Continued from The Dilemma
13th July 2010; 2pm
The inspector knew exactly what the ACP was hinting at. Gulati was an ex-con turned politician. He was one of the members of the parliament representing the opposition party. The ACP was already sour with the inspector after the ‘leak’ and the summoning of Damien probably had put him under further pressure from his seniors and supporters of Gulati’s within the system. Inspector Raj knew he was treading into unchartered waters. He had faced similar situations where the conditions and their consequences were uncertain in the past as well and had tackled them well. He had heard about Damien and his connections, he was somehow expecting him to make a move like this, probably he had subconsciously prepared himself for something like this and therefore he was unperturbed.
Damien was now seated in front of the inspector in his room. He was offered a soft drink by the inspector, “I hope I have not inconvenienced you by summoning you here?” Damien chose not to reply; he just kept smiling and staring at the inspector....a la ‘Al Pacino’ style from the famous movie. “Mr. Vaghela, I want to ask you a few questions related to Bobby, Sandy and Joy.”
Damien leant into the inspector but still retained the smirk on his countenance, “I read about the case today. Please, go ahead and by the way, you can call me Damien!”
The inspector nodded, “Good! Then you know the context. Kindly tell me about your relationship with them.”
“Bobby was a cousin. He introduced his other partners to me. They wanted money for their business and took a loan from me. They were paying the interest on time initially but later started having some problems due to their internal differences. I sensed that the guys were in trouble therefore, I wanted out and told them so. They did not have the entire amount so gave me cheques which bounced. I lost a lot of money. That’s about it, in a nutshell.”
“Did you not try to recover the money?”
“Yes. I did but failed.”
“You and failed....with the kind of connections that you have? It’s slightly hard for me to digest.”
“I am not the only one with these connections inspector. Bobby and Sandy also had theirs”, snapped Damien.
“I have heard that you tried all your pressure tactics on Bobby alone. Why did you only target him while the loan was mostly taken by Sandy?”
Damien did not deny the inspector’s point, “Bobby was the guy who introduced his partners to me so he was the guy responsible for the mess.”
“So that’s why you killed Bobby!”
Damien was completely taken aback by such brashness. He was shocked and infuriated but remained calm, “That....is a baseless allegation!”
“Where were you on 8th July?” asked the inspector.
“I was in Kanpur for business”, he replied, slightly nervously now.
“When did you return from there?”
“I got back on 10th and the same day afternoon I left for Jaipur.”
“Yes, that’s the same day that I had sent an officer to your place. Your servants were so secretive. They did not divulge anything, not even your cell phone number. By the way, may I please get your cell phone number? I don’t want to call you here all the time. It is better to speak on the phone, right!”
Very reluctantly Damien gave his number which the inspector fed into his cell phone.
“Have you met Bobby, Sandy or Joy in the recent past?”
“No. I have not. It has been years. In fact, I don’t even know their whereabouts now.” Damien’s confidence was clearly waning by now.
“Well, I have no further queries for the moment but might bother you again, if I have. Though, now that I have your phone number, you would not have to come here all the way. We will talk over the phone. You have been very co-operative. Thank you so much for having taken the trouble of coming all the way here.”
After Damien was gone, the inspector very carefully picked up the soft drink bottle and dropped it into the plastic pouch. He called in Tiwari and asked him to immediately get him the cell phone track for Damien’s number for the last three months and to send the bottle to the forensics for capturing the fingerprints. The inspector had sensed some awkwardness in Damien’s body language. He also had a very strong motive for killing Bobby, probably stronger than anyone else. Something told the inspector that Damien was nervous about something. A guy of his experience, stature and connections will only be nervous if he has a strong reason to be. The inspector also knew that for Damien it would be very easy to get alibis to support his statements, therefore if there was a hole in Damien’s statement then it had to be uncovered with the help of concrete evidence. It was also not easy to put a technical surveillance on Damien due to his connections which would warrant going through a lot of protocols. This in itself was a daunting task, under any given circumstances.
13th July 2010; 10pm
Sandy reached home and was really mad at Sona. He had been trying to reach her since the morning, but she had just not responded. He walked across the living hall and climbed the stairs to reach his bedroom. As he entered, he saw Sona lying on the bed. Momentarily his heart skipped a beat as he thought that probably she was ill. There were a lot of diseases which cropped up in the rainy season mostly either water borne or caused by mosquitoes’ bites. All of which were of a serious nature. However, Sona got up and sat down on the bed as she heard Sandy’s footsteps and he realized that she was not ill. The first reaction after that was that he started screaming at her for not having returned his numerous calls. Then he noticed her swollen eyes and immediately realized that there was something definitely wrong and that she had been crying incessantly, probably for the whole day. He knew this for sure through his past experience that her eyes swelled up in a very peculiar way whenever she cried a lot.
