by Nirupama Akella
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But then, he had forced his mind onto serious matters- gathered his brood about him and descended on the Old Church to help the Inspector and his men in their search mission. He had a faint idea that he was looking for something hidden in the building- “a basement,” Parul Desai had insisted all the times he had interviewed her and he was becoming convinced that maybe the spectacled attractive girl was speaking the truth- in that case he was not dealing with a kidnapper but a murderer! And a murderer who had not just struck once but three times! K.S. Singh was sure that all three disappearances were related!
“Hello Girls, ‘he loudly hailed them smiling benevolently, ‘What are you doing here? Don’t you have classes?’
Parul cleared her throat, ‘We have come to search!’
‘Well, that’s nice!,’ K.S. Singh boomed loudly for his men to hear. Several blue shirted men straightened and stared at them.
‘What considerate girls! You have come to search since the police are playing detectives!’
Lata stared at the ground tongue tied while Jyotsana wished that she had stayed in bed but Parul said defiantly and a little angrily, ‘Shiksha was our friend, OK’
K.S. Singh softened his tone, ‘Thanks for offering! Of course you can search the building with my people!’
Parul gave him a tiny smile and they walked along the aisle and were soon absorbed in search activities- feeling the walls and looking under the benches- it was very boring and routine and Jyotsana stifled a yawn.
‘Aren’t you the one who has flu and should be in bed.,’ she looked up to see K.S. Singh scratching his pointed beard and arching his bushy eyebrows- so very much like a gremlin or an evil wizard, thought Jyotsana. Aloud she countered, ‘I am fine now besides its been one week sine Shiksha disappeared!,’ she bit her tongue, this sounded more like a plaintive complaint that the police had been flying kites the entire week and not doing serious investigative work. She grinned weakly and bent down to look under the second row of benches. K.S. Singh joined her on the floor and resumed his friendly conversation, ‘Where were you when Shiksha disappeared?’
‘Don’t you know this already?’, Jyotsana appeared miffed- her head was pounding- playing the good little girl was not helping her health at all- in fact she was sure that at the end of the day she would be in the Sick Bay for another week!
‘Humour me!’, K.S. Singh did not change his friendly sweet tone and Jyotsana for a brief second wondered whether this was the same controversial terrifying Delhi police chief, who five years ago had gunned down terrorists in mass numbers- tortured prisoners and generally had a mean reputation!
‘Oh, as I told one of your men, I had gone up to the hostel to take a nap, you see, ‘she explained haltingly, ‘I was in this street play and then later on in this stall, so I was pretty tired, but all of us knew that she was coming here because she told us the previous week and asked Parul to come along as Parul would be the only one free during the evening but as it turned
out, even I was free!’
‘But you didn’t go?’
‘Oh no, I was feeling dizzy- took a tablet and dozed off, and the next thing I remember is Lata waking me up and telling me that Shiksha had disappeared! Well….it was a surprise actually with Parul being there…I mean she had asked Parul because she was scared of going alone!’
‘She told you that?’
‘Oh yes, because she believed that Shanta had disappeared right inside this building and then there was the light, ‘Jyotsana paused expectantly, ‘she used to see this light, something like a torch I remember at four every morning here in the lower part of the building…so we figured that it was from the basement and someone was searching for something here!’
Singh frowned as Jyotsana took a deep breath and continued, ‘Well…I always thought it weird that someone should be here at four in the morning….Shiksha used to get up at that time to catch up on her study….you rarely get time alone to study well in a hostel…….!’
While Singh was getting Jyotsana Patel to open her mouth at last and talk away to her hearts content, two CID men were tapping the right wall alongside Parul who stared at them for a minute and then began, ‘It isn’t hollow here, it is outside!’
The men stopped their hand tapping and glanced at her, and Parul explained, ‘That’s where I was that evening….I went out and saw that the wall had this miniature fountain around it, so that’s why it was hollow…and then I sat down to write it all down for her.. and then by the time I got back she had disappeared. She was at the other end, near the pulpit writing something about the glass paintings…….’
The CID men looked bored- they knew all this- but Junior Constable Pathak standing near by heard her and nudged Bahadur excitedly. Bahadur sitting on the one of pews waving his truncheon looked up startled, ‘We are looking in the wrong place!,’ Pathak whispered barely controlling his excitement.
‘We should be looking near the pulpit!’
‘Is there a gold mine there?,’ Bahadur had borne enough of this pompous ass’s superior digs and sarcasm! And now he was giving as good as he got, even when Pathak seemed to be restraining himself!
‘Shut up and come along!’
‘To sweep more floor with my hands or to tap the dirty walls?’
‘Yeah, aren’t they simply bad?’, remarked Pathak looking at the walls with paint peeling off in flakes, ‘Sure would like to know why Sister didn’t run this down when she had renovations done?,’ he paused, ‘But you, remember I am your superior!’
Junior Constable stared at him but proudly marched along the aisle with Bahadur in tow.
‘Where does he think he is going?,’ asked K. S. Singh who had now long finished his private chat with Jyotsana and had now joined Lata Naidu and the inspector at the other corner of the building.
‘This is not some wedding and he is certainly no blushing bride! Remind him Inspector,’ barked Singh sharply- these Dehradun policemen were real embarrassments! Inspector Chauhan mournfully trundled off to his subordinates- he would be the happiest person when this group left for Delhi!
To be continued....Back to previous page of Chapter 19