Saturday, February 22, 2020

The case of a scared rabbit


It was a Sunday. When I returned after a walk at 8am, I saw many cars parked on the road and inside our complex. Something wrong, I wondered. People were seen standing in small clusters talking in hushed tone.
Dhonu, our security, on seeing me approached quickly and whispered in Hindi,” Tanwar Saheb died last night.”
“How come? I saw him last evening and he was looking very fine,” I said.
“Don’t know. His daughter came about one hour ago and the door was broken open when there was no response. They were looking for you for the duplicate key. He was on the bed but dead. They are all there,” he was telling just when an ambulance followed by a police vehicle entered the compound. As Tanwar was my friend and the resident of the opposite flat, I hastened inside.
 Tanwar's daughter Malti on seeing me rushed towards me wailing,” Rajesh uncle, my dad is dead in sleep. I rang him up three times around 10 pm last night and there was no response. I was worried. As my husband Sudesh was away, I could not come here to check. Thinking he might be asleep I did not call him again till morning. When there was no response again today, I lost no time in coming here. The doorbell was not answered. I could not find my key in the hurry.
 Since you were not there and I was very anxious to get in, I got the door broken open only to find him inert and dead on the bed. Meanwhile it seems someone had informed the police,” she said just as a man in uniform entered along with a colleague. He introduced himself as Sunil, an inspector of police.
The other guy felt Tanwar’s nostrils for breath, flashed the torch at his eyes, shook him a bit and lifted his banian and pajama to see for any injury mark. Not finding any, he muttered, “Could be a peaceful end in sleep. Was he a heart or sleep apnea patient? “he asked no one in particular.
“No, he had no heart or respiratory issue except for some sugar. He did not complain of any problem when I rang him last evening and he talked cheerfully. This is utterly shocking,” Malti said crying inconsolably.
“Was he staying here alone? Who took care of him? He must be in his seventies, “asked the inspector.
“Yes, he insisted on staying alone as long as he was fit. My mom passed away two years back. As he was in good health and only 72, we respected his wishes. He made his food, sometimes got from caterers or bought from outside. Besides Rajesh uncle was there to keep an eye on his well being. They were very close,” she clarified.
The inspector took notice of me for the first time and asked in a brusque manner, “Did you meet him yesterday?”
“Yes, I saw him in the evening around 5 pm and exchanged pleasantries. He was in his usual chirpy mood. There was no clue even faintly that his end was so close. It is devastating,” I replied.
“Where were you last night?”
“I was in my flat. I had a severe head ache and retired early to bed,” I replied.
“Mr. Rajesh, please remain in your house. I wish to get more details about the deceased man, his acquaintances etc.”
The inspector quickly had the body removed to a hospital, had the house closed with temporary lock and posted a constable outside the flat. Around 4 PM he came back with some men followed by Malti and her husband. When I came out on hearing the voices, I was also asked to join by the inspector.
With none except the family members, myself and the police men, the inspector sat with us in the living room while one man was seen dusting various places for finger prints and another guy was going round each room microscopically examining and looking for some evidence.
Malti broke the silence asking the inspector, “Do you suspect any foul play? Why the dusting and a detective scrutinizing closely?”
“Tell me first whether your dad suffered from insomnia and whether he took sleeping or sedative tablets? Did he drink?” he asked 
“No, he had no sleeping problem whatsoever. He was a sound sleeper. He took beer occasionally though he had a bottle or two in the flat. Why all these questions?” Malti asked
“Your dad died of over dosage of Lorazepam along with alcohol, a fatal combination. We are examining to see how it had happened unless your dad wished to end his life. Rajesh had seen him last at 5 pm in happy frame of mind ruling out suicide. This must have happened much later. He must have had a visitor with this stuff.  I checked with security and as far as he knows no outsider had come to visit your dad. Rajesh says he went to bed early as he was indisposed. We are in a quandary and looking for clues,” explained the inspector patiently.
When Malti started sobbing, the inspector turned towards me and said, “Can you please give her a glass of water? I will call you later when needed. You may rest at your place.” I complied with the request and patted her to remain composed before returning to my flat.
