The Spirit Of The Johnny Walker
The Spirit Of The Johnny Walker
At the stroke of Six Janardhan, nicknamed as Johnny Walker by his friends, stepped out for a walk as his won't. The dawn looked normal. There was nothing ominous. There were neither thunder and lightning nor were there dark spooky clouds. And the black cat didn’t cross his path. How could Janardhan know that would be the last walk of his life?
It was the only time of the day one could go for a walk. Janardhan was nicknamed so because he would walk rain or shine and his friends appreciated his die-hard spirit. The main road in that middle-class layout got forever busy from seven am on-wards. Johnny could step out on the street safely when-ever he came across potholes on the footpath. The street was lined with shops of all kind and here and there were a few trees still holding on to their roots and offered some shade to the commuters who waited for their buses under the benign shade of the tree. A woman sold newspapers and a cobbler had set up a shop under this shade. Few auto rickshaws too were parked. At a few hundred meters from his apartment stood a darshini and hosted some people who dropped by for their morning cuppa. The street vendors mostly women would start setting up their vegetables after nine am.
Johnny would walk for about 15 minutes when he would reach a small park. Some of his friends would also reach the park at that time. They would gossip for about half an hour and he would return home at the stroke of seven am.
His wife gets up by 545 am and prepares the filter coffee which Johnny would sip before stepping out. She would get in for a bath once she has prepared coffee for her husband. Soon prayer followed for about ten minutes. Her first coffee was only after that. She would then start preparing for breakfast by the time her husband returns. It was almost Seven now and she thought she heard the doorbell ringing. She opened the door didn’t find anyone but unusually felt a drought of wind passing her into the house. She felt a bit spooky.
She wondered why Johnny had not returned as usual. She picked up the newspaper and started reading. The paper reported horror stories of a spike in road accidents involving unwary pedestrians. In a neighboring locality, one youth was knocked out by a speeding municipal bus. It sent a chill through her spine. It was already Seven fifteen when her anxiety level started spiking up. She called her son Ramachandran and reported that his father had not returned from his customary walk. Her son advised her to wait for another fifteen minutes. Ramachandran started getting anxious as he too had read about the road accidents and began dressing up to visit his parents’ home which was a fifteen-minute drive from his home.
At seven-thirty when he was ready to get out his mother rang once again and worriedly reported that his father was yet to reach. He assured his mother he would be there in another fifteen minutes and informed his wife and left home. Upon reaching home in his scooter he found that his father had not reached as yet. With his mother, he went out and traced the path to the park which his father usually took. There was no trace of him.
They went straight to the nearby police station and raised a complaint. The Sub-inspector cursorily looked at the FIR and asked for a photograph of Janardhan. Sub-inspector’s name was Eddiappa and he was in the twilight of his winnings as a policeman. His career including his sweat reeked of corruption. Suddenly he felt as if someone was watching him from behind and turned around to look and he felt a prickle on his neck. Ediappa has been reading the Garuda Purana of late. He got psyched up and wondered if the description of punishments, written about in the text, as retribution for crimes was indeed true. He shuddered thinking if Janardhan’s spirit was present in the form of a ghost in his office room.
He assured Ramachandran's quick search and was as usual about to file the application. He felt something holding his hand and he took a photocopy of the FIR and signed a copy and gave it to Ramachandran as per the correct procedure. He called out for his constable and the driver and proceeded to the Toyota van. As he got into the van, he felt an unusual drought of wind. Maybe this case was an opportunity to atone for his omissions and commission is his long career, he told himself.
They went along the path that Janardhan usually takes as described by Ramachandran and stopped by a few shops that were open to enquire anything untoward had happened in the morning. He was informed of the accident in the morning when an old man got knocked out by a speeding Mahindra Black Scorpio. The tea vendor said another good Samaritan had taken the old man to the nearby Theresa hospital, a private one.
At the hospital, Dr. Seetharaman informed that the patient had died due to cardiac arrest and their attempt to revive him much as the Indian economy had failed. She added it was an Act of God perhaps. Ediappa said the accident was a reckless act and the perpetrator needs to be punished unlike our leaders who get away with murders in daylight. Dr. Seetharaman asked her assistant to help the police with the formalities and said they would do a post-mortem and release the body.
Arnab Chatterjee was in a good mood that morning. He had received a communication that his transfer to Kolkatta was imminent and a formal letter would follow. He was the General Manager in charge of the company showroom cum workshop of Yesman and Yesman which manufactured the Scorpio the vehicle that got involved in the road accident that morning.
The good mood changed when he reached the showroom and was informed of the Scorpio waiting at the workshop for repair and refurbish to hide the dent from the accidents. Arnab was a fan of Vyomkesh Bakshi, a desi detective. He quickly took photos of all the evidence visible on the vehicle and emailed the same to his personal id. Just then he got a call from the MLA owner of the Scorpio and got instructed to destroy all evidence. Being an Arnab and a Chatterjee, he thought how could he remain a mute spectator to this accident and walked across to his office and placed the mobile on the table. He called the reception and asked for the telephone at the local inspector’s office. Just then his mobile trilled and as he took the call, he heard the voice “Inspector Ediappa speaking and said What is the matter?” Arnab replied politely stating that you had called me sir but anyway I wanted to speak with you and informed him about the Scorpio and sent the pictures through WhatsApp. As he finished the call, he wondered how the phone got connected. It was like the scene in a paranormal series he was watching in Netflix.
