‘What do you mean, a sports pistol?’ Virkar was sitting in the office with ACP Shivaji Naik of the Mumbai Police Local Armoury-II at Tardeo. Virkar had just begun asking questions about the gun that was recovered from SuperTrance Nightclub and identified as the weapon used by Akhbir. In the aftermath of the SuperTrance shooting, Virkar had gone through the evidence collected from the crime scene, but his focus at that time had been on discovering clues to the identity of Philo, so much so that although the weapon had been examined by him, he had not been able to identify the make and model of the gun.
But as he was lying awake in his bed the previous night, not being able to sleep despite his lovemaking session with Naina, he suddenly remembered that the gun had had a wooden handle, which was not very common among those used by criminal gangs operating in Mumbai. They usually preferred Glocks and Berettas that were made out of lightweight metal. The next morning, he had left before Naina was awake and headed to the Crime Branch Headquarters, where he opened the evidence locker to examine the gun once again. The grooves and curves on the wooden handle were a comfortable fit for a grown man’s hand. As Virkar wrapped his fingers around the handle, he realized that his fingers automatically sat in the places that had sweat stains, the kind that are left behind on items that are used regularly over a period of years. Although the pistol was an automatic, the bullet that had grazed Philo’s head was not the standard .22 calibre round used in regular automatic pistols. It had a blunt head and almost felt as if it were half a bullet. Virkar pocketed the gun and the bullet and quickly made his way to the Police Armoury at Tardeo. There, he waited until the genial ACP arrived. Virkar knew that if anyone could tell him the make and model of the gun, it was ACP Shivaji Naik, a known weapons enthusiast.
‘This is a Swiss-made Hämmerli sports pistol and the bullet is a wadcutter, a special kind of bullet used for sports pistols.’
Virkar let the ACP’s words sink in. ‘Are you telling me that Akhbir Singh Mann was a sports shooter?’
The ACP flashed him a genial smile. ‘No, Virkar, I’m just telling you the make of the gun and the bullet.’
Virkar coughed in reply, a little embarrassed at shooting from the hip. But perhaps the ACP knew that Virkar didn’t really mean to be disrespectful, so he continued, ‘The accused could have stolen this gun from a sports shooter.’
Virkar couldn’t help showing his excitement as he asked, ‘Do you have a list of registered sports shooters in Mumbai?’
ACP Naik’s genial smile widened. ‘Yes.’
‘Do you have a list of sports pistols registered in Mumbai?’ This time the ACP just nodded, the smile still in place. Virkar blurted out his next question, ‘Can I have these lists?’
‘No,’ came the ACP’s pat reply. Suddenly, the smile that refused to go away seemed positively oily to Virkar.
‘Why?’ asked Virkar, making sure that his tone did not convey any hint of the irritation he could feel welling up inside him.
The ACP now sat back, as if preparing himself to tell a long story to a foolish listener. ‘Virkar, do you know who sports shooters are? They are generally wealthy men who shoot to pass their time and receive national or international awards for doing this. They represent their country, state or city at sporting events and receive awards and accolades from sports institutes and the government. Do you think I will allow you and your team to run amok among such eminent people? One of them might pick up the phone and speak to the sports minister, who in turn might call the home minister, who will not hesitate for even a second before calling up the commissioner of police, who will be so irritated by the unnecessary nature of that call that he will immediately pick up the phone and give me an earful—if and only if, he is in a good mood before the call. And if, God forbid, he is in a bad mood, then God only knows what will happen to me.’
Virkar sat staring at ACP Naik, his mouth agape. His brain reeled as he took in the vivid scenario that ACP Naik had presented in front of him. Naik, in the meantime, seemed to be enjoying Virkar’s discomfort as he continued, ‘Do you think I’ll look good sitting in the Police Training School office in Nasik, Virkar?’ In reply, Virkar just shook his head dumbly. ‘Then why ask me such a foolish question?’ The ACP’s smile grew even broader.
Virkar realized that he had no answer; neither did he know how to take the discussion forward. He got up, pocketed the pistol and the bullet and, without another word, made his way to the door of the cabin.
Just as he was about to step out, he heard the ACP call out to him. ‘Arre, where are you going? Don’t you want to know who owns the Hämmerli?’
Virkar turned and gawked at the ACP. ‘I didn’t say that I wouldn’t check that up for you.’ The ACP smiled mischievously. ‘Forgive me, Virkar, I don’t get too many chances to have a good laugh nowadays,’ he continued, breaking into peals of laughter. Virkar’s stoic face did not convey feelings as the ACP’s laughter boomed in his ears. Finally, Naik calmed down a little and turned to the computer on his table, typing ‘H-ä-m-m-e-r-l-i’ into a box that appeared on the screen, all the while chuckling as he went about it.
Suddenly, the ACP stopped laughing as his eyes darted across the screen. His lips pursed as he said, ‘Devendra Brahme, that’s your man.’
Virkar knew that he should not say anything and accept what was being offered to him but he could not control his natural instincts. ‘How can you be so sure?’
The ACP now turned his attention back to Virkar and winked. ‘Because I know the other four owners personally, and they are good men, even if they aren’t such good shooters.’
Virkar nodded a thank you and turned to leave. The ACP’s smile now turned apologetic. ‘Sorry, yaar, subah subah pehala girahak tu hi mila.’ Virkar let that one slide as he walked out of the room. Behind him he could hear the ACP raucous laughter, but all he could think about was the name he had just heard: Devendra Brahme.