by Nirupama Akella
Back to page 1 of Chapter 20
He nearly stumbled over Shanta Ganshyam’s body in the corner – this was too much- bodies everywhere! What in the world was Pathak doing? Had he fallen in love with the stairs?” Bahadur’s thoughts shifted to the mass murders at hand- the faces , he grimly reflected had changed so much, become so deathly white, inhuman! Who ever killed them had no shred of compassion in them! He then saw something black in the wall next to him, near the body! He leaned forward and peered more closely holding his nose- the stench of the decayed flesh was overpowering! It was a hole and suddenly Bahadur realized that he had found the motives for all the murders at last! These people had stumbled here and the murderer had seen them and was scarred that they would see the secret and show it to everyone and so had to silence them. He slowly sat down and reached into the gap, and felt something solid and hard! He drew out several gold coins in his grimy hand! GOLD! Bahadur stared, not daring to breathe, afraid that if he started breathing normally, this gold would disappear from his hand! But then he reached out with his other hand and drew in more gold coins and then started laughing- a slow, maniacal, deep laugh!
Upstairs, Junior Constable had been trying hard for the past ten minutes to attract the attention of his superiors. But in vain, they were talking, arguing and in general not paying any attention to him. The three girls had left already- gone back to their studies apparently, he thought and was about to try for the last time in proper courteous style- if this fails, I have no other option but to drag them, he grimly decided- but then he heard it. A deep, maniacal laugh echoing from the basement and he turned- “OH NO, Bahadur! He has completely lost his mind!”
The laugh had caught the attention of the discussing men and they all turned surprise and uncertainty writ on their faces. “here is my chance," thought Pathak, "I don’t know why you are laughing like mad Bahadur, probably sitting with dead bodies pushed you over the edge! But thank you!!”
‘Sir, we have found the basement, ‘and he hurried forward with everyone following like a pack of eager hungry wolves…’You see, she was standing near the pulpit and was searching for the basement.. she pressed this small panel here…,’ Pathak importantly indicated the concerned wooden panel and as Singh and his men leaned, he continued, ‘And the wall next to it slid open….went back and there was an entrance, SEE!,’ he gestured to the open wall and all mouths fell open. The laughter was now louder and Inspector Chauhan raised his eyebrows.
‘They are all there, all three of them, dead- murdered with something heavy- struck on the head….that’s Bahadur, Sir! Left him down there and now we go!’
He went in through the wall and they followed silently, down the stairs and encountered the first dead body at the foot of the stairs.. 'Ghosh sir!’. Singh left four men behind to look at the body, and acting on an impulse sent four men upstairs to lock the main doors and stand guard! He didn’t want anyone coming in now! Pathak continued his commentary, opening the inner door, ‘they are her, sir, Shiksha Malhotra and Shanta Ganshyam….and Bahadur is in there with the bodies…’
‘Better go inside!’
But Bahadur had spotted several dark shirts- realized that Pathak had indeed called them and not flown off to the Gulf, came running out and nearly bumped into Singh, ‘GOLD’, he gasped, ‘LOTS OF IT! SOLID GOLD IN THE WALL!’
‘Come on!’ Singh ordered abruptly. ****
To be continued....