contd from The Puppet Show- Part 3
One final outing and the nails on the coffin would soon arrive.
* * *
“All of them. All of them seem to be of the same person” the sketch artist’s words still haunted me. Why had I not noticed it before? The play was set right after every murder. No he was not cocky about his skills, he was rather insecure and so the red herrings each time. He wanted us to start late. To get on the trail later than what we would have in first place.
“Ram Bahadur, Ram Bahadur,” I called out for the head constable.
He came running with his lathi in hand. He also knew the call was for duty, it was for action.
“Sahab gaadi tayiyaar hai bahar,” he spoke crisply.
“Suhelika madam office ayee wapas?” I asked him.
He shook his head in negative.
* * *
The game was very simple, it was so simple that if it hadn’t been the red herrings it was game over from first murder. And the killer knew this. He also could understand the limitations of his own escape. There were too many clues leading to him, his victims had a pattern and it was that which scared him.
Here we were always thinking it to be some stranger, a random psychopath. Psychopath part was still true.
“Yes doctor?” I picked up the phone to answer his call.
“We will be there in another five minutes,” I replied hurriedly.
* * *
“Your doubt was correct, he had been given a heavy dose of hallucinatory drugs. If it had not been for your prompt action, we might have lost him. Many have turned mad due to them. For now he is recovering, we would suggest you don’t intimidate him a lot. This way,” the doctor proceeded to enter the room on the right.
We found Kaushik to be sitting propped up with support of pillows. He was looking blank and numb, a state which spoke about his own guilt and perhaps confusions.
I don’t know why but ever since I have captured Kaushik in Ooty a strange kind of sympathy I have begun to feel for him. It was because the strings around him look to be so apparent. It never seems like he is slightly aware of his situation. And now strangely no matter how expressionless he looked, the gravity of the incident was reflected on his face.
“Where can we find him?” I asked him softly.
He looked up, astounded to have realised that the game was over so simply. He must have thought there would be some more grilling, some torture in words but this was turning out to be nothing of that sort.
He picked the scrap of paper on the side and scribbled something and gave to us.
* * *
When had I known the identity of the killer? Not known but yes slightly doubted when Ram Bahadur told me that the lady stammered. And then when the sketch artist told me how all four witnesses were same. And then when I realised that Kaushik had been given hallucinatory drugs. But were all these enough to conclude? I mean there could be many who stammered? And many who have had a history with hallucinatory drugs? Why was I so sure?
It was that panic look he had given me. The man I knew also realised how the pieces were falling. I have a strange feeling he knew it much before.
We were outside the door of the address Kaushik had given to us. It was an old dilapidated building and I knew he was inside. I had seen shadows moving across the hall. The hall was very dimly lit but enough for one to understand the house was not empty.
Game was long over. This was just the ceremony to announce its end.
The knock on the door was soft and the person in the room was in no hurry to welcome guests it seemed. Of course this was not going to be a guest entry. He was better than that. He knew people were closing in on him. Perhaps he was on his way out of the city, packing bags.
“Ram Bahadur,” I whispered very softly.
In one quick kick the tattered door broke open. Inside we saw him with a knife in one hand and a bag hung over the other. The plan to escape had been quick. He knew Kaushik had recovered.
“I will kill myself if you make one move,” he stammered.
Around him I saw white hair wigs, a maroon saree, the horn rimmed glasses and many more of his disguises.
“I promise we will give you a fair chance. I assure you the trial will be quick and you will have the best defense possible,” I shouted out to him.
“Another move and this knife goes through me,” he stammered more.
“You and I go a long way back. We have been through worse. I promise you the best possible arrangements will be made. Running will ruin your chances, I will not be able to protect you if you run. Turn yourself in. Trust me,” I shouted again, this time the emotions of helplessness crept in my tone.
For a moment I thought the knife would go in but then something about him changed. He stammered a few words incoherently and the knife dropped from his hand.
I ran to collect the weapon and quickly handed it over to Ram Bahadur.
I saw him squatting on the floor looking desolate and dejected. There was very little I could do to make him realise that I knew he was not to be blamed. His condition was deteriorating he had always needed to be admitted to an asylum but then who could convince his father? For him his son was perfectly alright.
* * *
The Commissioner was sitting on his leather chair and reading a book. At two in the night to even have him in the office was a strange idea but well he took his job rather seriously.
“Sir,” I spoke politely.
He looked up and smiled.
“Shekhawat! How are you lad? At this time in office? The wife hasn’t returned I assume,” he spoke cheerfully.
“Sir that case in which six women were murdered in six days,” I spoke crisply.
He shut his book and kept it on the side. I knew I had his complete attention.
“We caught the murderer tonight. He is currently being interrogated,” I continued.
“Any details about him?” I asked me.
I paused for a while.
“Sir its Rohan,” I replied slowly.
He didn’t answer instantly, the emotions flickered on his face for a moment.
“I am happy with your work Shekhawat. You have performed your duty in the best way possible. Now I don’t want you to be soft on him only because he is my only son or your best friend,” he answered without once looking up at me.
I only nodded slightly, inside my heart was breaking into a million pieces.
* * *