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Mysterious Disappearances 
Chapter 21

By Nirupama Akella

Back to Chapter 20

Catching a Murderer!

They sat in their small office, all twenty of them, in their dark suits- huddled together drinking numerous cups of tea. Singh scowled at no one in particular and puffed at his seventh cigarette of the hour! This was bad- three dead bodies- all of them brutally struck on the head by someone who had wanted the basement and consequently the gold to remain a secret! He twirled his moustache- it had been a tough three hours with properly sealing the building- informing Sue Danely and getting her full cooperation- she herself

had no idea that the Old Church had a basement and had been shocked and appalled at the sight of the dead bodies- she had even cried when she had heard that Shiksha Malhotra had been struck brutally on the head with a sharp object and left to die in that cold dusty basement! According to her, none of the staff- teaching and non teaching knew the existence of a basement in the Old Church- with the exception of Sister of course! Sister Prudence had to have known about a basement because she had been in charge of the Old Wing and the auditorium along with her teaching responsibilities before becoming Principal- and had in her possession the blueprint of the Old Wing and the main building! Following his lengthy informative conversation with Matron, he had sent down the Constable and some of his men down to the coroner’s office to get the details of the murders and then write a detailed report! This he had thoroughly read and then, had come the most difficult part! Facing the relatives of Shiksha Malhotra- he knew then very well, the uncle and the grandmother- and when they had left crying- he had rung up his bosom buddy, the Chief Election Commissioner of India and briefly talked with him, promising to catch the murderer soon! He sighed- he had read through all the reports compiled since the beginning of these disappearances! They had all been related- all had discovered the basement, and been killed because someone did  not want the basement to be discovered and the gold! About Ghosh, he still was not sure! Ghosh had recently come into a lot of wealth! He had said that the money had come because of a lottery, but according to the report there had been no indication that Ghosh had ever entered a lottery competition in Dehradun this year at all! It was more likely that he had been  milking the basement for his wealth, but then he too had been discovered and killed in the same fashion! Inspector Chauhan came into the room, and sat down facing Singh and began, ‘Sister wants to know what is happening, Sir!’

‘I though she had gone out and was coming back in the evening!’

‘Well…I don’t know but she is back and badgering me with questions…she was stopped from entering the Old Church by your men…and now she wants to know what is going on…!,’ Inspector Chauhan paused expectantly, ‘What shall I tell her Sir?’

‘That you are following my orders, Inspector….tell me does she often go alone to the Old Church?’

‘Almost every day…….’

‘Hmm…….. tell Sister if she any questions, she should come and see me but no one, and I mean it, NO ONE IS TO ENTER THE OLD CHURCH!’

Inspector Chauhan went out feeling very much like a messenger boy going into the presence of a dragon. Singh stroked his long moustache and thoought for a second before calling out to his assistant, ‘Jay, tell those two girls to come and see me now!’

‘Which ones, Sir?’

‘Oh, those ones who lived in the same room with Malhotra in the hostel!’

‘Now Sir?’

Singh glanced at his watch- quarter to two! Lectures should have finished by now!”

Aloud he barked, ‘Yes, now! Both of them! Ask Matron’s permission first’

‘Sir!’, the man nodded and smartly turned on his heel walking out of the hall.

The clock in the corridor of the main building chimed four in the faint darkness- the sun rays stealing over the royal blue studded with stars! The moon had long ago shied away into the depths of the sky and now the sun was busily planning his entry to herald another new day!

Four o’ clock in the morning and all was still in the college- the buildings stood dark and forbidding casting their ominous shadows on the pale lighted flowered paths. All were still sound asleep and there was no movement- everything was still and quiet as two CID men in dark suits entered the Old Wing and went down to the basement and waited patiently!

Quarter past four, Parul Desai climbed into her jeans and running shoes and put on her spectacles. Despite the early hour she was wide awake and alert. The room door opened gently and Lata Naidu dressed in a similar fashion walked in, bearing two mugs of steaming hot coffee. Parul checked the wire and pressed it closer to her chest- the faces of both the girls were tense and frightened.

