“Hello. Rahul here,” I said as I picked up my ringing mobile. “Sir, this is Vikram. Are you free for a few minutes?”
“Yes.” I said.
“Sir, My wife Vineetha’s thirteenth day ceremony falls on this Saturday between 9 and 11 am. I would request you to join the function. You have been a source of great support to me in my distress.”
“Sure. I will be there.” I said.
My thoughts quickly raced back to the day I first met Vikram. I was busy clearing up my table to close for the day when my operator came on the line. “Sir, a person by name Vikram is on the line. He says he wants to talk urgently to the Superintendent of Police at the station. Shall I connect him to you, Sir?.”
“SP Rahul here,” I said when Vikram came on the line.
I heard a muffled sob when he came on the line. “My wife Vineetha . . . .,” he said. There was a pause as his voice chocked. He then continued. “She has committed suicide. I do not know what to do.”
I immediately became alert. “Don’t panic,” I said. “I will be there with you at the earliest. Can you provide me your address and landmark of your residence?” I noted down the address and the landmark on my note pad. Don’t move or touch any item in the house,” I said, as I put the phone down.
I quickly cleared my table, asked the driver to get the vehicle and called out to my assistant, Satish, to join me. As we hurried out of the office, I called out to my wife Anitha over the mobile to inform her that I would be returning home late. “Nothing new,” she remarked, as she hung up. I gave the address and the landmark to the driver as I got into the vehicle along with Satish. As the vehicle began to move, I shared with Satish the details of the phone call. “Satish, all up the forensic cell and asked them to send the team immediately to join us at the site.”
Vikram lived in an affluent part of the city in an independent house with a neat garden. As we opened the gate, a tall, handsome be-spectacled person, in his early thirties, came out. He wore a very serious look and appeared downcast. “I am Vikram,” he introduced himself and led us into the house. As we walked in, we noticed that the door had been damaged and appeared to have been forced open. He led us through the house to the bedroom. He slowly opened the bedroom door and we entered the room.
We found his wife lying limp on the bed. Her face was a bit convulsed and some white fluid had oozed out of the mouth. Instinctively my arm moved over his shoulder. “Sorry,” I said. “How did this happen?”
“She looked normal when I left for office in the morning,” Vikram said slowly. In the evening around 4 o’clock, I received a frantic call from my neighbor. “Vikram sir, I kept ringing your door bell at home but there is no response from Vineetha. I even banged on the door. Can you come immediately?”
I took my car keys and my mobile and rushed out to my car. I parked the car at the curb and rushed through the gate. I tried my best to open the door but since it was well bolted from the inside it wouldn’t budge an inch. I immediately called for my carpenter who broke open the door. I rushed into the house calling out “Vineetha, Vineetha. Where are you?” Getting no response I headed to the bedroom and threw open the door. I found Vineetha on the bed apparently fast asleep. On closer examination, I found a white fluid dripping out of her mouth. I rushed to the bed and lifted her arm. It was limp. When I let go her arm, it just fell on the bed. I stood there aghast. I shouted hoarsely. I immediately called Dr. Sadhashiv, our family physician.
He examined her and said “Vineetha must have died about four hours back. Looks like, she has taken an overdose of sleeping pills. Call the police and inform them immediately. They will guide you on the future course of action. The body will have to be subjected to a post-mortem to ascertain the cause of death. Dr. Sadhashiv then sat down to write the death certificate.”
Vikram then looked up at me for the formalities to be undertaken.
“To start with, we need to register a First Information Report (FIR) based on the details provided by you,” I started. “Then I will give a letter from our department, based on the FIR, seeking a post-mortem report from a doctor in a government hospital. You need to move the body to the hospital and request the hospital authorities to provide the post- mortem report at the earliest. Only then, the body will be accepted at the crematorium.”
Meanwhile, my forensic team from the department had arrived at the spot to start the preliminaries. The photographer started taking photos and videos of the lifeless figure on the bed and all the other areas in the room. Vineetha was in a sleeveless multicolored night gown with green flowers on it. A gold thali hung loosely from her neck. She had four gold bangles on each of her hands while on her ears she had diamond ear studs. A bright red bindhi adorned her forehead. A tattoo of a fish, laced her right arm, near the shoulder.
The finger print expert started recording the impressions on various articles and other specific areas like doors and cupboards in the room with meticulous efficiency. I looked into the dust bin to find an empty bottle with the cap lying nearby. I sought for a pair of gloves and picked up the bottle. Obviously it turned out to be the bottle from which the sleeping pills were consumed. I gave it to the finger print expert for safe custody.
