CATCH ME IF YOU CAN : A CRIME THRILLER BY ME. (STORYMIRROR.COM)
” Oh no!” exclaimed Inspector Vishwas,” Another dead body has been discovered in our neighborhood.” Constable Ram Prasad overheard his rambling as he brought a file for getting the inspector’s signature. ” Pardon me, sir,” he said,” You seem to be upset. Would you like to discuss the case with me?” Inspector Vishwas replied with a sigh,” We have witnessed five murders within two months. All the victims are married ladies in their twenties to thirties. The mastermind behind these gruesome murders has some vendetta against young married women. The press is baying for our blood. We are under heavy pressure to solve this case as early as possible.”
” Don’t worry, Sir,” reassured the constable,” We will crack this case even if it seems to be impossible to solve.” The inspector smiled at his optimistic speech. He said,” Let’s visit the crime scene and hunt for clues. The murderer has been too careful to leave behind any trail. Perhaps, we may be lucky to get a breakthrough this time.” He gathered his men and proceeded towards the victim’s house. The deceased was Sarita Pande. Her maidservant had discovered her body at the bottom of the staircase.
Inspector Vishwas arrived at her bungalow in Vasant Vihar, New Delhi.
The maidservant, Jamuna, opened the door for the inspector and his men.
” I hope nothing is disturbed,” probed Vishwas. Jamuna replied,” Yes, Saaheb. No one touched anything.” The forensic experts came after fifteen minutes. Dr.Shirish examined the body while his assistant took the photos. Inspector cleared his throat to seek the doctor’s attention. Dr.Shirish turned towards him and said,” Judging by the body temperature, this lady died somewhere around 2 AM to 4 AM. The cause of death is probably a broken neck. I think it’s a murder made to look like an accidental death. Remember, we have handled five such cases since last month. It has to be the MO of a serial killer.” The inspector nodded in agreement. The paramedics removed the body for the postmortem. Shirish spoke briefly to the inspector and promised to update him with his finding.
Vishwas ordered a cup of tea while going through a bunch of files on the recent deaths. The first victim, Geeta Malik, was a twenty-three-year-old housewife living with her husband, Rakesh. Her corpse was on the floor beside the queen-sized bed in the master bedroom. She had chosen sleeping pills to end her life. The empty bottle had rolled under the bed. Her suicide note didn’t blame anyone but herself for taking the extreme step. Both the coroner and the inspector found it strange that the body was lying on the floor instead of the bed. The forensic report also mentioned the discovery of some powdery substance on the teeth. It was indeed the crushed pill. Geeta had chewed the tablets instead of swallowing them with water. He continued to read the statements obtained from her family and neighbors. She was a characterless bitch. She had compelled her husband to send his parents to the home for the aged. A young man was often spotted lurking outside her apartment after her husband left for office. The inspector finished his tea and moved on to the next victim in the file.
The deceased, Renuka Sharma, 28, lived with her husband and parents-in-law. Her husband, Sanket, was a businessman. He earned a decent income which his wife squandered away lavishly. The gardener, Ramu, had found her corpse in the orchard. Initially, the police thought she had jumped from the terrace overlooking the orchard. The post-mortem report revealed that she had died due to asphyxiation. Someone killed her and placed her body to make it look like a suicide. The police didn’t find any clue within or outside the house.
The third victim, Poonam Mehta, 27, had drowned in her bathtub. The post-mortem report confirmed the presence of alcohol in her bloodstream. She belonged to a wealthy family. Her parents-in-law lived with their younger son. The inspector rubbed his eyes before proceeding towards the fourth victim.
Harsha Sengupta, 29, had been run over by a speeding truck. She had tried to jaywalk across the road while talking to someone on her mobile. Her death was an accident due to negligence on her part. However, the inspector wasn’t sure it was an accident. The fifth victim, Madhurima Saxena, had been strangulated, but there were no fingerprints discovered. The post-mortem report also revealed that she had consumed insecticide. Why did someone kill her in such a fashion?
The inspector closed the files. He pondered over the spate of killings. ” What was the objective of the killer?” he thought,” Did he want to deny justice to the murdered victims? What did these women do to earn his fury?”
