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Bus#126W       My Family and I       Games we play       All Roads Lead Home       As Good As It Gets       Whodunit?      

The Reunion       A Dog's World      My Sister's Daughter

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Whodunit - Chapter 26 - The End

I hung up and walked to the holding cell. I saw Aarti and Krupa sitting in the waiting room. I let them be. I would need Aarti later, but for now, I wanted to focus on Shvetank and Dhruv. Could they be in it together? I asked myself. I pushed the thought out of my head almost immediately. That didn’t make any sense.

Dhruv was pacing impatiently.
“You can go now.” I held the door open for him.
“My alibi checked out, didn’t it? I told you, I was at the club.” He picked up his jacket and started walking out.
“How’d you come?”
“My bike. Why?”
“Do your friends borrow your bike sometimes?”
“No.. Why?” His wariness was back.
“Would you be able to explain why your bike was seen speeding up the mountains, the day your father died?” He looked stumped.
“My bike? Surely, there must be some mistake. I didn’t even take my bike that day. I knew I was going to drink. I left it at home.”
“Anybody else in your family knows how to ride your bike?”
“Inspector, if you are suggesting that my mom or my sister had anything to with Rajat’s murder you are crazy!!”
“You haven’t answered my question.” I said calmly.
“Yes! But the bike was there at home when I got up the next morning!” I smiled. Things were beginning to make sense. I just needed to ask a couple of questions to Shvetank.
I walked out with Dhruv. Krupa and Aarti were gone.

What I had to ask Shvetank didn’t take much time. What he said froze my blood. I sprinted out of the room as fast as I could.
I called Shammi and told him to meet me as soon as possible in Smruti’s place.
I called Prerna and prayed that she was safe. I called a million times but she didn’t answer. I could only hope that I wasn’t too late.

I reached Smruti’s apartment. I could see Prerna’s car parked outside and saw Shammi race up the stairs. I followed suite.
We opened the door, careful not to make a sound. We both pulled out our revolvers and started to move around the house silently when we heard a loud crash and then Prerna’s voice.
“You!!! What are you….. No!!!”
Shammi ran like a possessed man. He saw a hooded figure looming over Prerna’s petite frame with one hand clutching a heavy metal rod raised. The floor was littered with clothes.

A shot was fired and the hooded figure collapsed to the floor.

Shammi rushed towards Prerna and I ran towards the fallen figure. I didn’t need to remove the hood. I put her hands behind her back and handcuffed her.
“Aarti Mitwe.” I said “You’re under arrest for the murder of Rajat Sinha and for the attempted assault on Prerna Batra.”

I put her in the back seat. Shammi and Prerna would follow in her car.
“How’d you know it was me?” She had finished crying.
“You were very smart Aarti. Very smart. Almost had me fooled. And that blaming Shvetank act. Brilliant.” I said scornfully.
She didn’t say anything. Just looked out of the window.
“How did he know, that you were at the church?” I asked. Some pieces of the puzzle still did not fit.
“He followed me, obviously. He always liked to keep an eye on where I was, what I was doing.”
“You were trying to hide?”
“Obviously. I had already smoked a joint. And he just made me so angry. So much money! And he always made me beg.”
“So you killed him.” It wasn’t a question.
“It wasn’t like that.” Her sobbing started again, “ I wasn’t in control. I wasn’t thinking straight. Shvetank didn’t even use enough chloroform to make Rajat unconscious. He grabbed my foot while I was going. I got so freaked, I just dabbed a lot of chloroform on my handkerchief and held it against his mouth while Shvetank went to see if my father had got anyone else.”
“But why did you go back?”
“By the time I was normal, I got worried. I thought, what if he gets hurt or something, so I went back. I took Dhruv’s bike and went. I put on his jacket so that anyone who saw me would think I’m a guy. ”
That would explain the animal hair on the wallet.
“But when I got there, his body..” She gulped. “His body was already cold. And then to make it look like a random attack, I picked up the knife which Shvetank had dropped while packing his stuff and stabbed him.” Tears were flowing down her cheeks. She wiped it against her shoulder, her hands firmly clasped in the handcuffs behind her back.
“Then when I came to the church, I saw his car. I left the bike there and drove back to Tara’s house, parked the car. I saw a bag lying in it. I opened it, and I found Smruti’s things in it. He was cheating on Tara too. First he cheated on my mum, now Tara. I picked up a t-shirt. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it then. ”
“I came back home, slept for a couple of hours when I remembered the bike. I had to get it back before Dhruv got up. I took the first bus which went up the mountain. I couldn’t resist taking a peek at him. I realized that he could be traced because of his cell phone. To avoid getting the blood on me, I covered him with the t-shirt before I started patting his pockets. I turned him over, to pull out the cell phone but I decided to take everything. His cash would come in handy. And then I left. I was going to dump all his stuff but then the investigation started and I panicked. I decided to dump everything at Smruti’s place while she was at the morgue. But she returned very quickly. I had a narrow escape.”

