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.”
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.
The dense winter smog hindered clear vision and she reached his colony late. Reaching she saw those twinkling bulbs and faint sound of sirens. The rush of the uniformed men brought her slightest relief. Parking her car at the colony gate, Avanika entered. The officer was already enquiring Ransh. Like a professional she did not want to interrupt in their proceedings and so started to take note of every slightest detail.
The corpse lying on the unwrinkled bed, sketched a blurry scene of crime in Avanika’s mind. Her head placed diagonally over one edge of the bed and her left arm swaying. Hunching over the body, Avanika inspected the corpse closely. The mild smell emanating from the corpse, her manicured fingers, her satin burgundy gown that exudes lavender fragrance, her wrists that showed a small fresh scratch. Everything was suspicious. As she bent herself closer to the corpse’s face she smelled it… “Yes! That familiar smell.”
The forensics were busy taking snaps of every detail. Those flashes multiplied by the grumpy voice of the officer impeded Avanika’s thoughts.
“Miss Avanika, not surprised but you here?” the officer enquired.
“Yes. That’s what a sleuth does. Ransh is an acquaintance of mine.” He responds nodding.
“So you finished collecting details?, she asked.
“Nearly. The body shows no struggle. No strangulation marks observed. Seems she passed away due to heart issues. But such a young girl…”
Interrupting she says,” case of poisoning.”
“The victim must have passed out immediately. No anguish on her face.”
Much against Avanika’s wish the officer kept blabbering, “The forensic team is striving to find any finger print or foot print. There’s even no sign of any forced entry. The culprit/ culprits are cunning.”
“Supposedly, but crime leaves a trail behind.” Avanika sounded confident and these words brought immense relief to Ransh.
“Mr. Ransh, I want your office recordings. Since you stress that you were there so we need to verify it. What’s the relation between you and dead Alicia?”
“We… we were dating.”
“Any alibi that can confirm you reached alone and left early?” the officer questioned.
“Uhm! Yes… the society’s security guard. He opened the gates.” Ransh answered in a twitchy tone.
Finishing, the officer stepped out.
Avanika questioned impatiently, “Who is she? You brought her from that club?” The ruggedness of her tone stirred a guilty feel in Ransh.
“No. I lied to you”, came the cold reply.
She looked at him with wrinkled forehead but her complaining eyes pierced Ransh’s heart.
“What should I have done? You left me. I had no one to confide. 3years of monotonous life. Then one day, I meet her. We liked each other. And…”
“So you’ll end up in bed.” Every word of her displayed disgust. “Good, now you are the prime suspect of this murder. Enjoy.”
Ransh was piqued by Avanika’s curtness aa he stared unanswered.
“Ransh. You okay? How did it all happened?”, Sarah rushes in.
Avani gazed perplexed from the corner of her eyes at Sarah.
She always disliked Sarah’s exhibitionist attitude and today was no less.
“Sarah how did you know about this mishap?” Avanika asked sternly.
“Tim told me to check on him.” Sarah replies arrogantly.
“And how does Tim know?”
“I… called… to inform him.”Ransh says hesitantly.
“Oh! You moron. I told you to… whatever!” With a hopeless look at Ransh, she made her way to inspect the surrounding.
2 days later, police station-
“The CCTV feeds though confirm that you were absent from the crime scene yet you are still under our radar.” The officer continued in his orotund voice, “It clearly shows you reach alone and left alone too yet in the following days you might be called a few times for interrogation. You were close to the deceased. So you are our prime suspect. But due to lack circumstantial evidence we have to leave you. You’re free. But mind it. You have limited time to enjoy your freedom.”
As Ransh returned home, the terrifying words of the officer reverberated within him.
At Avani’s place-
“Without concealing any reality please update me your last 2 weeks whereabouts.” Avanika uttered with grimace.
“It’s been 3 years we broke up. I was kind of tired with this monotonous life. Found respite in alcohol and thus made few trips to this cafe. Cafe Mojito. I saw her there. A vibrant, happy go lucky girl.”
“I am least interested in this mundane story. Tell me the fact. Mr. Casanova.” Avanika continued annoyingly. “Narrate that day’s events.”
“That was a busy day. Exhausted, I boarded my car. But then Sarah called me. She and Tim were partying at the Cafe. So they insisted to join.” Ransh continued thoughtfully.
“ Friday night so I thought of inviting Alicia. She agreed and I picked her up from her place. And we drove to cafe. It was quite late when I returned. Alone. Then… I received a call from one of my client. He needed some information about the…”
“Call?” Avanika’s voice resonated suspicion. “Which number? International call? Around what time? Male or female?”
Puzzled, Ransh stared sheepishly and continued, “ It was Mr. Colin from Turkey.”
“Continue.” She said in an acrid tone.
