I DIDN'T KILL MY WIFE-
The newspaper headlines screamed the morning after his wife's death.
The morning paper, News of the World (its critics preferred to call it Screws of the World) followed that up by a six column middle spread on the whys and wherefores, the what's and hows, the who's and whitches (pun fully intended!)-laying bare, in full multi colour splendour the insides details behind the 'sudden tragic death' of one of 'Bollywood's most beautiful actresses of all times.
Fatima Sheigh aka Honey to her legions of fans was as much the queen bee in death as she was in life.
I didn't, I wouldn't, I can't, I won't, I haven't killed my wife. I...I...I just can't ever think of even inflicting the tiniest of bruises on anyone, leave alone my Honey, my very own dear, dear...dearest Honey."
Detective Alfred Chacko, Chief Investigative Oficer, Crime Branch, Kerala Police looked at the man that sat opposite him at the police station.
The ace cop slid the inner steel cabinet under tye table with a deft flick of his leff palm, and pulled a Cuban cigar off its case.
He took his time to set fire to the cigar, then further time to languorously inhale and exhale its toxic contents.
A minute and half later, his lungs satiated, Chacko turned his attention towards the man who he had driven out only minutes ago in his unmarked all black police vehicle away from Golden Heights, the tony abode of the ultra rich and powerful.
A smile creased the senior cop's still ruggedly handsome face as he recalled the dramatic incidents of the past hour.
The man seated opposite him was found in an inebriated condition, drunk to the gills, his clothes soaked in red, his right wrist wrapped in silken scarf. A pool of blood floated all over in largish concentric circles, and between them, lay sprawled the dead woman, clad in a shimmering golden brown fashionably netted night gown-the ravishing Fatima, more famous by the moniker Honey.
Most other detectives in his place would have pronounced her husband, Sashi Thapa, as guilty of murdering his wife Honey in cold blood_an open and shut case.
But then Detective Chacko was not most other detectives.
And if he we were, then how would he be ordained Detective Chacko, THE DETECTIVE CHACKO that is.
The fifty five year top cop studied the man he had had no business knowing even an hour ago.
His mind, quicksilver as it were, retrieved all information that it had accumulated and stored in the past sixty minutes.
The man was a well known author, had over half a dozen best sellers to his credit, was stinkingly rich enough to own millon dollar sea facing villas all across the country, and most importantly and something very pertinent to the current case, was known to love the company of women- marriages, divorces, one night stands, flings, two domes and threesomes-you name it, the man was a true modern day Don Juan.
"You killed your wife. Inflicted a seven inch deep knife wound on her, ripped open her chest, and then, to be doubly sure, throttled her death."
Detective Chacko's eyes bored into Sashi's as he spoke.
His eyes, watchful as ever, studied Sashi as a famished eagle studies his prey from several thousand feet above, ever ready to pounce upon his hapless victim and shred to smithereens its last gasping breath.
Sashi played the victim to the hilt. Chacko noticed the perspiring hands, shaking and uncontrollable, the shocked, utterly defenceless expression on the handsome visage, the absolute loss of colour from the face, and the near non stop quivering of the lips.
Chacko decided to change tack.
He hunched forward and placed both hands on the table.
"Listen Mr Sashi Thapa, yours is a very violent backstory. In the past decade and half, you have been arrested and later miraculously absolved of the very grave charges of hitting, hurting and badgering your wives...ex wives and girlfriends. All the cases have been amicably resolved. But this one's a tad different. It's murder with a capital M."
Sashi raised a hand, his half open mouth wanting to say something.
Chacko quietened him with a raised eyebrow.
"Look Mr Sashi, I will cut to the chase. There's blood all over on the floor of your bedroom, on yours and your wife's, and the forensics have lifted no less than four clear cut finger prints- from the floor, the master bed, the mantle piece, the outer railings, and of course from the dead woman's face and arms, all irrefutable evidences that lead one to believe that you and only you is the perpetrator of this very heinous crime. There's no way you or any judge in the land can but not pronounce you guilty of the brutal murder of your wife, Mr Thapa."
Sashi Thapa for once didn't flinch; instead, sat upright and cleared his throat before replying, "Mr Chacko, I am sorry, I had said earlier that there's no way I could have killed my wife as I loved her deeply. I was telling a lie. The truth O had every reason to murder my beautiful wife. She was cheating on me. Now that's something I could have turned a blind eye to as I am no saint either. No what had ruled me the most was that she and her boyfriend were planning to kill me. In fact they had twice tried
to poison me but miraculously and thanks to God's grace, I had survived, just about managing to flush out the toxic substance they had mixed in my drink that had rendered me near unconscious. At another time, barely a week ago, I was near run down by a monster truck that came from nowhere while I was out on my morning jog on the highway."
As Chacko watched on, hearing out all that Sashi was laying out, the latter continued, his words more clipped, the tone and ever morphing body language revealing a return to the usual sanguine self that the well known man of letters was known to portray to the outside world.
"Mr Chacko, I know the law asks for proof, and right now, the physical evidences go against me but..."
The room, the second to the right, ground floor, road facing spartan room located in the three story Victorian era styled City Police Commissioner's Office fell silent.
Chacko, as he watched over Sashi's by now phlegmatic demeanour, knew what he was about to hear was very massive.
"There's a tape, a video that I had secretly made. It was retrieved from room 307 of Le Meridien, something I managed to lay hands courtesy the hotel owner, a long standing friend of mine. In the tape, my wife Honey can be heard and seen discussing the murder plot with her lover. The duo can be seen and exchanging the plan details- how they plan to hire a killer, even the name of the killer, how he would be led into our bungalow, how he would then be sneaked into our bedroom, and then murder me. And the most damaging bit-the two were confirming the day when all this would take place-Sunday, the fourteenth ofJuly, a day when she knew I would be at home and indulging in my weekly yoga session. And that day happens to be today, the day when my wife is found murdered and there's blood on my clothes and on the knife that was used to kill her. I tell you Mr Chacko, this is a set up. I have been set up, the killer clearly instructed by Honey's lover, to murder her, and make it look as if I had committed the gory crime."
Chacko let a huge sigh and got up to pace the floor of the room.
A minute later, he had a smile on his face, and he turned around to face the man who sat behind his desk.
I know you are telling the truth. It's in your eyes, it's also in the tape that you have with you. Sit here for the next hour while I go out and bring back the real killer."
As Chacko sprang out of the room, his instincts were on top gear. The famed gut told him that for once Sashi Thapa was telling the truth-he was innocent a hundred times over.
As the police vehicle hit the highway, Chacko seated in the back, knew he had solved this seemingly open and shut case without even having set his eyes on the killer.