Inspector Nokul Hegde of the Homicide Squad, a man of many achievements in crime solving, was in a contemplative mood. His thoughts were centered on a recent murder case, which although looked simple, was perhaps unique.
He sipped his coffee while sitting at his desk. As was his wont, his desk was clean with no papers but for his lap top with wires going down towards the floor – connecting power and internet points. It was open, showing an advertisement of a new generation High Definition TV.
Closing his eyes he tried to concentrate on the case, but nothing seemed to come out. He shook his head, then reached for his coffee. His mind wandered; he wanted to replace his old HD TV in his house with a latest one…what would be the best brand?
Was it because his mind shifted for a moment from the case that a new thought struck him? He got up hastily as if that idea would elude him if he delayed, then picking up the cap he strode out of his office towards the police vehicle.
Sub Inspector Mubarak accompanying him asked, “ Sir, any new lead in the case?”
The tall handsome figure of the Inspector contrasted with the rotund figure of the Sub Inspector, while they walked together.
The Inspector merely answered, “I am getting some thoughts… let’s find out.”
He looked out of the Police Gypsy in which he was traveling, recapitulating the facts.
The murder had taken place in one of the apartments of the third floor of “Aasman Heights”, a multistory building in the uptown area.
The crime scene was the flat no. 313 and it had been sealed by the Police. Its sole occupant, Girjish Lal, a retired Government servant, was murdered while he was watching TV; it happened by a single bullet fired at close range from a 0.32” Pistol at his left temple, around midnight of 21st December.
Devendra Prasad, a businessman, who lived with his wife, Ira, in the adjoining flat no. 314 had heard the gun shot while they too were watching TV that night. In fact it was Devendra who had gone to the flat no. 313 to check out. Finding the main door ajar he had entered and found Grijish, half prostrate on the sofa, profusely bleeding from his left temple. He called the police immediately.
The occupant of the opposite flat no. 315, Ramlik Sharma, a bachelor and a real estate agent, who also was watching TV, at that time, had heard the shot but he thought it was sound of some bursting firecracker; he didn’t bother to inquire.
The fourth flat no. 316 was unoccupied.
During the last four days, the Inspector had already made preliminary enquirers and interrogated various people who were present in the building on that fateful night. These didn’t throw much light on the case, nobody could give any clue as to who could be the killer and the motive for such crime. There was no unauthorized entry of any person in the building premises – the guard had confirmed. So it was quite possible that somebody in the building might be responsible. The building had ten stories and there were forty flats, out of which thirty seven were occupied. Hence the work of the investigation team was quite an onerous one.
Nokul Hegde with Mubarak at his side, rang the door bell of Devendra Prasad’s flat no. 314. It was around 12.30 pm and he was not at home. His wife, Ira, a middle aged lady with a pleasant personality, said, “Sir, my husband has gone to office around 9.30 am and he will be back only late evening, between 7.30 to 8.00 pm.” The Inspector politely said, “Ma’am, we thought as much, but I want to speak to you again, can we come in?” She moved aside to let them in.
Looking around, the Inspector’s eyes rested on the TV at the far corner of the drawing room which had three large sized sofa sets and a center table. Assorted objects d’art had been arranged tastefully at various places. A pale green carpet completed the room.
“ Ma’am, you have really decorated your drawing room beautifully.” He said appreciatively. She smiled.
“But ..” The Inspector continued , “ Your TV looks out of place, it is a very old one… I am sure you don’t get the latest High Definition, we call it HD, programs in this TV.”
She nodded, “ Yes – we do plan to buy a new HD TV soon. Even Girjish wanted to buy a latest TV; he had received a lot of cash in a property deal which was with him and… we had planned together… so many things … but ….” She sighed, “The poor man is beyond all this…” She wiped her eyes.
The Inspector thought for some moments, “ Couple of questions. Which TV channel were you watching during 21st December night? Any idea how much cash Girjish had as we couldn’t find any while searching his flat?”
