Saturday, 10 March 2012

Tarka - The story of the escaped convict


Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"The chain always breaks at the weakest link"

You can now read the story from the book - Swami G's Short Stories

The wail of the police siren behind me served as a source of constant motivation to run faster. My footsteps seemed to resonate with my rapid heartbeats. The night was cool and dark, and all the residents of this peaceful locality seemed to have retired for the day. Sleeping peacefully; I made a scoffing noise at the idea. Concepts lost to me a long while ago... Sleep and peace. And then I saw that house with a low balcony with a convenient access to it. That door was unlocked.......

I was standing still in the shadow, watching her as she was washing her hands in the basin. As she was about to turn around, I rapidly closed the distance between us. I could see her face getting contorted into an ugly expression of terror as she saw me. I quickly covered her mouth with my palm and uttered words through gritted teeth “Please don't shout. I won't hurt you”. I could sense her body relaxing slightly. I continued “I understand how shocking this is. The police are after me, and I am trying to get away from them. Let me just spend some time here, and then I'll be on my way” I put my hands down and took a step back just to reinforce the idea that I was not going to hurt her. She seemed to relax a little more. The few seconds of awkward silence between us seemed like several minutes... it was eventually broken by the wail of the police siren as a police jeep went by the house.

She still seemed tensed. I noticed that she was staring at the ground, as if trying to recollect something. Then she turned to me and said “Aren't you Harish?” I looked at her, surprised, and then told her “Aren't you Savitri?”. She said “Yes! It's really nice to see you after such a long time. I haven't seen you since school.” She had been my classmate. “It's been a long time indeed. But tell me, why are the police after you?” She looked at my prisoner uniform and then at my face. “It's a long story, I'll tell you later. May I have some water please?” I asked. “The kitchen is downstairs. Come along”. She led the way down the stairs. It was a big house, but she seemed to be the only occupant. “Isn't there anyone else at home?” I enquired. I accepted the glass of water and drank it in one go. My throat had been parched for quite some time now. I drank some more water. “No, my husband has gone to Kolkata on a business trip. So, I am alone”. “I see, and...

Suddenly there was an authoritative knock on the door. “Open the door Ma'am, this is the police”. My heart skipped a couple of beats. I decided to hide and quickly opened the door of a large cabinet next to me to hide in it. As I unlocked the door, it began to open by itself, as if something was pushing it from inside and suddenly a corpse fell down from within. I looked at her with my eyes wide open. A man in a suit, with blood all over his shirt and a slit throat lay on the ground. The impatient knocks on the door continued. “Madam, please open the door, this is important”. What the hell is this?” I asked her with a look of terror in my eyes. I could see beads of perspiration forming on her forehead as she licked her dry lips “I'll explain later, first help me hide the body” she said.

We both lifted the body and hurriedly shoved it back into the cabinet. I too squeezed myself inside and she closed the doors. She darted quick looks to scan if there were any traces of blood on the ground, and being satisfied, adjusted her clothes and went to open the door. A smart looking police inspector was at the door. He asked her “I am sorry to be bothering you at this time of the night madam, but I have something really urgent to discuss.” I had managed to open the door of the cabinet by a few centimetres, just enough to enable me to hear the conversation as well as peek a bit. The inspector walked into the house and asked the constable behind him to wait at the jeep. He said “Did you see a strange man around your house some time back? He is a dangerous murderer and has escaped from prison.” Savitri nervously looked around and said “I am sorry, I was asleep. All the doors of the house are locked, so there is no way anyone could have gotten in.” I was confident she wouldn't rat on me with a corpse in her cabinet. I kept looking at the inspector. His trained eyes were carefully collecting data as he began looking around. “Well, that's alright. In case you see anything, please do report it. Uhh I also have something else to discuss with you.” He walked in the drawing room and sat on the sofa. She sat in the seat opposite to his. “Mrs. Savitri, your husband's name is Rutwik Kumar, am I correct?” She looked at him, and nodded. “He was on a plane to Kolkata, am I right?” he asked again. “Why, yes. As a matter of fact, he was. But how do you know that?”. “Madam, we have some really bad news. There was an explosion in that plane, we don't know the exact details yet. But everyone in the plane died. Including your husband. I am sorry for your loss”.

