Archive for the ‘Mystery’ Category

Whodunit? (Part 2)

Shekhar prodded Hasmukh for his thoughts, as they both descended to the living room.

“I have a few ideas, but I don’t know who committed the murder, yet. I do find the flower bed and the window very interesting.”

Exasperated, Shekhar asked, “What the bloody hell is so interesting about the window? There was glass on the flowerbed, from the broken window above. A clear sign that somebody came in from outside.”

Hasmukh smiled, “Exactly, there was glass on the flower bed.”

Shekhar knew Hasmukh was upto his old tricks. Hasmukh gently chided Shekhar, “Shekhar, you’re a fine officer; yet, sometimes you do miss the details that I think are too obvious.”

Sam walked into the room as Hasmukh finished his thought. Her eyes were red from tears. Shekhar instinctively felt bad for her, she was obviously upset with the loss of her aunt.

Hasmukh pointed to the seat across both from him and Shekhar, “Sam, please sit down. Commissioner and I have some questions for you. I’m assisting the police in solving the murder of your aunt. She was your aunt, right?”

Sam nodded, while sniffling, “Yes, but not a close relative. My mother was a long distance cousin of aunt Usha. I started visiting Udhgam after my mother’s death a few months ago.”

Hasmukh asked Sam about her movements from last night. Sam dutifully recited that after dinner, she went upstairs to read a book and went to bed shortly after 11pm. She didn’t hear anything. Of course, it was hard to with all the guest rooms on the other end of the floor, or on the first floor, away from Usha’s room.

With nothing more to ask, Shekhar asked Sam to leave and asked her to send Neha in. One by one, all the guests came and interviewed. Same questions were asked, there was the obvious grief on part of Amit, Ashit and Avanish on losing their mother. They clearly had been shaken.

*———————————————————–*

Hasmukh and Shekhar compared notes. Everbody had gone back to their room after dinner, nobody heard or saw any stranger enter the house. Amit heard a noise outside his room, and saw Sam walking towards the stairs (Sam hadn’t mentioned that). Neha saw John around 12 moving about the landing, but knew that was part of his routine. Amar refuted Amit’s story that Sam was moving about, he claimed that being next to Sam’s room, he would have heard her first. Ashit and Avanish provided no information. That was the gist of the interviews with the guest of the house.

Shekhar was frustrated, “Well, the least these guys could have done and come up with a consistent story. Sam and Amar say that Sam wasn’t out, yet Amit swears that Sam was out and about the house. Somebody is lying.”

Hasmukh walked around the room and was absent mindedly looking over the pictures on the mantelpiece. A picture caught his attention. He looked at it in stunned silence. An idea just occurred to him; it couldn’t be true, could it. It’s the only theory that fits the facts so far. There was a smile, a reaction that was out of place, it didn’t belong to the person, rather it shouldn’t have belonged to the person.

John walked into the room just as Shekhar got Hasmukh’s attention.

“John, How long have…had you been with Usha?” asked Shekhar

“Right after Nitin’s sir’s death. I was in between jobs, and one’s of Nitin’s sir’s colleague recommended me to madam. She was very grief stricken. What a horrible death for Nitin sir. A new car and the brake failed. Horrible, sir”

Shekhar interjected, “How did you know the brake failed? Police report says that he lost control of his car, and brake’s were just fine.”

John looked surprised, “Oh! That makes more sense. I guess madam wasn’t very sure of what happened.”

A few simple queries later, John was sent out of room. He added no new information to what Shekhar and Hasmukh already knew.

Finally, Hasmukh gave Shekhar a piece of paper, “Shekhar can you find more information about these two people. I suspect they aren’t who we think they are.”

Shekhar looked at the names,”Are you sure? What do you have in mind?”

Hasmukh puffed up his chest and proclaimed, “I know what happened here last night, but I have no proof. And for that I need your help.”

[This is the end of the story. A little underwhelming, perhaps. But I never intended to reveal the murderer or the MO, rather just the clues through which I came about the solution. Solution maybe forthcoming, if enough people are interested, or even if there are enough people to begin with. Guesses are more than welcome in the comment box.]

Whodunit? (Part 1)

[Links to Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 of the story]

Hasmukh, was walking up to Usha’s house, when Police Commissioner’s car told him what he feared the most. There was a death at Usha’s house. He should have listened to his instincts. A feeling of great regret just washed over him at the moment.

Hasmukh saw John was standing by the flower bed, under Usha’s window. Hasmukh walked up to him, and looked at John. The sadness in John’s eyes, gave Hasmukh another shock – Usha was the victim. Never in his wildest dreams did Hasmukh imagine that Usha would die so suddenly; her death was as surprising, if not more surprising, than Nitin’s death.

Hasmukh walked over to Police Commissioner- his good friend Mr. Shekhar D’souza.

“Hey Shekhar, what happened?”

“Very sad news, Hasmukh. Usha was strangled and mauled in her sleep last night.”

“So, you really think it was a murder?”

“Yes, absolutely. No doubt about it.”

Hasmukh, looked down at his shoes. He made a decision. “Shekhar, can I help you solve the crime. I would love to get hold of the bastard who did this.”

“Hasmukh, I admire you, however, I think this is a not detective story, where the murderer was in the house. It looks like an outside job.”

“Shekhar, let me help you. I had a terrible feeling yesterday at dinner that there was a murderer in that house.”

“Fine. I’ll give you all the resources you need.”

Happy with Shekhar’s affirmation, Hasmukh walked over to John.

“John, I know you loved your madam to death. I will find who did this. And I need your help. Holmes had Watson, Poirot had Hastings. Will you be my John?”

“Sir, my last name is Gomes.” The momentarily relief through John’s humor, confirmed Hasmukh’s desire to use John as his sounding board.

