Intuition beguiles reason. Truth lay sabotaged, intrigued, disoriented. It was a perfect heist. It was also the case of the missing. It happened in mid-March, when the apolitical collective was struck by an intra-party feud over the allegations that forced the erstwhile administration to quit. While the social commentators reflected on the not so palpable phenomenon of social realities, the media digressed, discussed and debated.
He slammed the door shut, flung the cigar butt out through the open window when it burnt his lips. He raced his hand through his hair as he looked into the mirror. He could not figure it out. A farrago of doubts, fears and hopes encircled with the lingering smoke as he coughed and sank down into a languid retrospection. He had already had three transfers within eight years of service. This was his last chance. He has been working on this for the last two days. It happened on the 15th. Nobody noticed. They discussed and debated. The case was lodged only on the 16th. There were so many loose ends. The witnesses were not reliable.
Breath screamed out of him as his assistant Davy bounced into the room like a ricochet shot and saluted with a loud “Sir!”
“You would have killed me now. Why the hell do you barge in without knocking?”
“So ..rry Sir!” Davy saluted with a dutiful, loud bang that made the stray cat outside to take a giant leap to the highest branch of the mango tree.
“What is the matter?” Inspector Rawde enquired.
“Sir! The jeep is ready”
“I thought someone passed away. How often have I warned you…” he swallowed the rest of the words and ordered him to wait outside.
Davy left with his dutiful 'Yes Sir!'
Inspector Rawde put on his police uniform and placed his gun in the brown holster. He set out on duty. He had always wished he had a Taser.
He got into the jeep while Davy turned on the ignition.
“To the police station first”.
The police station was just a matter of twenty minute drive from his house. Davy pulled the engine to a halt. Inspector Rawde got out of the jeep. With a grim face, he walked towards the station. His pride laden chest expanded when the duty guards saluted. He lifted the case file with two fingers, index and the thumb and juggled it with a casual ease. He flipped through the pages and stood up to leave. As he walked he flung it in the air but missed the target and the file fell on the floor. Paper lay shattered everywhere. The duty constables chewed their laughter.
The cricket commentary on the television screen screeched: THE BALL GOES HIGH AND TO THE RIGHT OF MIDOFF. HE KEEPS HIS EYES ON THE BALL. HE MISSED IT. OH!
“No television during duty time!” Rawde warned
Someone turned off the T.V with a giggle while two constables picked up the sheets of paper and handed it over to Rawde. With a scorn, he stomped out of the station towards the jeep. Davy who had been overhearing the conversation until then, rushed to the jeep as he heard Rawde march out. He sat clutching the steering and covered his mouth with a handkerchief to suppress the laughter.
“To the victim’s house”. Rawde commanded.
“Sir, it’s 10 P.M.”, Davy hinted.
“So what, I don’t have time to wait. It is their duty to co-operate. Your duty is to obey”.
Davy responded with his signature “Si..r!” that almost jerked Rawde out of his seat.
The jeep moved through the rough by lanes which Rawde felt were infested with tents of hungry, filthy beggars. The street lights flickered and the little pawn shops were already closed. The drains were clogged. The jeep whirred with a loud noise, honking and screeching. The noise woke up some hungry baby and a sleeping stray dog. It seemed that such lanes were an offer extended to the less privileged ones. Rawde heaved a sigh of relief as they passed the last thatched roofed house and the jeep moved smoothly through the rubberized, broad National Highway. The jeep sped through the vacant road and took a sharp turn to the right after three kilometers. Rawde adjusted his uniform and combed his hair. The jeep moved slowly through the well lain path that led to the Minister’s house. The security guards opened the gate and the jeep moved in slowly, noiselessly, afraid that it might wake up some sleeping baby or some inmate seriously engaged in watching their favourite binge show. Davy pulled the jeep to a halt at the portico. Rowde waited at the doorstep while Davy picked up a conversation with one of the security guards. Someone opened the door and let Rowde in.
