– Puneeth A P, II B.Com
I had remained indoors all day as the weather had taken a sudden turn to rain. With my body on one chair and my legs upon another, I had surrounded myself with a cloud of fiction books. None impressed me, but one. I took my newly purchased iphone from my blue Wildcraft bag to find out who my friend’s new roommate was.
“Oh! It may prove to be something of interest then, my dear puffy friend, Farhan,” James remarked as he entered my flat in A.P towers, Bangalore.
I was surprised at his visit as he always showed displeasure in visiting clean flats. Our normal meeting venue would be some noisy unclean coffee shops where customers would be more than four times the number of the teapoys. James used to decipher the customers, making sure that they were not aware.
“My dear James, I congratulate you,” I replied.
“My arrival might have been pleasant on another day, I suppose, as you have a date today,” James said as his brown face loved the way I was baffled.
“Oh, son of a devil, how did you find out that?” I asked in total surprise.
“Your expression to the text in Steve Job’s device,” James replied as he moved the curtain to invite some sunlight.
“How far has your job-seeking been?” I asked as I looked into his keen eyes.
“Yeah, that’s the purpose of my visit. Detective Mash has given me an assignment, if successful, my carrier would be more interesting than it promised to be, quite dramatic, in fact,” James said as he tossed a notebook on my table.
It contained the details of a recent mysterious death in Bangalore which created headlines. I went through the book. It was hardly 2 pages.
“I warn you that they are incomplete” I said.
“Perhaps we may make them less so” replied James with a twinkling eyes, the symbol of extreme intelligence.
The details went as below:
The family of Jennifer Rupey has been thrown into the greatest consternation due to her mysterious death at her villa in Malleshwaram, Bangalore. Her funeral rites are to be performed by her brother Justin. The unfortunate thirty year old spinster had her engagement fixed later this month.
She was found to be dead by her maidservant when the latter was above to clean the room. There is no sign of blood anywhere in the room. Jennifer was in her nightdress at the time of meeting her fate. She was lying on the floor pale dead with no weapons aside to term it as suicide. The Malleshwaram cops are not sparing any element.
“And is that all?” I asked bewildered.
“Only one little item in another of the morning papers, but it is a suggestive one.”
“Miss Radha, her maid has been arrested. It appears that she had known the lady for three years. There are no further particulars.”
“And the whole case is in your hand. Detective Mash is a crook to give you this clueless case.”
“No dear, no, he believes in me as he believes in himself.”
“Oh, you are his pet, right.”
“He is always unpredictable. He keeps none close to him.”
Room bell rang to some finger’s play. I opened the door. A gentleman entered with a pleasant cultured face, short-nosed and pale, and with the steady well-opened eye of a man whose pleasant lot it had ever been to command and to be obeyed. His manner was agile, he had a slight forward stoop. He wore grey blazers with red tie. He advanced slowly into the room, turning his head from left to right, and swinging in his right hand, a key bunch.
“Good morning, Uncle Ben,” said James.
The gentleman was astonished and he gaped.
“How do you know my name?” he asked in surprise.
“That’s not a big deal. I had got a description of you already,” said James with a smile.
“I request you to take the chair,” James indicated Uncle Ben.
“Mr. Mash guided me to meet you regarding my niece’s mysterious murder, as you are the one who is investigating this unofficially. It’s not that I don’t trust our cops, but Mr. Mash has told me a lot about you, your immense innate ability of detection.”
“Please cut to the quick,” James requested as he doesn’t like people praising him. He always believed that can lead to arrogance and eventually reduction in ability.
“A most painful matter to me, as you can imagine. I hope you have the details of my niece’s mysterious death.”
“As far as these details go.” Uncle Ben glanced over the book tossed by James, “But it needs a great deal of information to offer an opinion. May I begin by questioning you?”
“When did you last meet Miss. Jennifer Rupey?”
“Probably three days ago.”
“Last Sunday, at the very same villa in Bangalore.”
“If I am not wrong your family is one of the richest in Bangalore. So, was there any tussle within the family regarding any property. ”
“There can’t be any as she was poor.”