Hasmukh was staring at the flower bed, his eyes slowly rising up to the open window. He presumed it was Usha’s room. Better to confirm it, though.

“John, is that, I mean, was that Usha’s bedroom?”

“Yes, sir. They haven’t yet taken the body. Photographers having been taking pictures.”

Hasmukh was looking down at the flower bed dejectedly, when he suddenly had an idea- “Shekhar, why do you say it was an outside job?”

“Well, the window in her room was flung open. John testified that he closed it every evening, and it wasn’t hot at all yesterday. Oh, and there’s a pipe next to her window, from which the murderer could have climbed up. Her safe was open, and some contents were missing.”

“Hmm…I did see some glass shards on the flower bed. Two things – why didn’t Usha wake up when the window was broken? And why didn’t anyone else hear the sounds and wake up?”

“Hasmukh, that’s easy. Usha took sleeping pills with her, John said so. The guests were sleeping on the other side of house. You know this is a big house.”

“Too easily answered, in my opinion. Ok, take a look at the flower bed, and tell me does nothing strike you as odd about it?”

Police Commissioner trained his eyes toward the flower bed, “No, it looks pristine. What’s so odd about?”

Hasmukh managed to smile, “Exactly, that’s the problem. If you don’t mind, I’d like to take a look at the body.”

Shekhar thought to himself, “Old man’s lost it from shock of losing his friend.”

*————————————————————————————*

Hasmukh looked around the room – Usha’s, rather her dead body, was lying on the bed. A serene look over her face.

“She had no idea that she was being murdered.” There was sound of relief in Hasmukh’s voice. It steeled him even further.

Hasmukh walked around. He stopped by Usha’s bed, picked up the half-full glass of water. He sniffed it, and put it back down. There wouldn’t be any traces left in water by now.

Shekhar interrupted him, “I took fingerprints from the glass, and lab just called and said that there only Usha’s prints on glass.”

Hasmukh had a bemused expression on his face. He walked over by the safe, and saw it was open; yet, nothing seemed out of place. He walked over to window, looked outside and satisfied himself.

Finally, he said to Shekhar, “Come, let’s talk to the family members. We’ll get our next clue from them.”

Later, Usha’s body was taken to the morgue for post-mortem. Results of the post-mortem confirmed what was already known – Usha died in her sleep, she was strangled and injuries were post-mortem. She was heavily sedated, traces of over-the-counter sleeping pills were found in her blood.

[Chapter will be split into 2 posts; I’ll post the 2nd part later]

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.

The Incredible Mr. Joshi

Chapter 1 – All Come Home

Usha looked at her messy bedroom, and sighed. So much work to do, and so little time. Why did everybody have to come at the same time. She loved having guests, just not all the same time. Usha preferred the peace and quite offered by the charming hill-station of Udhgam.

John asked, “Madam, how many towels should I put in the bedrooms?”, interrupting her thoughts.

Usha hated John’s habit of interrupting her thoughts, yet she liked him for being efficient around the house, taking care of all her needs. Finally, she admitted that she needed the guests this weekend.

After Nitin’s death, there was a void in Usha’s life. Two of her children – Ashit and Avanish lived in Bombay, and the third, Amit, in Pune. Her time was spent between trying to convince her 3 kids to marry, tending to her garden and reading history books. Visitors like her niece Sam, her husband’s sister Neha and her son Uday, would stop by and give her company. Occassionally, her eccentric neighbor – Hasmukh Joshi, would stop by for dinner. He would try to regale her with stories about ’71 War, and psychology of criminals.

Hasmukh Joshi, was a retired Army major, studied Psychology in college and loved reading about criminals. He fancied himself to be a detective. He came from Hercule Poirot’s school of criminology – it was always about the Psychology of the victim. Hasmukh was born just before British left India, always spoke propah English, dressed oddly and always for a formal occasion. Often, one would hear him say, “A man’s stature is always measured by the dress he wears”. Hasmukh was fond of Usha, he could see the pain of losing her husband in her eyes. It never occured to him that Usha would find Hasmukh’s company boring, after all Hasmukh always had a story to tell.

“Madam,” John woke Usha up from her reverie.

“Oh, sorry, what did you ask, John?”. John softly repeated his question.

“Let’s see, Amit is coming with his girlfriend. Ashit and Avanish, thank god for small favors, aren’t showing up with their eye-candy” deadpanned Usha.

John knew how much Usha wanted daughter-in-laws and grand-kids to pass her time. Yet, her sons never understood their mother’s desire to have grand-kids.

“Oh, John, Sam, Neha and her whole gang are coming too. Of all the weekends to come, they had to choose this weekend.”

John, slipped away, chuckling to himself- here comes the madness. He knew, Neha and Uday, were after Usha’s money and were always at some pretext trying to siphon money away from her. Sam, a college student, was one of the weirdest persons he’d ever met. There was definitely something sinister about her. Icing on the cake was Neha’s estranged husband, who never socialized, but from looks of it was coming down to Udhgam.

“I hope the madhatter is only coming here for a vacation, and not up to something,” John said to himself.

Ashit, Amit and Avanish were peas of a pod. Always up to something, but never anything good. Always changing careers, job, homes to find the right fit. Once, in a matter of a year, Ashit went from Investment Banking to real estate to selling stuff on internet. To top it off, they couldn’t settle down with a girl. The women, oh the women. Three of them were always falling in love, getting fleeced by women. John laughed everytime he thought about the day when the three brothers were to get married, to the same women- and neither of them realized it! Comedy of errors, meet David Dhawan.

“This should be a fun weekend!” John told the cook, as he walked into the kitchen.

Little did he know that he couldn’t have been more wrong.