Ediappa felt both good and bad. The good part was now he has the evidence but the bad part was the vehicle involved the MLA. He let out a sigh and invoked the name of Narendranatha, the almighty god of present times. He then started for the showroom to inspect the vehicle and called for the forensic team to be there with their tool kit.
Unruly son of the MLA, Surya was at the wheels when the accident took place in the morning that ended the walk of Johnny forever. Like his namesake in the parliament, he was brash and arrogant being the son of a powerful MLA. Even then he shat in his pants and took the vehicle home by another route and confessed to his father. MLA called for the driver Kalu who was a Dalit and told him to take the vehicle to the garage and said he should tell the police if ever a case was filed that he was at the wheels in the morning. Like many other Dalits in the country, he was made a sacrificial goat. Then the MLA had spoken to Arnab.
The forensic team had collected all evidence and found some strong handprints of the driver at the wheel. They took Kalu’s palm print as he claimed he was driving the vehicle. But according to the forensic report, Kalu’s print and the one found on the steering wheel didn’t match. Ediappa got surprised to see one of the photos that Arnab had sent included that of the driver who was wearing gloves. He dialed Kalu’s mobile who said he always wore gloves due to COVID and he was the one driving the vehicle in the morning.
It was past 5 Pm when Ediappa sighed and thought to himself that he has to make the difficult call to MLA’s home in the dollar colony, an exclusive layout for the privileged class, and named aptly so. He was stopped at the gate and asked to make an entry. It was then a light bulb exploded in Ediappa’s mind. He quickly got down and asked to see the CCTV recording taken in the morning. Time was 6 am when the black Scorpio was spotted at the gate. He zoomed on the vehicle but could not identify the driver clearly. As he fast-forwarded the recording, he saw the Black Scorpio again at about 630 AM and the vehicle stopped for the gate to open. This time the driver could be seen when zoomed and it wasn’t surely Kalu. The driver was a teenager who was often in the news for notorious activities. He immediately took a copy of the recording in his pen drive.
As expected, the MLA Adityanath, who reputedly behaved as if he was a law unto himself, called for the scapegoat his driver Kalu. But Ediappa had anticipated this action and requested Adityanath if he could have a private word in his home-office. As they entered, once again Ediappa noticed a now-familiar draught of wind. Ediappa told him of the forensic mismatch, the gloves habitually worn by Kalu, and the CCTV recording. Ediappa could see that Adityanath was raging with his face contorting and turning dark. With his scary face, Aditya gesticulated in a threatening way but words would not come. Within moments he seemed to struggle as if his neck was being constricted and his brow was full of sweat and fear were written all over his face. He managed to mumble let the law take its course. Ediappa ensured that he had the fingerprints of both Adityanath and his unruly son Surya before leaving the house. A day later forensic confirmed that the fingerprints on the steering wheel matched with that of Surya. There was an added surprise when Surya along with his mother walked into the police station two days later and Surya submitted his confessional statement that he had driven the Scorpio on that fatal morning.
Now that Ediappa had an open and shut case he breathed easy. The expected call from his superiors didn’t come. Anyway, as a safeguard, he had made copies of all evidence. His daily reading of the Garuda Purana stoked his fear of burning in hell and he had spoken to his lawyer friend and worked out an escape route should his superiors or anybody in power brought pressure on him.
On the thirteenth day when Ramachandra was completing the rites for his father Janardhan, Ediappa registered the case in the District Magistrate office. The DM, Justitia named after the Roman goddess of justice by her parents realized upon her first reading of the case that it was an open and shut case. She pronounced her ruling on the 30th day. While Surya was sent to a juvenile home, his father Adityanath was given imprisonment of one year for letting his juvenile son drive his Scorpio willy-nilly. Justitia got surprised to see a bouquet of flowers placed upon her car steering that evening. She made a mention of that incident to Ediappa who remarked: “perhaps the benign spirit had left the flowers as a token of appreciation for your good verdict.” Both laughed nervously at this remark.
At her home, as she placed the flowers in a vase filled with water, she thought about the broken footpath which in fact was the reason which forced Janardhan to step on to the street and led to his demise. Whom she could punish and made accountable for this lapse? She asked no one in particular.
A senior reporter Vasan who was covering the case published his report on the front page. The headlines read Case of the Johnny Walker: Miraculous Spirit of Justice. The report expressed wonder how in one month’s time from the filing of FIR to the pronouncement of the verdict the case was closed in flat 30 days. It also mentioned the curious absence of any power play in-spite of the ongoing IPL season. He praised that Ediappa had done the work cleverly like the legendary Sherlock Holmes. Ediappa wondered how Vasan got wind of the ‘spirit’ mentioned in the headlines.
Thus, the case of Johnny walker got closed and henceforth he became known for his spirit only.