A Mysterious Murder Case
A Mysterious Murder Case
The villa was burning as the hungry flames engulfed it in greed. The firefighters were trying their best to put it out. In front of the house, the neighbors had gathered in confusion and horror. The villa was situated in a posh area. Most of the residents were celebrities and politicians; the rest of them were techies, doctors and engineers. That area was popularly known as Dollars’ Colony. It was the safest area in that entire metro. Police would patrol the area in cars regularly. Burglary, fire hazard, water shortage or electricity failures were unheard of. That is why, the media personnel had reached the spot to do a live telecast.
As the police were trying to keep them inside the line, a police car reached the spot. A middle-aged man in police uniform stepped out of the vehicle. He was muscular even for his age. But what stood out was his imperial style mustache. His gaze was piercing, complemented by hard-angled eyebrows. His name was Ashwath Kumar; a very renowned figure with a high reputation in and around the police department. He had started his career as a Police Inspector, and now, he was a DCP (Deputy Commissioner of Police).
“Sir, this villa belongs to MLA Siddharth Raj’s daughter Yashaswini Raj. A loud blast was heard about half an hour ago, before it caught fire. It seems no one’s inside, sir.” A police inspector reported to the DCP. Ashwath nodded and approached the fire officer who was giving instructions to his crew.
“Mr Ramappa, do you have any idea how it started?” Ashwath inquired the fire officer. Annoyed, the fire officer turned, but was shocked to see the DCP.
“Sir, you are here?!” His tone was laced with surprise.
“Yes, my friend. As everyone knows we serve the lords, not the common public.” He smirked, looking at the burning villa. The fire officer nodded in agreement.
“What could be the reason you think?” Looking around, Ashwath asked Ramappa again.
“Gas leakage, sir…” He paused for a moment, then turned towards Ashwath.
“Could be a bomb.” He shrugged. Ashwath inhaled deeply, and his sixth sense was already ticking.
“Meowww…” Surprised, Ashwath looked in the direction of the sound. A white cat was staring at him, as if it would pierce his soul. He went near, and knelt down before it.
“Are you lost, my little friend?” murmured, as he looked at her beautiful pink collar. A golden locket was dangling, and ‘Shwetha’ was written on it. Below it, there were some digits that looked like a phone number. Before he could remember all the numbers, Ramappa interrupted him.
“Sir, a body has been found.” Without waiting for a response from Ashwath, Ramappa went near his crew who were bringing out the corpse. Ashwath followed him instantly. Looking at the corpse, Ramappa turned his face away. Even, he couldn’t bear to look at it. The corpse was burnt beyond recognition. He signaled Ashwath to go ahead and inspect.
Ashwath looked at it for a moment, then instructed the police inspector to take it for the autopsy. At that moment, he got a call, it was the MLA Siddharth Raj who was at his political party meeting in Delhi. Hearing the MLA’s panicked tone, Ashwath tried to calm him down.
The MLA told him that Yashaswini Raj’s phone was switched off. The live telecast of the fire incident had scared the MLA, and he wanted Ashwath to find his daughter as soon as possible. Glancing at the corpse being put in the ambulance, Ashwath assured the MLA that he would find his daughter very soon.
After the call, Ashwath remembered the white-colored cat, and he turned back. But it wasn’t there. “752” Mumbling the numbers he walked to the car. He was about to get in, when the MLA called again. Knowing what the matter was, Ashwath received the call. In a full-blown panic, the MLA inquired about the corpse that was being shown on TV. Somehow, Ashwath convinced the MLA that he could provide the details after the autopsy was done. Frustrated, the MLA told him he would be returning by the next morning.
As soon as Ashwath reached his office, formed four search teams and sent them to find Yashaswini Raj before sunrise.
Next day in the morning, the search teams reported back to the DCP. Their report said that the previous day, Yashaswini Raj was at a party till midnight. Around 12:30, she reached home which was empty. The servants would leave around 9:30 p.m. as the routine. They could not find any suspicious person or activity around the villa at that time, based on the CCTV footage. Ashwath had hit a dead end.
An hour later, the MLA Siddharth Raj came to Ashwath’s office. After knowing that they hadn’t found her yet, he went berserk. Insulting the officers who were present there, he even threatened to transfer them to a remote location. That is when the autopsy report came.
The report said that the corpse belonged to a young female whose age ranged between 19 - 21 years. She had died due to burning and suffocation. Some amount of liquor had been found in her stomach. Hearing this from Ashwath, the MLA collapsed in a chair. The officers had to revive him. Ashwath informed the MLA that conducting a DNA test would clarify everything. The words of Ashwath, lit hope in the MLA’s heart, and he agreed to the test.
