“Did you find out more about her?” The ACP asked the SI looking at my huddled frame seated at the lone chair available in the room.
“Sir, so far we have been able to find out that she is an artiste-very popular abroad and rich, by Indian standards. No one has tried to reach her so far, neither has she. She has not called anyone ever since she has come here and has answered very basic questions. She moves among the elite of the city and stays in Europe for half of the year. She was here in India for the last few months but she claimed that her husband owns a farmhouse in the outskirts of the city”, the SI summed up my stature in a single breath.
“Did she say anything more than we already know so far?”, the ACP scanned through the papers handed to him by the SI.
“Nothing sir, she has been sitting here for the past half hour, looking at the wall. She has asked us to speak to her doctor who is unreachable. We spoke to his office and they have never heard of her. By the way, the farmhouse which she claims is her husband’s, actually belongs to the doctor as told to us by his office. I took two inspectors today afternoon to scan the place but there was no clue”, the SI sounded more hopeless for the job at hand than he was for my sake.
ACP Bidyut Bose was not new to the city and his interactions with the rich and famous of the city had made him quite popular in a short span of time. For the last two years that he had been here, he had neither seen me or heard about me which seemed rather unlikely. And now that I was here, his intrigue threw varied questions at me. He walked towards me and sat right opposite. This move itself made my defences go up further than they were, in contrast to my initial reaction at warming up to him.
“Ms Anjali Behl…” he read out from the papers in his hand, more for himself than for me. He waited for me to look at him. His voice sounded friendly and transparent. “Would you like some water?”, he offered me a glass of water that he filled from the jug kept on the table. I took the glass, my hands still trembling. His eyes were observing each of my movements, my hands, my eyes, my lips, my body. I took all the time I could to finish the water before I looked at him. One done, I raised my eyes towards him slowly, all the while attempting to reach out to him. My eyes were devoid of any emotion after over 6 hours that I had already spent in this tiny room. There was no repent, no remorse, no confusion. I knew it was all a lie. I was here to report that my husband was missing!
“Ms Behl, would you like to tell me more about your relationship with your husband?” The ACP’s forthright question rendered me off-balance.
“ I loved him….really…I mean, I love him” as soon as these words came out of my mouth my mind wafted off to the memories of his face.
“And this afternoon you realised he was nowhere to be found, so you came to us,” he continued.
“Yes,” I had left with this interrogation all my life, so the last few hours were not any different. The defiance in my voice was a testimony to the fact that no one was able to reach out to me.
“For how long has he been missing,” he inquired.
“I don’t know…it seems like I have not seen him for a few days,” I was getting restless now with the thought that they were making no attempts to look for my husband but were interrogating me.
“Do you suspect any foul play?” He inquired.
“No…he was a gentleman….had no enemies. He loved me and wanted me to stay here with him.”
“Yes…and you can’t stay with him because you work in Europe.”
“That is right!”
“When are you scheduled to return?”
An instant smile cropped up on his face, “I don’t think we can let you leave the country till we find your husband.”
“You can’t do that! If he is not here and you are unable to find him, why should I be forced to stay back.” I waited for him to say something…anything, before I continued, “Listen I have a very big exhibition coming up and I have to return to fix my work. When you find my husband, you can report to me…I can give you my address” my utter desperation was playing in my voice by now.
“That is not how the process works… We can’t find your husband. There is no foul play, you say. He has not left on his will. There is no other clue, we have to depend on you now!”
“I have nothing to do with his absence… I was unable to race him so I came here to seek help…that is all!” I wanted to scream that out but my voice failed me.
“Then why are you still here?” Bidyut sounded concerned but that did not reflect on his face. I read the tone as an accusation.
“If you would just speak to my doctor, you would know,” I said finally.
“Surely. Your file says it is Dr Vikram Kumar. The SI gave him a call but he was told that the doctor does not have a patient by your name.” Bidyut’s patience was in total contrast to the storm of questions welling in his mind.
“Impossible! Dr Kumar is my doctor for the past 11 years. He was once married to me but we split, though he remained my doctor ever since. How can he even deny knowing me?” I was shocked but more than that I was sad that the one person I had trusted the most was denying my presence in his life.
“Is the number given to us correct?” Bidyut was unable to understand her anguish. “The SI says he spoke to the doctor’s office and they very categorically claimed that he had no patient by the name of Anjali Behl.”