It was evident he did not want my presence making me uneasy and wondering whether he was suspecting me as I had access to the flat. 
***
When Malti, her husband Sudesh, inspector and the detective were alone, they took tea brought by a constable. 
“All of you listen to me carefully and correct me if my reasoning is wrong. Before that can you tell me whether your mom was taller than your dad and by how many inches,” he asked Malti.
Surprised she asked, “How do you know? Yes, she was taller than him  slightly by more than two inches.”
-“Good, we are making progress. Let me explain now in proper sequence. The common reason for sudden death in bed could be cardiac arrest or over dosage of sleeping tablets. Since he had no heart related ailment, I turned my attention to the possibility of your dad putting an end to his life. But you ruled out that possibility when you said he was cheerful last evening. Rajesh had also mentioned similarly. So I ruled out suicide for now.
-There are only three keys, one with dad, another with you and the third with Rajesh.  Security said there was no stranger who came for this flat and there was a peephole through which your dad can see unknown visitors before deciding to open.  Rajesh had slept early and you did not come. Who was the person who came in to administer the drug is the question tormenting me?
-The top shelf over the fridge is beyond reach of your short father. When we checked, we found two beer mugs that were taken out last evening from the top shelf were left there after drinking session foolishly without proper cleaning as both had very minute remnants of the drink. The rest of mugs were dusty. Someone must have come and mixed the sleeping tablets along with beer given to dad while the suspect took only beer. The beer bottle found in fridge had very small quantity left indicating it had been used. The contents of the mugs corroborated our suspicion. The other tests also confirmed the findings.
“Why would anyone kill an old man without motive.? Rajesh said he last saw him around 5 pm and had only pleasantries. Rajesh had also said that he slept early due to head ache. We questioned the security intensely and confidentially. They tell that lights were on only in your dad's flat up to 11pm. Who was the person in your dad's flat who stayed up to 11 pm? He must be obviously known to him
-From the glass of water given to Malti we could get finger prints of Rajesh. From the finger prints on the two mugs, we could connect the one with the drug to your dad while those from the mug that was used  only for  beer belongs to a stranger. We are yet to identify him.
You must tell me whether there was any possible motive that you were aware of like financial dealings, women or shady deals that went foul and posed a threat to him? If there is one, we can look into that direction."
"I am not aware of any such " said Malti and added, "My dad was a very straight forward person without any blemish. He had told me once that he is financially sound and did not need any support from daughters."
It was then inspector's colleague took him aside to another room and whispered something. There was a sudden spring in the walk of inspector back to hall. He found Malti sitting with fingers of both hands pressing her temples and Sudesh  morose and glum.
Inspector asked very casually, “You said your husband was not at the house last evening and hence you could not come here. When did he return? “  Sudesh immediately turned apprehensively to Malti's side.
" I think around midnight," she said innocently.
"Where were you, Sudesh, till that hour?" asked Inspector.
"I was at the mall playing games and in coffee shop doing nothing in particular," 
"I have irrefutable information that you were here at your father-in-law's flat using the key given to Malti," Inspector said accusingly.
"No, this is utter nonsense,” he exploded
“Could be unless the finger prints on the mugs and the tea cup lie. We have made some discreet enquiries since morning about your financial position, “ he said and turned to Malti to add, “I am sorry for you. You are like my sister. Sudesh is in deep financial trouble with recovery agents of unscrupulous financiers after him with bodily and other threats and he needs money badly. Only your dad’s end may bring some money.There are only two tall persons and Rajesh is on the clear. We are taking Sudesh into custody for interrogation. We hope to get the truth soon. You can nevertheless engage a lawyer to help you. I commiserate with you."
Meanwhile one constable came running up the steps to tell,” Inspector sahib, Rajesh babu sped away in his car even when the security tried to stop him and our constables are in hot pursuit in motor bikes."
"Foolish fellow, he is so scared like a rabbit that he does not know that flight is proof of guilt, though he has nothing to worry at all," he said with a smile.





