The Unexpected Visitor
The Unexpected Visitor
Riya was concentrating on her knitting. She had never knitted before. Her friend Kalpana had shown her how to go about it, but she was constantly dropping stitches, and finding it difficult to retrieve them. She did not want big holes to appear, but being a novice, it was inevitable. She had taken a comfortable sofa, with a lot of soft cushions, and was enjoying the fragrant breeze in the garden. By her side was a peg table and on it a steaming cup of coffee. All of a sudden, she heard a sound, a thud behind her. At first, she was panic-stricken, and would not look back, though she heard the deep breathing of someone, who had been running and trying to get his breath back. Then picking up courage, she quickly turned around, and what a sight befell in front of her.
A young man in his twenties, with a handcuff dangling from his right wrist, bruises and scratch marks all over his body, who had climbed over the wall, was resting on his haunches on the flower-bed. Trembling with exertion, he was asking in a hoarse whisper for shelter, for only five minutes. As she was petrified with fear, she could not respond, and the man dashed into her flat. A little later she could hear sirens wailing, and the clatter of boots on the metaled road outside. Slowly she sat down, trying to figure out her next move. At that moment, five policemen came to the wicker gate and inquired peremptorily of her whether she had seen a man with a handcuff. Being a woman, her protective instinct came to the fore, and without the slightest hesitation, looking at them straight in the eye, told them that she had not seen any one. Seeing a lady at the entrance, they did not dare to force themselves in, and after a perfunctory look, took off boisterously, as suddenly as they had appeared. Riya was dazed; When they left she heaved a sigh of relief!
Now she was faced with a predicament. What was she to do? She was in two minds about going inside and asking the intruder for an explanation for his barging in, but her palpitating heart held her back. Before she could make up her mind, the man appeared at the door. He was still trembling and asked for a glass of water. His lips were white, and it was obvious that he had undergone a lot of tension. Riya wondered whether the request for water was a just a ploy to attack her, or to escape again unscathed. She got up hesitantly. When she went to the refrigerator to get the cold water, he stood there expectantly and then gulped down all the liquid. Then very courteously he asked if he could have some more. It seemed he had been without water for long hours, and was extremely thirsty. The second glass he also gulped down. Then in a very polite and cultured manner he apologized, “I had no other alternative than to come in uninvited, as the police were literally after my life. With the greatest difficulty, I managed to escape. To tell you everything in a nut shell, there is a murder case against me. I am absolutely innocent, but I cannot prove it. I am helpless without the legal backing, as all evidence is against me. I am doomed. I have to face the gallows, so this was the only way I could try and save myself”.
Riya’s protective instinct again came was aroused, and her whole being revolted against the unjust legal dilemma. She was of the idealistic temperament and had taken up the legal profession so that she could help humanity. Now she saw the biggest scope, not only for altruism but also to test her own intelligence and her legal aptitude.
The young man standing in front, felt that he had exceeded the limit of decency, and should take his leave. So he limped his way out, after thanking Riya profusely for her kindness and generosity.
It took Riya some time to decide on what her action should be next. Before he could far, she called him back to ask him whether he was hungry. The man said he was ravenous. He had not eaten for two days, because of the maddening tension of planning the escape from the prison and knowing full-well the consequences of such an attempt.
Riya had taken extra rice, and made a whole bowl full of chicken curry in the morning, so that she would not have to cook for two days. It was fortunate because she could now afford to offer him lunch, which he was too happy to accept. Riya gave him a towel, and soap, and asked him to have a quick bath. In the meantime, she would warm up the food. As she brought the plates to the table, she was stunned. Opposite sat the very same young man, but what a transformation! He appeared so handsome, that one’s eyes got glued on him; only the handcuff was a bit disturbing. He had a boyish look, and sparkling mischievous eyes, which gave the impression that he had something up his sleeve! He said he had completed his Post graduation in Chemistry.
Riya then informed him that she was a lawyer, and daily she went to the High Court, to plead in criminal cases. She would help him if possible. He looked at her with disbelief. She did not look as if she could have left College! In front of him was a simple, unpretentious girl, with a mop of wavy hair, flowing down to her waist, large innocent eyes, and flawless skin, devoid of any cosmetics. But he was grateful to her for extending her hand of friendship, and her offer to help him As he hungrily devoured the plate full of rice and chicken, he haltingly unfolded what had led to the allegation that he had murdered his mother. On the basis of the complaint by his sister Minakshi, he had been arrested.
