The Silhouette

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic


Set in the city of Kolkata, Richard Biswas, a psychiatrist visits a a private investigator Rishav. A boy is missing and Richard has been constantly receiving photos of dead people he doesn't know
about. Truth unfolds as Rishav starts investigating.

Submitted: December 25, 2017

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Submitted: December 25, 2017

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Prologue

31st January, 1989

He almost came running from the main road and had to take shelter under the shade of the grocery store. It’s raining cats and dogs. January is an unusual time for a heavy spell. To add to the trouble, there’s power-cut. He takes out his umbrella and makes a move. He has to take every step pretty carefully, there’s no light and he is the only one walking. He is getting late, he needs to hurry. He can see flashes of the torches from behind. People are moving in a random fashion. The only audible sound is that of the rain hitting the ground. What takes fifteen minutes is taking half an hour today.

By intuition, he can understand that he has reached. That’s the door. There’s the calling bell.  Nope! He can’t ring the bell, there’s no power. He knocks. He knocks twice….thrice….wait, what? The door’s open! ‘How many times do I have to tell her that it’s not a safe area? The streets in Calcutta are getting dangerous day by day.’ He wanders.

He opens the door.  To him, it seems like a blanket of darkness.

‘Hey!  Are you there?’ He shouts.

Nobody answers.

‘Love! Where are you?’

He can see a light. That’s a candle. There’s someone in the drawing room. He rushes in.

It’s a cake, a birthday cake.

‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY!’ She shouts. She appears from the darkness, as if out of thin air. She was nowhere to be seen so far.

‘What have you done?’ He cries in amazement.

‘It’s an accidental candle-light birthday celebration.’ She answers.

‘I am so glad.’ He kisses her.

She blushes.

He is numb in amazement, doesn’t say a word.

‘Shall we start?’ She asks.

‘Umm…yeah of course. Where’s my son?’

‘Fast asleep, it’s so tough to make him sleep.’ She smiles.

 

‘I just can’t believe this. I thought some quality time with you on my birthday is more than I can ask for, but…this is something….’

Her face looks even more beautiful in the candle light. She is glowing. He can’t stop staring at her.

‘What’s the time?’ All of a sudden the air of romanticism is somehow polluted by a sudden smoke panic. No sooner did he start falling in love with her all over again than reality struck him.

‘It’s 10:15.’

‘Oh no! I am getting late!’ He panics.

‘Wait! We are not done with the dinner.’

‘No, it’s my birthday; I love you for whatever you’ve done today and for every reason. I have to go home.’ He hurries.

‘Yeah, I can’t make you stay here forever! Your wife might be waiting!’

‘No it’s not her, my dad might suspect something! It seems like he can smell something.’ He says.

‘Will you take him as well?’ Pointing to the next room, she asks. ‘He is fast asleep.’

‘I won’t, she is too dangerous for him.’

‘So you are going?’ How I wish I could spend the whole day with you!’

‘A few more days, then we will be together.’

In the next room, someone else is eavesdropping in the dark. The immature ears cannot fathom all the words but can understand the bottom line. He isn’t asleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

15th February, 2017

Rishav takes out the last Nicotine chewing gum from the foil and continues…’so, as I was saying that Avinash always had that fire of revenge inside him. After all it’s his sister. And, what about Somesh Babu?’

The entire room is silent. It’s like a stage where all the suspects have come to revise their roles in the play. The curtains are about to be raised, it will be open for the audience. Rishav is bang on in every step of his detection. He is the only one standing. The rest are settled on the sofa, yet so unsettled. Rishav’s occasional sidekick Shantanu is standing by him.

Somesh Babu looks at him, it’s a sharp gaze. ‘How many times do I have to tell you that I killed Nikhil and cut him into pieces in such a way that nobody can identify?’

‘What about the murder weapon?’

‘I don’t know; by now it is sleeping peacefully on the bed of the Ganga River.’ He laughs.

‘Doesn’t this sound too clichéd?’ Rishav laughs.

‘You might find it funny but…I lost my daughter, he lost his only sister…’ He points towards Avinash. Somesh chokes.

‘So, Avinash! Why do you think that Rema was killed by Nikhil?’ Rishav asks.

‘It was obvious. That day Rema was there with Nikhil. She went missing and….’

‘And that’s the only reason why you think He killed her?’

‘He was a bad guy, everyone knows that. He was into gambling, drugs and what not. He might have had bad intentions.’

‘So, none of you approved this relationship.’ Rishav concludes.

‘So Somesh Babu, can you just repeat what happened the day when you went to Nikhil’s place to murder him?’ Rishav continues.

‘It was Tuesday evening and I went to his apartment. I had a hammer hidden at the back. Just as he turned around after opening the door to let me in, I wasted no time and started hitting him continuously till death; I went out, slammed the door and escaped.’

‘So, the door got locked.’ Rishav verifies.

‘Yeah, it was a latch-key.’

‘Shall I take it as your final statement?’

‘Of course!’ Somesh is disgusted.

‘Well then, I must call tonight’s guest!’ Rishav smirks.

It’s total silence. The only audible sound is of the heavy rain outside.

Here comes the one who was least expected.

It’s Nikhil.

Avinash is aghast. Somesh isn’t even looking. Their domestic help has no clue and there are others, whose relevance seems to be fading.

