And Another Case on Our Lap
It was almost evident that elections are round the corner, when you see all the pot holes getting filled, water supply getting regularized, power cuts reducing to almost nil, and traffic police writing the challan ahead of demanding cash. This year it was no different, and so was an otherwise peaceful and uneventful election process. But then how was I supposed to know the details of what went behind the curtains? Neither of us were politically motivated. We hardly knew anything about any of the candidates, the political parties, the promises and propositions, the propagandas, the scandals and the cover-ups.
Something strange happened that year just before the election process. The United People’s Front, who also happened to be the opposition party, had high hopes on Nataraj Venkat, a young and dynamic individual, who worked hard towards the development of alternate power in the state, to win the election for his constituency. So popular and well known was Nataraj, that he had won by a clean sweep in the exit polls. An upright individual with a clear sense of purpose and the desire to serve people, he was loved and respected by one and all. But just before the election commissioner could declare the final list of candidates, The UPF withdrew Nataraj’s candidature and replaced him with the second choice candidate. Nataraj was in news for some other reasons as well, but I never really bothered to know more about that, since pre-election news and scoops about the candidates were in plenty and mostly useless.
One evening, a week after the elections, Mehul and I were sitting at home, going through the files of a cold case, which the bureau had given up on. It involved the sightings of the stone man, who killed 8 homeless people during a span of 4 months before disappearing all of a sudden without any trace. The interrogation went on for 6 months, over 25 people were arrested for questioning, but it did not give the police any breakthrough in solving the case. I had become less engaged in office works of late, since I had put down my resignation letter and was only serving the mandatory 2 months’ notice period. I did not know whether being one half of an investigating duo would help me build a career, but I loved this new role and was willing to give it a serious go.
“The police were very close to catching this guy. Why else would the murders stop? I think he must have been questioned by the police just before he decided to call it a day”, Mehul spoke up, breaking the ice which had set in with both of us deeply immersed in the case files. I looked at the arrest documents and the interrogation records. “That leaves us with these 2 men”. I pointed at the 2 names who were mentioned in the list, and who were interrogated after the last killing of the stone man. The next arrest was made one month later, which was longer than the average time gap between consecutive murders by the criminal. So we could safely assume that whoever committed the crimes, had already decided to stop. I asked Mehul to bring out the files of those 2 individuals so that we could study in depth. At that very moment, the door-bell rang twice in quick succession. It was typical of Kamath to ring the bell that way. He was always in a hurry and for him, waiting at the door, was the worst possible way to waste valuable time. Mehul went up to the door and let the visitors in. Kamath had company this time. He was followed by a tall, dark, middle-aged gentleman, well built, clean shaven, with a golden colour wrist watch, wearing an old white shirt and black trousers. He looked agitated and tired. Kamath respectfully showed him towards the single sofa and took the seat opposite to him.
“Hi guys. I would like you to meet a very old friend of mine, Mr. Nataraj Venkat. I am pretty sure that you have heard of him, but probably have not met him before.”
Yes, I remembered. He was the aspiring politician.
Mehul looked into at him for a while and said, “So you want us to clear his name from all that happened to his family?”
Mehul certainly had more interest in politics than what I had assumed.
“Yes, to some extent, but more importantly, my friend here wants to find out who the real culprits are. He is not too bothered about his future in politics, as much as he is about being framed for murder of his own family members, with the killer still at large.”, Kamath explained. “I would let Nataraj tell you everything that happened.”
Nataraj had been in deep thought till now. He had joined his hands below the chin and kept staring at the table while we could easily say that his mind was elsewhere, much beyond the walls of our room.
He cleared his throat, had a sip of water and started speaking, “As you might already know, I have been an active member of the state development division, and have been instrumental in setting up of over 25 alternate power plants in the last 5 years. I have also been involved in the seamless functioning of 5 NGOs, catering to women and homeless children. I think I have earned my way into politics. I was sure of winning this year’s election by a very comfortable margin, before calamity struck my family.
Before I tell you the details about what happened, I must tell you that I don’t have any enemies, at least none that I know of. I am a peace loving and friendly person. I have never been involved in corruption or money laundering. If money held any importance in my life, I would never have been in public service. My father, Mr. Shivaraj Venkat, is the owner of Felix Industries. We are a 30 year old organization with branches all over the country. Even though my dad was not very ambitious, we have done fairly well all these years. I loved and respected my dad a lot. He was my role model. He always supported me for everything I wanted to do in life. When I told him that becoming his successor was not something I desired, and that serving the country was my goal in life, he was happy and proud of my decision to forge my own way. He even offered me money few months back, to support my election campaign, which I refused. I always visited him at least twice a week to make sure he is in good health and to share a laugh between father and son. My… my point is,.. we were very close to each other.
