“There is this dream that I keep having every night from past ten years. There was a monkey. A cruel, demonic and frightening monkey. He is beating a pup, torturing him in all possible manner. He continues his beating every night after reaching home. Then he would turn towards his own wife, and starts to beat her up as well. But if that was not sufficient enough to satisfy his hunger, he would sell his wife to his crocodile friends, while he would himself enjoy the company of other female monkeys. The pup after all this, would slowly start losing a part of his life and one day, when nothing was left of his conscience, he burns the monkey alive, with no remorse or guilt.”
Mahipalpur is a very busy locality of capital city. Known for its numerous known and unknown string of hotels that appeared like local vendors selling cheap vegetables. Had it not been for the international airport in the opposite ends of the NH-8, it would be just another locality. But Mahipalpur is no Las Vegas or Mumbai, so it sleeps in nights…nights that are opened for other lucrative business opportunities, with limited but continuous string of male customers.
But even this business has a limited hours of run time in which they operate. As after the last hour, either the male customers are enjoying their lucrative product, or maybe, the business owners just didn’t care.
It was one such night and it was one such non-working hour. The fog and chilling breeze had spread like a blanket over the entire city. Even in the situation when most of the flights were getting cancelled, some flights would dare and tear the layer of fog to make way for their respective destinations. Their sound was the only sound a human being could hear from the deepest reaches of their blankets, expect for the clock ticking. But that night, an unknown, ghostly sound had taken over the peace and silence of the locality. A strange, cruel far cry that can wake up even the dead.
A figure, swallowed by flames, was running amuck on the national highway. It struggled for the help, which did not came. The burning lump of flesh tried shouting, but as the flames were making their mark, the yelling became more and more unstructured, until it finally fell on the road with no movement. The shouting had stopped. It was the familiar sound of flights taking off and clocks ticking. As the burning lump of flesh lay on the road, a mysterious figure could be seen approaching it. Covered in a long hooded jacket, it stood by the flames, head steady. The left hand of the figure reached for the mouth and a puff of smoke was released, with the figure now carrying an almost finished cigarette. The figure kept looking at the flames, then threw the bud in the flames. It leaned on the left leg and spoke in a peculiar low pitch tone, “And this…is for both our families and this whole human race.”
Mahipalpur was in a big rush next morning. The sun had refused to show up as usual. The local residents were surrounding the heap of ash while the traffic was moving at its usual tone, not caring about the crowd and cops. A tall constable was trying to cover up the area, while waiting for other policemen to arrive. After some minutes of waiting, another constable joined the scene. “Saini Ji,” he said addressing the tall constable, “I had informed the station in-charge. That idiot!” he gritted his teeth, “Said he was breathing.” “Breathing?” Saini asked. “Yes. But you may not know as you joined only yesterday. He is A DEMON! From the day he took over the station a week back, he has made us all work like ass and then watch cricket with him. That’s what he was doing when I called him. Watching cricket is like breathing for him. Gadhe hain saare afsar Saale! (All officers are like crazy ass!).” The constable was still reminiscing when a police siren interrupted his flow. A police Innova stopped near the crime scene. A man dressed in civil uniform, came out donning aviators glasses and his left hand gently stroking his moustaches. “Here comes the demon.” The constable said with the gritted teeth. He rushed towards the man. “Good morning sir!” he saluted the in-charge. The station in-charge took his aviators and glared at the constable and spoke in a bold and leading voice, “They can’t let me have a day in the pavilion. I just took the captainship and there is already an injury in my area.” ‘Please someone kill me!’ the constable thought. “Rathi Sir…we tried to reach out to the forensics. They are not able to identify the ashes. I have asked the locals around, but they claim to have seen nothing. I think it’s a gone case.”
Rathi, the station in-charge looked at him and smirked, “But I don’t run the way you think Greg Chapel. Try to ask anyone around. You will get any missing cases…maybe someone who went missing in some days or so. Get back to me ASAP.” Constable saluted him and disappeared inside the crowd. Rathi moved towards the heap of ash laying on the NH-8 near the airport road. ‘Sick…people of this city are turning sick day by day.’ He thought. “I think this is the case of revenge or madness, sir.” Rathi turned his head to see constable Rathi standing on his right, in attention position. Rathi stared in his eyes and replied, “And you have any reason to support your thesis, young player?” He asked with an interrogative tone. Saini took aback being referred to as player, but soon remembering Rathi’s taste of cricket, continued in support of his answer, “Sir if we just look at the usual mentality of a criminal, a knife attack, choking the neck or killing with the poison are basic tools of killing. A bit resourceful killer would go for a road accident with any vehicle, or maybe a bullet. But this,” he pointed at the ash, “this requires preparation. It requires knowledge of a person’s isolation, when is alone. And something like this can be done only if someone wants to take out his or her anger on a person. This is what I believe.”
