THE STREET OF HAVELI
He came terrified to the Police post panting. He had witnessed the squabbles, quarrels, fights and street fights among petty criminals. But there had never an uglier incident.
He entered the Police post that was stationed in one large hall and a cell on the right side of hall with iron bars for lodging the accused for a night or two. Inspector was in-charge of the place. He was sitting on his chair scrolling over mobile. The accumulated fat around his waist was self speaking of his performance. He looked at the man entering but did not raise his head.
“Sir, Chan has stabbed Khan on the street of Haveli.”
Haveli was a huge mansion now lying abandoned and ruined at many places. It was used by gamblers, drug addicts and few other outlaws. The Police charged weekly protection money from one Kala who further let out the space to run activities. The charges were nominal and the area was safe. It had a street on the north rarely visited by anybody.
Inspector gestured the man to cool down and take a seat. He glanced at the two constables sitting on a bench who were alerted by the visitor. One of constables was sentinel supposed to stand outside was sitting on a stool in the hall in most casual manner. There were three other constables moving around in the police post. Information on a murderous assault should have raised their ears, but it did not.
The constable in-charge of maintaining daily dairy report called aloud to the man, “What is your name?”
“You are a thief?”
The man nodded. He knew the Police had his records.
The constable asked, “How long it has been? I mean the time of assault.”
“The time that I took to reach here.”
“What’s that time? Be specific.” There was a warning in the tone of the constable.
“It must be around ten minutes. I came almost running.”
The constable raised few more questions and in this manner another fifteen minutes passed. The man was worried about the dead lying in street.
“Sir, it will be late. Should we not move?”
“That’s none of your business. We need to meet the formalities in law before we go ahead.” Inspector roared.
Inspector was responsible for the crime check in the area and he did not like the statistics rising during his tenure. The assaults and fights were common. Murders were rare and generally involving tedious investigation fetching no extra dividends under the table.
They took their time to enter in dairy and when all was settled the constable looked at the Inspector who gestured them to follow him. They moved out into open jeep. One of the constables was on wheels and the Inspector sat on front seat.
The Inspector on the way talked of under trials throwing expletives unheard of. If he had his way he would eliminate them in encounters than put up them for trial. The system of criminal justice had failed and only solution lay with Police.
They reached the place of crime. The spot was a secluded place.
Wick detailed the events. He was under tutelage of James a highly accomplished thief. James had asked him to join four of them. Khan was released recently from custody. Chan and Rice came together. All of them were petty thieves operating around in their respective areas. James was the chief of the group who handled the Police and demarcated the areas.
Khan was caught three months back while snatching a mobile and purse from a lady. Khan with another of his friend were on prowl for snatching. Khan was pillion. He targeted a lady walking on street with mobile to her ears and bag hanging from her hand. To his misfortune the lady was alert and held the purse tightly. The force applied by her was unexpected and Khan fell from bike. The people around caught hold of him and the rest followed. He was beaten up by mob and handing over to Police. The other three laughed about his unsuccessful attempt.
That day those guys had gathered to gamble. The two teams of two players each would play and the team winning the game would take double the amount betted. Khan and James were on one side sitting face to face. Chan and Rice were one team facing one another. Wick sat watching.
Khan and James had won three games consecutively. The next five matches went to Chan and Rice. Khan started keeping eyes on his opponents. Chan was throwing clues to Rice and Khan found it out.
“You can’t play tricks man I will render those sockets empty. I saw your eyes. You were winking.”
Chan was furious over the allegations Rice took his side. Khan was not ready to give up. He believed himself to be correct and James the boss was on his side.
Rice vindicating Chan said, “Khan, it was all ok till date. You joined and the dispute.”
Khan was furious, “Don’t you blame me. Your tricks must have gone unnoticed in past. You can’t escape hawk’s eyes.”
Wick pointed to the place, “ Chan had a knife He gave no warning and with lightening speed took out the weapon and thrust it into Khan. The other two turned white Khan started bleeding. He had shock over the attack. After few moments Chan realized what he had done. Khan by that time lay on ground in pain. His body was trembling.”
Wick had never seen a man stabbed and dying. He had witnessed slaughtering goats and fowls. It was always nauseating. He detested killings of animals. He hated the sight of trembling bodies of animals once the head was severed from body.
Chan had the dagger tucked in his waist. He had seen Khan getting up in rage and had feared assault. But Chan was mistaken. Khan was a docile thief who had never hurt anyone and carried no weapon. Chan took out dagger and pierced through abdomen of Khan. It was too late by the time both realized what had gone wrong. For first few moments none could make out what had happened. Then the agony was visible on the face of Khan.
Khan had put his hand around the attacking hand of Chan. Like a child begging for pardon from spanking, he looked for pity into the eyes of his assaulter. Chan had pity in his eyes realizing that something had gone wrong.
Khan was trembling and sweating. His legs were giving way. He could fall at any time. The eyes were filled with tears that were rolling down on the sides of face. He wanted to say something. His throat was choked. He moved the trembling right hand to the shoulder of Chan in an effort to get support. The hands smeared in blood failed to garb the shoulder. Khan was collapsing. Chan removed his hand all covered with blood from the dagger to help his comrade to settle on ground.
Khan with teary eyes looked into the face of Chan and begged, “Chan save me.”
Chan had known his crime by the time. If he had his way he would have turned the clock back. He responded, “I will. I will find a doctor, ambulance. I will take you to hospital. You shall live. Calm down.”
Khan was shivering, “I am cold Chan.”
