolutely not sir! However, the way these guys were going around their business this was bound to happen, but it should have happened then, not now.... Not after so many years.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well the way these guys were trying to cheat so many people of their honest, hard earned money, getting into some kind of serious trouble was always on the anvil. Just look at the way they tried to fleece me but then not everybody goes and takes refuge with the law. Some make their own you know!
“They tried to fleece you! I have reasons to believe that they had given you their ready stock in lieu of the payment they owed you in good faith but later you refused to return their cheque and also filed a case wrongfully and then blackmailed Bobby into paying the money again. Vivek, what say, maybe Bobby got back to you to demand his hard-earned money back and maybe you bumped him off. The possibilities are quite open right now. So, I strongly suggest that you, for now, just give me the information that I have asked you for tomorrow and stop behaving so righteous. I have a different set of suspects right now and you are not on my list, so please just hope that things remain as they are and today is the last you have seen of me and that I solve this case soon.....for your own sake!” The look on Vivek’s face confirmed that Sandy was right about what a big creep this guy was.
Vivek was so shaken and embarrassed by the truth that he only nodded in the affirmative in response but as soon as the inspector left, Vivek let out his angst and frustration at his staff in the store who had heard the entire conversation between him and the inspector. Vivek knew that now he would never be able to face them in the eye as he had always projected his righteousness as one of his greatest virtues, but today onward they all would know how big a hypocrite he had been.
“The bastard thinks that he can just walk into my store and tell me all lies and get away with it. I will file a report against him and get his arse fried. What does he think, I am not connected? I will show him what I can do! Bobby and his friends also thought the same but then what happened; they also had to pay for their misgivings. He says I fleeced them.....nothing but a piece of bullshit!” screeched Vivek, in an attempt to salvage his honor and righteous image in front of his employees but somewhere deep down his heart he was aware that the damage was already done.
11th July 2010; 6pm
The inspector reached Bobby’s house and rang the bell. Since he was in the vicinity, he had thought it to be prudent to drop by to pay his respects and also to update the bereaved wife. The door opened and he found Harry at the doorstep. Harry greeted the inspector with a wry smile and gestured him to come in. The inspector went in and reached the main hall.
“Please take a seat. I will call Nira.” Harry rushed upstairs to summon his sister-in-law. The inspector submerged into the massive but comfortable sofa. This was the first time that he actually took notice of how well the house was kept since his last visit was an unpleasant one. This time he was slightly calmer and more relaxed to take notice of how Nira was a woman of excellent taste and someone who really had a flair for the art of interior design.
He marveled at the artifacts and the porcelain which were artfully arranged in the hall along with the matching furniture and the textiles. Each item inside suggested how the couple had splurged on the handpicked stuff, most of which were imported and really expensive.
“How are you inspector?” enquired Nira as she walked toward the inspector. She looked very feeble and yet extremely beautiful. It was pretty evident that the departing of her husband took a really heavy toll on her physically and mentally.
“Good. Thanks for asking.”
“What can I offer you?”
“No thank you, I am good, please do not bother yourself. I was in the vicinity and thought of dropping by.”
“That is very nice of you sir.”
“Mrs. Patel, I need to inform you that a preliminary forensic report has come in and strongly indicates that your husband was murdered as I had suspected all through.”
“Do you have any leads so far?” checked Harry.
“I have some suspects from the leads that I picked up after having spoken to Mr. Kohli. I have interrogated Sandy today. I even went and met Vivek Oberoi half an hour ago, that is why I was here. I would urge you to tell me all that you know about Bobby’s earlier business and his partners. Kindly try to remember everything and do not spare any details, even if you think they are very minute and unimportant.”
The next hour and a half were spent on the details that Nira gave to the inspector, most of which were a repetition of what Sumesh, Jagdish and Sandy had already given. Once Nira was done, the inspector asked Harry and her if they suspected anyone since the suspect could also be one of the current acquaintances, friends or business associates.