His father had married his stepmother, Rebecca, when his mother had died. He was then a teenager. His Stepmother was his father’s Secretary. They were having an affair even when his own mother had become an invalid, because of blood cancer. Rebecca had a daughter from her first marriage. Her name was Minakshi. Now it so happened that in the previous year, Minakshi had got involved with an elderly man, and wanted to get married to him. But her mother opposed it vehemently, saying that he was fit to be her father and not her husband. Minakshi was adamant and had many heated arguments with her mother. The relationship between the mother and daughter became very strained. Then in a strange turn of events, Minakshi discovered that the man and her mother were lovers, and were currently having a torrid affair. That was the last straw. Minakshi could not endure the pangs of deception on the part of the person who she trusted and loved. So most probably, before going to bed, Minakshi must have offered her arch rival a glass of Apple Juice in which she had put the Ethylene Glycol . Rebecca could not have imagined that her own daughter would try to murder her, so in good faith she must have drunk it without hesitation. But Rebecca did not get up from her sleep; she had breathed her last.
In the morning when the doctor was called to give the death certificate, he refused to do so, as he suspected foul play. The police then came into the picture. His step-sister informed the police that she had seen Akash go into her mother’s room late in the night, which was an absolutely false statement. Furthermore the police found the poison which was put in the drink, kept hidden in Akash’s chest of drawer. As he was a Chemistry Post graduate, it would have been easy for him to get Ethylene Glycol from his laboratory. Besides the motivation for murdering his stepmother, was plainly evident to the Police. His father had stipulated in his Will that his entire assets, movable as well as immovable, were to go to his wife Rebecca, but on her demise, to his son Akash. Minakshi had also informed the Police that from the time his father had married the second time, Akash and his step mother had become sworn enemies. When questioned, his father had confirmed what his step sister had said. He told them that Akash had never forgiven his father for marrying the second time. Though Akash had seen Rebecca and the man a few times in very compromising situations, but he kept it to himself, so as not to upset his father in his old age. He knew his father loved Rebecca intensely. He would never be able to endure the shock. But it was a strange perversity of life that though Akash truly loved his father, and always tried be a shield for him, and protect him. But his father did not feel the same way towards him. Rebecca’s complaints and criticisms of him had poisoned his ears against him.
As it was beyond anyone’s wildest imagination that Rebecca’s own daughter could murder her mother; Akash had become the suspect due to his silence! That is how the noose fell on his neck.
After hearing the whole story, Riya asked him to get into her car as she would drive up to Kalimpong, where he would be comparatively safe. On the way, she would get a black smith to cut the hand cuff, and she would also pay him a substantial sum of money to hold his tongue. On the way they hardly spoke, as Riya was already figuring out how to prove Akash’s innocence and the latter had his head full of the possibilities of impending dangers. She fixed him up in the cottage of a friend, and left to study the forensic evidence, as a defence lawyer from the police department.
First of all, Riya looked at the Report which said that remnants of the Compound Ethylene Glycol was found in the glass containing the apple juice. Hence as Akash was doing research in Chemistry, it must have been easily accessible to him. Here Riya could counter the statement that the poison was not such a compound which only medical researcher could access, but it was available in gardens and also in garages. Riya in fact had visited the nearby garages to find out the names of the customers for the Compound, specially the customers who had asked for only a very small amount. Her investigation had been very fruitful. Furthermore the poison could have been planted in the chest of drawers by anyone.
Besides the motivation for murdering Rebecca, as argued by the opposing party was the inheritance. Here again, Riya found that the contention did not hold water as the question of the inheritance coming to Akash, would only arise after Akash’s father’s death. Hence as the gentleman was still living, at that point, murdering the mother would be without any sense.
As for Minakshi’s statement that she had seen Akash going into the mother’s room was not reliable, as psychology says, a step sister would always be averse to a step brother.
Riya wanted to probe deeper. When cross-examining the man who was the lover of Minakshi and Rebecca, Riya had learnt that at the time of the murder, Minakshi and he were having dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Riya had visited the restaurant, and indeed their names had been registered in the Visitor’s list, and they had been drinking and dancing all night. So it was quite obvious that the sister had been falsely implicating the brother by stating that she had seen Akash going into their mother’s room.
Riya then put pressure on Minakshi, and threatened to bring a case against her for swearing falsehood, and getting her brother convicted, a very serious charge. Then Minakshi broke down and came out with the whole truth in front of the Judges of the High Court.
Her mother, before dying had sent a message to her on the mobile phone. Though Minakshi had deleted it at the time, Riya retrieved it later on. It said that Rebecca had planned it all. She had put on an act of having an affair with her daughter’s lover, as she did not want Minakshi to marry the man. Her father was the one to take Rebecca’s life, suspecting her to be unfaithful to him. The evidence was irrefutable.
` Akash came out of the Court, and came very near Riya, and whispered into her ear, “The only way I can show my gratitude, is by offering you my hand in marriage. I admire you and I am helplessly in love with you”. Riya replied with a smile, “No such hurry! First I must get the noose off your neck---you are not a free man as yet.”! “One bondage to another—a wonderful transition Riya!” Akash added with a wink.