Ira readily replied,“ I clearly remember watching “Paribaar TV” that night. My husband must have already told you. They had the best song and dance program. Even Girjish was watching that when he was killed. As for his cash… I don’t know … but my husband said that it was a very good amount … say about half a crore.”
After few more pleasantries, the Inspector left saying that he would again talk to Devendra when he would be at home.
“Mubarak,” He said, “ Do you have the keys to the flat no. 313 ? I want to check whether late Girjish Lal’s TV is also an old model- as that lady was saying just now.”
Mubarak knew the methods of his senior, so he didn’t venture to ask -why.
As it turned out that she was right. Both of them came out of the flat, re-locked and re-sealed it and rang the bell of the opposite flat no. 315.
Ramlik Sharma opened the door. He was a man of short stature with dark complexion and thinning hair. It seemed that he was ready to go out. He looked at them and said in a sour voice, “ Inspector, I have told you whatever I know; I have given you my video file of that night … now I have nothing more to say… I don’t know anything else.“
He turned around to shut the door, but the Inspector stepped forward, “ I want to interrogate you further. Please let us in.” His voice was grim.
Ramlik looked at him for some moments then frowned, “ I am in a hurry … I have an appointment.”
Both Nokul and Mubarak had by then entered the flat. They looked around; the drawing room had light blue walls with modern furniture and concealed lighting. A large 85” HD TV of a popular brand adorned the side wall.
“Nice drawing room…” The Inspector commented, “ When did you buy that TV?”
Ramlik stared at the Inspector and said, “ I don’t know why you ask this foolish question … any way I bought the TV a month ago… if that satisfies you. Now would you please leave?” His manners were becoming increasingly hostile.
The Inspector was nonchalant. “This TV must have cost you a packet. Your business seems to be doing good even in this bad market?”
“So what… it is no concern of the Police.” Ramlik spat out.
Ignoring him, the Inspector asked “ And these are very modern and costly furniture … did you buy them along with your TV … by paying cash?”
Ramlik remained quiet.
The Inspector sat down on a plush blue sofa and crossed his legs. The Sub Inspector stood near the door.
“What was the channel you were watching during that night of 21st, when the murder happened?”
Ramlik’s anger seemed to be increasing, “ I have already told you Inspector… it was Paribaar TV … why do you ask the same question again and again?”
“What is the proof ?”
Ramlik burst out, “Inspector, this is pure harassment …. I have already given you a video clip from my camera taken during that time. ”
The Inspector nodded, “ Yes… it was a self – video showing you dancing along with the song and dance program shown in your TV. The 85” TV on the wall was clearly seen in the video.”
Getting up he said in a stern voice, “Do not leave the city without informing me..,” he paused and said, “Meanwhile give me the video camera. I will need it for investigation.”
Back in the Police Station, Nokul asked Mubarak to show Ramlik’s video again. He watched it intently, saying, “Why did this man take self- video? For showing to his old school friends as he claims?” He looked up at the Sub Inspector, “It is no crime to take your self- video…so …” He also checked the video camera and lapsed into absolute silence.
That night, at home, the Inspector switched on his old HD TV and tuned to Paribaar TV channel. He noticed that the Channel was transmitting the same program in normal mode as well as in HD mode. He knew that this was usual for many other channels.
He was shifting through his remote, between the normal and HD channels of Paribaar TV when suddenly he sat up and remained motionless for many minutes.
Next day morning he spoke to the Sub Inspector, “ We will visit Ramlik again in his flat. But before that we will visit the Paribaar TV studio. We will also talk to Devendra.”
He thought for few moments. “ Find out if Ramlik has a criminal record. And also who owns the unoccupied flat no. 316 in Aasman Heights? We want to open it.”
He then explained at length his line of action and also the legal processes.
Later in the afternoon they were in Ramlik’s flat. He looked more annoyed as compared to the earlier day.
“Inspector, “ He spoke with rising voice, “This is not acceptable ….you can’t disturb me every day, like this …. I will report to your higher authorities.”
The Inspector stared at him intently, his face expressionless.
