On a full moon night as Mr Maniratnam lay resting in his bedroom, an axe with brute force clipped off his head.
The next morning, while I was reading the daily newspaper, comfortably seated in my rocking chair on the balcony, the phone buzzed and Arjun, an intern at my agency, picked up the phone in the living room.
Concluding the call, the twenty-two year old who wished to become a legal prosecutor through a degree from Andhra University, shouted, “It’s Inspector Sharma. He says he would need our help.”
That’s all it ever took. A request for help.
In the next fifteen minutes, Arjun and I rushed to the crime scene and Inspector Sharma was as usual standing as a fully loaded gun inspecting the crime scene. He seemed both curious and anxious at the same time as we exchanged looks.
While Mrs. Maniratnam was crying and their servants stood in stunned silence near the entrance of the room. I entered to take a look at the body and noticed blood spread all over the white sheets and Mr Maniratnam’s body lying on his bed but to my surprise his head was nowhere to be seen. Before I could ask the inspector, he confirmed that the head was indeed missing and as I noticed the unclean cut, the inspector continued by mentioning that the early forensic reports suggest that the weapon used was an axe and I couldn’t agree more.
Suddenly from nowhere a hand with a cup of tea appeared in front of me. It was brought by one of the servants of the Maniratnam family. I accepted his offering and continued to observe the body. Camera shutter sounds were ringing in my ears while I was taking a look at the axe cut.
The cut around the neck was clean and swift which also ripped the pillow, indicating the killer was not only strong but also was not hesitant. Probably, Mr. Maniratnam didn’t even get to know what was going on before he was killed. I could guarantee that whosoever the person was, he knew how to use an axe for such a cut. But the biggest question which was storming my brain was where was his head?
I could also see that there were no blood stains in any other part of the room. It was totally closed and not even a single trace of someone coming through the balcony could be seen and so this concluded that the murderer entered from the main entrance. Where did the murderer put the head? How did he carry it? What was his motivation? If he entered from the main door, then why didn’t anyone notice him?
Before long, we were back to the office and I noticed my Rubik’s cube that lay as a paperweight in the middle of all the papers was still unsolved. I picked it up and with each flip of the cube, I was trying to find out possible answers while I heard Arjun giving me his intel after enquiring Mrs. Maniratnam.
My hands stopped as soon as Arjun said that one of the servants named Karan was from the village Mr. Maniratnam originally came from and was just hired a year ago. I immediately instructed Arjun to go to Mr. Maniratnam’s native village and find out each and every detail he could find about Karan and also his relation with Mr. Maniratnam before he joined as one of the servants in the home.
The next day, I was invited for Mr. Maniratnam’s funeral and my thoughts were preoccupied throughout the event asking the obvious question as to where was Mr. Maniratnam’s head?
Lost in my thoughts, I stood beside the others silent. Those rituals always annoyed me but the interesting element was that Karan stood beside me observing the proceedings with great pity. Greeting me with a smile, he asked, “Are you also an atheist?”
I surprisingly nodded my head confirming his guess and he remarked, “I could see that you are bugged up with the proceedings!”
As I continued my silence, he offered, “Would you like to come to my house just a few blocks ahead to escape this?”
With a smile, I replied, “No thanks. I am fine.”
Taking a deep breath, he exclaimed, “I cannot take it anymore. This cemetery is annoying me,” saying so he left.
After the funeral, I called Inspector Sharma and asked him to search the cemetery to which he was quite surprised. I assured him that I had identified the murderer and according to my theory Mr. Maniratnam’s missing head would be around his burial site itself. The next day, I assembled every member of the house to the living room since the police were finally successful in recovering the missing head just as I had predicted.
With the entire room packed with members of the house, Mrs. Maniratnam curiously asked, “What is going on here detective?”
Unable to bear her impatience, I replied, “Ladies and gentleman, I’m pleased to inform you that we have found Mr. Maniratnam’s head and with that I have found the killer as well. You’d be surprised to know that he is in this very room right now.”
Leaning back on the only closed door, Inspector Sharma questioned in exhaustion, “So, who was it?”
“Mr. Karan, please proceed. I don’t want to waste my energy.”
“Wh.. Wha… What? You think it’s me? I… I… was not the one who buried the head there...”
“Ahh.... Then tell us how you know that the head was buried in the first place?”
While everyone gawked at him, I said, “Ahh… apparently I should spend my energy after all and tell them what happened… So, Mrs. Maniratnam, your servant here Mr. Karan is also from your in-law’s place as you said during our inquiry. I had my doubts about him when he offered me tea when I first came to the crime site. How could a person working the whole day in the house have such dirty nails containing mud which usually is the case with gardeners?”
As Karan silently placed his hands in his pockets, I continued, “To know more, I sent Arjun to his native place to inquire about his past. From there, I learned that your husband and Karan were relatives. Your husband was Karan’s son-in-law and he molested and cheated Karan’s daughter before he married you. While he was marrying you, Karan’s daughter tried to oppose but Mr. Maniratnam’s father not only covered it all up but even insulted and harassed her badly. Poor woman couldn’t take all that and decided to commit suicide.”
Noticing how Karan’s face turned red, I concluded, “And our dear Karan here or should I say Mr. Arvind being the discarded adopted father who never met your husband in the past introduced himself as a poor guy and entered your house. And yes, Mr. Arvind, who was a woodcutter in the past, knew how to use an axe excellently. Am I right Mr. Arvind or am I wrong?”
“Yes, yes, I did kill him… I killed that bastard for what he has done to my girl in my absence. When I buried her body in this very city, I vowed to kill him…”
Not bothering about anyone in the room and even pleased with himself, Arvind continued, “And as promised I buried his head near her tomb as an offering. I thought if the head is missing, it would be impossible to solve the case and I would be living freely until my last days. But I am curious to know as to how you got to know where I buried the head?”
Staring into his black eyes, I replied, “As I told you, ever since I saw mud in your nails and got to know about your previous profession, I had a suspicion. It grew when you were the only servant to attend his funeral implying a closeness and my mind started ticking when you said the cemetery annoys you. So I just tried a blind shot and asked Inspector Sharma to search the cemetery and the rest happened as you know.”
As soon as I completed, Mrs. Maniratnam shouted, “You...” and held Mr. Arvind by his collar. Though it seemed like she wanted to hit him, she just cried and shouted, “Take him out of my sight!”
It was disheartening to see the look on Mrs. Maniratnam’s face. She was now the mourning widow of a man whom she realized, never really deserved to be loved.
As for Mr. Arvind, being jailed in the past for his criminal history did not deter him from taking the law into his own hands. He chose to fall back on the world of crime to bring justice to his daughter…
He went from being a father who could not protect his daughter’s life since he was always locked up, to being a father who would now be imprisoned for avenging his daughter’s death.
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