Around noon, a report from the fire department was delivered. The report stated that the fire incident was staged by someone. This perplexed everyone. Before Ashwath could say anything, MLA Siddarth Raj began shouting in anger.
“Does this mean someone killed my daughter?! What nonsense! Who would dare, that too, my daughter? I’m MLA Siddarth Raj. I own this constituency. I-” Gently interrupting him, Ashwath made him sit on the chair.
“Sir, The identity of the corpse has not been confirmed yet. The report says, someone had turned on the gas stove knobs. Sir, do you suspect anyone? Your daughter’s servants?”
“No way. They were all my people. I had chosen them individually to keep an eye on my daughter.”
“Sir, we will begin the investigation regarding this matter. Once the corpse is identified, we shall know which direction we have to go.” Ashwath explained as the MLA agreed in frustration, and left for the forensic lab. Ashwath collapsed in a chair with a huge sigh.
The fire report was not making sense. Ashwath thought, No one entered the house, no one left. Then who turned on the gas stove...? It definitely seems like it was done by someone who held a grudge. But who? MLA Siddharth Raj does have a lot of enemies… Frustrated, he leaned back and closed his eyes.
Around 3 pm, an impatient Ashwath got a call directly from the forensic lab. It was a medical geneticist. He told Ashwath that the test result was positive. The DNA of the corpse was similar to that of MLA Siddharth Raj. Thanking the medical geneticist, he leaned back in his seat. Taking a deep breath, he picked up the phone and called the MLA. The MLA's PA answered, and he could hear the sound of an ambulance siren. Ashwath was startled.
“Is the MLA sir not there? I’m DCP Ashwath speaking.”
“Ah! Glad you called. Sir has been hospitalized. H-”
“What?!” Shocked, Ashwath interrupted the PA.
“Yes, sir was waiting for your call. Then his contact from the forensic lab informed sir about the result. I don’t know what sir heard, but he collapsed on the sofa immediately. I instantly called the ambulance. Now we are almost near Amrut Multi-specialty Hospital.” The panicked PA told him in a single breath. Within half an hour, Ashwath was in the hospital.
After waiting for an hour, he was allowed to meet the MLA. He looked 20 years older. Seeing Ashwath, he signaled to come near. Ashwath obeyed and leaned closer to hear him better.
“I want the son of bitch... who killed my precious daughter... in prison within two days. U… use the entire police force... if needed... and apply any method required to get the... bastard... Do you hear me?” In a faint voice, the MLA ordered in anger, and closed his eyes to rest. Ashwath immediately left for his office. On the way, he instructed his best police officers to gather at his office.
The officers were waiting for him when he reached there. Without delay, he briefed them.
“Officers, we have to find the killer who murdered Yashaswini Raj. We have to find him within two days. Remember, your jobs are at stake!” Ashwath paused to look at the officers and continued.
“Dinesh, investigate the people who were in contact with Yashaswini Raj outside her college.”
“Yes, sir.” Dinesh responded.
“Nilesh, contact the telecom service provider of her sim card, and check the call details of the last thirty days.”
“Yes, sir.” Nilesh responded.
“Maruti, go to her college and collect the information about her classmates, lecturers, and the staff. If needed, investigate whoever you find suspicious.”
“Yes, sir.” Maruti responded.
“Keshav, investigate the people who were against the MLA Siddharth Raj.”
“Yes, sir.” Keshav responded.
“Krishna Prasad, you order the digital and print media not to spread rumors regarding this case. You can warn them about the consequences.”
“Yes, sir.” Krishna Prasad responded.
“Remember, don’t hesitate to apply any method to get what you require. I will cover you. I just want the results. Send me an hourly report on the progress. Understood?” Ashwath’s tone raised a bit.
“Yes, sir.” The officers replied in unison.
“You can leave then.” Ashwath sat in his chair as they left his chamber.
The entire police force was deployed to find the killer. The murder case of Yashaswini Raj became a hot issue in the entire state. The opposition political parties tried their best to harass the ruling party citing law and order issues. The common public found another juicy topic to chit-chat in functions, restaurants, parks, bus stands, and other public places. Media channels silently cried over the lost chance to increase the TRP rating.
The next day, DCP Ashwath was getting reports from the officers, but there was no breakthrough. It was past noon. Frustrated, he was pacing the floor, then someone knocked. It was Maruti with another report.
“Sir, I have found something interesting from her college.”
“Go ahead.” Ashwath signaled with a dejected tone.
“Sir, there was a rival to Yashaswini Raj in her class. Her name was Vijetha Shastri. Many times they had engaged in verbal fights, sir.” Seeing his superior getting excited, Maruti paused.
“Continue, why did you stop?” Ashwath impatiently said.
