Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Simply Murder

Acknowledgement: based on the outline given in Bina Gupta's Sulekha blog, for link please click here ... since the outline is not mine, I deleted the blog but just for the sake of completeness of my records, I am including this here ... shrouded in obscurity and relative anonymity. :-)

Simply Murder

It must have been the banging on the front door that woke me up. It felt more like a sledgehammer at work within my head. Groggy and snarling, I quickly wrapped the housecoat over my nightclothes, tied a tight careless knot and went down the stairs to the front door. A moment’s sanity made me do the habitual check through the eyehole. There were two – one in uniform and the other in black. I opened the door cautiously, squinting at the near midday light and croaked, “Yes?”

The man in uniform stepped forward, apologized for waking me up and proceeded to ask the customary to confirm my identity. Then, he introduced himself

“I am Inspector Sid of the local police station.”

Sid – Siddharth, Siddique, Sidney? I have always hated this anglicized attempt of whitening a brown man’s name. Who but an idiot would make Padmanabhan Paddy or Krishnamurthy Kris? For me, Subrahmaniam is not Sub; maybe, Chuppramani. Why would a red-blooded male want to present a castrated self? As usual, I could not control my thoughts; but fortunately, it does not show on the outside. I smiled sweetly at the tall clean-shaven handsome young man with no wedding ring and he seems to be charmed. He continued,

“This is Shokie, our consultant for difficult crimes.”

The person in all black – jeans, corduroy top and boots – turned out to be an attractive woman leaning against the wall, rolling a cigarette expertly and lighting it with a match. She must be around forty, about five eight, with an athletic and tough frame, dark unruly hair generously peppered with gray and the darkest eyes I have seen staring intently at me. But for her eyes, I would have fallen in love with her, desperately, passionately. I asked her,


“Not Shoky, Shokie – “ie”, not “y”. Everyone calls her that.” the young man gushed with great admiration.

“I have heard about you two. Shokie the Sherlock and Sid the Watson in that famous case…the case of Minister Twitter, right?” The young man was blushing and the lady kept staring. I remembered more details and I could not resist myself,

“Shokie? Your name is supposed to be Sherlie Kockier, right?”

“None of your business,” the curt reply. The young man intervened,

“We are here because of a crime.”


“Next door…”

“Rosie’s place? What happened?” Taking in their joint presence, I assumed that it must be something nasty.

“Rosie was found dead.”

“Ohmigod! When?”

“Last night…around eleven.”

“Last night? You were here? And…I slept through all of it!” I leaned against the door, looking shocked and terribly disturbed, even feeling guilty for sleeping too well.

“We would like to ask a few questions. Can we come inside?”

“Please…of course…please come in.” I replied and took them to the drawing room. “Can I get you coffee? Please join me…I need a strong brew…” They nodded and asked for black with no sugar, just like me. I went to the kitchen, ground coffee-beans, placed filter paper in the coffee-machine, added water and heaps of the fresh powder. Standing at the doorway, taking in the aroma, I tried to listen to the whispering in the drawing room,

“Feed nearly all the details…let’s get the story right…slip up…”

I went back to the drawing room with three mugs of coffee.

“Sid” started with the preliminary questions, confirming that I have lived in this exclusive locality for the last three years; and, been the only neighbour of Rosie, the movie icon, who shifted here two years back. Our two houses feel even more exclusive in this large estate because it is in a well-shielded cul-de-sac, with hers against the steep cliff and mine situated at the entrance, nearly shielding Rosie’s house.

Then, I felt as if I needed to know,

“How did she die?”

“Apparently suicide,” Shokie muttered and continued, “Where were you last night?”


“Anyone to confirm that?”


“Did you know her well?”

“Come on, Rosie is an icon…I mean, was. Ohmigod! I still feel shocked.”

“Did you know her personally?”

“Me? Of course not. How will I know her?”

“Well, you live here.”

“Courtesy of a rich impotent uncle.”

“I know.” Shokie, still staring, was beginning to make me feel uncomfortable. “He died suddenly, didn’t he?”

“It’s usually so, isn’t it?”

“Maybe…” Shokie shrugged.

The young man must have noticed that I was beginning to feel terribly insulted and he tried to divert the flow,

“I am actually quite perplexed. She was found hanging in a locked empty room…”

I couldn’t stop myself from interrupting, “Was there a suicide note?”

“Some crap suicide note from the internet…worse, rubbish poetry at that.” Sid said.

“Can I see it?” I asked.

Sid handed me a printout in a plastic cover. I read the first two lines, “When Sylvia wrote, I-have-done-it-again…”

“It’s from a blog…it won’t be difficult for us to find the author’s identity. Maybe, a little bit of hacking.” Sid informed me.

“There’s an easier way,” I tried to suggest.

“What?” asked Sid.

“You could just ask.” I felt quite naïve.

“Are you familiar with that note?” Shokie asked.

“Yes…I wrote that blog.” I replied feeling rather guilty.

“Why didn’t you say so?” asked an exasperated Sid. “Who the hell is Sylvia?”

“Sylvia Plath.”

“Let’s leave that,” Shokie suggested. “Sid, why don’t you continue with the murder scene?”