Savitri broke down into sobs, and covered her face with her palms. She started crying out loudly. I could see the inspector feeling uncomfortable. He tried to console her, uttering a few words of consolation that could have been soothing if only he had meant it. He then continued “I actually tried to call you, but there was no answer from you...” Suddenly he stared at the cabinet. I felt a knot in my stomach. Had he noticed me? I held my breath. Had I moved the door? Had he seen my eye? My heart started pounding hard. If he came towards me and opened the door now, he would catch me with a corpse with me. My breathing was now a lot faster. And I knew there was a constable outside. I knew there was no escape. I prayed, hoping I wouldn't be caught. He walked towards the cabinet. I was ready to spring out the instant he opened the door. I was waiting to see if his hands would go towards the revolver in his holster.

Ah, Mrs Savitri. Your phone is off the hook. No wonder it was engaged when I was trying to give you a call. Well, let me replace it”, he said. I let out a quiet sigh of relief. He had been looking at the receiver on top of the cabinet. “Alright, I will be off Madam. The department will get in touch with you regarding other details. I thought it is better that you knew about the tragedy in person rather than through the newspaper tomorrow. I am sorry again” and the inspector walked out of the door.

I waited for a few more minutes as Savitri locked the door and looked out of the window to confirm that the police weren't around anymore. Then she came towards the cabinet and opened the door. “He's gone”. She said. “Well, that's alright. But what in heaven's name is this?” I said, as I got out and placed the corpse on the floor. “I am really sorry about your husband. Who's this man?” Her eyes remained fixated on the dead man on the floor, “This is my husband



What?! Then who died in the aircraft? And who killed your husband?” I asked her. “I cannot be here any longer. I am already in trouble, it's best that I clear this place before I am charged with something more, like accessory or something” She looked at me with a pleading expression. “Please don't leave me and go, Harish. I am deep in trouble and desperately need your help. I killed my husband, but there is a reason for it. Let me explain to you first”. Savitri was a nice woman. She had even helped me out. Well, it could be because she didn't have a choice. But I felt sorry for her. “Alright, let me first hear you out.” I said.

She then narrated a very tragic tale. She had been married to Mr. Rutwik Kumar for just one year. And he had made her life hell. Rutwik apparently was a sadist. He had seemed nice in the beginning, but then his quirky behaviour began to surface when they had been to Nandi Hills for their honeymoon. As they were walking around, holding hands, they had come across a man who had been taking photographs of the scenic hills. This man, Satish, had been Savitri's classmate. He had been very happy to see her as was she. It had been after several years that they had met. She had excitedly introduced her husband to him and him to her husband. Satish had told her that it had been very nice to see her after a long time. But something had been wrong with Rutwik from that day. In the middle of the night, she had awoken to see her husband staring out of the window, drinking, smoking and muttering “So nice to see you... So nice to see you...”. She was a little terrified, and had asked him what had happened and to come back to bed. But he had just said that he was not sleepy and had asked her to sleep. She had done that, but then the same creepy situation had developed when they had stumbled upon another long lost friend of hers, in fact, an acquaintance who used to stay next to her friend's house a long time back. He had been a small time movie actor. A couple of days after that incident, her husband had sacked the driver, the household help, and his secretary. They had asked for the reason, but he had just yelled at the top of his voice, asking them to get out and never come back again. It seemed to her that Rutwik was ensuring that no men would be around her.

