We covered our noses with handkerchiefs and followed the rotten smell. We were heading straight into a thicket of shrubs. We moved through the shrubs carefully. We didn’t know what we would find there. And then suddenly, without warning, we found it, the body. And contrary to what I had thought, it wasn’t an animal.
“Call the station. Get some people here.”I ordered. Shammi was staring at the body, paralyzed.
“GO!!” My voice spurred him into action and he turned and ran towards our jeep.
“Get a camera when you are coming back!” I shouted after him but he was already out of my sight. I could only hope that he had enough sense to get one on him way back. I tightened the handkerchief around my nose and leaned in closer, careful not to disturb anything.
There was no point checking for a pulse, the man lying in front of me was already decomposing. He was lying on his stomach, his hands tucked in under him. Though I couldn’t see any obvious signs of violence, I suspected foul play. The position of the body seemed too neat for it to be a natural death.
I scouted the area around the body for anything suspicious, I didn’t find anything.
It had rained a couple of days back and the ground was soft. But there were no prints around. Whatever had happened to the victim, it had happened before the rains. The rain would have also washed the evidence, if any, downhill. Once the backup team arrived, the area would be combed for anything unusual.
I sat around, waiting for Shammi to show up. I wondered who the victim was, how he got here. He looked to be around 30-35, from a fairly good background. His shoes, his blazer, his belt, they all looked expensive. He didn’t seem the kinds who would come to the abandoned church to dope. Probably got robbed for money? I wanted to turn him over and check his pockets but I restrained myself.
Eventually, after what seemed like eternity, I heard Shammi coming my way.. I could hear him huffing and puffing from a distance.
“Chetan?!?” he called.
“They are coming.. They’ll be here in fifteen minutes..” Shammi reached the site and tried not to look at the body..
“Here’s your camera..” He said, handing it over to me.
I took it wordlessly and clicked some pictures of the body and the area surrounding it. More often than not, we end up missing something obvious the first time we stumble upon a crime. And no matter how careful we are, the crime scene is rarely undisturbed when a lot of people start working in it.
“Who do you think he is?” Shammi asked nervously. I could tell this was his first murder victim.
“I don’t know..”. Why was he asking me that?
“How do you think he got here?”
“Just keep quiet ok.. And don’t move around too much..” I wished Shammi hadn’t come with me.
After that Shammi stood rooted on the spot, he seemed to understand that I was going to lead this one. I was almost at the end of my photo shoot when Shammi called out..
“What do you suppose that is??” I turned to look at him. He was staring at a shrub. I couldn’t see anything.. I inched closer to the shrub and still I couldn’t see anything..
“Where?” I was practically next to the shrub.. What had Shammi seen!
“To your left.. Can’t you see it?”
Frustrated, I walked over to the exact spot where Shammi was standing and then I saw it.
The sunlight was gleaming right off it..