“Sorry, sir. There was a rumor that Vijetha slapped Yashaswini Raj four months ago. In reply, Yashaswini Raj slashed Vijetha’s arm with a knife.”
“What?! Did Vijetha file a complaint? Did the college administration take any action?” Ashwath asked curiously.
“No, sir. The college administration blamed Vijetha for the incident, and gave her a stern warning against taking the matter to the police.”
“I see… Did you investigate Vijetha?” Looking at Maruti, Ashwath asked.
“Well… she died two months ago in an accident, sir.” Maruti hesitantly replied. Ashwath was in shock for a moment. He leaned back in his chair with a sigh. Taking a photo out of his pocket, Maruti placed it on the desk.
“This is Vijetha Shastri, sir.”
Ashwath looked at the photo of Vijetha. The almond shaped eyes with dark black iris, the sharp nose, and the medium-sized lips had made her face look innocent. Her slightly bronze colored short hair complemented her face. What stood out was the red colored medium size bindi put between the thick but slender eyebrows.
“Are you sure that she is Vijetha? She looks very innocent.” Ashwath asked in disbelief.
“She is Vijetha, sir. I have confirmed it through the office register book.” Maruti affirmed his words.
“Hmm… tell me about the accident. When and where did it happen?” Ashwath inquired.
“Okay, sir. During the college trip to Mysuru, she drowned in Balamuri Falls.”
DCP Ashwath was silent for a few minutes. Then he asked,
“Was Yashaswini Raj on that trip?”
“Yes, sir. Actually, because of Yashaswini Raj, Vijetha fell into the water.”
“What...?!” Ashwath was dumbfounded. Recovering quickly from the shock, he asked Maruti,
“Did she push Vijetha into the water? What were the others doing?”
“Technically she didn’t push Vijetha, sir. Someone from the college had recorded that incident on a mobile. Watch this video clip, sir.” Maruti showed a video clip on his mobile.
In that video clip, a girl was standing on the wall of the check dam. Holding a camera, she was taking photos. The water currents flowing over the wall were strong though the monsoon was at its end. One could hear the giggles and laughter of the girls in the background. A lady’s voice was heard in the background warning the girl to move away from the edge of the wall.
“Sir, that girl is Vijetha.” pointing his finger, Maruti continued,
“Now look here, sir. You can see Yashaswini Raj nearing Vijetha slowly from behind. She has a camera too.” Nodding, Ashwath continued watching.
As Yashaswini Raj came very near to Vijetha, she slipped. While slipping, her feet kicked the calf of Vijetha’s leg. In an instant, Vijetha lost her balance and fell into the stream. Lots of screams were heard in the background. Within a few seconds, the strong water currents dragged Vijetha far away from the wall. One moment, she would disappear; then the next moment, she would appear on the surface of water. As both Ashwath and Maruti were watching, the video clip ended.
Thinking for a few moments, Ashwath asked,
“Where did you get this video clip? Who gave it to you?”
“A lecturer, sir. She was the one who recorded the incident. On the condition of anonymity, she agreed to give it to me.” Maruti explained.
“Looking at this video clip, I cannot say Yashaswini Raj intentionally did that to Vijetha. But my sixth sense is saying something is off here. Do you have any information about Vijetha?” Thinking of something, Ashwath said.
“Yes, sir. According to her classmates, Vijetha was mentally and physically strong. Even boys would not dare do any monkey business around her. She was the only child to her parents. Father died when she was a child. Her mother was a postal department employee, sir. She died of a heart attack within a week after her daughter’s death.”
Hearing this, the DCP was very sad. Officer Maruti was silently watching him.
“This case is entangling me. The moment I think I am about to solve this case, I reach a dead end. Who killed Yashaswini Raj, then?” Frustrated, Ashwath hit the surface of the desk.
“Well… sir, I noticed another interesting thing in case.” Looking at the DCP, Maruti hesitantly said.
“Is it?! Why didn't you tell me then?” Irritated, Ashwath asked him.
“There was one person who was their classmate, sir. Her name is Vasudha. As per sources, she was Vijetha’s best friend. After Vijetha’s death, she instantly left the metro. She is now staying with her mother in Ramanagar, sir. She has joined a college there.”
“Ok, then. Tell the driver to be ready in ten minutes. Let’s go and meet her. I hope you have her address too.” Ashwath looked at Maruti.
“Yes, sir.” Excited, Maruti replied.
Within ten minutes, the DCP’s car was on the way to Ramanagar. It was an hour's journey from their headquarters. It was almost evening when they reached the town.
“What is the name of the college, you said?” Ashwath asked Maruti who was sitting next to the driver.
“Ramappa Gowda Memorial Degree College, sir.” Turning back, Maruti replied.
“Has the principal been informed about our arrival?”
“Yes, sir. He is waiting for us.”