“Hmm…” Rathi said, still penetrating into Saini’s eyes. “Can’t see a reason why your analysis maybe wrong. But we might have to wait for the list of missing people in last few days. Anyways,” he continued, turning his back towards the ash, resting his right hand on Saini’s shoulder, “I am super delighted to see such a young talent in my team. Yu remind me of myself when I was a young recruit. So here is what you are going to do Mr. Saini. Inquire about any rich who has gone missing in the last few weeks.” “Rich, sir?” Saini interrupted. “Yes, rich. Because even I think that a pure act of vengeance could match this degree of killing. But also, a poor or, a middle class would never harm a person to a degree that something like this can happen. Only the rich of this city possess the power to harm or hurt a person to the level that someone might lose his mind. It’s a guess anyways, but is better than anything I guess. Run along now my Virat! Report of your analysis on my desk in the evening.”
“Sure sir!” Saini saluted him and walked towards the crowd. Rathi had maintained a straight face all along. But he was getting worried about the case. All he had was a guess, backed by a constable. He needed a solid proof for his guess. And there is just one person who could help him. He reached for his mobile in his right jeans pocket and took out his new android phone. After unlocking it with a passcode that was like a test match score made by a cricket player, he went into his dial screen and tapped on the first name on his screen. After four rings, a female voice, sweet, yet full with confidence, crackled-
Rathi smiled at the voice and spoke in a totally different, gentle voice, “Hey there! Listen…its urgent. I want to meet you at lunch,” he looked at his watch, “Its eleven now, how about at two o’clock? Please don’t say no…”
“Aree wait yaar! Kitna bolega? (Stop now! How much will you speak?) I just reached my office, opened my laptop. Let me take a deep breath as least! I will ping you the location and final time in a while, so don’t worry, okay?” she was still gentle and sounded happy. “Okay…no issues, but don’t cancel the match please.” Rathi was sounding totally different than he would in front of his subordinates and criminals. “Oi! At least don’t use your cricket semantics on me…please. I beg you.” the female said. “Aye sure. See you then.” Rathi cut the call and returned toward the crime scene.
Constable Saini came out of the crowd and approached Rathi. “Sir! I found a witness. A garbage collector. He claims to have seen the entire incidence very closely. You must see this.” he said excited. Rathi gave a sigh of relief. “Finally a third empire.” he said, “Take me to him.” They walked out of the crime scene, which was still surrounded by the people and police. The forensics had now arrived and were now doing their stuff. Rathi and Saini reached near the police car, where a short heighted man was standing, covering himself in a blanket. As he saw the two policemen approaching him, he stood straight. Rathi came close to him and landed a tight slap on his left cheek. The other constables along with Saini were surprised by the sudden change in Rathi’s attitude. Rathi was glaring at the garbage collector with his dark brown eyes and that was making the garbage collector perspiring.
“Who do you think you are? We are fielding our ass off to just get a clue as to who got bowled and here you are, covered in your blanket, waiting for one of us to finally come to you and then you will give your judgement? Chal… start commentary…and make it exact. Don’t you think of a T-20 with me.” The garbage collector who by this time, was scared and of course, confused, was staring blankly at Rathi. “Re bata na kya dekha tanne? (Bloody tell him what you saw yesterday?” Saini shouted. The garbage collector took a deep breath and began-
“It was around three in the night, Saab. It was very cold. I was coming from a friend’s place. We were supposed to drink together last night. But Saab, his wife threw me out and locked the door. Saab…his wife is very scary…Saab…” “DID I ASK YOU THAT? COME TO THE MATCH DIRECTLY YOU IDIOT.” Rathi shouted. “Ji…Ji Saab… so I carried a bottle of rum with me, when I sat under the flyover. There was some fire, but nobody was there, so I decide to lay down. I had almost gone to sleep, Saab…when I saw a man all covered in fire, burning like a mini sun, Saab. I got very scared. I looked around, there was no body expect me. I had decided to go out and help him, when that man fell on the road. I thought it was too late. I got so scared Saab, that I decided to make a run from it, before anyone else could see me. But another person was slowly came from the same direction the burning man came before. He was all covered in black. It was very foggy, but I could still see that he took out a cigarette from his mouth and threw it on a burning man. He kept sitting there for some time, then walked back in the same direction from where he came. That’s all I saw, Saab.”
Rathi kept giving him his glare and after some seconds, he leaned over the short garbage collector and asked, “How are you sure that the burning body belonged to a man?” “Saab…it was a clear shrilling shout for help. It was very much audible. I am sure those poor in big hotels and houses would also have heard that sound.” the garbage collector said in a sarcastic tone.
