This time the body was missing its eyes. The sightless holes that existed in the place of human eyeballs created a sense of horror in everyone who had looked at the girl’s sliced remains so far. Virkar felt a sense of irritation welling up inside him; he realized that his theory about Sagarika going crazy and killing Kshitij and Rajesh because they were blackmailing her had been shot to pieces. He wondered who this victim was and why she had been attacked by Sagarika. Virkar knelt in front of the bloodied body and examined the single wound on the girl’s chest. He couldn’t help but marvel at the expertise with which the knife had been jabbed between the ribs. ‘Sagarika is getting better and better at this,’ Virkar thought out loud.
He was about to fire a question at the sub-inspector from the local police station when Naina interrupted him. ‘She’s trying to say something with these missing body parts.’
Virkar frowned at her. Just as he was getting ready to leave her apartment, Naina had insisted on accompanying him. Virkar had explained to her that it was against regulations but Naina had reasoned that she could offer up an insight to the case as she knew the killer. Virkar, to his consternation, couldn’t find an argument to counter her logic and had relented, but not before giving her a strict warning not to say anything in front of the other policemen at the crime scene. But she clearly did not think much of his instructions as she now continued, ‘The cutting of the penis perhaps signifies sexual misdemeanour; the cutting of the tongue could mean something that was said or not said; and the missing eyes could indicate that there was something that this girl had seen or perhaps not seen.’
Virkar and the sub-inspector stared at Naina, letting her idea wrap itself around their brains. Finally, they broke their gaze from her and looked at each other, not knowing how to take the next step. After a few minutes, Virkar opted for the easiest way out. ‘What is her name?’ he asked the sub-inspector.
Relieved at being asked something that he had an answer to, the policeman pulled out an ID card from a girl’s wallet and read: ‘Nayantara Joshi. Aged twenty. Resident of Mandaar Society, Lalbaug, Dadar. Student of Kanti College, Prabhadevi.’ Virkar raised his hand, signalling the sub-inspector to stop. It wasn’t making any sense to him—how was a girl from a middle-class family in Lalbaug connected to Sagarika?
The sub-inspector tucked away his diary, ready to leave, but Virkar stopped him in his tracks. ‘I would like to see all the CCTV footage from the mall.’ The sub-inspector sighed and led Virkar and Naina through the corridors of the silent mall to the security room. There, on a bank of monitors, a security attendant played back the footage of the girl wearing a baseball cap and dark glasses going into the changing room of the MoJo Wear store and coming out a few minutes after Nayantara was seen entering the adjoining stall. As Virkar and Naina watched the monitor, Virkar suddenly noticed a thoughtful look on Naina’s face. ‘Is there something you see?’ he asked hopefully.
Naina stared at the screen as she said, ‘It is Sagarika, I think, but a different version of her.’
‘Yes…the schizophrenic, psychotic version,’ the sub-inspector who had been listening in on their conversation quipped.
Virkar shot an irritated look towards him. ‘Have you made sure that all the staff and mall employees have been interrogated?’
‘Saheb, the murder was reported only in the evening. By then, the shift had changed and most of the employees had left for the day.’
‘And why has it taken you until this morning to inform me? And what was the mall security doing? Couldn’t they have held them back?’ Virkar’s voice was biting.
The sub-inspector remained stoic. ‘Saheb, this is a big mall. We cannot stop its functioning and shut it down. And we were waiting for instructions from the senior inspector of our police station who is out of town right now. We could only get in touch with him this morning and which is when he told us to call the Crime Branch.’
Virkar’s voice was raised now. ‘Then how the hell do you expect to catch this serial killer who is obviously smarter than you, me and everybody in this room?’
‘Saheb, we have called all the employees; they will be reporting to us in the next few hours.’
‘I want a full report by tomorrow afternoon.’ Virkar turned on his heels and walked out.
Once outside, he saw that Naina had followed him without a word and together they walked out of the mall. Just before they reached the spot where he had parked his bike, they spent an awkward moment staring at each other until Virkar finally said, ‘I have to change and shower and head to my office.’
Naina nodded. ‘Yes, don’t worry about me. I’ll catch a taxi.’ Virkar didn’t say anything as she hailed a cab. She sat inside and threw him a last glance that Virkar managed to return with a small, tight smile. He started his Bullet and rode off in the direction of Bhoiwada, his mind jumping between his personal and professional life, with each thought contradicting the other as they tumbled together in his brain. Suddenly, his phone began to vibrate. Half expecting it to be Naina, Virkar stopped the Bullet on the side of the road and fished it out of his pocket. Glancing at the dial, he was disappointed to see an unknown number. He picked up the call nevertheless and listened as the voice on the other line said, ‘Inspector Virkar, I am Inspector Kamble from the Jagtap Circle lock-up. Usman Teacher wants to meet you. He says he has some information on your current case.’