Avanika knew something was wrong the second she spied his name flash on the screen. It was tempting to ignore the call, but instincts told her she should at least listen to what he has to say.
“Yes?” Her voice was even.
“I need your help, Avni. Come immediately, please.”
“The name is Avanika. What happened?” Judging the desperation in his tone, it was something on the lines she specialized.
“Sorry… Avanika. Please help me. There is a dead body in my house.”
“Whose?” She asked without a change in her tone. She should have been surprised, but she wasn’t.
“I don’t know. I mean, I do. But…”
“But what, Ransh?” She snapped. Despite the situation, Avanika was in no mood to forget and forgive his past mistakes.
He audibly swallowed, “Her face is familiar. I think I saw her two days ago.” Then he added. “At the club.”n
Avanika suppressed a curse. It was hardly surprising. He wasn’t the killer type, but anybody could kill when pushed into a corner. And, Ransh was mercurial enough to become a prime suspect.
“Call the police.” She ordered.
“They’ll arrest me! Avanika, I didn’t do anything. Trust me, please. I wasn’t home all night.” He panicked.
Pinching the bridge of her nose, Avanika counted until five. “Ransh, you will need to call the police. Now.”
She picked up the keys from her table and walked to the door. “I’m on my way. If you don’t call them, I’ll have to do it myself.”
After a pause, he mumbled he would do it.
“Good. Don’t touch anything until I come.”
Ransh sighed into the phone, relieved. “Avanika, I’m glad you chose your profession over me.”
She snorted. Becoming a P.I was her only ambition. After years of persistence, Avanika was successful.
“Avanika, will you marry me?” Ransh proposed confidently. His outstretched sturdy arms appeared so inviting that Avanika immediately flung herself towards him. “I knew this… pretty confident”, he said in an assuring tone.
Avanika and Ransh came to know each other through a common friend… Her charming and friendly nature lured the Casanova in Ransh. Avanika had fascination for adventure and their trekking trips together played the cupid. Thr affair began and finally after 3 years of courtship marriage was solemnised.
But happy days were short lived. Avanika’s passion for investigating and solving mysteries, practising it as her profession was looked down upon by her new family . A girl investigator, perilous job, uncertainties.
Everything created stir in her in laws’ mind. Eventually, trouble began and the couple decided to quit. The marriage of 5 years ended on a harsh note.
“ I suppose you didn’t touch anything yet?”, she asked as soon as she entered his flat.
She continued sarcastically , ” You again refused to listen to my advice? Didn’t call the police, yet?”
“ Ya… I… did… “, Ransh stammered.
A look at the corpse, created a feeling of disgust in Avanika. She cursed herself for loving Ransh, the cold blooded murderer. “The day you choose to end it you became a murderer.” She thought with disgrace.
With grimace on her lips Avanika scribbled in her notebook. A terrified Ransh was seated on the couch and she like a professional kept roaming around and noting every minute detail.
Within minutes the sirens, flashing bulbs outside Ransh’s bungalow created a gossip in the neighbourhood. The whispering voices and the curious glances were trying to deduce a story based on their own plots.
“Sir, me and my friend Mr. Ransh…”, she continued in an inflexible tone “had just returned from a party. Crossing the lawn we saw the main door open. We stealthily peeped in but was surprised to see the objects clumsily lying on the floor. But the most…” The officer gestured Avanika to pause.
Turning to Ransh he continued, “So Mr. Ransh you return around 3 a.m. in the morning and find the doors of your house open. Am I right?” the officer confirmed.
Clasping his wrist behind him Ransh nodded positively. Avanika had already briefed him, what he should speak. So in between the conversation he tried to steal few glances towards his comfort zone.
“The CCTV is in working condition?” he enquired.
“Ok. Mr. Ransh… Any idea who’s this lifeless lady lying there?”
Adjusting the specs over his nose the officer whispered, “ Murder weapon? Have you seen it anywhere?”
A drop of perspiration trickled down Ransh’s forehead.
“No idea Sir, when I don’t know her, how will I know where the weapon is? I did not kill her.” His voice sounded shaky.
“Ok. I see… so you’re married.” (Admiring their frame that hang on the wall), he continued, “Lucky man, your wife is gorgeous, killer looks.”
Ransh glanced sternly at the officer before stealing a glimpse at the frame while Avanika was busy scribbling in her notepad.
By now Avanika turned a professional in her field. She cracked many unsolved mysteries and even assisted the local police solve a few cases.
The forensic was striving to find finger prints and finally ended in desolation. The blood smeared body and the stained floor caused nauseating feel to Ransh as he hurried to the washroom.
“Very fragile man, puking at the slightest trail of blood. Can he or can’t he. Naahh! He can’t”, the officer murmured to himself.
‘‘I disagree… you think Ransh is weak, cannot murder… probably you’re mistaken. I have known him since long. He can, surely. He wasn’t the killer type, but anybody could… His illogical thoughts can provoke him to perform the deadliest activities.’’ Avanika pondered as her brown eyes welled slightly.
“Miss Avanika, if you don’t mind I have a little speculation about your relationship. How you know each other? Official query, please co-operate” he asked.
The past that she buried long back is again excavated and that too, ” Uhhm! We are friends. Anything else officer?” She asked in a stony voice.
“Oh no, absolutely fine.” After a brief pause, “ there’s something else. Where’s his wife? She isn’t seen anywhere.”
The call of the forensic team head from behind paused the officer. He turned.