The driver drove the car as Maruti gave directions. After fifteen minutes, the car entered the premises of the college. There were three large buildings that stood apart from each other in that premises. It seemed like the institution gave prominence to the aesthetic beauty around its buildings. There were statues, a fountain, benches, and trees planted in order.
As they walked in the corridor to the principal’s office, the students in the classrooms curiously stared. The principal’s chamber was on the third floor, at the corner of the corridor. As they entered the chamber, Principal Lakshmeesha Gowda greeted them. After the introduction was done, the principal told them to sit on a sofa.
For a few minutes, Ashwath surveyed the chamber. It was a large and posh room. There were three cupboards filled with trophies won in various events. There was a huge desk and a chair from where the principal would carry out his duties. Next to the desk, a furniture set was placed, consisting of two sofas and two chairs, facing each other. There was ample light and air inside the room. Ashwath was impressed with the ambience. He looked at the principal.
The principal was of medium height and average build. He was bald in the middle, and one could see white hair living in harmony with black hair on the sides of his head. The main feature of his face was his smile; gentle and pure. Remembering the task at hand, Ashwath put a break to his thoughts.
“Sir, let me get to the point. I think inspector Maruti has briefed you about why we have come here. So, will you please call Vasudha?”
“Yes, inspector Maruti has briefed. But before I call her, I need a clarification, sir.” Looking at both of them, the principal smiled.
“Sure, what do you need to know, sir?” Ashwath smiled.
“Is Vasudha involved in this case, sir?”
“We cannot say anything yet, sir. However, my police intuition says she is not involved.” Ashwath gave an assuring smile.
“Is there any problem if I sit here during the investigation?”
“Not at all, sir. I believe it will be helpful for us to investigate.” Ashwath laughed, and the principal joined him. The principal went to his desk and dialed someone in the administrative office, instructing that person to bring Vasudha to his chamber. After placing the receiver in its place, he came back to his seat.
In a few minutes, a girl’s voice came from outside the chamber, asking for permission to enter. As the principal gave permission, she hesitantly came inside.
“Vasudha, come here.” The principal ordered her, and she slowly came near the chair adjacent to the sofa, where the principal was sitting.
“Vasudha, meet Mr Ashwath, he is the DCP of the metro. This is inspector Maruti. They have come to talk to you.” As the principal introduced each other, they exchanged greetings.
“You sit here. They will ask some questions regarding Yashaswini Raj’s murder case. Whatever you know, you tell them. That’s all you have to do. Can you do that?” The principal explained it to Vasudha.
Hearing the name ‘Yashaswini Raj’, Vasudha was slightly startled. Nervously, she took a few steps back. Understanding her condition, Ashwath raised his hand in assurance.
“I know you are scared, seeing the police. But I assure you that we have come here just to get information. Your information will help us in catching the killer. Please, cooperate with us.” Ashwath requested Vasudha.
“Don’t worry, Vasudha. I’ll be here only during the questioning. As soon as you answer their questions, it will be over. Try to relax.” The principal tried to calm her. She silently stood there.
“Let’s do one thing. First, you sit here and calm down. We will not ask you anything until you are comfortable. Tell us to start once you are ready. Is it ok with you?” Ashwath asked her in a gentle voice. She looked at him for a second, then slowly sat in the chair in front of her.
“Would you like to have tea or coffee?” Ashwath asked Vasudha.
“No, thanks, sir.” She replied in a shaky voice.
The principal got up and went near the desk. He called someone in the administrative office, telling the person to send three cups of tea and a glass of watermelon juice. After that he came back and sat on the sofa.
While chit-chatting with the principal, Ashwath observed Vasudha who was gazing at the floor. She was an average looking, chubby girl. Being a bit above five feet high she had a wheatish complexion. Her face was round, adorned with doe-like eyes along with a small nose and a bit wider mouth. Wearing a light colored churidar, she had tied her hair neatly.
“Vasudha, which course are you doing?” Though he knew, Ashwath asked to make her comfortable. For a second, she was startled but gave a short reply in a normal tone as much as possible.
“Interesting. Which combination?”
“History, Political Science and Geography, sir.”
“History?! Nice. Can you tell any five dynasties from the southern parts of Bharat?” Ashwath was curious.
“Yes, sir. Chalukyas, Cholas, Rashtrakutas, Hoysalas and Pallavas.” This time, her tone was firm.
“Which is your favorite dynasty?” Leaning a bit forward, Ashwath asked.
“To me, every Bharatiya dynasty is my favorite, sir. All of them tried their best to make the life of the people better by developing infrastructure, running a people friendly government, establishing an impartial judicial system, and contributing to arts and literature.” She looked confident now.