As he was seeking answers to these questions, he received a phone call from Dr.Shirish. He said, ” I found alcohol in Sarita’s system. You may have observed the oil spill on one of the steps of the spiral staircase. Her inebriated condition made her slip and fall to her death.”
Vishwas replied,” Thank you, doctor. I wish I could put an end to this murder-suicide mania. Something is staring right at my face, but I am unable to detect it. ”
” Don’t give up, Inspector,” said Shirish,” I am sure you will figure it out.” The call ended, and the inspector decided to take a walk to clear his head. A sudden thought struck him as he strolled by a shopping mall. All these ladies lived a few streets away from each other in Vasant Vihar. They must have known each other. Judging by the character sketch gathered from their files, they seemed to lack moral values. Their spouses were nowhere in the vicinity as the victims succumbed to their deaths. He thought perhaps they might have conspired together to get rid of their respective wives. He re-entered his office and reviewed the files once again.
He didn’t find anything unusual. He called Sub-Inspector Gautam and asked him to check whether these women had any criminal record.
” Sir,” yelled Gautam,” These ladies filed several complaints against their husbands and parents-in-law around eight months ago. They had also withdrawn their complaints within a week.” The inspector resumed his seat. He called one of the computer experts to search the social media accounts of the dead women. Finally, he ended up with lots of information to proceed with the case.
Later, he had a quick dinner with his family and retired to his study. He was reading the diary of the first victim, Geeta Malik. He had found it on her dressing table. The ladies had attended Lady Sriram College. They fell in love with some guys they met through social media sites. Their parents vehemently opposed their choice of future husbands. They forced the girls to discontinue their studies and got them married into wealthy families around a couple of years ago. The girls had kept in touch with each other even after their marriage.
He studied the report sent by his IT colleague. It contained the transcripts of all messages from WhatsApp and Facebook. His eyes nearly bulged out in surprise after reading the contents of their WhatsApp group,’ Get rich quick and easy.’ They had plotted to get rid of their husbands and claim the insurance money. The manner of their deaths was just as they had planned for their spouses. Vishwas let out a yawn and retired for the day.
The next day, Gautam told him about the spouses of the victims. Geeta’s husband, Rakesh, was with his advocate for filing the divorce petition at the time of her death. Renuka’s husband, Sanket, was with his friends in a bar. Gautam himself had checked out his alibi. Sanket resorted to alcohol because of his wife.
Poonam’s husband, Kunal, was in London to attend a business conference at the time of her death. Kunal had started visiting a counselor after he went into a deep depression. He had attempted suicide. Fortunately, his neighbor noticed him trying to hang himself as the window of his room was open. Harsha’s husband, Mithun, had already deserted her and fled to Singapore. Dinesh, Madhurima’s husband, was in prison for a DUI case. Sarita’s husband, Raghav, was in the hospital for the corona treatment.
” What about the domestic help?” asked the inspector. Gautam replied,” Except for Sarita’s maidservant, none of them were present at home. It seems that their mistresses sent them on errands.”
The inspector commented,” I think we are missing out on something important. There has to be a missing link connecting these ladies. Have you questioned their ex-boyfriends and relatives?”
” As you can see, the husbands had solid alibis. Except for Geeta’s lover, the rest of the boyfriends barely contacted them. All the ladies had ostracized their in-laws,” said Gautam, ” I have checked their phone records. Most of these ladies spent a lot of time chatting with each other. There are some calls made to their ex-boyfriends who did not respond to their overtures. There were many calls made to and received from a particular number over the past six months. It belongs to Anita of Anita Beauty Parlor and Spa. I will send Constable Tara and Sub-Inspector Devika to interrogate her.”
Inspector Vishwas called Gautam to discuss the bank statements of the dead women. He found out several suspicious transactions. The ladies received a healthy monetary donation around six months ago. They diverted this money to pay the blackmailer. The inspector felt that the beauty parlor was the point of exchange for the blackmail money.
