by Nirupama Akella
Back to Chapter 17
Nandita Sharma pecked away at her computer in total concentration. She was behind and had to finish this expense accounting and analysis today morning itself. She had not slept well that previous night with phone calls from her parents and brother to find out how she was coping in a college where two disappearances had occurred recently. The police and the Delhi experts were treating the latest disappearance as murder.
This news had been splashed about in the newspapers and already many parents had been threatening and seriously talking to Sister to remove their daughters from the college! Nandita sighed pressing the “Enter” key to enter into the expenses file. The publicity had been disastrous for the college and Sister had been persuading the parents hard not to uproot their daughters from their academic home. She had time and time again declared that Shiksha had been in the wrong place at the wrong time! Matron had attributed her strange statement to “nerves and shock” -- after all it was not everyday that a student disappeared within the four walls of the college!
Several teachers had already given in their resignation -- Ms. Batiawala had announced loudly her decision, “This is an outrage- I simply must leave…..when girls start disappearing in the college for no reason….a madman is on the loose,’ and she had shuddered dramatically, ‘I must resign…”
Nandita flexed her fingers and inserted her floppy diskette thinking -- Sister had taken all this very hard and had begun to show it -- she was looking ancient now. And was always arguing with the police! The screen came to life and Nandita widened her eyes and began to copy the figures on the paper for later analysis. Sheets were soon getting filled in blue and on the computer pages were scrolling --….and she paused -- and leaned closer to the screen -- this was funny! The heading indicated “Construction Charges for the New Auditorium” and the six figure was there on the screen but unlike other accountable expenses on the previous pages this one did not specify the source of money! She frowned and then hit an arrow on the keyboard and went further down.
Another expense, this time for the art club did not specify the source from where the money had been raised. She paused musing, “this was strange -- why did these expenses have no mentioned source -- these expenses had come about because Sister had insisted upon them at that time going against the board of trustees.” She thoughtfully stroked her chin and went further.
There were a total of fifteen expenses where the source had not been mentioned -- and these expenses had been huge! There was no other word for it! She copied down everything on paper and then shut down her computer and glanced into the inner hall. Both Matron and Sister’s offices were empty. A couple of blue shirted men sat and talked in hushed tones.
She got up from her chair -- it was time she found out how Sister was able to afford all those expenses. She hurriedly moved through the hall and entered Sister’s neat office. She sat down in a red cushioned chair and pecked away at the computer. Soon the screen was filled with the salary details of the college staff -- lecturer salaries had increased greatly -- she thought wryly going down further till she at last came to Sister’s name -- as expected Sister received a nominal salary -- too low to be able to afford all this grand lavish expenditure!
The clock in the hall struck eleven and she hurriedly put off the computer and ran to her seat -- she didn’t want to be caught sneaking!
Ex- police chief, Singh, carefully read the report on his desk and nodded as Inspector Chauhan took a seat opposite him. He stubbed out his cigarette and said shortly, “One of men ran a background check on Rajeev Ghosh. He has disappeared…”
“WHAT?” Inspector Chauhan yelped in disbelief.
“That’s right…Ghosh has disappeared just like the others…” here Singh paused to light a fresh cigarette and said, “I am beginning to think that all these disappearances are related…..your man is right Inspector…….ask him to come and see me later…”
Inspector Chauhan had a horrible vision of Junior Constable Pathak smirking at him as he served him tea.” Aloud he said folding his hands like a humble petitioner, “I agree sir…Junior Constable Pathak had always when we were first contacted about the disappearance of the cleaning lady….that there was something fishy about the Old Building… unfortunately now Sister has refused us permission to search the church anymore…”
“And now this girl has definitely disappeared inside the building,” Singh massaged his brow thoughtfully.
“Inspector, I want you and your men to search that building thoroughly…there is something in the building… Your report says Shanta was there, this girl was there and now according to our information, Ghosh was there…..search the building…..don’t come out till you have found something which can lead us to the root of this funny business…” Singh said looking at the podgy Inspector.
Inspector Chauhan sighed like a chimmney and said, “But Sister has refused us….”
Singh interrupted gruffly, cigarette stuck in his mouth, “Leave Sister to me….I have to find out….and Inspector do tell that girl. The one who was with Shiksha Malhotra to come down here…”
“Yes,” Singh said waving his hand. Inspector Chauhan left the room and went in search of Parul Desai.
To be continued.........
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