Killer e Casi

Prologue

Radhika Roy Intelligence Bureau- the name resonated in the empty office. Radhika swelled with pride. She had done it! After dedicating years of her life to the department, what had she got in return? A kick on her back for following her instincts! Now, she’d show them who the boss was. The agency was registered. She was now officially, a Private Investigator.

The office was on Tughluq Road. The address matched her favorite detective’s home address. How she wished for her father to be alive! He’d have been elated to see his daughter live up to his reputation of an honest military Brigadier.

The office was a three hundred square feet room with a desk and four chairs. She had a coffeemaker at one corner along with a water dispenser. Her fax machine and laptop were on the table. Call her old fashioned, but she preferred to take notes on a paper rather than tap tapping on a keyboard. Radhika had created her very own personal script which only she could decipher.

The notes were what had helped her prove her innocence when that shit of a fellow officer accused her of tampering evidence. Radhika had proven that the officer-in-charge devised new evidence to save the criminal. He had accepted ten lac rupees as a bribe. For every crime scene she visited, Radhika made detailed notes of all that she saw. So when things went foul, she knew where to begin her investigation.

Turning on the lights, Radhika sat on her favorite brown antique chair. It was a prized possession. She was surprised to know that Prof. Bhushan left her the chair along with his wife’s string of pearls in his will. Bhushan had loved her like his own daughter.

How strange was it when Radhika had had to solve the murder of Prof. Bhushan two days before the opening of her own agency! When she had seen him lying dead on the floor of his living room, it shocked the living daylights off her. Who would want to kill a retired chemistry professor? The man wasn’t even taking special classes or tuitions as far as she knew.

Though the police (she had to call for them) were initially adamant that it was a suicide, Radhika proved that he was killed by a newspaper boy. It had been baffling as to why a paperboy would commit a murder. The name she had deciphered – Nicholas, was not of the murderer, but an ex-student who was suspended from college. The boy had been caught red-handed trying to supply drugs to other students along with the peon. It was Prof. Bhushan who had laid the trap and suspended him.

Nicholas who belonged to a wealthy family, had not liked being sent to prison for something he deemed was his personal business. After serving a portion his term, he had been released on bail. He had befriended the newspaper boy and given him the poisoned apple to give to the Professor.

The newspaper boy had confessed to having taken money for the job but said he had had no idea that the professor would end up dead. When he had seen Bhushan withering on the floor, he had called Nicholas in helplessness which Bhushan, fortunately overheard.

The boy was caught. Justice was served. Being in the field of crime investigation for so long, Radhika was more or less immune to deaths. Still, she was only a human after all. There were thousands of people out there in the world who wouldn’t think twice about snatching another’s life.

If Prof. Bhushan’s murder was one example, Prathap, the famous crime reporter was another. He had been brutally stabbed at the base of his neck a few hours before she was supposed to meet him. To realize that she had lost two people who at different points of her life had played a role in shaping up her character, were murdered, was like a reaffirmation of why she needed to get back to nabbing criminals.

People, in general, seemed to have lost the fear of being caught. Those without conscience were a different matter.

Taking her iPhone, Radhika gently traced a contact with her fingertips. It belonged to Prathap. The man was no more alive.

She sighed as the scenes of the previous night played in her mind. Radhika had had a strong suspicion that Sheila (Prathap’s current girlfriend) or his recent ex-wife, Jaya, could have killed him. Each had a motive and so did the writer, Ravika, if Prathap’s reputation was considered.

It was the very thing that made her end their relationship almost a decade ago. She wasn’t built for a Casanova-type. But, they continued to remain friends, once Radhika understood his infidelity wasn’t a way to control her. Yet, the relationship had left a bitter taste in her life. Radhika gradually shied away from forming any deep bonds with others. And at the current stage of her life, she was more than content being alone with her beloved pet dog, Ruffy.

At least she had put Prathap’s murderer behind the bars, Radhika thought with grim satisfaction. Though she never saw the woman before, Radhika realized, the assistant Kajal, had had enough time to murder Prathap and set the scene. It had been necessary for her to focus on the right clues.

There were absolutely no signs of struggle on Prathap’s body. Yet the room was messed up. His revolver (which was in an unlocked drawer of his desk) was on the floor. Used to cryptic codes herself, Radhika knew that the half typed gibberish ‘w-y-4 i-8-o-o-4-e j-4′ was a vital clue. It translated to- ‘she killed me’. Radhika had to trust Prathap’s instincts to know he was right. Her job was to find the murderer.