‘Sit down Nikhil.’ Rishav asks.

‘So, I must take the center stage now.’ Rishav smirks once again. The room is totally silent; they are seated in Somesh’s drawing room. The room has some old furniture and the walls are almost decapitated, nothing extraordinary to offer.

‘We have the three main characters- Rema, who was murdered, Somesh Babu, Rema’s father and Avinash, her brother. Rishav continues. ‘It all began when Rema fell in love with Nikhil. Nikhil is someone who lives his life, does whatever he wishes to and goes by what his heart says. He has been into drugs and alcohol, I am not telling that’s good but he hasn’t cared about what people say about him. Rema, who was his childhood friend, has recently been reported to have gone into a relationship with him. Rema lost her mother when she was little and thus her brother and father are extremely protective about her. It’s very natural for them not to approve the relationship. The matter got worse when Nikhil decided to convert to a Muslim. The reason behind it doesn’t interest me and I am not going into that, but what concerns me is the other side of the story. For Rema, the matters at home became worse. Altercations became an everyday affair. Last month, Rema went missing and was supposedly killed by Nikhil according to her family. I was appointed by them to investigate the murder of Rema. Specifically, I was appointed by Somesh Babu and Avinash was out of station all this while. But, I was asked to withdraw mid-way.’

‘How can you say that? This kid was snooping around? Don’t tell me!’ Somesh Babu expresses extreme disgusts.

Rishav pays no heed. Shantanu smiles like a naughty child.

‘I was not told directly but I could understand from their disposition that they are trying to back off. Shantanu had been keeping watch on Rema’s family and had come to know that the father-son duo is up to something. They are planning to move out…move out of the house or…maybe the city…Now let’s move back a bit to the day when she was supposedly killed. Avinash, as I said, was out of station and he came back after I was appointed. It was Nikhil’s birthday and Rema planned for a celebration. She spent the whole day with her and came home. She met with her father and Avinash wasn’t there as according to his confessions, he was out of the city for an official work. Matters got worse and in feat of anger, Somesh Babu killed her accidentally.  In order to manage things, Somesh Babu had dissected her body so that it can be disposed off easily. Avinash came home and Somesh Babu put all the blame to Nikhil who was unaware of all this. Nikhil became an obvious target of Avinash’s wrath. That was the time when I was indirectly asked to back off. I could sense that and asked Nikhil to stay back in my house for a couple of days. During my investigation, Shantanu visited Nikhil’s apartment and asked the guard. He said that an old man was asking about Nikhil’s whereabouts and it was Tuesday evening. Somesh Babu did not want Avinash to malign his hands and thus had planned that he would tell Avinash that he had killed Nikhil and both of them would escape from the city so that Avinash and Nikhil never meet. But Somesh Babu made a little mistake. Today, he said that he had cut Nikhil into pieces and after that he said that he took a hammer to his house, hit him and fled. Which one do I take Somesh Babu? The first act seems to be similar to what you did to your daughter and the second one?’

Rishav takes a look at the foil; he is left with no more chewing gum. Somesh Babu is grimacing. Avinash is totally taken aback, he never knew all this.

‘Let’s go Shantanu, it’s raining and I have to face mom’s wrath if I am late.’ Rishav and Shantanu sign off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2

17th February, 1989

‘So you want to say that I am spoiling Pikai?’ She screams.

‘Yes you are! He is being brought up in a very wrong way.’ He replies.

‘You are just being poisoned by that witch. She is eating up your head. She is spoiling my baby.’

‘He is not your baby, he is my son….Pikai is my son. The way you go hysteric sometimes intimidates him. He doesn’t understand all this; he gets terrified when you have feats.’ He sounds irritated.

‘Is that under my control? Have ever bothered to know how I am keeping? You are so engrossed in that witch.’ She shouts.

‘You keep quiet. Dad is in the next room, you know he is not well and ….’

‘I’ll just finish you….you bloody…..’ Her words remain incomplete due to a complete blackout. Matters like these are common. He has always turned a blind eye towards these issues.

The only one who cares is the domestic help Kanai Da. He takes her to the bed, gives her the necessary medicine and takes care when needed.

 

 

 

 

17th February, 2017

‘Rishav! Rishav! Wake up’

‘What? Let me sleep a little more, mom.’

‘A client is waiting downstairs. He is a doctor.’ Suchorita has just received a client for her son Rishav. Ever since Rishav has quit smoking and taking Nicotine chewing gums, he has been sleeping and having hiccups. Rishav has been eating and sleeping ever since he has solved Rema’s murder case. He is out of work, something very common in this profession.

‘I don’t take clients at midnight.’ Rishav replies with his eyes closed.

‘Babu it’s evening, not midnight. You have been sleeping all day long. You have got a case. He is waiting for the last fifteen minutes.’

 

‘Hello! I am Dr Richard Biswas.’ The man was sitting in the drawing room. He stands up as soon as Rishav enters.

Rishav normally takes clients in his office room downstairs. Since Richard was waiting for a long time, Suchorita asked her to come to the drawing room.

‘Hello!’ Rishav and Richard shake hands. Richard is a man of mid 50’s. He is clean shaven and the disposition shows confidence. He looks like a geek with high powered specs and is almost bald. He is wearing a half-shirt and trousers. He is very fair and good looking. That’s like a typical first boy, the quintessential looks of a doctor.

