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Prey on the Prowl - A Crime Novel
With Kavya in judicial custody, Simon had redoubled his efforts to nail her down, but seeing no scope for a breakthrough, he thought it was an idea to ascertain the goings on in her camp. When Simon made it to 9, Castle Hills that evening, inviting him to have drinks with Radha and him, Dhruva began to mix a Bagpiper large with soda. Though Simon said that he wanted a private audience with Dhruva, handing him his drink, and holding out his glass to clink, Dhruva said that Radha being his confident and companion, he should have no hesitation in opening up in her presence.
Simon said that, as Dhruva would be aware, the press that dubbed the cases as ‘poison murders’, began ridiculing the police for their failure to nab the culprits, and lamented how all the clues to Kavya’ culpability came to naught. Dhruva told him that if a criminal investigation were to be driven by an urge to fix someone we want to see as the guilty one that would only end up being in a no man’s land. Simon said that, maybe, it was wrong to club all the murders together, Dhruva said that thanks to the media, all knew that a woman in burka could have poisoned Ranjit; what if someone thought of eliminating Shakeel in a like fashion to make it seem as a sequel to it, and if anything, the cumulative publicity of both these murders would have encouraged yet another to adopt the same tactic to do away Pravar, if not Natya, who might have been an unintended victim, being his constant companion.
Simon agreed that though it was the right approach to de-link the deaths, yet he had a hunch that Kavya, with her exposure to law and her acquaintance with a criminal was readymade to be a murderess and added that with a little bit of luck, he might stumble upon the evidence to nail her, and have the last laugh as well. Wondering whether Simon was aiming his gun at him, Dhruva told him that he should not mistake his own empathy for the accused as his proclivity to shield her; he would surely alert the cop if ever he found incriminating evidence against any.
With only four days remaining of Kavya’s judicial custody, as Simon wanted to get her remand extended by another fortnight, the public prosecutor told him that unless he came up with some tangible reasons for her continued detention, the court was bound to grant her unconditional bail. As Simon was reconciled to Kavya’s release, the receptionist informed him that a woman rang up to inform that some vital clues pertaining to the ‘poison murders’ could be found at 9, Castle Hills, and that placed him in a dilemma. Would it be fair to raid the place as Dhruva gave his word to alert him, if ever he finds any evidence against any? Maybe, he could be oblivious of the inimical clues as he would not have pried upon Kavya, his client and a guest as well, but, as is evident, Radha could have stumbled upon something. Was it not obvious that she was the informer?
Simon thought that it was his police dharma to act on the specific lead, and so as he descended upon 9, Castle Hills, with a search warrant, Dhruva said that he didn’t think there were any skeletons in his cupboards. When Simon said apologetically that to begin with, he would like to confine the search to Kavya’s quarters, Dhruva said that if warranted, he was welcome to scan the entire premises. What with a bottle of some potion readily found beneath Kavya’s cupboard, as an elated Simon signaled the end, Dhruva insisted that he would like to retain a sample of the same for its validation; when formalities of signing the papers and sealing the samples were over, Simon left with one of those to the forensic labs.
Watching the developments from the sidelines till then and wondering why he was not perturbed as expected, as Radha said where all that would lead Kavya to, Dhruva said that he hoped that the arm of her fate would overpower the hidden hand of adversity, and unable to comprehend his state of mind, she withdrew into her room. But finding him morose even at the luncheon time, she said in jest what if she substituted Kavya in jail to see if she can enliven him at home, and in repartee, he said what if the jailor, lost to her allure, lost the key of her cell as well. Bewildered by the turn of his phrase, she espied his demeanor to probe his mind, but confronted by a poker face, she thought better of it and so retired to her room.
After his siesta, while Dhruva was waiting for Simon’s call, Raju delivered him the mail that contained one from Rani, which made him expectant for it seemed to contain some photograph, which he thought could be that of their lovechild. But as it turned out to be an old snap of Radha with Ranjit, even as he initially felt relieved for Kavya’s sake, he remained sad for long on Radha’s account. Recovering, he gathered from the letter that though Rani was away in Delhi, she felt their son made her feel ever near to him. When Shyamala, her auntie, wrote to her that Kavya had been enquiring about her husband Ranjit’s past, she could guess who that was, for the Operation Checkmate was ever fresh in her memory and that the information was to be sent to 9, Castle Hills, had only confirmed her conjecture. Radha in the picture, who was close to her at school, fell in love with Ranjit, their neighbor in Waltair, with whom she had eloped to Guntur. Radha had given her their supposedly wedding photograph, just in case, but soon, as she herself shifted to Hyderabad; they lost contact with each other. Had she heeded to Dhruva’s suggestion to meet Ranjit that day in 9, Castle Hills, maybe she would have identified him as the one who ditched her friend. She began wondering whether Radha the suspected murderess that Dhruva mistook herself for, was indeed Radha, her friend, in the photograph. If her information was of any use to him, Rani wrote in conclusion, she would feel that she had contributed to his cause, which might recompense him for her false entry into his life as a pseudo assistant.
Wondering how the one-time friends, unknown to each other, as if to make the world seem small, had converged on him to serve their own ends, for long he reminisced the time he spent with both of them. When it dawned on him that Rani, his live-in partner when he rescued Kavya, should have provided the material to pin down Radha, her old friend, he saw the irony of life and the hand of destiny in the affairs of man.
When Dhruva reached the Jubilee Hills police station, a sheepish looking Simon greeted him as the ‘poison’ that he seized from Kavya’s room turned out to be an inane solution. Shamed by the fiasco, as Simon apologized, Dhruva, who, trusted him by then, briefed him all about his housebreak into Radha’s Red Hills house, and theorized the aftermath thus: he was quick to realize that Radha would shift the deadly thing into 9, Castle Hills, for its safekeeping though that could also spell Kavya’s doom. So, unknown to Radha, he replaced the bottle with a similar one with that harmless look-alike potion, and with Kavya’s release on hand, she planted the ‘fake thing’ beneath Kavya’s cupboard and induced the police to search for it. When Dhruva reminded Simon about the parody on the adulterated liquor - the Scotch you drink is not the Scotch you think you drink – and said that the bottle that Radha planted beneath Kavya’s cupboard did not contain the poison that she thought it contained; the cop’s face wore the look of a devout.
Wiser for his reverses, as Simon wanted the proof of Radha having possessed the ‘real thing’ before he acted against her, Dhruva gave him the original bottle with poison that was bound to contain her fingerprints. While Simon still remained skeptical, for him to picture her motive to murder Ranjit, who jilted her, Dhruva showed him the wedding photograph of Radha with Ranjit, and on their way to the forensic laboratory, the detective appraised the cop about the story of Radha’s life abused by Ranjit, scandalized by Pravar and brutalized by Shakeel.
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