*I completely understand how difficult and agonizing it is to be not able to read a murder mystery in one go! So my apologies for the wait!
“There is, my friend. There is! A very important clue!” Ramanujam took a moment to relish their awestruck faces. “Then stop fooling around and come out with it. What the hell did your brain just uncover? ”, shouted Alex.
“The bullet! The clue is in the bullet! It was found on the floor, not in Raghavan’s body. There was a scratch on the floor which you had missed. If the killer had shot him from the gate or garden, wouldn’t it have pierced his body and hit the door? But there is no mark on the door to support that. Instead there is a strong scratch mark on the floor!”
“What are you getting at,
Saar?” Martin was all
“He was shot from above. From the terrace!” Ramanujam had a wry smile in his lips.
“Damn... I should have figured that out. How stupid of me!” Alex took out another cigarette.
“Nicotine deficiency may be!” Ramanujam smiled at Martin who was too scared to say anything.
“But that doesn’t make sense. If you are shooting from the terrace, the bullet would have blown his head off. But the bullet hit his back!” Alex still couldn’t get his head around this one.
Ramanujam started pacing. “True. But what if he was bending down?”
“Why would he come to his door step and bend down instead of ringing the door bell?” Martin was equally confused.
Ramanujam was seeing it clearly in his head. “What if he found something on the floor? And if that something was his cell phone? What if it had been placed a few paces ahead of the door step just for Raghavan to bend and pick it up? Right here! See the architecture. That way you get a clear shot from the terrace! The phone must have started ringing at that very moment he came to the door. Karthik told us that Raghavan had forgotten his cell phone at home that day. Do you have his cell phone with you now?”
“Yes, I do
Saar. Why?” Martin took out the phone. “Check
if there was any call around 10:30.” Ramanujam and Alex were anxiously waiting
as Martin fumbled through the call listing. “Oh my God. Yes Saar.
A call from an unknown number at 10:24! Let me go run a check on this number.”
Ramanujam stopped him. “Wait. Hold on. I don’t think that would be of much use. What is the duration of the call?” “25 seconds. You are absolutely right
Saar! It was all set up perfectly.” Martin’s eyes were
staring at Alex who still looked perplexed while Ramanujam was fixing the
jigsaw puzzle in his head. “Well... I think I know who the killer is. Time for some drama! Let
us call a family meeting to confirm. And then we head to Martin’s house.
Martin, I hope you are well stocked.” Martin gave a wry smile. “Of course Saar. Any time!”
The entire family was gathered in the living room. Everyone was anxious and confused as to what was going to transpire. There were nervous glances as Alex started off. “We are very sorry for your loss. We understand how tough it must be for all of you to go through the enquiry at this time. But I am sure it will be as painful for all of you to know that the killer is in this very room at this very moment.”
There was a terrifying silence in the room followed by an outburst. It was Sunita. “How dare you? We all loved him. This is absurd... This is…” Words escaped her as she sulked on the floor. Mr.Sundaram took her in his arms. “Don’t make baseless allegations. Do you understand what you are saying?” He was furious.
“Unfortunately we do
Saar!” Alex glanced at Ramanujam hinting him to take the lead.
“Who is it? Who the hell did it?” shouted an irate Chander.
“Calm down Chander. I am getting to that. Well, Jeniffer. Since I hadn’t talked to you before, I have a couple of questions for you?” Ramanujam turned to Jeniffer who looked petrified.
“Tell me something Jeniffer. How did you know Raghavan was killed?”
“I heard Ponniah scream and came down.”
“Really! You were upstairs and must have been in your room. It was raining so heavily. How did you hear him?”
“Well... I was near the stairs and was about to come down anyways!” Sunita was now looking at her suspiciously.
“It was pouring, right! Did you bring an umbrella?” Ramanujam glanced at the wet umbrella as if leading her to it.
“Oh.. Yes yes. I did. I did!” Her nervousness was very evident to everyone now.
“Then why is it that Sunita’s umbrella was wet and not yours?” Ramanujam was in his element now.
“Well.. well.. I.. I.. I was in a hurry.. I…” All eyes were on her now.
“She couldn’t have killed Raghavan. She didn’t do that.” Chander’s scream echoed round the house.
“And how would you be so confident, Mr.Chander?” Alex was circling Chander whose head was clearly spinning.
“Because Jeniffer was with Chander in his room when Raghavan was killed.” Ramanujam’s sensational observation stunned everyone, including Alex. A cadaverous silence ensued!
“You see. If Jeniffer had been in her room and came down in a hurry on hearing the scream, she would not have been prompt enough to switch off the lights in her room. She must have been in Chander’s room since evening I am guessing. But for fear of getting caught, Chander came out first and then when everyone else had gathered, Jeniffer came out so that no one noticed. And she never brought any umbrella!”
“Then who did it? Enough of your suspense! Who is the killer?” Alex was out of control.
“Alex, even by your standards, you should have guessed that now. Mr.Sundaram! Who else?” Ramanujam looked at Mr.Sundaram who stood there motionless and emotionless. Sunita burst out into tears.
“Mr.Sundaram had his plan well laid out. He had secretly taken Raghavan’s phone in the morning while he was too busy to notice. In the evening, Sunita was out, Ponniah was sleeping and Jeniffer and Chander were busy romancing. So it was quite easy for him to quietly place the phone at the door step. He quietly went upstairs and positioned himself in the balcony and waited for Raghavan. Now came the first problem: Rain! In a hurry he came down and picked up Sunita’s umbrella! First mistake right there. Not a big one but big enough for me!
By now, you should know that Raghavan’s pistol was in Mr.Sundaram’s safe custody. Everything else went as planned. Now he cannot keep the murder weapon with him, nor did he have enough time to plan its disposal. So he threw the pistol to the dust bin on the road. His basket ball skills came in handy here. It wouldn't matter if we found it out anyways. Then he quickly came down. The chaos had already begun and Ponniah and Chander were near the body. Mr.Sundaram slipped in and calmly joined them. No one would suspect for coming late as his was the last room.
But now why kill Raghavan? I guess that is not too difficult to guess either. Mr.Sundaram had lot of faith in Raghavan. So much faith that he had entrusted his empire in his hands considering the best interests of the family and his business! He had thought that this would bring Chander in line too. But instead, Raghavan didn’t turn out to be the saint he pretended to be. I am sure for a man of Mr.Sundaram’s caliber; it wouldn’t have taken too long to figure out the real colors of Raghavan. But it was too late. He was in total control: of his daughter, his family, his business and his wealth. Mr.Sundaram had no other option but to kill Raghavan to regain all that he had lost due to one bad decision. And he was so angry that he wanted to probably kill Raghavan himself. Raghavan was an industrialist plus a womanizer. Mr.Sundaram hoped that we would go fishing for his enemies. But that was not to be!
Well, that sums up the case. Mr.Sundaram! I am really sorry. I completely understand your position but I don’t approve of your solution!” Ramanujam offered his condolences to Sunita and Chander as they accompanied their father who was taken away by Alex’s men.
“Whoa Gem! That was fast. You have made short work of it. Bravo my man!” Alex patted him on the back.
“But Alex. I guess you still have a lot of work ahead of you. There is still no strong evidence for your case to hold in a court. So better get on it!”
“Well, we will look into it. But right now, we have a more important agenda. Don’t we Martin?” Alex was all smiles. “I will get Mr.Sundaram to the police station and join you guys in an hour. Does that work?”
“I don’t know. Offer open only till stocks last!” Ramanujam and Martin burst out into laughter.
- A SHORT STORY BY RAJ.