All the four could see Khan losing his life. Rice and James disappeared. Chan peeped at Wick and said, “You wait here for some time. I will be back.”
Chan had hardly gone ten meters when he returned and looked at his victim once again. He saw the efforts of Khan to survive had yielded to his murderous assault. There was no way to save the dying man. He retrieved the dagger and there was gush of blood from the wound.
Chan stared at Wick and warned, “Man, I don’t want any trouble with you. If you make a fuss about it, I will not hesitate to drag it into you.” The dagger smeared in blood was only few inches from the chin of the man. Wick saw ghoul in Chan and in fear nodded.
Chan furious and his eyes turned red said, “I am going. You keep a watch. I will make arrangements. I see there is no evidence behind. Do you understand?” He was sans compassion that he exhibited few moments back.
He left the place with weapon. Wick was terrified. He could be next victim and to be safer he must report to Police.
Inspector pointing the place, asked” Body was lying there?”
“Was Khan dead by the time?”
“No! He wasn’t dead. But he could not have survived. I saw that.” Wick said with conviction.
“How can you say so? Are you God?”
Inspector saw Wick terrified. He mocked, “Are you some god? Even a doctor is not sure when the patient die. How did you confirm the man was dead.”
“But he had collapsed? I could see him motionless.”
“Did you touch him?”
“You did not help him?” Inspector scorned.
“I was terrified. I feared touching him.”
“You made no efforts to save him?”
“It all happened in no time. I had no chance.”
“You say it was the knife. The wound was bleeding.”
Inspector asked his colleagues, “Did you find any blood on earth?”
The other two policemen made a cursory examination that smacked of reluctance. They did not find blood.
Inspector returned to Wick questioning him since when he knew Chan and other guys and how? The question and answers led to conclusions that perplexed Wick.
“You were gambling? In the past also you were into it?”
“No. I swear, I was only watching.”
There was volley of questions that Wick found embarrassing. He had enough of it and wanted to give up. But his conscience did not allow. Khan was close friend of James who was his mentor. He moved towards the place to observe presence of blood. It was wet.
Wick pointed out, “It seems they threw water over here. The blood got washed off.”
Police officer did not like the discovery.
“If the area is wet, how could one conclude that it was to wash off blood?” There was reluctance evident in the tone of Police Officer to take up the case.
Wick said. “But I have seen the death.”
“It won’t work till there is some evidence.”
“Ok! Police can search for Khan if he is alive?” Wick was defiant which was not to the liking of Inspector.
Police officer winced, “You want us to go around world searching for a thief released from jail three days back?”
How could he prove Khan was stabbed and he died? The body was missing. There were no blood stains on earth. What if Khan returns healed after a year or so? No, he could not. He had Khan on earth, motionless and senseless.
Wick had heard his comrades mocking at Police of being ever reluctant to investigate. If he wished investigation in the case he need to fight against local administration. He would add the three thieves absconding in the short list of his enemies for the rest of life. Even if he manages the investigation who knew the case might fail for technical reasons? Why should he risk his life? He could easily leave it to God. He will take care of sinner. He thought to give up. But if he gave up he was defeated. He would not accept defeat.
“I saw the murder. Body must have been removed.”
Inspector looked at the two Police officials who lowered their eyes. He turned to Wick, “You want the charge of murder against Chan? One of your comrade.”
“It’s not that. Chan has killed a friend of my mentor. He must face for his crime. No criminal leaves the place without any trace.”
Inspector was not happy with the response from Wick. He whispered, “You killed Khan and removed his body? To save yourself you are pointing to Chan.”
He ordered the two constables, “Take this man into custody. Investigation will reveal lot many things. Lay him bare on ice sheet and spank with leather belt.”
Wick could not make out for some time what had happened. His apprehensions were coming true.
“Why will I kill Khan? I insist on my stand against Chan and for ulterior reasons. I did report as a citizen.” He pleaded. When he saw no escape he pleaded that he would never in future knock at the Police post and let bygones be bygones. But the Inspector had made up his mind to give him a lesson who believed that State Machinery should not be made to move if it does not want.
The two constables caught hold of the man from one hand each and forced him into the rear of the Jeep. He was begging for his release. He could see his coming days in jail, followed by trial resulting in conviction and coming out of prison as an old man.
“Sir, let me go. You know I have not done anything. There is no body. There is no crime.” He was now weeping. The conviction with which he had vowed to do his duties has vanished. All he wanted was a quick release.
Inspector shouted at Wicks, “Shut your mouth or I will snatch your tongue out.”
The jeep was heading towards the Police post. The constable sitting next to Wick was keeping a watch over him. Wick could do nothing put pleading with teary eyes for letting him go. He cursed the time he thought of coming to the Police. He was convinced that now only God he had questioned few minutes back could be his savior.
“Holy men that you are and bring people to justice. Let me go. I promise never come to your place. I will leave the city.”
Police officials paid no ears to him. When he did not stop the Inspector got furious and he shouted at him to keep quite. The shouting was abrupt that startled the driver. The jeep was at crossing and then came a truck from nowhere from opposite direction. The driver tried to negotiate to the extreme left but the right side of jeep struck against the the side of truck. The jeep went straight hitting the wall of the building. The truck did not stop and fled away.
The crash brought people out from their homes who were in their sleep. The emergency help was sought. Inspector had lost the pulse. The other three injured were carried to hospital. On regaining conscience the man narrated the incident and the two constables endorsed it. The case was registered and investigation started.
The judge had arrived. Chan was standing in the dock. The prosecution started arguments in the trial stating Dr. Edmond Locard’s principle that ‘Every contact leaves a trace.’