The police car came to a halt a few feet away from the small crowd outside a three-floor apartment just at the edge of the town. Two policemen stood at the entrance to the house on the ground floor. Sitting in the car, Michael observed the scene. Michael Martin was the sub-inspector of the New Town Police station. A constable hurried to him as he stared at the house. “Sir, it looks like a murder! We were waiting for you.” Michael stepped out of the car and walked toward the house. The crowd was kept at a distance by the duty police and volunteers. The two policemen standing at the entrance were covering their noses and mouths. The horrible stench was all too familiar to Michael.
This morning he had received a call from a man who identified himself as Veeresh. He had complained of a foul smell emanating from the house downstairs to his. Michael had sent his team to check the matter. The head constable, Nayak, had called him about a dead body. And here he was. He put on his protective clothing and walked into the house. His mask proved to be useless in masking the stench.
The house was small and had only one room, a kitchen, and a bathroom. Michael looked around, the room was a mess, chairs were on the floor upside down. Unopened Cardboard boxes lined the floor near the walls. At the door, was a pair of slippers and a pair of shoes. On the messy table in the corner he saw a wallet. Drops of blood on the ground drew a trail toward the walkway leading inside the house. As he followed it, Nayak pointed to the bathroom. There was blood on the floor, on the sink and the body was lying below the sink facing the ceiling. There was a pool of blood under his head and he had numerous stabs on his hands, chest, and stomach. It was evident that there was some sort of struggle that took place in the bathroom. To the right of the body, very close to his hand, was a kitchen knife, probably the weapon that killed him. Michael signaled for the photographers. He then walked into the kitchen. It didn’t look very organized. An empty dinner box lay on the table. It had the name Hotel Grand printed on it. There were unwashed utensils in the kitchen sink.
As Michael stepped out, he looked around the hall once again and found a little note at the table near the Television. On closer inspection it turned out to be a receipt from the ‘Hotel Grand’ the date read 19th April 7:25 PM, that was 2 days ago! Michael walked out.
“Who is Veeresh?!” asked Michael, as he removed his protective clothing.
“He is here, sir!” Nayak waved his hand and a middle-aged man walked up to them.
“Tell me what you saw”.
“Sir, I didn’t see anything. The smell was unbearable this morning, I tried knocking on the door, but nobody answered. I had called the House Owner also. Then I thought I’ll call the station.”
“Did you know him? What’s his name?” Michael asked pointing to the house he just stepped out of.
“No sir, he had only moved in about a week ago.”
“So, have you never spoken to him?”
“Sir, since I work late, I have seen him only leave home early in the morning, I have never spoken to him.”
Suspiciously Michael continued “And, who else do you stay with?”
“My wife sir, but she is not here now. I dropped her off at her father’s place last Friday”
“Did you see anything or anyone suspicious here in the last three or four days?”
“No, sir, I have not seen him walk out of the house for the last two days.”
“Fine, Who stays on the third floor?”
“No one sir, it’s empty!”
“Nayak, take down his details and send him away. Where is the House Owner?”
“On the way sir.”
“Nayak, Are there any CCTVs in this location”
“Sir, nothing here. But there is one at the ATM on the main road. I’m sure that it covers a portion of the main road anybody entering this colony must pass through there”
“Good. Collect footage for the last week immediately. Collect the details and statements of the other neighbors as well. Once the forensic team is done, send the body for the Autopsy. I want a copy of the statements, photographs, the forensic report, and the postmortem report as soon as possible. Bring that House owner to the station.” Michael stepped into his car.
Before he could drive away, Nayak reminded “Sir, Hotel Grand?”
“Yes, I almost forgot. I want the owner of that hotel at the station too. And take care of the FIR”
Back at the station in his office Michael had all the evidence laid out on his table. He tried to visualize the scene again. The blood drops from the living area leading to the bathroom, the position of the body, the stabs, the state of the rooms. There must have been a struggle, he thought, an argument perhaps. The knife, the dinner box, the hotel bill, and the wallet all lay in front of him. He picked the wallet and went blank as he checked its contents. A two-thousand rupee note and another two hundred and fifty in change. Surprisingly there was no ID, no credit cards, nothing that could help identify this guy! Michael was frustrated. Holding the wallet in his hand, he turned around, “Nayak, who is this guy? Did you find any ID on him”?
