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Prey on the Prowl - A Crime Novel
Next day, as Simon reached 9, Castle Hills, with a woman constable in tow, to apprehend Radha, as if on a cue, Dhruva kept away from the scene.
When Radha, who remained haughty, wanted to know what were the charges brought against her, Simon informed her that she was being arraigned on the charge of murdering Ranjit, Shakeel, Pravar and Natya, in that order. Overwhelmed though by the unexpected turn of the events, as she remained cool and wanted to know what evidence Simon had against her, he said that her fingerprints were found on the bottle containing the poison that was traced in the victims’ viscera. Rattling her further, as Simon showed her the damning photograph of hers with Ranjit, seeing that her game was up, she asked him whether Dhruva was privy to all that. When Simon revealed that it was the detective who had gathered all the evidences against her, a shattered Radha offered to surrender.
When the cop produced her before the court, as Radha said that she was willing to confess to her crime, the magistrate led her into his chambers to record her statement.
I, Radha, w/o late Madhu, r/o 13, Red Hills, Hyderabad, she began to dictate calmly, confess to having willfully poisoned not only Ranjit but also Shakeel, Pravar and Natya. I am aware that this averment, being made on my own volition, could be used against me in my trial, and I have no reservations on that count for it is not my intention to evade sentence. It is not the aim of this painful confession to earn sympathy or reprieve for myself as I am looking forward to the gallows to end my burden of living. After my ventures into those adventures, surely an act of murder is no mean an adventure, now I seek death that deals with the unknown as it is the biggest adventure of life. When Ranjit ditched me though I was pregnant with his child, I blamed only myself as I yielded to him blindly and then eloped with him naively. But his later day refusal to help the hapless Raghu, the son I bore for him, that too after using me all again, induced in me an enduring hatred for him. I came to see him as the cause of my fall and began to abhor him with all my heart, and as Madhu, the man I married, started humiliating Raghu by calling him a bastard, my bitterness to the deserter only increased. When my boy, unable to bear the slights, committed suicide on the railway track, how I wished that Ranjit met the same fate, but how I were to know that a worse fate awaited me.
Pravar, who had poisoned his sister Mala and Madhu who kept her, had succeeded in misleading Shakeel into believing that it was my handiwork, and that set me on a ruinous course. Oh, failing to make me sign on the dotted line for his credit of cracking the case, the cop developed an urge to get even with me, and on the pretext of collecting clues, how he routinely took me out and raped me at gunpoint. Worse still, he began sharing me with a magistrate to let him illegally detain me, and how I endured the ordeal before I was let out on bail that was after both of them had had their fill, I only knew.
When I saw that live coverage of the telecast, in which Shakeel claimed Pravar as the kingpin of the counterfeit racket, though I felt the latter got his just desserts, I was seized with an urge to avenge against the former. As if guided by the hand of combined destiny - of the prey and its hounds - I chanced to see Detective Dhruva’s ad for a lady assistant. Sensing that a stint as his assistant might lead me to the avenues of avenge though rendering me vulnerable to the detective’s charms, a welcome prospect for a single woman anyway, I ventured into his amorous arena to get even with my tormentors.
When I saw Dhruva, it was love at first sight for me, and as he too was enamored of me, I wanted to forget about the past and build my future with him. But how I were to know that afflicted by Stockholm Syndrome, Kavya would be pushing Ranjit and Pravar back onto my anvil of avenge, and if anything, as my proximity to Dhruva brought Shakeel too onto my radar, I found myself drawing the triangle of revenge. As if their fate had beckoned me, I laid my hands on that potion of slow acting poison; in a way my fate had combined with theirs to play foul with my life that I was recasting it in the mould of love! Sadly, my need for a guinea pig to test its potency and to calibrate the right dosage to seal their fate made Dicey the first collateral victim of my vengeance.
When I heard about Kavya’s affair with Pravar, I gloated over her fall, for it would hurt Ranjit no end, before I would see his end, and seized with an urge to see the turmoil of a cuckold, I contrived to meet him. When he begged me to forget the past and grant it to him again, I led him up the garden path; what a vicarious pleasure I had as I tortured him before I ended it all for him with that fatal dose! By then as my love for Dhruva began to rule my heart and mind quenching my thirst for revenge, I forgave Shakeel and forgot about Pravar. But at Dhruva’s behest, as Shakeel began probing Ranjit’s past, I saw the need to catch him before he caught me, if only not to lose my love and he fell into my trap when I invited him to share some clues to tie Kavya’s hands with Ranjit’s murder. When we met in my Red Hills house, I induced him to have some drinks with me, and he agreed, hoping that the rendezvous might end up in my bed, only to end up dead in his own bed. What with my old wounds having opened up, I wanted to train my guns on the ‘malicious magistrate’ as well, and to my peculiar disappointment, I came to know that the blackguard was dead and gone.
While Ranjit’s death removed the bitterness of my past, Shakeel’s end threatened my future for Dhruva started believing in Kavya’s innocence and began leaning towards her. Beset by jealousy, as I was bugged to keep her away from him, it occurred to me that if Pravar were to be poisoned in her house, it would be hard for Dhruva not to suspect her hand in it. So, I accessed her door key from her handbag, got the duplicates made and raked my brains for a plan that would have spared Natya and yet snared Pravar into Spandan. How badly I wanted to tend her as my daughter being Dhruva’s wife, but failing to conceive any escape route to her, sadly I had to sacrifice her as I did Dicey before. So, when Kavya left for Guntur to probe into Ranjit’s past, I made Natya believe that while she herself was away for an alibi, Kavya had arranged their supari killing. I convinced Natya that the safest place for them to hide was Spandan, and, so, she led Pravar, and sadly, herself as well, into my trap. When Natya came to collect the key of their deathtrap, I made her wear a burka and gave her the poisoned food for dinner, and promised to fetch them breakfast the next morning.
Dhruva, in spite of it all, stuck with Kavya, and that perplexed as well as perturbed me for I was torn between the sisterly feeling I developed for her and the womanly jealousy that his interest in her induced in me. When it became clear to me that it was a question of her neck or my neck, I sought to implicate her with the ‘poison bottle’, and to my dismay, Dhruva saved the day for her by replacing the poison with some harmless potion. Maybe, what spoiled the show for me was Ranjit’s photograph with me, and it’s as if he had avenged himself for his death at my hands, never mind, while alive, he murdered me emotionally. Was it a poetic justice in a prosaic way, I would never know!
Radha finished in tears as those present could barely hold theirs, and as she signed her confessional statement, the magistrate ordered her judicial custody, and Kavya’s unconditional release.
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