I slowly sauntered into the dining room and the kitchen and my eyes methodically took in the contents of the rooms. In the kitchen sink I found a vessel in which porridge had been poured. I peered into it and found remnants of some powder. It smelt like the leftover of the powdered slipping pills. A pestle was also available but it was wiped clean. I found an empty plastic container that had earlier contained the porridge powder.
I then walked into the bedroom again and looked round. On the dressing table I found Vineetha’s mobile and started browsing through the calls and the messages. As I was scrolling through the mails I suddenly froze. “The Blue Whale,” it read. Instinctively my eyes turned towards the right arm and the tattoo of the fish stared back at me. “Oh. One more case of Blue Whale suicide,” I sighed.
“Vikram. Can you join me for a few minutes?” I showed him the messages in the mobile, looked up into his face and asked him, “Are you aware of this?” His body began to shiver and he moved over to the bed and sat down. “I never had any inkling. It is a real shock to me,” he mumbled.
He lifted his right hand and ran his fingers through his now disheveled hair. He said, I now recall. “A few days back, she wanted a tattoo on her right arm, which you see there. I asked her the sudden interest and she casually remarked that she had heard many film stars have tattoo and wanted to try one. I took her to a person in the vicinity down the road and had it done. But never for a moment did I visualize it would be this serious.”
I carried out a brief enquiry with Vikram and collected some more personal information necessary for the FIR, documented it and obtained his signature on it.
After the formalities, I left with my team before which Satish had organized an ice-box in which, we had moved the body.
“Vikram, I will send a mortuary van along with my letter for post mortem. You can be ready by 10 o’ clock.”
The next day Vikram, with the guidance of the police was able to complete the post mortem formalities. The doctor had declared in the post-mortem report that the viscera contained an excess dosage of the sleeping pills in a powdered form leading to the death of the person.
Based on the information and the post-mortem report the death was termed as suicide.
“Sir, I would request that you stay with me as a source of strength for my family till the body is taken for cremation,” Vikram requested.
Vikram’s family members and friends were all crestfallen and shocked at the turn of events. In small groups, people were discussing in hushed tones. I noticed a young lady talking animatedly to two elderly persons. I came to know later that the elderly persons were Vineetha’s parents while the young lady was Shilpa, a childhood friend of Vineetha and a journalist. As I passed by, I heard her addressing the elderly persons. “Vineetha is too strong a character to be bitten by the Blue Whale bug. She would ne’er dream about suicide. I vividly recall a personal event in our school days. I had failed in my class exams miserably and was contemplating ending my life. It was Vineetha, who had counseled me and convinced me to live life to the fullest. How times change,” she sighed.
In the meantime, the priest and his team were going through the rituals for the last rites to be performed at home. The body was then moved into the cortege and all started to disperse.
Shilpa’s words kept lingering in my mind, as I fell asleep that night. In the middle of the night I heard my wife waking me up. “Rahul, Rahul. What’s wrong with you? You have never done this before. You seem to talk in your sleep. I sat up and asked “what did I mutter, darling?”
You were saying “I wish I had been there earlier. It might have made all the difference. So all I can tell you is why he was murdered.”
Oh gosh. I had a dream. It is this girl Shilpa’s conversation and she seems to keep repeating the above words. Only thing is, I presume she must have said “he” instead of “she.” I too now get a feeling that Vineetha might have been murdered. Good night darling! I have a long day ahead and I suppose that applies to you too. Let’s catch up a few winks.”
The next day I woke up early, had my breakfast, gave a hug to Anitha and left for office. I got totally immersed in the various jobs and meetings on hand especially the latest suicide case. I suddenly realized that the days seem to just fly by and more than a week had elapsed after the suicide
It was on the day I was getting ready with summarizing the events of Vineetha in her file that Vikram had come on the line asking me to join the family for the 13th day function at home.
The start of the function was uneventful and we had breakfast. All the relatives and the close friends had come.
Vikram came forward to bid me goodbye. I took his hand held it firmly, looked into his eyes and said firmly, “You are under arrest” as my left hand dropped into my pocket and pulled out the arrest warrant. “What? Me?” He looked incredulously at me. “Yes,” I said “for murdering your wife.” There was a stunned silence and shock all around.
Shilpa walked straight towards us. “I had always felt that Vineetha is too stout hearted to commit suicide. But to be murdered by her husband, Vinod . . . and her voice trailed off.”