“Hmm…” Rathi said. Things were making a bit more sense now. He still needs more. Only if the sun as out, he could have thought of more ways. Fog just seems to clog his thinking. He looked at the garbage collector and said, “Don’t leave the pavilion. Saini,” he turned towards Saini, “Take his statement and start looking more. If he could hear the sound of the man, people in these front houses and buildings might also have heard something.” He said pointing towards the houses and hotels on the national highway. Saini took the garbage collector to a corner and started taking down his details. After taking the statement, he raised his index finger to warn the garbage collector, “Seher mat choriyo tau…dhara gaya na…to kachra bana ke pichwaara laal kar daange (don’t leave the town…if we catch you doing so, we will make you a garbage bag and kick your ass).” Saini then turned towards Rathi and said, “Sir, I am now going to do some inquiries more. The report will be there on your table, along with the missing cases. I think I will focus more on the male missing cases.” “Yes do that. I hope something positive comes out.” Rathi said exhaling.
Majnu ka Teela was a romantic place in Hauz Khaas and was surround by forest and old remains of forts. Rathi sat facing a short black haired woman. “Thanks for coming” Rathi said, in his same low and gentle voice, as he was sounding on the phone. “Aree its okay. I am your fiancée after all.” She said in a gentle voice. Rathi started blushing. Only if his staff and that garbage collector were there to see this. “Hey Kapil! Stop doing this. It’s really a shock sometimes. Nobody here can say that you are a cop.” Rathi changed his expression and was sitting with just a smile. “So Bhavyaa, how was your day?”
“Ah…normal…nothing great…usual stuff…clients…as in…patients…nothing much.” She said in a usual carefree tone. “You say…there was something you wanted to talk about?” she asked.
“Oh yes…there is this case I am working on. Wanted your help. So you see…there is this…”
“You want to place any order sir?” a waiter dressed in black interrupted him. Rathi looked at him, “Two glasses of water for now…” he faced Bhavyaa and continued, “So this case…”
“Normal or mineral water Sir? The waiter interrupted again. Rathi looked at him again with a serious note, “Anything you want us to drink…please…thank you!” He waited till the waiter was gone, then continued, “So…the police found a body, burned to ashes…today morning. After inquiry, we found out that the body was actually alive when it was burnt and a figure, man or woman, still not known, not only followed it, but also stood by it and leaned over the body, just to throw a cigarette.
I have my notions of believing that only a person with a deep revenge dream, could do something like this. Also, that the person who is dead, must be very rich to cause such a trauma that he was burnt alive. But we have no other go ahead as of now.” He bent over a bit and continued, “You are a psychiatrist Bhavyaa…and that too a criminal psychiatrist. What do you think can be so deep and disturbing that someone would not only burn a person, but would stand there to watch it?”
“Look, Kapil…First of all, you have to realise the fact that not every person burnt, is due to an act of revenge or is a rich. But, like you said, another person was leaning over it, I will support your argument that the deceased must have done something so terrible, that watching him burn, gave a sense of fulfilment to the other person, who was watching it. I would say…go for cases where a person, who went missing, had a history of causing troubles. It might be a poor or rich. It cannot be argued for now.” Bhavyaa said, “It happens you know…sometimes…the pain and sufferings cross a limit, where a person feels nothing. In that case, he either becomes a psychopath or a sadist. It is hard to even imagine what human mind is capable of.”
Rathi looked at her and smiled, “I took the right decision by deciding to marry you.” Bhavya laughed. “Yes, Senior Inspector Kapil Rathi. One of your very wise decisions of course.”
“Sir would you like to place any order?” the same waiter stood with his notepad ready. Rathi, who was now getting irritated by this question, looked at him with a grim look, and said, “I asked for two glasses of water. Where are those?”
“Normal or mineral water Sir? The waiter asked again. “Bhai…whatever makes you happy…but please stop acting like Steve Buckner…don’t be this confused…just get us water please!” Rathi pleaded with his hands. The waiter left, confused and embarrassed.
Bhavyaa sighed, “You and you cricket.”
Rathi sat on his chair, in his cabin, trying to figure out the next step, when Saini came in with a report file in his hand. “What is the update on match, Saini? Rathi asked. Saini, who was now getting used to the cricket semantics, replied, “Sir, I managed to cover all the families and hotel receptionists, some bluntly refused to have heard or seen nothing, while one or two of them, they claim to have heard some noise, but didn’t bother to check it. Meanwhile, I was also checking for the missing complaints, and strangely, a family is waiting outside, who claim that the dead body belonged to one of their family members.”
“Is that so?” Rathi was amazed by this sudden development. “And what is it that makes them this sure?” he asked. “The lady, who claims it was her husband, said they were receiving some weird warnings.” Saini replied. “Hmm…I think then we have our dead man’s identity.