We had reached the station. I opened the door for her.
“But of course,” she said, “you have to prove all of that. Everything I said, will be counted as hearsay. You have no proof.” She smiled confidently.
I held out my cell phone. “Cell phones can record too. At least mine can.” I replayed her voice to her. She stared unbelievably. I wasn’t done yet.
“And I have this..” I held out a crumpled handkerchief which I had picked up from the floor in Smruti’s house. The thing for which Aarti had kept the house key, the thing for which Aarti had gone back to Smruti's house today, the thing for which Aarti was going to attack Prerna.
 “Yours isn’t it?” I smiled. “I’m sure when we run some tests on it, we’ll find Rajat’s saliva on it. That should be enough.”

 I saw the constables rushing towards my car.
“Take her inside. She’s going to be here for a long time.” 

I watched her leave with the head bowed down.
“How’d you know it was her?” Shammi and Prerna had reached minutes after we had.
“Got obvious after a while. Of course, if she’d had a little more time to plan it, she might have gotten away with it.” I turned as Aarti went out of sight.
“You okay Prerna?” I asked.
She smiled, “Yes, I’m okay.” I noticed she held on to Shammi’s arm.
“So let’s head back buddy, lots of paper work to be done.” I punched Shammi jokingly and nodded towards our trusty jeep.
Shammi cleared his throat. “You see.. Chetan.. We, I mean.. Prerna and I.. We..”
“We thought we’ll catch up over dinner..” Prerna finished the sentence for Shammi.
I smiled, “Great. Have fun you two.” I turned around and got into the jeep to start the long journey back to my sleepy little town.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Whodunit - Chapter 25 - Still Clueless

“Wait a minute,” Dhruv looked nervous now. “There must be hundreds of people around who interact with animals!”
“Yes, that’s true.” I said, Dhruv relaxed a little, “But none of them were to profit from Rajat’s death. Neither did they all know where Rajat parked his car or where Smruti stayed. What I am confused about is, how did you know he was going to abandoned church?”
“I don’t know what you are talking about. The day my father died, I was at a party with my friends. You can check.” Dhruv said confidently.
“Fine, I will.” I took the number of the club that Dhruv was talking about. I passed the number to Shammi and asked him to check it out.

I walked into Shvetank’s holding cell.
“Are you ready to tell the truth?” I asked him coldly.
“Please. You have to believe me, I didn’t stab him!” Shvetank pleaded.
“What did you do after you used the chloroform on Rajat?” I wanted to hear Shvetank’s side of the story. He winced.
“I’m a biology student. I know how much choloform is harmful to humans, I was very careful! I didn’t use too much for him. He was alive when I left him.”
“Just one hour back, you admitted that it was an accident, now you are saying it wasn’t an accident and someone deliberately killed him?”
“I don’t know! I don’t know! But if I killed him, it was an accident!”
“I believe you.” That seemed to calm him down a little.
“I just threw the bottle and got the hell out of there.” my ears pricked. Dropped the bottle?
“Shvetank, think carefully, you left the bottle there? Near the body? And the handkerchief?” I asked.
“Yes, I just threw the bottle. The handkerchief I think I stuffed inside my bag and got out of there. I dropped Aarti home and prayed that Rajat Sinha gets home safe and sound.”

I looked down at my phone. Shammi had been calling me frantically for the past ten minutes.
“Yeah, tell me.” I answered.
“Okay.. I have some news.”
“I bumped into our pal Jagdish and turns out, he supplied the weed to Shvetank. And Shvetank paid him back, full in cash. The day after Rajat Sinha died.”
“Oh. Really? Anything else?” I asked.
“Yeah, Prerna called, she’s going back to Smruti’s apartment, she thinks we’re missing something obvious.”
“Ok. That’s good. I hope she finds something. I’m going around in circles here.”
“Well..” I could sense the hesitation in Shammi’s voice.
“What is it?”
“I checked out that club. Dhruv was there till wee hours of the morning. He was so smashed, he couldn’t walk. They had to call him a cab.”
“So, he’s not our guy?” I asked disappointed. I had bet my money on Dhruv.
“Umm, here’s the weird part. I also spoke to a couple of my buddies in the highway patrol. They recall a speeding bike on Thursday night, heading towards the mountains. They noted down the number but didn’t send a speeding ticket. Guess who the bike belongs to?”
I didn’t want to guess.
“Dhruv?” I asked.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Whodunit - Chapter 24 - New Suspects

Aarti was sitting nervously, holding her mother’s hand. Dhruv stood outside the interrogation room, glaring at us.
“Inspector, you have the murderer. Why put my sister through this?” He said to me.
“I’m sorry Dhruv, but if your sister was with Shvetank when your father was murdered, she’s likely to be slapped with some charges too. It’s a crime to keep information hidden from the police.” I told him gravely.
“Serious charges?” Dhruv asked, concerned.
I smiled. “That depends on how good your lawyer is. Hey..” A thought occurred to me, “Do you mind sticking around? I would like to ask you some questions.”
Dhruv nodded, “Sure, anything I can do to help.”

I started walking inside the room when Shammi pulled me aside, “I’m going back to the college. I feel like something’s missing.”
I nodded. “While you are at it, check him out too.” I indicated towards Dhruv.