“The current business is a very clean business. We have the sales agency with this US based MNC. We sell on their behalf, for which they pay us our due commissions. There are no due payments, no creditors or debtors as all the services are provided only after the collection of the entire payment and that is done directly by the US parent firm. The clients are all well settled and have been with us for some time now. The only loans outstanding are for the home and the car. Bobby was really doing well financially. There are not many friends so as to speak since Bobby was not that social. He did not even mingle around with his old school buddies. Bobby was a very busy man. He did not have time. I really cannot think of anybody who could have murdered Bobby, not even his old partners or associates for that matter. Bobby was not even in touch with them for the last so many years. He had forgotten all that had happened like a bad dream. He was so glad that all the negativity was out of his life. He was really thankful to God for all the blessings that he was blessed with now that he never even regretted a single moment of his past. He always said that whatever happens always happens for the best. I don’t think that Sandy and Joy are the killer types.....really inspector, I don’t know what to say.....” Nira broke down.
“Well, the investigations suggest that the murder was a very well-planned one therefore I can’t think that Bobby was killed at the spur of the moment by some stranger or was waylaid or done in by a hitch hiker. He was killed by someone he knew very well. As per what you have just told me I don’t have a reason to suspect anyone from the current lot of his co-workers and acquaintances but at the same time you have also ruled out his old partners. It is really a very confusing situation but I tell you Mrs. Patel, he was done in by someone he knew really well. Where were you on the night of the murder, if I may ask?” checked the inspector, suspiciously.
“I was at home!” replied Nira, exasperatedly, “I was up till about 12.30am watching TV along with Deepa, my domestic help, post which I asked her to retire and I also dozed off. It was only when I woke up around 5am that I realized that Bobby had not returned. That’s when I started calling up everybody that I thought I should call to check up on Bobby.”
“Was Bobby insured?”
“Yes, he was.”
“How much is the insurance amount?”
“I guess, roughly it stands around fifty million rupees.”
“Wow! That’s a whole lot of money.”
“Bobby was not a great believer in the concept of life insurance. He got this insurance to cover the loan on this house that we bought in case of any eventuality as the loan is in his name. So, I won’t get a single penny out of it. If that is what you were hinting at, inspector.”
“What about this house; once the loan is over with the help of the insurance money, it will be transferred in your name. That’s big money....if you sell the house!”
“Yes, it is but you don’t cut off your lifeline for money. You are not an orphan sir; you will never understand the point that I am trying to make here. I urge you to kindly investigate me as well, in all fairness.”
The inspector looked sheepishly at Nira and immediately shifted his focus to Harry to avoid any more embarrassment, “Harry, where were you that night?”
“I – I.....” Harry cleared his throat, “well, I had a dinner meeting with one of my clients which got over at around 11.30pm and after that I was at home.....I have an alibi. I spent the night with a friend.”
“Is it a possibility that Bobby was demanding his money back from his old partners or anybody else that he felt owed him money?” enquired the inspector.
“Not that I am aware of and besides, I have already told you that he was at peace with his past.” stated Nira.
“What can you tell us about Bobby’s other cousin, Damien?”
“What about Damien? We have not been in touch with him since the time he forced Bobby to go to the CBI’s Economic Offenses Wing’s office and it’s been years now. Damien had been giving some loans to Sandy despite Bobby’s objection to it. Later Damien started harassing all of them and when he could not reign in Sandy and Joy he tried to fleece the money from Bobby since he was the weakest link, being family and also as Bobby respected Damien due to the age difference they had. Damien was wary of it and tried to take undue advantage of the situation. He even tried all his connections to extract that money; however Bobby did not relent because he had always told Damien to lay off Sandy but him being him, a greedy person he did not pay any heed to Bobby’s advice. Damien is a thug of the highest order. He has some clout with the local politicians and the goons which he flaunts to frighten people, but he could not intimidate Bobby. He did not pay Damien a single penny as he felt very strongly that he did not owe anything to Damien, it was Sandy and Joy who ought to have paid him. Finally, Damien had to give up trying because, I reckon heart of hearts, even he knew that Bobby was right, and he was wrong. We have not heard from him for ages now.”
“I was under the impression that Bobby paid up Damien in full! However, now it appears that he did not. So, there is a very strong possibility that he might have got wind of Bobby’s success now and would have been harassing him again to extract that money,” stated the inspector.
“This cannot be ruled out but then Bobby would have certainly told me about it.”