Rathi and Saini came out of the cabin. The family of four was sitting there. A lady, probably in her middle age, with a well maintained figure and lipstick (Rathi raised his left eyebrow, looking at it), and dressed in a plain saare. A girl, in her late teens, sitting on another chair opposite to and far from her mother’s (the facial similarity between the two was uncanny) a man…an army man, dressed in his full uniform, his left hand gently tapping the woman’s shoulder and a man in his early twenties, strangely standing at the centre of the room, but with autistic behaviour (he was blinking rapidly, clean shaven and his face all confused, with an innocence).
Rathi looked at them all, without them noticing, then cleared his throat. “Excuse me mam. My Virat just told me that you claim that ash on NH-8 belongs to your husband?” he asked. The lady looked at him, her eyes all wet. She stood up and approached him. “Unfortunately, yes. That as belongs to my husband. Sad, as it is, that our family could not see his body. It cannot get worse than this. Only yesterday night, I saw him, then he left for his warehouse in Rajokari. I had asked him to take his security, but he refused, saying that he was going to see a friend.” Saying that, she broke down into tears. The army man, was swiftly came to console her, while the other man, took out his handkerchief and passed it on to her. “Here here…aunty…please don’t cry. You cry…I cry with you.” He spoke in a curious and childish tone of a ten year old kid. Rathi was not used to this kind of television family drama in his station. He passed a glimpse to her daughter who was sitting on the other corner of the station. She was staring at her mother, with all the possible loathing and hatred. It was too much for Rathi to bear. He called the mother into his cabin. As she started walking by, the young man, started following her. “Not you young man.” Rathi pointed him out. “You stay here. Will call you when needed.” “But I want to come with her. She has my ice-cream.” he said, making faces. ‘God this is the worst test match of my life!’ Rathi thought. “Roshan dear!” the lady spoke, “wait here okay? Army uncle will get you your ice-cream. I need to talk to this another uncle…okay dear?” she said, still sobbing in between. Roshan, nodded his head like as child and went to stand with the army man.
Inside the cabin, Rathi had already decided to ask the important questions ever, as he could not tolerate the rich people crying. He sat in his chair and began the inquiry-
“Your husband, you said he worked in a warehouse?
“Yes, but not worked, he owned it. He, along with his partner, they run four warehouses, two of them here in Rajokari and two in Badarpur.”
“What reasons…and I mean solid reasons that you have, on the basis of which you are making this claim that the ash found belonged to your husband?”
“It had been for a year now. My husband and his partner used to get threat messages. First we all thought that it was because of the business. But one day, both of them, received a drawing. That drawing had two crocodiles, being burnt by a pup, and a printed message in the bottom saying, for all our families…yours and mine.”
“Hmm…did you report that?”
“We wanted to. But my husband was too arrogant to pay attention to that. Then every month, such drawings used to come. I secretly reported it to this station. But my husband as he discovered, withdrew the report. His ego was too big to read the signs. And then the first strike happened.”
“And that was…?”
“His partner…he used to handle the two Badarpur warehouses. We got the news that he was burnt alive outside his warehouse. By the time people tried to put off the flames, the damage was done. That was six months back. Even after that incident, my husband never bothered to take a security. He would often take off for night, days sometimes. Then a month back, he received another drawing. And that had just one crocodile, being burnt alive by the pup. And yesterday, he left in his Audi like usual…but who knew that he is not going to come back.” She burst into tears again.
“Did the police ever find out about the man behind the killing of your late husband’s partner’s killer?” Rathi continued ignoring her fresh tears.
“They tried. But nothing fruitful came out. My husband was adamant that it was a corporate rivalry. I kept telling him otherwise.”
“Oh sorry…I just forgot to ask your name.”
“My name is Sunita Sehgal. My husband’s name was Sumit Sehgal. The owner and partner in Sehgal Chemicals and Logistics.”
“And his partner’s name please?”
“Thank you Mrs. Sehgal. I will try my level best to solve this case. But I need to ask some questions to your daughter and your nephew.”
“Ohh…he is not my nephew. He works for me…does the house choirs. A bit mentally challenged for his age. But he is very sweet.”
“Oh and do you have smoke? My packet’s empty”
“Oh no…I may look modern, but I never got accustomed to all this.”
“Okay…” he escorted Mrs. Sunita outside his cabin and waved his hand to her daughter who was busy playing her iPod. Rathi never liked the spoilt brats. The girl took off here earplugs after watching Rathi waving at her. Rathi signalled her to come in his cabin. It was time for the round two.
Sunita was already comfortably sitting with the army man, and Roshan, watching them both and having his ice cream.
“You have a name?”
‘What is with this S?’ he thought, “Sunaina, I apologise for the loss that you had…I…”
“Don’t bother apologising. I am not a bit sad at what happened.” She said in a low pitch, egoistic and blunt tone, with a straight face.
‘Brats!’ “May I know why that is?”