“ On returning I see her lying cold in my bedroom. I called Tim first and he suggested I should call you…”
“Hand me the number from where you received the call? And kindly don’t reveal the case proceedings to anyone. I repeat Don’t disclose. Not even to you business partner Tim.” Avanika’s churlish behaviour and unkind tone was hurting Ransh but he glanced helplessly.
“Yes, just for an hour. Will you do this?” Avanika asked over phone.
“Thanks Tim and Sarah. I was feeling really low and I needed to chill. It’s great that you guys managed it.” Ransh thanked.
“Oh! Poor soul. What are friends for? Anytime anything you need, I’m just a call away.” Sarah said in assertion.
In the past 3 years Avani polished her skills immensely. She finally managed to get herself inside the house. The vacant flat provided her to continue with her search unobstructed. As soon as she stepped in, “ That similar smell… is it really?” And the hunt begins.
She stealthily installed the spy cameras in all the rooms. The laptop was in standby mode and the flickering dot excited her. She tapped the mouse and yes it worked. “Thank God not password protected.” She thought as she copied the folders in her pen drive. Confidently she investigated every nook and corner of the house.
The online delivery cartons grabbed her sight. “A week back?”, she murmured. The garbage bags were stinking with its rotten smell.
She knew her next step but as she was about to open the refrigerator the clanking of the lock alerted her. Her heart paced and she raced like a gusty wind. Within seconds she was standing on the narrow sill of the balcony. Her phone vibrated. A plunge and she ran. For the first time in these years she, Avani ran from her suspect.
“Officer, any updates on the murder?” Avani asked.
Wiping his hands in the stained towel he continued in irritated, “Madam, the case is under investigation. We are checking the details. The post mortem report confirms poisoning. CCTV feeds prove Mr. Ransh is innocent. Alicia’s gate keeper confirms Mr. Ransh left after dropping her. So the hunt is still on.”
“Sir. In a day or two I will need your help.” Her optimistic words awakened the officer from his sleepless slumber and he asked, “Madam, did you crack this case too?”
Avani’s wicked smile and shrugging shoulders cheered her win.
“What an enchanting investigator.” The officer whispered as she left.
3 days later-
“Officer. I am texting you an address. Kindly reach as early as possible with few of your men.”
His phone beeped.
“Hey, busy? Let’s celebrate our win.” Tim spoke over call.
His elated smile portrayed the positive reply from the other person.
“Great news indeed. The officer called today. Ransh is behind bars. We’ll go and meet him tomorrow. His finger prints on the corpse.” Informed an excited Tim to his sister as they celebrated their win.
“Really! Wow…That Avani.. thinks herself a P.I.” (giggling she speaks)
“Thank me. It was my plan.” chuckled Sarah.
“Ya. Thank you sis. He thought of grabbing the whole business and treating us as puppets.” (pause) “Only that poor orphan girl Alicia became a victim.” Tim sighed.
“Hmm! But no bro, Alicia was planning to marry Ransh and reign over us. She deserved it. I was really scared whether Alicia will let me in or not that night. But hearing Tim’s fake accident news she was shocked and that’s where my plan clicked. And that overdose of cyanide. Uff! It worked and she passed. What a splendid move.” Sarah kept spewing her crime to Tim.
“Oh! Hello thank me. I was the one who brought that creepy dead soul and planted it at Ransh’s. So many hurdles I overcame… Cctv’s, guards, mobile phones.” Tim grumbled.
“Oh common. But the end is happy one. Thankfully you managed to make that fake call else our plan would have drained. God is on our side. Cheers to us. Siblings to accomplice, partners in crime.” Saying they raised a toast.
Avani along with Ransh and the Officer barges in. “Now enjoy the rest of the toast in your dark cell.” Avani replied ironically.
Avanika removed the spy cameras. “Thanks for these confessions. I was wondering how to trap you. But you trapped yourselves. Officer now rest lies in your hand.” She remarked sardonically glancing Sarah.
Days later, Cafe Mojito-
“Finally relaxed. Here’s your payment.”
Professional Avanika accepted.
“Avanika how did you know that the girl was poisoned?”
“I smelled it on her body. Her lips had a white patch and even the Post mortem report proved that. But the only thing was she used apples. So that she doesn’t get caught.”
“Apple?” Ransh queried stunned.
“Yes. I once dealt such a case. The apple seeds contain amygdalin. Amygdalin is a part of the seeds’ chemical defences. It is harmless when intact, and passes freely through our digestive system. But when the seeds are damaged, chewed or digested, amygdalin degrades into hydrogen cyanide. This is very poisonous and even lethal in high doses.”
“So death in minutes… without a trace?” a bewildered Ransh spoke.
“Yes. When I saw those online delivery cartons and rotten apples at their place I was definite. And they themselves made our job easy by confessing.”
“Thanks Avanika.” Ransh whispered.
Adjusting her glares she shook her head and replied in a determined tone, “No compromise with my profession.”