I have a younger brother as well. He met with an accident when he was very young, which affected his nervous system. He became very fragile and weak, unable to take any stress – physical or mental. Both my dad and myself took care of him. We got him the best of medical treatment, the best doctors from around the world, and he was improving every day. He even began going to office and learning about the various works we did.
My dad and brother lived in a secluded bungalow on the cliff of Purvachal hills. My dad always wanted to live amidst nature and away from the hustle and bustle of the city. He had the house specially built so that it overlooked the abyss and the forest beyond. The sunrise falling directly on our house would create a picturesque view for onlookers and tourists. We had very minimal security and a handful of servants looking after the house and taking care of my dad and brother.
I live much closer to the city, with my wife. My wife used to be my colleague before I got into politics. We recently tied the knot, and she is now my PR manager and helps me with all my work. Few weeks back, on the eventful day, we had an invitation to a party organized by the health minister to commemorate the success of the recent anti-polio campaign. We left home at 6 PM, the two of us, locked the doors properly, all windows and blinds were closed, and drove to the event location. We have a security guard at our house and 2 bodyguards assigned to me by my political party, who accompanied us that day. All the keys were with us and the duplicate keys were kept safely inside our house. There is no way any one could have got into our house without breaking in.
We returned at around 10 PM after dinner. The outside gate was locked and so was the entrance door. There was no sign of forced entry or any struggle anywhere. We went inside our house and I turned on the TV as it was my habit to watch the news channel at least twice or thrice daily. My wife went inside the bedroom to change, and as soon as she switched on the light, she gave a cry of horror and came running down the stairs. There was a blood-covered body inside my bedroom. I called for the guards and called the police immediately, while waiting with my wife in the living room. The guards ran through the rest of the house and confirmed that everything else was ok. The police arrived 10 minutes later and accompanied us to the bedroom. The body was lying in a puddle of blood but the head was not visible from where we were standing. One constable went in to check whether the man was alive, but he found the body cold as ice. He overturned the body so that the face now became visible to all of us. It was the body of my own brother.
Right at that moment I received a call from Madhav-ji, that my father was no more and that his dead body was retrieved from the abyss in front of the house, in a completely shattered and mutilated state. Madhav is our company’s CFO and has been with my father since his early days. My father and brother were in fact missing from the morning and everyone in the house had been looking for them. They informed Madhav at noon, and since my father was not at office, Madhav informed the police immediately, who arranged for a search party. My brother frequently went off to short trips with friends, or to our old house near the Pala forests, and so Madhav had sent two of our employees to try and find him.
The police opined that my father committed suicide, while they interrogated me for days with regards to my brother’s murder. I was the only possible suspect, but then, the time of the murder was found to be somewhere close to noon that same day, when I was at my NGO. So they let me go based on that alibi.
But it tarnished by reputation so much that I had to withdraw my candidature. I am not at grief for not having contested the elections, but I want to find out what happened actually and I want justice for my family.”
Mehul stood up from the sofa, folded his hands and took a few strides towards the window, intently thinking. “But why at all would people think that you can kill your own family? And who do you think would actually kill them and why? This case is most definitely connected to you, since they took the pain to leave your brother’s body at your house.”
“Well, people think that my father was not happy with my decision to join politics and leave the family business. I am the elder son after all. There are rumours that my father had thrown me off the inheritance, and that I kept blackmailing my father for money to support my campaigns. My father had recently declared that after him, the complete family business and fortune will go to my younger brother and I would be overlooking all the funds. On the absence of my brother, all the properties would go to a trust formed by my father, while the board will take a decision on the company’s future. But believe me, this will was drafted as per the discussion that happened between me and my dad. I did not want to inherit anything that was my dad’s. I am a self-made man and I cannot live knowing that whatever I own, was earned for me by someone else. My dad respected that decision of mine.
I firmly believe that this was a politically motivated crime committed only to throw me off charts in the elections. Killing me would have increased the sympathy of voters towards my party. They wanted to do something to kill my image in front of followers, make them believe that I was a bad man, not fit to govern or lead. Kamath is my school friend. He knows me well and has supported me during these dark hours. He recommended you guys when all other quarters seemed to turn a blind face at us.”
“Ok, I have another question. Where were you the day before this happened?” Mehul asked.
“The day before I was supposed to visit my father, but because of a meeting, I had to rush out of town. I have already presented the police with sufficient proofs on the matter. I returned back to town next day morning and went straight to my NGO as I mentioned before. I came home in the evening and then left for the party with my wife. She was not well, but now when I think about it, I am happy she went with me, else the murderer would have found her alone and may have killed her as well.”
Nataraj pushed himself to the edge of the seat, leaned forward and with his hands clasped together, said “Please help me Mehul and Kairav. Help me and my family get justice. The culprits should go behind bars. I know this wont be easy, especially since there would be politicians and powerful individuals involved, but I am here to support you for everything and so is Kamath. Whatever money you need, whatever permissions you need, you will have them all. But please give it your best shot. You are our only hope in this case.”