Before The Inquest — Who Killed Nina Daruwalla — Part 5 (Fiction)

Read part 1: The Lover, here.

Read part 2: The Ex-husband, here.

Read part 3: The Reporter, here.

Read part 4: Cousin Pari, here.

Friday.

“8:40 pm!” Praveen Bhaskar Shinde exclaimed to himself. He was on the road, riding his bike to the last delivery address for the day – Regal Apartments. The time limit for deliveries was 9 pm.

‘Chailaa*, what a life!” He sighed, before vrooming ahead.

He reached outside the main gate of Regal Apartments at 8:53 pm. The watchman gave him the once-over and got back to his earbuds and his mobile phone. He got to the walkway at the ground floor and turned off the ignition. The lights were on in the flats above him. The ground floor was empty and dark, and served as the parking lot. There was faint white light coming from two lamps at the far side of the building.

He unstuck his phone from the bike and swiped from the Map app to the dialler. He turned on the device’s flashlight and checked out the contact number of the client on the delivery sheet. He keyed in the digits and pressed dial.

One ring. Two. Three. Full ring. No response.

“Please, please, pick up.”

He parked the bike and took out the package from the bag hung over from both sides of the pillion seat. He strode to the lift and pressed the buzzer.

“Lucky me,” he thought, as the lift was at the ground floor itself.

He came out of the lift on the 17th floor and walked around for a second, unsure which direction flat 177 was.

8:58 pm.

He could smell fried food and hear faint sounds coming from a cricket match on a television. But there was no one in the lobby.

To his left was F-172, and to his right was F-179.

“Okay so, left and back,” he surmised. He galloped to the customer’s flat. The name on the door matched the one on his sheet. He pressed the bell.

8:59 pm!

“Still in time,” he smiled.

He waited.

No answer.

He pressed the bell again.

No answer.

He looked at his watch. 9:00 pm!

He knocked on the door, careful not to be too loud. But to his surprise, the door moved in.

“Huh! Not locked?”

He waited.

He knocked on the ajar door, with a growing urgency this time. The flat was in the dark.
No response.

“Fuck this. I should call out the customer.”

He checked the name on the page and pushed open the door.

“Madam?”

All of a sudden, the lights came on in the room, bathing it in a shade of milk. Praveen was taken aback for a moment, before he adjusted to the light.

The rest of the words stuck in his throat, as he saw his customer staring straight at him, unblinking.

Even before his brain received the visual shock from his eyes, Praveen dropped the package and screamed at the top of his voice.

Nina Daruwalla’s house was open. The package bearing her name was on the doormat. Her throat was slit open.

**

9:25 pm.

Inspector Yaqoob Ansari was reclining in his wooden chair. His eyes were half-closed after the exertions of the day. The CFL bulbs and the fans were on.

“Chailaa, what a life!” he sighed as he looked at the wall clock opposite his chair.
He closed the files that were open on his desk and put all but one of them in the drawer. He pushed the last file in his office bag, ready to call it a day.

The title music from Shaan started playing.

Pyaar karne wale, pyaar karte hain, shaan se…
Jeete hain shaan se…

His mobile phone’s ringtone.

A PCR call.

“Hello,” his voice was gruff.

“Sir, sub-inspector Talpade of PCR van 26 speaking. A death has been reported, sir. Looks like murder.”

“Where?” he asked, the life seeping back into his eyes.

“Regal Apartments, sir, behind the gymnasium on Gandhi road. We’re at the scene.” The SI was excited.

“Victim identified?”

“Yes sir. Nina Daruwalla. 47 year old woman. Slit throat.”

“Who called it in?”

“An online delivery guy. We have kept him here.”

“Murder weapon there?”

“Um, we haven’t really checked the house yet, sir. There were a lot of people here when we came in.”

“Get them out of there,” Ansari shouted.

“We have, sir.”

“Okay, call Vithhalbhai for the forensic work.”

“I have done that, sir.”

“Wah re Talpade, shyaana ho gaya tu to bahut!**,” Ansari chuckled.

“Thank you, saheb.” Talpade beamed.

“Did she live alone?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Okay. Once Vithhalbhai finishes, get the ambulance to pack everything up. Notify the next of kin.”

“We are asking around for that, sir.”

“Husband? Kids? Parents?”

“Neighbours said she was divorced, sir.”

“Contact the ex. Check for CCTV footage. Grill the watchman. Bring me whatever you have in the morning.”

He was going to cut the call, but had a second thought.

“Wait. I’m coming there.”

“Okay sir.”

35 minutes later, Inspector Yaqoob Ansari was at the door of Regal Apartments flat no. 177. He saw Vithhalbhai Deshpande, the pathologist, at work inside the flat.

“Hello Vithhalbhai, how’s it going?” Ansari peeked inside the house. The hall had a glass table in the middle, surrounded by 4 single-seat sofas. There was an AC on the far side wall. To his right, as he peeked across the open door, there was a TV. There were framed photographs, apparently of the deceased, on the walls. Pictures of her with big-name actors and producers. The victim herself was on the sofa facing the television. Her hands were by her side. She was wearing grey pyjamas and an olive green loose tee, which was dark at the top half now. She had tried to stop the bleeding, which the splash marks on her forearms and the dark colour of her palms testified to.

