This job of being Police forensic sketch artist was getting on my nerves. God knew during the last year and a half, how many witnesses I had met and how many faces of criminals, I had sketched. And the pay was a pittance. I wanted to escape from it all!
That day it was my usual routine, though slightly tedious. There was, however, this gruesome murder of a man the earlier afternoon in his flat with a bullet in his head. The killer had used a 9 mm Luger although the ballistic report had not confirmed it yet. The victim’s name was Rupinder. The usual suspects were his two brothers, Jimmy, and Ronny. The elder one, Jimmy was not in the flat at the time of murder and he had unassailable alibi to this effect. Ronny was however not able to present any worthwhile defense. Most probably he was also elsewhere.
So, no one seemed to be present at the crime scene; fortunately, there was an old woman in the adjoining apartment who wanted to help the Police. Her name was Surinder Daljit. She had told the Police “I have seen the entry of one man in Rupinder’s flat.” When the Police wanted more information, her statement was that neither had she heard anything nor she had seen anybody come out of the flat.” It seemed to the Police that this slender lead was not enough unless Mrs. Daljit was willing to sit with a Police forensic sketch artist who would make a sketch of the face of the man she had seen.
As I was thinking about the case from various perspectives which I knew, I heard a knock on the door and found that Mrs. Daljit had arrived.
Coming in she patted my arm and smiled as if it was a social visit. The escorting constable looked slightly surprised.
She was about 70 years old, dark complexion, having snow white hair with a strong built. She was a widow and by her appearance, she looked to be in good health.
Mrs. Daljit was made comfortable on a chair and I got down to sketch. I said, “Ma’am, please think carefully and try to describe that man’s face.”
She said “I have seen him fleetingly through my door’s magic eye…. cannot recollect very vividly…. but will try. That man had a longish face with a goatee, small nose, normal sized ears, cropped black hair and slit eyes. His lips were thin. He was wearing….”
For next three and half hours I was totally engrossed in sketching the face of that unknown man. After completing the sketch, I showed her the picture. She seemed satisfied that it matched with her recollection of the man.
When she left, I took the sketch to Inspector Dhumle. He looked at it and slowly shook his head. “There will be a few hundred men in the city with this kind of face. It doesn’t really help. We do not seem to be moving, but in any case, it’s worth a try…”
It was late evening and I was winding up my long and tiring day’s work when I had a peculiar experience. It was incredible. I needed to call my senior, Inspector Dhumle.
The constable then noticed my speaking in my mobile. Little later the Inspector came rushing back to the office accompanied by Sub Inspector, Faizal.
Seeing me in some state of mental turmoil he made me sit comfortably before his table and urged me to speak. I hesitated for some moments, then started narrating the strange event.
“Sir, let me tell you what happened. About an hour ago, I was about to put away my sketch which I had drawn after a session with Mrs. Daljit when suddenly I felt a strange sensation in my fingers. Incredibly the sketch was glowing red and then it became blurred. But soon it started to become clear and the face, unbelievably, was different; it was not the face sketched by me, but it was another face!”
I then showed him the sketch of another face, a woman’s face. Taking the sketch, he minutely examined it, and uttered,. “This is far-fetched! Crazy! Are you sure?” When I nodded, he went on, “How did it happen? This cannot be accepted… impossible.”
Sub Inspector, Faizal exclaimed, “Sir, is there a ghost involved…. Rupinder’s spirit? He is trying to reveal the murderer?
The Inspector pursed his lips and shook his head repeatedly.” There are no ghosts.”
But my thoughts were elsewhere. I couldn’t decide whether what was happening and what I was doing were correct or not.
At last I said, “Sir, I can’t explain this bizarre incident, though I think there is another angle to this case. Just before your coming I have received some information about what happened at the murder spot. I have my resources. Now, the only thing I can say is this. I wish I’d been there earlier. It might have made all the difference. So all I can tell you is why he was murdered.”
The Inspector scowled, “What are you saying? I can’t make head or tail of your words…. Explain!”
I stared into his eyes, my mind was almost made up, “Sir, my information is that the murder was for wealth…. Money…. I will explain to you everything… but before that please give me 24 hours.”
I started my mission there.
I knew that Inspector Dhumle had started the investigation and already questioned Jimmy and Ronny, the two surviving brothers. Nothing had come out of it. So, there was no necessity to talk to them again.
I needed, however, to speak to Mrs. Surinder Daljit. I also wanted Sub Inspector, Faizal, with me.
It was late in the evening, the next day, when I and the Sub Inspector reached her house. She was at the dinner table.
Greeting me she said, “What brings you here Prashant? Will you have dinner with me?”