Aarti stiffened as I walked inside the room.
I looked down at some papers in my hand, “What is it that you wanted to tell us?”
Aarti looked at her mum, who nodded encouragingly, “Tell him the truth honey.”
Aarti took a deep breath, “I called him, Rajat. The day he died.”
“What for?” I already knew, but it was always better to cross verify.
“I needed money. Shvetank forced me to ask him for money.” Aarti dabbed her eyes.
“And then?”
“He followed me.. To the church..” Aarti was trembling now.
“Go on..” I said encouragingly.
“And then Shvetank.. he..” She clutched her mother’s hand a little tighter. “He put some chloroform on something and put it around my father’s mouth. I remember telling him that my father will press charges of assault against him. He had just laughed and said ‘I’ll take care of it’ And then he dropped me back home. I didn’t know what he was planning to do...”
I stayed silent, absorbing all that Aarti had told me.
“And then he asked me for Smruti’s and Tara’s address.”

I pulled out the pictures of the knife we had recovered from the crime site.
“Recognize this?” I asked her.
“Yes, it’s Shvetank’s. He always carries it around in his bag pack.”
“I think that’s all for now..” I showed her the way out and beckoned Dhruv in.
“Anything you can tell me?” I didn’t really have any questions for him.
“Not really, I hardly met the man.” Dhruv said coolly.
“But he was very fond of you?”
“I was the only one in the family who was capable enough to take over his precious factory. Aarti, she.. Well, she isn’t the types who would want to run a factory.”
“So you don’t know anything?”
“Well. Aarti wanted me to talk to my dad the day he died. She thought he would give me money if I asked him. But of course I didn’t. I told her I would give her the money, if she only told me what it was for.”
“So now that Rajat’s dead, are you going to accept what his will states? Or is it against your principles to accept his money?”
“That’s a lot of money we are talking about, I’d be a fool to walk away from it.” Dhruv smiled coolly. “Now that he’s dead, I have no qualms taking it.”
Dhruv brushed his hand over his shoulder as he spoke. Animal hair.
“Any pets?” I asked him.
“No.. But I work at a animal shelter.” He smiled. “Dogs! They shed so much hair..”
“Dhruv, where were you ten days ago?” I asked suddenly.
“Why? Am I suspect now?” he laughed.
I was not amused. “Do you know what we found on your father’s belongings apart from blood?” I asked him.
He shook his head, surprised at the sudden change in my tone.
“Animal hair.”

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Whodunit - Chapter 23 - Case Solved?

“What’s going on here?” I stepped between Shammi and Shvetank.
“We need to take him in for further questioning.” Shammi nodded towards Shvetank.

“No.. you can’t..” A distraught Aarti was holding on to Shvetank’s arm. “I’ll tell you everything!!” She pleaded.
“Aarti, what are you saying?!” Krupa tried to dislodge Aarti from Shvetank’s arm.
“No.. mum, I know what I’m doing.” She shrugged off Krupa’s hand.
“Everybody calm down!” I ordered.. “Shvetank, you are coming with us. Mrs. Krupa, you have to drive your daughter to the station.”
“She hasn’t done anything! She’s just saying some things to protect him.” She glared at Shvetank.
“Regardless, Aarti wants to say something, and I need a parent’s approval for that.” Krupa Mitwe turned towards Dhruv with a pleading look on her face.  Dhruv shook his head. Krupa sighed, “Fine, I’ll get her.”

We left Shvetank in a holding cell while Shammi filled me in.
“So, I went to the college like you said. And I checked up on Shvetank. Guess what his primary subject is?” He asked.
“I give up, what?”
“Biology. So not only does our boy have access to the labs and Chloroform, I made the lab assistant check, there is some concentrated chloroform missing from the storage area.” I whistled.
“Wait.. That’s not it. The rumor around college is that he was known to experiment with different kinds of substance abuse.”
“And he had the knife.” I said.
“What knife?” I quickly filled in Shammi about the knife. Forensics was going through the contents of Shvetank’s bag but I had already given then a head’s up on the knife.
“But why did he do it?”  Shammi and I were brainstorming now. Before we interrogated the suspect, we needed to have as much information out as possible.
“Didn’t you say he was seeing Aarti?” Shammi asked me.
“Yeah. You don’t think that’s why he killed Rajat right? I mean it’s a little far fetched.”
“Hear me out.” Shammi put up a hand to silence me.
“The last call Rajat received was from Krupa’s house. What if it was Aarti?” I opened my mouth to protest but then stopped. Maybe he was right.
“Lets ask him some questions before Aarti gets here.” I suggested. Shammi nodded. We walked into the holding cell, where Shvetank was looking increasingly nervous.
“What’s going on! Why am I here? I didn’t do anything!” He exclaimed.
“We know about the chloroform.” I said quietly.
All wind zapped out of Shvetank. His shoulders slumped.
“It was an accident. I didn’t mean to..” he put his head in his hands and began to cry. I had to remind myself, that even though he was legally an adult, he was just 19.
“Shvetank.. why did you do it?” I still couldn’t guess a motive.
“He caught me..” He paused. “Doing weed. And he asked me where Aarti was.”
“Where was she?”
“Hiding. She didn’t want her father to find her. She had taken the money from him.” He was sobbing now.
“Money for what?”
“To buy the weed.  And when he turned around, I just dabbed a little chloroform on my handkerchief, and put it around his mouth. I never meant to kill him.”
“You’re lying.” Shammi said roughly.
“No.. no.. you have to believe me. Please! I just wanted to make him unconscious, so that Aarti and I could escape.” He was pleading with us.
“So that’s why you went back to stab him?”
“But I didn’t! He got stabbed?” Shvetank looked perplexed.
“Shvetank. We found a knife, identical to the one you have on the crime scene.” Shammi explained patiently.
“But I lost my old one. I don’t know where. That’s why I bought a replacement.”

