THE MANSION No. 7
Rajwinder Singh from village Tappa Kalan in Punjab had invited me to his place. He had returned eight years ago from America to settle permanently in India. He had sent me a letter about two months back inviting me to his village and to enjoy holidaying.
I reached the outskirts of the village and inquired, “Can you guide me to the house of Rajwinder Singh?”
“The house number is seven. Just take a turn to left and after two hundred yards.”
I knocked at the door and a voluptuous lady appeared on the gate and welcomed me. It was a sprawling mansion spread over four acres of land extending to fields. The lady was beautiful, though appeared to be short of sleep. Another helper with name of John was standing inside who appeared to be high on cannabis.
“Hi! Kaushik!” Rajwinder shouted coming out from the back door.
I could see he was walking with difficulty, “I wish everything is fine. Why are you limping?”
He laughed, “Its old age.”
Rajwinder shook hand and we hugged one another, “It’s long time we meet.”
“Yes, a long time.”
I felt him cold, “You are cold.”
“I was in fields. You know life of a farmer. It is all earth, dust, sweat, sun and financial crises.”
“And how come this mansion if financial crises?”
“That was in lighter vein. This mansion and all that you see, is all American money. I earned well there. I am frugal at spending, which keeps me in good financial health.”
He looked at the lady, “Rose, we will have drinks first.”
Rose grinned, “Dinner is ready but I have not slept for the last three days. That digging of earth with John discreetly from the villagers at night comes heavy on me. And that frail John, he is away for last two hours and that too in this corona threat; must be puffing cannabis.”
She continued, “After you are done with drinks, take meals yourself. It is all on table. No need to clean table.”
At that time breaking news flashed. The country was placed under lockdown.
“Total lockdown? That’s ridiculous. How will I return home?”
“Why worry? You can stay here as long as you wish. Call someone from family.”
I dialed many acquaintances but did not connect for bad signal.
We talked about our past years of life. Once done with dinner he guided me to the guestroom, beautifully arranged with all basic facilities. I felt asleep as I landed in bed.
It is morning the lady without knocking door entered the room with tea and biscuits. She had washed her hairs not dried yet. She had bare minimum cloths on her. She placed the tray, did not look at me and left. I was getting excited. She had aroused the latent evil desire of lust in me.
The day was bright and resonating. I move towards window to look out. What the hell do I see there? I see the lady seducing John who was wearing nothing, which exposed all the ugliness of his frail body and was repulsive. She was exposing her in most abashed manner. Were these creatures psychic? If I were no guest I would have taken the issue with Rajwinder.
At about 10.00 AM on that day I came out of my room and saw Rajwinder sitting on dining table with a glass of vodka. The lady was standing beyond dining table with back towards me. She was not wearing anything.
Rajwinder noticed me lost remarked, “Don’t fall to her charms.”
I composed myself, “Nothing of that sort.”
There was something odd in the air, a faint smell of decomposed body. I asked him, “Do you smell of something, like decomposed body?”
Rajwinder lost in his drinks replied, “Dead animals. These country people throw dead animals around. And dogs, they bring parts of carcasses around. These canines dig buried bodies. We will find out. Send for John.”
I was closely observing that the lady had no shame in walking freely as she wished. She followed no rules of virtuous woman. But my heart was following her mesmerized by her beauty. I doubted if I had not fallen in love with her.
The day passed and in evening we were again in to the drinking. I smiled to the lady to which she responded. Rajwinder noticed it.
“What do you want from her?”
I was contrite in replying, “Nothing.”
He grins, “The lady is not loyal.”
The lady graciously looked at him and said, “Is it not enough, I save you from the grave?”
Rajwinder giggles and straightens his white beard flowing down, “Yes, yes. I do acknowledge that. But you have brought enough miseries.”
“Where is John?” Rajwinder asked.
“Must be in the cannabis bushes rubbing his hands with leaves. Addict!”
I exclaimed, “What if Police finds him?”
“No one can find us.” Rajwinder announced confidently but melancholy.
He continued, “Marijuana! Pot! It takes you high and leaves you sigh!”
The lady smiled and left for kitchen to fetch some dishes for dinner. She was sitting fronting me and was wearing barely anything. Her exquisite beauty was captivating? But I had fears lurching in my head and I wished I remained away from her.
I noticed that Rajwinder had remains of earth on his clothes and was trying to remove it. The lady left us for her chores.
“You can’t remove it.” He said with a smile. “It is on me because I am a farmer. This is my identity.”
