Two murder victims. One is brutally stabbed, the other barely touched. No witness, no proof but a long list of suspects with motives. Who was the real victim and who just an unfortunate bystander? A gripping suspense and second in series of detectives Supriya & Rahul murder mystery by Natasha Sharma. Must read for whodunit fans!
Chapter 1: Backstabbing leads to wounds.
The bodies were found in different locations in the house. The man was in the bedroom, lying on the bed on the blood soaked sheets, whereas the woman was found in the hallway. They were both stabbed, though the man took the brunt of it. He was stabbed repeatedly, in comparison, the woman was pierced with just one fatal wound, in her chest. The murder weapon wasn’t found on the premises or the areas around it. The house was located in a quaint, quiet street, in a cul-de-sac, surrounded by green, leafy foliage. It reeked of money, and loads of it. The driveway was cobbled, and several high-end cars were parked in front of it. In front of the main door, there was a landscaped garden, where a marble statue stood tall, though without its feet, surveying the land around it. It was the bust of Hippocrates, with the quote, ‘Everything in excess is opposed to nature.’ It felt like an oxymoron, looking at the opulence around it. Supriya and Rahul entered through the main door, into the long hallway, their shoes clicking against the gleaming, waxed, wooden floor. They looked around, expensive art was hung on the walls, each frame, exquisite. They climbed the expansive, curvaceous staircase, into the bedroom where the murders took place. Supriya opened her notebook, noting the date and time, ‘17/05/2003 0800 Victims’ House’. They observed the bodies, coming across the women first. She lay on her side, hand stretched out as if reaching out to something or somebody. A broom and dustpan were placed at a short distance from her head. Her eyes were closed; her mouth opened in a moue. Blood had pooled around her, soaking the carpet beneath her. She was dressed in a nightgown, originally white, now patterned with her blood. It had ridden up till her thighs, she was barefoot. The wound was clean, a confident stab, almost clinically medical in its approach. They entered the room where the man lay, a mayhem in the bedroom. His blood was splattered on almost every conceivable surface. The night lamp, the book on the side table, the head board, even the ceiling! The entire circumference around the bed was affected by the murder that happened on it. “The murderer must be really furious; the rage is directed at the man. The wounds show a lot of force, maniacal even. He or she has thrusted the sharp blade several times in the abdomen. I can see at least 17 puncture wounds in his abdomen, but could be more or less, it’s difficult to make out, right now. The woman outside has one clean wound, a serrated knife was used, looking at the area around the wound. It appears to be a regular kitchen knife. We’ll know more later when we finish their autopsy.”, Dr. Suresh, the coroner said, as he stood up from crouching over the man’s body. “Can you determine the time of their death? Or even the order of deaths, doctor?”, Supriya asked. “Time could be around 2.00 – 4.00am last night. I can give you a tighter range when I get them in the laboratory. About the order, I think the man was killed first, and the woman may have surprised the murderer. By the intensity of the wounds, the murderer had some personal beef with the man, the woman was happenstance. But then, you’re the investigator, not me. Though, I would like to comment that women are partial towards knives as a weapon of choice.”, he said as he doffed his invisible hat and stepped out of the room, after instructing his team. “Their names were Shravan and Shalini Surve. Both were doctors, and had their own clinic. He was a gynaecologist, and she was a paediatrician. They ran their clinic, ‘Inside and Outside’, where they had a staff of five, two nurses, one receptionist, one cleaning lady and one watchman. They had informed their staff about taking the long weekend off, and spending it at their farmhouse. They were planning to leave on Saturday. The clinic was closed on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and this information was available in the public domain. I have already spoken to the receptionist, Varsha, and she has requested the watchman to open the clinic, so we can take a look at the register. They started their day on Friday at the clinic at 9.00am, where they saw patients till 12.30pm. Breaking for lunch, they returned by 4.00pm and were busy with their patients till 7.00pm, after which they did some paperwork. The entire clinic emptied out by 7.30pm, and the watchman locked it. Their staff didn’t see them afterwards. I have spoken to their driver, he dropped them home on Friday by 9.00pm, after their meals at a restaurant, ‘The Wok’. I am yet to speak to the restaurant staff. After wishing him goodnight, he left. They received a call on their landline by 9.30pm, we are yet to ascertain who the caller was. We don’t know what happened after that but their maid found them dead in the morning. She’s had a complete breakdown, and is waiting for us in the garden. That’s it for now, Supriya.”.