Only an old lady who had been cooking had retained her job. His behaviour towards Savitri had been rude. Her brother and his wife who had come over to invite them to some function had felt humiliated when Rutwik had refused to let her visit them, but then, her brother had chided her for not understanding his mood and not taking care of him. She had felt it very unfair. She had even tried talking to her sister in law who hadn't understood her either. The only person who had seemed to understand her was her friend Satish, the guy whom she had met in Nandi Hills. He had decided to stay in touch after that day. She had explained his odd behaviour, his flashes of rage. Satish had told her that if she had felt that being with him was so absolutely intolerable, then the only solution would be divorce. He had made it absolutely clear to her that it was entirely her decision and that he didn't want to come across as a home wrecker. She had told him to dismiss those thoughts, for she knew he only meant well for her. They had been talking quite a bit and eventually had fallen in love with each other; she had confessed it to him first and he had reciprocated.

On that fateful day, after Rutwik had left for the airport, Satish had come to her house with the divorce papers. It had been quite late, and they were talking to each other. He had held her hand to console her as they sat in the drawing room when suddenly the door had opened and there stood Rutwik. Their hearts had stopped beating, for it had been the most unexpected turn of events. He was supposed to be in the airport at that point of time. “I knew it, I always knew you were a back stabbing bitch. I took a lot of precautions to clip your wings, to prevent your promiscuity from presenting itself and yet, just as water always finds a way out, so did your prurience.” he had snarled. They had both stood up after their initial shock. He had thrown his briefcase on the ground, and started walking towards his wife with his belt in his hand when Satish decided to defend his lady. Rutwik had been a strong man or maybe Satish had been a mild man. Rutwik had thrashed Satish and driven him out of the house,  while the latter ran shouting that he was running to get the police to put a leash on this wild animal. He had never returned. Fearing Rutwik would thrash and humiliate her like he had done several times before, she had picked up a knife without much concern for repercussions and slit his throat when he had come closer. Then having calmed down and finding herself at wits end, she had just shoved the body into the cabinet with great difficulty and had wiped all blood off the floor. The TV had been on all the while when she heard the news reporter reporting the breaking news of the plane explosion. It had been the same plane in which her husband was supposed to be traveling, and she had seen a glimmer of hope. She had been washing her hands when I had come into the room.

That's bad. But is Satish going to be coming back with the police now?” I asked. “If he wanted to come, he would have come long back. The police station is just five minutes away from here. I think he got too nervous about Rutwik and went home.” She seemed to be pained by his cowardice. I looked at her face and asked “Well, what do you want to do next?” She didn't seem to be a grieving widow. She didn't seem to have a reason to grieve. Instead, she was beginning to think in a cold calculated manner, an attitude that I felt was fitting in the current situation. “We have to dispose off with the body. We have an old well in our estate. It's around 60 kilometres from here. My car is parked in the garage and I know to drive.” I liked brevity. “Very well, let's get the body into the boot of the car. Before that, get rid of all clothes and ornaments that may make it easier to trace him.” I bent over and closed the eyes of the corpse. I didn't like that eerie feeling of being watched. We stripped the body of all the clothes and wrapped it in a bedsheet. We then carried it and placed it in the boot of the car. We decided to cleanup and eliminate the evidence in the house after getting back. It had to be done thoroughly and could be done in daylight. But the disposing of the body needed to be done before sunrise.

I got into the back of the car and lay flat on the backseat so that nobody could see me from outside. The streets would be deserted at this time of the night. She drove the car to the estate. On reaching the place, we quickly inspected the area to see if anyone was around. Feeling confident that we were the only ones in the area, we got the body out and carried it close to the well. We tied a rope to the feet and the other end to a heavy rock that I had found closeby. And then pushed the body and the rock into the well. There was a loud splash, and that was it. We looked into the well and used our torches to inspect the scene. There seemed to be no signs of a submerged corpse. We hurried back to the house. On reaching, we took the clothes to the bathroom. I asked Savitri to get some kerosene and then set fire to the clothes. We thoroughly wiped the areas we had been to, the insides of the cabinet, the floor, and even the boot of the car to eliminate all traces. The ashes were flushed down the toilet.