“Sir, your institution has gotten a brilliant student. I’m impressed with her answer.” Looking at the principal, Ashwath said.
“You are right, sir. That’s why I gave her an admission after just one interview. Otherwise, we don’t accept students in the middle of the curriculum year.” Smiling, the principal looked at Vasudha.
Ashwath continued discussing history with her for a few more minutes. By the end of the discussion, she was comfortable. Realizing that Ashwath came to the point.
“Vasudha, may I ask you a question if you don’t mind?”
“Yes, sir.” Smiling, she replied.
“I heard you and Vijetha were best friends. How was she as a person?” Ashwath asked.
Hearing the name of her best friend, Vasudha’s face turned gloomy. As her eyes filled up with tears, she wiped them gently. Though Ashwath felt bad for her, he had no other choice.
“Vasudha, I will never know how much pain you are going through. But I know how it feels when you lose one of your loved ones. It was very unfortunate that your friend had to leave this world due to an accident. I-” Vasudha interrupted him instantly.
“Accident…?! It was a murder, sir, murder. Vijetha was killed by that bitch, Yashaswini Raj. She was a murderer. She should have been hanged. My friend… didn’t… de… ser... ve… die… like…” choking on her words, Vasudha broke down into tears. Hearing her words, everyone was in shock.
Ashwath and Maruti looked at each other. The principal was patting her shoulder gently to calm her down. Few minutes went by in silence. Finally, Ashwath broke the silence.
“Vasudha, I understand that you are still trying to recover from the shock of your best friend’s untimely death. But accusing someone of committing crimes such as murder without any proof may put you in trouble.”
Vasudha looked at him with the mixed emotions of anger and frustration.
“I have proof, sir. I have heard her bragging about killing my friend on the phone.” She insisted.
“That is not proof, Ms Vasudha.” Shaking his head, Maruti said.
“Wait a minute.”- Stopping him Ashwath asked -“ When and where did it happen?”
“17th October, sir; three days after my friend’s murder. After lunch, I went to the secret place where I and Vijetha used to spend our leisure time together. That place is surrounded by bushes and trees, rendering it a secluded touch.
“Being in the corner of a campus, only a few students would come. As I was mourning, I heard Yashashwini Raj’s voice talking to someone on the phone, sir.” Vasudha paused as a college staff brought a tray containing three cups of tea and a glass of watermelon Juice. After he left, she continued.
“Sir, she was bragging about how she killed Vijetha by utilizing the surroundings to her advantage. She said that she had been waiting for such an opportunity after that scuffle happened between them. She went on bragging in joy. I was scared and angry at the same time, sir. I just didn’t know what to do. Then, to my bad luck, my phone rang. Before I could escape, she found me.” Vasudha sighed.
“Then what happened?” Curious but in a serious tone, Ashwath asked, picking up a cup of tea.
“She grabbed me, and took out her knife. Putting her knife on my neck, she told me not to tell anyone unless I have no desire to live. Scared for my life, I agreed, sir. To remind me, she slashed my hand. Look here, sir.” Vasudha showed her right hand to Ashwath. There was a thin line on her hand made by a knife.
“Why didn't you file a complaint?” Inspector Maruti inquired.
“Are you joking, sir? Would you guys have protected me, had I filed a complaint against her? You know whose daughter she is, right? Had I filed a complaint, how long would I have lived, sir? A week, two weeks, or a month?” Vasudha’s tone raised a bit. Agreeing to her point, Ashwath asked,
“But was Vijetha not your best friend? Would she have acted like you?”
“Probably not, sir. She would have tried her best to get justice for me. She was brave and had the guts to go against the odds. But I would not have allowed that because she would have been in danger.
“In a nation like ours, where most of the police officers, media and lawyers are corrupt, courts that work slower than a snail, it is better to wish your beloved ones to do nothing. Otherwise, their life will be ruined.” Vasudha’s tone was harsh. Ashwath and Maruti were silent. They knew she was right.
“Sir, the next day after Yashaswini Raj threatened me, I was being followed by two men. I would see them wherever I went; college, mall, in front of my home. Two days later, one of them approached me and asked me whether I still remember Yashaswini Raj’s warning. That was it, sir.
“Next day, I went to her and gave an offer. I would leave the metro forever, and she should stop bothering me. She instantly agreed. After that no one followed me. In a week, my mother and I left the metro. Later, I joined this college.” In a tired tone, Vasudha said.
Ashwath sighed and looked at Maruti. Understanding the cue, Maruti shook his head.
“I think that is all. But we have to contact you if we need any further information. I hope you will cooperate, Vasudha.” putting the empty cup of tea on the table, Ashwath told her. She silently nodded.
“Vasudha, you can go to your class then.” The principal smiled. Thanking him, she left the chamber.
