Sister Prudence now stood up, clenching her wrinkled hands, and the CID men swiftly came out from the shadows to stand behind her. Singh and Inspector Chauhan appeared on either side, from behind Parul holding pistols.
‘So this time it is you!’
‘It was you Sister who murdered all those people- Shiksha! How could you?’
‘She was in the wrong place at the wrong time, dear! I had no choice, I had to do it, ‘there was no remorse in her voice as Sister Prudence coldly stared into their faces. Singh shook his head waving his torch- ‘What about the gold?’
‘I knew it was here, of course…….I had discovered the basement when I was in charge of this building….and then I discovered the gold…I didn’t tell anyone because I was becoming Principal then and had big plans for the college! If I told everyone of the gold…the authorities would claim it and I wouldn’t have that, ‘she paused, ‘where would I get the money from? If it stayed here I could get it whenever I wanted it……. I donated huge sums to various charities, built new buildings, opened new clubs for this college-- all out of this money………’
‘So you murdered three people?’, Singh in his full career had heard all kinds of implausible motives but this one was so trivial…
‘Shanta discovered the basement by mistake and came down…I heard her and hid in a corner…..she came in and was about to go back when it occurred to me that being the loudmouth that she was she would tell everyone and my secret would be discovered….all my plans and dreams for the college, all the charities I wanted to help…..I had to kill her……… I regret what happened to Shiksha……..she was at the wrong place at the wrong time…..I had come down and seen that Ghosh person stealing my gold…what I planned to use to help the poor…….’
‘Indian Robin Hood….!’, murmured Inspector Chauhan sarcastically.
‘And then she showed up and he was going to kill her and I just couldn’t stand there doing nothing,…I had to do something…..’
‘So you killed him?,’ queried Singh.
‘It was a mistake… and then Shiksha turned and I was afraid that she would tell everyone and so….’
‘You killed your own student….,’ one of the CID men spoke up. Sister Prudence nodded as Inspector Chauhan came forward and told Parul to go back- it was all over now! They emerged from the Old Wing, Matron leading the way, white faced and shell shocked- she had sent the girls back with Gayatri Raghav after removing the wire. The CID had duly checked and made sure that it had the full confession on it….
‘What’s going to happen now?’, she asked turning to Singh who tugged his beard and replied slowly, ‘Well…… your college can go back to normal…there will be no more disappearances, I assure you….and do get this Old building demolished…..’
‘Now that Sister has…..,’ Matron stopped biting her tongue- she couldn’t believe that Sister had been at the bottom of it all- she had been so genuinely effected and sad! But then as Singh pointed out to her….it had to be her- she had confessed and now was going to be put away…where under correct monitoring she would be allowed to pursue her religious charitable activities.
‘I expect the Old building will have to be broken down,' Sue Danely resumed, ‘I was always of the mind to have it demolished right at the beginning of the new term…if only …….’, her voice trailed away and she gazed into the horizon. Singh looked at her and said gently, ‘You and the rest of the board wanted the building removed but she knew there was gold in its basement and so used her power as Principal to override all of you!’
Matron nodded slowly and went down the path towards the hostel- it was another new day and the cooking had to be seen to- she had a meeting in precisely ten minutes with the kitchen staff!
Singh sighed- three murders for a simple reason- greed and control! He signaled to one of his men and a car drove up and stood waiting near the back door. Singh turned as Sister Prudence- looking haggard and guilty came up followed by the CID. The party proceeded to the car and the car purred softly and drove into the main street.
Sue Danely punched numbers and spoke briefly on the phone. Nandita Sharma, looking very pale came in and sat down, ‘Is it true about Sister?’
‘What are we going to do?’
‘Let’s see….,’ Matron paused and gave a small smile, ‘There are still 2000 students here……..this is a college! Salaries have to be paid….so for the time being Ms Stevens and I will be in charge before the matter is put before the board next month………..actually this whole thing is a mess! Why did she do it?’, Matron put her head in her hands.
‘Why did she do it?’
‘Because she wanted to give the college the best…..donate money do lots for the poor and homeless……I think…..I just want to forget it….I wonder what effect this will have on the girls?’
‘They have a short memory………’
‘One of their friends was murdered by Sister….’;
‘Parul is leaving early for her summer break and so is Lata…Jyotsana is still in the sick Bay….
I rang up her guardian and advised her to take her home…only two weeks to summer vacation now….’
‘Yes, I expect most of the girls will be leaving soon…….. Ms Stevens and I agree that we should have a memorial service for Shiksha and Shanta …. Which reminds me I have to talk to Shalu and arrange for some sort of financial compensation for her children!’
‘The press will have a field day about this…….’
‘I’ve asked the construction people to come today itself and tear down that building…just the sight of it sickens me……. ‘
Nandita interrupted, ‘Looks like you have everything under control…,’ she hesitated, ‘I am leaving for good today evening…,’ Matron raised her eyebrows, as Nandita continued, ‘I told Sister about it last week……. I am going home now…working as a secretary in a college has not been a pleasant experience…….’
‘So, that’s it!,’ Lata snapped her fingers. Both she and Parul were sitting in the dining hall drinking coffee. It was six in the morning- still too early for the hostellites! And the college except for a few lights in the main building was quiet.Parul, on her third cup said shortly, ‘It makes me sick….how could she have done it?’
Lata sighed, ‘Poor Shiksha….if only she had not been so curious…’
‘Curiosity kills the cat….only here it killed Shiksha…….’
‘Must be awful for her family…..with her murdered…..and for no fault of hers…….’
‘This has certainly been the most disastrous, saddest starts of a term,’ said Parul sighing, she set down her cup, ‘I am going home………taking the afternoon train…..if I stay here one more minute I will go mad…..’
‘Maybe we should change our rooms and apply for different room mates’
‘I spoke to Matron on the way and she agreed……….Poor Shiksha’
Half past six-------- and the sun appeared in the sky-- the birds started their ritualistic morning chirping. The hostellites stirred and the kitchen doors were opened. They all sat in the main building hall drinking coffee-… ‘But how did you know?’, this was Junior Constable Pathak who had no idea till now of what had transpired in the Old Church basement.
‘It was not simple,’ admitted Singh modestly, ‘but there were several things- who had access to the Old Wing at all hours? It had to be an insider….and then I came to know of Sister’s grandiose expenditure schemes and plans……..her secretary had no idea where she was getting the money from.…and then Matron said something- she told me that if anyone knew whether the Old Wing had a basement, it would have to be Sister! Everything pointed to her….she had left the presentation early and not gone back to her room and the n her secretary saw a blue travelling bag she had previously seen with Ghosh, in Sister’s office….I knew then she was connected somehow!’
‘Well………,’ said Matron getting up swiftly, ‘Thank You all- we are having a memorial service for Shanta and Shiksha today and I better go and see to the arrangements!’
She smiled at the men and then left the room.
‘What do you think will happen now Sir?,’ Junior Constable asked his superior.
Serial Novel Mysterious Disappearances - continued here....