“Ok…Rosie was found hanging in a locked empty room, locked and bolted from the inside and without even a stool for her to stand on. Shokie checked if there was water on the floor – just in case Rosie had used an ice block for some funny reason and which melted before we got there. Supposedly, it’s an old idea in some pulp fiction. Anyway…even the key’s inside and the windows were locked from inside. It must be murder but how did the murderer get out?”

I blurted, “Must be through the window.”

“Simple, isn’t it?” Shokie added. Was she trying to goad or praise?

I tried to explain, “I assumed that Rosie has the same type of window lock like here.”

“You reported a burglary a year back, didn’t you?” Shokie asked.

“Yes, when I came back after a trip, there were some valuables missing.”

“Insured valuables, right?” Shokie persisted.

“Yes, of course! Are you trying to suggest something?” I nearly shouted. Were they trying to frame me?

Shokie ignored my outburst. I decided to continue from where I had left off.

“All the locks were undisturbed. Someone helped the police at that time and said that it’s easy with this type of window lock – an old type which can be nudged open from the outside with a small blade and closed in a similar fashion. Was it you who helped the police?” I asked but Shokie merely shrugged. I turned to the young man,

“When did she die – you mentioned that you found her at eleven. I am sure I saw her outside around half past nine.”

“Did you? Was she with someone?”

“Yes.” I hesitated and then added, “With that son of the Industries Minister.”

“She was supposed to be his…you know, mistress, keep, right?” Sid asked.

“From what I saw, he looked like the toy boy.” I replied with distaste for sullied reputation. “But…how was she found…could you tell me?”

“We got a call…around ten fifty. When we managed to open the door, she was in the throes of the last struggle and then died. The hangman’s knot was cruel – it was a slow strangulating death. We think that the killer must have set it up for us and then, called us.”

“But why…that sick bastard!” I looked horrified. “Did the killer call from her place?”

“That would be too easy, right? No, it was from a mobile.”

“Have you traced it?” I asked.

“Yes, to a shop outside this enclave. Do you know the blind paanwallah?”

“Of course,” I replied.

“You were there last night, weren’t you?” Shokie’s accusations irritated once again.

“Yes. Last night and nearly every day, I have gone for my half-pack for the night.”

“True, people there said so. It also seems quite a few people make use of the paanwallah’s mobile without his knowledge.”

“Did the people there also say that they saw me using the mobile?”

“No. They wouldn’t, would they?” Shokie taunted. I clenched the cushions and held back my desire to hurt, by word or action. I turned to Sid, “Do you know if there were other visitors?”

“Yes, it was enough to check with the security person at the gate. From eight to eight forty, her fiancé; from nine to ten, the minister’s son; at ten past ten, a taxi came with two men and they left at ten twenty. So, we have a very narrow window of opportunity…about thirty minutes…for the crime.”

“Who were the two men?” I asked.

“We managed to find the men. Do you know Rosie’s history?”


“Luckily, she kept a diary. Reshma till ten, pills and steroids for development of the child artiste, from then on the era of Rosie, stage-managed by her wily mother. No father to talk about…Well, that man was her long lost father…now, on scene for her riches…maybe, she told him to get lost.” Sid informed.

“Jagratha!” I exclaimed.

“What?” both of them queried together.

Jagratha – an old Malayalam detective film…it’s nearly the same plot.”

“Who was the killer?” the young man asked.

Before I could speak, Shokie said “The father. He was the father of the fiancé, too.”

Sid replied “Bull-crap!” and added, “Well, novels and movies are usually based on real crime.”

“Here, it seems to be topsy-turvy, right? Was that the intention?” Shokie asked me.

“How would I know?”

“Don’t you?”

I could not hold back my anger any longer. “Have you been told to frame an innocent to save some bastard – like one of those V.I.P. visitors?”

I asked to be excused for a moment. I gathered the mugs and went to the kitchen. From there, I tried to eavesdrop and only caught the following,

“I am sure that’s the murderer…but…what’s the motive?”

I returned to the drawing room. They were standing. Sid asked me,

“Do you mind if we search?”

“Do you have a warrant? Just to be correct, you know. Anyway, what do you expect to find?” I asked.

Shokie entered the fray, “Hopefully some drug or chloroform used to sedate while Rosie was being hanged? Maybe, the light-weight step-ladder, too? How about footprints, shoes, clothes? But, we won’t find any, will we?” I kept quiet.

At the door, Shokie turned to me and asked,

“Just for fun…if you were the one who committed this crime, what would be the motive?”

I stared back for a while as if I was thinking hard and then said,

“Simply…murder…without motive…just because I could.”

I stared at those dark eyes. Those dead eyes, dead after seeing too many dead murdered people. Dead like mine.

Those eyes will keep on staring, prying, violating privacy, till there’s some evidence…or, till I die…or maybe, I will be the Moriarty for this Sherlock.

I woke up, thrashing against those images of dark depths, my nightclothes drenched with sweat,

“What a nightmare!”

But, was it the dream that woke me up?

It must have been the banging on the front door that woke me up. There were two – one in uniform and the other in black. I opened the door cautiously, “Yes?”

The man in uniform stepped forward,

“I am Inspector Sid of the local police station. This is Shokie, our consultant for difficult crimes. We are here because of a crime. Rosie was found dead.”

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