(It has always been my dream to write a murder mystery and create my own detective character. So here it is. My first shot at it.)
It was one hell of a night. The clouds were clattering in a relentless thunder, lightning was on the lookout for trees to strike, wind was gushing ferociously and rain was pouring down mercilessly. Ramanujam was battling hard to keep his umbrella from flying into outer space, half cursing his fate that he had to work at this odd hour and half excited about the intriguing prospect of a challenge for his brain that was bored to death due to inactivity. In the mean time, Inspector Alex Pandian had taken stock of the murder in hand at the Sundaram Villa and had surveyed the body and the premises without much success. He was anxiously waiting for Ramanujam, the genius who ironically enjoyed the prospect of a murder!
“Hello Inspector. Seems like it is not going to be Happy Holidays after all!” The inspector’s sleepy eyes lit up as he saw Ramanujam. “Well, I don’t ever remember you having a vacation. They call you Ramanu-gem for a reason.”
“Okay snub. The Case?” Ramanujam was in no mood for any pep talk.
“Murder! Shot dead. Probably an hour ago. No sign of murder weapon. The bullet was found on the ground a few paces away from the body. So was his cell-phone. We’ll know more after the post-mortem and ballistics report. Martin’s on it!” Ramanujam wasn’t impressed. “Who’s the guy and what’s the dope on him?”
“Well, he apparently was a big shot industrialist. I am sure you have heard of Sundaram Textiles.” Alex pointed to the large billboard on the street.
“Yes. My wife takes me there every other week. Who knows this could be some frustrated husband’s doing! So is he Sundaram?” Ramanujam examined the dead body that was being taken out for post mortem.
“Nope, his son-in-law Raghavan. He runs the show now”, retorted Alex, a little stunned by Ramanujam’s ignorance. “Ran!” Ramanujam didn’t miss his opportunity to rub it in.
“Don’t I look irritated enough? Anyways.. Mr.Sundaram is retired now. All he does is to sit in various boards and provide professional advice. That, when he is not writing his autobiography!”
“Hmm... Interesting! Budding entrepreneur murdered at his door-step. Tell me about people in the house!” Ramanujam was assessing the house and the neighborhood.
“Mr.Sundaram has a son and a daughter. His wife is no more. His son Chander is a vagabond who graces various clubs and parties. His daughter Sunita is a renowned social worker. Her husband, Raghavan was a much respected gentleman who managed his father-in-law’s empire very expertly. Well, until someone decided to change the status-quo!”
“Lots of shades in these characters! Or may be lots of shady characters!” Ramanujam chuckled. Alex looked at him curiously. “Are you hinting an inside job?” “Relax Alex. It is dangerous to make assumptions so early. Anyone else in the house?”
“Yeah. There is Ponniah, their servant who has been here forever and then there is Jeniffer. She was apparently a homeless girl who Sunita picked up and brought home. She has been living here for almost 2 years now.”
“Aha! Who saw the body first?” Ramanujam was rolling his eyes.
“Ponniah. He heard Raghavan’s scream and ran to the door. When he opened it, he saw Raghavan on the floor soaked in blood. He died almost immediately.”
“Hmm… he heard the scream but not the gun shot. Silencer perhaps! So he was right at the door but didn’t knock it?” That seemed strange to Ramanujam.
“Someone shot him before he could do that. The killer was hiding somewhere nearby, waiting for him.” Alex’s response wasn’t convincing to Ramanujam. “But why wait here where he could have been easily caught by the inmates. He could have shot him anywhere. The whole area seems pretty deserted! Let us talk to Ponniah.”
Ponniah was crouched on the floor and looked pale with fear. “Ayya. My hands are shivering. Who could have done this dastardly act? Our chinna saar was such a noble heart. The stars are not good for our family these days.” Ramanujam put his arm around his shoulders. “We will catch the culprit Ponniah. Show me around the house, will you?”
“Yes Sir. This here is a small store room near the door. I sleep here in the night. Then you enter into the hall. There you see: the first room is our chinnayya’s: Chander. The bigger room to the right belongs to Sunita and Raghavan. Then you see the kitchen and puja room. The last room is our Sundaram ayya’s study and bedroom. Upstairs we have another room. Jeniffer stays there.”
Ramanujam was surveying the rooms and their arrangement very carefully. “So you saw the body first right? Can you tell me where the others were at the time and the exact order in which they came after they heard your scream?”
“Let me think Sir. The first one to come was Chander as his room was the closest. Sundaram Ayya came next. And finally I saw Jeniffer. Sunita was not in the house at that time. She had gone to her friend’s house.”
Ramanujam scratched his forehead. “Hmm.. No problem with the order. And did you see everyone coming from their rooms?” “I didn’t notice that clearly
Saar. But where else could they have come from?”
Ramanujam smiled. “Well, we will know in sometime. Tell me about everyone in
the family? How were they?” “What to say saar! We were one loving family.
Everyone is very close to each other. Our master sometimes had issues with
Chander. But he still loved him.”
“Any health problems? Bad habits? Anything worth a mention?”, Alex interrupted to remind his presence. “Everyone in the family took to sports
Our master Sundaram was a state level basket ball player. Sunita is good at
badminton. Chander is good at shooting. And Raghavan was a busy bee. So no one
had any illnesses. But we are all worried about Chander and his ways. He has
gotten into heavy drinking and smoking. And you know: girls too.”
“How about Jeniffer? Does everyone approve of her?” Alex filled in for Ramanujam who was busy screening the family members’ reactions. “Well, initially our Master was against it. But Sunita and Raghavan were very supportive. Now she is almost like another family member
“Thank you Ponniah. That was very helpful. Don’t worry. We will nab the culprit soon.” Ramanujam’s words seemed to put Ponniah at ease. He then turned to Alex. “Well my friend.. I am sure you would have done a preliminary inspection. Let me see how good you have gotten! " Alex knew a rapid fire round was coming his way.
“The family members. Any sign of nervousness?”
“It’s been raining for a while. Was anyone wet?”
“Not even Jeniffer? She stays upstairs right! And how about Sunita?”
“2 dry in the coat stand. 1 wet. Sunita came back in the car. It fits.”
“Well, whose umbrella was wet?”
“Hmm.. Sunita's! May be it doesn’t fit exactly!”
“Any back entrances to the house?”
“One. But is locked. Key is with Ponniah. He hasn’t opened it since morning.”
“Ah.. finally you asked the right question! I was dying for one.”
- TO BE CONTINUED