We spent an hour with Shvetank, but he did not budge from his statement , that he didn’t stab Rajat Sinha. We were still charging him with murder. He was the murderer, I could feel it.

And Aarti’s testimony, would only confirm it. I was waiting eagerly to interrogate Aarti and be done with this case.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Whodunit - Chapter 22 - A confession?

I rubbed my eyes tiredly. Everyone seemed to have one or the other motive. But first things first. I texted Shammi and asked him to go to Shvetank’s college and do a background check on Shvetank.

I kept an eye on him. I saw Aarti walk up to him swiftly and glanced at me again. She knew something. Either that, or she knew someone who knew something.
I took a step towards Aarti, now would be a good time to question her,I thought,  when I suddenly realized, Aarti was still a minor. Just 17 which meant I would have to question her either with her mother’s consent or with a lawyer. I was thinking about a work around when some one called out for me.
“Inspector Chetan?” An elderly man dressed in a sharp suit called me. Lawyer I presumed.
“That’s me.” I walked towards him.
He glanced at some papers in his hands, “You wanted to ask us some questions? We have some time, if that’s ok with you.”
That was a first for me. Lawyers generally avoided cops like plague. I said so once we were inside his office. He grimaced.
‘Rajat was a friend of mine. And I want to offer all the help that I possibly can.’ He seemed sincere. I had nothing to lose.
“So, when did he change his will?”
He shook his head. “No, its not what you think. He has changed his will twice this year already.”
“Can you give me some specifics?” I had no idea whether this information was to be confidential or not.
“Not really, but I’m going to tell you anyway. Initially, Rajat had a well balanced will, with everything divided between his ex-wife, kids and Tara. Then six months ago, he changed it and added Smruti to it. And two months ago, he changed it again. Completely cut off Tara.”
“But Tara didn’t know about it?” I interjected.
“I can’t be too sure about it, but she did call me a couple of weeks ago to ask me whether Rajat had changed the will recently.”
I raised my eyebrow. “And you didn’t find it suspicious?”
“No.. Couples do it all the time.” He explained. “They discuss something amongst each other and one of them comes down and makes the change. But we don’t give out the details to the spouse. I told her the same thing, that I was not at a liberty to discuss it.”
I nodded.. “So who would be benefitted the most from Rajat’s death? Financially, I mean.”
His answer surprised me.
“Krupa, Aarti and Dhruv.” He smiled at my surprise.
“But Smruti Sharma told me that she was the one who walked away with the most.” I protested.
“You see, Rajat wasn’t sure whether Smruti was genuinely fond of him or she was with him for his money. So he never really gave her a true picture about his wealth. So according to what Rajat told her, she is walking away with the maximum. But the truth is, Rajat’s main possession was his shares. All of which he’s left for Dhruv. He wasn’t sure Dhruv would accept it though. He made arrangements, so that if Dhruv declines to take it, it be liquidated and the money put in a safe deposit till Dhruv decides to take it. Strange right?”
I nodded. “All this for a adopted son? He must be really fond of him.”
“Yes. He is.” He corrected himself. “Was. He was very attached to Dhruv. He also left his house, where Tara is staying right now, to Krupa. Of course, Tara can contest this will, and I’m pretty sure she’ll be able to get some of the money and maybe even the house.”
“Do you have any idea, how was Krupa Mitwe’s and Rajat Sinha’s relationship?” I was just shooting in the dark. I didn’t really expect the lawyer to know.
“No.. not really. Sometimes I think that Rajat used to tolerate her just because she was Dhruv’s mother and Dhruv dotes on her. You can understand, their divorce was bitter.”

We heard some commotion outside. I raced outside.
Shammi was blocking Shvetank’s way. Aarti stood between Shvetank and Shammi. She was crying hard.
“Okay..” She sobbed, “Okay, I’ll tell you everything.. Just let him go.”

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Whodunit - Chapter 21 - The Will

Before I could say or do anything, the doors opened. Mrs. Sinha walked out in a huff, with her lawyer trailing behind her.
“We’ll see you in court!” she screamed as she stormed past me.
Obviously the will hadn’t pleased her.

