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Amitav Ganguly

Crime Thriller

4.7  

Amitav Ganguly

Crime Thriller

MOBILE PHONE BUTCHERIES-MURDER MYSTERY { Part 1}

MOBILE PHONE BUTCHERIES-MURDER MYSTERY { Part 1}

14 mins
643


MOBILE PHONE BUTCHERIES {MURDER MYSTERY}PART I



Can criminals send the police on a false investigation trail? It was an unusual case and started that way!

Detective Inspector Samsher Brahma of the Homicide Squad, a tall, handsome muscular man with cropped hair, followed by short and rotund Sub-Inspector Ahmedi, opened the city hospital door's morgue and walked in. While entering, the inspector again examined an SMS message on his mobile phone, which read: 'Check dead body number 07 in the morgue-look for his eye.'

The medium-sized room presented a depressing sight. A blue neon light covered with grime was throwing a ghostly aura around the room, lined with metal drawers across the sweep of its three walls and assembled up from the floor to the ceiling. There was a metal chair and a small wooden table placed in the middle. The windowless area had a semi-freezing temperature with smog emitting from the air conditioning ducts and swirling up and about. A weird smell of death was all-permeating.

An attendant, who was already inside, came forward. Following a brief instruction from Ahmedi, he went towards the room's far-left side and pulled out a large drawer. A corpse lay therein. With a number tag fastened to his partially exposed left leg, a small-sized man was covered by an opaque white plastic sheet. Pulling out the cover completely, the attendant looked at Ahmedi and moved away.

The inspector stepped forward, switched on the flashlight of his mobile phone, and carefully scrutinised the face with a palpable grey-blue tinge. He then held the light on the eyes for a few seconds more and then surveyed the rest of the naked body. The abdomen was severely mutilated by multiple knife wounds.

Glancing at the sub-inspector, he remarked, "This is odd! Who and why should someone send me an SMS late last night and make me check this corpse with an injured left eye? We need to again investigate this thoroughly. The local police's recent half-hearted efforts to identify this unknown murdered man did not yield any results. They will close the case unless we come up with tangible findings."

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When the inspector returned to his office after lunchtime, he found Ahmedi, who was already back from another duty, waiting for him.

Occupying his chair and drinking natural spring water from the bottle kept on his table, the inspector wiped his face with his handkerchief. It was an oppressively hot day.

"Ahmedi," he said, "we need to get the call tracking report of last night's SMS as soon as possible. I had already alerted the tracking unit."

"Sure sir. I will expedite it," saying that Ahmedi went out.

An hour later, he returned with the report and placed it on the inspector's table.

The SMS had come from the mobile phone number belonging to one Bhubna Barocha. When sending the message, the location of that phone was the staff quarters situated inside the estate of a well-known industrialist, Lochan Verma. The address linked to that mobile number, registered with the telecom company, was in the same area in North City's uptown. Presently, the particular mobile phone was switched off.

The inspector said, "Who is this Bhubna? The first step is to identify him. Let us go to this address. Since it is inside Lochan Verma's estate, I want to meet him too for his permission. He may also throw some light on this peculiar matter. I am getting a hunch that there is more than what meets our eyes… some more crime, possibly! We ought to move fast. Inform him about our coming."

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The police Gypsy vehicle carrying Inspector Samsher Brahma and Ahmedi, along with a small police team in another vehicle, drove through the enormous estate of Lochan Verma. While moving, they looked around at the meticulously maintained green lawns on both sides of the curving road reaching up to the majestic mansion's central porch.

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Once inside the mansion, the inspector and Ahmedi were asked to wait for Lochan Verma in the office area.

Before long, a man of medium height with an eye-catching appearance came in and bowed slightly. With a polite and gentle tone, he said, "Inspector, I am Mukund Gonzales, Mr. Lochan Verma's Personal Assistant, that is, his PA; I support him in his work. I am sorry, but Verma 'sir' is busy right now, but he has been told about your arrival. He will take some time to meet you. Meanwhile, if I can be of any help, please tell me."

The inspector, while noticing his rugged desirability and impeccable behaviour, nodded slightly and said, "Mr. Mukund, I do not want to bother your 'sir,' but this is an urgent matter involving a murder of an unknown man. I request that you apprise him and urge him to meet us quickly."

Then the inspector told him briefly about the case so that Lochan Verma could meet them with some background information.

"Inspector, I will talk to him. But what you say cannot be accepted since there is no link with 'sir.' You will only waste his time." Mukund responded.

"The police are not making this cock and bull story out of thin air just to meet him. We want to investigate this matter." The inspector replied in a stern tone.

Mukund shrugged and threw up his hand. "Let 'sir' respond to you, I will tell him about your urgency. He will come shortly, I hope."

After he went out of the room, another man came in. He was short, non-descriptive in appearance and introduced himself as Sameer Sarpanch, an assistant of Mukund. He said, "Sir, can we offer you a cup of tea, or will it be a cold drink?" The inspector and Ahmedi politely declined.

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About ten minutes later, Lochan Verma came in and apologised for keeping the inspector waiting.