“She has over 10 billion rupees as per the report in a local magazine, and you say she was poor.”
“No, I meant relatively poor, as rest of us in the family are far better than her.”
“But that doesn’t mean there will be none for the grab.Do you have her photograph, as the newspaper print is not fine.”
“I will get you one.”
“What was your opinion about her?”
“She was a sweet girl who was of shy character, but was always cheerful, even when she made severe losses in business.”
“Did you observe any change in her after the loss?”
“She continued to be cheerful”
“What about the maidservant?”
“Oh, I hardly noticed her with Jenny. She was always found to be working.”
“What’s your son doing?”
“How does he ever matter in this case? He always stays in Mumbai”
“I don’t think she would kill even a fly.”
“Uncle Ben, you are of great help to me. I would love to keep in touch with you. Write your contact number here,” James indicated a page in the notebook.
“What about some plum cake?” James offered a plate.
Uncle Ben initially refused, but James’s human touch compelled Uncle Ben to empty the plate. Uncle Ben used a tissue on the table and dropped it in the dustbin and bid goodbye. He disappeared.=
“I suppose, Farhan, that you are too lazy to even clean the dustbin. I will do it for you, “James said as he took it and walked towards the common dustbin outside. He didn’t return.
I was lying on my puffy bed after a shower, staring at a set of images on my new phone. Goddess of sleep was above to bless me, but a text message dragged her out. It was from James. As usual I read it with curiosity as he always has something witty in it.
It went as below:
My dear Farhan, I am happy to know that you have changed your girlfriend, as always, like a cloth. Source: Your dear DUSTBIN
I thought of texting him back. But then I decided to question him, when he meets me again. I don’t want the tappers to enjoy our text battle.
James lives in a flat in Ulsoor, a posh one, but badly maintained by him. His ears are always spread out in quest for facts. His long nose is as sharp as his spectacular brain. He had always puzzled me by solving puzzles in college days. He was as slim as now even in his teenage. The only mystery on his triangular face is his mustache. I didn’t even imagine that he would be six foot tall, it is true that men grow till twenty-one years of age.
During our college days in St. Joseph’s his main hobby was to detect the students cum mobile thieves in our college. He could smell the culprits and outsmart them. He was a hero among the girls due to his weird skills, but he never even looked at them, like a chronic bachelor. If I was he, I wouldn’t have missed the chance. I am able to keep just one girlfriend at a time though I am fair, possess perfectly cut nose and ears, well dressed, clean shaved and with nice blue eyes always looking for the angels on earth.
Just before nine o’clock James stepped briskly into my flat. His features were gravely set, but there was a light in his eyes which made me to think that he had caught the fish.
“You had your dinner, then,” he said looking at my lips. I wiped off the food particles.
“You seem to be expecting some fool,” he said as he sat beside me.
“Yeah I fancy that I already have one,” I replied.
“I meant the one who throws lipstick into your dustbin,” he countered.
“My god, that’s the way you deciphered me. But I am happy that you haven’t forgotten which colour lipstick my ex-girlfriend used to apply.”
“How can I forget her? You almost forgot me when she was with you. Finally, I had to tap her phone to split you apart, to revive our lost friendship. Ha! I fancy that I hear his steps now upon the stairs.”
‘Ding dong, ding dong’ the bell rang. James took his revolver out from his secret pocket and held it unnoticeable, to our guest. He told me to close the bedroom door. He walked briskly towards the door and opened it to receive a series of bullets in the heart. Six shots, at hell’s grace from James’s revolver didn’t miss the target. The guest was lying in a pool of blood. I ran to James and lifted his head, placed it on my lap, poured some water into his mouth. But, to my surprise, there wasn’t any blood on his body. In an agile jump, he took the phone from his pocket and called the cops.
“How is it possible? Don’t you have death?” I asked in total inhuman tone as I was totally confused.
“Nothing is impossible, if you are worth it,” he opened his shirt buttons to show me a jacket, a bullet proof.
A young cop arrived at my flat. He was brisk and stout. He showed signs of being an asset to the department.
