It was a small knife. That would explain why there were marks only in the front, the blade wasn’t long enough. But the size of the blade raised another question. The first cut the knife made wouldn’t have been fatal. Why hadn’t the victim fought back? There were no signs of a struggle or fight, either on the body or in the area surrounding the body. No marks, no bruises, no scratches.
Of course, we could be completely off the mark here but a few simple tests would tell us if the knife I held was indeed the murder weapon.
We bagged a whole lot of other things as possible evidence, but I didn’t think it was going to help us. It was mostly cigarette butts, matches, empty alcohol bottles. Considering it was a hangout for college students, I was pretty sure that almost all of it was their trash. Besides, there was no way we could distinguish between the killer and other students in this scenario. We didn’t have any suspects. We didn’t even know who the victim was!
We were there for a long time, it was almost twilight by the time we left. We decided to head to the morgue. Surprisingly, Shammi didn’t complain. I didn’t know whether the murder case had finally awakened the cop in him or he was merely following Prerna around.
Unlike most people, I wasn’t queasy going to the morgue. From the looks of it, Prerna looked unperturbed too. She seemed to know everyone there.. I wondered how many times she had been here before.
She led us to the chief pathologist’s office. The name plaque on the door read “Dr. S Mahajan”.
I knocked on the door.
“Come in”, a feminine voice said briskly.
The woman in front of us was knee deep in paper work, her hair was frazzled, her eyes betrayed lack of sleep. Clearly, this woman was overworked.
“Hey Supriya.” Prerna greeted Dr. Mahajan. Supriya’s face creased into a smile as she recognized Prerna.
“You’ve come for your body!” She accused, “You don’t come to see me anymore otherwise..”
Prerna laughed, “How well you know me..”
I cleared my throat, I didn’t want to stand around listening to idle chit chat.
“Dr. Mahajan, I’m Inspector Chetan Gupta and this is my partner Sub Inspector Shammi Singh.. We are here for my body.” This was my case, my murder victim and my body, I wasn’t going to let Prerna or anyone else for that matter assume otherwise.
“What can you tell us?” I got right down to business.
Prerna and Supriya exchanged a meaningful look before Supriya continued, “Come this way..”
She led us to the morgue where the body was kept. She pulled the sheet covering the body down to his waist.
“Your victim is approximately forty years old, he was killed more than a week back. The cause of death is surprisingly, not the stabbing wounds.” We all gaped at her. She seemed immune to our surprise.
“He died of a cardiac arrest. The stabbing.." She paused for a moment, "The wounds themselves are not fatal but, he would have died of blood loss if he had lived through the heart attack.”
“So.. Someone waited till this guy had a heart attack and then stabbed him???” I asked incredulously with a scoff. Shammi started laughing. Prerna cooled us both down with a freezing look. Dr. Mahajan glared at us.
“I didn’t say that.. The heart attack had nothing to do with his heart condition; he had a perfectly healthy heart.”
She stopped, daring us to challenge her findings. When we didn’t, she continued, “It was triggered, by using an external chemical. There’s nothing in his body, I mean, there was no poison but there are plenty of chemicals whose fumes, if inhaled for too long will cause a cardiac arrest. I couldn’t detect anything on his nose also though. Some of these chemicals evaporate very fast and considering the body has been lying in the open for almost a week, it’s not surprising there’s no trace of any chemical.”
We all stood their digesting all that she had told us when she started talking again, “We haven’t been able to establish an identity for the victim yet. No wallet, no cellphone, no credit cards. Nothing.”
“But.. ” Supriya continued, “We found a restaurant bill dated two weeks back in the inner pocket of his jacket and lucky for you guys, Some one paid using a credit card! The customer's copy is attached to the bill..”