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Prey on the Prowl - A Crime Novel
Closeting with a nonplussed Kavya when Dhruva asked her about her house keys, she pulled out a key from her purse, and told him that after Ranjit’s death, she got the old Godrej lock replaced with a new one and kept the other two keys in the bank locker along with her jewelry and a bunch of cupboards’ keys, which she volunteered to show him. Giving him possession of the key, as she led him to the Andhra Bank, he asked her what for she got the door bolt removed while replacing the door lock, and apparently surprised, she said that she had no idea about it. When he asked her what made her leave her burkas on the clothes-line in her bathroom, swearing that she never wore a burka all her life, she wondered who might have planted them there to implicate her in the murder.
When they reached the bank, greeting her warmly, the manger wondered why she became so scarce of late; as she told him the purpose of her visit, he helped her complete the formalities, and she led Dhruva to the locker, from which she retrieved two door keys with a bunch of other keys, which she entrusted to him. As she looked at him in hope, he said that if the post-mortem report were to imply foul play, Simon was sure to arrest her and press for her custodial questioning. When she lamented how her past came to haunt her, hugging her lightly as if to demonstrate his trust in her, he said that she better obtained an anticipatory bail, before he could bail her out of her predicament. She said that she better subjected herself to the due process of law to come out clean as she was confident of defending herself in the court, in all admiration, he assured her that he would get to the bottom of the crime for truth to prevail. Nonetheless, updating all the murders to help her fashion her arguments to avoid remand, he dropped her at their place and headed to the forensic laboratory with those keys.
As soon as the post-mortem revealed that Pravar and Natya died of poisoning, Simon armed with an arrest warrant and accompanied by a woman police, descended on 9, Castle Hills, and led away Kavya to the Jubilee Hills police station for questioning. The next day, watched by Dhruva and Radha from the gallery of that Nampally Sessions Court, Simon produced Kavya before Purushottam Rao the magistrate, and the Public Prosecutor, Jeevan Reddy recapped Kavya’s life from the time of her self-confessed association with Pravar until his death in Spandan, along with Natya his companion. As Kavya heard him impassively, turning eloquent, he stated that she could have murdered her husband at the behest of Pravar, her paramour, who would have brooked no rival in her bed, and, later tired of the rut she willy-nilly got into, got rid of him too, to get out of it. Besides, her hand of guilt that poisoned her husband would have developed an urge to eliminate the abettor lover, and it was immaterial whether she had a motive or not, to murder Natya, as, if left alive, she would have exposed the indicted to get the noose. Wasn’t it was a case of her neck or Natya’s, and the choice would be clear even to a novice of a defense lawyer.
What can be more incriminating against the indicted, Reddy exhorted, than the fact that three deaths occurred in her house and those who died after consuming some slow-acting poison were all close to her. Besides, there was an eyewitness to testify that a burka-clad woman, who could be the accused, had entered the house the day the couple could have been poisoned. He asserted that as the circumstantial evidence pointed towards Kavya’s involvement in the murder of not only Pravar and Natya but also Ranjit, her husband, her custodial interrogation was imperative in cracking the cases. Averring that if let loose, she would be able to tamper with whatever little evidence that would have been left to implicate her, and by way of the final nail on her bail coffin, he had insinuated that she had misused the anticipatory bail granted to her in her husband’s murder case by killing her paramour and his companion; so he sought police custody of her for a fortnight at the least.
Permitted by the court to argue her own case, Kavya owned up the facts of her life as brought out by the prosecution, but pointed out that the Public Prosecutor suffered from selective amnesia as he had conveniently forgotten that the same poison also killed Shakeel, and that he too was last seen with a burka-clad woman. What if all the four murders were the handiwork of the woman, who allegedly poisoned Shakeel, and since she had no acquaintance, much less a motive to kill him, the police should have looked elsewhere for the killer of what appeared to be interconnected crimes. When she reminded the court that logic was a double-edged sword that cuts both ways, Reddy said that she would have killed Shakeel to advance such an argument; but the magistrate, by no means amused with that wondered why the police failed to pursue that line of investigation since the identity of the burka-clad woman, last seen with the cop, is seemingly relevant to the investigation of the other two cases.
As Reddy said that he had no more to add, the magistrate opined that while the accused at large might hamper the investigation, it was not a fair proposition either to interrogate her without compelling reasons, but at the same time as he had to take the public interest also into account, he ruled that Kavya might remain in the judicial custody for four weeks, before which the police should produce prima-facie evidence, if any, against her, failing which she would be entitled to seek her unconditional release thereafter.
Thanking the magistrate for his fairness, Kavya submitted that continued police presence in her precincts was inimical to her public image and Simon volunteered to withdraw the guard forthwith.
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