With the help of a mobile fingerprint scanner, they found that the empty disposable cup had the prints of only a single person when two people claimed to have touched it. One was of the sub-inspector. The other, should have been of Kajal’s. But they had found only the sub-inspector’s prints on it. The new paper knife (murder weapon) had no fingerprints while the revolver had smudgy prints.

All the clues pointed to Kajal, who on being cornered, confessed to her crime. She was the lover of Rishi, a professional rival, whom Prathap exposed for spreading a fake story. The man himself had met Prathap at 2 in the noon that day. They had had a heated argument following which Rishi blamed Kajal for not keeping him up-to-date about Prathap’s work.

Prathap had seen them together, but Kajal wasn’t sure if he had heard them speak. When she realized Radhika would be meeting him, she had panicked and had stabbed him in his neck from behind. Kajal read that a powerful stab below the skull could kill instantly. Also, that way she could approach him from behind. He wouldn’t be in a position to fight her either. So, when Prathap’s head fell onto his typewriter, Kajal had thought he was dead and left the room.

Kajal had no idea that she stabbed him an inch lower which gave him a minute to bleed out and die. She timed her crime to match the exit of sub-inspector to put the blame on him. It was she who had made calls to both Sheila and Jaya to confuse the police. After calling the police, she had arranged the room to look as if there was a scuffle. Since Prathap was dead by then Kajal was blissfulky unaware that he left the police, especially Radhika a very important clue.

Finally, the woman was taken into custody. Radhika had lost a friend. A sense of grief overwhelmed her. She felt a sudden longing for her mother. The woman was alive and well and preferred to live in an old age home in Kolkata. Though Radhika understood her mother’s need to stay connected to the land that was her father’s birthplace, she hoped the woman would act like a mother at times.

For years she hoped her mother would come out of the shock of the accident that killed the man they both loved. It hadn’t happened yet. Radhika gave up trying when their relationship began to crack under pressure. It was better her mother lived separately.

Shaking away the sad thoughts, Radhika decided to concentrate on the job at hand. Except, she currently had no case to solve. The ads were placed in all the major newspapers and the so-called popular websites. She hoped to get some unique cases to handle. Being an ex-CBI made her profile more interesting.

It was late in the night. Radhika went home on foot. Her house was less than a hundred meters from her office. Since she couldn’t find a way to convert her modest home into an office, Radhika had gone for the next best option.

The smell of cigarette smoke made her walk faster. Radhika never understood how people willingly got addicted to things that killed them from the inside. She had similar views about alcohol which the bar seemed to be selling with vigor even at midnight.

Home was heaven and Ruffy was an angel. He rushed to Radhika with the enthusiasm of a child. Scratching him behind the ears, she decided to take a quick shower. Before that, the Rotomatic had to be switched on. Add the raw ingredients and wait. The machine would do the rest.

A simple dal and roti was her dinner along with a glass of mango lassi, her favorite drink after orange juice. She was too tired to cook anything else and hiring a person for the job was not an option she chose. So, the Rotomatic did half the job while she handled the rest. Gadgets were a bit expensive but could be trusted with secrets.

Turning on the TV, Radhika scanned the news channels. There was another new of mob lynching in some part of the country. The reporter was yelling into his mike with such intensity she was surprised he did not get a heart stroke. She knew what would happen next. A certain section of the media and politicians would accuse the others of different ideologies.

No one would care about the dead or their family. The accused wing would finally come up with the truth, but who’d care about it? There would be a new issue to debate about. Was a celebrity son’s poop darker that day or did another celebrity have a wardrobe malfunction at an event? Radhika was sick of these so-called breaking and flash news updates.

Like any other young Indian, she had dreams to serve the country. She had joined the police department and shifted to the CBI. The use of latest technology, the almost unlimited access to files lured her. She worked hard and cracked several cold cases. Bit by bit, inch by inch, she rose up the ladder with sheer determination and hard work. What did she finally get? A suspension order by a corrupt higher official.

Radhika remembered even the most inconsequential details of the case. When the Chief Minister ordered the CBI to probe a mob lynching case, she was made part of the team. The initial reports and media strongly suggested beef eating as the reason. The police even arrested two young men, Ram and Lakshman as murderers.

But, Radhika agreed with the Chief Minister’s point of view. People have been eating beef for years. None of them were assaulted for it. With the local elections due in a few months, there was a sinister aspect to the case. If Radhika had learned one thing in her career, it was not to trust the media version of a case. She even doubted the police version. She preferred to get down on the ground and find the facts for herself. That way, she’d have no prejudiced or preconceived ideas that could affect the case.