I locked the room from the inside and asked all the members assembled, “Can all of you sit on the floor. I will unravel the turn of events to all of you.”
“It was Shilpa who sowed the initial seed of suspicion that it could be a murder. I seriously started to work on this theory.”
On doing some research on Blue Whale, I understood that “The Blue Whale Game” also known as “Blue Whale Challenge” is a social network phenomenon, wherein the individual is asked to perform certain acts by the administrators over a 50 day period, to build up the individual psychologically, to commit suicide at the end, the 50th act. Further, the person planning to commit suicide here, either jumps down from a high rise building or jumps into the water. Likewise the tattoo is also in the schedule only as the act progresses. While performing the acts over a period, the individual will develop certain characteristics like locking oneself in the room for long hours or getting into aloofness. On talking to the neighbors and analyzing their responses, I surmised that Vineetha never had any of the symptoms associated with the Blue Whale.
I started with a visit to the person, who does the tattoo. I flashed him my card and showed him the photo of Vikram and Vineetha. He was able to recall the event immediately. He mentioned to me that initially the madam was very reluctant to have the tattoo as she wore sleeveless and it might look odd. But Vikram had prevailed upon her. This confirmed the needle of suspicion. On a review of Vineetha’s mobile, I realized that the Blue Whale link had been activated quite recently. I surmised it must have been done by Vikram to set up a trail, without the knowledge of Vineetha.
I then studied the file to pick up a lead or clue I could follow to firm up on Vikram. I read the prescription and then moved the page to the doctor’s death certificate and I froze. I quickly removed the prescription from the file and met Vikram’s printer. The printer too was able to recall the conversation he had with Vikram on the printing of the prescription for the doctor. The printer told me that Vikram sir was of a helpful nature and he wanted me to print five sets of letter head for his doctor friend who had requested him for it. The printer provided copies of the delivery challans and the bill too. I found that the bill contained other items purchased by Vikram for his office also.
Vikram now broke into the conversation. “Yes as the printer put it, I just organized for the letter heads from my printer. That does not mean anything. You cannot falsely implicate me and say I murdered my wife.”
I gave him a stern warning look and proceeded. “I then met the doctor. He categorically denied having requested Vikram for the letter heads and confirmed that he had not received any letter heads from Vikram. When I showed him the prescription, he just took one glance at it and said he had not prescribed the tablets and it was also not written by him. I immediately sent the prescription to our lab and got a confirmation that Vikram had forged the doctor’s handwriting. I then enquired at the medical shop with the prescription. The shopkeeper confirmed that a man matching Vikram’s description had purchased the medicine. When I showed him the photo he was immediately able to identify Vikram.
In my long experience, I have never come across a case where the person committing suicide washes the vessel used for the purpose clean. Further, while going through the various articles. I noticed that the pestle had the finger impression of Vikram at the bottom though the top had been cleaned up. Hence, I came to the conclusion that Vikram had powdered the pills and had mixed them in the porridge before he left for office.
“But sir,” interrupted Shilpa, “what made you go to the printer?”
I turned round to look at Shilpa. You see, when I was going through the death certificate and the medical prescription, I noticed that the address given in the death certificate by the doctor read as “IV Main Road” while that in the prescription showed “IVth Main Road. So I surmised that the letter head for the prescription must have been done with a different printer. And logically it turned out to be Rahul’s printer.”
There was a loud gasp all around.
Rahul froze and began to sweat. Shilpa looked wide eyed with wonder and asked, “Sir, the motive?”
Outwardly Vikram appears calm and has built up a reputation of a prosperous entrepreneur. I obtained his credit report, which was not too inspiring. He had borrowed heavily and was unable to service even the interest portion on the debts. The banks were also pressurizing him to service the account and to bring it to normal. This plan for murder was hatched a little over six months back.
“How did you figure that out sir, interrupted Shilpa.
I had information that he had taken an insurance policy in his wife’s name for two crores of rupees this year. I approached that insurance agent, who had helped. He acknowledged having serviced the requirement. In passing, Vineetha had also asked Vikram to take a life policy cover for himself too but Vikram was not too inclined and he had changed the topic. While reading the fine print, I came across a line saying that if the policy holder commits suicide within six months of the policy, then the nominee will not be entitled to the death benefits. If you correlate the date of the policy with the date of death, you will draw your conclusions.
Vikram had just slumped into a chair, his face down and covered with his palms. As I walked Vikram to the waiting van the room was filled with a buzz of voices.
“I am now torn between love for my friend and my profession. I have a breaking news on hand but at what cost” sighed Shilpa.