At first sight, Benjamin Sequeira thought the Police had come regarding a petty quarrel that took place in the neighborhood a few days ago. It was normal for Mr.Sequeira to mediate in such things as he was a person of repute in that locality. But he was puzzled to see two plain clothed officials with the police. Before he could scratch his head for a clue, the officials introduced themselves. “We are from the Income Tax department” one of them said. “We need to cross check some facts over the statement you submitted last year”
He could not ascertain who these people were, but he could recognize the two constables from the Bandra Police station. The Income tax officials normally came with police escort to deal with difficult clients. “Please come in” he said and showed them the sofa. Mr. Sequeira never had much concern about income tax as he normally filed his returns quite accurately. He considered himself a honest citizen. So if the officers came for cross checking, he had nothing much to worry about, he thought.
They checked his bank statements, asset records and share holdings. Then they proceeded on to search the house. They made him open every cupboard and safe and made notes of all currency and jewellery items. They opened all the drawers, searched bags, pouches and even under the bed and between blankets. They rummaged through clothes in the wardrobe and even the tooth brush holder in the bathroom. After searching the whole house and finding nothing unusual, the officers looked very apologetic. “We are extremely sorry for the inconvenience Mr. Sequeira, but we were just doing our duty? they said as they shook hands. “That?s alright” said an equally puzzled Mr.Sequeira as he saw them off at the gate. It all looked a little unusual to him, that the officers wanted to search the house in such a manner.
…She could not believe she could commit such a big crime. What started as fun had grown to this extent. She had now become a thief. A thief on the loose….
It was unusual indeed, for the Zaveri?s had a bigger dilemma. Some one had stolen their diamond necklace, a very expensive necklace and there was no way they could find out who. As soon as they realized it was stolen, they had called the police and the police had suggested rounding up the pendal and searching the guests. The Zaveri?s could not accept that. Searching the guests was a very imprudent and impolite thing to do. It was like implicating each of them. So they had to let go and bite their nails as the guests left one by one. Some suspected the generator technicians. It could be possible that the technicians staged a failure to help an accomplice do away with the diamonds. So the technicians along with every other paid worker were questioned but the police did not find anything of significance.
However, one lady insisted that a girl in red shawl was standing precariously close to the ornaments when the power failed. Sheetal immediately recognized her as Meghna but Meghna wouldn?t steal a diamond necklace, that too at her wedding. True she was mischievous during her college days, but she was not a thief. As a friend her protective instincts came alive and she urged her parents not to suspect her.
The Zaveri?s knew their daughter?s feelings. So they planned to play it safe. They were a people of class, they had hosted a wedding of class and someone had stolen their jewellery in class. So they would catch the thief in class too. With the help of their connection with higher offices, they arranged for detectives and police constables to visit Meghna?s house posing as Income tax officials. The police normally employed this trick of ?indirect interrogation? when faced with suspects, whose involvement in a crime was only speculative. They would sniff the air, look into the eyes of the suspect and see if they became nervous. Once the suspect became nervous, the remaining job would be easier. They expected some clues out of such an encounter with Meghna.
The detectives assigned for this task were seasoned detectives from the Intelligence department, but even then, two things escaped their attention. First they didn?t know that Meghna was working and wouldn?t be available during daytime. Second, while rummaging through the clothes in one of the wardrobes, the umbrella did pass their hand. But they least expected anyone to hide a diamond necklace in it. So when Meghna returned that evening and went straight for the umbrella, the necklace lay waiting for her. Least did she realize what it had escaped.
She noticed the mess only when her dad told her that income tax officers had searched the house. Her throat went dry when she heard that. It was not always that officials searched their house. She went to the wardrobe again, felt the bulge in the umbrella.
Meghna was going through hell. She had nightmares the whole day. She could not believe she could commit such a big crime. What started as fun had grown to this extent. She had now become a thief. A thief on the loose. So far the odds were not against her. But it wouldn?t be the same for ever. She will be caught one day or the other. As the mental trauma weighed down on her, she broke down and cried. Next morning when she got ready for work, for the first time in her life, she avoided looking at herself in the mirror. She thought she would wait for a few days and then pull herself off this pit and start afresh.
But the rains wouldn?t wait that long. At around eleven that morning, the heavens opened and first rains of the season lashed Mumbai. The rains brought respite to a city that had been literally burning. It was at this time that Mrs. Sequeira found she had run out of chilly powder.
She called out from the kitchen “Benjy, could you go to the shop and bring some chilly powder”
“Don?t you see it is raining?” Mr. Sequeira said reluctantly.
“Take the umbrella dear. I am half way through the recipe” she said.
So Mr. Sequeira started looking for an umbrella. The one he was using had a broken handle. Another one had the cloth ripped off in several places. So he went to Meghna?s room and looked around. He found an umbrella lying in the wardrobe. He stepped out of the house and opened the umbrella. He had reached the gate when the necklace fell in front of him. At first Mr.Sequeira thought it was fake. But the more he rolled it in his hand, the more he realized that it was not fake. Those were pure diamonds. And they must be worth lakhs. From where did Meghna get this necklace ?
He quietly tucked it in his pocket and returned from the shop. However hard he tried not to assume that Meghna had stolen the diamonds, the news item about the Zaveri wedding robbery and the vague looking raid by the Income tax officials haunted him. The pieces of the puzzle appeared to fit together. So was he facing the truth ? Had his daughter stolen the Necklace ? And if so why ? Or was it only a mistake?
He did not tell his wife anything. He just kept waiting for Meghna.
To be continued ?
Author: Remy DSouza- Kuwait