Smruti came out next looking bewildered.
 “When did he change it? He told me he was planning to.. but I didn’t know he had already done it.” She was talking to herself.
“Smruti? What happened?” I asked.
“Oh Chetan, he cut her out of his will. He cut Tara out. She is to get a very paltry sum.” Smruti looked upset.
“Why is that upsetting you?” I was surprised. I had thought she would be happy that Tara got cut out.
“Don’t you see?” She said, “Now people will think I killed him because of his money. And his stuff that you found at my place? Oh my god!”
“Calm down Smruti. Take a deep breath,” I tried to calm her. “So who walked away with the maximum?”
“Me..” She said sadly. “He left his shares in the factory for Dhruv and put a lot of money aside for Aarti’s education and Krupa’s maintenance. But Tara, he completely cut off. He kept saying he was going to cut down on her share, but he must have changed his mind after that big fight that they had.”
“What big fight?” Nobody had said anything about a fight between Mr. and Mrs. Sinha.
“Well, Rajat wanted a divorce..” I gaped at her.
“And you did not tell us this before because???” I was trying to keep my temper in check.
“I didn’t think it was important.” Smruti said lamely.
“When was this?” I was kicking myself for not thinking about this earlier.
“The day we met for dinner.” I shook my head. Exactly on the day of his murder, Rajat Sinha had fought with his wife and probably told her that he was going to cut her out of his will.
“She didn’t agree for the divorce?”
“No.. You see, Tara is a smart woman. She knew Rajat had a roving eye and she made him agree on a pre-nuptial agreement. She told him he could have the divorce, but she would take every single penny of his.”

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Whodunit - Chapter 20 - The Lawyers and the Boyfriend

As it turned out, I didn’t have to barge my way into the lawyer’s offices. I was invited. By Smruti Sharma.
Rajat Sinha’s lawyers had called all the family members for the hearing of Rajat’s will. Smruti, now petrified for her safety, wanted me to accompany her. I started to explain to her that she would be perfectly safe when I realized I would get no better way to judge the family’s reaction.
I was on my way to Rajat’s lawyer’s office. Smruti was already there. It was in upmarket area. Expected nothing else from Rajat Sinha. Nobody stopped me at the security. They all recognized me from the papers. They waved me in even before I could show them my identity card.
Smruti seemed relieved to see me. I looked around the room I saw Mrs. Sinha, Krupa Mitwe and their lawyers. Smruti had got only me.

 I nodded at Mrs. Sinha who was conferring with her lawyer. Krupa Mitwe gave me a half smile and came towards me.
“Inspector, I did not expect you here.” She turned towards the girl behind her. I recognized her from the pictures, “Meet my daughter Aarti. Aarti, this is the Inspector who’s investigation your father’s death.” I started smiling at Aarti and then stopped. The girl was absolutely petrified of me.
“Aarti..” her mother admonished her. “Say something.”
Aarti mumbled a hello and ran towards a guy. If he was Dhruv, there was no family resemblance there.
“I’m sorry about her behavior Inspector. His death has been surprisingly disturbing to her.” Krupa apologized.
“Is that your son with her?” I kept my eye on both of them. Aarti was talking nervously to the boy. The boy glanced at me a couple of times. He too was nervous, I realized with a start.
“Good heavens no! that’s her boyfriend Shvetank. I don’t know why she has to get him everywhere. They have been inseparable past few weeks.” My ears pricked. I was surprised Krupa didn’t mind her young daughter hanging out with a guy who was clearly in college if not older. Long hair, piercing on his eyebrow, tall and lean. I could see why he was such a favorite with Aarti, he looked like a rock star.
“That’s my son..” Krupa interrupted my thoughts and pointed towards the door. I turned. A young man was standing there. Compared to Shvetank, Dhruv looked clean. He looked like the kind of son parents wish to have. He walked towards his mother and put a protective arm around her,
“Who is this?” He asked her, looking at me.
“Inspector Chetan.. He’s investigating your father’s murder.” Chetan's Dhruv’s eyes shifted to his sister and then back to me.
“How do you do Inspector?” he asked coolly.
“Very well.” Some commotion at the door distracted us. The lawyers had come. Out of respect for the family, I walked out. Following me, Shvetank walked out. The doors closed behind us. I could do nothing but wait.

After a while of waiting around aimlessly, I turned my attention towards Shvetank who was nervously fiddling with a paper weight kept on the table.
“So what do you do?” I asked him casually.
“I uh..” he started nervously. “I’m a student. I’m studying for my bachelors degree..”
“Oh.. You and Dhruv are in the same college?” I wondered how long I would have to sit out here.
“Yep.” Shvetank started digging into his bag. Clearly he too was bored. “So..” he said suddenly, “Did you catch the murderer?”
“Not yet.. Did you know Rajat Sinha?”
“No, of course not. Never!” I was a little taken aback by the vehemence of his denial. I decided to check his background and then question him further. Shvetank pulled out an apple from his bag.
“Do you want some?” he offered.
Shvetank dug into his bag and pulled out a knife to cut the apple into two. I stared at him, mesmerized. The knife he was holding, was the exact same one that we had recovered near the body.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Whodunit - Chapter 19 - Prerna's findings

I don’t know when I fell asleep. I woke up with a start and checked my watch. It was going to be a long day.
Over breakfast I opened the newspaper, to find Rajat Sinha’s face smiling at me. The newspaper was full of his achievements. Luckily, the newspaper guys hadn’t gotten hold of any details yet. But it wouldn’t be too long, I was sure of that. There was also a small column dedicated to the scene that had taken place at the morgue yesterday. Smruti’s face had been plastered on the front page as she had walked away from the morgue, angry that she had been denied access to Rajat. Mrs. Sinha had struck a tragic pose, exactly as one would expect a new widow to be. Krupe Krupa Mitwe made a small appearance, nothing too significant.