I asked for some of her husband's clothes. He had had an excellent taste. I took a few pairs of clothes, and told her that I would be staying in her house for the next couple of days, but that it was to be a secret. The next day when grieving friends and relatives would be in her house to console her and to pay their respects, people would assume that I too was one among them. They wouldn't know when I had come. I would look natural. But there was one little problem. There were only three people who knew that Rutwik wasn't on board that plane. And two of us knew he had been dead. Satish knew Rutwik was back and had never been to Kolkata. And he might let the cat out of the bag. He had to be told about the situation. I told her that I would let him know that the first thing the next day. My mind was rapidly chalking out plans.

Grieving friends and relatives had gathered in her house. I had been hiding in the top room where nobody came. Everyone was busy downstairs. I could hear words like tragic, young girl, fate from the din downstairs. When I felt that the time was right, I took a suitcase which I had filled with some clothes and climbed down from the balcony, the same way I had gotten in the previous night. Then, I walked into the house as if I had just heard the news and had come to visit her. She too saw me and said “Oh Harish, thank you for coming.” Her eyes were swollen from all the crying. I was wondering how she could be so natural in crying, having known that he was dead for quite some time now. “I am really sorry for your loss” I said. I shook hands with another man who told me that he was her brother.

I walked inside and set my bag in the guest bedroom. There was a phone in that room. I picked up the receiver and dialed the number to Satish's residence. I had taken the number from Savitri earlier. Everyone was busy around the widow and nobody seemed to noticed me. “May I speak to Mr Satish please” I asked the feminine voice that answered the phone. “I am sorry, but my son has been admitted to the hospital. Who is calling please?” I felt that knot forming in my stomach again. Had Rutwik beaten him that badly? In that case, he might have told the hospital authorities about that cruel wife beater. The police would then come to investigate the next day. And find that the house belonged to the same Rutwik who was believed to be dead in the plane explosion. This would be followed by an investigation and I could see the whole plan crumbling. I remembered the wise Swami Gulagulaananda's words – A chain is only as strong as the weakest link. Satish was the weakest link from the beginning. I regained my composure. “Oh, I am so sorry. What happened to him? And which hospital is he in?” I enquired, concerned, although not for him.

It seems that he was hit by a car. He has been unconscious since last night. We were really worried about him. But the doctor says that there is nothing to worry about. He'll regain consciousness in a few hours is what he told me” she answered. “Oh thank God! By the way I am his friend, Ravi” I said, deliberately using a false name, and then got the name of the hospital from her. I was just about to leave the house when I saw that there were two policemen at the door. I was still inside the same room. I saw that inspector from last night, his alert eyes scanning the place as usual. I went to the phone again and placed a call to the hospital. I asked for Satish, and if he was able to come to the phone, for I had to discuss a matter of utmost importance with him. The nurse asked me to wait for a few minutes. Then I heard a soft voice at the other end. “This is Satish. Who's this?” he asked. “Listen, my name is Harish. I am a friend of Savitri's. I know everything that happened last night. No matter what happens, don't tell the police or anyone else for that matter that Rutwik hadn't been to Kolkata. I am coming to meet you right now. Remember that you shouldn't utter a word about Rutwik being here last night. Got it?” I asked. He sensed that I didn't intend to waste time, and agreed to meet me. I carefully peeked again and was relieved that the police had left. I walked outside and within a few moments caught an autorickshaw. I told him the name of the hospital and asked him to take me faster than he could to earn a twenty percent tip.

Satish was sharing that hospital room with another patient who had been reading a newspaper as I walked in. I knew that people would recognise me as the guy who had escaped the previous day and this was a huge risk that I was taking. But then, I didn't want to risk getting caught in another murder case. I had taken minimum precautions of wearing dark shades and a hat. I walked up to him avoiding looking at the other patient, who I realised seemed to be trying to get a good look at my face - I am sure he found me familiar, having just read the newspaper. A photograph of mine had appeared in the newspaper, explaining that I was an escaped convict. I had to get out quick.

