The First Demise – Chapter Three

After two chiming bells, Samantha opened the door. She was beautiful, than her image Prathap had in his mind, in her pink spaghetti top and khakis. ‘Hi Samantha, this is Prathap’, Prathap spoke, to break the silence and to end the commune of their eyes. Her lifted eye brows now rested back to their position. ‘And this is Vimal’, she added. Cute, thought Prathap. As they entered the hall Vimal broke the egg, ‘Christie’s dead.’

The very eyes that Prathap was admiring, like a child gloating at an ice cream bar, was now floating on tears. She sat on the chair in yogic cross legs, hugging the backrest to her chest, hanging her face down. They consoled her. But she did not normalize before three minutes of loud weep, two minutes of sob and a minute of deep silence. ‘How?’ she asked brusquely and when Prathap looked at her, he did not know whether it was she who spoke. She was sitting blank and dry of tears.

‘We will be getting to it soon. Do you think she could have killed herself?’ Prathap was precise.

‘She is a bold girl. She was. She wouldn’t have opted for suicide.’

‘When did you talk to her lately?’

‘She talked to me two days back. She was very upset about her husband. She was afraid that Ajay was having an affair.’

‘Excuse me, could you please let us record your statements? It’s a usual procedure. Trust us, it’s highly official, and confidential too.’ Vimal shook his head affirming Prathap’s words.

After a ‘yes’ from her, Prathap set the Zi8 in record mode, kept it on the table. The Zi8 sat still and was modestly looking at Samantha. Prathap asked again, ‘When was the last time you talked to her?’

‘She talked to me two days back. She was very upset about her husband. She was afraid that Ajay was having an affair.’

‘Is Ajay into some job?’

‘Yes, he is a Sales Manager at some shoe company. I do not remember its name.’

‘Has she told about any other issues she had with Ajay?’

‘No. She was, like, not much open to me sharing all her things. She might have told me about the affair since it hurt her very much. They had little fights now and then. But I do not think she killed herself.’

‘What makes you think that she could not have killed herself?’

‘She was a very bold girl. If she was that much broken, she would have called me.’

‘But, she might have thought to keep it discrete. Do you think Ajay could have killed her?’

‘I do not know much about him, except his job and his new affair, with Nina.’

‘Could the affair he had with Nina made him kill his wife?’

When she was about to reply, they heard a loud beep. Prathap checked his camera. It was blinking the lines, Memory Card is full. Delete any data to continue recording. Prathap asked for her laptop. He clipped his Zi8’s memory card to the laptop and started skimming through the photos. He deleted the photos of trains that passed by, the gravel on the rail tracks, the trees, the hills, the sun rise, his face through the window grill, the stray kids who were roaming untended. Vimal and Samantha looked at his photos with awe and with a smile often for Prathap had funny faces often on the stills.

There was a video taken in a railway station. There was a gorgeous young girl waving hands, on the frame’s left corner. Vimal looked at Prathap for which Prathap knew why. Prathap, for that unasked question replied himself, ‘I meant to capture that old man selling colored dolls. See, beautiful dolls.’ Vimal winked at him, ‘I see.’ A sudden shout escaped Samantha, ‘Pause. It’s Ajay.’ Prathap and Vimal turned to Samantha in unison. ‘Rewind a bit. I’ll show him. It’s definitely him’ Samantha sounded confident.

Prathap scrolled the video back. ‘There,’ Samantha pointed to a man walking towards the exit. Prathap let the video zoom in. It’s Erode Junction. Ajay was a fair skinned man. He had a face of a murderer, a susceptible one. He had a one-sided shoulder bag. The bag had the words which Prathap read out, ‘Crown Shoe Mart.’

It had the address and phone numbers too but they were unintelligible. Prathap paused the video, opened the browser and googled for the shoe mart. He got the phone numbers. Vimal called the mart and asked for Ajay, the sales manager.

‘He has gone to store visit, Sir’ the voice replied.

Vimal had to negotiate a bit to get Ajay’s phone number and his hotel details.

Prathap decided to send Vimal to Ajay so he wouldn’t be alarmed.

‘Look, Ajay is not the murderer. We just want some information from him. Try to convince him and bring him here. Do not make him doubt you and escape.’ Prathap patiently explained Vimal to prepare his mind before he started.

‘You go to Ajay. We’ll go to her in-laws and try getting something.’ Prathap made plans to get to the next step of investigation before the F-team arrived.

They all started to Coimbatore Junction, to send Vimal off and to move to the relatives of the victim. Vimal got a train to Erode.

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