Shammi and I made our way downhill again. This was turning out to be a regular affair. Prerna’s office was our first stop.
Prerna was just stepping out. She smiled tiredly at us.
“Did you go home last night?” Shammi asked her.
“I promised you I’ll have the results for you.” She smiled. “Come on in, I’ll give you a brief overview.”
Before Shammi could protest and send Prerna home I walked in. I had already spent one night with the reports. Totally wasn’t in the mood to read any more.

“Ok.. So lets start with Smruti’s apartment.” She said once we were inside her office. “The blood on the phone, is indeed Rajat’s. No doubts there. The blood on the t-shirt is also Rajat’s. But..” She paused for effect. “This was not what the murderer was wearing while he or she stabbed Rajat Sinha.”
“Then?” I hadn’t believed Smruti was the murderer anyway.
“The blood splatter a stab would make is utterly different from what we found on the t-shirt. I mean, not much blood would come on the murderer and even if does, it would be in the form of droplets which splash on impact with the murderer’s body. But the stains we have on this the t-shirt, I could bet my month’s salary that the t-shirt was thrown on Rajat Sinha’s body so that it absorbs some of his blood.”
“So it’s a set up?” Someone had planned this so meticulously, but missed out on details like this.
“100%..” Prerna moved on to the other item which her team had found, the wallet.
“There’s no cash in it,” She said. “But the credit cards are here, not sure if all of them are, you have to check that, but there’s no currency note. A man like Rajat Sinha, would, at any time have some cash on him, don’t you think? Also.. I found some hair on the wallet..”

My heart beat quickened, “That’s great!”
“Not so fast.. Its animal hair.. Maybe our killer had a pet?” She suggested.
“Anyway,” she continued, “The car.. I spoke to Mrs. Sinha, and I over stepped my authority a little. I asked her a couple of questions.”
She gave me a quick glance. I shrugged, as long as she was helping with the investigation, I didn’t have a problem with it.
“She said the car was Rajat’s, but since her car had gone for servicing and Rajat’s car was available, she has been using his car. Rajat’s car keys aren’t there. Maybe in the same key ring as Smruti’s house keys? She moved some stuff out of the boot when she started using the car. I took everything and got it with me. It contained a gym bag. With some woman’s clothing. I asked Mrs. Sinha, she didn’t know anything about it. I am still working on that, but I think it’s Smruti’s stuff. Maybe the t-shirt came from there. And ya.. I analyzed the soil sample you got me. Its from the same area. But I guess you already knew that.”

She yawned suddenly..
“That’s all I have for you people right now.” She said apologetically.
“This is great stuff Prerna.” I was genuinely impressed by her skills. She blushed a little.

I sent Shammi to drop Prerna home. I myself, got ready to tackle the lawyers.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Whodunit - Chapter 18 - The Reports

I quickly hung up.
“It’s Krupa’s residence.” I told Shammi.
“Oh! Wow, this just keeps getting better and better.” Shammi said with a grim smile.
I nodded. I put the phone records aside and opened the detective’s report.

If Mrs. Sinha had hired the detective in order to get a divorce, she had nothing. I browsed through various pictures of Smruti and Rajat Sinha. All could raise a doubt about their relationship, but Rajat Sinha could claim their friendship was simply platonic. According to the report, nobody had ever seen Rajat Sinha near Smruti’s apartment. But Smruti had told us that Rajat Sinha had a key to her apartment.
The discrepancies were glaring. Either the detective had not done a good job or the report which Mrs. Sinha had seen had been edited. How Mrs. Sinha knew that Rajat was fooling around with Smruti was a mystery to me.
Woman’s intuition maybe.

Some other pictures showed Rajat Sinha with a young girl. His daughter, maybe. There was no picture of the son.
“What do you think about this whole mess?” Shammi asked, breaking the silence in the room.
“I don’t know Shammi.  I can’t even tell if it’s a planned murder or a crime of passion.”
“Yeah. None of it makes sense. You think money has something to do with it?”
“Possible. Tomorrow we’ll meet up with Rajat Sinha’s lawyers. Maybe things will be clearer then. ” I had my hopes pined on the will. Rajat’s recent will change could be a reason why he was murdered.
“What bothers me is, if the killer was dumping everything on Smruti.. Why not leave the keys? Why take Rajat’s keys?” Shammi asked suddenly.
I pondered thoughtfully. “You think he left something there? Something that might identify him? Maybe he just forgot?” The possibilities were endless. Regardless, I called the team we had left behind at Smruti’s place and asked them to stay vigil.

Tomorrow we would visit also Krupa Mitwe and her kids. I was very interested in knowing about their whereabouts on Thursday night. That night I stayed up. Statistics say that if a homicide is not solved within 48 hours, the chances of it ever getting solved reduce by 80%.