“Because my father, was a pig. He had no morals, no love. All he cared was his work, his business and the remaining time was given to that whore….that mistress of his. We were just a mistake for that man. Any night, if he would stay back, he would beat my mom first, then would reach for his only daughter. And he has been doing it for past ten years. Easy enough for my lovely mother. She found her so called love in that army man, Major Shankar Katotra. But I was all alone. So why would I even care a BIT in this world for what happened to my so called father or how much does my mother’s bed shake in night. I just want to be free.”
“So you hated your father. You hate you mother too I get that. Can I put it this way then? That you had a great advantage if your father just vanished from your life?”
“Yes. But it’s not just me. Even my mother would be at great advantage. You see…she can enjoy her sex life more freely.” She spoke in a carefree, yet an underlined taunt that was clearly seen.
“And what about Roshan? What would he get out of all this?”
“Roshan? That poor guy could hardly stand a sight of my father. He was very frightened of his sight. Whenever my father would come home, Roshan would just hide under my bed or just leave secretly for his room, that not far from our mansion.”
“How long you all have known him?”
“Not long. It was my father’s partner who introduced this poor chap as a servant as my father’s partner had no family to look after.He is here since last three years. Before that, I have no idea.”
“You never asked him about his birthplace? Where he is from, his parents and all?”
“We didn’t bother. My mother and I were comfortable with him from the start. His innocence was such that we never really cared. He would ask me to read him short tales every day.”
“Thank you Sunaina. Please send the army man in.”
“Oh and do you have smoke? My packet’s empty.”
“I am way past that inspector.”
The army man –
“I expected a bit respect Senior Inspector Rathi.”
“Well Major Shankar, it’s a respect enough that I am doing it in a much different way than I handle my other cases. Plus, you are not here for an IPL match. So please, don’t focus on my reception manners, just answer my questions. How long have you known the Sehgals?”
“From 10 years.”
“And Mrs. Sunita?”
“Did you had any verbal or physical fight with Mr. Sumit over anything?”
“Were you ever threatened by him?”
“Yes. Plenty of times.”
“For what reasons?”
“I wanted Sunita to divorce her husband. Which was not acceptable by him. So he faced me once, but just threatened me and left every time.”
“Hmm…you have smoke? My packet’s empty.”
“I don’t smoke.”
“Thank You.” Rathi smiled and raised his left hand to point him towards the door. Major Shankar gave him a grim look then left the cabin.
After few minutes, Saini came in with another file. “You got any hint sir?” He asked curiously. Rathi leaned back on his chair, with his hands placed below his head. With his right leg over his left one and the left toe touching the marble floor, Rathi was sitting in his perfect thinking position. He glued his eyes on the ceiling and asked Saini to pick up the white board marker and start working on it as it says.
“So there is a wife, who has a lover, yet she laments over her cruel husband’s death,” Saini drew a woman, “a daughter who is happy that someone killed his father,” Saini drew another figure, “an army man who had every reason to get rid of his lover’s husband…and then there is this Roshan…a very strange and unique player…if Sumit were to be alive, it would hardly matter to him. If Sumit dies, even then it would hardly matter to him. Yet surprisingly, he is the only connection between Sumit and his partner.” Saini had drawn the entire scene on the whiteboard. “The problem is,” Rathi continues, “none of them smoke. And if we were to believe the garbage collector, the other person was smoking. I really can’t get a fix on this match fixer.” “Sir what if all this is just a façade. That woman and her lover wanted to get rid of all this. So they created this whole fake story and planned on murdering this man with the exact plot?” Saini pointed out.
“No Saini, it’s a no ball. See…we were right till now…the murdered is a rich. He had done many cruel things with her family. But doing something like that, it requires more. She mentioned about an old report she filed in this police station some time back. Check the old records and find me that report.” Rathi ordered Saini. “And while you are at it, get me the copy of the Badarpur case and send one constable behind every one of them…let’s see how victimised they really are.”
Saini saluted and left the cabin.
Next morning saw no change in the weather. The dense fog of December was causing hindrance all around. Inside the police station, Rathi was sitting on his chair, eagerly waiting for the reports and his cup of tea. Soon he was joined by Saini, whose eye were all puffed. He did not leave the station last night. “Were you still playing on the opening yesterday night Saini?” Rathi asked looking at him. “Yes sir,” Saini replied, “Yesterday I collected all the information that can be required to give us a way ahead. There are many things that had come up just in last night after you left. You will be surprised once you hear all.” Rathi looked at him and said, “Trust me, junior, nothing in this city surprises me anymore. But anyways, I would want to see the reports. But first I need you to have a cup of tea. You look exhausted.”
Saini, a little charged up by the station in-charge’s compliment and support, kept the files on his table and went out, to return after few minutes, bringing two cup of teas. “And this one is for you, sir.” Saini said, keeping the cup in his right hand on to the table. “Thank you.” Rathi said, “Now start the commentary.”