Nayak had just returned after securing the crime scene “No Sir, we could find nothing in his house. None of the neighbors knew his name. He had just moved in.”
“What are you saying? Didn’t you find a match with the fingerprints?”
“Sir, we are still waiting for the forensic report.”
Michael knew his case would be lost before it even started if he couldn’t find who the victim was! Embarrassing it would be, “Where is that bloody house owner?”, he screamed as he threw the wallet back on the table.
“Good morning, Sir”.
“For whom” screamed Michael again, “Good morning for whom! Idiot”
“S-Sorry sir!” The short and bald man was shaken!
“You know why you’re here, right. Tell me who is this guy?”
“He told his name was Rakesh Kumar. That’s what – “.
“What do you mean he told! Didn’t you ask for his ID, How did you make the damned rental agreement!?”
“N-N-No S-Sir, he was new in town, he said. He had a wife and a kid in his hometown he was here to look for a job and wanted to move in immediately. He paid me three months rent in advance, sir, and so I thought the paperwork can be done later!”.
Michael rubbed his hand on his forehead as if to wipe off the sweat trickling down his temple. “Bloody idiot! What the hell is your name!?”
“Manish”, said the bald man with an embarrassed smile.
“Full name!” shouted Michael.
“Nayak, take down this Idiot’s number and other details and send him back.” Nayak gestured to Manish asking him to wait outside.
“Sir, we have all the footage from the cameras near the colony. We studied it and found that apart from the people living in the area, the only other person that entered the colony was a guy on a bike KA-07-ET-1212. We are tracing the lead sir”
“Good. Where is the hotel owner! I want that guy here ASAP”
“He is on the way, Sir”
“And the postmortem report?”
“Should be here by evening sir.”
“Nayak, I need all his birthmarks identified. Make a record of all his physical traits including any peculiar marks or scars. Match the details with any man missing cases in the last few months. Also put his description on the local papers to check if anyone knows this guy. It has to printed out tomorrow morning, understood?”
“Sir, but how do we put these pictures on the paper!”
“Nayak, ‘description’ I said, and yeah, also check for any information on Rakesh Kumar, God knows if that his real name, but let’s not leave it to chance!”
Michael was lost in his administrative desk-work the whole afternoon. He hated it. Rubbing his eyes he tried to look at the clock; 03:00 PM. “Nayak”, he called out as he got up from his desk and walked outside. Nayak looked up from his desk – “Where are the reports, Nayak?”
“Sir, it should be here in about fifteen minutes” Nayak replied, looking at his wristwatch.
“and Hotel Grand?” Michael shot right back.
“Sir, he is not answering his phone” Michael looked at Nayak questionably with his hands in the air. “We’ll get him, Sir” Nayak got up, ready to leave when he was interrupted by Michael “Send Someone else, you stay here to check on the other leads, I’ll be back in fifteen minutes”. Michael walked out, Nayak sat back down and let out a sigh.
Michael walked back in exactly fifteen minutes. Nayak was waiting for him in his office with two brown envelopes in his hand. “Sir, It’s here!”
“Well, go ahead and open it then” Nayak quickly opened the envelopes and both of them started scanning through the documents. The Autopsy mentioned three deep stab wounds on the chest, the cause of death was excessive bleeding and trauma due to a blow at the back of the head. The time of death, derived from the condition of the body, was estimated at about 50 to 55 hours before the inspection. That roughly put the time of death in the bracket between 11 in the night of the 19th and 6 in the morning of the 20th. The forensic team found no other footprints other than the victims. The knife also had only the victims fingerprints. No other evidence was found. Michael hit the table with his fist in anger. The reports gave him nothing. The case was slipping away.
“Nayak, did you search the house thoroughly? Are you sure there was no cellphone or anything?”
“No sir, nothing!”
Michael’s face was now looking tired. Nayak continued “Sir, the description has been provided to the press. We will get a lead soon sir, We will solve this sir”
Michael dropped onto his chair, “We don’t even know who the victim is, how the hell are we gonna find the killer?”
END OF PART 1
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