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Prey on the Prowl - A Crime Novel
When they reached Spandan, as Dhruva recalled his earlier rendezvous, Kavya gave him a free rein to scan her dwelling; as she ushered him into the master bedroom, unable to take his off at the wedding photograph on the wall, he said that she looked divine in her bridal attire but as she flung herself onto the bed sobbing, he apologized for his indiscretion, and she, affected by his empathy, was impelled to confide in him tearfully.
Ranjit was mean and selfish besides being secretive and so she could never bring herself to love him, but remained faithful to him until the wayward Pravar came into her life. During her captivity, she could discern the sublime side of Pravar’s savage nature as opposed to the selfish core of Ranjit’s suave exterior. When Shakeel falsely implicated Pravar in a crime that he was not guilty of, her empathy for him prompted her to take up the cudgels on his behalf, which he mistook as a sign of her weakness for him, and sadly, she had to yield to him in spite of herself, and, what was worse, he began pestering her to divorce Ranjit. She had reasons to suspect that having got wind of her affair, to spite her, Ranjit had developed liaison with a woman and his mysterious death, besides adding to her guilt, made her even more vulnerable to Pravar’s pressure. Oh, how her wayward ways undermined her orderly life, pushing her to the precipice of vice in the end.
Dhruva, affected by her misery, made her privy to the ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ and explained how she got herself into the mess. Shocked as well as relieved in the same vein as she clutched at his hand, he said why did not Ranjit, whom he had apprised about it, made her privy to it. Surprised, she asked him when it was and realizing the slip and wanting to avoid a premature disclosure; he said that it was when he came to seek his counseling on account of her affair. Pondering for a while, she pleaded with him to help her out of the psychic mess she got into, and he assured her that he had already made it his obsession; she said that her only hope was that he would help her out of Pravar’s hold and clear the air off her in her husband’s murder. Moved by her blind faith in him he said that he would go to lengths for her sake and gratified no end, she said that she believed he was the right man to set right her chaotic life. Hugging her lightly, he asked her what she thought about the possibility of Pravar having poisoned Ranjit and without withdrawing herself from his fold; she said that he had an alibi in her. He said what if Pravar had induced Natya, or hired some other woman, to do the job for him; she said mischievously that it was for him to delve into the matter.
Dhruva wanted to know who could be the woman in liaison with Ranjit and she said that though he knew that he received the other woman at home, when she herself was away, the woman always ensured that she never left any clues to her visits; her neighbors told her that she always came in a burka, and used to change it at every turn. Well, from the smell of the things in the house, she was certain that the same woman was with him before he was poisoned. He asked her why she didn’t catch her man red-handed with that woman and she said that she felt she had no moral right to do so.
When Dhruva got up to leave, Kavya offered to drive him back to his place, but he said that though that would enable him more of her welcome company, yet he wouldn’t want her to drive an extra meter on Hyderabad roads. Seeing him off at the gate, and espying him as he walked down the lane, she mulled over his words and felt that they conveyed his interest in her, as well as his concern for her. What with her self-worth getting a boost with his attentions, she craved to have more of the same, and as he turned his head towards her on his way, pleased with herself, she waved at him all the way.
Reaching home in an auto rickshaw as he briefed Radha about the developments on the Kavya front, Dhruva could notice a change of color in her demeanor, which he attributed to the feminine proclivity of sexual insecurity. While she sought to probe his mind, as he put the ball in her court with her ‘Pravar might have used Natya to poison Ranjit’ theory, she said that on second thoughts she was veering round to the view that it was the handiwork of Pravar in nexus with Kavya for they had the shared motive as well as the common means to commit the crime. Wanting to have something concrete than her conjecture, when he said that they better waited for Shakeel’s report about Ranjit’s past, she asked him to caution the cop as he might be high on Pravar’s hit-list and added that Kavya too bore a grudge against him and thus can be expected to aid and abet the brat.
What with Radha bringing him back to square one, Dhruva wondered whether Kavya’s confession was but a red herring, all the same seeing a need to extend the scope of the investigation beyond the known characters. He reckoned that when the ill motives of the natural suspects to commit a murder are an open secret, someone with a hidden agenda might be tempted to use that as a camouflage for his subterfuge.
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