“ Ramlik, there is no question of disturbance , this is our duty; anyway let me tell you how I think the murder of Girjish Lal took place.“
Imperceptibly small beads of sweat broke out on Ramlik’s forehead; he sat down on the far end of the sofa, wiping his face, muttering “ Why are you telling me?”
The Inspector made himself comfortable on a large couch and began.
“It was a clever murder plan with an unique defense , that is, alibi.
During the night of 21st December – you , Girjish and Devendra Prasad- all of you were watching in your respective flats, a particular program on Paribaar TV from 11.30 pm on-wards. It was no coincidence. You must have prevailed upon the other two… after all you were friends and this must have happened through friendly persuasion. You knew that this Channel beams in normal and HD modes – which means that the same program is shown in two modes, but, with a vital difference. That is of time. The HD program comes four minutes earlier than the normal one. You knew that other two friends do not have TV which can receive HD programs.
I dare say that this was your basis of the crime plan.
So, through a clever design you self- video recorded the particular song and dance item of Paribaar TV which had started around 11.45 pm showing, also, you dancing in front of your HD TV along with the item. We checked the timing of the transmission from the TV Channel sources.
Then after three minutes, the item was over and you switched off the video but kept your TV on. Then you, swiftly moved to Girjish’s flat … his door was open which you knew. He too was watching the same program in his TV which was in normal mode. You saw that the same song and dance item had just started. This was due to the technical gap of four minutes between HD and normal beaming of the item.
Since the timing suited you as you expected, you went ahead immediately to execute your plan by shooting Girjish through his temple. You had almost 2-3 minutes to do this. Nearness of both the flats and open door helped you enormously. What is more, you wanted the gun shot to be heard by Devendra Prasad. It was critical to the plan.
Girjish was unsuspecting and died a quick death. You then picked up his suitcase containing the cash, the location of which you already knew and rushed back in your flat. The noise of your gun shot was heard by Devendra Prasad in the adjoining flat while he too was watching his TV in normal mode – the same song and dance item. He ran into Girjish’s flat to find his friend dead.
Devendra informed the police and gave broad details that the murder took place when that particular song and dance item was going on in his TV. He must have informed you too. You thought that you were safe since you already had an alibi, through your self-video recording, that you were watching and dancing to the tune of the same song and dance item till it was complete, in your TV.”
The Inspector stopped for a minute to catch his breath. Ramlik was staring at him mesmerized.
Inspector Nokul Hegde continued.
“The motive of your murder was the cash of about half a crore which Girjish unfortunately had revealed to you as a friend. We checked up and found that you have incurred huge debts in the market and were hounded by creditors. You had become pretty desperate.”
He then got up, picked up a water bottle and drank from it.
“You could have escaped. But a doubt came to my mind when you offered to show me the video, on your own volition. This was strange as it is not usual for people to take self – videos while watching TV. We noticed that it was a precise “three minutes” recording. There was absolutely no extra recording. Obviously it was very carefully edited. Why? It struck me that it could be a deliberate ploy to save yourself. Intentional creation of an alibi.
Then while watching TV , particularly Paribaar TV, in my house, I also noticed the time difference of four minutes between normal and HD programs. And the fact that you have HD TV and others … non HD ones. That seemed to confirm my theory of your unique murder plan.”
He went near Ramlik and said, “ The final nail in the coffin will be – we have found out that you have a petty criminal record…..more serious… you are also the Benami owner of the adjoining unoccupied flat no. 316. I think when we open that flat and search, we will find the stolen cash hidden somewhere. Perhaps we may also locate the pistol, the murder weapon. ”
The Inspector’s sojourn was coming to an end. He then allowed himself a ghost of smile, “ I think I have said enough about my thoughts… Mubarak will now take you to the Police station for further interrogation… and hopefully the prosecution will do the rest in the criminal court.”
Till then, Ramlik was silent, his face showing various shades of negative emotions, suddenly he jumped up from the sofa and ran towards the back of the flat … probably looking to escape. He knew his game was up. Sub Inspector Mubarak was prepared … he moved in a flash , grabbed him and forced him on the floor with face down.
Inspector Nokul Hegde strode out. Another job has been done.
7TH AUGUST 2016