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.
Read part 5: Before The Inquest, here.
“Hello officer Ansari, this is Karanjit Kapoor speaking.”
“Yes? How can I help you?”
It was getting dark outside, and Ansari had no idea how to remove the cobwebs surrounding his latest case. The rush-hour traffic was making itself noticed, raucous horns and irate commuters wanting to be done with their days. The street lamps were starting to regain the hypnotic hold over the streets they’d enjoyed the night before.
“I got news that you’re the investigating officer in the death of Ms. Daruwalla.”
“I talked with her on Monday, officer. I wanted to organise a small party for the trailer launch of my son’s forthcoming film.”
It dawned on Ansari.
“You’re the actor speaking, the Karanjit Kapoor!”
Tadpadkar glanced at him as he said the name, his shock paralleling that of his senior.
There was a soft laugh, followed by a calm response. “Yes officer, the same.”
Ansari grew conscious of himself. Like most Indians, he knew who Kapoor was. “But this…wait, what was he calling for? His name wasn’t in the call list, was it?”
He picked up the list and scrolled through that. Kapoor said something that he didn’t catch.
“Uh, I’m sorry, what were you saying?”
“My driver, officer. He misbehaved with Ms. Daruwalla at our last party. My production company has had a long association with her firm. I didn’t want a skirmish to be the lasting memory of that.”
Ansari grunted, his mind trying to process both the call and the names on the sheet.
Kapoor continued. “I ordered him to apologise to her. I had him call her from his phone.”
Ansari’s search was finished. There was no mention of Kapoor in the list.
“The SIM, he told me, is registered under the name of his cousin – Babulal Sahu.”
Ansari was quiet. The car was at a junction, stuck in a jam. His eyes were fixed on a couple squabbling in the car next to his own.
“Mr. Kapoor, what is your driver’s name?”
“Why was he using a cousin’s SIM card?”
“I don’t know, officer. I asked him about it today, after seeing the news. I’d figured your men might have called him.”
Ansari nodded to himself. “Why didn’t you call her with your own cell?”
“We were in my office. She asked for me when he called. He gave me the phone. My son’s film comes out three months later. But, I thought that offering her the contract for the trailer and the film release parties might make her feel better.”
“You mean you were trying to buy her silence.”
If irritation crept in Kapoor’s mind, he didn’t let it show in his voice.
“Not at all, officer. I was trying to be courteous. There’s no logic in letting a small incident become a big issue.”
“Ask your driver to come to the station today, Mr. Kapoor.”
“I will do that, officer. Thanks.”
“One more thing, officer.”
“For obvious reasons, I don’t want my name coming up in this matter in the media. I hope you understand my situation.”
Ansari grunted in affirmation and cut the call. He returned to gazing at the couple in the car. They were laughing now. Together, Ansari thought, instead of at each other.
Two hours later.
At the station, he took a large sheet of paper and listed each of the suspects. He asked Tadpadkar to gather all the men in the station who weren’t working on a murder case. He fixed the sheet on the board behind him with pins.
“I want information on all of these people,” he said to the seven men assembled around him. “Get men out, and get me their daily routine.”
“But sir,” sub-inspector Fernandes began. “We don’t have enough men for the operation. For 8 hour shifts on these 5 people, we need 15 men. Half of the department is in the bandobast^ for the British PM’s visit next week.”
“Yes, fuck,” Ansari sighed. “Get as many as you can. I’ll talk to DCP sir about it.”
The men saluted him and dispersed.
He called up DCP Vibhuticharan Prasad and explained the case situation and his requirement.
“Give me a list of the men you want.”
Fifteen minutes later, Ansari went to the other rooms and gathered 10 men.
“Nothing has been stolen and there’s no tampering with the door lock. This means it was not a robbery gone wrong. Someone had a beef with Nina Daruwalla and they offed her in the process. And that someone has to be an acquaintance.”
“Tadpadkar, get me the call records for these five people,” Ansari ordered, banging his open palm on the sheet.
“Pari Palkhiwala, height 5’5”. Not our killer. The killer is 5’8” – 5’9”. But, could she have got someone to do the job for her? Sudhakar and Pillai, you two get on her beat. I want to know where she goes, whom she meets, how was her equation with her cousin sister?”
Nitesh Sudhakar and Arjun Pillai nodded.
“The reporter. He said he was home yesterday from 5 pm to 8 pm. Naqvi, get me details from his website – which actors and directors has he interviewed in the recent past? What kind of business is he doing? Has he ever been near the victim previously? Got it?”
“Ketkar and Singh, get me details of her lover. He lives a twenty minutes’ drive away from her house. I want to know where he goes, whom he has been associated with, was he two-timing her?”
“Talpade, I want you and Limaye to check the details of all the meetings Karanjit Kapoor had in the last week. His driver gave us Babulal Sahu’s address in Odisha. Get in touch with Odisha police and get the details confirmed.”
“Nagori and Matunge, check the addresses that the delivery guy served that day and create a timeline.”
“People, this killer is smirking at us. One of these,” he tapped his forefinger on the sheet, “is lying to us. And that’s our cutthroat. Come on!” He clapped his hands.
The men dispersed, exhausted after another day at a thankless job.
“Tadpadkar, where are you with the call records?”
“We have sent in the requests, sir. The documents should be available by tomorrow afternoon.”
“That’s too late. Call the companies and ask them to get those done faster.”
Ansari knew nothing was going to start until the next morning.
The clock had struck 9 pm when his phone rang. He was alone in the room. The caller was his longtime friend Rachit Sathe.
“What’s your plan for dinner?”
“Join us at Tandel’s. Me and Vithhalbhai.”
“Okay. I’ll be there by 9:45.”
He reached the roadside eatery called Tandel’s at 9:50 pm. It proclaimed to serve the best seafood this side of Singapore.
Sathe and Vithhalbhai were waiting for him. They took in his glum face.
“What’s this, Ansari?”
“Why so serious?”
“It’s this case, man.”
“Oh fuck it. Here, taste this prawn.”
They dug into the prawns. Ansari and Vithhalbhai took a beer each. Sathe took one swig from Ansari’s bottle and returned it.
“What happened? Won’t drink?”
“Nah. Biwi maarti hai.*”
Ansari and Vithhalbhai roared in laughter.
“Why’s that?” Ansari asked once they’d controlled their laughter.
“She says either drink at home or go and drink at your friends’ houses. Says she doesn’t like me coming in drunk.”
Vithhalbhai scoffed. Ansari winked.
“She should probably lock you out of the house.”
“She won’t. She has to take me in. I’m the one she has to make do with. Can’t keep me away, man.”
“In that case, have a bottle.”
“Not today, you idiots.”
This time all three laughed together.
Sathe left once dinner was completed.
“I found a trace of foreign hair in the head. We’d need DNA reference for a match.” Vithhalbhai told him.
“Wow. This is good.” Ansari gushed.
“Have you zeroed in on anyone?”
“Not yet. Tomorrow, I hope.”
They walked to their respective vehicles, another day spent chasing shadows, another night shushing the scramble of the day gone by.
^ On-duty for special occasions.
*The wife beats me.