Chapter 2: The help helps.
After taking a last look around, they retreated to the garden, where Shanta Bai was sitting in a lounge chair, looking lost. “What happened Shanta Bai?”. “I came at 7.00am like I do every day. I rang the bell but no one opened the door. When I pushed the door, it opened so I entered inside. It was quiet, I got the broom out and started my work. I thought maybe sahib and memsahib may have come in late and were still sleeping. When I finished the work on the ground floor, I went to the first floor to start to broom there. When I entered the passage, I saw memsahib on the floor, I ran towards her and when I reached her, I saw all the blood. I dropped the broom and dustpan there and ran out screaming.”, she said wiping her tears, shuddering. “Did you go inside the room or touch anything?”. “No, sahib. Looking at memsahib’s dead body scared me so much, there was so much blood, I didn’t step a foot further. I ran down and kept running till I reached the Shinde’s residence. There I told them everything and they called the police. Was sahib also killed?”, she asked. Supriya ignored her question, “Did they leave the door open for you often?”. “Not often, but sometimes if they got up early despite a late night and wanted to continue sleeping, they did that. It’s a very safe – was a very safe place, and until you push the door, you won’t know it’s open.”. “What work did you do for them?”. “I did the cleaning, dusting of the house, washed the utensils, cooked their meals, put the clothes to wash, dry them, folded them, etc. I’m here every day at 7.00am, after cleaning and dusting, I would make breakfast. Then after they had breakfast, I would wash all the utensils, and then memsahib and sahib would leave for their work. Memsahib would tell me the rest of the work to do, and once I would finish, I would close the door and leave, keeping the cooked food in the fridge. I would come again at 3.30pm to make dinner. “. “How were the Surves as a couple?”, Supriya asked. “Memsahib was a very nice person, she was kind and caring.”, she started crying again “I’ll miss her a lot. She took good care of me.”. Rahul asked, “How was sahib…er…Shravan?”. “Sahib was quite strict, he didn’t like to talk much to the help and usually just ignored me. He wasn’t concerned about the way he would treat me, and would often criticise my work or cooking. Memsahib always gave me a sympathetic look when he did that but she didn’t say anything to him.”. “Why didn’t she say anything?”. “He was a very angry person, sahib. He would fly into rage, and then scream!”. “Did he ever his wife?”. “Sahib for many years, I didn’t see any such thing. I have been working here for ten years now, but the last two years, I have, sometimes, seen bruises on memsahib’s arms. It’s never on her face or hands – but upper arms or once or twice, I saw it on her thighs when she was wearing shorts at home.”. “What did she say when she saw you looking at the bruises?”. “Nothing sahib. She looked at me and gave a sad smile. We both knew the fickle nature of the menfolk.”. “Why do you think Shravan started abusing his wife physically?”. “He was a jealous man; he didn’t like any man talking to memsahib. Even when memsahib’s brother, Prem sahib would come to their house, they would have a fight about it. He once slapped her after Prem sahib gave her a hug during rakhi celebrations. I was in the kitchen and they were fighting in the hall but I heard him slap her and her cry of pain. She retreated to her room. This happened last month or so.”.” Was he violent with other people, like guests or friends?”. “No, never. Whenever they had guests, he was like a different man, he was so charming, so attentive to memsahib, so loving. He would talk to her with so much respect, help her with the chores. It was as if he turned in to another man, and the moment they were gone, it would be back to the verbal abuse, and taunts.” “Why did Shalini continue to stay with Shravan if he had started physically abusing her after years of verbal assault?”. “I don’t know. Maybe she felt no one would believe her as in front of others, he behaved in a manner that would seem as if she were lying. I don’t know, I wish she had left him. And now, she has left all of us. “, Shanta Bai broke down in tears, covering her face with her hands as she sobbed.