The next day, Constable Tara and Sub-Inspector Devika paid a visit to Anita Beauty Parlor. Anita felt nervous as she saw the two female cops approaching her. Tara took out the photos of the dead women from her shirt pocket and showed them to her. ” I believe you know these ladies,” she said,” Don’t try to lie that you can’t identify them. We have enough evidence that suggests your involvement with them. Please answer our questions and co-operate with us. ”
Anita saw the photos and replied,” They were my clients. They would make an appointment every month. Other than that, I have no idea what they were up to.” ” You are a filthy liar,” yelled SI Devika, “We have the phone records that suggest otherwise. I want to hear only the truth.” Anita broke up,” I feel foolish for getting entangled in their dirty games. They would come here on Thursdays of every month and get their beauty treatment. They would give me a brown packet which I had to hand over to the chauffeur of a black BMW.” Anita wrote the license number of the car on a piece of paper and handed it to Tara.
The cops returned to their police station.
Tara briefed her superiors about her investigation with SI Devika and gave him the paper. Gautam told Vishwas that the car belonged to Monica Aggrawal after checking the license number online. Vishwas’ face immediately brightened. He identified her as the psychiatrist treating Kunal Mehta, the husband of the deceased, Poonam. ” Come on, Gautam,” he exclaimed,” We have to visit Kunal to learn more about his partnership with Monica in committing the gruesome murders.”
The inspector pressed the doorbell as SI Gautam cast a glance around the bungalow. Kunal opened the door and stood with his mouth wide open in surprise. ” May we come in ?” inquired the inspector after snapping his fingers across Kunal’s face. He came out of his stupor and let them in.
SI Gautam said,” We have a new development in the investigation of the deaths of your wife and her friends. We have evidence to prove that Monica Aggrawal is the mastermind behind the blackmail and suicide murders of Poonam Mehta and her friends.” ” No! It’s impossible,” yelled Kunal,” My Monica won’t hurt even a fly. You are lying. ” The inspector replied,” My Monica, huh? Don’t you think it’s too early for you to contemplate a second marriage?”
Kunal snapped,” Please don’t jump to any conclusion. Monica is my elder sister as well as my counselor. She is married to Dr. Rohit Aggrawal. My late wife drove me crazy, and I had to seek Monica’s help to redeem myself from the brink of a tragedy. One day, I saw Poonam’s mobile on the bed when she was taking a bath. She forgot to lock her phone. I saw some message notification blinking on her mobile. I picked it up and browsed through the contents. I was dumbfounded to read her message to her friends plotting my death to claim insurance. I didn’t know what to do. So, I immediately forwarded her messages to Monica. She visited us the next day. She wanted to convince Poonam to give up her willful scheme to destroy our family. I left them alone. I think Poonam went to the restroom while Monica peeked at her mobile. They had a big argument after Poonam caught her glancing through her mobile. Monica stormed out of the room and touched my cheek gently. She said,” Don’t worry about that filthy wife of yours. She will never succeed in her plan.
That was the last time I saw her. I tried to contact her, but she wasn’t reachable. Honestly, I never thought that she would seek revenge in such a fashion.”
” Why did you not approach us instead of your sister?” demanded Gautam. Kunal chuckled and answered,” You don’t know about my wife. She and her shameless friends were manipulative. They would shed crocodile tears and get their jobs done. I am sure that they might have battled their eyelashes to impress your men and filed a fake complaint.” Inspector and SI looked at each other awkwardly. ” Could you give us your sister’s clinic and residential address along with her mobile number?” asked the Inspector.
Kunal provided Monica’s address and phone number to the Inspector. The inspector and SI returned to the police station and tried calling Monica. Her number was switched off. ” It’s time for action,” said Gautam, ” Let’s obtain a search warrant and gather proof of her crime.”
After completing the necessary formalities, they went to Monica’s clinic. It was closed with a note taped to the door. It mentioned, “Well done, for tracking me. I am happy to see that the police occasionally use their brains. Unfortunately, you will never succeed in your mission to catch me red-handed. The dead women got what they truly deserved. Marriage is a sacred institution. They smeared it with their greed. I am going to undertake a new project to eliminate adulterous spouses. You can never arrest me while I am still alive.
Lady Scavenger Monica.”
PS. Catch me if you can.
The cops were stunned to find the open challenge given by the murderer. Vishwas and Gautam were at a loss for words.
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