I replied, “Madam, can I ask you something about the murder of Rupinder?”
She raised her eyebrows, “What more can I say? I have said all to the Police…. I have given the description of the murderer, which you have sketched… “
I looked at her for some time without replying then said, “So, Madam, you have nothing more to add in this case?”
She shook her head, “Why do you ask me? You should know better.”
I then produced the sketch, it was the face sketched by me, but spookily converted to another face. She scrutinized it and then looked at me, “What is this? Who has drawn my face? “
I sat down on one of the dining chairs along with Faizal and told her about my experience of last night when the face of the killer described by her had changed to her own face…. I told her that it seemed to be a ghostly spectacle.
I turned to Sub Inspector Faizal who said, “Madam, most of us in the Police station have been discussing this supernatural thing….”
Hearing us she became very still. As I watched her I understood that my narrative was making her feel scared. Sweat was forming on her brows, which she wiped with Pallu of her saree.
I wanted her to say something…. react. But she didn’t!
Eventually, she just commented, “I don’t know anything about supernatural… police have to find out the truth.”
There was no need to talk to her any further and I took leave of her.
I was back with Inspector Dhumle. He looked at me skeptically, “So… have you solved the murder….?”
I knew that there was no turning back now…. I had gone too far ahead.
I said, “Yes Sir! Please let me recount why and how the murder took place.”
I settled down in the hard chair set before the Inspector’s table.
This would take time.
“Sir, as you well know that the motive of any crime is most critical. Why was Rupinder killed? Everybody knew that he had little education, incapable of any earning and a worthless man to boot. So, it seemed that his murder would have served no purpose to anybody… at least for monetary gain.
But, that was not true. He had become the sole beneficiary of his Uncle Roopnarayan’s Will who was a very wealthy businessperson. The Uncle had died about two weeks ago.”
I paused for some moments, then started, “After his death, problems started brewing. Both Jimmy and Ronny, the other brothers who had been excluded in the Will felt that it was unfair on the part of their Uncle. Though the Will had also said that after the death of Rupinder, the wealth will then go to Jimmy and Ronny, that was no consolation.
Jimmy and Ronny didn’t want to wait for the wealth of Roopnarayan after the death of Rupinder… neither did he. They all wanted to share at once… in equal three portions. So, all these three brothers came to an understanding, which was dubious to say the least.”
I asked for a glass of water and then continued.
“The plan was that Rupinder would disappear without any trace, leaving a letter that he wanted to commit suicide. The definitive proof would be a fake death certificate. When Jimmy and Ronny would inherit, after the so-called death of Rupinder, as per the Will, they would hand over the share to Rupinder in his exile. Although this plan had many loopholes, all agreed to this. They even consulted a lawyer who happened to be my friend and I was in his chamber, in the back room, while they were discussing this. I came to know this inadvertently.
This strategy would have been put into action, but a hitch came up. And that was Mrs. Daljit. She was the unknown second wife of Roopnarayan. No one had an inkling of this and after the death of Roopnarayan’s first wife, long ago, it was thought that he was a widower. He didn’t have any progeny. He had only one brother, Somraj, who was younger to him; he was also no more. Under these circumstances, he had made a Will to bequeath his vast properties to one of Somraj’s sons whom he must have loved dearly.
But Mrs. Daljit was extremely upset that her husband was leaving all his wealth to Rupinder. Her name figured nowhere in the Will. So, a few days before his death, she cajoled and convinced Roopnarayan to make a second Will cancelling the first Will. But she couldn’t make him disinherit Rupinder in the second Will. The only change in the second Will was that on Rupinder’s death, Mrs. Daljit would get the properties instead of Jimmy and Ronny.
This second Will was not known to anybody. It was intentionally kept hidden by her.
On the death of Roopnarayan this second Will became the valid Will. And this was the motive for her murder. Everything went perfectly. What went in her favor was that she lived in the adjoining flat; she had somehow got hold of a duplicate key; she entered the flat in the afternoon at about 3.40 p.m. when nobody was there, took Rupinder by surprise and shot him. When hearing the gun shot people managed to enter the flat, she had already returned to her flat unseen.
She, then came forward to help the police to find the murderer through a fake description of the face of a murderer. And as you know, Sir, I was given the task of sketching this face…”
The Inspector was hearing me for long without comments, but now he responded, “I am getting the picture, but not able to understand how you have come to know about Mrs. Daljit in such detail…. Why didn’t you try to stop her….?
He had a doubtful look in his face.
I grimaced, “Sir, I did want to stop the murder…. I wanted to save Rupinder… If I would have reached his flat a little earlier, it might have made all the difference between life and death. But when I got there he was already killed by Mrs. Daljit.”