Satish, can we talk for some time outside? Can you walk? I would like to have some coffee in the hospital canteen, if you don't mind.” I told him. Satish was ready, and in a few minutes, we were having coffee in the canteen. “So, how did you land up in a hospital?” I asked him curiously. I was madly running towards the police station to report Rutwik's behaviour when a car appeared out of nowhere. Fortunately there were no broken bones. But I hurt my head and lost my consciousness. Nothing serious, so thank God!” I then explained the entire story to him. Satish was completely aghast on knowing that Savitri had killed her husband. “Oh this was bound to happen. I was expecting one of them to die. And I thought that she could get out of it when she still had the time. That's too bad. Don't worry Mr Harish. I won't tell anyone about last night. I don't want to get her into trouble at all” I was relieved. I shook hands with him and stood up. Then I told him “Listen Satish, once you are discharged, go out of town for a day or two. Anywhere, it doesn't matter. I just don't want you in town for some time. I'll explain later” I then went back to her house. Everyone had left. Savitri told me that everyone believed that Rutwik had died in the plane crash and that all was well. I was relieved.

I walked upstairs to relax. I had a feeling things wouldn't end so soon. I lit a cigarette to calm my nerves  when the phone rang. Savitri answered the phone downstairs and I picked the receiver upstairs. The man who was at the other end spoke with a slight drawl, but his voice didn't seem very clear. “...carefully. I know very well that your husband is not in the ocean where they are looking for the remains of the dead passengers. Oh no, he's submerged alright, but in the well in your estate...” My throat went dry. “I also know you took help from one other man who's currently staying in your house. Now if you don't want to be inviting trouble, do as I say. I need Rs. 5 lakh to be given to me. And I will tell you when and where that should be given. Don't worry, this is a one time payment, and I am not going to continuously bleed you white. Oh, and I don't have to be telling you not go to the police. Hahaha...” and the call got cut. I walked downstairs to see a perspiring Savitri replacing the receiver. She turned around and was startled to see me there. She looked very pale, a nervous wreck. “Harish, that was...”. “I know, I heard.” I said. “What do we do now? We are trapped. Who do you think it can be?” she asked. I had been thinking the same thing all along.

There were only two of us on that night when we went to dispose off with the body, am I right? We double checked, right?” She nodded. “The only other person who knows about this is Satish. Do you think it was his voice? Do you think he might be the blackmailer? Do you think he used a cloth to cover the receiver to change his voice?” I asked her. She gave it a few seconds of thought and said “It didn't sound like him. But then that's the only possible explanation, right?” I shook my head “Satish didn't strike to me as the blackmailing type. No, I think it's someone else.

Who else CAN it be? Nobody else is in this anyway. Money can make even the nicest people go bad. I can arrange for the money, but I really hope that this is the only payment I'll be making. Blackmailing never seems to be a one time thing, you know what I mean?” I looked at her. She didn't seem to be the helpless damsel in distress like she did last night. She was spitting venom as she uttered the next few sentences “I have a confession to make. I didn't kill him. Satish did! Actually everything I told you was true, except that when he chased me, I ran into the room and locked it from inside. I could hear him banging the door asking me to open it so that he could peel my skin when I heard him say – 'Oh, it's you. And you have some audacity to come back. Get lost, before I whip you.' There was some struggle outside. I didn't know what to do. I then heard my husband's cry. I walked out to see him dead on the ground. The rest is as I told you. I think Satish had come back to save me, and then killed him in the ensuing struggle. On knowing that you thought it was me who had killed him, he must have decided that since he was free, he might as well make some money out of it. That bastard!” I didn't say anything to her except – “Whatever has to happen will happen tomorrow”.

Nothing eventful happened for most part of the next day. Around the same time as last night, the phone rang. It was the blackmailer. I was standing next to her as she spoke over the phone. Then she hung up and said “He has asked me to come to the railway station. Then to keep the bag in the cloak room, and keep the receipt behind a public telephone that's closest to the room. And leave the place. I am sure he will be watching the place from a vantage point. Once I have left the place, he will swoop in, and then use the receipt to take the bag back. Simple and effective, that bastard!” I nodded. Whoever it was, he knew that I was involved in this whole set up for sure.