He moved slowly toward her and grabbed her close to him, “What’s wrong? What’s happened to you?” The moment she had an eye contact with Sandy, she started wailing inconsolably again.
Sandy did not know how to react and immediately shouted for help. Hearing his screams Jagdish, Babita his sister-in-law and Renu his sister rushed toward his room. They were equally shocked to see Sona’s condition. Babita rushed toward Sona’s side of the bed and hugging her tried to pacify her. Renu fetched water from the kitchen downstairs. After much cajoling, Sona told everyone the reason for her condition.
There was absolutely pin drop silence for a few minutes and then after a gap....“Who the hell is Rosa?!” demanded Sandy, “I don’t know of any Rosa!”
“You are nothing but a blatant liar!” yelled Sona.
“I swear Sona, I don’t know of any Rosa....I swear! You know how much I love our daughter. I swear by her that I do not know of any Rosa. Do you think I would swear by her in vain?”
“I don’t know what the truth is. I am thoroughly disgusted. I have sacrificed my life, my parents, everything for you and you....is this how you return my love for you?” Sandy looked exasperated and confused at the same time and gestured Jagdish to intervene and help.
“Look, Sona I understand your feelings but what if Sandy isn’t lying”, argued Jagdish.
“Fine, but why would she lie? She was actually trying to run away; it was I who forced her to speak with me. She would never have told me anything; it was only after the immense pressure that I put her under that she divulged the facts. Now, please tell me why a person would who was willing to walk out instead of speaking, lie and why should I not believe her, especially when I know how big a flirt Sandy is?”
“Sona, I don’t know how to prove my innocence to you. I wish I would have been there when she met you. I wish I could also speak with her and confront her.”
“That, you still can. She has left her number behind with me,” she handed over Rosa’s card to Sandy.
He took the card and immediately dialed the number, he put his phone onto the speaker mode so that everyone could hear the conversation but unfortunately the number was switched off. Sandy tried again but the response was the same. He looked helplessly toward Sona and speaking very softly, assured her that he will get to the bottom of this and prove his innocence to her. He asked her to bear with him and trust him until then.
Jagdish also urged Sona to give the benefit of doubt to Sandy as he also felt that he had to be considered innocent till the time he was proven otherwise but something in her eyes told him that she did not buy Sandy’s point. Sandy knew that Sona was deeply hurt so to avoid hurting her more he silently stepped out of the bedroom and went down to the living room. He switched the TV on to divert his attention from the commotion.
14th July 2010; 11am
Tiwari rushed into the inspector’s room. He was very excited, “Sahib, there was a call from Rohini sector 8 police station. They had raided some bars yesterday for serving liquor beyond the stipulated time and one of the bartenders they arrested, claims to have seen Bobby very recently at his bar.”
The inspector jumped out of his chair and excitedly shook Tiwari’s hand, “This is excellent news, Tiwari, excellent! Let’s go and meet this guy, maybe he can provide us with some leads.”
All through the journey to the sector 8 police station, the inspector was very quiet and kept to himself. He had mixed feelings of nervousness and excitement at the prospect of meeting this witness. Maybe this could lead on to something really concrete and big or maybe this could be a dud. Things would only be clear after this meeting. It took around twenty minutes for them to reach their destination. As soon as the inspector alighted from the vehicle, he rushed like an excited child to the Station House Officer’s room to seek permission to meet the witness. Tiwari waited outside for him to return. It was after almost ten minutes that he stepped out of the SHO’s (Station House Officer) room and headed straight toward the interrogation chamber.
The Investigation Officer (IO) of the case was sub-inspector Anil Rana, who met them inside the interrogation chamber. After introductions and exchanging greetings, IO Anil took inspector Raj aside and whispered in his ears,
“The bugger wants an amnesty in lieu of providing you the information.”
“Okay, then why can’t we turn him into a state approver?” IO Rana nodded in consent. Inspector Raj turned slowly and moved toward his prey with the prowess of a cheetah.
“What is your name, sir?”
“Rocky……Rocky Singh.” muttered the witness very nervously.