Chapter 3: Brotherly love
“We are so sorry to be the bearer of such bad news, Mr. Prem. But your sister Shalini Surve has been a victim of a crime at her house. She and her husband, Shravan were found murdered this morning.”. On hearing the news, Prem collapsed on the sofa in shock, his face was white as a ghost. “But…but I spoke to her last night. She had called me from her house, and we made plans to watch a movie on Sunday at their farmhouse with the girls. Are you sure you have the right person? Who’ll kill her? She is…was…is…the nicest soul.”, he completely broke down, loud shuddering sobs, wracking his body. “Here, sir. Have a sip of water”. Once Prem had composed himself, Supriya and Rahul started their questioning. “Sir, did Shalini talk to you about any issue she was facing or any unwelcome attention from any patient or stranger?”. “No, nothing like that. Shalu and I were quite close, we’ve always been close. She mentioned no such thing. I was a few years her senior and was very protective towards her as she was my younger sister, the apple of my eye, and we chatted every single day. I can’t believe this.”. “Sir what’s your profession?”. The question brought Prem back to his senses, “Yes, yes. I’m a probate attorney, I deal with wills and stuff. And I work in my own firm, with my other partners.”. “How about your parents? Any other siblings?”. “My mother passed away from cancer last year and my father had a heart attack three years back. It was just Shalu and I.”. “How about your family, sir.”. “My wife, Rima, is a teacher at a college, she teaches maths. I have two daughters, Sara and Mia, ages, ten and twelve. They are visiting their maternal grandparents. Oh God, they’re going to be shell shocked to hear about Shalu. Shalu was their favourite aunt, she pampered them beyond a reason. Shravan and Shalu didn’t have their own children, so my girls meant everything to her. Rima’s going to be shattered, Rima and Shalu were best friends in school, and their friendship strengthened when Rima and I got married.”. “Sir how was your relationship with Shravan?”. “Shravan and I didn’t share a very warm relationship, it was a cordial one, he was an odd duck. He’s superficially friendly but not someone one can get very close to. Frankly, I could never see what Shalini found attractive or appealing in him. He wasn’t an ideal partner for her.”. “Why do you say that, sir?”. “He appeared dominating to me. Shalu was a soft-spoken girl, and a non-confrontationist. She didn’t like to hurt people, and would usually go with their suggestions without much of a protest. I felt Shravan took advantage of that fact and he would force Shalu to his will. But we shouldn’t speak bad about the dead…”.
Chapter 4: Assault of a different kind
Inspectors Rahul and Supriya were partners for a few years now. They were well-settled in their routine, comfortable, and trusted each other with their lives. Supriya had earned her grey hair, dyed a boring brown, and seniority, in the homicide department, whereas Rahul achieved his name, and scars in narcotics. They were partnered when Rahul moved to homicide. Since then they had worked on several cases together. Their success rate was fairly good, and they were well respected in the homicide department.
