It rained that night, well past midnight! No visible signs of human life around, a lonely lamp post gleamed amidst the torrent, making a feeble attempt to dispel the surrounding darkness. Crickets, those subtle insects that otherwise chirped merrily into the night, had beaten a hasty retreat into the widened crevices of tree barks. A poor stray cur, quaking wet from the rains, stood vulnerably staring into the sky wondering what had hit him that night. The canine’s eyes gleamed as he caught the glimpse of an aged Owl on a nearby tree; the rains had wet his feathers too. The Owl shifted uneasily and closed those menacing round eyes as he tucked his beak into his heavily plumaged chest. “No game tonight”, he had decided. The beak felt warm as he let out a small grunt in pleasure!
A soft moisture laden zephyr blew across the foliage, gently shaking the branches and leaves in its way. The trees nodded in acknowledgement, shaking the huge droplets of water off their shoulders. The puddles on the ground gently stirred. Ripples were their only sign of life. The sun-baked mud had now softened to a wet sludge as it let out a mild signature aroma into the humid air. Smell travels far in the dense night air of the forest.
One small cricket indolently tip-toed out of his hiding, “Beep-beep”, he chirped. His brothers joined him in chorus and soon the night seemed to sing a lullaby. The Owl stirred in his sleep without a care.
Crrrrrrrrrrrrack! A lone gun-shot had shattered the silence of the night. A lady’s shriek, and then a dull thud as the soft wed mud cushioned the fall. A cantankerous flutter of wings as the sleeping birds took to the sky in a trice. The nestlings cried out hoarse for the parents that had deserted them in the nick of time. A few tense moments later, the night had gone mum again. Eerie silence! A few hurried footsteps that faded into the night… Someone was running! An engine hummed, throttled and skidded through the night hurriedly. It was a job well executed.
The cur had picked up a scent, now flared his nostrils and he sped. The scent grew stronger; the aroma of the dead woman had indeed wafted far! The skies had opened up again, the tension was palpable.
In her early-twenties, she seemed gorgeous even in her death! A gun-shot wound had left a gaping hole through her mid-riff. As a trickle of blood on her lips glistened in the rain, her eyes had rolled upwards seeking to see her forehead. Her mascara thinned by the rains, was running down the sides of her ears. Her tender, long fingers were stained with her own blood; she had seemingly tried to stop the blood gushing out with her palm.
The cur looked at her rather ruefully as he circled round her. He hadn?t seen her before; He had been in these parts for the last 12 years. Feasting on bird muck, at times dead and rotting carcasses left alone by overfed killers, he had grown up here. He had even honed his ancestral hunting skills to grab a rodent or two for a living. No soul mate for him, he had lived alone all his life. This was his home. His only t?te-?-t?te with the human kind had been the odd forester or a hunting pack.
And tonight, he had a visitor, dead and stunningly beautiful. As he glanced at his sleeping guest again, his eyes caught the glimpse of shiny gold locket clinging to her neck, it read ‘Mira’.
Why would anyone kill this pretty girl? Who killed her? Why was she here?
Bangalore, a burgeoning garden city of India- ranked among the fastest growing cities in the world. This verdant town of yore had now blossomed into the Silicon Valley of India. Despite all the techno-boom, it had retained quite a bit of the grandeur of the erstwhile Mysore state. Regal monuments such as the Vidhana Soudha (now housed the State’s legislature), Bangalore Palace (now a 5 star hotel) still stood tall amidst those huge magnificent, escalator driven malls.
Sameer Chinnappa alias Sam had spent his childhood years in Bangalore till life turned a full circle and brought him back. He was convent educated, excelled in his academics, extra-curriculum and was a little hero at the local Bishop Cottons Boys High School. Sam went on to join the famous Indian Institute of Madras (IIT) and passed out with distinction in Chemical Engineering. The civil service exams beckoned and he passed them with flying colors too. The little boy had dreamt of being a top sleuth all his life and he chose the Indian Police Service. Inducted into the 1976 Karnataka cadre of IPS, Sam served various Police departments with distinction till he roared into the Director General of Police’s Office in Bangalore. The brass-etched name plate on his huge shiny teak table now read “Director General of Police”. Real power!
Bangalore, like any other emergent metropolis, had a quite an impressive violence chart. The Drugs lords, Liquor barons, High-profile criminals, political nexus, Bangalore had them all, woven into a very strong fabric. In the last decade, the pub culture had made a beer-gut out of the Bangalore youth.