“James, you are new to this field, but you have managed the situation extremely well. Normally we don’t praise private detectives. But, if I am not wrong you can even overpower your master, Detective Mash, in a few years” he said as he shook hands with us.
“Farhan, this is Maruthi, a good friend of mine, a sub-inspector. Your shock hasn’t gone yet,” James gave me a bottle of chilled water.
“There was a threat against me, for probing Jennifer Rupey’s case. Maruthi and I fixed the end for the contract killer, here. But we couldn’t find which holy person gave the contract,” James said as two constables arrived to take the body.
The dead man was six feet high, fit and fine, like a true professional killer, though I was seeing one for the first time in my life.
James exited my flat along with Maruthi. I was happy that he had some useful friends, other than me. I didn’t see James for a month, or receive any text from him.
One day, after a month, I saw a beggar moving near my apartment gate. He was dressed shabbily and had worn a hat which indicated that he was rich earlier. A walking stick to support his limping leg, had a match to his black broken goggles. He vanished in the busy morning crowd.
At afternoon, my flat’s bell rang, I was sure that it was James. He has a peculiar tune. He stepped in with clean formals- white shirt, black pants and black shoes.
“Have you heard anything of the case?” he asked as he sat on the sofa.
“Not a word. I haven’t seen a paper for some days.”
“The press in this city has not had any further news. The case seems to be simple, but at the same time extremely difficult. Without particulars no movement is possible.”
“Do you doubt any?”
“Yes, definitely not Uncle Ben, as I spied him for a month in a beggar’s costume. His son, I am not sure, but he hasn’t come to Bangalore even once. Maybe he is pulling the thread from Mumbai.”
“The contract killer?”
“He is from Mysore. But he wasn’t after me, he was after you.
“What!” I exclaimed.
“Yes, I believe that Maruthi foresaw some danger, or else he would have not talked so. And then what he foresaw happened, though he didn’t tell me. The man’s target was you, he didn’t want me being here, which might create mess to his smuggling den beside this apartment. If you are dead then I wouldn’t be visiting the flat. See how criminal mind works.”
“Smuggling den, how is it possible in this busy area?”
“You have already answered the question, ‘busy area’. Commuters just move keeping targets to reach, when they keep targets, they don’t notice what’s around. Did you?”
I searched out through the windows, but in vain.
“Is that den removed by the cops, now,” I asked in shame of my observation level.
“Don’t be ashamed of yourself, dear. It is a common human psychology. Yeah, the den has been removed. It was in that empty site,” he indicated the only empty site in this area, which I could see through the window.
James sat on the sofa and stared at me for a while and then said, “I lied to you that he is after me because I didn’t know how you would receive it and react.”
“That’s fine, I know you are a good friend.”
He held back the emotion within seconds and turned as earlier.
“I wouldn’t be here for a month, and then your dustbin, was a great asset to me.”
“When did you start to be nosy?”
“Nosy, oh you mean your girlfriend, that was just to make you not to think about why I went away with it.”
“So, what the hell was the purpose?” I shouted.
“Cool, my dear. The fingerprints of Uncle Ben, from the tissue paper, that was the asset. Yours would have been a liability,” he said, as he chuckled and exited the flat.
At 10 in the night a man was hiding behind a tree near the Malleshwaram villa, unnoticed. He had applied oil on his body, so he can slip away when caught. The only attire on his body was a trouser.
Slowly, he jumped a wall of the villa, directly to the garden. A bulldog was sniffing around in the villa, it spotted him, but didn’t bark, which means it was well trained. The thief realized it and with no second thought, jumped and pierced the tranquilizer into the heart of that poor creature. It fell unconscious to allow the intruder. He hid behind a bush, when the lights flashed at the villa veranda.
Miss Radha was walking in the garden. She got the bail today. She didn’t notice him.
“I have had a blank day, madam. Tomorrow please allow me to plough the garden,” a labourer was requesting Miss Radha.
“For one month, its better you rest,” Miss Radha ordered him.
“Madam, the dinner is ready,” informed the cook.
“You go and have some food now,” Miss Radha directed the labourer.