He was tall, in his late forties, with striking looks and thinning hair. Immaculately dressed in a light blue business suit, he looked every inch the successful industrialist he was.

Occupying the large sofa, he requested them to be comfortable.

When Samsher Brahma explained the facts to him in detail and the urgency, he spoke courteously.

"Dear Inspector, I am amazed to hear this story from you. I remember one Bhubna Barocha who was my head-gardener some years ago. He quit his job and left this place at that time; presently, I do not know his whereabouts. Is he the same man you talk about? It appears so since his mobile phone still has my staff quarter address registered with the telecom company. I am not sure why that address has been made the focus of your attention. I assure you, Inspector, that there is no problem on my premises. Please conduct a thorough search here and my staff quarters; you have my full cooperation; I do not need to see any search warrant."

The inspector rose to his feet and said, "I have nothing more to ask now. I will take your leave, but, if need be, I will return to you. Can I now interrogate your PA, his assistant and others?"

"Please go-ahead for this matter only," Lochan Verma replied.

The inspector raised his eyebrows slightly.

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Little later, the inspector was talking to Mukund and Sameer in the chamber of the PA. They were seated across him.

"I have already apprised you of the reason for our coming here. What have you to say about this?" The inspector started.

"Like I said, I have my reservation about this matter, but Mr. Lochan Verma has agreed to support you, so I have no problem. Anyway, you should certainly investigate this matter thoroughly. Do not spare anybody, however important, he or she may be."

Sameer vigorously nodded and said he agreed.

"Let me be specific. Do you know Bhubna?" The inspector asked.

"I do not recall since he left many years ago. There are so many servants in this estate."

"Where did you work before this?" The inspector asked.

Sameer now replied, "We worked together in the neighbouring city about six years ago in the accounts section of PE Industries."

"Why did you leave?"

"For a better career, sir," Mukund answered.

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Advising Sub-Inspector Ahmedi to continue with the search, the inspector stepped out onto the mansion's central porch with Mukund following him, when he saw two men, one with a video camera and another with a notebook, standing a little away.

On seeing the inspector, they came near him, and one of them who was an overweight man with long neatly brushed hair, said, "Inspector, I am Ravi Krishnan, a reporter from Combined News. We find that the police have come here to question Lochan Verma and search these premises due to some suspected criminal activities. Can you please elaborate?"

Ravi, after that, opened his notebook and his companion switched on his camera.

The inspector glanced at Mukund and said to Ravi, "This is just a routine inquiry, and Mr. Mukund, the PA, will attend to you."

"But the police do not visit such influential industrialist just for routine work; there is something more, Inspector. What is it? Will Lochan Verma be arrested?"

Ravi refused to be deterred and countered with more questions.

At this time, Mukund stepped forward and ushered these two men inside the mansion, and the inspector climbed into his waiting police Gypsy vehicle. The second vehicle remained parked, waiting for the search party to come out.

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Samsher Brahma spent some minutes contemplating at the police station and then called Ahmedi on his mobile phone.

"Is there any progress about the search and the questionings? And what about those two reporters? What did they say?"

"No sir, till now, there is nothing in the mansion or the staff quarters which can throw any light. Interrogations are going on. And those reporters have completed their job without any hitch. Mukund seems to be very competent and cooperative."

"Ok, when you have completed your work there, you will have to do some more investigations."

He gave detailed orders.

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Four days had gone by since then. It was a Monday morning, and there were rain clouds and a hint of rain in the air, making the heat more unbearable.

Ahmedi was sitting before the inspector with sheaves of papers.

"Sir, can I brief you, what we have found about Lochan Verma's case?"

The inspector nodded.

Ahmedi cleared his throat and then started, "The dead body we saw in the morgue, that day, has now been identified. His name was Bhubna Barocha. The SMS sent to you had indeed come from his mobile phone number, and the telecom company had also given his photo, which matched with the body's face. The naked body was found at the beginning of last week under a bench in a park in Roopgunj, a slum area of the city. The time of discovery implies that the dead man could not have sent you that SMS. And, as you have already seen, the body had severe knife injuries in his stomach."

He shuffled his papers and went on, "We had also made enquiries in Roopgunj with his photo, and it was not difficult to find that, for the last two years, he was a tenant of a chawl room, located there. Everyone in that slum area knew that he had links with the underworld, but nobody knew who had killed him. Many of course, remembered that he used to spill venom against Lochan Verma in various gatherings and was scared that the industrialist would destroy him."

He paused to look at his papers again and continued, "After that, we also checked from Lochan Verma's household. There are fifteen servants there, and only one of them, a man called Dhupar Nankia, was more than willing to talk about Bhubna who had worked there as a head-gardener, about three years ago.

"The facts of Bhubna are revealing. He had dishonest habits and cantankerous nature. One day he had tried to bodily assault Lochan Verma on some trivial matter, and there was a big showdown. During that physical scuffle, his left eye was severely damaged. On being thrown out, he swore revenge against the industrialist. Surprisingly, during the heat of the moment, Lochan Verma also vowed that he would destroy Bhubna.