“I have got the patient register for the last week of the Surves’ life. Varsha, out of those who were the regular ones and who came for the first time?”, Rahul asked Varsha. Varsha was the receptionist at ‘Inside and Outside’ clinic. She looked at the two inspectors, something on her mind, hesitant to speak. Supriya picked up the mood, “Varsha, do you want to tell us something? Do you know something?”. She looked down at her hands, confusion writ on her face, “Yes.”, she mumbled. “Did something happen on Friday?”. Varsha shook her head, “No, not on Friday, but on Wednesday. A lady had come to visit Dr. Shravan, a first time patient. Everything was going normally, and the clinic was packed on that day, she was the last patient.”, she fell silent.” What happened then?”. “I think it’s better if Gina tells you, sir as she experienced it first-hand.”. Rahul fetched Gina, Shravan’s nurse. “Sir, on Wednesday, this lady had visited the clinic, she had some complaints about PCOD. As soon as she entered Dr. Shravan’s cabin, she gave a start and looked shocked. It appeared as if she had recognized him and had some bad associations with him. “. “Did Dr. Shravan recognise her?”. “Sir, he didn’t display any external signs of recognising her. He greeted her warmly as he greets all his patients. But she didn’t say anything, she just stood at the door and stared at him. Dr. Shravan appeared as confused as me, we just looked at her, and she said, ‘You! No! No! Not again’ and she ran out. Dr. Shravan looked at me and asked me to go after her.”. Gina took a large sip of water before continuing, “I went after her; she was outside the clinic, crying. I asked her what was wrong and she said that the man I work for is evil. She said she couldn’t believe it was him. She said when she took the appointment, she thought the name was the same, but eventually thought it could be a coincidence. But when she saw him, she knew it was him. She said she was glad that he didn’t recognise her. After saying that, she warned me against him and left by hailing a passing auto. It was all very strange.”. “What was Dr. Shravan’s reaction when you relayed it to him?”. “I didn’t tell him, sir. I didn’t want to bell the cat, I just said she got scared as she ran away. Since she was the last patient, sir and madam left for lunch. I was shaken and confided in Varsha.”. “How was Dr. Shravan with his staff?”. “Sir, he was downright awful. He didn’t say much to me, but the way he treated us, it was quite despicable. In his eyes, anyone who wasn’t a doctor wasn’t worth his time. As nurses, we ranked very low and he barely said a word outside of work to me or Pankaja, Dr. Shalini’s nurse. “. “Did he behave the same way with his patients?”. “Oh no! He had the best bedside manner, he was very polite and warm with his patients, very attentive. He put on a mask, when he was with his patients, and the real face was exposed elsewhere”. “Why did you stick around if he was so bad?”. “He wasn’t verbally abusive with me; it was his attitude that was supercilious. He would occasionally pass snide comments, but as a person he was awful. But he paid on time, and paid well.”. “Did Shalini hear about the incident on Wednesday?”.” I don’t know sir. It wasn’t from me. While the episode took place, she was in the consulting room with her patient, so she didn’t see it happen. If Dr. Shravan mentioned it to her, I wouldn’t know as she didn’t speak about it to me.”. “How was Dr Shravan’s behaviour with Dr. Shalini?”. “I can’t tell you much sir, they didn’t really interact much and as Dr. Shravan considered us as second citizens, he didn’t deem us worthy to show us his reactions. You may have to ask Pankaja, if Dr. Shalini confided in her.”. “Thank you Gina. Please send Pankaja inside.”. “Hello Pankaja, just a few questions?”. “Sir, what’ll happen to us now?”. “Er…we can’t answer that question, but I would suggest looking out for a new job, Pankaja. So how was your relationship with Dr. Shalini?”.” She was a kind person, but a closed one. She didn’t talk much but she had a soft personality.”. “How was her behaviour with her husband?”. “Dr. Shalini treated everyone with a lot of respect. She didn’t display any animosity towards him.”. “How about Dr. Shravan?”. “I didn’t deal with him much. But we were, usually, person-non-grata with him. He was good with his patients, but with us he was indifferent to the point of ignorance. With Dr. Shalini, he didn’t think much of her. He tried to pretend as if he respected her a lot but in small ways, he demeaned her and made her look bad.”. “Did she ever talk about it with you?”. “No ma’am. Dr. Shalini was not the confiding sort, she was friendly but not pally. She was a very nice person and will be missed solely.”
Chapter 5: Date rape.