I decided to go with her to the place and observe the situation from a convenient position myself. The next day we did things as planned. I was standing next to a big pillar right across the cloak room. I saw Savitri walking briskly towards the cloak room with her bag. I lit another cigarette to help me focus. In a few moments, she was out with a small piece of paper. She walked towards the telephone and pretended to talk to someone over the phone, looking around. Then, she slowly slid her hand behind the phone and put the paper in place. I was looking around to see if I saw any familiar places. Suddenly I saw Satish walking across the platform with a small luggage bag in his hand. I surmised he had been back from his trip. My eyes were following his movement when I saw the inspector from the previous night walking across just a few steps from Savitri. He was busy talking to two other people as he walked. Savitri had not noticed him, because he was looking towards my direction. But I had. And I slowly moved a few steps behind. I couldn't afford to be seen. I was thinking how interesting it was that three people from one case were within a few feet from one another. I was about to turn around when I happend to look at another man who was looking at Savitri. The man was wearing a hat that looked like a beret, dark shades and had a beard. It looked like he was intentionally hiding his face, just like I had done the other day. But then I knew he looked very familiar. I had seen him on the previous day, one of the friends or relatives who had come to console the grieving widow. I tried to memorise his face, but I couldn't see him very clearly.

I walked away from there towards the car. I saw Savitri was already there, and walked towards me as I approached her. “I found this note on the windshield of the car under the wiper.” I opened it and read it. It simply said that due to some reasons, the place and time had to be changed. Savitri went back to the cloak room to recover the money bag while I sat in the car, thinking. We drove back to the house in silence. Once we were inside, she broke the silence “Who do you think it is? Did you see Satish around there?” She asked me. “I still don't think it is Satish. Well, to be honest, I did see Satish there, but I am guessing he is back from that trip I had asked him to take. But I saw another man at the station, I had seen him the other day, but I don't know who he was”. The phone rang. She answered the phone, listened for some time, mumbled some words of agreement. “It's him again. He has asked me to come to Cubbon park near the stone statue. And he has asked me to come alone” I raised my eyebrows. “Alone, uh? Very well, I will come with you either ways, and you stop the car a little distance away. Let us part ways and you walk by yourself while I scout from a safe distance.

She walked upstairs and opened the drawer of the wardrobe and gave a slight shriek. “It's here” I said, showing her the revolver she had gone to get. “I think it's better I hold it for a while. It's not very ladylike to be carrying a gun”.

I was behind a clump of bushes, looking at the stone statue. There had been no traces of movement around. The entire park was deserted. The repeated chirping of some insect was the only sound I could hear. A cold breeze blew. Savitri was slowly walking towards the statue, looking around to see if anyone else was watching or following her. When she was close to the statue, we heard a voice - “Leave the bag at the base of the statue, and keep walking. I have a gun pointed at you. Any games and I'll shoot you”. I tightened my grip around the gun when I heard the words gun and shoot. Savitri did as she was told and began walking. I could see the silhouette of a man walking towards the bag. I was not sure what had to be done next. I was getting ready to creep behind him and tackle him when I heard a loud voice followed by bright lights focussing on the man. “Hands up, you have been surrounded by the police!” Several men appeared from nowhere and caught the man. He had been wearing a mask. One of the men had apprehended Savitri as well. I knew the game was up. They pulled the mask off the man and I felt like punched me hard in the gut. It was the inspector!

Come on out with your hands up Mr Harish. I don't want to go through the whole cat and mouse game again. We know where you are.” I walked out of my hiding spot with my hands up as a bright light was focused on me. We were all in the police station, the inspector, Savitri, Satish and I. The bearded man turned out to be a senior police officer who had been investigating the case. He told us that the investigation had led them to believe that the man who had died in the plane explosion was not Rutwik but a manager in his company. It seems Rutwik had told him in the last minute that something urgent had come up and that he had to take his place instead, that there had been no time for a ticket cancellation and that he had to go in his name. The manager had agreed, and had been the victim of the tragedy. But then the question had been that if the man who had died was the manager, then where was Rutwik?