He after a pause said, “You see her. Each one of us gets attracted to her in this house. Why? It is because they say in Holy Scriptures that woman is wealth as she brings prosperity with her. But wealth is object of deprivation. Its loss is grief. So there is competition and bloodshed to retain it. It is the reasoning of man that if he gains wealth it can be his elimination. That brings sorrow on him even when he is wealthy. That is analogy applicable in her case as well. Therefore despite her charms we wish not to be in love with her.”
I went to bed. After some time the lady entered my room and entered the bed with me. I could feel the warmth of her company. I woke up in the middle of the night on hearing whispers of a man. I came down to main hall where there was nobody. I proceeded to courtyard of the mansion spreading over four acres of land. I saw a faint image of a man standing in the dark at a distance of fifty meters. As I walk towards him he drifted away. I wanted to call him but my throat was choked. I increased my pace towards him on which he started drifting away faster. I started running after him but was unable to catch him. I was breathless and gasping for air. I almost caught him but I saw man was nowhere. There was instead sticky, black and filthy mud on my hands. I heard a whisper ‘murder’. I was sweating and struggling. The mud was eating in to my body. I was screaming. I could not wash off mud. I was dying. I got up to see myself in my bed. It was a nightmare.
On the next morning I came out of my room to find Rajwinder sitting at the table where he was on the day earlier. I wanted to go home. But the lady was captivating attraction to me that I did not leave the place.
The whole day again passed in the routine with fine food, best whiskeys and with lady of charms, Rose. She after being with me the previous night was full of joy and vigor. Her face, nose, lips all tinted of brown color would defeat the best beauties of the world.
I thought, “She would have made great companion, if she had been somewhere at a better place?”
Rajwinder said with concern, “She is in the best place of the world.”.
“How do you know what am I thinking?” I exclaimed.
“That’s probably you are thinking. I can be wrong! She has everything she wants, I mean there can be no better place than this for her.”
He straightens his back, “She is here because she wished it. Rather I am here because of her. My wife, daughter and my son left me, the cause this lady. Now being with me for years now she has a turn on decision; a queer decision, she says she will go to them. I warn her they will not keep her. She is so confident that no one can ignore her. It’s up to her.” He sighed.
“She has fallen in love with you now. After some time she will abandon you for someone else.”
“I at times feel something odd about here.”
“What is it? Tell me. Smelling mud?” Rajwinder smirked.
“Yes. I also smell some decomposed body around.” I said sniffing.
“But we searched around yesterday and even day before yesterday. There was none.” Rajwinder looked intrigued.
John comes inside and appears to be high on marijuana, “They say a man has been murdered by his son. His body lay buried somewhere near. And two ladies had come in search of him, one wife and the other daughter. The son is on run. The ladies want to find out if anyone has seen the murder or dead body. If so then they want to win him over, ready to pay lot of money. Wife the poor soul says sobbing; she lost husband and if case opens up, she will lose her son also. Daughter sweet loving child, weeping all through, remembers her father. The way daughters are princesses of father.”
“But why son killed father?”
Rajwinder said, “Properties. Sons want to take over by shortening the process. (sigh) My son could also have done it.”
I notice melancholy in his voice and sadness on his face. “I brought Rose. My wife never had any issues with Rose. She is beautiful and everyone wants beauty in ones house. The trouble started when my son also started eying Rose.”
“That is highly immoral. Rather sin.”
“Immoral, sin, indeed it was. He should have at least waited for my last breath.”
I always found Rajwinder sitting on the table whenever I entered main hall in the morning.
“Since I have come, I leave you at the dining table where you are at night and find you sitting at same place in the morning. Don’t you sleep?” I chuckled.
He looks at me seriously and replies, “I don’t need sleep. I don’t sleep. I sit here or go outside to the fields and return whenever you want my presence here.”
John brings the breakfast and Rose is nowhere.
“Where is Rose?” I asked.
“Ah! You are so anxious. She has gone.”
“She has gone to my son. I told you, she can leave at any time for anyone. She does not discriminate.”
“No. She is not. That is what is in her nature. She is not lady. She is wealth.”
“Wealth, she is indeed but she is lady.”
“Who told you?” While asking me he looks at John who is looking in surprise at me.
“She was with me for four days and two nights.”
“So, in four days and two nights you found her to be a lady. And we both living with her for years have failed to notice it. Remarkable, genius you are. There was no lady here. Come out of your hallucinations.”
The smell of decomposed body is increasing and it is now coming from somewhere in the house. Rajwinder is today covered with more mud than usual. Is he hiding a dead body? Is he having some affair with that lady or her daughter?