‘So, Richard, what do you do for a living? Medical practice?’ Rishav asks. The drawing room is dimly lit and the showpieces in the room are creating eerie shadows. The busts of human faces have come alive and it seems like they are about to interrupt the conversation.

‘Well, I am a Psychiatrist. I am associated with ‘Sammilani’, it’s kind of a clinic in Dhakuria…’

‘It’s not very far from here’ Rishav intercepts.

‘No.’ Richard smiles.

‘So, how can I help you?’ Rishav takes a Nicotine chewing gum.

‘Can you make anything out of this?’  Richard gives him an envelope.

‘What’s this?’ Rishav’s frowning. The envelope reveals two very old photos. One photo showing a little boy sitting with his parents, the other shows a supposedly married couple.

Rishav looks at Richard questioningly.

‘Have you heard of post-mortem photography?’ Richard asks.

‘It’s something which was in practice in American and European culture in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. It is the practice of photographing the recently deceased. The photos were taken in such a way that sometimes it became difficult to understand who the deceased was. It’s obsolete now and is just a doctor’s interest for post-mortem and other studies.’

‘So, I came to the right man. These two are mourning photos. If you closely look at them, the child that is sitting with his parents is actually dead. The wife in the second photo is also deceased.’ Richard points it out.

Rishav takes a closer look. The photos are black and white. Some parts are distorted. The backgrounds of both the photos are simple. The parents are looking at the camera and the child isn’t. His gaze is aimless. He is sitting on his father’s lap. It actually suggests that the father is giving the child the required support to sit straight. The same goes with the married couple. It gives an eerie feeling once one takes a closer look at these photos.

‘So, what’s exactly the matter?’ Rishav asks.

‘Well, I come from a Christian family. I know stuffs about mourning photos. One of my ancestors used to stay in England when this photography was in practice. The matter of concern is something else. Last October, I don’t exactly remember the day; I had gone to visit a patient of mine. You know the place where Sikdar Bagan’s Pujo happens?’

‘North Kolkata, I don’t know the exact place.’

‘Yeah, that will do. It was after Pujas, the pandals were still there and I was returning home in my car. The tyre got punctured mid-way…I was near that Sikdar Bagan pandal. I saw a boy of 10-12 years crying on the street. He was just like the street boys you see in every corner. I was standing near my car while my driver was fixing the spare tyre. It was an afternoon and there were hardly any people out there. I don’t know what prompted the boy to run towards me. He said that he lost his mother, the only one he had in his family died just two days ago because of some unknown fever, nobody helped. They used to stay on the nearby and now he is helpless. Initially I paid no heed as it sounded like a trick of a thief but he was adamant. It became an embarrassing scene for me. I was left with no clue but to take him home. With time the little boy proved to be genuine. I have no children of my own. I stay with my wife. He became like my son. I realized his problems were real. I know it was risky but nobody actually came looking for him. So, he became just like a family member and he would buy groceries and help my wife in household stuffs, etc.’

Haru Kaku brings tea for the guest. Richard takes a sip.

‘Things were going well but it was last Wednesday when something unexpected happened. I asked him to go to the grocery store nearby and bring some essentials. He never returned.’

‘Then?’ Rishav becomes more attentive when he hears something intriguing.

‘We searched for him, asked the shopkeeper, he said he went in some other direction, which was not supposed to be, he was supposed to return home.’

‘What is his name?’

‘Pikai’ Richard answers.

‘Was that given by you?’

‘No it was his original name.’

‘What do these photos have to do with this case?’

‘I got the photo of the child the day before Pikai went missing. I got the photo of the married couple today.’

‘How did you get these?’

‘I don’t know, someone had kept it in the letter box.’

‘Do you suspect someone?’

‘Actually, I have no clue.’

‘How many of your relatives know about this?’

‘We hardly have relatives in Kolkata, most of them are distant. One thing is for sure that someone has kidnapped him.’

‘Yeah, it seems to be planned. It seems that the dead people in the photos signify something. Firstly, the child…’ Rishav is lost in thoughts. ‘Then Pikai is gone… now it’s your wife….’ Rishav looks at Richard. It never struck him.

‘Do you want to say that my wife is in danger?’ Richard is taken aback. It occurred to him once but his thoughts get credence with Rishav’s hints.

‘No, wait, relax…do you have any photo of Pikai’s?’ Rishav asks.

‘No, it never occurred actually.’

‘Then tell me how he looks, I want a lead.’

‘Dark complexion, little more than 4ft, mostly 10-12 years.’

‘Any identification mark?’

Richard takes a pause. ‘Nothing I know of.’

‘Okay. What was he wearing?’

‘A black t-shirt with white stripes and a half pant.’

‘What was the time roughly when he went out?’

‘About 10 AM.’

‘Okay. It was 15th February, right?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Hmm.’

‘Do really think that my wife is in danger?’ Richard sounds panicked.

‘Nope, I am just suspecting. It‘s possible that they might target her.’

Richard is somehow not listening to him. He looks towards his right in amazement. Someone else has stepped in.

‘Am I looking at the great detective novelist Abhijit Roy Chaudhury?’ Richard’s eyes are wide open.

‘Yes you are, he is my father.’ Rishav answers.

‘Hello’ Abhijit answers.

‘Autograph please!’  Richard takes out a pen and a paper from his bag.

