“Sonpur Police Station?” the voice on the other end of the telephone asked. Constable Ganesh replied without much interest – “Yes” and he waited for the voice to say something more.
“Sir, I have to inform you about a possible murder – which has taken place in our town recently.” The unknown caller announced and paused for a moment.
Constable Ganesh exclaimed, “Murder… where?”
Inspector Patil was busy with some report, suddenly looked up at the Constable over phone. Ganesh was holding the phone closer to his ear. The unknown caller came over the line again “Yes, there is possibility of murder in our town – Dholwadi”, the caller further warned –“Take the matter seriously – Sir.” Constable Ganesh tried to get more information- “Murder in Dholwadi town and who are you?” there was a long pause – “Do not ignore my call.” the caller sounded alarming. Ganesh wanted to ask for details but the line went dead.
Holding the dead phone in his hand, Constable Ganesh looked at Inspector. “Patil Sir, somebody has said a murder has taken place in Dholwadi.”
Inspector Patil looked first at Ganesh, then at the dead phone in his hand and said “last few months we managed political rallies, some strikes and few cases of minor thefts. We have never expected a case of murder, that too in Dholwadi – a peaceful town”.
Ganesh came close to Inspector Patil and said, “Sir, I feel it’s all about changing mentality of the people which creates such problems. Such things are happening often anywhere, anytime.”
Inspector looked at Ganesh and asked “How far is the town Dholwadi from here?” without moment’s delay Ganesh replied “Sir, it is nearly 22 km, it is close to the Industrial plant at Naslapur, which is newly coming up”. He added, “And Sir, the caller sounded like someone who is familiar to the place or who knows something about the murder”.
Inspector Patil got up from his chair, looked at his watch, then looked out of window for a while. He stroked his left ear with his left hand and then he looked at Constable – “Ganesh, it’s about 4 o’clock now, why not we go to the Dholwadi now.” It was more like a suggestion than a question and Ganesh understood it well.
“Yes Sir, we can go and just check the place, it is a good idea.” He showed his excitement – “Sir, if we are lucky then we might get some clue of the murder too!!” Both of them laughed heartily at the idea of getting some clue of murder. “Let Inspector Tawade come back from the court, then we will go to Dholwadi” Announced the Inspector Patil.
The road to the Dhowadi town was smooth but dusty. The trees on the both sides of the road made the journey pleasurable in spite of the oppressing heat outside. Dholwadi is an ideal growing town which is fast converting into a modern city slowly. Ganesh was at the wheel, who was offering his senior the detailed information of the political and geographical scenario of the town Dholwadi.
As the jeep entered inside the Dholewadi town, it stopped over the corner, near Ramsingh’s shop. Ramsingh came out with folded hands, looking at the policemen. “Welcome Sir”, He smiled at Inspector Patil and said “it has been long time that you have come over to our town.” Ramsingh wiped his face with piece of cloth over his shoulder.
Keeping his expressions silent behind his alert mind, Ramsingh arranged the chairs for the policemen. He handed over glasses of water, all the time he was thinking about the reason for which Policemen have come to the town. He was trying to guess the reason.
Constable Ganesh looked at Ramsingh and said as if – he was reading RamSingh’s mind, “Ram Singhji, we are here on a causal visit. We had been to the Naslapur industrial estate in the morning and thought of visiting your town before going back to Sonpur”. Ramsingh nodded smilingly though he never believed Constable’s words.
Inspector Patil asked Ramsingh, “Bhaiyyaji, it has been nearly three months since we met. Tell us something – how is the life going in Dholwadi?” And while sipping the tea offered by RamSingh, three of them discussed about the various facts and facets of the town. RamSingh told about the life in the small town Dholewadi and its surrounding. He talked about everyday hustle and bustle of the town. Both policemen listened to it carefully even asked few questions in-between in order to get some more information which could interest them but what RamSingh told was about everyday-activities of the town.
The clock had passed almost 8 o’ clock in the evening. Inspector Patil stroked his left ear with left hand and looked at Constable and said, “Ganesh, I am feeling hungry, can we have dinner here before we start our backward journey?”
And before Constable Ganesh could reply, Ram Singh replied, “Sir, why don’t you have food at Hotel Sweet Home, you will enjoy it for sure.”