“Wow! This Dr. Shravan seems like the spawn of the devil, Supriya. It’s a wonder how no one murdered him earlier.”. “Yeah, quite a character. Priya Dhankar, the one who ran away from Dr. Shravan’s cabin is waiting for us. I’ve spoken to her, using the number Varsha provided to us.”. “Hello Ms. Priya.”, Rahul said to the nervous looking, twitchy woman, seated in the interview room, “Thank you for coming down to the station.”. “You didn’t give me much of a choice in the matter, inspectors.”, she retorted. “Right, let’s get to it. Ms. Priya did you visit Dr. Shravan’s clinic on 14th May 2003?”. “Yes, I was there last week. I was facing some PCOD issues and he came highly recommended by few of my friends.”. “Why don’t you tell us what happened?”. “I took the last appointment, and when I entered the cabin, I saw Shravan sitting there, wearing this mask of civility. It shocked me to my core. I had never thought in my wildest dreams, I would come face to face with him, again in my life.”. “Why?”. She held a handkerchief to her eyes, pressing them, “It’s a long story. Shravan and I were friends in medical college. We met in our first year, and Shravan was a fantastic person. So attentive, so caring, and we became good friends as time went by. I didn’t harbour any romantic feelings towards him, he was just a good friend, and that was enough for me. One day we were studying in the library, and it was quite late. We decided to have a cup of tea as we were tired of cramming for the test the next day. We took our cups to the deserted garden, sitting by the dimly lit bench. There, while sipping our tea, Shravan said he had developed feelings for me and asked me if I reciprocated them. I was taken aback, as I didn’t, and I said so. I told him that right now I wasn’t interested in a relationship and was just happy to maintain our platonic friendship. He got angry and threw his cup of tea on the floor and snatched mine too, while hurling abuses at me. He pushed me down against the bench, and he…he…”, she stopped, her voice choked with the tears that were flowing freely down her cheeks. Supriya lay a hand on her shoulder, and offered her some water. Priya took a ragged breath, and began again, “He pushed me back against the bench, and started to kiss me forcibly. I screamed at him to stop but it only made him angrier. He raped me then and there, on the garden bench, and after he had finished, he spat on me, calling me names like whore, a tease and then stormed off.”. “Why didn’t you report him to the police. Priya?”. “Inspector, examine the circumstances, I was alone with him, late at night, you know what they do to victims? Can you imagine what they would have done to me? My character would have been assassinated, and my family would be dragged into muck. In our country, it’s not the crime, but the victim who’s held responsible – held responsible for causing the crime, inviting the crime. I left the college, and returned home. My dream of becoming a doctor, like my body, was broken, and I never went back. So when I saw him again, all the pent up rage just rose within me. He was living the dream that I had wanted to live. He never paid for his crime, and here I was, a victim, who had to give up everything for no fault of mine.”, she hung her head, “I had gotten pregnant with Shravan’s child after he raped me. I had to undergo an illegal abortion, and that messed up my internal plumbing forever. I never got married, scared at the thought of intimacy. All these thoughts came rushing at me when I saw his fake, oily smile. I just had to get out of there. When the nurse came after me, I don’t remember what we spoke about, I was in such distress, I just wanted to get some distance between me and Shravan.”. “Ma’am where were you on 16th May night…”.
Chapter 6: Too many cooks.
“Wow, this feels like the book, ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, everyone has a motive to kill Shravan, and everyone can be a killer. Tell me Supriya, did you also have a past related to him and suppressed the urge to kill him?”, joked Rahul. “Pssh Rahul! Priya Dhankar doesn’t have a solid alibi on the day of the murder – she was painting in her studio. I don’t know but somehow I didn’t get the killer vibes from her, but of course, I can be wrong. We should speak to Shravan and Shalini’s staff again, go over their testimonies with a fine-tooth comb. What say, Rahul?”.