‘Sure!’ Abhijit does the courtesy.

‘I can’t believe I am talking to Kolkata’s best-selling writer.’ Richard is amazed. ‘I knew that I might get to see you but still…’

Abhijit laughs. He looks more handsome than in TV. He looks younger than a 65 year old.

‘He is the reason why I am a detective.’ Rishav laughs.

‘Yeah, you are now a famous private investigator.’  Richard states.

‘So, are you taking the case?’ Richard asks. ‘I am really tensed, Pikai is like my son.’

‘Yup, I am taking it up. Your co-operation is much needed.’ Rishav states.

‘Thank you sir.’

‘May I keep the post-mortem photos? If you don’t mind.’

‘Yeah, sure.’

Richard takes out a cheque.

’10,000 advance, the rest I’ll tell afterwards.’ Rishav replies aptly.

 

 

 

‘So, a new case?’ Abhijit asks his son at the dinner table.

 ‘Do whatever you wish to, don’t involve in anything bloody.’ Suchorita is always scared. She is unaware of the murder cases Rishav has solved so far.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3

1990 (day and month: unidentified)

It’s midnight. The room has a bed, a flickering lamp, a window and a door, nothing else. She is having a sound sleep. The lamp is going to go off in no time.

‘Mother!’ Someone comes out of thin air. His little fingers run over his mother’s hair.

‘Pikai!’ The mother wakes up. ‘You have come! Why are you so late?’

‘I went to the fair. See what I bought.’  Pikai shows his mother the toys he bought.

‘Father got you all this?’

Pikai nods his head.

‘Feeling hungry? You had very little food for dinner.’

‘No mother.’

‘Want to sleep with me?’

‘Yes mother. I can’t sleep without you.’ Pikai’s shadow is flickering.

‘What will you do when you grow up?’ She laughs.

‘You will be there to make me sleep.’ Pikai smiles.

‘Hahahah! My little baby has become more mischievous.’

‘Tell me all those stories that you used to tell.’

‘Are you really going to stay with me all night?’

‘Maybe, I don’t know. I….’ Pikai stammers.

‘What happened?’

‘I don’t like calling her as my mother.’

‘You don’t have to; I am your mother….Kanai Da! Please bring some milk for Pikai.’

Someone else appears from the next room. Kanai Da is an old man, this man is quite young.

‘Who are you? You are not Kanai Da!’ She asks.

‘How does it matter? I must bring something from your son.’

‘I said who are you? How did you enter?’

‘I am your domestic help.’

What followed was smirk that nobody saw. He disappears in the dark.

 

18th February, 2017

‘Do you know him well?’ Rishav asks the shopkeeper Pikai visited the last time. It’s a congested Lake market area where there’s pile of rubbish at every nook and corner. The vegetable sellers are calling out the rates and the buyers are arguing and bargaining. Mornings in the lake market are never quiet. The concerned shop is a small store with all the essentials on show. It mostly remains full of people and today is not an exception.

‘I knew him well. He was quite regular. He stays near Southern Avenue, right?’ The man asks.

‘Yeah. How was he? Talkative or quiet?’

‘It’s hard to tell. He used to give me a list and I would get the things, period.’

‘How do you know that he stays near Southern Avenue?’

‘He stays with Richard Babu, he came with him one day.’

Talking and serving the customer at the same time is difficult. The man has kept his assistant at service.

‘In which direction did he go?’ Rishav continues his interrogation.

‘Not in the usual direction.’

 ‘How did you notice so much? Weren’t there other customers?’

‘No, at the moment, he was the only one there.’

‘What was he wearing?’

He takes a pause. ‘A half pant, a t-shirt… I don’t remember the color.’

‘Do you normally return the lists?’

‘Yeah, I don’t take them.’

‘What did Richard say when he brought Pikai to you?’

‘Nothing special, just that he would be coming from then on.’

‘Okay, thank you.’

 

 

 

‘How long have you been married?’

Rishav is now in Richard’s place. He is now talking to his wife Anita. The room is huge for a drawing room. Richard is well paid man since Anita is a housewife. The verandah offers a great view of Southern Avenue’s greenery.

‘Four Years.’

‘No children?’

‘None.’ Anita’s disappointed tone.

‘How’s your married life?’

‘It’s fine, very normal. We have had issues over not having a child but Pikai came up with an answer.’ Anita chokes.

Rishav gives her a moment to come back.

‘You are a housewife?’

‘Yes.’

‘How was Pikai?’

‘He was very gentle, not like the typical ones we see on the streets. He talked less and initially he was shy for obvious reasons but he was mingling well in the recent past. He never had demands and he was happy with all he got. We were planning to get him enrolled in school as soon as the session starts.’

‘Is morning the only occasion he used to go out?’

‘Yeah, he used to stay at home. He spent his time with coloring books and toys that we got him.’

‘What for did he go to the groceries that day? Normal essentials?’

‘Yeah, potatoes, onions and all.’

‘May I see his belongings?’

Two bags, a few clothes, a watch, toys, Etc. Rishav checks them thoroughly.

‘This has everything Pikai used.’ Anita states.

‘Shall I take them?’  Rishav asks Anita.

‘Sure.’

 ‘By the way, when does Richard leave for his clinic?’

‘Normally about 10 in the morning but he has stayed there the whole night yesterday and is yet to come home.’

