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Prey on the Prowl - A Crime Novel
Helped by Dhruva’s counseling in his ambient dwelling, as Kavya recovered from her trauma sooner than expected, she wished to go back to her place, but he said that he was not so naïve as to put his client’s life at risk. Radha chipped in saying that until the venom behind the poison was identified, it was better that Kavya stayed away from Spandan. As Radha added jokingly that she might deem it as a protective custody; Kavya said in half jest that she would like to earn her freedom by lending them her helping hand at catching the culprit. Bemused by their bonhomie, as he told Kavya that in the normal course she should have been senior to Radha; she said that she bore no grudge against her mate on that score. Meaning business, as Dhruva wanted Kavya to gather Ranjit’s past, she said that she would have a lot of ground to cover, for her in-laws were ever on the move, until they died four years back. While he felt that probing his immediate past might save much of that bother, as the impulse of a recent hurt would have a stronger urge for revenge, Kavya said that as she has a hunch that Ranjit’s premarital past might hold the key, it was as well that she delved into his distant past.
So in search of Ranjit’s past, as Kavya left for Guntur, where he stayed when they got married, Radha told Dhruva that Natya feared the worst as Pravar was mad at the loss of his ladylove. She said that as the poor Natya bore the brunt of his frustration, the vengeful Pravar could be expected to avenge himself on Kavya sooner than later; what was worse, he might force Natya to be an accomplice in the crime. It’s sad that Natya should have first fallen into Rajan’s criminal hands only to end up in Pravar’s vicious grip; how she wants that she could help her get out of the rut and put her under his care. Recalling the empathy Natya had induced in him that evening on the Tank Bund, as Dhruva told Radha that he would strive to end the Pravar menace, she said that she would love to see him effect a course correction in Natya life as he brought Kavya’s derailed life back on tracks. She said as and when that happens, Natya could be a redeemed soul and he felt that it would be possible only when Pravar was booked for some foul of his, but given that Ranjit’s killer was at large, as Kavya’s life could be imperiled, they should address that above all else.
She wanted to know whether Ranjit’s murder could be a perfect murder and he said that he was not sure about that yet, but to her poser ‘what’s a perfect murder’, he theorized that if the combined weight of irrefutable motive for committing the crime and its inalienable fruits of gain fail to nail the suspect, circumstantial evidence notwithstanding, it’s a perfect murder. As she whether it was possible, he detailed the plan and execution of a murder that was conceptually perfect.
He was the S.H.O of Saifabad police station, when young Neha came to report that Murali, her alcoholic husband, did not return home last night, and so she was worried whether something untoward had happened. He asked her whether she knew anyone could be inimical to her husband, she said sobbingly that he was his worst enemy; pressed by him further, she said that burdened by debts as he wound up his automobile business, he became a cynic, and, somehow, he convinced himself that a poor man’s wife was rich men’s plunder. So, suspecting her fidelity, he began alleging that she slept with all and sundry, and unable to bear the humiliation, she tried to commit suicide with an overdose of sleeping pills, but sadly for her, he only saved her in the nick of the moment. Maybe rattled by the incident, he developed self-pity and started talking in terms of ending his own life, and it was his psychological imbalance and the hazards of drunken driving that worried her. Dhruva enquired if she had brought Murali’s photograph along with her and she gave one for his reference and record.
While Dhruva was on his job to locate the missing person, Neha came to inform him the next day that Murali had returned but was depressed more than ever though she had urged him to treat it all as bygones be bygones; he was harping on his past to maintain that he had no right to live. Moved by her predicament, as Dhruva sounded sympathetic, she thanked him for his empathy, and said that she would try to persuade her man to consult a psychiatrist.
A week later, at an unmanned level crossing not far from Hyderabad, Murali’s body was retrieved from his Standard Ten, crushed on the railway tracks. As the graphologist confirmed that the writing of the suicide note found in Murali’s shirt pocket matched his handwriting and the post-mortem report indicated a drunken death on the tracks at ten-thirty that night, there was no reason to suspect foul play. But what if Neha’s visit to the police station was but a red herring, so he thought it fit to delve into her life and times, and as he heard it through the grapevine that Murali, suspecting her fidelity, was wont to ill-treat her, Dhruva wanted to probe the matter as probable murder.
On closure scrutiny, it was obvious that the suicide note was an odd tear-out from a foolscap paper and the tone and tenor of the text suggested that it could have been a part of some story, obviously penned by the deceased. That amused him for muse or no muse, these days; all are at writing, which made it difficult for the readers to separate the originals from the imitations. What if Neha got hold of some manuscript with the suicide note and all, returned by some magazine or the other and derived the idea to script Murali’s end with it, so Dhruva went round the magazine houses, in one of which, an assistant editor readily recalled the queer story with that suicide pitch, whose manuscript was returned to the sender only recently. And that naturally tilted the needle of suspicion towards Neha’s involvement, which made him confront her with his finding.
Owning up her guilt, Neha lamented that Murali used to treat her merely as a sexual object, that too when he could not take some whore or the other to bed and adding insult to injury, whenever he had her, he made that clear to her. How mean men can become to demean women, she lamented, and slighted thus, she seduced Mohan, Murali’s friend, for sex and self-worth. As Murali got wind of it, he calibrated his responses cunningly; as his cruelty towards her sunk to the depths of depravity so as to sponge on Mohan, he showed incredulous warmth towards him. Soon, she realized that her man was scheming to avenge himself on her paramour, by estranging his wife Nalini from him; well, Mohan owed his wealth and all to the benevolence of his in-laws. Not wanting to be the cause of Mohan’s ruin, she alerted him to Murali’s designs, and offered to end their liaison. But afraid of Murali’s potential for mischief, Mohan thought of eliminating him through a supari killing, but fearing that the foolhardy of a third party could ruin it all for them, she chartered the course of that murder as by then she had in her hands that fatal manuscript.
On that fateful day, she induced Murali to drink all day and when he was dead drunk, and as planned, for an alibi, Mohan and she purchased those first-show tickets at the Odeon Theatre, which they left as soon as the movie began. Reaching home hastily, she induced the drunken Murali to let her take him to the outskirts for fresh air, and drove him to the earmarked place in their Standard Ten, followed Mohan in his Maruti, which he had earlier parked in a lane nearby her house. Steering the Standard Ten onto the desolate railway tracks, and having helped the drunken Murali to rest on the steering wheel, she herself sat next to him until the scheduled train speeded in. Glad for the good riddance of the bad rubbish and proud of that perfect murder, they drove back to the city in Mohan’s Maruti.
Radha wondered how Neha’s righteousness motivated her to murder her man, Dhruva opined that it only proved that life was a bundle of contradictions and crime was an ingredient part of it. Won’t one species kill the other for self-preservation? What else was Murali’s murder but a means of warding off Mohan’s ill-being, and not wanting to derail her blissful future that her abused past had earned for her, he closed the matter as a case of suicide.
Admiring his empathy for the ‘preys on the prowl’ and sinking into his arms, Radha said that it would appear that without some divine hand to guide it, there could never be a perfect murder, and added that should things mundane ever make it imperfect, it was as if, the culprit could still count on him.
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