“Sir, yesterday, I searched through the old records to take out the report. This is the drawing that Mrs. Sunita was talking about,” he took out the drawing and kept it on the table, “To match it with the first murder, I called the Badarpur station. They had faxed me the details. The drawing was exactly as she told. Sumit’s partner received the drawing with two crocodiles, while the one that Sumit received had one.” He handed another piece of drawing to Rathi, “what is strange, that Sumit’s partner got the drawing, in which there are indeed two crocodiles, but only one was being burned by the pup. While in Sumit’s case, there is just one crocodile. But come to look at it, you will find that a burned piece of ash, is kept on the same position where the first crocodile was there. It was a clear indication that the murderer was giving Sumit a warning. I think Mrs. Sunita was telling the truth. These murders are being done by just one person.”
Rathi looked at Saini, impressed, “You just made a half century junior! If this is to be true, then even that Major is out of the suspicion line. You see, Major had only one reason to kill Sumit, that’s because of Sunita. And he had known both of them for long. It would make no sense for him plan this elaborate and kill Sumit’s partner first, then wait another six months to finally get rid of him altogether. Also Sumit’s daughter. A spoilt brat as she is, I don’t think she had the courage to plan such elaborately. So what’s remaining now, are two players, Mrs. Sunita herself and her young servant Roshan.”
“Roshan, Sir?” Saini interrupted, “Isn’t he mentally challenged?”
“Exactly!” Roshan said excited, “A perfect cover. Maybe I am wrong. But there is something about him that makes no sense. He was introduced to Sumit’s family by Sumit’s partner. By the way, did his partner had a family?”
“Hmm…Sunaina did tell me that… anyways…then he came to live with Sumit’s family. Now what is interesting is this- yesterday, as I came out of the cabin, to see the family, they all were in the two separate sides of the station. But Roshan stood just in the centre, with a t shirt that pointed a thumb down, like he was teasing me as a loser. A ten year old mind, he listens to the stories, but wears a t-shirt that a ten year old would not prefer. Then it was the lips. Did you notice? He was a fair skin person. The only fair skinned among all the four. But his lips were not. They were blackened, as if he smoked. What is more amusing, is that he was in a police station, his two masters died by burning in flames, while he kept on asking for ice-cream. You remember when I asked Sunita to come inside the cabin, he said she had his ice-cream. Now why would a lady carry an ice-cream in her bag…” he stopped, his eyes went blank. ‘Of course!’ “OF COURSE!” he shouted, Saini was unable to understand what was going on. But Rathi hardly cared. But needed to be absolutely sure before taking an action. He picked up the drawing from his table and gave it a thorough look. His eye gleamed as he looked at the drawing. “Saini, arrange a meeting with Sunaina Sehgal. And make sure no one finds out. Keep it discrete.”
Two Hours Later…
Rathi sat on his chair, facing a frightened looking twenty year old mentally challenged Roshan. He looked around with his mouth half opened, and his eyes rapidly searching for something up on the ceiling. Rathi, looked at him with a teasing smile, his eyes glued on to Roshan’s face. Saini stood behind Roshan, covering the door. Rathi kept looking at Roshan with a teasing smile for some time, then leaned forward, “Roshan! How are you today morning?” he asked. “Huh? I am okay…I want to go to my aunt. She has my ice-cream.” Roshan replied in a childish tone. Saini was still not sure of what was happening. He felt bad for Roshan. “Your aunty had gone to get you an ice-cream.” Rathi continued, “Even I will give you one, if you answer my questions. Will you answer my questions Roshan?”
Roshan looked at him with a curious face and asked, “You will give me my ice-cream? Okay.” He nodded looking at Rathi’s shoulders. “So tell me Roshan, how did Sumit uncle treat you?” “He used to give me sticks every night he saw me. Sticks would make my skin red and it would hurt. So I used to run away in Sunaina didi’s (sister’s) room and would hide there under the bed.” He said in a low voice in one go. “And then what would happen?” “Then didi would come to room and read me the stories.” “What kind of stories did you read?” “I don’t read, she had a big book, from which she would read me the stories and then I would sleep.” “What kind of stories Roshan?” “She would read me all sort of stories…fairy tales, Kutchu, Tom Sawyer.”
“Tom Sawyer! I don’t like Tom Sawyer. He was a bad boy.” Rathi said tauntingly.
“Hmm? No…Tom Sawyer was a good boy. He loved his aunty. He was always taking care of her.”
“No…but he goes off killing his aunty. Don’t you know that? He turns out to be a bad person and runs ways with her money.”
“No…no…Tom Sawyer never did that. He always loved his aunt. He brought the Huck back and his aunt accepted him. He was a good guy. Tom, Sid, Mary and Huck…all were loved by Aunt Polly.” Roshan said in one go.
