The First Demise – Chapter Two

Soon they were on their way to Christie’s house. When they entered the place they were kissed by a chill breeze, cold enough to prick their senses. It was very hilly and green like Ooty but a little rural. It did not have many houses crowded. It had a pleasant climate, exactly opposite to the one they had in Tatabad where their office is. When they were nearing Christie’s house, they saw a police jeep parked by the gate.

‘Hello Inspector, I am Prathap,’ and pointing fingers, ‘Vimal’. Inspector Kaushik had a bright face that smoked some relief. ‘This is a suicide, cannot be anything else,’ his words were accompanied by his fingers showing the clues which made him conclude that it was mere suicide. As they entered the house, their hands were coerced to hide their nostrils; it was a very disturbing smell, of burnt flesh. He described the young agents the scene, ‘I was pulled in by this smell. I was the first one to enter the scene. This is the body’. The body was actually covered with a thick yellow plastic sheet. ‘It’s completely burnt and fully charred,’ and seeing the look of Prathap, ‘No, I’ve not disturbed the scene, just closed the body.’ The rooms seemed highly undisturbed. The hall was neat except for that yellow mess. There was a bed room on the right, a kitchen – the Inspector showed them half empty tablet strips and a water bottle, a dark room which Prathap looked with raised brows –‘It’s a store room, dark but nothing suspicious. I’ve checked it.’

That was about the house. There was no back door for exit. The murderer, if any, should have used the same front door. ‘There is no clue of any suspected crime,’ said the Inspector, again. ‘So, why did you bring us here?’ Prathap asked him a little offensively.

The inspector pulled off the yellow cloth, without a caveat. There it was; the fully charred female body in dark brown and black patches. It looked ungrammatically female. The temperature should have been very high; the limbs were out of shape; muscles contracted due to the fire. The couch on which it lied was also burnt. The Inspector cried in a loud voice, as a reply to the offence, ‘See, there is no signature of arson anywhere.’ Prathap guessed the next words of the Inspector, and the same escaped from the Inspector too, ‘Is it SHC?’

‘Spontaneous Human Combustion?’ asked Prathap, ‘There are few people who still believe the theory of spontaneous human combustion. But in recent days, it has been proved as any normal fire accident where the fabric of the victim would act as a wick for the fire. A small spark would start the fire which first slowly burns through the fabric of the victim or the thing on which the victim is lying. The fat from the victim’s body aids the fire. Most of the time, the victim would be unconscious of the fire burning around. So the victim’s body is completely burnt, without the fire spreading over. There is no SHC. This one’s a murder.’ Prathap was lecturing but stern.

The Inspector looked puzzled. ‘We’re taking over the case. Thank you very much Sir for explaining things. We would need some of your personnel to secure this place. But I do not want to induce any doubt to anybody from outside,’ Prathap looked at his watch. Vimal was speechless. He did not wish to stay there staring at the burnt body. It was disturbing him very much. He moved to the car, while Prathap called his chief asking for the Forensic Team. They would reach in two hours. He knew that the F-team’s lab work has to be done in the crime scene itself, since transporting the body may spoil any evidence. He took photos of the body, the hall, the tablet strip and the water bottle. He was very careful in his steps, not to destroy any evidence. He did not find any blood stains. He was studying the body. He saw her wedding picture above the burnt couch. The smile, the joy, the freshness, all was gone. He did not feel to stay there anymore as it was really perturbing him and he had an instinct that it was not just a suicide.

The other thing that was disturbing him was to see Vimal off mood. They left to Samantha’s house after they got her address texted to their phones. ‘What are the options we’ve got? Is this a suicide?’ Prathap asked.

‘I do not know. But she is a bold girl’ Vimal was obviously disturbed; his words were blank and plain.

‘Let us just list the other chances. Who could have done this, her husband? Do you doubt any?’

‘Her husband could have. He was a very skeptical man. He once doubted that we were having an affair. We were not just friends –more than that, we were like siblings.’

‘Did she have any other “sibling” like you, to be doubted?’

‘No. I don’t know. But she is an introvert. I don’t think she’d be having any other close friend like me.’

‘Why weren’t you in touch then?’

‘I did not like Ajay. I advised her that she should not proceed with him. She thought that I was getting very personal into her life. We had a fight, a big one. That was it between us.’ Vimal paused unevenly.

‘So it could be him. Could it be her in-laws? It could be a murder for dowry.’

‘Chances are there. Or, they planned to kill her and marry their son to another girl.’ Vimal was now coming out of his gloom and thinking much like an agent. Prathap was happy about it. He knew what could pull Vimal back to normal.

‘Or Ajay and his new lady love killed Christie to go in for a new marriage.’

‘Theirs was a love marriage. But for just listing the chances, it’s a good one too.’

‘Yes, also Christie’s parents did not like her marrying to Ajay. So, it could be Christie’s parents too.’ Prathap was dragging Vimal to get distracted.

‘May it be any other outsider? But first we’ve to check her family.’

‘You know their parents?’ Prathap wished to proceed.

‘No. But Samantha will know. She was in touch with Christie. She too stopped talking to me when Christie did.’

‘No worries. Are you and she “siblings” too?’

‘No. No. We are just friends.’ That was a quick reply from Vimal. Prathap winked at him, ‘I see.’