Tender Coconuts now looked good only on trees, welcome Draught beer!
Sam had even read newspaper reports re-christening Bangalore as London’s Oriental Cousin for the sheer number of pubs- That troubled Sam! The youth meant a lot to him and he had ample reason to do so! For the 128 anti-crime out-posts Sam had in Bangalore, there was a heinous crime reported every night in addition to the copious petty offences. Murders, gang-wars, rape, dowry related crimes, and the list seemed endless. Youth formed a shocking majority of the criminals.
A portrait of Gandhi & Nehru hung on the wall opposite Sam’s desk stared down meaningfully at Sam. “Can you help us achieve the India we envisioned”? They seemed to solicit.
Sam’s Anti-Crime department had an appalling reputation to shake off; Nepotism and corruption ran amuck, so much so even the department toilets reeked of them! A little in peek into them-would leave one wondering- For people who couldn’t keep their own lavatories clean, how will these guys ever manage to keep the city free of dirt? The disgusting odor of pure, strong ammonia that emanated was enough to rupture and form large holes in one’s nasal membranes.
Bangalore’s population was bursting at the seams, the thriving Silicon Valley and the allied technology industry’s geometric growth had spurred the big bang. 8% of the City’s population lived in slums and that figure was rapidly growing.
A city now known for its geeks, pub-hoppers, it carries the jeans-spaghetti and the pavada-blouse cultures with equal flourish. Bangalore, quite in contrast to the crime charts, is a happening cosmopolitan city! How this schism came about is still a matter of intrigue. Sam dreamed on- flash-back to his days of youth.
Sam & Madhu- Man & Wife
They had first met during the ‘Mardi-gras’ at IIT (Madras), many moons ago; Madhu representing MCC (Mount Carmel’s College) – Bangalore. She headed her college team while Sam played Convener, a mighty irrepressible and an extraordinary host. To any IIT’ian (Madras), Mardi-gras was an integral part and parcel of his college-psyche. To convene the week long festival at an All India stage, from top-drawer colleges was truly an honor few were bestowed upon- it was Sam’s turn this year.
Their first meeting was run of the mill, mere exchange of pleasantries over Sam’s preferred steaming filter coffee at the bustling college canteen. Madhu languorously sipped at her Orange juice as he briefed her about the amenities provided by host IIT and the Event itinerary. A few heads had turned to this dashing young couple as they remained oblivious to the clatter of plates, and the smoke screen that enveloped the rather murky canteen ceiling.
A week later, Madhu’s team had returned to Bangalore with no awards, but she bagged the prize of a lifetime- a strapping young man who was to be her future husband.
Sam had proposed to her at the Platform 7 of Madras Central station, barely a few minutes before the engine of Bangalore City- Egmore Express hooted; Madhu blushed red and had said “Yes”. Everything seemed so perfectly orchestrated; Life was a song.
Madhu, during those 6 courtship years had taken up modeling pretty seriously and was rated to be one of the sexiest smiles and figures to have ever walked the Bangalore ramps. She had then catapulted to national acclaim with a few multinational mega-brand shoots and a 1st runner up at the Miss India contest.
Sam meanwhile watched his fianc?e’s success on the rise as he bull-dozed through his IPS Cadre for top honors. To add fuel to the embers, the two families were closely linked in Bangalore’s social circles. The romantic flame crackled, as it leapt heavenwards engulfing the two souls who now professed undying love as they walked around together, seven sacred times.
Marriage brought them even closer, as they soon brought into this world, a fairy princess- they called her Mira.
Madhu had brought her career to a screeching halt, preferring the maternal joy of her little Mira suckling at her bosom to the roaring applause of the glitterati at those flashy fashion shows. Madhu’s passion for children, meanwhile saw her active participation in the local chapter of ‘Save the Children’ foundation- an organization she had started from scratch in Bangalore to alleviate the sufferings of the less fortunate kids.
Years flew past. Mira Chinnappa, now a bubbly, vivacious and intelligent student was now in the final year at college with Economics as her major. Mira seemed to be a perfect product of nature’s genetic engineering, as the best traits of her parents manifested in her. She excelled in all that she did and to add to it a ravishing beauty- Mira was one hell of a show stopper and a college topper.
And now she was dead….
To be continued…
Author: Amarnath Bantwal- Kuwait