“What do you think, sir? Was she telling the truth?” Sipping tea, Maruti asked Ashwath.
“Yes, she is speaking the truth. Do one thing. Contact the head office of the telecom service provider of Yashaswini Raj. Tell them to check the call details made from her phone after the Balamuri Falls accident. By tonight, the details should be sent. You make sure, it is done.” Ashwath instructed him.
“Yes, sir.” obeying his superior’s words, Maruti made a call to the head office of the telecom service provider. He talked for a few minutes, and turned to Ashwath.
“The details will be sent by tonight, sir.”
“Good. Shall we leave then?” Ashwath was satisfied. They got up, and the principal joined them.
“Thank you very much for your kind help, sir. We are very grateful. I hope we didn’t disturb your schedule.” Shaking the principal’s hand, Ashwath expressed his gratitude.
“No, not at all. It was my pleasure to help you, sir.” The principal smiled. Both Ashawath and Maruti left the principal's chamber. As they reached down to the second floor, Maruti’s cell phone rang. He looked at the caller's name and smiled.
“Sir, my wife is calling. Is it ok if I…” Looking at the DCP, Maruti paused.
“Sure, why not. I will be in the car. Take your own time.” Patting him, Ashwath said. As Maruti went near a pillar, Ashwath started climbing down the stairs. As he reached the landing, he heard ‘Meowww…’. There was a cat sitting on a stair, staring at him. Ashwath felt like he had seen it before. As he was trying to remember, his eyes fell upon its pink collar and the golden locket. Then he remembered.
“You are lost again, right my little friend? Where is your owner Shwetha?” Bending over it, he smiled.
“Shwetha is her name, sir. And I am not her owner but a friend.” Ashwath was startled by hearing a voice behind him. Turning back, he froze in shock.
“V-vi-vijetha… is it... you?” Struggling to understand the situation, Ashwath mumbled.
“Yes, sir. It is me, Vijetha Shastri.” - she continued - “Do not fear, sir. I have come to help you solve the Yashaswini Raj murder case.”
“Eh...?!” Not knowing what to say, he looked at her, and then at the cat which was circling around Vijetha. Understanding the situation, Vijetha said,
“I know it is hard for anyone to believe that a dead person is talking. But you got to believe me, sir.” She paused for a few moments, while Ashwath tried his best to regain his composure. Looking at him, she resumed.
“You have been searching for the killer of Yashaswini Raj, right sir? I am the one who killed her… through someone.” Her tone was serious.
“What...?! What do you mean that you killed her through someone?” Perplexed, Ashwath inquired.
“On the day of her murder, I had been waiting for her at her home. Once she reached home, she went to sleep immediately. Then I made Shwetha turn on the gas stove knobs. After half an hour later, I made her scratch Yashaswini’s hand, so she could chase Shwetha downstairs. By the time she reached, Shwetha had already left the house. The smell of the gas made Yashaswini go to the kitchen and press the light switch. The rest you know, sir.” Vijetha’s tone was calm.
Finding it very strange, Ashwath was silent.
“Sir, did your men properly examine the CCTV footage? I request you to watch it again, sir. Your doubts will be clarified.”
“Alright, I will do that. But tell me, how can an animal like cat do such a thing? And, why didn’t you turn on the gas stove knobs by yourself?” Ashwath was very curious. Vijetha just smiled, and then answered.
“Sir, it seems you know very little about cats. I agree; they are lazy, and act entitled. But, they are one of the smart creatures. They care for the humans who look after them. They just don’t express their feelings like dogs. I used to teach some tricks to her. Turning the gas stove on was one of them. To your other question, I didn’t have the required energy to do that, sir. Only someone with a lot of grudges can have such energy.”
“What?! Really? Didn't you have any grudge against her? Even after that scuffle?” Finding it very hard to believe Vijetha’s words, Ashwath inquired further.
“It is true that I didn’t like her, sir. But I never had a grudge against her. I always thought she was a spoiled brat, not a bad person herself. Well, that was the biggest mistake I made. I had never thought she would do that to me.” Sighing, she looked at Ashwath. Her eyes were filled with tears. Ashwath felt sorry for her.
“I feel very sorry for you, kid. No one’s life should end like this. But I am surprised that you still didn’t hold a grudge against her even after she killed you.”
“I, too, don’t know why I couldn’t hold a grudge against her after my death, sir. Because of Yashaswini, my mom died heart broken. Maybe I’m like that itself, I guess.” Wiping the tears, Vijetha explained. Ashwath nodded silently.
“But when I heard her bragging about killing me, and saw her threatening my best friend, I then decided it is better to finish her off before she could ruin another person’s life. That is the reason I killed her, sir.” Stopping, Vijetha looked at Ashwath. Something flashed to Ashwath, as he looked at her.