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30 comments:

  1. Probably you wanted a bit of a humour in the end. Otherwise there is no need for the last paragraph at all. The story was quite gripping as it is! As always, a good yarn! Kudos!

    Best wishes and warm regards
    Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy

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  2. The story started off as a sentimental one and then became a good murder mystery one. You are a good story teller , Periappa. Keep it coming!

    Take care
    Chitra Solomon

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  3. Are we sure the husband's the killer? The last line has put a new twist! Nice one.

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  4. Yet another great story. You have the reader's attention throughout. Love the the way you depict.

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  5. What a gripping story. Never once suspected the husband. A very nice mystery thriller. Poor Malti! What a shock to find her husband guilty in addition to losing her father. I was thinking Rajesh was the culprit but should have known you would have a twist. Very interesting story.

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  6. Rajesh or Sudesh?!! Periappa, you have left us guessing the identity of the killer. Is this going to continue as a series?

    So well written, as always

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  7. Hmmmm..the mystery deepens, waiting for the sequel which will steer clear all our doubts about the scaredy ranbit, is there a clue in the title???
    So many questions to the Sherlock in us and turning to my dear watson for vital clues
    An edge of the seat suspense thriller..you have another brilliant feather in your story cap with detective ones as well!!!

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  8. Quite a thriller. But is Sudesh the culprit or is it Rajesh? That is the question

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  9. A good impressive short story, which a serial writer would make 1000 episodes, branching it out as far as possible!

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  10. Gripping! There's more to this I'm sure. Where did Rajesh go? Why did he flee if he wasn't guilty? What happens when he is found?
    Waiting for the next installment Sir! On the edge till then.

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  11. Is this story going to continue? Very interesting till the end but you left with a suspense. When Rajesh drank water and his glass was taken for fingerprints, doubts fell on him...This is a good turn to continue the story..Serial?:)

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  12. Some of the readers expect a sequel as the flight of Rajesh mentioned at the end has given room for a doubt whether he was still a suspect.I owe an explanation.
    After giving a glass of water to Malti, Rajesh was asked to leave and was  not present in the further discussions inspector had  with Malti and Sudesh. Rajesh knew only that Tanwar died of over dosage of medicines.The sequence of possible events were discussed later like  consumption of beer from the beer mugs taken  from the top shelf needing tall men, the finger prints on the beer mugs of Sudesh and Tanwar, how police cleverly collected Sudhesh's prints by giving him tea, the remnants in the mugs and the financial straits of Sudesh chased by cruel recovery agents, his need of money  and his inability to clearly tell about his whereabouts in the night and Malti not finding her key in the morning as it had been taken by Sudesh. These conclusively prove Sudesh's involvement in crime and his guilt.
    Unaware of these facts,Rajesh like any common man afraid of Khaki dress felt since he had access to the key, he may be arrested and harassed.Inspector sending him away from the discussions also made him apprehensive. This foolishness of his flight  when he was totally on the clear surprised inspector and made him smile. The flight was added to bring a touch of humour.There is no sequel.

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    Replies
    1. Our own Sir Arther Conan Doyle ! You remained faithful to the title👏

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  13. Ah, so the title does have the clue! Very interesting story. Red herrings galore and in the end a scared rabbit too! 😊

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  14. Fear makes you do stupid things. Fear is not rational. Many people are so scared of people in uniform that they avoid any confrontation even by accident even if they have done nothing wrong. Rajesh seems to be one of them....a scaredy cat. Poor ignorant man.

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  15. A very gripping story. Hooked me till the end.

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  16. Hello KP Uncle..hope youe doing good...so nice to be here after such a long time and really sorry for the same.Thank you so much for getting me here.As usual loved the story, loved the way it kept us glued throughout..what an amazing flow of thought process, no less than a mysterious murder serial...hats off to you for giving us such an interesting tale..would wait for more to come now...!!!

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  17. An occasional beer can lead to an irreversible outcome. Well constructed story!

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  18. Really nice. Let the guilty be punished. Poor Rajesh scurried away like a rabbit suspecting the worst. Actually, we really can't blame people like him, who have seen the innocent suffer a fate that they don't deserve. But, running away this away makes others suspect them of the crime they never committed!!!

    The rabbit reminded me of 'Andha Dhun' Hindi movie. Have you seen it?

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  19. The end para intended to justify the title of the story

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  20. A fine detective story as usual with an unexpected twist. Nice.

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  21. That's an awesome crime story Sir, very nicely written!

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  22. I read the story of the scared rabbit. It was a nice , gripping story. As usual your style of narrating the events, with your effortless flow is words is amazing. Till I read your later addition, I was also confused like some of your other readers about the culprit. This one is one more gem stone to your collection. Hats off to you

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  23. Very crisp and gripping story. Very well articulated with no extras to draw away attention. The title is also well chosen. Liked it very much Chithappa

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  24. Hitchcockian investigation, intrique, suspense !

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  25. Wonderful thriller. End was a bit vague.

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  26. Another feather in your cap. Gripping story.

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