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Prey on the Prowl - A Crime Novel
When Radha took Dhruva to cloud nine, as if to bring him back to mundane world, Dicey fell seriously ill; though he felt gratified to see her tending the pet like her own child, when it succumbed to the mysterious ailment in a week’s time, he was truly downcast. While it took him quite a while to recover from his loss, courtesy Natya, Radha coverd much of Pravar’s crime ground into which Kavya had ventured.
After she got him bail, Kavya was wont to spend long hours with Pravar to prepare his defense. While he was charmed by her suaveness, she was sympathetic to his rustic ways, and believed that by putting up with him, she was only atoning herself for Ranjit’s foul on him. While Natya was all empathy for Kavya, for her sympathy for them, their proximity that exposed Kavya’s allure to him made Pravar fantasize about the mature woman, and it was only time before he turned obsessive of possessing her, by means fair or foul. What with her empathy for him blinding her vision, Kavya mistook his advances as manifestations of his exaggerated gratitude for her, and Natya, though quick to sense his intentions, yet failed to caution her, for the fear of losing her support, all the while pleading with him not to scandalize their benefactor. Yet he wanted her to pander to Kavya, and as she refused, he threatened to end his life, which made Natya see the merit in the adage of ‘yielding to the temptation as a way of avoiding it’. Reckoning that he would get over his passion for her rival only in her possession, Natya became his accomplice to drag Kavya into his bed.
Pravar faked suicide, ostensibly to save their benefactor from his passion for her, and Natya played upon Kavya’s sympathy for him to try to woo her into his arms but Kavya, disturbed at the development and embarrassed to the core, was at a loss to know how to handle her unrequited love. Were she to shun him altogether, it would amount to her rescinding his vakalat, and with Shakeel braying for his blood, wouldn’t that mean throwing him to the wolves? Why abandon him after all the hard work and on the verge of success? So she thought that she would put sense into his deranged head that it was not proper to covet a woman old enough to be his elder sister. While she strived to put sense into his head to put an end the nonsense, he reiterated his resolve to end his life if she were to fail to cater to his passion that was killing him any way.
Kavya saw no way out to save her honor but by cold-shouldering him in the hope that he would get over his obsession for her, and so kept away from him but no sooner, her unrelenting lover faked suicide yet again, she was thrown into a dilemma - if she gave in to him, she would be unfaithful to Ranjit, but should Pravar take the plunge, she would be the cause of his fall. What with her empathy for Pravar tilting the scales in the end, she could hold no more, and as he began to overwhelm her with all his passion, she felt as if her life was under siege in their liaison. Soon as Pravar tended to ignore Natya, Kavya insisted parity to make it an equitable love triangle, but with his ardency for her ever on the raise, he began pestering her to leave Ranjit to make it a ménage a trois for them.
While Dhruva blamed himself for Kavya’s fall, as Radha felt the way to rescue her was to nab Pravar, he said that he would talk to Shakeel to lay a trap for him from which even Kavya would not be able to extricate him. Even as he reached for his mobile, Raju went up to them to tell that Shakeel, by then shifted to the Jubilee Hills police station, had come to see him.
When Dhruva, in tow with Radha, entered the study, Shakeel said that around six in the evening as Kavya informed him over phone that Ranjit lay dead in the master bedroom, he himself had rushed to Spandan to take stock of the situation. Kavya told him that Ranjit had left for his office at ten and, as was her wont, she too went out after lunch, but on her return, finding him dead in his bed in the master bedroom she felt it could be a cold-blooded murder. But he saw there was nothing amiss in the house and there were no injuries on the body, all of which pointed out to a possible heart attack, yet he had moved the body for post-mortem, and sounded his informers to pick up the grapevine.
While Dhruva became pensive, Radha said she knew it was coming; didn’t Natya tell her that Pravar was hell-bent to have Kavya all for himself? Surely, Pravar, adept in the art of poisoning, would have done in Ranjit to gain Kavya’s undivided affections. Dhruva told her not to jump the gun, as he could have committed suicide, unable to bear the ignominy of being a cuckold, and for that matter, he might have died of heart attack, stressed as he was by his wife’s infidelity. But as Radha insisted that it could have been Pravar’s way of grabbing Kavya and her property as well, Dhruva maintained that time only would tell whether there was a foul play and they better waited for the post-mortem report.
Next evening, Shakeel came to tell Dhruva that the post-mortem report attributed the death to poisoning and that Kavya got an anticipatory bail for herself making him wonder whether she had a hand in the murder. Dhruva though thought that she was no fool to soil her hands with her husband’s blood, as it won’t be beyond her to know that she would be the prime suspect, given that she was having a paramour to boot. Radha maintained that it was apparent that Pravar, keeping Kavya in the dark, would have poisoned Ranjit, and it made sense to apprehend him forthwith for extracting his confession and be done with it.
Then Shakeel, as if as an afterthought, said that of late, whenever Kavya was away, a burka-clad woman was being seen visiting Ranjit, which made Dhruva say whether it was a woman in burka or women in burka. Shakeel said that he thought as much, but the neighbors were certain that it was only one woman that Ranjit was receiving for some time then. Radha said what if the woman in burka was Natya, Pravar’s red herring to mislead the police; and Shakeel too felt that it was not a bad line of investigation. Dhruva though cautioned Shakeel not to oversimplify matters but wide-scan Ranjit’s present and deep-delve into his past as his death by poisoning that pointed towards Pravar’s hand raised the possibility of a hidden hand behind his murder.
Shakeel said that the foolhardiness of the criminal impulse always puzzled him but Dhruva reasoned that while the calling of the crime clouds reason, panic of the moment deserts caution, to let the culprits leave a damning clue for the law to catch up with them. What one would say about the credulity of a cuckold, who would have thrown caution to the winds by indulging in a drinking binge with his wife’s paramour? Can any explain the stupidity of a philanderer who walks into the death trap laid for him by the man he has been cuckolding? How such dig their own graves!
While Shakeel wanted Dhruva to make it to crime scene along with him, Dhruva felt that his premature association would jeopardize their further involvement in it. While the cop saw merit in what the detective had said, as Radha insisted that their trip to Spandan might yield the keys to Pravar’s tricks, Dhruva said that they better stayed on the sidelines as Shakeel kept the course. But after seeing Shakeel’s back, as Radha wondered whether the cop was equal to the task, Dhruva hoped that by dawn, they might see the case in some fresh light; there could be something more than that met the eye.
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