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Friday, July 10, 2020

Murder In Beltour | Chapter 10 | Who Killed Ruchi?

Sunanda waited in her office for Saira and Diya. She had called for them one day before when she had to report to the University on the findings. As she sat there, she had a slight smirk on her face that refused to be wiped out.

A knock at the door brought her back to reality from the meandering thoughts. Raghav let in the two girls. Sunanda briefly thanked Raghav, as she always did, and the door closed leaving the three of them to themselves.

“Hi,” said Sunanda, breaking the silence and smiling. This was a different smile although. A smile that wasn’t restricted to its tight professionalism.

“Do you have something you want to ask us? We already told you everything we know,” said Diya. Sunanda continued smiling.

“Please make yourselves comfortable. I am here to tell you something, not ask you,” said Sunanda, and let out a long breath. The two girls sat down, confused and doubtful. “Hear it like a story, like a puzzle that gets solved and sorted.”

She gave a pause for a moment, and then she started.

“A fire breaks out in your hostel and a girl dies. The girl is Ruchi. Your college authorities approach me to take up the case. The next day Dev, a shattered employee of the Boss who had been quit the previous day, arrives and tells me about an attack planned on The Period, a magazine that had plans to release footage that would put the Boss in trouble. Dev claims that he didn’t know about the fire and that Ruchi had died. He claims that he didn’t know that I worked for the Boss, and he also claims that he didn’t know I was taking up the fire case. And, according to Dev, Ruchi was supposed to carry out the attack on The Period. How did they both come to me? Was it a coincidence?

Now, on the day of the fire, Ruchi was supposed to get a note that had to be delivered by Dev. But, at the last moment Dev quit and Yash was sent instead. The package went to the warden who gave it to you. And, you never gave it. So, Ruchi must not have gone out in the morning. And, in the afternoon, someone set fire ablaze and it killed her. It couldn’t have been someone from outside the University. That doesn’t seem possible considering the evidence through the surveillance cameras. So, it had to be someone from the University. Who could have started the fire?

The fire seemed like it began from the window corner, yet that’s a mislead to shift the attention to an entry from the window. But the tool mark visible on the bottom of Ruchi’s door points to an entry from the main door to Ruchi’s room. While the person trying to break in had tried to use a ledge and break the room, the break had been unsuccessful. Instead, the newspaper trails indicate the drag mark on the arch of how the door had been opened. Ruchi must have heard the noise and opened the door when the attacker was trying for a break entry. Who did Ruchi see?”

Sunanda gave a pause again, and looked at the girls. Saira and Diya were sitting up straight and staring at her, their mouths partially open in anticipation. Sunanda gave a quick laugh and started again.

“Your dean has close connections with The Period, a friendship with the editor in chief of the magazine. Dev was fired suddenly, and the next thing he does is come straight here to report like a good man. Isn’t that strange? Dev was jobless, homeless and penniless. When a man is put in such a situation, he doesn’t become good all of a sudden- he becomes desperate. Desperate for money, to sustain, to live. He wouldn’t have the guts to come and report. No one would, and that’s natural. Yet he did. Why? Because, The Period paid him to report to me. But, why? How does The Period gain from that?

Dev came and tried to convince me that killing Ruchi was the Boss’s job. But, he was paid by The Period to say so. Did someone from The Period kill Ruchi? The Period also pushed your Dean to ask me to take up a case. So, it wasn’t a coincidence. But, why me? I worked for the Boss, too. And, I stopped. And, The Period must have thought that I would be the ideal person to accept Dev’s story in my past anger and write off the case on the Boss. That was their best shot. And, if I did, then the next trouble onslaught would be between the Boss and me, and The Period wouldn’t have their name involved. Very calculated.

But, who inside the University worked with The Period? It wasn’t the Dean who set the fire. It was the girls’ hostel and no man has been seen to enter the hostel in the surveillance footage. So, it must have been someone from the University and the girls’ hostel.”

Sunanda paused again, and then looked at Saira. The girls were still sitting in anticipation and bated breaths.

“Why did the warden give you the message instead of giving it to Ruchi herself? To avoid any suspicion. The message to Ruchi was not really from the Boss. It was a fake one that The Period created to get Ruchi out in the morning, and to finish her off. But, that didn’t happen to their disappointment, thanks to you Saira. The message never reached Ruchi and she never came out. So, the warden had to execute Plan B. A fire, in her room, that killed her. The tool marks match with the ledge that is there in the warden’s room.

But, if The Period wanted to kill Ruchi, and the Dean was their friend, why didn’t they close it as an accident? Because they wanted the blame to go to the Boss. That would only reinforce what they were planning to release about him through the footage. So, now you can see who killed Ruchi. But the case is not here today to find who killed Ruchi, but to frame who they wanted to be the killer of Ruchi.

The whole stunt is choreographed. Everybody is a player- your Dean, Dev, The Period, everybody.”

There was a minute of absolute silence. Then Saira spoke.

“Why were you keen on knowing if my room was open?” she asked.

Sunanda seemed a little taken aback, but she managed to give a smug smile before she answered. “I saw the same tool mark in your room. The warden had entered your room to check where the package was before she proceeded to Ruchi’s room,” she said briefly.

“So, why did you tell us all this?” asked Diya.

“Well, I wanted to tell the people who knew a little background but aren’t involved too,” said Sunanda, her composure coming back to a normal. “And, I am going to the police with the truth, I’d be glad if you two can stand testament to what I told you.”

Saira and Diya nodded gravely. Sunanda gave them the air of importance that would convince them to agree. After a couple of more exchanges, the girls took their leave.

There had been a play of power, a choreographed stunt by The Period. Yet, the one thing they miscalculated was that Sunanda had been fired by the Boss. Sunanda had worked for the Boss and been way high up in the ladder. For reasons unknown, she quit and was yet left alive for so many years by the Boss though she knew too many things about his deeds. They didn’t bother to find out why, in their excitement to frame him and add to their success. And, she did solve the case. She didn't lie. She just hid a small part of the truth that changed the game. Sunanda ensured that the girls had left before she placed a call on her phone.

“Boss, it’s done. The warden will be transferred to the base tonight. All the arrangements have been made. With the warden considered to have fled, The Period will be successfully framed, and no way they can run it. You’re safe.”

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