We had already had a delay of two week.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Whodunit - Chapter 17 - The Phone Records

“Was anyone with him?”
“Not that I could tell, but it was dark. I could be wrong. Can I go now?” Jagdish asked impatiently.
I nodded, “Come down to the station tomorrow and sign on your statement.”
Jagdish rolled his eyes.
“Don’t make me come down here looking for you,” I said sharply, “Get it?”
Jagdish walked away. I knew he would come, he was too scared to disobey.

“One thing I don’t understand Chetan.” Shammu Shammi had been standing in the background quietly listening to our talk.
I looked at him questioningly.
“Do you really think the killer drove back in Rajat’s car?”
“Yes, everything points to that. He knew where Smruti stayed, he knew where Rajat Sinha stayed. He knew him. This was no random murder.”
“Could be a she..” Shammi interjected.
I nodded. “Could be. We should ask Prerna’s team to take a look at the car too.”  
Shammi was on the phone before the sentence left my mouth.

We got in touch with Rajat’s Sinha’s service provider. They were very forthcoming with his phone records. News had already reached them that Rajat Sinha had been murdered. The manager even recognized me from my picture in the local newspaper.
We decided to head back home after that. It was already dark and I hadn’t read a single report completely. Before I spoke to more people, I wanted to get my basic facts right. Shammi drove that night, while I studied the phone records.
The records showed no incoming and outgoing activity for the past week. No calls were answered. Switched off maybe? But Smruti had called a couple of times and the phone went unanswered. I made a mental note to get her phone records too to check when was the last time she called.

I browsed the week before that. Till Thursday, heavy activity. Calls mostly, as expected from a business man. And on Thursday night, everything stopped.
Rajat had received a call from someone around 9.  Just like Smruti had said.

I thought for a moment and the pulled out my cellphone and dialed the number. The phone rang twice and then I heard a woman’s voice:
“Hi, you’ve reached the Mitwe's. We’re not in right now. Please leave a message…”

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Whodunit - Chapter 16 - The Anonymous Caller

I shook my head. Things were not looking good for Smruti. After the blood soaked t-shirt we found the wallet, also under the bed.
“I don’t know how..” Smruti pleaded with us.
Prerna pulled out her phone and called her team “On the double!” she ordered over the phone.
“What does this mean for me?” Smruti was visibly scared now.
“What did you do after your dinner with Rajat Sinha?” I was praying she had a rock solid alibi.
“I came home and slept.” I sighed.
“It’s time you get yourself a lawyer.” I wanted to help her. I knew someone was setting her up. She didn’t seem like a fool. She could have easily disposed off Rajat’s things in the ten days period. Someone, on the other hand, had saved it. For this very purpose.
“Oh my god!” She covered her mouth with her hand.
“Is there anyone who might want to hurt you? Financially or otherwise?” I already knew the answer.
I nodded. We would have to do a thorough check of Mrs. Sinha’s whereabouts that night.

Prerna’s team arrived and took over. Smruti, was extremely cooperative and signed all the documents that would permit us to search through her house.
“The key is still missing.” I suddenly remembered. “Its better you stay somewhere safer tonight.”
Smruti nodded and rushed to the phone.

“You really think the killer will come back?” Shammi asked me.
“No, but who knows. As long as the key is with him, she’s in potential danger.”

There was nothing more for us to do there. Shammi and I decided to meet the guy who had called about the stench. He was a college student who was very very reluctant to talk to us.
I was not surprised. He reeked of alcohol and substance. He seemed to be sober though. He grimaced when he saw Shammi.
“Oh man! I already told you everything!” he started walking away.
“Not quite, I have a few questions, uh..” I looked at Shammi.
“Jagdish..” Shammi helped out.
Jagdish didn’t bother. He kept walking, “I don’t have to talk to you, I know my rights.”
I sighed. “Then I’ll have to arrest you and ask you questions.” I called out after him.
That stopped him. “Oh yeah, arrest me for what?” He turned around, and started walking towards me meaningfully.
“Peddling drugs.” I said calmly. His eyes shifted towards his bag.
“That’s right, I know what’s in your bag. Now we can do this my way, and get over with the questioning or we can wait till Shammi gets an arrest warrant for you and question you at the station. What would you prefer?”
All steam went out of him. His shoulders slumped. I had dealt with drug users before.
“Make it quick.” Jagdish was trying salvage his pride. He put his arm around his bag protectively. I didn’t care. That was someone else’s problem.
“You got to the church often?”
“Yep.” Jagdish pulled out a cigarette. I frowned. Jagdish gulped and put it back inside.
“What were you doing there? The night you reported the stench?” Jagdish smiled and pointed at the bag.
“And when did you see the Scorpio?”
“Look, I don’t know.. a week ago, two weeks ago, who keeps track of these things?” He answered casually.
“This is important Jagdish.” I said seriously. He thought for a while. “I think it was last Thursday. Yep.. it was.. I remember because I had a exam the next day, so I left early.”
I calculated mentally. Exactly ten days ago.
“And you’re confident that Rajat Sinha was driving?”
“Who??” I looked at Shammi.. he shook his head and took out a picture of Rajat Sinha and showed it to Jagdish. He barely glanced at the photo.
“Yep. That’s him.”
“How can you be so sure?” I pushed the photo in his face to make him take a second glance.
“Because! He was too old to be there! I thought he’s someone’s father busting in on them!”