Rathi gave a widespread smile, the joy of win was clearly visible on his face. “Exactly my point Roshan. How do you know what happened in the end as your Sunaina didi, just read you one chapter only?”
Roshan looked at him helplessly…his eyes still moving around to search something. “You don’t have my ice-cream, do you?” he asked
“Enough of the facade Roshan. Tell me the truth. Show your true self.” Rathi said in his glary look. Roshan stared at him, his face on the verge of crying, his eyebrows raised up in curiosity and his mouth half opened. And then it changed. His eyes became straight, his facial expressions slowly changed into a mature, serious looking face. As he leaned back on his chair, he closed his mouth crossed his right leg to his left and folded his hands on his lap. A mean, winning smile had now taken over, where an innocent gaping mouth was there before. His eyes adjusted and were now matching the glare of Rathi’s eyes.
He spoke in a tone, totally unheard from him before. A deep, complex voice spoke, “Well done Mr. Rathi. I am impressed. What is it you wanna know?”
Rathi, who for some reason was expecting this, was not at all surprised and kept on looking at him with a smile. Saini, who was till that point was sympathising with Roshan, was now awestruck. He was totally taken aback by this sudden development of events. There was a silence…Roshan was looking at Rathi with a smiling face. “Hello there…” Rathi broke the silence, “so who are you? Are you Roshan? Or is it an alter ego?” Rathi said, leaning forward.
“Oh please…!” Roshan laughed, “This is not a movie Rathi Ji, don’t act childish. The child Roshan was just an act…a performance…Kept me off the hook all my life.” “So I will come straight to the topic,” Rathi said, “Why did you murder Sumit and his partner?” Roshan’s face now turned into a serious one. He kept looking at Rathi’s face. After a moment he spoke, “My mother always told me a story before I went to sleep. It was a story of a monkey, who befriends a crocodile. As the time passes, they become the best of friends. One day, crocodile gets greedy and he decides to bring monkey to his home, only to be cheated and having his heart eaten. That monkey was smart. He understood the game and escaped. Only if my father was that smart.
My father was a very successful businessman. He, along with his two partners, Sumit and Ashutosh used to run four warehouses in Delhi. My father was a noble soul. He used to call them both at our house and treat them like brothers. But both of them had a totally different plan in the mind. Their greed was such, that one night, they came in, like usual, but this time they had something else in mind. I clearly remember, my father had gifted me a goggle. It was a red goggle, I wore it for the whole day and I was very happy. I was wearing it when they came in and attacked my father, while the other one held my mother by the neck. My father begged them to stop and promised to do whatever they wanted. But those two were not willing to listen. Those…crocodiles…they wanted to eat my father’s heart. After torturing him for some time, killed him, while turning to my mother and undressing her.
I stood there, watching my father getting killed and my mother getting raped. I had seen these two crocodiles, betraying my father…a loyal man…like a dog loyal… and raping my mother. But if that was not enough, they burned her alive. My mother…a gentle soul…” tears started flowing down Roshan’s cheek, his eyes all red…but he kept on-
“I had seen the hell that day. It was not nice…it was all red…the two crocodiles ignored me and left…the worst mistake of their demonic life. The police was never able to prove that what went down that night ten years ago. I was taken by my uncle in Lucknow. But little did I knew that it was just another hell I was going in. He would come home every night, drunk…he would rape his wife and beat him. Then when that was not sufficient, he would come after me. Even after all this, my aunt used to treat me like her own son. She would often cry when alone…but she treated me like a son. My uncle…as if the things he did were not sufficient, sold his wife to his friends, while he himself would run after his whores.
Every night, he used to beat both of us. Up till one day, when I lost my soul. That day…I burnt him in his sleep. That was my first awakening. Once again, the cops were never able to prove that how the murder happened. But I knew. We shifted to Delhi after some months. And as the fate would be more kind to me. We came this very same locality. From where it all began. All I needed to do wait. I used to see these two crocodiles every day. They seemed to have forgotten who I was…but I didn’t. As the time passed, my aunt started getting sick. She was the only link I had to the mortal world. But one day, when her condition worsened, I could not take it. So I relieved her of the pain and hell. Now I was all alone. A fifteen year old teenager, I just wanted the liberation…nirvana…from this hell we live in. I left the place to get a work somewhere. I met many people who would use and betray others for their work. I was angry…very angry…until after three years, I met a girl. A local shopkeeper’s daughter, where I used to work. She was very rich…a spoilt brat. One say she came in my room above the shop and wanted me to play with her body. I did…but then…she should not have said that she was already engaged. She was cheating on her fiancé. I could not take it…so I killed her as well.