‘Okay, thanks. I might have to go to Sikdar Bagan Lane for more leads.’ Rishav states.

‘When?’  Anita asks anxiously.

‘Maybe tomorrow.’

‘Fine.’

‘Do you have anything to say about the photos that have come?’

‘It’s tough to fathom, Richard is scared. He has asked me not to go out of the house as I might have the same fate as Pikai’s. He has asked the security guards to be more cautious.

‘One thing, did you get any ransom calls or…any unknown calls?’

‘Nothing.’

‘Didn’t it occur to you that people might come searching?’

‘Nobody came…I don’t know….’ Anita is clearly going through a tough time. She hates the chain of questions.

‘Ever thought of sending Pikai to a home for the homeless?’

‘Pikai loved staying with us.’

‘Did Pikai go to the store willfully?’

‘Yeah, why would we force him?’

Rishav nods his head. ‘May I see the room Pikai stayed in?’

The room seems to be ordinary. It’s the guest room that has one bed, an attached bathroom and a cupboard that is empty at present. Pikai’s belongings are in the bag. The room has been cleaned recently.

‘Have you noticed anyone suspicious outside your home?’ Rishav asks. He is looking at the ceiling fan.

‘No, there have been no such cases. At least I haven’t seen anything.’

‘What about Richard?’

‘He would have told me if anything happened.’

 

Chapter 4

18th February, 1990

 ‘Who are you?’ She asked.

‘I am your domestic help madam.’ The man says.

‘I don’t know you. Everyday new people are coming and claiming to be my domestic help.’

The man doesn’t say anything.

‘Okay, don’t waste my time, get in quickly. I have to make preparations for my son. He is going to come home from school and I’ll have to cook the meal for him. It has been long since I haven’t cooked him the food he likes.’

The man looks at her. ‘How can I help?’

‘Clean the floor first and then I’ll tell you.’

 

10:05 AM

‘It’s done madam.’ He says.

‘Clean the table in the dining room.’ She says.

 

10:26 AM

‘It’s done madam. The floor is left to be cleaned.’ He says.

‘Clean the floor and then I’ll tell you.’ She says.

 

10:45 AM

‘It’s done madam.’ He says.

‘Clean the table in the dining room.’ She says.

 

11:01 AM

‘It’s done madam. The floor is left to be cleaned.’ He says.

‘Clean the floor and then I’ll tell you.’ She says.

11:20 AM

‘It’s done madam.’ He says.

‘Clean the table in the dining room.’ She says.

 

 

 

18th February, 2017

Can it be a case of child trafficking? Why did no ransom calls come so far? What do those photos actually mean? It has to be someone who knows the closely.

Rishav is unable to sleep. All these questions are doing the rounds in his head. It’s almost midnight. It’s completely silent excepting the faint noises of the cars and buses on the road. Rishav has developed an obsessive compulsive disorder for the photos. He has seen those two a hundred times. The child is dead and the parents are posing with him. How creepy! They don’t have that expression of grief. The husband is happy clicking the photos. The wife has a loud make-up. Why is that so? The background has nothing to show. It’s really very tough to understand the story behind these pictures. How did they die? The eyes say a lot, those eyes are lifeless…yet…

Abhijit’s snoring is constantly making Rishav lose his focus.

Rishav opens the bags containing the toys and garments. He has to make a list-

1)A toy car

2)A coloring book

3)Crayons

4)Other toys

5)T-shirts

6)Pants

7)A watch

8)A belt

9)A toothbrush

10)Pencils

11)Erasers

12)A Sharpener

13)A notebook

14)A remote controlled airplane

 

Rishav takes a Nicotine chewing gum.

‘Hey! Rishav!’

Suchorita calls from the lobby. She went there to have some water. Rishav’s room is visible from there.

‘Can’t sleep?’ She asks.

‘I am thinking.’

‘Again that chewing gum? Well, still it’s better than smoking though.’

‘There are so many doubts, yet no answer.’ He replies.

‘You will definitely find them out as usual.’

‘Hmm’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 5

19th February, 2017

Rishav is in his usual avatar; a pair of sunglasses, denim jeans and a shirt. Whenever he goes somewhere for investigation, he dons such outfits. Today’s destination is Sikdar Bagan Lane. He takes his Royal Enfield and makes a move. The roads aren’t congested because it’s a Sunday.

 

Rishav’s heart and mind are full of uncertainty. Richard’s description is quite apt but it’s difficult to find out Pikai’s exact whereabouts. Upon reaching, the only thing Rishav has concluded is that even if there are residents, they are not very willing to help. It’s a lazy Sunday afternoon, most of them are sleeping. ‘Private Investigator’ sounds like a taboo to them. Some of them thought Rishav to be a salesman and slammed the door before he could begin. The narrow lane is lined up with pulled Rickshaws and the pullers are nowhere to be seen.  The only option is a stationary store, even that is closed.

‘Looking for an address?’ Someone calls.

There’s a man ironing some clothes. He is one of those typical iron-on-wheels men.

‘I am looking for a boy. I am from the Police.’ Rishav lies.

‘Boy, who?’ He asks while ironing a shirt.

‘I don’t have his pictures, but his name is Pikai…and…’

‘Okay! Okay! He was taken home by someone, I saw. His mother died recently.’ The man sounds excited.

‘What about his father?’ Rishav takes a Nicotine chewing gum.

