Vanished Girl - Chapter 5
by Lakshmi Menon
Back to Chapter 4
Grief-stricken, it had not crossed Nikhil’s mind to file a missing person’s police report. Urged on by family and friends, he eventually confided in his mother, and had her sign a complaint letter which he took to the police station. The officers read the report and promised they would be in contact with him. A despondent Nikhil returned home and gave his mother the news. They waited impatiently and each time the phone rang, they seemed too scared to pick it up.
Two days later, they finally called Nikhil down to the police station. They had found the body of a young girl near the railway track very close to Palakkad. The girl was wearing a sari and had a short hair style. Nikhil immediately knew it was not his sister. She seldom wore a sari, and would never wear one, especially on a train journey. He had seen her wearing a sari only on a few occasions, and in addition, Akila had long black hair which flowed beautifully around her shoulders. This he conveyed to the attending police officer.
“You must not forget the fact that your sister was living in the glamorous city of Bangalore for the last six months, and she might have made changes to her appearance,” the officer said. “She could have cut her hair. That’s nothing unusual.” He gave the young man a stern look.
“My sister is not that type of a girl, sir. She would never get carried away by the attractions of the big city. She always cared for us, the family.” Nikhil insisted.
The officer’s comment gave him food for thought, so Nikhil called up his uncle to find out what Akila was wearing when she left Bangalore.
“She was wearing a yellow salwar kameez with a darker colour dupatta,” Mahesh replied.
“Uncle, do you remember her wearing a sari at any time?” asked Nikhil, in front of the Inspector, and he switched on the speaker.
“No, I have never seen her wearing a sari at any time. In fact, one day my wife asked her to wear a sari to the temple, and she said she didn’t wear saris because she preferred the Salwar Kameez for the sake of convenience, and that’s what she was going to wear.” After a pause, he asked him. “Why are you asking me about her clothing?”
“Uncle, I’m here in the police station. The police have found a girl’s body. She has short hair, and was wearing a sari. They want me to go with them to identify the body, but I’m sure it won’t be my sister.”
“There is no possibility that body could be Akila’s. It must be someone else. I agree with you.” Mahesh assured him.
The police accompanied Nikhil to the morgue. Nikhil’s heart was pounding in his chest. He had never been to a morgue and was deathly afraid, but one look at the body and he breathed a deep sigh of relief. It was not his sister.
Back at home, Nikhil was still being badgered by all kinds of questions. Did he hear anything form Akila? Did he call Uncle Mahesh in Bangalore? Did he check the train and bus schedules from Bangalore? And the questions went on and on. Padmaja was more worried about Akila and her whereabouts. She asked Nikhil, on his return, why he was called to the police station.
“Did they get any news about Akila?”
“No Amma. They wanted to get some more information about her,” he replied.
The truth would have been too devastating for her, especially since she had buried her husband the previous day. There was no reason to doubt her son’s words, and so the two distraught women sat beside each other on the sofa wiping away the tears and consoling each other.
The following morning, Nikhil opened the main door and saw a yellow piece of paper lying on the ground. He walked over and picked it up with reluctance. It was an envelope with his mother’s name on it. He turned it over and inspected it. It was sealed, but there was no sender’s name.
He became suspicious. Why wasn’t there a sender? There was no postage stamp which meant it didn’t arrive there by post. Why would anyone leave an envelope in the courtyard, when they could’ve knocked on the door?
After contemplating the possibilities of the cover reaching there, he carefully opened the envelope. There was a neatly-folded sheet of paper inside. He opened it and read the contents.
“I am safe. Don’t worry about me,” it read.
It was clear to him that his sister had been abducted, even though she hadn’t signed her name. But what if she hadn’t been kidnapped? Suppose she had dropped the letter there
by herself? His sister wasn’t that conniving. Maybe it was the work of the abductor to throw them off. So many questions and so few answers.
He couldn’t hide that bit of evidence, so he decided to give it to his mother.
“It is a message saying that your daughter is safe.”
“Who has sent it?” asked his mother.
“Don’t know, Amma. No name is mentioned.”
Padmaja took the envelope from his hand and examined it carefully, hoping that she would be able to get some clue, but she was disappointed. She then read the message and just stood there speechless until the grandmother joined them and inquired about the yellow envelope.
“A letter saying that we shouldn’t worry about our daughter, because Akila is safe, but we don’t know who has sent it.” Padmaja gazed at her.
“How can it be without a sender’s name? Check to see where it was posted. At least the name of the city should be on it,” said the grandmother.
“This hasn’t sent here by post. Someone dropped it in the courtyard and left,” Nikhil made it clear to his grandmother. “It looks like she has been abducted.”
“Abducted…? Oh my God!” the older woman asked, letting out a loud gasp.
“Certainly looks like it,” said Padmaja, suppressing her fear.
Grandmother kept her index finger on her nose showing her utter shock.
What fate had befallen this family? First it was Damodar and now it’s Akila. At least Damodar’s death was expected, but it was not the case of his daughter. The young girl was rushing home to have a last glimpse of him and to console her family. Who in their right mind would want to kidnap her?
“Inform the police about this immediately. They should hear about this. At least we now know that our Akila is safe somewhere, and nothing has happened to her life,” said grandmother, sitting in the old arm chair where she normally rested. **
Nikhil and Raju went to the police station. Luckily the same officer was still on duty. The young men handed him the letter and he read it silently.
“Who gave this to you?” the officer asked, fidgeting with his long and thick moustache.
“We found it in the court yard, in front of the house,” said Nikhil.
“Letter in the court yard?” He looked at them unbelievably. “How can it be? Somebody must have left it there. Don’t you think so?”
“Yes, somebody must have left it there sir, but we don’t know who?”
The young men stared at each other.
As expected, the officer too closely examined the letter on both sides.
“Now it is clear that Akila has been abducted, and the perpetrators are somewhere near your place only or someone known,” said the officer, pacing the room.
“Near our place?” a shocked Nikhil whispered.
“Yes, of course. Otherwise it would not have been possible to drop this letter in your courtyard.”
“How is it possible, Sir? We have no such enemies who would want to abduct my sister.”
“Just think logically. If the perpetrator didn’t live close by, how could this letter reach your house? Or do you think it fell from the sky?” SI Chandrasekhar asked.
Nikhil was ready to confront the SI and his preposterous ideas, but Raju knew that his friend’s short temper would only worsen the situation. He held his friend’s hand tightly.
“Does Akila have any boyfriends or enemies?” asked the SI.
“No, sir. My sister is not such a girl.” Nikhil replied immediately, his anger reflecting all over his face. Raju noticed it and nudged Nikhil to prevent from getting irritated at the police officer.
SI Chandrasekhar did not miss noticing the change of expression on the young lad’s face. “Even if she has, how are you going to know that? A younger brother need not know a sister’s boy friends,” the inspector said, turning his back and gazing at Nikhil in the old mirror they used at the station. He knew that the young man was becoming more and more irritated with his questioning.
The man has no sympathy for me or my family, Nikhil thought. This sub inspector is a man who has no heart. How would he feel if it had happened to his own daughter or sister? Nikhil wondered as the adrenalin pumped like a raging river through his body.
“Go home, young man.” The SI advised them. “We will be investigating the case. Your house will be put under my observation so that we know whether your sister or someone in her absence is coming to your house secretly and leaving another letter there.” ***
To be continued.... ----- Sorry, friends. The story will not be continued here since it has found a publisher. Back to Chapter 1