“Gina, I think you are not telling us the truth.”. “Why do you say that sir? Why should I lie?”. “Not exactly lying, but an omission of truth.”, commented Rahul, catering to a hunch, “I feel you haven’t been completely honest with us. Some part of the story’s missing.”. He kept quiet, calmly looking at Gina, visibly growing nervous. She wiped the sweat off her upper lip, and looked at him. Rahul let the silence linger, not speaking. The suffocating silence prompted Gina to explode, “You’re right, sir. I didn’t tell you the exact story but it was a very minor detail that I omitted. When I met the lady outside the clinic, she was crying. I held her in a hug, while she cried, shivering with the intensity of her tears. When she had sufficiently calmed down, she did tell me the whole truth – or at least, an abridged version of it. She said that Dr. Shravan had sexually assaulted her when they were students and she never reported it. Seeing him in the cabin, she was shocked, and felt ashamed at the fact she stayed quiet, buried the assault. Then she got into an auto and left. I didn’t tell you this part as I was scared that you may think that I might be mad at Dr. Shravan and have a motive to kill him.”, she said, hanging her head in shame. “Gina, you must never lie to the police, not only is it wrong but it can also derail and obstruct an investigation. Is there anything else that you would like to add?”. “No, sir. I’m sorry. The rest of it I already mentioned, I confided the whole story to Varsha and nothing to Dr. Shravan. Can I go now, sir?”. “Yes, please send Varsha inside.”. “Good job, Rahul. So the rape story was out. I wonder if Shalini knew about it?”.” Can I come in?”. “Yes, Varsha, please come in and have a seat. We wanted to continue our discussion, as last time it was cut short when we spoke to Gina. What happened when you spoke to Gina?”. “Ma’am, Gina narrated the whole story to me during the lunch break. She told me the last patient had accused Dr. Shravan of raping her, while they were students. I was shocked, I mean not that Dr. Shravan’s a very nice person, but to stoop to this level was quite low, even for him. We discussed how it could be true, and concluded amongst us, that the lady had no reason to lie. But then our lunch hour ended and it ended the discussion.”. “Did anything else happen that week?”. “No we were unusually busy that week, and with Gina and Pankaja taking off on consecutive days, I had to step in for them, so it was a very hectic start of the week for us.”. “Why did they take off?”.” Gina had taken an off on Monday as she was attending a marriage, and that day there was some emergency and Dr. Shravan and Pankaja had to stay late, while the rest of us left for the day. So maybe that’s why Pankaja took a holiday. I had stepped in for her, to handle the children, especially when they’re being vaccinated, then Dr. Shalini needs assistance from the nurse. Then on Wednesday, we had the lady who ran off, and on Friday sir and madam were murdered, not a very good week for us.”.” Did you or any of the nurses discuss that event with Dr. Shalini?”. “No, sir. On Wednesday when Gina mentioned it to me, I didn’t get a chance to talk to Pankaja. She was a little distracted that day and we didn’t speak much. She didn’t join us for lunch, either. The next day, Gina worked through lunch with Dr. Shravan, so I told the story to Pankaja. She was more shocked than me! She almost choked on her food on hearing the story!”. “Did something unusual happen last week at work, Pankaja?”. “Nothing. Monday was a very hectic day for us, as a patient had an emergency situation – she slipped and fell in her 8th month of pregnancy and was very worried about the baby. They came in quite late around 8.00pm, and we had to do a full scan and by the time, the patient had calmed down it was pushing 9.30pm.”. “Where were the rest of the staff?”. “All of them, including the watchman, Hari had left at their usual time. Gina was attending some marriage, so she wasn’t there, which was the reason I was working with Dr. Shravan.”.” What happened after the patient left? When did you leave?”. “After the patient left, and I cleaned up while Dr. Shravan updated her charts, it was almost 10.00pm. He said he’ll leave me by car and by the time we reached my house, it was quite late, around 11.00pm. That’s why I took a holiday the next day. It was too tiring for me. The week went past in a flurry. And by the time the weekend rolled by, both the doctors were stabbed to death. What a ghastly week this has been”. “Why didn’t you join Varsha and Gina for lunch on Wednesday?”. “Oh, I had a mild upset stomach and the thought of food made me feel nauseous…”.