‘His father escaped as soon as Pikai was born.’

‘How do you know all this?’

‘I have been coming here for the last fifteen years. I know everything about this place.’

‘How did the mother die?’

‘Hard to tell, people say it was dengue. They didn’t have the money for treatment.’

‘Nobody helped?’

‘Pikai is not a legit son…Kali; I mean his mother was hated by everyone in the locality…now you know why the father fled.’

‘Can you show me where they lived?’

‘Sure.’

In the next bye-lane there’s a ‘jhupri’ kind of a structure. It looks like one but it’s made of brick and mortar.

‘There you go.’

It’s a single room. It looks totally ordinary; no paints on the wall, the bricks stare at you. There are no fans or lights, probably lamps were used.

‘Where are the belongings?’ Rishav asks.

‘I don’t know, hard to say. They hardly had anything, given Kali’s income.’

‘What did she do for a living?’

‘I don’t know, she used to go somewhere in the morning and returned late. That is what I used to see.’

‘Pikai stayed alone?’ Rishav is a little surprised.

‘Most probably.’

‘How was Kali as a person?’

‘She was nice and gentle. I have interacted with her on a very few occasions. Sir, I have to go…I have work to do….’

‘Yeah, sure. Can you tell me where the tube well is?’

‘You won’t get a tube well nearby. Why, sir?’

‘I am a little thirsty that’s why.’

‘I have water.’

‘Thank you.’

 

 

 

 

‘What’s that?’ Abhijit asks.

‘This might be the last letter.’ Suchorita is sitting in the drawing room with a piece of paper. She was dusting the bedroom when she found it.

‘Why is it here?’ Abhijit sounds disgusted.

Suchorita gives him the letter.

The page has turned yellow with time.

Abhijit reads it.

‘Throw this away!’ Abhijit shouts.

 

 

 

 

19th February, 1990

Sometimes there are sounds that do nothing but enhance the silence. The dogs are barking. The silence in between emancipates the eeriness. Nothing else can be heard. It’s the same dark room. It’s midnight. She is sleeping. The lights are off. No, she isn’t sleeping. Her eyes are open. She is looking at nothing. The house is surrounded by thick fog. She is under a thick blanket.

A hand touches her. She cringes initially but she realizes that it’s Pikai.

‘My baby!’

‘Mother!’ He squishes her cheeks.

‘How have you been?’

Pikai smiles. She fiddles with his hair.

‘Want to have something?’

Pikai nods his head. The The dogs have started barking at a greater intensity, as if they are afraid of something….or maybe someone.

‘I made kheer for you, your favorite.’

Pikai’s eyes gleam with joy.

Suddenly the door opens. It’s him. There’s harsh light falling on her face. She can’t see the man’s face but she knows who the silhouette belongs to. The man approaches towards her. She screams at the top of her voice and it’s a blackout.

 

 

19th February, 2017

‘Any progress?’ Richard calls Rishav. It’s almost 11 at night.

‘Nothing as such, will let you know if anything happens. How is your wife?’

‘She is tensed of course.’

‘Ask her not to worry, she will be safe and I’ll rescue Pikai.’

Richard hangs up.

‘It’s a little complicated.’ Abhijit comments.

‘It is. I haven’t got any clues till now.’

‘Things will surely heat up in the climax.’ Abhijit always has that author’s perspective for every case.

‘Heat!!!’ Rishav cries out.

‘What happened? Pass me the water please.’ Abhijit asks Suchorita.

‘Water!’ Rishav seems to be electrocuted.

‘Yeah, water!’ Suchorita says.

‘Water!!!!!!’ Something strikes Rishav.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 6

20th February, 1990

 ‘Who are you?’ She askes.

‘I am your domestic help madam.’ The man says.

‘I don’t know you. Everyday new people are coming and claiming to my domestic help.’

The man doesn’t say anything.

‘Okay, don’t waste my time, get in quickly. I have to make preparations for my son. He is going to come home from school and I’ll have to cook the meal for him. It has been long since I haven’t cooked him the food he likes.’

The man looks at her. ‘How can I help?’

‘Clean the floor first and then I’ll tell you.’

 

10:05 AM

‘It’s done madam.’ He says.

‘Clean the table in the dining room.’ She says.

 

10:26 AM

‘It’s done madam. The floor is left to be cleaned.’ He says.

‘Clean the floor and then I’ll tell you.’ She says.

 

10:45 AM

‘It’s done madam.’ He says.

‘Clean the table in the dining room.’ She says.

 

11:01 AM

‘It’s done madam. The floor is left to be cleaned.’ He says.

‘Clean the floor and then I’ll tell you.’ She says.

11:20 AM

‘It’s done madam.’ He says.

‘Clean the table in the dining room.’ She says.

 

20th February, 2017

Rishav could not sleep the last night. He has to check the place out once again. He always thought that there is a problem with the place. Now he knows what.

It’s taking a lot of time since it’s a Monday. Rishav has always avoided the metro as it hurts the ego of someone who owns a royal Enfield.

The road isn’t that empty like the last day. The lane looks different with people moving around. The stationary shop is open and is serving customers. The Launderer hasn’t come yet as it’s still very early in the morning.

‘May I ask you some questions?’ Rishav goes to the stationary store. He is not into making the same mistake of asking the non-cooperative residents.