Radhika went to talk to the people involved, the parents of the arrested, the local folk and the village head. She took detailed notes as people spoke to her without knowing her identity. She always used an alias to get information. People spoke easily to a commoner than a police officer. Even then, it took her more than a week to get the correct narrative. There was an old lady who told her the truth. There was no mob lynching for beef eating. The dead man tried to molest the killers’ sister and they decided to tackle the matter themselves. Things got out of hand. The man died. An enthusiastic reporter gave a twist to the case for prime time news and the narrative changed.

When one of her fellow officers, Ramesh followed her, Radhika strictly warned him not to interfere. She had a suspicion about him, but how was she to know that he was working for their boss, Madhavan? One of the most honest officers finally lost his integrity and sold his soul. The deal was done long before Radhika found out about it.

Even politicians from the opposition party were involved. Money worth crores; ten crores to be exact, changed hands to show one community in particular and the Chief Minister in poor light. Radhika knew better than to protest when she was suspended on fake charges. She accepted the order and stepped down.

Prathap was her weapon to bring the truth out. His love for uncovering fake news made it easy for her to convince him. Once he understood the issue, it wasn’t long before the news got a prime-time importance. The pieces of evidence were released to the public. There was a huge uproar. The director was ordered to step down immediately. The Chief Minister dealt with the issue personally.

Radhika’s suspension orders were canceled by the department head, Satish. He wanted her to stay with the team and continue to be the only woman member. That was when she put her foot down. Radhika refused to go back to a job where she had to report to officials who could be bought for the right price. Many mocked her decision. She was making a grave mistake, they said. But, Radhika paid no heed. She knew her father would have approved. That was the only thing that mattered. Prathap too congratulated her on her decision. In fact, it was he who made her think about private practice.

“Being a crime reporter is not your thing, RR. And you can never sit idle. Go apply for a license as a P.I. Show them your power. Be the May-Taurean you are.” He encouraged her.

Her lips curved into a smile as she remembered his words. Prathap was crazy about zodiac signs and horoscope predictions. Wonder how he failed to read that he’d killed by his assistant?

Radhika stared at the full moon outside her bedroom window. Her 3BHK home had one of the best views of the night sky she could have in the neighborhood. She was teased and taunted by friends and relatives when she chose to save her money and not spend it on designer clothes or bags. Who needed a Rs. 50,000/- dress when a simple cotton kurta was elegant and comfortable?

The same people were jealous when she purchased a house. It wasn’t her problem if their priorities were twisted. It wasn’t that she had a dislike for luxury. Her Swift car was an indulgence mainly for Ruffy. He loved long drives. She loved to spend whatever time she could with him. For practical purposes, she used her Bullet bike.

As though he read her thoughts, Ruffy walked to stand beside her. He leaned his head against her knee. It was all the comfort Radhika needed. Now, Radhika had her license, office and solved two cases even before she started the new phase of her life. What lay in store for her?

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More about Radhika:

Radhika Roy is a Private Investigator who starts her own agency – Radhika Roy Intelligence Bureau, after having had a bitter experience and quitting the CBI. However, she still has a friend or two within the Police Force who’d be willing to lend her a hand. She also has ‘enemies’ who are either skeptical or jealous of her and hate her guts. Her age ranges between 35-45; is unmarried and living alone with a German Shepherd(Ruffy), self-trained, for company. Based in Delhi, she manages to nab the criminals across the country, if needed. Her father is dead but her mother lives in an old age home. She has pollen allergy, hates cats and has a sixth finger on her left hand.
She has Grey-ish cat eyes that rarely miss a thing. Her sharp nose is pierced on the right side studded with a diamond (gift from father). Her height gives her a considerable advantage without using the fancy sandals other women like. With the help of regular workouts, she maintains a healthy body and decent physique.

She has a mixed lineage. Her Father is a Bengali while her Mother is a Malayali. Her father used to work for Indian Government, and you know what is synonymous with Government jobs? Yes, you’re right, Transfers. Radhika studied in Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Pune, Chandigarh and finally Delhi. Travelling a lot since her childhood gave her an opportunity to interact with people from various regions, she is a Polyglot, and she speaks fluently in English, Bengali, Malayalam, Telugu, Tamil and Hindi; while she can understand Kannada, Marathi and Punjabi.

As a batch topper in her Police Academy training, Radhika is a perfect shot. She owns two licensed guns (Walther P22 Target & Ruger Blackhawk .44 magnum). Her German shepherd is named after her favorite singer Rafi (Ruffy).