And finally, I came back. This childish act of innocence that I donned for all my life, was very helpful in getting close to Ashutosh. And after gaining his trust, I moved in with Sumit’s family. After many years, I had finally found a family. A mother like figure and a sister. But this crocodile was same like he was when he raped my mother, like my uncle used to beat my aunt. Had it not been for Shankar, I would have relieved her as well. And when the time came, I started sending them drawings…but they would ignore. So I took Ashutosh down. Finally it was Sumit’s turn. And as planned, one night, when he was returning from his one of the mistress’s house, I drenched him in petrol and burnt him alive.”
Rathi kept looking at him. His face was now a blank one. He was sitting in front of a psychopath, who had murdered five people with no remorse. Yet here he is, claiming that it was all just for the greater good. “What now?” Rathi asked. “All this act…yet I caught you.”
“No Mr. Rathi you did not.” Roshan spoke in a casual tone. “Yesterday I saw you asking the garbage collector. I was standing very close to you. It’s just that you did not pay attention. After killing the last of the crocodiles, I was free. I wanted nothing more from this world. Then as he mentioned that he saw me smoking… that was a lifesaver. I stood in front of you…in your station. A t-shirt saying that you are losing. I revealed that my aunt has my ice-cream. What I meant was that she had my sanity….the solution to the fire burning in my heart for so long. My aunt had that…my mother had that…my father…So I decided to make it a bit difficult for you. But then again, I am done… I am tired…I want to rest now.Your investigation is nonetheless…great.”
“All this…just for revenge?” Rathi questioned. Roshan looked at him with a grim face and said, “If you see you parents raped and burned alive…if you spent the next few years trying to cope up with another hell, while all the demons run free…what you will do Sir? Look around you…why are we living? Every person in this world…just wants to satisfy themselves. They don’t care if anyone is hurt…they don’t care if someone dies…a girl victimises herself and makes use of other man…a man…cheating his family for sex…cheating his partner for wealth….all this hurts me…the betrayal…this selfishness…it makes me sad…vulnerable…angry…very angry…so I decided to take the matters in my own hand. Get this world rid of any such person.”
Rathi looked at him will loathe…he leaned forward and said, “You are no sane…you are sick…you dint need prison…you need a medication.” He looked up to Saini, “Call the Sehgal family…tell them the murderer is found. And call the mental asylum.”
“There won’t be any need with the Sehgal’s. They know…I told them before putting them to rest forever.” Roshan said. Rathi grabbed his collar and pulled him up, “YOU BASTARD! WHAT WAS THE NEED FOR THAT…WEREN’T THEY YOUR SANITY?”
Roshan looked at him and smiled, “And that’s why I did it. You see…if Sunita aunty would have been alive…she would be making my sister unhappy. I needed someone to continue the regime. So I went to her the Major’s place and before they can realise…I relieved them as well. I did tell her the reason though. I hope she would have heard it all. Now it’s just my sister. Happy…she has nothing to worry about now.”
Rathi threw him on the floor and was about to take out his gun, when Saini stopped him. “Take him away right now…JUST LEAVE!” He shouted to Saini.
“Relax Kapil…I told you…sometimes…it’s impossible to come back after crossing the line. But how did you know who the killer was?” Bhavyaa asked him, as she served him the rice, in Rathi’s apartment. “I didn’t. Just played a bluff. The drawing that I was looking at, was made on a blank paper, but it had a drawing…a faint drawing of a boy, painting a fence…”
“Tom Sawyer?” Bhavyaa asked.
“Yes…Sunaina had already told me that she used to read stories to Roshan. I discretely arranged for a meeting. When I met her again, I asked her about the Tom Sawyer story. She told me tat she would read just a chapter of one story each day and she clearly remembered that Tom Sawyer story was red to read Roshan a year back as after that, the book had gone missing. It was clear to me that Roshan had taken special interest it and would have read it.
So to check my theory, I called Roshan and presented a false character of Tom, to which he reacted very badly and corrected me. I would still have gone for his lips, which were darker as compared to his skin colour, proving the point that he smoked. And it would bring on the case altogether.”
“Hmm…you are brilliant Kapil…but you just don’t seem happy?”
“How can I be? I tried opening the old file. His parents were indeed murdered. His uncle burnt in sleep. A lady dead where he used to work and now this. Everything matches. This guy has seen a lot…but how can someone go that far? Poor Sunaina will now have to live her life without her parents. Her maasi (mother’s sister) has taken her in.”
“It’s the brain, Kapil. Your mind is very powerful that any other weapon. Plus don’t you see…he matured, thinking that he was in a hell. So no matter what he does, it will just be another act of daily routine. He believed that he was helping them, while he was losing himself in the process.”
“There was no help he was giving. In the end…he was just another man…out for revenge.” Rathi looked at Bhavyaa who gave a supporting smile and they went back to having their dinner.
© 2016 by Manish Singh. All Rights Reserved