‘Yeah, just a minute.’ The shopkeeper takes a little time to handle the customers. He is an old man and does things slowly.

‘Do you know Pikai?’ Rishav directly comes into point.

‘Pikai?’ He asks as if he is puzzled.

‘Yeah, I had a talk with the Launderer at the corner of the street. He said Pikai used to stay in the ‘Jhupri’ behind this store….his mother died and….’

‘Launderer? At the corner of the street?’

‘Yeah.’

The old man looks to be a patient of Dementia.

‘I have never seen a launderer there…I have been a resident of this place since I was a little kid.’

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 7

 

Shantanu has always been a very timid sort of a teenager. But his timidity is deceptive. He left engineering mid-way to make a career in photography and is still struggling. Because of his adventurous nature he caught Rishav’s attention. Rishav was his senior in school. Shantanu has helped Rishav in quite a number of cases. He mostly moves around Kolkata to take pictures and has made a name in the recently concluded state level competition but he is yet to find a strong foothold. Rishav has never liked the concept of a sidekick but Shantanu has been a great find for him. Rishav occasionally uses him as a spy and other purposes.

20th February, 2017

‘Pose for me.’ Shantanu asks Sumona.

‘Since when have I become your muse?’ She asks.

‘Since the time I fell in love with you.’

‘But I feel something else.’ Sumona states.

‘You are bored of taking pictures of sceneries. You will be bored of me as well…’

The mushy conversation is intervened by a phone call. Shantanu’s phone rings.

‘Yeah, Rishav Da….yeah yeah I am free this week….okay….hmmmm…yeah….tell me the details….yeah.’

‘Who’s that?’ Sumona asks.

‘My godfather.’ Shantanu proudly replies.

 

 

 

For the first time Rishav is having a ray of hope. A few more steps and he will be able to find out what lies beneath. Today was an important day and he is very close to finding Pikai. He has gone places and now he is almost sure about the whereabouts of Pikai. Shantanu needs to do his job properly. Rishav’s suspicions need credence and thus he needs a proof.

Rishav looks at the photos once again. The eyes are gleaming; the expressions in no way showcase grief.

‘Why?’ He asks himself. He has come near the conclusion but is yet to find out why such a thing would happen.

Rishav looks at the bag. He takes out the stuffs. He takes out his phone and makes a call.

‘Souvik! I am in a problem, can you help me out?’

 

 

25th February, 2017

‘Sammilani’ is a clinic cum home.  It is a clinic where the patients come to consult the doctors and the upstairs house the needy and the poor who need mental support. It’s a large building just near the Dhakuria Bridge. Dhakuria, being a very popular and congested place, is perfect for an association like this.

‘So Sushmit, tell me your problem.’ Richard is attending one of his patients. Sushmit looks to be a geek with high-powered specs. He looks extremely nervous.

‘Well, everyone is so de-motivating in college. Nobody likes me.’ Sushmit fumbles.

‘Why?’

‘Even I don’t know. I hate the place.’

‘Tell me specifically.’

‘We used to stay near the place where my college is situated.  It was a long time ago. It is when my father passed away. I had such a bad experience there. I never knew that these factors will pop up after enrolling in the college. Those memories have started haunting me now. The problem got worse when teachers started de-motivating me. The students didn’t like the fact that I do well in every exam and….’

‘Well, whatever happened in your family is actually the past. It’s no more there and it has nothing to do with the place but your mind….’

Richard has always been very lucid in his explanations and thus is known to be very successful in treating patients.

‘I am giving some light medicines. You need sleep. You have nothing to worry about.’ Richard writes a prescription.

‘What’s your name again?’

‘Sushmit Mallick’

‘Okay.’

‘Meet me after two weeks. In case of any emergency, just call me; I am there 24-7.’

‘Thank you sir.’

 

 

 

The high-powered specs are taken off immediately after exiting ‘Sammilani’. A message is sent – ‘It’s done.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 8

1st March, 2017

‘I hope you have come up with something.’ Richard is expecting a lot from Rishav who is now at the former’s place. It’s early morning and Richard is still at home. Anita is sitting by him.

‘Well, yes, I have my answers to your problem. But you will have to answer the rest.’ Rishav gives a poignant reply.

‘Sure.’ Richard replies.

‘Well, to begin with, it looked to be an ordinary case of a boy gone missing. It looked obvious for a married couple who had no luck for a child to have a soft corner for a boy who has lost both his parents. It seemed fair enough not to have any pictures of that boy as it never occurred to them to take a picture or something.’

Richard and his wife are listening attentively.

‘But doubts started popping up as time went by.’ Rishav continues. ‘Isn’t it very unusual for a foster-father whose child has gone missing to be engrossed in taking autographs?’

‘How childish!’ Richard scoffs.

‘Wait! Let me say. It was never a strong doubt to carry but it looked kind of odd. I was given two photos saying which led to the fact that they had connection with the boy gone missing and something worse might happen. I was given a bag containing the boy’s belongings. Madam, did the bag contain everything?’

‘Of course, it had everything.’

‘Thank you. Another doubt popped up. For a couple who are supposedly so depressed, it looked really odd to keep the bag ready with the clothes properly washed and ironed, as if they knew that Pikai is going to go missing and I am going to come to take the case. The remote control car had no batteries. It increased my doubts. I got almost sanguine when I got to notice something that one can never remove from a shirt until someone regularly wears it. All the shirts have that smell of newness, that fresh smell of a shirt that has just come from the store. I could conclude that those shirts were never worn. There was even a pin lying at the bottom of the bag. The remote control car was never used. Moreover, where are his undergarments?’