Chapter 7: Inner peace leads to the answers
Supriya and Rahul feasted over the piping hot samosas and tea. They were seated in one of their interview rooms, gorging over the food. “Nothing like samosas to fill the hunger within you. If inner peace had a tangible form – it would be the stuffed and fried samosa, with the green chutney.”, Rahul exhaled, sated. “Rare occasion where I agree with you, and lest you forget, the fried green chillies, too. Ah, what a joyous combination”, responded Supriya as she greedily sipped her tea. Once they were done, Rahul picked up the murder book and updated it with the autopsy reports that they had received that morning. “Nothing unexpected in their autopsies. Shravan was stabbed 19 times, and Shalini had one fatal stab. Their food was digested, and the time of death as per Dr. Suresh was 2.00-2.30am. He said the murderer would’ve been covered with Shravan’s blood as it had sprayed everywhere. But we didn’t find any footprints or fingerprints”. “Hmm, their stairway was carpeted, it may have absorbed it or maybe the killer wiped it off and wore gloves. That shows it was premediated, the killer had planned to murder. So, Priya had a motive to kill Shravan, with no alibi. Shravan was abusive towards his wife, and had graduated to being physical. He mistreated his staff and help but was fabulous with friends and patients. Did we speak to the driver – he was practically the last person to see them alive?”. “Yeah, I’ve spoken to him already. He dropped them home and went back to his chawl. A fact that I have corroborated with his family and neighbours. He may have been the last person to see the Surves, but it was Prem who spoke to Shalini over the telephone at night, around 9.30pm. He said they spoke for approximately 30 minutes, which is confirmed by the landline phone records. The time from 10.00pm till they were murdered is what’s unknown to us.”. “The restaurant confirmed that they had their meals there, and verified that they left around 9.00pm or so. They’ll be sending their food bill to us today.”. “They were to leave for their farmhouse on Saturday. On Sunday, Shalini had invited her brother and his family for a movie. The staff was aware of their plans, and so was their driver. But they were killed before they left for their farmhouse, found by their maid. Did we check Shanta Bai’s movements on Friday night?”. “Yes, she was at home. The killer definitely knew their address. I spoke to the Shindes, their nearest neighbours, they didn’t hear anyone coming or any sounds from the Surves. They were on friendly terms, but not too friendly. They would bump into each other while crossing, and exchanged pleasantries. They thought Shravan was a great guy and never suspected his Dr. Jekyll side. I’m flummoxed, Supriya.”. Something was niggling in Supriya’s brain, an elusive wisp of a memory, in one of their interviews, someone said something that didn’t jibe well with her. “Rahul, when we were interviewing people today, someone said something that sounded off to me, but I can’t place it. Can you give me the book to see whom we’ve spoken to today?”. “It’ll come to you, Supriya. Don’t think about it. That’s what I usually do when I’m stuck with a crossword, and I can’t seem to figure out what the clue is! I hum a song to distract me and then I make a stab at it, again and poof! I get the answer to the clue.”. “Rahul, you’re a genius.”. “I would agree with you, but why?”. “Did we reveal the way the Surves were killed in the media or in our interviews. Think about it carefully.”. “No, we had held that information back – we didn’t reveal they were stabbed. It was only mentioned that the doctor couple was found murdered. Even Shanta Bai didn’t see anything to suggest the murder weapon was a knife. Why?”. “How did Pankaja know that the Surves were stabbed?”.
Chapter 8: The crosses we bear.
“Bring her in for a casual talk. Get the confession, we don’t have anything else to prosecute, guys.”, Capt. Shukla, their boss, advised Supriya and Rahul, “All the best.”.