“Rocky! How filmy eh! Now what do you know about Bobby?”
“I saw him in my bar. I think I can be of help to you but I need your help in return. I need you to save me from this case.”
“Do you know that you are not in a negotiating position here? Now that I know that you have information about Bobby, I will extract it out of you even if that calls for using the third-degree torture on you. It is up to you depending upon your tolerance level to pain.” The inspector could sense that Rocky was petrified, “However, the maximum that I can do to help you in return is that if you agree to turn a state approver and bear witness for us, I can help you get a reduced sentence or even freedom, depending upon the judge’s mood. So what do you say? Will you comply or shall I start working my craft on you?”
Rocky realized that he did not have any choice. He was a middle-class guy who worked very hard to make his family’s two ends meet. “Sir, I will tell you whatever I know and do exactly what you tell me to but please, I beg of you to help me get out of this mess. I am the sole bread earner in my family, and I was just doing what my boss told me to do. I could not afford to lose my job. I have dependents who count on me. Please sir, please help me.” cried Rocky.
“IO Rana and I are very reasonably people. We sympathize with you and believe me we will help you to the best of our abilities. Now can you tell me about Bobby?”
“Bobby was at our bar that night. It was 8th July, I remember coz it was my birthday that day.”
“How do you know it was Bobby?”
“I saw his photo in the newspaper yesterday.”
“Okay, but how can you be so sure since there would have been so many people in your bar that day. How are you so sure you saw Bobby there; can’t you be mistaken?”
“No sir, I can’t be mistaken. I clearly remember coz first; he had a very fancy cell phone and wore a Rolex. I noticed all this coz I also have a penchant for these gadgets and second, he had a scuffle in the parking lot that night. Fortunately, only our staffers saw it and broke it off otherwise had the guest seen it, the police would have to be called in and that would have caused a lot of unnecessary inconvenience to all of us. It was definitely Bobby Patel.”
“What time was that around?”
“Who did he have this scuffle with?”
“See, initially he came into the bar alone but very soon he was joined by two others. These were the guys who later got involved in the fisticuffs with him.”
“Were these guys any of those whose photos were there in the newspaper along with Bobby’s?” Rocky responded in the negative.
“Can you describe these guys?”
“Well.....both of them were over six feet tall. One was slim, dark and he would have been in his mid-forties. He did not speak much but focused on his drinks. He was drinking as if there was no tomorrow. I thought he was there just to give the other guy company as he did not pay much heed to the conversation. The other guy was fair and reasonably well built and had really good looks. For his age he looked very handsome. He was in his mid-fifties and was also drinking like a fish. Bobby and he were engaged in an animated discussion. Bobby was referring to him as Prince Bhai. Bobby was quite sober as compared to these two. They were there for an hour and left around 11pm, suddenly I saw some of our staffers rush out to the rear of our facility toward the parking. One of my colleagues whispered into my ear that some of our customers had got involved in a fight. Somehow, I instantly sensed that it could be this trio that I was serving and I slipped out too. By the time I reached there, the fight had already been broken off by my other colleagues. They were still exchanging a lot of expletives though, however, soon we all were able to control the situation and made them drive away, hoping to have seen the last of them. They had moved out of the bar peacefully, but I guess something happened in the parking lot that brought them to blows with each other.”
Now who the hell is this Prince Bhai? Was what the inspector was thinking. He pulled out his cell phone and called up Nira, “Hi, Mrs. Patel. This is inspector Raj; I hope I am not disturbing you? Good! Well, I had a query. Would you by any chance know who Prince Bhai is?”
The expressions on the inspector’s face suddenly changed into a grimace as he heard Mrs. Patel’s answer. He looked at Tiwari, then at the IO and then at Rocky,
“Rocky I think you have just bought yourself a ticket to your freedom. I will now make you an approver in the Bobby Patel case and I assure you that with IO Rana’s help I will get you free in the bar case.”
The inspector stepped out of the chamber along with IO Rana and explained to him what he meant inside when he spoke to Rocky. He shook his hand, thanked him for his help and took his leave. Tiwari followed but was completely perplexed.
Although his past experience of working with the inspector told him that his boss had uncovered something really important. The briskness in the inspector’s stride and the glee on his countenance was proof that he had stepped onto something BIG! “If I may, I think you have got a break?” the inspector smiled at him and asked him to hasten up Damien’s fingers prints’ matching process and his cell phone track record.
To be Continued