Murder!

[Chapter 1 of my story here]

Hasmukh was whistling a merry tune, as he walked up the path and rang Usha’s doorbell. What a gorgeous Friday morning. It had been a couple days since he had last seen Usha, and was hoping to get invited for dinner.

Hasmukh muttered to himself, “I wish I had a cook half as good as Usha’s, retired life would be so much easier.”

Hasmukh had never truly enjoyed the joys of good cooking. Single, always traveling, and eating at Army mess, he had become used to terrible cooking. Until now, after retiring he moved to Udhgam and started frequenting Usha’s for dinner. Life was good – Hasmukh enjoyed Usha’s company and was able to indulge in exotic cuisine.

Hasmukh snapped out of his thought, as John opened the door, ” Ah, Mr. Hasmukh. Good morning, sir!”

“Good morning, John. Is Usha around?”

“Yes sir. She’s upstairs preparing for guests for weekend. I’ll call her, please take a seat”

Hasmukh walked into the living room, and sat down, looking over the view he had seen many times over the last 3 years. On the mantelpiece, there was a picture of Nitin, just before he died. Next to Nitin’s picture were some pictures chronicling Usha’s married life – her sons, good times with Nitin.

Hasmukh wished that Usha would move past the tragic end of Nitin’s life. Hasmukh had tried hard to bring spark in Usha’s life, and had failed miserably. Hasmukh looked up just in time to see Usha come into the living room.

“Hi Hasmukh. How are you? Haven’t seen you in a couple of days.”

“Good morning, Usha. Yes, it has been a few days. I was out of town, visiting a couple of my Army friends. What a good time it was”

“Usha, why don’t you come over to my place for dinner, and I can tell you all about it.”

“No Hasmukh. My sons, Sam and Neha’s family are coming this weekend.”

“All of them!”

Usha caught the momentarily look of surprise on Hasmukh’s face. She chuckled, “Yes. Can you believe it. Anyways, why don’t you come over to dinner with the guests. I’m sure Amit’s new girlfriend would love to hear your Army stories.”

Hasmukh for all his qualities, had a fatal flaw- he could never resist an opportunity to tell a story. Hasmukh was a very perceptive, sharp fellow. Yet, he missed the dryness in Usha’s voice.

“Yes, 8pm is just fine. If you don’t mind now, I need go fix the house before evening. See you later.”

Hasmukh was happy. He was looking forward to tonight’s dinner, and telling the new guests about his experiences as an MP in the Army.

“Sure, what time? Is 8 o’clock a good time?”

Usha wasn’t surprised at Hasmukh’s accepting his invitation. She knew anybody else would have declined the invitation, not Hasmukh. Yet, she was glad he accepted, a friendly face in today’s crowd wouldn’t a bad idea.

*—————————————————–*

From distance the dinner table seemed a merry bunch of people. Yet, only Hasmukh was enjoying the conversation. He looked around the dinner table. Usha, appropriately, was at the head table. On her left side were her 3 sons. Neha, her son Uday, and her husband Amar were sitting to Usha’s right. Opposite Usha was Hasmukh, and he was flanked by Amit’s girlfriend Jenny to his right, and Sam to his left. Hasmukh had never met either of them before, and was telling them the stories about his experiences at border during ’71 war.

Jenny was good at faking interest and kept goading Hasmukh to tell more stories. Sam on the other hand was quite fidgety and nervous. A couple of times, she even dropped her fork, prompting John to bring out new silverware.

Ashit and Avanish were talking amongst themselves. They both had hit upon a great business idea, and needed capital investment. They had tried and failed to get loans from market, and the only option left was their mother. They knew their mother was not going to easily give them the money. Yet, they knew they’ll be in for a rich inheritance when she passes away.  They were going over the details of the plans that was hatched prior to coming to Udhgam.

Amit, was in a pensive mood. He didn’t want to come to Udhgam, but he had no choice. Nobody knew that Jenny wasn’t his girlfriend. Jenny was a drug dealers associate, and was squeezing Amit for money that he didn’t have. Drugs, alcohol and money were his vices, and he was paying the price. Amit needed money fast to pay off Jenny, or his fate will catch up with him fast. He had to desperately convince his mother for the copious amounts of money.

Neha was smiling to herself. She was poor, in debt and had no way of coming up with the money. Finally, the lady luck was smiling – she had hatched on a plan that would make her rich. Despite Usha’s modest way of living, she had come into information about Usha’s wealth and will. The share would make her rich, but not quite. There was another thing – the anticipation was killing her.

Amar was here to get away from Bombay, and away from Neha. He couldn’t stand her alone. Any more time with her, and he’d kill her.

Uday had heard about Sam coming this weekend. He just wanted one more opportunity to meet with her and woo her. He couldn’t think of anything else other than Sam.

A thought crossed the murderer’s mind – “Yes, tonight’s the night. I’ll do it. She has to die.”

Hasmukh cleared his throat, “In my experience, a murderer is a product of opportunity and psychology.”

Jenny interjected, “Don’t you think, Mr. Hasmukh, that murder is committed for money,” stealing a sideways glance at Amit.

A silence suddenly descened the dining room. There was a perplexed expression on Usha’s face.

Hasmukh broke the silence – “No. Murder has motives, but most of the motives are psychology of the victim. A victim has always done something to antagonize the murderer. Most famous cases in history have always been about the perceived injustice felt by the murderer.A murderer sees the opportunity, a psychological moment, where he or she can’t be explicitly blamed for it, and commits the crime. Any one in this room could be a murderer, provided there was an opportunity.”

Sam laughed heartily at that comment. Hasmukh ignored her, putting it down to her nervousness.

Conversation steered away from morbid topic of death to current political situation and economic climate.

*—————————————————–*

Hasmukh Joshi, retired Army officer, was walking back to his home, when he suddenly froze. The whole gravity of the situation at dinner just dawned on him. There was a murderer in the room; he couldn’t point who he or she was. His instinct told him there was a murder going to happen in Usha’s house. He turned back, and retraced his steps to Usha’s house.

Hasmukh stopped again – what was he going to say? He didn’t know who the murderer or victim was? He didn’t want to warn the murderer away. He decided to pursue the matter next morning – he strangely started to feel very tired. Murder probably won’t happen tonight. The opportunity wasn’t there. With that Hasmukh returned home, and retired to his bed.

Next morning, he woke up to the news of Usha’s death.

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