Richard and Anita aren’t saying a single word. Their expressions are hard to comprehend. They are sitting frozen.

‘These are just my suspicions, too weak to conclude anything. The doubts deepened when I actually went to Sikdar Bagan Lane where Pikai was supposedly picked up by Richard. A launderer informed me about the whereabouts of Pikai and his parents. It was a small room with no facilities for survival. Well, I can conclude that other substitutes such as candles, but things still seemed to be strange and it kept me thinking even when I came back. It suddenly struck me that there were no tube wells nearby and the room had a single tap which was corroded, then how did they get water?  I was still missing out on something. I went back to that place and discovered that the room has been used as the store room for the stationary shop near it and nobody stayed there at least in the last ten years. It is now given away and is now in disuse. The stationary shopkeeper is a veteran and he said that he never saw any launderer where I met him. It suddenly struck me that I overlooked the fact that he didn’t have the required coal and there were no source of heat. I could easily conclude that he came from somewhere else and that cylindrical heating source can hardly be moved. It struck me that madam knew that I was going to go that day but she didn’t know I will go the next day as well, so it becomes obvious that keeping that launderer was just a plan just as asking the shopkeeper of the grocery store to cook up a story for a boy gone missing who actually never existed.’

Richard’s expressions have changed. Anita is giving a smirk. Richard is smiling.

‘Well, another thing that attracted my attention was the notebook. I saw some alphabets written like the way a kid writes. To consolidate all my doubts, I sent my assistant Shantanu as Sushmit to collect samples of Richard’s handwritings. My friend Souvik, who is a handwriting analyst, has revealed that the one who wrote those alphabets is actually the one who gave the prescription. So, the boy never existed, or maybe Richard is the “boy”. So, Richard and Anita, you all made it up with so many easy loopholes. Why? Just to harass me?’

Richard laughs. ‘Great work Mr. Roy Chaudhury, great work indeed. We made it all up. But, there’s a small mistake. Pikai exists.’

‘How can you say that?’ Rishav asks.

‘Then let me tell you a story. For that, you need to come with me to ‘Sammilani.’

 

 

 

‘I request you to sit in my chamber for a while.’ Richard asks Rishav as they enter Sammilani.

‘Well, back in early 1990’s, there was a scandal that was doing the rounds- About the best-selling author Kolkata-Abhijit Roy Chaudhury, your father.’ Richard is sitting relaxed on is revolving chair.

‘What do you mean to say?’ Rishav seems uncomfortable.

‘I was an apprentice and you were a little kid back then. It created a lot of buzz. Your father estranged his wife, your biological mother and married someone else, most probably the daughter of a publisher, Suchorita Chakraborty. They had extra-marital affair and as soon as your mother came to know that she could not bear that shock. She started protesting. The matter got worse and your father pushed her in feat of anger. She got a brain damage. The things never surfaced after that because your father was and still is a very influential person. As a kid, even you were made to believe that Suchorita is your mother.’

 

Rishav is trembling. He is no more a rough and tough detective. His long forgotten memories are coming back.

‘A few days back, a woman was seen wandering around Gariahat. She seemed to be hailing from a very well to do family but she looked to be mentally imbalanced. Our men brought her to sammilani. That’s what our men do, help the needy. Thanks to her blurry memories, we could comprehend that she was the actual wife of Abhijit Babu. He was contacted and has denied sending money for her. Let me take you to her. I think Abhijit Babu doesn't know that I am one of Sammilani’s.

Rishav’s brain has stopped functioning. He is having a brain fade and now is taken by Richard to the upstairs.

They stop near a door.

 

‘Who are you?’ She askes.

‘I am your domestic help madam.’ Richard says.

‘I don’t know you. Everyday new people are coming and claiming to my domestic help.’

‘Okay, don’t waste my time, get in quickly. I have to make preparations for my son, Pikai. He is going to come home from school and I’ll have to cook the meal for him. It has been long since I haven’t cooked him the food he likes.’

 

‘She called you by the name Pikai, I don’t know whether you remember it or not. She thinks that she is still in the 90’s and you are a little kid who comes to visit his mother everyday and is taken away by a silhouette, your father. She is unable to register new memories, she has Anterograde Amnesia. My goal was to bring you to her.  She loves Pikai so much. If I had told you directly, you would never come. The greatest weakness of a detective is a case, the mystery.’

 

The lady did not listen to what Richard said to Rishav just now. She is busy making food for her Pikai…her Pikai. She isn't looking at the other man, Rishav.

‘But what do those photos mean?’ Rishav asks.

‘As you said that day, it’s long forgotten, now a doctor’s interest, just like this lady.

The sun rays are directly falling on her face, the windows are open. She is meticulously preparing food for her Pikai, humming the rhymes she sings every night to make “Pikai” sleep.  Her face is glowing, Richard looks at her closely, Richav is indeed her son.

Epilogue

Abhijit had thrown away the last letter that his wife Sushmita sent to him. It’s in the dustbin. It said:

‘A day will come when my son will come to see me; I will be waiting for him.Sushmita-1st March, 1989’

 


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