Dhruv or Aarti.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Whodunit - Chapter 15 - Evidence? or a set-up?

 “Is that..” Smruti was pointing at the phone, “Is that blood???” She had turned a shade of green.  She turned around. “I swear! I swear I don’t know how that phone got here! It was not here yesterday. I cleaned this room yesterday!”

I believed her. It was so painfully obvious that the phone was placed here by someone. It was perfectly positioned to be the first thing someone would see when they walked into that room.
Prerna tried to relax Smruti, “It’s ok.. We believe you.” She soothed her. Prerna too didn’t believe that Smruti was involved in any way.

“Did Rajat have a key to your apartment?” Shammi asked Smruti. Smruti nodded, she suddenly looked afraid.
“You think the killer got Rajat’s key and came here????” She looked around nervously, as though the killer was still around.
“That’s what I’m thinking. Who knows what all he might have left. We should take a look.”  Shammi was already thinking like a good detective.
We split up and searched the house, carefully not to disturb anything. Later, Prerna’s team would descend upon Smruti’s house and look for fingerprints, fibers and more.

“Uhh.. Chetan? You might want to take a look at this..” I could hear Prerna’s voice calling me..
She was calling us from the bedroom.  She was standing near the bed. I looked around. I couldn’t see anything out of place.
Silently, she pointed under the bed.
I got down on my hands and knees and peeked under the bed.. I stretched my hand and touched it, some kind of a cloth. I pulled it out and gasped.


Smruti was shivering, her voice barely audible, “That’s.. that’s mine..”  
She was looking at the blood soaked t-shirt I held in hand.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Whodunit - Chapter 14 - The bloody phone.

“Yes,” Smruti continued. “Rajat was going to change his will and leave most of his belongings to me. He wanted to keep a lot of money aside for his kids.. He didn’t want Tara getting anything.”
Kids??? I interrupted her,“We went to Rajat Sinha’s house Ms. Sharma, and we didn’t see any kids there.”  It was true. We hadn’t seen anything that suggested that there were children in the house. No toys, no children’s books, no pictures.
Smruti laughed. “Well, they are not really kids. And they are not really Rajat’s kid’s. ”
I frowned. This case was getting more and more messed up.
“Ummm.. What???”
“Ya.. They are Krupa Mitwe’s kid’s, from an earlier marriage. But Rajat adopted them and he loves..” She corrected herself, “Loved them. Legally, he was still their step-father. But they cut off all ties from him once he divorced Krupa.”
“How old are these kids?” Rajat Sinha had certainly led a very complicated life.
“The girl, Aarti is 17, just finishing school and the boy, Dhruv is 19, in college.”
“College in the city?” If he was studying in the city, there’s a chance he knew about the old church.
“Yes. Very smart boy. He got scholarships from universities abroad, but he wanted to stay with his mother. The girl, on the other hand, is completely out of control. Rajat was so proud of Dhruv..” She sighed. “Dhruv refused to touch even a penny of Rajat’s money. He worked after college to make up his tuition fee. The more Rajat tried to help, the more Dhruv would push him away. Dhruv always thought Rajat was trying to buy their love. Maybe it was partly true, but Rajat was desperate to get into their lives. He was incredibly possessive about them. He kept an eye on them at all times.”
“What about Aarti?” Prerna asked.
“Aarti just used Rajat. She contacted him whenever she needed money. She didn’t want anything to do with him otherwise.”
“Did they meet very often? Rajat and the kids?” I don’t know why Prerna was harping upon their relationship.
“Not if they could help it. In return for child support that Rajat was paying, Krupa let him meet the kids once a month. But once Dhruv became an adult, he refused to meet him.”

“Ms Sharma,” I decided to change the topic “When was the last time you saw Rajat Sinha?”
“About ten days ago.” She too looked glad to be off the topic of Dhruv and Aarti. “We went out for dinner.” After a pause, she continued, “But something strange happened there. Rajat got a call from someone, and he left. He said it was an emergency. He didn't call me after that.”
“And you didn’t get worried?” I found it strange that nobody had reported him missing.
“Well.. No. I thought it was a business emergency. I mean, i called him a couple of times but it went unanswered. It was normal for Rajat to be out of touch for ten fifteen days.”

Everybody we had spoken to so far had last seen Rajat Sinha ten days ago. A sudden thought occurred to me. “How did Mr. Sinha pay that night?”
“His card.”
“Ms. Sharma, when we found Mr. Sinha, we found nothing on him. No cell phone, no wallet, no cards. Is it possible, that he could have left it here?”
“No..” She was growing impatient with our questioning. “I told you, I haven’t seen him for ten days. He had his cell phone on him that night and he left after that.”  
I nodded. “Can you give us his number? We’ll check with the service provider.”
I dialed the number Smruti was calling and pressed the call button to save the number. Before I could cancel the call, a phone started ringing inside the house. 
Smruti looked stunned. "That's Rajat's ringtone!"

We followed the sound and found the phone in the store room. The phone was, covered in crusted blood.