The inspector took a deep breath, stared at the wall while pondering hard and finally exclaimed, “You have really made things very confusing and difficult for me by not suspecting anyone here.....hmmm.....Bobby had two business ventures, a life before that as well, if I were to ask you Mrs. Patel, which part of Bobby’s life do you think the killer might be most associated with, what would your response be?”
“Well, I do not know how to respond to that, however if I really have to then I think the answer here would be his garments’ business life as that seems to be the most logical conclusion at the moment.”
“Would you, by any chance have Damien’s contact details?”
“I would not have his phone number but can surely give you his address.”
“And by the way, do you have any information regarding the court case that Vivek Oberoi had filed, I mean would you know which court this was, which judge was hearing the case, the last date of hearing.....anything at all?” asked the inspector.
“Yes, there is a file for each case which Bobby had made, let me just go and fetch you the file.”
“Bobby had become very particular about paperwork and proper filing after this sour experience with his partners where he thought most of his agony was caused due to his carelessness in handling paperwork,” explained Harry, probably sensing the inspector’s curiosity as to how could one still keep the files of such old cases.
“Yes, I can understand. In fact, all good professionals always maintain paperwork and backups. Even Vivek Oberoi has kept the file till date. I had asked him to give me the same details but if I had known that I could get it from here, I would not have asked him. Well, at least now I would not have to follow up with him,” said inspector Raj.
Just then Nira walked in and handed him the file. The inspector flipped through the file till he reached the page of his interest. He took out a small spiral pad from his shirt’s pocket and scribbled the following:
>1. PATIALA HOUSE COURTS, NEW DELHI.
Court No. 45
Court of Metropolitan Magistrate Ramesh Aggarwal
Last date of hearing: 14 July 2003
Next Date of hearing: 28 January 2004
2. DAMIEN’S ADDRESS – 11445/6, Zameer Lane, Azad Market, Delhi - 110006.
“This information is really very helpful Mrs. Patel, thanks. I’ll be going now, ma’am. I shall keep you both posted on the developments, goodbye!” and the inspector took their leave.
11th July 2010; 10.30pm
It was a grueling day for the inspector, more so because of his visit to the court which he despised. However, the day’s work was over and the inspector was on his way back home in his old battered car. His thoughts were still very much focused on the Patel’s case. Though Nira did not suspect anyone but he somehow knew that it was somebody from his garments’ business phase of life who was the culprit. His sixth sense told him that he was on the right track as none of the other people connected to Bobby’s life seemed to have the motive besides either Nira, Harry, Vivek, Sandy, Joy or Damien.
Emotionally Nira had lost everything with Bobby’s demise, thus she could be ruled out for the moment. Harry also had neither the motive nor an inclination. He was gay, hence was incapable of having an affair with Nira and he was an IT guy with no business acumen to gain from Bobby’s death, he was a techie…a nerd of sorts. There seemed to be very remote chances of Vivek’s hand in the murder as of now, besides, the look on his face when he heard about Bobby’s murder had a look of genuine surprise, however he could not be ruled out completely. That left the inspector with three strong suspects viz; Sandy, Joy and Damien.
Damien was a new character which had sprung up during the entire investigation and he had somehow qualified to become a strong contender for the main suspect’s position as he was the only one who seemed to hold a grudge against Bobby but the inspector knew by experience that he could not rule out the roles of Sandy and Joy as well.
All the criminal cases in India warrants the accused to be fingerprinted while they are granted bail by the court. So the moment the inspector gathered that the partners had a cheque bounced case against them, he knew exactly the place where he would get Joy’s finger prints from, if he could get the details of the court and the case as a cheque bouncing case is a criminal offense. Therefore, after he got back from South Extension, inspector Raj shared the information that he had obtained from Nira regarding the court and the case with his sub-ordinate Tiwari asking him to get a copy of the finger prints of all the three partners from the court, although he already had Sandy’s with him but the major deal was to get Joy’s prints to get the jigsaw puzzle moving on toward its solution. He had also asked his team to provide him with the record of all the calls that Bobby made or received in the last one week just before he was killed as he knew that there would definitely be calls that could help him crack the case. Earlier, as soon as he had got Damien’s address, he had also dispatched a constable to Damien’s residence to summon him to the police station the next morning.
It was an eventful day and inspector Raj knew that the next day would be a day of a lot of unraveling, a very important day for this case.
To be Continued