“But “the Inspector reacted sharply, “Why didn’t you tell us about this at once… why this delay?”
Now was the time to reveal all. I braced myself and started to carefully choose my words.
“Sir, there was a reason why I didn’t come to you earlier…. I was myself involved in all these crimes…. I was her assistant so- to- speak……”
As I was saying this my voice choked, but I controlled myself.
By then the Inspector had leaned forward and was staring at me intently.
I went on, “…. I have known Mrs. Daljit for many years…. I perceived her criminal greed, so it was not difficult to persuade her to convince her husband to change the Will and later eliminate Rupinder. I chalked out an elaborate strategy with the information given to me. I also provided her with a revolver- Ruger LC9s. In return for my support she agreed to give me a part of the large estate which she would have inherited from her husband. My payment was assured since both of us knew that if she double crossed me later, she would be in danger. “
Inspector Dhumle was visibly shaken… this was totally unexpected. A Police sketch artist making such revelations! As he gulped down two glasses of water, I stopped.
But he took hold of himself and said, “Continue…”
I said, “Sir, you will want to know why I took to this crime. Sadly, I am an illegitimate child; I never knew who my father was, and my mother also kept away from me! I felt very lonely without any family. I also didn’t have any real friend. I was a loner. I was short of self-esteem. I was also perennially short of money. In this isolation and need, my only mollification was to gather wealth… a lot of it…. and as quickly as possible. Knowing Mrs. Daljit I understood that there was a lucrative opportunity to earn big from this inheritance crime. Perhaps wealth would provide me that feeling of worthwhile existence.”
Then I lapsed into contemplation; the Inspector waited patiently. Soon, stirring up from my reverie, I took up my tale.
“Sir, you wouldn’t believe that a turning point came into my life. Providentially it was on the day of murder, just before the crime. By chance I happened to read my mother’s old diary for the first time and realized that Rupinder, Jimmy and Ronny were my paternal half-brothers. My mother had never told me anything till her death. I also came to know that, Somraj was also my father who had died many years ago and my half-brothers’ mother was also dead. I also grasped that Mrs. Daljit was my Aunt.
With the knowledge that I had a family for which I always had yearned, there was a fixated change in my thoughts and attitude. My only concern, then, was that I was a part of a plot to kill Rupinder… I wanted to save him… but I was too late. My Aunt had already moved in and killed him. And she showed no remorse. She was totally cold blooded in her attitude.”
The Inspector frowned, “Mrs. Daljit should have known your family background?”
I shook my head, “No… nobody in the family recognized me… I have been always the anonymous child.”
“But” … the Inspector interjected,” With these statements you are going to land in deep trouble.”
I said, “Sir, I am prepared for that. Realizing that I am an accessory to murder of one of my family members, I feel terribly shaken to my core and disheartened. I am very miserable!”
I stopped and rubbed my eyes wearily. A sense of depression was going through me.
“Sir, I want to atone for all my sins. Not because this crime involves my family, but murder is totally deplorable and criminally wrong.”
There was stillness all around; the wall clock was ticking noisily.
My thoughts now veered towards Jimmy and Ronny. I knew that they would surely be in trouble as Mrs. Daljit would try to point fingers at them and make them co-accused with her.
I said, “I must also tell you, Sir, that Jimmy and Ronny had not been involved in any way in this murder.”
Inspector Dhumle scowled, but said nothing. The investigation was still going on.
He had other doubts, “What about the face of a man you had sketched, and which changed to the face of Mrs. Daljit…. a ghostly phenomenon? What was it?”
I shook my head, “It was a ploy on my part; there was no such paranormal sketch. I knew that Mrs. Daljit, although a killer, mortally feared ghosts and thought that on seeing her own face and hearing the paranormal story she would react in some panic and reveal her crime. I took Sub Inspector, Faizal with me to give credibility to the story. But she was too clever… she stayed unfazed. Like I said, she was a hardened criminal. Actually, I wanted to tell her that I was exposing her and force her to come to police.but that she didn’t do, so I was compelled to go alone.”
Saying this I got up and grasped Inspector Dhumle’s hand. “Sir, my confession implicates Mrs. Daljit and I will provide you whatever further evidence you need for this case. I will hand over to you the second Will which is the base of this crime. I have many other inside information which will be given during your investigation. Please act at once…. I want justice.”
Hours had passed since my confession. I was feeling relieved that my evils were being atoned. The Police, I knew would soon arrest Mrs. Daljit. Although my crime days were over, and I abhorred those days now, some dark corner of my mind seemed to suggest that if she managed to escape prosecution or was let off lightly, I would need to take care of her in my own way. So, help me, God!