** To all of you who had threatened to murder me if I don't post the next part soon! ;) As Promised!
They walked to a tea stall nearby. Alex lit his Gold Flake while Ramanujam ordered a special ginger tea. “Okay Alex. Tell me what is Sunita’s take on this!” “Well. She is crestfallen. She claims that he didn’t have any such enemies who could kill him. I asked around. There were no troubles between them. They were a very happily married couple!”
“Hmm.. Interesting! And what does Mr.Sundaram think of his son-in-law? Alex took a long puff. “I got the exact same account as Sunita. He greatly respected him. Raghavan took care of the business after him. Mr.Sundaram has even transferred Sundaram Textiles to Raghavan’s name as he had given up all hope on Chander!”
“Oh oh. Recipe for Murder!” Ramanujam raised his eye brows as they saw Martin scurrying towards them. “Martin, my man. What have you got?” The Gold Flake had breathed some energy into Alex.
“Not much Sir. Time of murder: 10:15 – 10:45 PM. Murder weapon: A regular semi automatic! He was shot from the back. Bullet pierced through his heart. Distance: about 15 feet. The killer probably fired from somewhere near the gate or garden probably. And then he disappeared into the darkness.” Martin sounded pleased with his deduction.
“Hmm… Then it should have been an outsider or Sunita may be. Everyone else was inside the house. What do you think Gem?” Ramanujam was still staring at the gate when constable Rangasamy came running in. “
have found it. We have found the murder weapon. It was in the dustbin outside
“Good work Rangasamy. Send it for finger-prints. I am sure you will not get anything though.” Alex was scratching his head. “But why would he throw the murder weapon there?” Ramanujam’s eyes suddenly lit up. “Well, if he wanted it to be found! What if he could not keep it? What if it belonged to someone in the family? Let us talk to Chander.”
Chander was sulked in a chair staring at the ceiling. Alex took the lead this time. “I am sorry for your loss Chander. Were you close to him?” “Very close. He was the only one in the family who liked me. He used to give me my pocket money. He was not my brother-in-law. He was like a brother to me.” Chander was in tears.
“Did he give you company to your parties?” Alex pushed. “Raghavan.. no way. He wasn’t exactly a chick magnet. He was too loyal to my sister. So much that I felt it was boring. He wouldn’t even drink grape juice fearing it could be wine. Why would God take away such a good man?”
“Did anyone in the house own a pistol?” Ramanujam’s question took Chander by surprise. But he recovered quickly. “Yes. Raghavan did. But it was lost a month ago. We had filed a complaint but was never found.” “I guess it is, now! Is this the one?” Alex showed him the murder weapon. “That is it. Where did you get it?” Chander looked perplexed.
“Well... It was the one which killed Raghavan. Tell me something. Did it have a silencer too?” Ramanujam interjected. “Ohh err yes!” Chander’s voice was shaky. “Now why would he have a silencer?” Alex had a frown on his face. Chander was scrambling. “Well... I used to teach him shooting. We practiced in the woods behind our house, mostly in evenings. So we used a silencer to avoid scaring our neighbors and people in nearby huts.” Alex raised his eye brows but Ramanujam quickly ended the conversation. “Don’t worry. We will soon get to the bottom of this.” Ramanujam and Alex slowly walked away talking to each other in whispers.
“Someone stole his pistol just to kill him. Seems like a well planned cold blooded murder. What next, Gem?” There was something that was troubling Ramanujam. “Hmm.. Where was Raghavan coming from?”
“He was returning from work. His close friend and manager Karthik was with him. Raghavan dropped Karthik at his place and then drove back home.” Martin was looking for some recognition for his research. He got none. “Well, I think we now know who to meet next!” Ramanujam looked at Alex who ordered Martin to get the jeep. “Let us stop at the factory for 10 minutes”, added Ramanujam.
Karthik’s house was a big newly built mansion. Karthik’s wife Radhika ushered them in hesitantly but Karthik was composed in greeting them. “Mr.Karthik. Sorry to bother you at this late hour. I guess you would have probably heard about Raghavan.” Alex was eagerly watching his reaction while Ramanujam was silently observing Radhika.
Karthik didn’t seem to take the bait. “No Inspector. What happened to him?” “He was killed at his residence about 3 hours ago. We heard that he was with you before going home. So we came here to see if you could help us with more details.” Karthik was terrified. “Oh my God. That is so unfortunate. He was my best friend. Who could have done this? I will not leave that bastard!” Radhika was looking a bit tense.
“Calm down Mr.Karthik. We will nab him very soon. How long have you been close friends with Mr.Raghavan?” Ramanujam’s eyes had found something.
“Wait a minute. Are you suspecting me?” Karthik was stuttering now. “Not yet. Don’t make us do that. Just answer our questions, please!” Alex was getting restless. “Well, I am sorry. We have been very close for about a year now.” Karthik glanced at Radhika who turned away.
“And what type of a man was Mr.Raghavan?” Ramanujam’s eyes were still fixed on Radhika.
“Well, he was a gem of a person. He was a very talented and a great leader. He was a very honest and humble. Everyone in the factory loved him. He was the bonding force in his family. Mr.Sundaram loved him so much that he had made Raghavan in charge of all his property instead of his own son Chander. He was...”
“Mr.Karthik. It would be good it you stop wasting our time and tell us the truth.” Even Alex was stunned at Ramanujam’s sudden outbreak. “What do you mean?” Karthik was gasping for air.
“Do we look as if we are fools? You joined the factory as an ordinary worker 2 years ago. We all know it takes 10 years to get to the position of a manager. But you became not only the manager but also Raghavan’s best friend in 2 years. Even someone who has been the manager for 5 years cannot afford your palatial mansion. Explain that to me, would you?” Ramanujam was on fire.
“He was impressed by my work and my ability and… and…” Clearly Karthik was out of words.
“Your wife?” There was a stunned silence in the room. “Come out with it Karthik”, yelled Ramanujam.
“Raghavan was not always a nice man. Before marrying Sunita he was a vagabond and a womanizer. He had tricked Radhika into loving him and then left her for Sunita. At that time, Radhika was pregnant with his child. I married her immediately to save her from embarrassment. Then I used it as leverage against Raghavan. I had dug up his mysterious past and had found quite a few skulls. Raghavan was a smart man and always took good care of me in every sense of the word as he realized I could be a threat to his new found image. Now why would I kill a hen that lays golden eggs for me?” Karthik had gained his composure and was looking Ramanujam in the eye.
“Okay... tell me something. You were with him until almost an hour before he was killed. Did he receive any odd calls or threats during the day? Anything unusual!” Alex interjected.
“Well, no. In fact, he had forgotten his cell phone at home.” Karthik’s statement sent Ramanujam cart-wheeling.
“What?” screamed Ramanujam. He jumped out of his seat. “Thank you very much, Karthik. Alex, come let’s go!” Alex and Martin followed him, perplexed.
“How the hell did you know about his wife?” Alex was still dumbstruck at that master stroke. “Well, I didn’t. But it was worth a shot, wasn’t it?” Ramanujam winked playfully.
“You were guessing! God... you are wicked!” Alex and Martin burst out into laughter. “Well, let us call it: “Instinct”!” corrected Ramanujam.
“Okay whatever. We are getting nowhere. Karthik seems to have no motive either. Could it be Radhika? I think we will have to look at other suspects now. He is a big shot. He could have so many enemies. Where do we start now? There should be some clue somewhere!” Alex seemed very frustrated.
“There is, my friend. There is!” Ramanujam took a moment to look at their awestruck faces.
- TO BE CONCLUDED