Davy watched the huge bungalow gleam in the moonlight. A pond overlooked the portico. The lawns were mowed and flowers adorned the walls. Huge trees lined on either side of the pathway. He felt that the mansion looked down upon him with a scorn.
Rawde was shown in to the elaborate living room decorated with imported artifact, carved sculptures and inbuilt aquarium that would be the size of his kitchen he thought. The Minister sat there on the huge traditional Vienna wood trim mansion sofa. His white shirt was still white with no creases and folds. He gestured Rawde to take a seat. The maid served a glass of fresh lemonade. Rawde glanced at the sorrow-filled faces.
“How does she feel now?”Rawde asked
“She hasn’t had food for two days”, the Minister seemed to be lost in thought.
“Can I talk to her?” Rawde interrupted.
The Minister sent word for his daughter.
After a few minutes Rawde saw a tall, pretty, young lass gently getting down the huge teak staircase that ended in the hallway. She leaned on to her mother while a maid helped her sit beside her father. Rawde saw her reddened eyes holding beady drops ready to cascade down her glowing cheeks. She moved aside a strand of hair that fell over her face.
“So, miss…er.. could you please tell me exactly when you lost your …?” Rawde did not complete his sentence
Miss. Lovely interrupted,” Inspector, he was my best friend. He had never left me. He wouldn’t have had food or water until this minute. He loves me so much. He sneaks into my bed and under my quilt when he feels sleepy. I…”, (Sobs as her mother hugs and pats her.)
“Oh, miss please relax. We will find him out at the earliest. The search team is all set and we need to question the witnesses”.
Inspector Rawde sent word for Davy. Davy walks in and Rawde shouts angrily,
“Where are the files? Don’t you know that you need to carry the files? This is a very important case. Go get the files!”
Davy rushes to the jeep and fetches the files. Rawde snatches the files from him and signals him to stand at the door. Rawde walks in and sits beside the Minister.
“Well Sir, the name of the missing person as registered in the complaint is Ronnie. Is he of your daughter’s age?
“Oh, no. he is only a few months old”, the Minister replied.
“A few months old!” Rawde felt aghast
“Yes, he is a Scottish Fold. A cute baby”, the Minister responded in a sad tone.
Jaws dropped, eyes open wide, Rawde looks at Davy. Davy salutes an unexpected “Yes, Sir!”
(Indistinct chatter aside)
Minister summons the six maids working there. They all line up. Each face trembles with fear.
The Minister's wife gets up dramatically from the sofa and moves towards the maids and pleads,
“If anyone of you has stolen our Ronnie please return it to us. We will give you enough money...” ( cries and holds on to her husband’s shoulder)
Rawde stares at the ceiling. He blames him for not having fully read the complaint. From the corner of his eye he sights Davy cover his mouth with his handkerchief as if he had a cold.
He had already arrested the gardener Ravilal. Rawde questioned the frail, middle- aged man several times. Ravilal tried telling Rawde that Ronnie was never seen outside. As he sat thinking, an old woman enters the hall with a grey ball huddled close to her chest.
Everyone stare at her. A stony silence prevails…
The old woman smiles and says,” Naughty little boy…got him from under my table. He lay there curled in a basket. Wonder how he got there!”
Miss. Lovely rushes to her screaming,” Aww.. grandma… my Ronnie…” She hugs and kisses her grandmother and takes Ronnie in her arms and rushes upstairs. She does not wait to say a word of thanks to Rawde. Rawde stands shell shocked.
“I am so sorry inspector”, the Minister apologized.
As Rawde is about to leave, one of the maids approaches him and speaks with beseeching eyes,
“Sir, at least now do you believe that my husband is innocent?”
Davy who had been waiting at the door salutes him with a loud “Sir!” Rawde and Davy move towards the jeep. Rawde looks at his watch. 1:00 A.M,