There was a nip in the air with the full moon shining brightly on the clear sky. Kapali was returning to Chennai in his empty mini-truck after dropping a load at Hosur. Humming a film song after a scrumptious meal at Krishnagiri, he seemed in no hurry. He switched on the recorder, lighted a cigarette and drove for an hour,
He saw at a distance two men waving their hands to stop the vehicle. There was a big bundle beside them. Thinking they needed a lift with the prospect of some easy money, he stopped the vehicle.
“This is our relative who fell from terrace by accident and died on the spot. He hails from Gudiyatham.We will pay you 500 rupees if you can hand over this bundle containing his body to two members of his family who would be waiting on the highway as you near Gudiyattham.They would have a lantern for easy identification. Can you please help us in this emergency?”
Though afraid to carry an unknown body, the lure of money tempted him to agree but he reveled at the prospect of extracting more from these village folks.
“I do not carry dead bodies for the risk involved. It is against company rules to carry unauthorized goods. But considering the urgency, the late hour and his waiting family members, I agree if you are willing to pay me 750 rupees and one of you accompany the bundle,” said Kapali.
They looked at each other for a while. One of them said “We agree to pay the amount you demanded but we cannot travel with you as we have urgent work here. We will leave early morning by bus. Our relatives would be there waiting for you. Please help us”
Kapali refused and required lot of persuasion
He finally said “I will not take a dead body without someone responsible for it accompanying me. What if the two men who are supposed to receive the body do not turn up? I would be burdened and stranded with a dead body in hand. There is a lot of risk involved in this business. Considering the urgency, I do not mind if you pay me 2000 rupees.”
“Our relatives would surely be there. Do not worry” they said in unison. They reluctantly paid the sum he demanded before placing the covered bundle on the rear of the truck.
Richer by 2000 bucks, Kapali was happy thinking that in two hours he would be relieved of the burden. He drove for some distance and stopped the truck for emptying his full bladder.
As he returned to his seat, he felt a very slight movement of the truck. Wondering what could be the reason, he felt the movement again. He looked behind through the opening to see whether the bundle was intact. His blood froze and sweat broke out on his forehead when he saw the bundle shaking violently as if trying to free itself. How can a dead body move? Was he imagining himself he wondered and pinched himself hard? It was clear that whoever was presumed to be dead is in fact alive. He got down and opened the cloth covering the body. There was a middle aged man bloodied all over with both limbs tied and covered in plastic sheet. He was seen trying to extricate himself. Luckily the man had not suffocated to death thanks to shoddy packing that left an opening near his face.
Kapali quickly removed the cloth cover and the plastic sheet. He untied his hands and legs and tried in vain to make him sit. The man was injured all over the body with a gash on his head. He seemed critically injured and needed immediate medical attention. After swallowing some water that Kapali poured in his mouth, the man opened his eyes.
“I was told by two men that you had died instantly after a fall from a height and that I should hand you over to your relatives who would be waiting at Gudiyatham.Luckily you are not dead and need to be rushed to a hospital nearby”
“Those two men were evil. They beat me up with rods when I went to collect the long pending dues from them. There was no accident or a fall. They tried to kill me and possibly thought I was dead. I have none at Gudiyatham.I belong to Bangalore” he spoke haltingly with great difficulty and almost inaudibly.
When Kapali told him that he would first inform the police at Gudiyatham and thereafter admit him in a hospital, he nodded his head and said “Thank you. I am feeling very sleepy. Please hurry”
Kapali pressed the accelerator not to lose valuable time and stopped only when he reached the police station. He ran inside and luckily saw the Inspector still there with two constables.
He narrated the event as it took place and said “The man is outside in the truck. I must rush him to the hospital as his condition seems critical. Meanwhile please try to nab the two wicked men at Krishnagiri”
“Let me talk to the injured man first and verify the veracity of your statement, “said the inspector as he came out..
Kapali touched the injured man who lay with his eyes closed and spoke to him loudly, “The inspector is here. Please tell him quickly what you told me as I have to take you to the hospital”
The man did not reply. Kapali tried to wake him up again from his drowsiness. There was no movement to his great worry. He repeatedly asked him to open his eyes and tell the inspector. But the man lay inert.
The inspector turned the injured man’s head towards him when the head fell on its side. The inspector felt at his nostrils for breath and his pulse. He looked accusingly at Kapali and said “The man is dead.”With a dead body on his hand and with no proof for his statements other than the only person who could corroborate already dead, Kapali started crying “I am innocent, Sir” even as he was rudely pushed inside the station. The inspector had a smirk on his face as the constable pulled out the bundle of 2000 rupees from Kapali’s pocket.