“Thank you for coming, Pankaja. We appreciate the effort.”. “Why did you call me to the police station? I told you everything that day?”. “Yes, Pankaja, we just wanted to go over your statement again. You mentioned on Wednesday you were feeling unwell and didn’t join the others for lunch, and you missed the excitement with the lady. Why did you not talk much with Gina and Varsha for the rest of the day? They said you were distracted.”. “Yes, I didn’t speak to them. Is that a crime? I wasn’t in the mood to listen to gossip and wanted to spend some time with myself. I wanted to make some decisions about the future and hence I was distracted.”. “Which decisions?”. “I wanted to leave the clinic so I was wondering how to tell Dr. Shalini about it.”. “What was your reaction to hear Dr. Shravan being accused of rape on Thursday?”. “I was obviously shocked. One doesn’t expect crime to strike so close to home. And it was a heinous crime, and I’m sure the girl must have been shattered, when she came face to face with her tormentor.”. “Why did you go to meet Dr. Shravan on Friday before your lunch hour?”. “Er…how did you…who told you I went there? We worked in the same clinic. I had some follow up questions so I went to ask him.” “You came out of the room looking furious, almost murderous. Did you have a fight with the good doctor?”. Pankaja appeared shaken at the turn of events. She closed her eyes, and took a deep breath, exhaling loudly. “I can’t bear it anymore. On Monday night when Dr. Shravan came to drop me home, at a pretext of drinking water, he came inside my house. There he…he attacked me. He forced himself on me, pushing his erection against me. He tore off my uniform and put his hands around my neck, applying pressure, he said if I mentioned this to anyone else, he would kill me as he knew where I lived, alone. He then threw me on the bed, and raped me, two times. The entire time, he called me vile names and left welts around my upper arms. He bit me on my thighs and spat on me. When he was done, he zipped his pants, washed his face, combed his hair and left me. I just lay on the bed, shocked at the encounter. I was bleeding, and in severe pain. I couldn’t get up but I forced myself to go to the bathroom and take a bath.”, she put her head on the table, crying. She looked up and continued, “This’s why I took an off on Tuesday. I couldn’t bear to face him. The whole day I convinced myself that I must have given him some indication or lead him on in some way and that the whole episode was my fault.”. “Why didn’t you report it?”. “Who would have believed me? A divorced nurse over a well-established, famous doctor? Who would have hired me after it went public? I would never have got a job, again. I kept quiet. The whole of Wednesday, I avoided him like plague, and didn’t talk to anyone else. On Thursday, when Varsha mentioned about the patient who accused him of rape, I knew it was the truth – he was a serial rapist and he would keep doing it to other woman, until he was stopped. God knows how many victims he left in his wake, and what torture he would be inflicting upon his wife? I couldn’t let it continue.”. She took a breath, “I confronted him on Friday about it. You know what he said? He said if he had to be concerned about every girl he raped, he would hardly get any time to practice in his clinic. He said there were many before me, and there will be many after me. He said as a nurse I should be used to it, I was anyway there to let the doctor release his stress – as a medium to provide relaxation for him, I was so enraged that he discounted the fact he raped me, and had such a casual attitude towards it. He said he liked my body and that I should expect future such events to happen as he had enjoyed himself on Monday. He said maybe this evening itself, I could get a visit from him as he knew where I lived. I was so scared, and I knew that he meant every word – he would keep raping me till he got tired of me. I couldn’t spend my life being scared of him, and I decided to kill him. On Thursday, I took the impression of Dr. Shalini’s house key, and got a new set made. On Friday night, I parked my scooter near their lane and walked till their house. I almost laughed when I saw the Hippocrates bust, but continued.”. “Why did you stab Dr. Shalini?”. “Oh that was such a mistake. I didn’t mean to kill her, I just wanted to stop that demon, she wasn’t in the same room as him, but she heard a noise, and when she came to investigate, she saw me withdrawing the knife from his torso. I had no other option to kill her, I tried to make it as painless as I could. Killing her affected me much more than I can express. But I had to save myself so I had to make that decision.”, she rests her head on the table, spent.
“Sometimes monsters meet their end at the hands of people, the same set of hands that we’ve to handcuff, however reluctant we may be. I may sympathise with Pankaja, but a crime was committed – whether Shravan deserved it or not. “, Supriya said, smiling sadly at Rahul. “Supriya definitely didn’t deserve it. She is as much a victim in this, as the other innocent women who were raped by Shravan.”
Join detectives Supriya & Rahul as they solve another perplexing crime involving twin identical sisters. One is murdered, but which of the sisters is actually the victim?