"Sir, in my humble opinion, this was totally unsuitable for an employer to say about his servant; it was a blunder on his part.

"Anyway, everyone knows in that household that Lochan Verma has a hidden and ruthless streak in his nature. But he appears to be polite and mild natured to most people, especially outsiders; it is a different story, however, when he deals with his family and servants."

As Ahmedi stopped, the inspector made a gesture of appreciation.

"You have given very vital information, Ahmedi. Now, tell me about the family members who stay with Lochan Verma in the mansion and their backgrounds," he remarked.

"Sir, his wife, Rimi Verma, and their son, Johnnty, stay there. He and his wife are fighting for a divorce arising from a bitter relationship. She has filed a lawsuit and alleges persistent mental and physical cruelty, which he strongly contests. The teenage son has just joined the first year of his commerce graduation."

Samsher Brahma sat thinking.

"With this information, we now need to speak to the mother and the son. Now, tell me, does anybody else stay here?"

"Sir, Mukund, and his assistant Sameer is also staying there, probably to facilitate Lochan Verma's official work at all odd hours."

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Later in the day, the inspector and Ahmedi were again in the mansion, seated in the living room.

Rimi Verma, a lady in her early forties, bestowed with classical beauty and poise, and Johnnty, a bespectacled young man of about eighteen years, with medium height, having a mass of unruly black hair, were sitting on the plush sofa across the inspector and the sub-inspector.

A lady lawyer was sitting with her.

Rimi Verma said, "Inspector, I do not know why you are questioning me about my personal matters, but since you have already started some investigation and taking our help, I am at your disposal."

She paused and then began, "Our divorce proceeding is, in any case, public knowledge. I am sure to succeed here, and after that, I will have nothing to do with my husband or his estate. I have enough wealth of my own. Perhaps you do not know that my father is a successful businessman in Mumbai. I am moving to that City very soon. Johnnty will stay with his father as he desires. Well, best of luck to him!"

She took a moment to glance at her son.

Johnnty, who appeared somewhat shy, stirred, and said haltingly, "I fully support my mother, but that does not mean that I will leave my father… he has promised to train me in his company, and I will stay with him and become a successful industrialist like him."

He slipped away into an uncomfortable silence, then suddenly, his tone changed into an ominous one and said, somewhat fiercely, "I will never forgive my father...he is so cruel…"

Then abruptly getting up he walked out of the room, muttering audibly, "And never will I also forgive my mother for what she is doing … not till the last days of my life."

This vacillating attitude of Johnnty was jarring. The inspector looked at Rimi Verma questioningly. She shrugged and said, "My son is still so young and immature, he is upset about his parent's problems, please ignore him."

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Back in his office, the inspector was again in a thoughtful mood. There were many facts and doubts, but somehow, he could not piece together the jigsaw puzzle.

The prime facets of the crime were the violent death of Bhubna, a former head-gardener who appeared to be a criminal himself, the SMS through his mobile phone number after his death, and the link to Lochan Verma and his estate.

What did all of that mean? The case seemed to be hitting a wall.

But Samsher Brahma was not to be dissuaded. He called Ahmedi, and after some deliberation, the sub-inspector stated, "Sir, I will get the last two month's call records checked for all those persons whom we are investigating."

The inspector said, "Another step is to keep a twenty-four-hour vigil on Bhubna's mobile phone which is in switched off mode now. As soon as it is powered on and used, the location must be traced and informed to me.

"Also, give me some names of Johnnty's close friends."

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The next day, the inspector was somewhat relaxed and turning the newspaper pages on his desk when suddenly he noticed an advertisement on the job-vacancy page. It appeared innocuous; the office of Industrialist Lochan Verma was looking for competent and reliable candidates to fill up PA and assistant PA posts, on an immediate basis. There would also be a detailed background check of the shortlisted candidates.

Acting under his intuition, he called Ahmedi and showed him the advertisement.

"Ahmedi, do find out about this matter. What has happened to Mukund and Sameer? Have they left their jobs? I require a full report with dates." He said and then added, "Also, find out from the police records, about the criminal antecedents of Mukund and Sameer, if any. Fast!"

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Later in the afternoon, the inspector listened to Ahmedi about Mukund and Sameer's sacking due to theft through manipulations of accounts. They had not yet left the mansion following their dismissal as the auditors were still questioning them.

Inspector Baboo, from the economic wing, had been called and he was investigating the matter. Interestingly enough, it had come to the light that these two men had old police records of fraud and women related crimes in the neighbouring city. However, nothing could be proved at that time.

Apparently, these facts were not known to Lochan Verma when they were appointed about five years ago.

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Mulling over these critical facts, the inspector called up Lochan Verma, warning him that it was dangerous to allow these two men to stay in the mansion, any longer.

Despite their criminal background, Lochan Verma was unwilling to act immediately since he had asked them to personally compensate him for the financial loss before they were allowed to leave the mansion. He, however, agreed to keep them under his watch.

On hearing his reaction, Samsher Brahma shrugged. But his concern would soon be demonstrated to be right.

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TO BE CONTINUED



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