Ganesh looked curiously at Ram Singh “is it some new hotel in town?”
“No”, Ram Singh replied again, “It was recently renamed as Hotel Sweet Home, earlier it was called “Annapurna Mess”. Inspector Patil remarked, “Oh! The old-fashioned name of the hotel has been changed with modern one”.
“Yes Sir, the owner of the hotel too changed. Earlier it was run by Velubhai and now it is owned by someone called Charan Das.”
The pair of Policemen entered into the Hotel Sweet Home to have dinner. Hotel looked spacious. The atmosphere in the hotel changed a little the moment they saw the policemen in uniform entering inside the hotel. The man at the counter came out and greeted them, when he found that the policemen have come for dinner, he took them to the special room and make them seated. The man introduced himself as cashier and said the owner of the hotel CharanDas was away and will be back by late night.
The food was excellent and service was exceptional. Both the Policemen had appetizing dinner. Once they came out to adjacent room towards the wash-basins, which were attached to two separate water tanks. Ganesh went to the wash-basin on the other end of the room to wash his hand and Inspector walked to the nearest wash-basin. As he tried to open the tap, when a waiter from behind called him saying, “Sir, the water tap of this wash-basin doesn’t work, please wash your hand at the other side of wash-basin”.
Inspector felt curious and asked the waiter in return, “what’s wrong with this wash-basin?” and the waiter replied, “Don’t know Sir, but for last few days the wash-basin is not in the operation,” he quickly added, “May be the tap is needed to be changed. I had informed it to the owner but he seems to be busy.”
At the counter in the hotel, though the cashier was insisting both policemen about not to pay the bill but Inspector Patil paid the bill saying “Let us pay the bill, we never take anything free of cost – especially, when we are on duty” – and both of them laughed as the cashier accepted the money.
After paying the bill, both the policemen started towards their vehicle. Though the food was good and they enjoyed it much and now it is time to go back, yet they were disappointed about the fact that, they could not get any information about the possible murder which had taken place in Dholwadi.
As both policemen walked towards the vehicle nearly groping the darkness till they get used to it. Inspector Patil looked around while walking. He stroked his left ear with his left hand for a while and said in a whispering tone, “Ganesh, did you observe something in the hotel?”
Ganesh looked curious, – “what did you observe Sir?”
He knew how prepared Inspector Patil is when on duty. Inspector’s left hand was still on his ear as he said in lowered tone- “I saw a man standing behind the window – almost hidden and while we had food, he was watching us, all the time.” Both were intensely thinking of it as they walked on the rough dusty road. Suddenly Ganesh felt, someone is following them from behind as they walk towards the vehicle. He moved closer to Inspector Patil and whispered “Sir someone is on our track.” Inspector Patil gave a slight pat on Constable Ganesh’s back and said in almost low tone, “Yes, I too feel the same Ganesh, let’s stop near the jeep and start the action.”
As both the policemen came near the jeep and crouched silently in the dark waiting for the follower. It was almost dark and the dim light burning far end of road was not of any help. Few minutes passed away, both of them waited, their sharp eyes moving in the dark. And then suddenly – Constable Ganesh moved quickly and pulled a figure out of darkness. Constable looked at the person in the dark who was trying to move away. He was a young man of 30 years, who looked scared. Ganesh grabbed the man by arm and pulled him closer and asked sharply, “Hey – who are you? What do you want?”
The man was breathing heavily and he took some time before he spoke, “Sir, I am not a criminal … I wanted to talk you, so I came behind you.”
Ganesh looked at him doubtfully and asked – “why were you hiding in dark behind us – like a thief?”
And the man almost begged him saying “No Sir, I am no thief, I do not want anybody to see me while I talk to you – because I have some important information for you”.
Policemen made him sit inside the jeep and let him calm down for a while. Inspector Patil looked at him and said “so you were watching us from a window while we had food in hotel?” The man looked at the policemen and said “Sir, my name is Vijay, I work in the hotel – I was watching you because, I was looking for an opportunity to talk to you”.
Constable Ganesh looked at the man, observed him closely and asked- “Are you the one – who spoke to me over phone in the morning – about possible murder?”