The bearded officer had thus come to Rutwik's house along with another officer during the gathering. He had felt that some odd things were happening around the house and had tapped the telephone lines after seeing a drop of blood on the cabinet that had apparently been missed. The phone tapping had proved to be useful. They had come to know about the blackmail. The inspector then narrated his tale. He said that he had come to Rutwik's house to inform her about the death. But then he had also been looking for Harish. After speaking to her, they had been drinking tea in a nearby tea stall when they had seen Savitri driving away at that odd time. The inspector felt something was wrong when he caught a glimpse of someone in the backseat. He had followed her very discreetly. Training had helped him to remain undetected. He had seen the duo pushing the corpse into the well and had understood what had happened. He knew Mr Rutwik had been a very wealthy man and that he could make some quick money. And thus he had decided to blackmail them.

Now, the question is, who killed Mr Rutwik?” asked the officer. “I killed my husband” said Savitri trying to defend Satish. She loved him and didn't want him to get dragged into this mess unnecessarily. Satish had been innocent all along, and she had felt guilty for not trusting him. On hearing that, Satish quickly said “I am sorry, I am the one who killed Rutwik in reality. She is merely trying to defend me” “And how did you manage to do that Mr Satish?” asked the officer. “I used a knife to stab him.” said Satish. “Is that a fact? And where did you attack him?” “I stabbed him in the chest and abdomen repeatedly” The officer smiled at him and said “I understand you are trying to protect your lady love. But Mr Satish, I shall have you know that there was a single stroke, and the attack was on the throat.” Satish who hadn't known that looked at the floor with a dejected countenance.

You see, Savitri tried to protect Satish by taking the blame upon herself thinking Satish had committed the crime while Satish thought it was Savitri's doing and took the blame upon himself. But in reality, neither of you did the killing.” Everyone looked at him with a look of utter disbelief. “Who was it then?”.

I knew the game was up when he looked at me.

It was him” he said, pointing towards me. “We found your fingerprints on the knife” Savitri was looking at me with a look of utter disbelief. “Yes, I did it. And I am not sorry...” I said, spitting each word out as I spoke in rage. “Rutwik and I had been business partners. And I was in love with a girl, Prema, at that time. One day, we were having dinner in Rutwik's guest house when Rutwik and his goons arrived at the scene completely sozzled. They attacked us both and one of the goons hit my head with a bottle. When I regained consciousness, I saw Prema on the ground, her clothes tattered a large piece of glass in her abdomen. I ran towards her, and pulled it out of her, and tried to see if she was still alive, when Rutwik and his friends came there with some police officers. He told them that it was I who had killed her, that they had been the good samaritans. I was jailed for committing a crime I had not committed. I had sworn revenge

Somehow I managed to escape. It was just incidental that I happened to be in this area. When I got into this house, I was completely surprised when I saw Rutwik had just driven a man out of the house and was chasing a woman. I had already entered the house by then and picked up a knife. When I saw that his wife was inside the room and he had been hammering away at the door, I decided to make my presence known. Rutwik was arrogant and thought he could beat me again. But not this time. I had an axe to grind, and this time, I wasn't taken in by surprise. I was prepared with a knife. The fight wasn't particularly long. But after he was down, when I heard her footsteps, I hid again. It was then that I noticed that his wife, the woman whom he had been chasing was my classmate Savitri. When I saw how terrified she was, I decided I had to help her. But she had been busy removing the body and the evidence. She is a nice lady and she didn't deserve the problems due to me. I thought I should wait for the right time to make my presence known to her, so that I could stick around long enough to get rid of the body so that she was not in any kind of trouble. But then the blackmailing began, and I had to stick around longer... And you know the rest.

The officer smiled at me and said with a twinkle in his eye “Ah, a fine story indeed. By the way Mr Harish, this knife didn't have your fingerprints. But thanks for your confession”

-- Based on Kannada Movie, Tarka - starring Shankar Nag, Vanita Vasu

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