‘And so you’re suggesting that this nineteen-year-old girl was alone and managed to kill someone in such a gruesome manner?’
Virkar’s reply was a plain, ‘Yes.’
ACP Wagh sat in front of him, stone-faced. ‘Virkar, I think this time you’ll be proven wrong,’ he said, shaking his head. Virkar had just finished explaining his theory on the Blue Nile Resort killing and ACP Wagh, with barely suppressed impatience, had listened to Virkar’s long-winded explanation about how the depth of the knife wounds indicated that the killer did not have a powerful build and the fact that there was no forcible entry into the shack. They had also found a strand of long, silky black hair stuck between the dead young man’s fingernails. There were no traces of hair in the adjoining bathroom or blood spatter in the bathroom sink or shower outlet. So the killer had not washed off any blood from her hands or body. The pattern of blood puddles on the floor pointed to the fact that the killer had worn some kind of a waterproof coat that she had brought with her to avoid blood being spilled directly on to her body and to not leave any traces of her DNA.
All this clearly indicated that the crime was premeditated by an intelligent mind. The dismembering of the penis and taking it suggested revenge or psychological payback for some kind of crime that had been perpetrated by the victim, who had been identified as Rajesh Chawre of Bangur Nagar, Goregoan. A quick check of all missing persons reports at various police stations had yielded young Rajesh’s photo which, when matched against the dead body, had confirmed his identity.
‘You have no definite proof that the killer was a girl, Virkar. Perhaps she had an accomplice who did the actual killing, you know, like the Neeraj Grover-Maria Susairaj case.’
‘Yes, but the depth of the knife…’
But ACP Wagh cut him off, his voice now slightly raised, ‘Arre, Virkar, you’re hung up on the depth-of-the-knife-wound theory. What if her accomplice was one of those thin, scrawny boys you see standing outside colleges nowadays?’
Virkar managed to maintain an even tone as he replied, ‘There is no evidence of any thin, scrawny boy on the premises.’
But ACP Wagh didn’t back down. ‘Virkar, do you know any nineteen-year-old girls who can be capable of something so diabolical?’ This time Virkar had no answer. He stared expressionlessly at the ACP who continued, ‘Don’t waste your time and mine. Go look for an accomplice.’ Virkar gave him a short nod of acknowledgement, saluted, turned with a smart click of his shoes and left the room without any intention of doing what the ACP had asked him to do. Instead, he headed out of the headquarters of the Crime Branch, got on his Bullet and rolled out into the city.
He made his way northwards till he reached King’s Circle. A little ahead, he turned left and cut across Dharavi, passing the Bandra-Kurla Complex on to the Western Express Highway. Then he rode steadily over the numerous flyovers till he reached Goregoan and turned off the highway to cut across to his destination in Bangur Nagar.
He criss-crossed between the old three-storeyed cooperative housing societies and the posh new towers that had sprung up due to the spate of redevelopment in the city. As he passed the famous Kali Mata Mandir, he spotted the Somnath Housing Society, home to the recently deceased Rajesh Chawre. As was normally the case, the few people lounging around in the society compound quickly dispersed as soon as they saw him ride in on his Bullet. It always amazed him to see how little people wanted to engage with policemen on duty. Virkar parked the Bullet and turned to look at the nervous watchman who had approached him from behind. Without a word, the watchman led him to the second-floor flat of Shantaram Chawre, retired PWD officer, Grade III.
The door to the second floor apartment was open and Virkar saw that it was cramped with sad-eyed people who, he presumed, were the victim’s family. Virkar walked up to a man who looked a little like what Rajesh Chawre would have looked if he had lived to be fifty and, modulating his voice into his most apologetic tone, said, ‘Chawre saheb, I’m sorry to intrude at such a time but I wanted to…’
Chawre cut Virkar in mid-sentence, ‘We have already answered all the questions that the other policemen asked.’
Virkar softened his tone further. ‘I know, saheb, but I just wanted to inspect his room and belongings for some clue.’
Chawre displayed a hint of irritation in his manner, ‘This is most inconvenient. I have all these guests…’
‘…and I’m sure all of them would like me to catch Rajesh’s killer. And would not mind a little bother,’ Virkar cut in, keeping his tone apologetic.
‘Aaoo deya ho,’ a woman’s voice called out from inside and Virkar saw a teary-eyed, middle-aged lady who he correctly presumed was Rajesh’s mourning mother. Chawre turned and led him through the crowd of mourners who had now begun staring, to the small inside room that belonged to his deceased son. He waved out the young people sitting in the room who Virkar assumed were Rajesh’s cousins.
As soon as the room emptied, Virkar walked around it, taking in its details. There was nothing particularly striking about it as far as he could see—a single bed, two steel Godrej cupboards, an old wooden study table and chair, and a large Apple iMac. The last item in particular piqued Virkar’s interest. ‘That’s quite an expensive computer, isn’t it?’ he asked
Chawre nodded. ‘Ho, Rajesh was totally into computers. I broke one of my FDs to get him that one.’
Virkar walked up to the screen and examined it closer. It looked brand new. He made a mental note to get the Cyber Crime Cell to examine the computer. Behind him, Chawre continued, ‘He said that if I got him this he could make more money than the man who made that new thing…kya…Facebook.’
Virkar looked at him and nodded. ‘Can I inspect the cupboards please?’ he asked. By this time, Chawre had worked himself into a state, reminiscing about his son’s lost ambitions. He nodded and walked away, suppressing his tears. Virkar quickly opened the Godrej cupboards and went through them, meticulously examining the clothes and personal knick-knacks. Finding nothing out of place in the first cupboard apart from the fact that Rajesh seemed to have far too many clothes for a son of a retired middle-class government officer, he opened the next one. This one was full of shoes of different makes and brands, all of the same size 9. It looked as though apart from being into computers, Rajesh Chawre was also into shoes. Virkar picked up a particularly fashionable and expensive-looking pair of snakeskin boots and examined them with a mix of awe and envy. He idly wondered if Rajesh’s father had sold a plot of land in his village to buy him that particular pair of shoes. He was about to keep the shoes back when something fell out of the left boot on to the floor. Virkar bent down to pick up the object and realized that it was a small iPod—an iPod Touch to be specific. Curious, he pressed the power button and the iPod sprang to life. At first glance, it yielded nothing unusual but when he tapped on the Videos folder, a single video sprang up on the screen. On closer examination, Virkar realized that the video screen was a hazy photograph of a young girl, naked. What was particularly interesting was that the girl had extremely long, straight, silky hair. Intrigued, Virkar pressed the play button.
For over two minutes, the grainy footage showed the long-haired girl having sex with a young man who was not Rajesh Chawre. Thoroughly nonplussed, Virkar was still trying to understand the implication of the video when his phone rang. A little embarrassed at his own vicarious curiosity, he turned the iPod off and slipped it into his pocket. Reaching for his cell phone, he barked into it in the gruffest voice possible, ‘Virkar here.’
‘Saheb, where are you? Please come to Vidyavihar as soon as possible. It’s urgent.’
‘Why?’ barked Virkar.
‘There has been another murder, in the same style.’
Virkar swallowed hard. ‘How do you know it’s the same killer? Did she cut off the…’
The voice broke in, ‘No, saheb, this time it’s the tongue.’