Vijay took a deep breath and said – “Yes Sir, I am worried about Velubhai and I feel someone may have murdered him for some reason – and it is for you to find it all. So I called you in the morning and I thank you both for coming here. I never thought …”
Inspectot Patil interrupted him curtly and said – “Tell us what you want to tell instead of wasting our time. “ Vijay looked at Inspector and said “Sir, before I tell you about present situation, let me tell you about related context to the subject, so it will be easy for you to understand.”
“Okay, go ahead” said the inspector while his left hand kept moving over his left ear. Vijay started telling, “I have been working for VeluBhai – the earlier owner of the hotel for past 2 years. The present owner CharanDas had joined Velubhai few months later. CharanDas used to help Velubhai in his property business and then in the hotel business. He was looking after the hotel management and Velubhai trusted him. The small mess which Velubhai had started few years ago was successful and it was CharanDas’s idea to convert the small mess into a hotel which Velubhai adopted and both of them worked together in constructing the hotel ‘SweetHome’. Then Charan Das wanted to run hotel all by himself but Velubhai did not allow him. CharanDas looked after the Velubhai’s business when he was away or when not well.
Both policemen were listening to every word of Vijay intensely. Ganesh offered Vijay water from the bottle which Vijay readily accepted and drank. He wiped his mouth over his shirt-sleeve and continued. “Sir, about two months ago, I had to go to my native-place for some reason, I remember the evening when I went to meet to Velubhai, he was sitting with CharanDas and both were discussing about business. I heard Velubhai saying, “Charan, you cannot be my business partner, either be my manager or you are free to go away.”
Vijay stopped for a while. Inspector Patil was listening intensely and his left hand was slowly caressing his left ear. Vijay said, “After 10 days when I came back from my native place, I found CharanDas was running the hotel all alone. When I asked him about Velubhai and he told me that Velubhai has decided to take break and has gone to Gangotri and Kedarnath.”
Both the Policemen looked at each other and said at once – “Gangotri and Kedarnath?”
“Yes Sir, “Vijay said and added “even I couldn’t believe it. I tried to contact Velubhai for past one month but there is no reply and so I asked for your help”.
Inspector looked at Vijay and asked, “Vijay tell me a little about Velubhai’s room in the hotel.” Vijay thought for few seconds and said, “Sir, Velubhai instead of staying in the spacious room upstairs, always insisted to stay in the congested smaller room which is adjacent to the dining hall of the hotel. Velubhai liked to watch the hotel from his room. In fact there was a common water tank between the attached bathroom and the wash basin of dining room”.
Inspector Patil was quiet and looked deep in some thought. His left hand now moved over his left ear faster. Vijay wanted to say something but Constable Ganesh signed him to keep quite as he knew that Inspector is planning something bigger than expected.
Inspector looked at the watch – it was almost 10 pm. He looked at Vijay and said, “Vijay, you go to Ram Singh’s place and tell him to get few people – I want few witnesses and ask him to be ready till I call him.” Vijay readily agreed and without asking any other question he left towards RamSingh’s home. Inspector then planned few moves. “Ganesh, let me call me Inspector Tawde – who is on night duty and ask him to come with few more policemen before midnight.”
Time passed by, after midnight, when the entire town was sleeping quietly, at the outskirts of the town, outside the Hanuman Temple, few police jeeps and policemen were waiting for the orders. It was not easy for the policemen to guess what Inspector Patil has decided, most of the policemen were guessing about the raid on hotel at mid-night. And at last, Constable Ganesh couldn’t control his excitement and he hesitantly asked Inspector Patil – “Patil Sir, what is the plan? Are we going to arrest CharanDas now?”
And inspector Patil patted his back and said “Yes Constable Ganesh – you will arrest him – as per my order.” Ganesh was dumbfounded for few moments but he managed to ask again, “But why?”
Inspector Patil stopped turned back and looked at all the men behind him and said, “CharanDas will himself tell you why we are arresting him.” Inspector laughed to himself and most of the men in khaki looked amused.
It was an hour past midnight, when Inspector Patil, Constable Ganesh and few chosen policemen along with few other people entered in the premises of Hotel Sweet-Home. The constable Ganesh took the watchman in his control before being alerted. The waiter who was half in sleep was scared to see policemen. Inspector Patil asked him to get the owner CharanDas but waiter said he was too scared to wake-up his owner at midnight and Inspector Patil along with few other policemen went upstairs without making any noise to get the owner of the hotel.