Upstairs, Matron and Gayatri Raghav were in their respective rooms, staring anxiously at their watches with white tensed faces. They were fully dressed- Matron in her usual pale brown sari with hair tied at the back threw one last glance at her wrist watch--  it was precisely 4.20a.m. She softly left her room in her rubber soled shoes and hurried towards Gayatri Ragahv’s corner room, down the hall, tapping gently twice on the wooden door. The door opened with surprising swiftness to reveal Gayatri in an unusual form of garb- one that she never wore to her lectures- tight faded jeans and black jacket! Nodding at Sue Danely, Gayatri closed the door behind her and hurried downstairs.

Outside the Old Wing, Junior Constable Pathak rubbed his eyes and yawned- but then shut his mouth as a blue shirted expert joined him behind the bushes….’ Has anybody gone in yet?’

‘Yes, CID I think!’

‘Good,’ the expert rubbed his hands excitedly, ‘time for action then! Pretty soon the murderer will go in as well- Singh is counting on that!’

‘Do you know who it is?’

‘NO! But I do remember Singh saying that it was somebody inside the college!’

Pathak said nothing- he was hungry and tired of sitting and watching for an hour now- he was no owl! But Singh had drilled in his murder theory so well to all of them that they had been all fired up with determination to catch the murderer the very next day. Of course, to arrive at his theory, it had taken Singh the entire yesterday afternoon and several interviews with unlikely people- he had been totally surprised to see the secretary coming out of his office at five in the evening. And then they had all been summoned into his office where Singh had finally shared with all of them his astounding theory and assumption. Then he and the Inspector had spent another two hours locked in discussion with Sue Danely and when he had been getting ready to leave and go home, they had been told a plan- the trap to catch the murderer! But No, he didn’t know the murderer, and as far as he could tell, most of the experts didn’t know either! All he knew was that the murderer was expected to come to the Old Church at four in the morning to dig up more gold! The bodies had been removed and dummies had been placed in the exact original positions to fool the murderer that nothing had been discovered yet! But the hole in the brick wall had been wiped clean- Singh had assured them that the murderer would not get that far! Pathak sighed- it was frustrating not to know- only Singh, the Inspector and the CID men knew which was only a handful of them! Pathak shifted his weight- Singh had better to what  he planned to do fast or the murderer would discover that his or her dirty deeds had been found and slip from their grasp! Then he sat up alert, his sharp ears heard whispers! Four shadowy figures were approaching the building. Pathak moved but his partner restrained him- obviously he knew that they were a part of Singh’s great plan. The four shadows entered the building and disappeared from sight. In the distance, the Banyan swished softly.

‘Are you sure you can do this?’, asked Lata for the tenth time- she was nervous running her hand through her hair.

‘Is it on?’, asked Gayatri, no trace of any sort of emotion on her white pinched face.

‘OK, Lets get this show on the road!’, said Parul smiling bravely, ‘Are you absolutely certain that they are going to be there?’

‘Parul’, said Matron gently, ‘Just remember what Mr. Singh said- he just wants you to say something  and then they will be right behind you all the time!’

‘I don’t see them!’

‘They must be here somewhere!’

‘OK, I am ready!’

Lata Naidu wiped her clammy hands on the back of her jeans and leaned under the pulpit to see the wooden small panel. A hand came up and tapped her on the shoulder. She froze and Singh’s rough raspy voice whispered, ‘I will do it! We are here, OK!’ Lata breathed in deeply- she had been afraid that the police would never show up as proposed as Singh continued softly, ‘The CID are in there already,’ turning and looking at the tall girl, ‘You don’t have to do this/!’

‘Hey, I volunteered……. And its fine…besides you are going to be there!’

‘Right behind you…….,’ he paused, ‘I admire your guts! You don’t have to do this!’

‘I am doing it, OK!’

Mysterious Disappearances - Chapter 21 continued here