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Rahul Banerjee

Abstract


3  

Rahul Banerjee

Abstract


The Mysterious Paying Guest

The Mysterious Paying Guest

10 mins 216 10 mins 216

In India, we have always considered welcoming guests as an auspicious ceremony. We consider ourselves lucky and blessed if someone comes to our house and feels happy and satisfied. This tradition has been going on for many generations now in every Indian household. But what if someone comes in the guise of a guest and takes advantage of our hospitality for his own nefarious purposes? This is the theme of my next story where a family shows all its hospitality and kindness towards one of its guests, but this guest has some other purpose which lands everyone in trouble.


Ex-Army Major Rishab Singh and his wife Neeta Singh were living the life of a retired old couple in their huge farmhouse in Sainik Farms, Saket, New Delhi, India. They were living alone as their children were all married and settled abroad. So they had the huge farmhouse to themselves only along with a couple of servants and a driver. Their farmhouse was a masterpiece of architecture as Neeta who was an architect by profession had designed it herself with the help of imported materials from Germany. They had two sons Ranjeet & Vijay and one daughter Shruti. Shruti was married and lived in Noida and used to visit her parents on alternate weekends from her busy schedule of being a corporate lawyer. Still living alone can be boring and lonely for old people and that too in such a big house. Many times their children had advised them to sell off this property and move to a smaller property in a neighborhood where they could mix and mingle with everybody; as here each farmhouse was as far as 75-100 feet away and people rarely stayed in their farmhouses for more 2-3 days. So the question of mixing and interacting with other people was not possible. Though they had a couple of majestic and absolutely adorable Doberman Pinschers to give them company, still they longed for that human touch to soothe their aching loneliness and boredom. So one day in the morning Neeta comes up with an idea over a cup of coffee of keeping a paying guest in one of their guest rooms. As she discusses this with Rishabh at first he vehemently refuses the idea of a paying guest as he says “that you don’t know what kind of people will come and there is no way of verifying their background etc. etc.” Still, Neeta manages to persuade a reluctant Rishabh to consent to her reasoning that “the loneliness will dissipate and we will have someone talk to and as it is the rooms are big enough and lying empty for so long, so what’s the harm?” Rishabh agrees but lays down certain conditions which were that no single person will be allowed, only families and no loud music will be played and lights should be out by 11:00 clock in the night, etc.


Neeta readily agreed and gave advertisements in all the major newspapers and waited. For the first few weeks, no response came and those that came were not up to Rishabh’s standards and were refused on the spot. Days passed and still, no one came and it seemed to Neeta that the whole idea was a bad one and she started giving up hope when one day suddenly enters someone who from the exterior seemed to be a well-polished gentleman and had quiet handsome looks, but in reality landed them in big trouble as we will see.


Mohan Kapoor was a well-dressed, tall, handsome man in his mid-forties and was looking for a place to stay which was both peaceful and away from prying eyes because of his profession. When he saw the advertisement in the newspaper, he decided to give it a try and went to the given address. When one of the servants opened the door of the Singh residence and enquired about his purpose, Mohan asked to see the owners of the house as he had with regards to the advertisement. When Neeta and Rishabh came outside to meet Mohan, at first they were in temperament to reject but when they saw him, somehow they fell victim to his boyish good looks and his suave manner of talking. Though Rishabh was still hesitant to take him in as a paying guest even after knowing that the man sitting next to him had impeccable antecedents as per his papers; as Mohan was an art critic and he also said that though he knew of their conditions, he still wanted to see and talk to them as he desperately needed a quiet place for his work and also that he was a widower. The last part was an absolute fabrication on Mohan’s part but the Singhs had no way of knowing that then. On top of that Neeta had instantly taken a liking for him and it was very difficult for Rishabh to refuse her. So he agreed. Mohan also said that he hated loud music and was very particular about time, so they need not worry about those aspects. As he was about to enter the house the dogs both started barking loudly at him which took Mohan by surprise. They did not stop barking despite Rishabh scolding them and after a long time, they turned to growl at him.


Seeing this one of the servants Veer Singh, murmured to himself that “this was not a good sign as animals sense danger and both of them had sensed some kind of danger from this man”. He even told of his misgivings to Neeta but she just laughed it off and asked him to attend to his duties. Mohan had meanwhile had completely assimilated himself with the Singhs. He used to take his breakfast, lunch, and dinner with them and made them laugh with his funny anecdotes. He even helped them in their daily chores and seemed to have become a part of the family. Even the dogs started liking him. The only time anyone saw him as serious when on many occasions, strange people came to meet him carrying sealed bags and cartons. Nobody knew what was in them and when Rishabh asked him casually, he replied “these are tools of my trade” with that he quickly used to change the topic of conversation which seemed odd to Rishabh. One day Veer Singh got a chance to enter Mohan’s room when he was not around. Veer Singh could not understand why there were so many crates and why the room was in darkness. Suddenly Mohan came in unannounced and seeing Veer Singh grew furious and started shouting at Veeru and warning him not to come in there without his permission. Veer Singh got so much scared and literally ran away from the room and went straight to Neeta and told him about his strange behavior. Just at the moment when Veer Singh was describing his encounter with Mohan to Neeta, Rishabh was passing by and he overheard all the conversation.


