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Prey on the Prowl - A Crime Novel
While Simon took Kavya to the Chanchalguda Jail in his jeep, Dhruva drove Radha straight to Spandan in his Esteem, reaching which he collected the door keys from the guard.
Radha alerted him to a heap of burkas on the clothesline in the master bedroom’s attached toilet, and seeing him seemingly unenthused, she proposed that she might wear one of them to have a feel of it. Saying in jest that even that tent-of-a-garment might fail to hide the alluring features of her hourglass figure, he let her take him around the bungalow before he led her out of it. Getting into the car, she reminded him about the burkas, and thanked him for not having put her through the choking regimen, and as he remained silent, she became anxious and asked him what was bothering him. When he said pensively that he was only wondering how odd it could be when women wore kept mum thereafter.
Dropping her at home, Dhruva drove to the forensic laboratory, where he learned that while the main door key retained by Kavya had traces of wax on it; the other two retrieved from the bank locker were dry and clean. Beset with the mixed feelings the findings induced in him, he reached the Jubilee Hills police station to know what the original Godrej lock had to reveal. Revealing that the lock was unhampered, as Simon maintained that the very fact had tilted the needle of suspicion back towards Kavya, Dhruva told him that for the very reason he could see her un-involvement in the crime coming to the fore.
Over drinks that evening, Radha said that luckily for Kavya, the court didn’t reckon her motive to murder Shakeel though it was apparent that she didn’t take it kindly to the cop for having falsely implicated Pravar in the fake-notes case. Wasn’t it her wont to identify Pravar’s detractors as her enemies before Dhruva could clear her head ruled by the ‘Stockholm Syndrome’? Besides, having shed the Pravar blinkers was she not enamored of Dhruva, and were it not possible that she might have thought of erasing her past by eliminating Pravar and Natya to usher in a new romance in her life?
Dhruva said that she had to wait for the answers until he cut the Gordian knot to free Kavya under siege, and added in jest that in the meantime she better reined in her jealousy; turning coy, she told him that her own future seemed to be under siege by his empathy for her rival. He tried to make light of her remark but as she said she was afraid that she was no match to her rival, he told her jocularly that to keep up her spirits; he would like to keep her on high. She said that she was a game for that and turning away Raju whenever he came to fetch them for dinner Dhruva goaded her to get drunk. After dinner, seeing her in slumber, he wondered if he was excessively lenient towards Kavya and thought, in the same vein, whether he was unnecessarily suspicious of Radha. Torn between the woman he made his own and the woman he eyed, he resolved to see Radha’s place for whatever it had in store for Kavya’s fate. So as Raju kept a watch on her in 9, Castle Hills, Dhruva sneaked out of her bed and set out on his nocturnal mission with a bunch of assorted keys.
Opening the cupboards in Radha’s Red Hills house and rummaging through their contents, he found a photograph of hers, in her teens, with another teen that seemed to be Rani her half-namesake, staring at which, he turned nostalgic. When he broke open the locker of her steel almirah, he was depressed at finding a bottle of some potion along with two crudely made keys matching with that of Spandan’s Godrej lock. Not wanting to believe what he had seen, he looked for burkas, just in case, and finding none, keeping the main door ajar, he left the place with the duplicate keys and a sample of the potion. Reaching home in a dilemma as to how to handle Radha the murderess, he relieved Raju from his vigil on Radha.
Sneaking into her bed and watching a serene Radha in her sleep, Dhruva tried to read her mind; maybe, she had reason to see Pravar’s end, but didn’t she seem to be fond of Natya? Surely, she bore a grudge against Shakeel, but was it Ranjit who had jilted her? If so, won’t these bits and pieces jell well to form an inimical whole? Was it really the case? Bogged down by myriad thoughts about Radha’s motives, Dhruva had a disturbed sleep.
Next morning, as Radha went to serve him bed coffee, seeing her demeanor, Dhruva found it hard to picture her as a murderess, but during their breakfast, he saw a change of color in her as she received a call on her mobile. Saying that a friend of hers had a tiff with her man, as she had to rush out to help, it was clear to him that it was the anticipated call about the burglary in her house; after all, he did leave the main door ajar for some neighbor to smell the rat. After Radha left him, with the ever-expanding ‘volume of evidence’ against her, he rushed to the forensic laboratory with the keys and the sample fluid he collected from her house.
Seeing Radha regain her composure when he returned, Dhruva asked her what came out of her counseling, and she dismissed that as a false alarm as her friend’s husband was a regular wife-beater, he only thrashed her a little more than usual. While she wondered why her friend was averse to divorcing him, he said women in an abusive relationship tend to perceive themselves as martyrs, and it could be hard to pull them out of their inimical groove, in which they came live in a psychic state of bliss.
That evening when Dhruva went back to the forensic laboratory, he came to know that the potion was a slow acting poison like the one that caused the deaths under investigation and the keys found in her place were crude imitations of Spandan’s Godrej door key. What with the incriminating evidence in hand, Dhruva felt like confronting Radha with it, but, on second thoughts, he realized that she was bound to dismiss them as his plants to implicate her for saving Kavya. Besides, there was no way to link her to the murders without a compelling motive to kill each one of them; after all the public prosecutor had failed to persuade the court for Kavya’s custody notwithstanding mounds of circumstantial evidence backed by irrefutable motives to kill Ranjit and Pravar, if not Shakeel and Natya. What was worse, the court might infer that Kavya, even in judicial custody, was trying to influence justice by aiding and abetting him, and that won’t do any good for her cause; its better to bide his time till he gathered the missing link to complete the chain of evidence against Radha.
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