It was almost midnight by the time we trooped out of the morgue. Prerna said a quick good bye and disappeared into the night, promising to get started on the evidence we had collected.
Shammi and I trudged back to our jeep. We had a long drive ahead of us. For the umpteenth time I wished that I was posted to a bigger city rather than the little town where I actually was.
To reach the morgue, which was in a bigger city situated at the base of the hills, we had had to drive two hours at neck breaking speed.
There was an uncomfortable silence between us as we drove back. I concentrated on driving, avoiding Shammi’s eye. I could tell he wanted to talk, but I wasn’t his counselor, I wasn’t interested in his personal problems.
“So..” Shammi started, I groaned inwardly. “You must have noticed the vibes between Prerna and me..”
“Honestly Shammi, I don’t want to know..” I reassured him.
“There’s nothing to tell really..” I didn’t interrupt. Shammi wasn’t going to stop regardless of what I said. I drove on, carefully navigating the bends and the curves.
“We have a long history..” Shammi said wistfully. When I didn’t comment, Shammi continued, “We were college sweethearts, we joined the police force together.” I couldn’t believe what he was saying. What had a girl like Prerna seen in Shammi!
“Say something dammit!” My silence and disinterest had begun to annoy Shammi.
“Shit happens Shammi, move on.” I tried to be as concise as possible.
“No. You don’t understand, she excelled at her work. She rapidly progressed and I didn’t. I couldn’t bear to be with her anymore. She stopped respecting me Chetan! So, we called it off..”
“We??? It was mutual?” Despite my initial apprehensiveness, I wanted to know more.
“No, I left her.” Another awkward silence ensued.
“And then today, I saw her for the first time after the whole thing..What rotten luck that her team was the first to respond to our call..”
“Lucky for us they were close by..” I was trying to change the topic. Shammi was noncommittal. He was deep in thought..
“We should find out who made the call about the smell.. Maybe they saw or heard something. Unlikely, but still..” Shammi nodded.
“Also, contact the bank, get the billing address for the card used. Once we have a picture of the victim, we can check out the restaurant. Maybe someone will remember him.” My mind was racing and my to-do list was becoming lengthy.
At long last, I pulled over outside Shammi’s house.
“Take care buddy..” From his face, I could tell, he was heading for a night of heavy drinking. I made to pull away, but something stopped me.
“Hey Shammi, you mind if I crash at your place tonight?” Shammi looked at me, surprised.
“It’s late, I don’t want to drive any further..” I tried offering a lame explanation. Truth be told, I didn’t think he would be okay alone.
“Sure.. That would be cool..” Shammi started to go in, he stopped on the steps and turned around, “Chetan?”
“Thanks.” Shammi knew why I had offered to stay. I was glad he didn’t try and make it uncomfortable by wanting to talk about it. Maybe he wasn’t all bad, I thought as I walked into his house.