Started at (K)nighted Men-Part 1

Contd from If not her then who?-Part 13

And he wasn’t much of a husband, anyways.

***

Mala walked away from the man. Still staring at nothingness as she moved. And so she never quite realised when she almost bumped into Inspector Salim.

Not so tall and neither so conspicuous in person, she could hardly be blamed for missing him.

“A rather strange coincidence,” but his voice could not be ignored. Not even if it was heard in a group of sounds.

She stopped short and looked up. Her face revealed no change. As if she almost expected him to be around.

She took a deep breath and said, ” Maybe another surprise meeting at Indira street is needed.”

And with that softly threatening voice she left.

***

Inspector Salim was more amused than shocked at that open warning. He thought to himself that if she was a suspect she sure didn’t have the brains to be one. And yet something about her told him that she could not be completely struck off from the guilty list.

Who was that man she was with? And why did they look so sad and jointly guilty? What was the secret they had been hiding in that two line conversation a while back? And was it related to Rehan or his death or both?

“Ramlal, have you heard of someone called Sudha before?” and in that soft hint he gave a clue to his next stop.

***

“It has been years like I told you. We left for Aligarh and that was that. Hardly have we spent an hour looking out for her,” his voice bore the same sternness as was present years ago.

“But Sudha was your own daughter. Didn’t it cross your mind to find out where she went? More importantly, why,” hardly seconds must have passed before the old man changed his expression to perhaps reflect anger. But that too lasted hardly a flash.

“Were you there Mr. Salim?” he suddenly asked in an uneven tone.

Salim simply shrugged and said, “Where?”

“The night my wife met you. I mean when we both met you,” his sarcasm probably gave way. Gave way to a notion that Sudha’s missing was not a happy event in many ways.

Salim could only nod in affirmation.

“Then you know it isn’t something we wish to discuss. We are not open about it. More importantly the question you asked today. The why,” and with that tone finality in his voice he began to get up.

Salim had no choice but to leave.

Right at the time that he reached for the knob, Salim turned and said, “We feel she is responsible for many murders over the last few years. The pattern is uncannily pointing to her through red herrings and unconnected clues.”

He left his plea open ended. Knowing fully well that more couldn’t be expected presently.

***

Sudha watched him sleep. Deeply. After about a while she heard him struggle. Not violently but in that soft storm sort of way. Living his final moments in the same way as his life. Mildly disturbed and never overtly expressive.

And he wasn’t much of a husband, anyways.

contd. at There was no other choice-Part 15

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