“Not a pro,” he deduced. Vithhalbhai should get DNA. Good.

The whole day at the court, the dressing-down from the SP, the weariness, it was all gone now. He could go home and have repeat doses of his wife’s food, followed by repeat sex. All-night, maybe.

This was good.

Ansari was smiling. Vithhalbhai saw him and arched his right eyebrow. “What’s so funny?”

“Nothing,” he patted the query back.

The two policemen who’d arrived in the PCR van were questioning the neighbours. Ansari had arrived with Tadpadkar, a constable. The ambulance had arrived too, Tadpadkar informed him.

“Where’s the guy who found the body?” Ansari asked Talpade.

“That one, sir,” the SI pointed to a thin kid, 22-23 years old, who was sitting and shivering in the corner. The doors to the other flats’ were closed.

Ansari walked up to the guy and sat down on his haunches. The guy’s shirt was drenched in sweat. His eyes were staring in the middle distance. His legs were folded up from the knee and his hands were clasped in front of his chest.

Ansari snapped his fingers in front of his face.

“Sir?”

“What’s your name?” Ansari’s tone was soft.

“Praveen Shinde,” he whispered.

“When did you get here?”

“9 o’clock, sir.”

“What did you see?”

Praveen related what had transpired, how he’d nearly puked, how he’d screamed “laash^” again and again, how he’d seen someone come out of the next flat, how he had pointed her to the body, how that lady had fainted, and how he had then figured that he should call the police himself, which is what he did.

He returned to gazing into the middle distance.

Ansari peered into his eyes. Both men were silent. He patted the youngster on his shoulder and went back to the flat.

“Take him to the station. Take his statement. Drop him home.” He ordered Talpade.

“Should we keep him…?”

“No need, for now. Write down his contact details and let him go.”

“Okay, sir.”

“And call the phone company for the cell records,” he shouted after his junior.

Ansari entered the flat for the first time. He was about to ask questions when he heard commotion outside. He walked back out.

“Let me in, please.” A man was requesting.

“Who are you?” Ansari looked at him. The man was tall, mid-to-late-30s. He had an airbag with him. His smart face was harrowed at the moment though. Two officers were holding him.

“My name is Jatin Godbole, sir. I’m Nina’s boyfriend. Let me in, please.”

“She’s dead.” Ansari informed him, his voice devoid of emotions.

“No!” Godbole broke down. The fight left him. He slumped to the floor.

Ansari turned back inside when Godbole groaned between sobs, “At least…let me see her…once.” Ansari gestured to the constables to let him through.

He picked himself up off the floor and got to the door, each step less assured than the last. Ansari stood inside the door. Godbole reached the door and tried to peek in. He had a glance of the body before he jerked his head away. He started wailing.

“Take him downstairs,” Ansari told the constables, more in irritation than concern.
Ansari returned to the scene.

Vithhalbhai noticed him and began speaking. “The murder weapon is this knife,” he raised a zip pouch containing a bloodied knife.

“The killer was behind her, standing. 5’8”-5’10”. There are two coffee mugs, full. Hence, the killer could be an acquaintance.”
He gestured to the sofa area. “There are a lot of footprints here. I guess you should hold another “scene management” class for the department.”

“You mean you should?”

“One and the same. The remuneration goes towards that night’s dinner so, not much of a difference.”

“Time of death?” Ansari quizzed.

“Between 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm.”

Ansari nodded.

“The cut marks on the throat aren’t clean. I guess our killer had stage fear. Small cuts here and here, see.” He pointed with his pen as Ansari walked over.

“Then there are these 3 slices. He fumbled before finally pulling it clean.”

Vithhalbhai Deshpande stood up.

“Killer?”

“Right-handed. Not much by way of DNA. We’ve collected all the hair samples. I’ll have a better idea after a test, of course.”

“So much fumbling around and not enough DNA? The coffee mugs?”

“Clean. Whoever he was, he did good.”

“For fuck’s sake!” Ansari grumbled.

Deshpande shrugged.

“Let’s pack it up,” he said to the medical assistants.

The two men got out of the flat together.

“Want to have a drink?” Ansari offered.

“You go home. I know you don’t need a drink tonight.” Vithhalbhai had a wry smile on his face.

Ansari returned the smile. He shook his head as he pressed the lift’s button. The doors opened and they both got in.

Translations:

*- Absurdity.
**- Wow Talpade, you’ve grown quite smart!
^ – Dead body.

Featured image courtesy.

To Be Continued…

This is the 5th part of the murder mystery series “Who Killed Nina Daruwalla?”

The next installments will be published in the coming days.

Do please provide your most brutal feedback on this in the comments section.

Thank you for reading.

18 Comments

  1. SO finally we have many things at our disposal to make deductions.
    The crime scene is well described but still something essential must be with u 😊
    Interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

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