Day 3, 10 a.m. Noida Sector 48 Police Station
Reports had started coming in. Vikram and Vandana Joshi were retired school teachers. They lived a simple life, making ends meet through tuitions. They had two daughters who were married and settled abroad. They had no money, so theft was not a motive. The house was rented and the daughters paid an annual rent directly to the landlord. That ruled out any sort of property dispute. No one had seen them fight. Nothing seemed to make sense.
Sharma was pinning all his hopes on the medical reports of Vikram Joshi and Nagpal. The reports were brought in by Inspector Pandey at around 11 a.m. from the hospital. SHO Sharma snatched them up and started reading Nagpal’s report and looked up at Pandey scowling. Inspector Pandey was standing watching his boss apprehensively. He had collected the report from the hospital and knew what was in it. The doctors had explained both the report to him. He knew his boss would be very angry. He wished the Joshi murders had never taken place and he had never set eyes on this idiot Mohan Nagpal.
The report clearly said that Mohan Nagpal was a normal male, physically healthy, his blood samples and urine showed high residue of cannabis, his mental condition was confused …. and he could not have confessed the murder because he suffered from a condition called spasmic dysphonia.
“Yeh kya bala hai”
“Ji, doctors ka kehna hai, iski awaaz mein kami hai, ye theekh se bol nahin sakta, is liye he could not have confessed to any murder”
“Isne bola tha – tune bhi suna tha” shouted Sharma, “Joshi ka report dikha”
As per Joshi’s report, the man suffered from arthritis, and the doctor seemed to think that he could not have killed his wife with a jack-rod.
Sharma started walking up and down to control his temper. He had one dead woman, two confessions, and no motive. Medical reports cast doubts on one man’s confession and the other man’s ability to murder. Things were as clear as mud. The SP and DC were already pressurizing him, the media was freaking out. In a matter of time, politicians would also jump in.
He knew that this could lead to demotion and a transfer to some high-risk remote area. His future seemed bleak.
Day 3, 1 p.m. Panchkula, Chibber residence
“Puttar tussi aa gaye?” Vipin smiled as they stepped into the palatial home of his sister. It was Jijaji’s mother, affectionately known as Beeji by everyone. Pairi pahuna Beeji Jeenda reh puttar. Fikr na kar, your sister is alright, just scared and tired. I had called Babaji to protect her from the evil eye, but she got upset. You young people do not believe in all this …. Padhe Likhe shehri ho na.
Vipin smiled, sounded like Didi had thrown a tantrum. She did have strong ideas about sleazy corrupt godmen and superstition. He introduced Meenal to Beeji and rushed up to meet his sister.
Alpana was sitting on the bed, irritated, her bare feet covered with some strong smelling ointment. AC was sitting on an easy chair, talking gently. They both looked up as Vipin entered
“Hey Dee, pairi paona Jijaji”
Both of them smiled. Alpana gave a resigned shrug and complained gently
“So your Jijaji pulled you out of college too? Nothing is wrong with me. It may be some insect bite or rash dammit! Aap bhi na … you get worried so easily”.
“Arrey baba, okay. Guess what, Vipin has brought a friend with him” AC looked at Vipin who quickly picked up the unspoken cue.
“Its Ramola’s cousin, Dee. She had to come to Chandigarh, some medical conference or something, so we came together”
Before Alpana could react, AC announced that he was very hungry and it was really bad to keep a guest waiting for a meal and ushered Vipin out of the room. Once out of earshot, he smiled ruefully and whispered to Vipin “A man can fight the whole world, but becomes a coward in front of his wife”
After lunch, Vipin took Meenal to meet Alpana, briefing her on the need to keep it discreet. Meenal was taken aback. She had expected a spoilt, bored, attention-seeking younger wife of an older husband. The lady on the bed was extremely beautiful and in addition to that she was a strong minded, intelligent and down to earth person. Inevitably the conversation came down to the events of the night. Extremely embarrassed, Alpana related the events, beginning with her reading a thriller, to her vivid dream and then the cuts on her feet.
Meenal said, “Madam can I take a closer look at the cuts”
Alpana nodded. They were not cuts, they were dull red marks.
Alpana blurted out “They are probably rashes or some allergy.”
Meenal gently smiled and said “They probably are rashes or something. Can I borrow your book for the night?”
“Sure” Alpana smiled and handed her a copy of the latest bestseller written by Shirish Desai. She took the book, looked at Vipin and said, “I would like to prepare for my conference”.
Vipin also got up and they left the room.
“Well”, asked Vipin when they were in Meenal’s room
Meenal said “Vipin, those are not cuts. They look like stigmata. I want to read your sister’s book and then figure things out.”