“Why would he do that?” Tears welled in my eyes. “Can’t you see, he is trying to frame me?”
“For what??” Bidyut’s mind was beginning to get unsettled. “Why would your psychiatrist like to frame you…and for what?” Bidyut tried to compose himself while I went back to my shell once again. He seemed like someone I could speak to without a doubt, but now he seemed like another person I needed to cut off. Bidyut sensed that I was shutting down so he came closer and sat next to me. “Look… you told us that your husband is missing, we tried to find him out. The source of investigation must begin with you and till now you have been unable to give us any headway. The only person you suggest can testify is your doctor who claims that he does not know you…We have been trying to get him to talk to us but he seems to be unreachable as well. Beyond a doubt, we will have to make an arrest…now.”
“You can’t do that…there is no proof. I have no idea where my husband is and that is why I am here to seek help. It is rather unbelievable that you think that I have something to do with his absence!” I was more than stressed about explaining the same thing over and over for the last few hours.
There was a brief silence in the room before Bidyut got up and walked towards the door. He stopped suddenly and returned his gaze at me, “Ms Behl you will have to take us to your farmhouse… again.”
I was desperate for him to believe me. I was telling him the truth and I wanted to prove it to him. We headed straight to my farmhouse which looked exactly the way it did when I had left it this afternoon. I switched on the lights of the living room and looked around….not a thing out of place.
“Is there no one else in the house?” Bidyut made his headway across the living room, towards the swimming pool, beyond the glass screen that divided the outdoors from the indoors. He seemed surprised to see that there was no one, not even a helper, in a house as big as this one. Some of the lights were switched on outside but it did not liven up the place. It looked more like a place that had just wound up a party and was ready to sleep. He looked at me, the questions playing clearly on his face.
“Is that where you saw him the last time?” Bidyut directed his question towards me but did not look in my direction, or wait for my answer. I had already briefed the police about the day as it unfolded before I landed at the police station. After an early morning swim, he was relaxing by the pool, a chilled beer at the table next to him. I was still in the pool, trying to pacify my mind from the events of the previous night’s party. As much as my husband was unaffected by the altercation we had, my whole being was struggling to find out the reason. The last 4 years, since I had made it big with my art I was treated with more suspicion by him than pride. I no longer wished to be his trophy wife which Dr.Vikram Kumar explained that I had turned out to be. Now that I was successful, he saw me more as a threat. Vikram had explained how I was no longer a medium to satiate his ego but an entity on my own, which was not acceptable to him. With every passing day, he moved further away from me…but I loved him…and he loved me. Now that he was gone, I was lost…devoid of an identity, unaware of my presence… unloved, unwanted, uncared for. I was unsure I even had anyone else to depend on! Except for my art!
Bidyut was surveying the place …the pool, the benches, the floats, the towels, the shower …everything. I followed him where he went, the SI close on my heels. Beyond the pool was the lawn that my husband and I used to host parties at. The who’s who of the city had placed their foot on this very lawn which lay open for Bidyut to scan.
In a corner, a shabby outhouse lay bare in front of the cop and he did not hesitate walking towards it. The SI called out from behind, “Sir, we have already checked each and every room of the house…the outhouse too… we did not get any clue.” Bidyut gave him a glance but kept moving towards the outhouse as if he had sensed something. He wiggled the door, trying to open it but it did not give way. “It is closed from the inside” he announced. “No sir!”, the SI responded immediately, “it was open when we came here a few hours ago. There is nothing in here except a few household junk.” Bidyut turned around to face me, never leaving my gaze while he commanded to the SI, “get a team of 6 and 2 sniffers…we need to debug.”
The SI turned around to run towards the police van so he could wire his office while Bidyut found his way towards the back of the outhouse trying to find a breakthrough. He propped himself atop a drum to look through a slit window. My feet tapping restlessly as if a noose was closing in. I had to take matters in my hand, somehow. Within seconds a loud smack of the shovel at the back of Bidyut’s head rendered him unconscious. I walked towards the exit where the SI stood defenceless in front of me. Bidyut’s revolver found his heart and he melted in his pool of blood.
NEWSFLASH: Popular psychiatrist found dead in his farmhouse. Schizophrenic wife main suspect. Two investigating officers murdered. Murderer absconding.