“Multiple stabbing in stomach but before she passed away she had put up a tight fight. There are some skin fragments in her nails that we have collected and a few fingerprints too. Some hair samples are found dispersed in the lobby. Probably those might match with this man’s. Hopefully by this week you’ll receive the complete report. Only one strange thing, in the backyard near the greenhouse, my team found few footsteps. Probably size 6 but they vanished off on the other side of the fence. “
Anxiously the officer repeats,“ shoes, size 6?” Turning to Avanika the officer said,” Can you call Mr. Ransh? We need to take his shoe size and blood sample.”
Hearing him, Avanika felt a slightest streak of uneasiness inside her.
“Mr. Ransh. Comfortable?”, confirmed the officer.
Camouflaging his fear, Ransh answered in assertion.
“So, do you know this girl? I mean, a girl’s dead body found in a couple’s empty house demand a lot of answers.”
Ransh infuriated, “No… I told you already. I don’t, haven’t met her. Ever.”
The officer continued, “ Ya sure. Just re confirming. Where is your wife?”
“She is a painter by profession and has gone to Paris for a fortnight. Some painting class…” an unmindful Ransh replied.
Smiling mischievously he continued, “Ok. Paris, nice. By the way, we saw the CCTV feeds, you left the house around 11/ 11.30 and returned after 3 a.m. so probably after the forensic reports and regular questioning, we can set you free. For the time being you need to accompany us to clear a few formalities. Your finger prints and blood sample’s required too.”
Gesturing to collect the sample he stepped out.
Avanika accompanied Ransh in the police jeep. The curious onlookers still continued with their criticism and discussions.
Days later, one morning- Avanika’s phone beeped. She picked to check it but the sender’s name caused irritation yet she glanced and confirmed.
“Meet me at Cafe Florida. 6 o’clock. “
“O.K.” she replied.
“Heard the present update? The case has turned a little mucky. She was an American resident and her murder created a political turmoil between the two nations. But since there is no evidence against me so I am legally free but I can’t leave the city unnoticed”, Ransh sounded worried.
“Avani, sorry Avanika, you have to do this for me.” He continued sheepishly, “I realise my mistakes and I’m ashamed too but I am stuck in this muck, it’s filthy. Only you can rescue me from here.”
Denial was somewhat inevitable. She Agreed. “Here. Listen to me carefully. For the next 10 days no verbal communication between us. No calls, no messages. Absolutely nothing, when I think its perfect I will call you.”
Finishing she stood to leave.
‘You still possess that charm. My curvy lady. If only I had the guts’, Ransh thought as he saw the intelligent lady disappear.
As promised Ransh didn’t communicate with her. But with passing days his restlessness increased. Finally he dialled Avanika’s number. Unanswered. His temperamental attitude towards life had been his weakness throughout. But his curiosity overgrew with time. Exasperated, around 8 in the night he drove to her house.
‘The same old quaint locality. That banyan tree, the bushy ground behind that old temple, everything reminds me of those steamy moments that we spent here. Those frosty bulbs which witnessed our ignited passion still stands tall… only our love lay buried six feet under.’
The sudden tinkling of the passing cycle thrashed him to reality. He stood in front of those doors. Once again.
“Mumma, mumma, an uncle’s here.” babbled the 4 years old kid excitedly dragging her mother out from kitchen.
“You?” Avanika spoke flabbergasted.
Next few moments of stormy arguments.
An enraged Ransh stared at the little girl.
“Why didn’t you tell me? You already conceived when…”, Ransh spoke fumed.
Composing her turbulent mind Avanika smirked, replied sardonically, “ As if you bothered…”
Vexed, he just kept staring the innocent soul as she played with her dollhouse.
“Here…”, placing an envelope on the table Avanika continued, “ You came for this. We must stick to business. I was thinking of calling you tonight but…”
“This is all the proof?”
Ransh though piqued by Avanika’s curtness but was grateful too.
Untying the envelop, he gave a wrath look and stared at all the evidences. Shocked to the core.
“Yes. You were being cheated for the past six months.“ Avanika continued, “I discovered this last week during my trips to unravel the mysteries of the dead American girl, Cheryl. There I saw her, at a cafe. She was with this old man. He is…”
“Her father. He and his daughter trapped me, her intoxicating beauty stung me like a bee. I was mesmerized by her external looks. She, a bisexual?” his regretting words were paused by the stern words of Avanika.
“Repent on your luck in the comfort of your home. Your wife was into an affair with Cheryl. They met at some painting exhibition around six months back and since then it all began. “
“But then why did she kill her?” he asked with curiosity.
“Huh! Cheryl’s ill fated expedition gifted her solace in hell. She wasn’t comfortable with your wife any more. She wanted to break up. But your wife was adamant. So. She planned.”
“I enquired at the airport and even contacted the French Embassy. She bought the tickets to Paris, stayed there for two days and then returned India. She spied after you, just to learn about your whereabouts and waiting for the house to be vacant. Your encounter with Cheryl at the cafe was coincidental but yes your wife did try to trap you. So the murder happened there. That night she was successful and without delay she called Cheryl to settle their disputes. The silly girl was trapped and failed to resist those beasts… ”
“Those?” Ransh asked perplexed.
“Father- Daughter duo. The moment I saw your wife at the cafe I understood.”
Avanika continued,” They are already in custody. I know my job very well, Ransh. Anyway, since everything’s clear now, if you don’t mind please excuse…”
The harshness in her tone was enough to make Ransh feel unwanted. He felt lonely, walked away murmuring to himself “I deserve this. But why she wanted to trap me?”
With many such unanswered questions he made his homeward journey.
Photo by Randy Jacob