“Why did you not tell me all these then only? Why now?”
“I was not planning to tell at all, sir. But when you guys met Vasudha regarding this case, then I was scared that she may get framed for the murder.”
“Why would you think like that? Why would she be framed?” Feeling insulted, Ashwath asked her irritatedly.
“Do I have to explain why, sir?” Staring at Ashwath, Vijetha asked in a serious tone. A sad smile escaped from the lips of Ashwath.
“Forgive me, kid. I know you are right. But as a policeman, hearing this… you know.” shrugging his shoulders, Ashwath replied.
“Tell me, kid. What do you want me to do?” Ashwath asked her.
“Sir, please leave my best friend alone. She has nothing to do with this.” Vijetha requested.
“I realized that when I talked to her. Don’t worry, kid. I will make sure she is not bothered anymore regarding Yashaswini Raj’s murder case.” Raising his hand, Ashwath assured her.
“Thank you very much, sir. If you don’t mind, I need another favor, sir…” With hesitation, Vijetha said.
“Sure, go ahead.” Ashwath responded.
“Please, give Shwetha to Vasudha, sir. Actually, Vasudha had gifted her to me as my birthday present. After my death, Shwetha has been struggling to live on her own. She will be very happy if Vasudha takes care of her.” She requested by joining her hands together.
“Absolutely, kid. Don’t worry. I’ll do that. But tell me. Why don’t you give the cat to your friend yourself?” Ashwath asked curiously. Vijetha gave a smile laced with sorrow.
“I don’t want to meet her like this, sir. Her heart will be broken. I have already hurt her a lot.”
“I understand. Well, I’ll take care of things for you. I promise you, kid. Now, leave this world in peace.” Smiling, Ashwath assured her. Vijetha thanked him again, and then disappeared. A moment later, Ashwath heard someone’s footsteps. Turning, he saw Maruti.
“Sir, are you still here? Sorry sir. It took a bit long.” Apologizing, Maruti saw the cat, circling around the DCP.
“It is ok. I just saw this cat here. So, I was talking to it for fun.” waving his hand, Ashwath said.
“Shall we, sir?” Maruti asked the DCP’s permission.
“Yes, let’s leave. I like this cat. I’ll bring her along.” Picking her up, Ashwath signaled him to move.
They reached the DCP’s office at night. The cat was fed, and the DCP was watching the CCTV footage with Maruti, while waiting for the call details of Yashaswini Raj. Then, Inspector Nilesh entered with a report.
“Sir, I got another report regarding the call details of Yashaswini Raj. On 17th October, after noon, she indeed called someone and talked about Vijetha’s death. Here you can see, sir.” Handing over the report, Nilesh stood next to him.
Ashwath scrutinized it thoroughly. Yashaswini Raj had talked for three minutes with the person. One could clearly figure out from the report that she had no remorse for what she did to Vijetha.
“So it is true then. She indeed killed Vijetha… You can leave.” Sighing, Ashwath told Nilesh.
“Yes, sir.” Nilesh saluted and left.
“Sir, then who killed Yashaswini Raj?” Scratching his head, Maruti asked the DCP.
“Let’s watch this footage completely. We may find a clue.” Ashwath turned to his PC.
In that video, they saw Yashaswini Raj getting out of the cab. Then she opened the gate, and went inside. Drunk walking, she reached the main door. Then struggling to find the key for a minute, she managed to open the door. After that she entered the house, and closed the door. The lights were turned on inside.
“Stop! Rewind it a bit.” Ashwath almost shouted that shocked Maruti. He rewound the video to where she was getting out of the cab.
“No, no… Play again from where she opens the door.” Ashwath clarified. Maruti fast forwarded the video and played. After a few moments, Ashwath told him to pause.
“There, see… What is it?” Ashwath tried to figure out the white object that was near Yashaswini Raj.
“Hmm… Sir, to me, it looks like a cat.” leaning forward, squinting his eyes, Maruti replied.
“Did she have a cat?” Though he knew, Ashwath asked Maruti.
“No, sir. She hated pets.” Maruti replied.
“Ok, continue playing the video.” Ashwath told him.
After Yashaswini Raj closed the door, lights were on for a few minutes. Five minutes later, the light in her bedroom on the top floor was lit. A few minutes later, the light was turned off. After half an hour later, the cat appeared on the compound wall, running. Jumping on the road, it ran and went out of the camera’s range. Within a few minutes, a loud explosion occurred, and the house was engulfed by flames. They continued watching the footage till the end, but couldn’t find anything suspicious.
“This is really a mystery, sir. I just don’t know how to crack it.” Dejected, Maruti covered his face with his hands.
“I think I know who did this.” Looking at Maruti, Ashwath said seriously.