The knock on the door of his room took some time to wake-up CharanDas, who was tired after a long journey and was in the sound sleep. CharanDas got up with the knock on the door. He looked at the watch – it was 20 minutes past one at midnight. In the dim light of night lamp, he opened door – expecting one of his servants.
“Police!” Inspector Patil moved in fast and he entered inside the room. He waved other policemen to stop outside and said in his curt voice, “CharanDas, don’t act smart! I have half dozen policemen with me.” CharanDas was shocked; he was still in half sleep and was trying to figure-out – if its real or it’s a bad dream!
CharanDas felt his hands and his face getting full of sweat. Constable Ganesh put on the lights and CharanDas saw Inspector Patil sitting in the chair and few policemen standing at the door.
“CharanDas, will you answer all my questions without having any trouble?” Inspector Patil asked. CharanDas knew that at this hour nobody will come to his help and it is wise to do as Inspector says. He sat over the bed, wiping his face to the bedcover and said in mild tone, “What is it – regarding Sir.”
“Where is Velubhai?” – Inspector asked – there was command in his voice. Inspector looked at CharanDas and waited for the reply. CharnDas first looked at the Inspector and then at the sailing then at the door at the policemen and then looked down. Inspector Patil knew the psychology of the criminals very well, he said” CharanDas, I have every evidence to prove that you have murdered Velubhai few days ago -” Everyone in the room including Constable Ganesh, looked surprised. Inspector Patil further added – “and Velubhai’s body is still in the hotel.”
Inspector Patil said – “it was nearly two months ago, one night, when you and Velubhai were sitting in his room and discussing about business. You told Velubhai that you wanted to become business partner in his hotel & property business, which Velubhai – rejected blindly. You both had an argument and in a fit of anger you hit Velubhai hard- that he died on the spot.”
CharanDas was stunned with Inspector Patil’s skill of investigation and his analysis. He knew that now there is not much option left for him but to confess his crime. For a moment he remembered face of Velubhai. He hid his face in his hands and sat for a while. Inspector Patil waited patiently. He knew that most of the criminals feel bad about the crime they do – but then it was too late.
CharanDas got up from the bed, came close to Inspector Patil and sat down on the floor and said, “Yes Inspector, you are right – I have killed Velubhai in a fit of anger and when I realized my mistake, Velubhai was dead.” Inspector looked at him straight in eyes –and asked, “What did you do with the dead body?”
The atmosphere in the room had become tense and everyone waited for CharanDas to talk. CharanDas was breathing heavily as he gathered the courage and said, “I hit Velubhai with bottle in anger, I thought he was unconscious so put some water over his face and tried to wake him up. I waited for some time but then I realized that – Velubhai was dead. I was shocked and scared too. I thought of taking the dead body out but there were waiters and the watchman outside. I have to get rid of the body before the early morning.”
“Then, what did you do with the dead body Charan?” Inspector asked. CharanDas was hesitant for a while and then, he said in a hoarse voice – which stunned everyone in the room – “I emptied the water tank which was in the bathroom and dumped Velubhai’s body inside it. Early morning I bought some mixture of sand, mud and cement from construction site near the hotel, filled the tank and closed it completely”.
The listeners in the room were like thunderstruck and almost became speechless. Everyone was thinking of the dead body in the water tank of the hotel.
Constable Ganesh finally spoke, “Because of the water tank, the wash-basin in the hotel was not working – right CharanDas?” CharanDas nodded his head and said, “Yes, I told everyone that that Velubhai has left for yatra towards Himalaya. I locked Velubhai’s room and told everyone that the wash-basin is non-operable and will be repaired soon.”
Inspector Patil looked at CharanDas and said, “Do you know, when I visited the hotel for the first time, it was that non-operable wash-basin which hold my attention and it was my first clue of possible murder.” Inspector Patil added, “I need Ram Sigh, Vijay and other people who are waiting, we have to go down to open Velubhai’s room first and also need to break-open the water tank to get the buried dead-body.”
And when Constable Ganesh came with handcuffs, CharanDas came forward, holding his hands up and said, “Yes, Constable arrest me, I am guilty of murder.”