“You are dirtier today.”
“Ah! That all earth I have to dig. Farming, you see is all earth, seeds, plants, irrigation.”
Another day passed and with it I am feeling sulky and sick. The atmosphere around is getting dull and melancholy. In the morning I do not find any tea near my bed. I get up and reach out to dining room where Rajwinder is sitting on the dining table on same chair. There is more mud and smell emanating from him. He is very sad.
“I don’t see John anywhere.” I asked him.
“John was never here.”
“What are you talking? Yesterday you said Rose was never here. Now you say John was never present here. Is it haunted house?” I was agitated
“Cool down. It is not a haunted house. Rose or John were never present here. You are high on drugs I have administered without your knowledge.” Was Rajwinder telling lies?
“You are telling lies. I know you knew that lady and her daughter about which John elaborated.”
“Yes. You are right. Both of them are known to me. I have to save them. The dead body is lying buried in the fields behind the mansion near a small hutment. John had noticed a gold chain and bracelet adjacent to the base of the hutment. He brought the ornaments to me. He called Rose.”
He would send me crazy. He was concocting a story.
“Now what do you want from me?” I asked.
“Murder has been committed. It has been executed by someone. John has suscpicion who he is and it is likely my son.”
“Wealth! He killed the man for the wealth and two days ago stole away those ornaments..”
“So, name your son to Police.”
“How can I do that? He is my blood. I have raised him over years with love and affection unparalleled. Sons who are rebellious make able inheritors. I can do anything to save my son and for that I want to set up a story. John can go to Police and inform about the murder. He will name no one. During investigation John will hint towards you.”
“Are you mad? In a murder, my involvement! You will get me hanged.” I shouted in hysteria.
“Wait, let me finish. Police will zero on you but I will save you setting alibi. You are with me for last one week.”
“I will shoot you or myself before such false implication.”
“Then you will not agree. Then I can straight away name you?”
I was trembling. My life was over. I believed in the man who tricked me with his wicked designs.
I pleaded, “I pray with folded my hands before you Rajwinder, do not sacrifice me for the deeds of your son.”
“You have fallen prey to your greed, unearned privileges. You took Rose ashamedly for two nights and played with her body. You are lascivious. What do you think why I have opened my doors of palatial house for you?”
Rajwinder was laughing. The echo of laughter came from every room. The smell of decomposed body is increasing.
“You can smell the dead body now?”
“Yes.” I replied terrified.
“John. John.” Rajwinder called aloud. “Rascal why don’t you come? Idiot, son of devil, where are you? We have to proceed.”
I am shouting in frenzy and tears are rolling down my face. I am standing before Rajwinder as if begging for life. John has appeared.
“Take his words.” Rajwinder shouted at John. “He should undertake to do what we say or else I shall execute him as trespasser and murderer of the body lying under the earth near hutment, even if I am hanged till death.”
John was trembling, “I will. I will. Yes what do you say? Do you know the body lying under earth near hutment? Will you name the murderer of the body lying near hutment? You are bound by oath you swear to tell the truth.”
“I will. I will. Tell everything as you say. Dead body is lying there, killed by your son.”
Before I can proceed further the body of Rajwinder is decomposing further and the smell has gone unbearable. He has started decaying from down below. John is crying in frenzy and running from wall to wall shouting for help from the God of demons, God of gods, spirits, the Destroyer. John is mad. He is reciting something to ward off spirits.
Rajwinder was weeping while his body was decomposing.
“I am dead long time back, killed by my son. The body there lying near hutment is mine. No son should escape punishment for patricide. I was preparing you for solving my murder. Other assistance you will get from John. I am going.”
The body had decomposed. John was missing. There was curfew outside. What worst could happen if I leave? Police would arrest me if I move out in the pandemic. That would be better than staying here in the haunted house. It was almost in middle of night. I was taking whatever I could.
I drove car at the speed of hundred miles which I had never done. There were very few vehicles on the road. There were few Police barricades here and there, but none had stopped me. I reached my home in less than one hour. I straight away open my house, latch all windows, checked all doors. Repeating prayers to God I tried to sleep.
There was a message in my phone from John, unknown number with details of son of Rajwinder.
It is now six months. I had sent anonymous letter to Police briefing about the murder and the murderer. Police had investigated the matter and during investigation the son of Rajwinder had confessed to two murders. On the basis of his disclosure statement the Police had dug out the corpse about three months ago. There were two bodies. One of Rajwinder killed seven years ago and other of John killed about a year ago.