“Really? Who, sir?” Maruti was excited as well as confused.
“Yashaswini Raj. She killed herself.” Ashwath was still serious. Maruti was looking at him in shock. Has he gone nuts? He thought for a moment. Understanding Maruti’s perplexed expression, Ashwath explained.
“See, if you remember the postmortem report, it said she had consumed some amount of alcohol. As commonly known, drunkards do unusual things. She might have turned on the gas stove, and then left the kitchen to sleep. After half an hour later, she might have woken up and remembered turning on the gas stove. So, she came back to the kitchen again. The rest we know.”
“That is correct, sir. But still I find it difficult to believe.” Maruti was still not ready to believe.
“I agree with you. I also find it difficult to believe. But let’s continue with this deduction. I need you to prepare a report on this. Tomorrow I will meet the MLA Siddharth Raj, if doctors permit.” Instructing Maruti, Ashwath got up from his chair. Then the telephone rang. Maruti immediately received the call. A few moments later, he looked at the DCP, and gave the phone receiver.
“Yes, it is DCP Ashwath speaking. What is it?”
“Sir, turn on the TV now. MLA Siddharth Raj is no more.” A voice said.
“What…?!” In complete shock, Ashwath mumbled. It took a minute or so to recover from that shock.
“... Sir… Sir… Are you ok?” Maruti was calling him.
“Uh…?! What?... Yes… I am alright.” Replying, Ashwath turned on the TV.
On a news channel, a reporter was standing in front of the Amrut Multi-specialty Hospital. There was a large crowd behind her looking at the hospital entrance. Police had put up the barricades to prevent the crowd from entering.
“... I am standing in front of the Amrut Multi-specialty Hospital where the MLA Siddharth Raj had been admitted. Fifteen minutes ago, the correspondent of the hospital confirmed the demise of the MLA Siddharth Raj.
“According to the doctors, the reason for his death is a heart attack. He was fifty-two years old. He had represented this constituency for the last twenty years. As you can see-” Turning off the TV, Ashwath collapsed in the chair. Taking a deep breath, he looked at Maruti. In shock, Maruti was still staring at the TV.
“Maruti… Maruti!” Hearing Ashwath’s voice, Maruti came back to his senses.
“Uh?! Yes, sir.”
“Arrange a press conference immediately. I will address the press regarding the Yashaswini Raj’s murder case. Otherwise, the situation may get worse because of the MLA’s followers. I will talk to and obtain permission from my superiors. Notify other officers. I will be ready in an hour.”
“Y-yes, sir.” Trying to understand the DCP’s next move, Maruti left the chamber.
After an hour, the conference hall in the building was filled with media personnel. DCP Ashwath entered the hall on time. He took his chair, and Inspector Maruti sat next to him. Before beginning the conference, Ashwath adjusted the mics.
“Namaste, thank you all for coming. We have solved the mysterious murder case of Yashaswini Raj. We thoroughly investigated the case from every possible angle; inquired people who were related to this case. After going through the forensic reports and the numerous pieces of evidence, we have come to the conclusion that it was an accident…” Pausing, Ashwath looked at the media personnel, reading their reactions.
For a few moments, they were in shock. Finding it difficult to believe, they looked at each other. It seemed like they were disappointed with the outcome. Feeling disgusted, Ashwath continued,
“According to the witnesses, she was at a party with friends at a nightclub on that night. She had consumed alcohol, and around midnight she reached her home drunk. In that state only, she turned on the gas stove and went to sleep. Later when she came to the kitchen and pressed the switch, the explosion occurred, killing her on the spot.” Concluding, Ashwath looked at Maruti.
Maruti leaned a bit forward and cleared his throat, before addressing the press.
“Our staff will provide the forensic report copies now. We will provide the CCTV footage by tomorrow. If you still need any clarification, after going through them, we will be glad to provide. That’s all. Thank you for your cooperation.” As soon as Maruti finished his words, the DCP got up and left the hall along with Maruti.
For the entire next week, the death of Yashaswini Raj filled the front page of the newspapers, became the main article in the tabloids, and the prime time discussion topic on TV news channels. Then within the next week, the media lost interest, and ran after another hot issue. Within the month, people forgot Yashaswini Raj’s death.
“Mom, I’m leaving for college now. See you in the evening. Bye” shouting from the verandah, Vasudha put on her sandals. Lazing around in a chair, Shwetha was gazing at her.
“Ok. Be careful and be at home before dark.” Vasudha’s mom shouted from the kitchen. Vasudha went near the cat and started to pet her.
“I will be back in the evening, Shwethu. Let’s play with your favorite toy then. Till then, take care. Bye.” Waving at the cat, she stepped out of the home. Yawning, Shwetha rolled to the other side.