“I don’t understand it,” the labourer went brooding.
“There is something wrong with this lady,” the intruder said to himself and smoothed down his brushed hair and felt his unshaven chin. He decided to be nosy.
Miss Radha turned and looked at all the directions, to ensure nobody is looking at her. Then she rushed into the garden’s flower pot section. She moved some pots and started to dig a particular place. After a while, she took something out of it and fled, without even turning back.
The intruder followed her. She went to her room in the first floor. He could see the room from the garden, but for further view he climbed the pipe and reached the window of the room.
Miss Radha took the product from concealment, her night dress. It was a shoe, a red coloured with white spots. She wore it.
The intruder was confused to see a person hiding a shoe and then later wearing it. He decided to wait till the light was off. In a sudden surprise to him, the lady moved up against the gravitation, she was literally flying. She was enjoying this a lot.
The intruder decided to quit, as his mission was accomplished.
The next day James went to the villa. Uncle Ben was present, as James contacted him to be so. They were in the hall. Uncle Ben was seated in a sofa while James stood gazing at a painting in the hall.
Suddenly, James turned towards Miss Radha, who was in a room next to the hall.
James: Miss Radha, can you please come here, I hope your last night was good.
Miss Radha was in a worry, she shivered and walked towards the hall, in front of James.
“Are you fine, why are you sweating?,” James offered a tissue paper to Miss Radha.
Miss Radha wiped the sweat on her forehead, but the tissue paper wasn’t enough.
“Miss, should I tell the story or would you?” James asked Miss Radha in a smooth voice.
“You fickle maid, why did you kill my niece?” Uncle Ben pounced upon Miss Radha.
James pulled Uncle Ben and seated him on the sofa and said,” Who told you that she is the murderer?”
“Then what did you mean, come straight, Mr. James?”
“Miss Radha is going to explain it to us, Uncle Ben,” James smiled at Miss Radha and said, “There is nothing left to hide, come open or I have to suggest Uncle Ben to call the official police.”
“Please don’t do that Mr. James. Uncle Ben, I haven’t done any injustice to your niece,” Miss Radha said as tears started to flow from her blue eyes.
Her narration went as below:
I had a wretched headache, and was desperately drowsy. Instead of going out to spend the evening as I had proposed, it occurred to me that I could not do a wiser thing than just eat a mouthful of supper and go immediately to bed, obviously with Madam Jennifer’s permission.
Having finished my meal, I went to bed and placed my head upon a soft pillow and fell into profound slumber.
I could not have completed my third snore when there came a series of knocks at my door and were totally impatient.
In a couple of minutes, and while I was still rubbing my eyes, Madam Jennifer held my hand and dragged me at the top of her speed to her room.
There I found a very eager Madam Jennifer. She pointed her hands towards a box on the table. I went slowly towards it as Madam’s expressions meant something mysterious. I was confused when I saw what was in it, a pair of shoes. I wore it as she insisted me to, with no second thoughts, as I knew the ruthless master within her.
Oh my goodness, I fell as it lifted me against a theory discovered by Sir Newton. I wasn’t prepared to balance, being unaware. It became immediately obvious to me.
Then I went to my bed and rose to sweep Madam’s room, but instead I saw her in the unfortunate state. The first thing which fell into my sight was the pair of shoes. I stole it and hid it in the garden. But, I am shocked at your intelligence as I hoped I was safe.
There was complete silence in the hall as Miss Radha concluded her narration.
“But, how did she die then, James,” asked Uncle Ben as his face grew impatient.
“After Miss Radha’s departure what happened only Madam Jennifer can say. I am not being preposterous, Uncle Ben. I spied this bungalow for a month, even yesterday as a thief and even had to tranquilize the dog and found no varied footprint. Miss Radha can be trusted as I got a chance to inspect Madam Jennifer’s body, it wasn’t hurt. My finding is that Madam Jennifer lost balance when she wore the shoe and fell to deep sleep to wake up only in Heaven.”
James took a sculpture which was present in the hall and demonstrated it. Uncle Ben looked at him for a moment and then leaned onto the sofa.