Rishabh grew furious and it was with the utmost difficulty that Neeta persuaded him not to say anything to Mohan but rather quietly have a word with his friend in the police. Rishabh did so and explained the whole thing to him and the officer promised to find out everything there was to about Mohan. A few days later, the police officer came and reported that everything seemed normal and as accurate as Mohan had said. But Rishabh was still not convinced and grew restless that something was amiss with this Mohan Kapoor. He decided to contact his old friend who has now become a private detective. Prakash Virmani was a world-famous private detective and also a very close friend of Rishabh Singh. When Rishabh called him and asked for an appointment, he readily agreed and they met at a café in nearby Saket. Here Rishabh explained in detail about their loneliness and decision to keep a paying guest, the encounter with Mohan and his gradual assimilation into the family, he also told him of the strange arrivals of people with sealed bags and cartons and the surprising encounter with Veer Singh, his servant. Prakash patiently listened to all of this and took notes. In the end, he said that “I will come to your house and meet this fellow Mohan”, with that they parted.


After a few days, Prakash paid a visit to the Rishabh residence, seeing him both Rishabh and Neeta were overjoyed and hugged him dearly as they had met him after a long time, especially Neeta. They even introduced Mohan to Prakash and here he started his profiling of Mohan by asking him some questions pertaining to his field. After the end of the conversation, when Rishabh asked him “what do you think”, Prakash was silent for a long time and then finally replied that “this guy is interesting as he doesn’t seem to be who he claims to be”, he further said that “I will keep a close watch on him and keep updating you”.

In the next few days, Prakash started following Mohan in disguise. Everywhere Mohan went, Prakash was right at his heels; from all the museums of modern art to the seedy night clubs of Darya Ganj, from absolute lonely places like Tughlaq Fort to crowded areas like Malls. In the seedy clubs Prakash followed Mohan and saw that on different time intervals, all sorts of unsavory characters came and met Mohan at his table. The same thing he witnessed at Tughlaq Fort and at various malls. Each time Mohan would give something and in return would receive light satchels from each individual. This seemed odd to Prakash. He went in the evening to Rishabh and told him everything about his tracking and following Mohan for the past few days. Rishabh and Neeta naturally grew alarmed but Prakash told them not to worry as he had made some inquiries and will get some information soon.


Days passed and both Rishabh and Neeta were growing anxious for some news from Prakash, though on the outside they showed no signs of their anxiety in front of Mohan and mixed with him as usual. Meanwhile, Prakash kept on pursuing his leads and one day one of his informants who owed him his life came up to him and gave some startling information about Mohan. Prakash was taken aback when he came to know about Mohan’s reality and decided to immediately inform the Singhs about this. The same evening Prakash went again to the Singh residence and told them everything about Mohan. Prakash said that he had found out that Mohan was not his actual name and he was a dangerous criminal who was on the run from Nepal. Here he was a notorious art paintings smuggler and was wanted for stealing precious paintings from the Royal Museum of Nepal and also of killing two policemen while on the run. Both Rishabh and Neeta again grew shocked at this but Prakash told them that he had a plan to nab him. He said that he will pose as a buyer and get him to confess his crime. The next few days went in preparation and finally, Prakash was able to entice Mohan into a deal that would be beneficial for them. Mohan was really interested to dispose of the valuable paintings from his possession as he had begun to suspect that the Singhs were becoming too curious about him. So he wanted to quickly get rid of the stuff and escape from there too. All this he told unsuspectingly to Prakash, who was in the disguise of a buyer of stolen paintings. All this while when both of them were in conversation, the police had been listening in through hidden bugs and swooped in and arrested Mohan Kapoor on charges of stealing and murder. Mohan was too stunned to react and meekly surrendered to the police. Then Prakash took off his disguise and revealed his true self to Mohan who was too dismayed. After he had been arrested and taken away Prakash informed the Singhs that that now they wouldn’t have anything to worry about. Both Rishabh and Neeta thanked Prakash with all their heart. Prakash just shrugged it off but gave them a warning “that next time you keep a guest; you should verify his antecedents thoroughly before accepting him or her as your paying guest”. With that, he took their leave and went for his next case which was waiting for him.


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