“I swear, I just went to check on her yesterday evening and nothing else, she really loved me, why would I kill he….,” Venkat’s voice broke into sobs as the words got stuck in his parched throat.
A family of 12 stood huddled together that tense summer evening suspiciously eyeing one another. The killer was among them. That was certain.
Gangamma was 70 odd years old, but was quite fit for her age. When she lost her husband a year ago, her health did deteriorate, but she had fully recovered from the trauma and was coping up well with her life. She lived with her four sons, their wives, and kids in the huge mansion built in the elite area of the city.
The beautiful wrought iron gates of the mansion designed with tiny metal birds opened wide into a huge swimming pool in the garden. The mansion was mostly a shade of navy blue with black rimmed high raise windows and it looked glorious when the lights of the mansion lit up every evening. Spiraling staircases from the front rooms right to the entrance door added more beauty to the already splendid mansion.
Gangamma had the mansion and the huge treasure her old man had left, all in her name only until yesterday when she was alive. Gangamma was brutally murdered in her sleep and now the property was on its voyage once again to reach its most eligible heir.
From the sharply arched windows of the mansion, Detective Raghav looked out onto the busy commercial street oblivious to the chitter-chatter of everyone around him wondering where Hari was. Raghav was in his early forties, shortly built, and occasionally sprouted a small beard which made him look a tad younger. If the cook’s word had to be taken into consideration, then Hari was the one who was seen last with Gangamma and the primary suspect for this murder.
Hari was the eldest son with all the necessary qualifications to continue the family line along with a son to carry forward the name. But the son was yet to come of age as he was born late to Hari and his wife after several visits to multiple clinics in the city.
Raghav learned that Gangamma quite often had made one thing evident to everyone in the family, the wealth would be passed on only to sons who had boys, as she was of the opinion that girls would marry one day and the money would land in the hands of someone outside the family. Gangamma loved everyone equally, she adored her grandkids, but she was very particular about the family treasure which made Vasu, the third son of Gangamma, the immediate heir apparent as the second son Ravi had two daughters.
Raghav had put a stay on Gangamma’s will until the identity of the murderer was revealed. He could sense the restlessness of the family members, each one trying to trick or trap the other into revealing some information which would make them vulnerable in front of Raghav.
As this was the case of sudden death, the pathologist was instructed to conduct a forensic internal and external autopsy, but all this while, Raghav kept thinking, where is Hari?
Birds chirped welcoming yet another bright summer morning and it was still quite early when Raghav got out of his car in front of the mansion with the autopsy report in hand. The results had completely baffled him. Either the killer was extremely smart or something very common had happened that night which may have resulted in the involvement of two potential killers.
Raghav was let in by the butler and he made himself comfortable on the cozy purple velvet couch, he was going to be there for long. He carefully removed the pictures of Gangamma’s body along with several other medical reports from a folder and spread it on the glass table in front of him.
As he sat there looking at the photos and scratching his beard that now looked like the nest of a small sparrow, he heard the flip-flops of several hurried footsteps as everyone gathered around him. Few of them looked excited, few nervous, and few of them looked annoyed at being awakened so early after the long harsh night.
“Well. Good Morning all, I hope everyone could catch up some sleep last night because I have something very important to tell you all. ”
Raghav gave a slight pause before talking more trying to observe any subtle changes in the body language of each family member.
“Your mother had been killed twice that night” he continued.
“What!! Twice, how is that possible now,” Vasu intervened.
“Let me explain, first she was given a slow poison called hemlock, this poison paralyzes the body parts one after the other till death is caused by the paralysis of the respiratory system. Even though the person will not be able to move, they will be aware of things around them as the brain remains intact till death. Along with this, she was also strangled with a telephone cable which has left a permanent necklace mark around her neck,” he said pointing to the picture on the table.
Raghav continued, “Either the same killer murdered her twice to ensure that she was really dead or did this to confuse us into believing that two killers were involved or they may really have been two killers, but someone surely wanted her dead and my job is to find out who it is.”
“And now coming to the interesting part which will probably give us some lead, the forensic team has found three foreign objects from Gangamma’s room which are apparently not hers. The first object is a broken piece of a green glass, the second object is the torn pocket of a checkered blue and green shirt and the third object is a lemon dipped in liquid red kumkum,” Raghav said, placing the objects in sealed Ziploc bags on the glass table next to Gangamma’s pictures.
He gently called Nisha, the daughter of the fourth son Venkat, to come forward and identify any of the objects. Nisha took a look at the green glass and then at Hari’s wife Sakshi. Sakshi’s eyes were wide open with fear as she tried covering her left wrist with her other hand; this slight movement was enough for Raghav to grab her wrist before she made an excuse to get out.
“That’s a deep gash,” said Raghav observing the cut on her wrist.
“I got this when I was removing my glass bangles yesterday night.” she sternly replied.
Before Raghav could continue, her eyes started filling with tears, she could not continue anymore and requested Raghav not to bother her as she was already upset and worried that her husband Hari was still missing.
Over the day, Raghav did not get anywhere close to finding the killer using the small piece of shirt, but he learned an interesting fact that Venkat and his wife Uma were a unique couple who enjoyed pursing different hobbies and nowadays were fond of practicing black magic.
Venkat was ready with his speech of how he was the last in line for the property and could never be benefitted by Gangamma’s death. It was well rehearsed and quite convincing.
After interrogating everyone again, Raghav carefully packed all the documents and made his way to the car. On reaching home, he went to his private office and pinned everything on the board with each picture of the family member. He started analyzing considering each family member as the murderer. After several hours, he lay asleep on his table drooling saliva all over the medical reports.
The vibration of the cell phone against his wooden desk patiently tried to awaken him, and Raghav caught it, just before it kissed the ground.
“Hello,” he said groggily. The news was not good. Things were becoming worse.
He wanted to take a hot shower to clear off his head before reaching the location of the crime.
What had Vasu said on the phone, the garbage collector had found Hari’s chopped off head wrapped in a blue and green checkered shirt? Blue and green, blue and green, green bangles, he muttered to himself as he started drawing images on the steam-covered mirror in his bathroom. In a flash, everything got connected. He clearly saw how Gangamma had been killed; every step, as it was executed.
He dashed out and dressed quickly calling out to his wife that he won’t be joining her for breakfast and buzzed off in full force towards the mansion.
“Please ask everyone to come, “He ordered the cook.
Everyone looked morose and sullen, especially Sakshi, whose tiny hope of seeing her husband alive had completely extinguished that morning.
Clearing his throat, Raghav said “I know who the killer is, if the killer confesses now I may be able to reduce the sentence, else the court’s decision will be final, this is your last chance.”
No one moved an inch; the house was filled with an eerie silence. Raghav waited.
“Ok then, the killer is…..
Amar let out a deafening shout as he saw that the last page that revealed the killer was torn out from the library book.