My cell phone’s persistent ringing woke me up the next morning. I glanced sleepily at the screen. Some unknown number was flashing on it.
“Hello?” I answered sleepily.
“Chetan? Shammi here..” I stared at the phone utterly confused.
“Shammi, why are you calling me from your room?”
I could hear Shammi laughing at the other end.
“I’m not at home Chetan. I couldn’t sleep, so I came down to the station to wrap up a couple of things. Anyway, I just got a call from Prerna. She wants us to bring her a sample of the soil where the body was found. Her own sample got misplaced. So I’m just going over to the site. I’ll pick you up on my way back?”
I was amazed. Shammi was actually volunteering to do some work.
“Sure.. I’ll be ready.”
“Okay.. I’ll be there in half an hour.”
I could have timed my watch by Shammi that day. I watched him zoom into view just as my half an hour time ran out.
“What’s gotten into you?” I wasn’t used to such a proactive Shammi. Shammi just smiled and drove on. I stared out of the window, watching the hills go by. We didin’t fell the need to make any conversation in our one hour drive.
Prerna was waiting for us when we got there. She grabbed the sample.
“I’ll call you when I have some results for you.” She said as she rushed back inside.
Shammi and I set out to the bank to see if we could get any leads on our credit card user. The bank branch manager was most helpful once we flashed our credentials and within minutes we had a name, a picture and an address.
One look at the picture and we knew we had found our victim. His name was Rajat Sinha, an industrialist in the city. His family had made a small fortune manufacturing bearings for cars and Rajat had inherited it all. The manager, desperate for some inside dirt, tried to weasel information out of us. I guess his assumption was that Rajat Sinha was involved in some financial scam. Politely but firmly, I declined to offer anything.
Once out of the bank, I called the City’s Station to check if a missing person’s report had been filed for Rajat Sinha. I was pretty sure it hadn’t, it would have made an appearance in the local newspaper.
The constable, who answered the phone, confirmed that there was no report for Rajat Sinha.
“Is he missing Sir??” the constable asked. I hung up without bothering to reply. He would know soon enough. Gruesome murder, no suspects, lots of money involved. It was the stuff journalists dreamt of. I was sure there would be a hue and cry once the story was out.
We were quiet as we drove to Rajat Sinha’s house. This was the toughest part every time. To face the family and tell them that their loved one had been brutally murdered.
We stood outside the gates of Rajat Sinha’s huge mansion and flipped a coin to decide who would break the news to the family. As luck would have it, I lost. I pushed the gates wide open. No security guard, I made a mental note. Why would Rajat Sinha not keep a security guard for his huge property? We walked inside, unchecked.
“Who are you people!” A voice called out from behind us. A woman was driving in through the gates. She looked at us suspiciously.
“Police..” we flipped out our id cards. The expression on her face changed from suspicion to concern.
“Is everything okay?” She asked.
“Are you Mrs. Sinha?”
“Yes, what’s this about?” She stepped out of the car. She looked far too young to be Rajat Sinha’s wife.
“When was the last time you saw Mr. Rajat Sinha?” These first few questions were always important to gauge the suspects. And in a murder case, we could not exclude anyone, not even his wife. Her answer sent tingles down my spine.
“Alive??” She asked.