"So who do you think wants to kill you"?, asked Prakash, to no one in particular. He always let his questions hang in the air like that. One of his theories was to ask questions to no one in particular and let the audience answer. And more often than not, whoever responded first, in all likelihood happened to have a solid motive for the crime.
The scene in Nidhi's bedroom was morbid. She sat curled up like a fetus on the sill of giant french windows. The sill has been designed to hold a small platform that someone could sit on. It looked like the comfort place for Nidhi. It was padded with a rich cushion and there was a small coffee table next to it. Nidhi was holding onto her knees in front of her chest and was rocking back and forth slowly. If this was not for real, it could pass off as a scene from one of her numerous rom-com movies. Nidhi was the undisputed queen of Indian romantic movies of this decade and along with Kabeer Khan, had inspired millions of love stories.
She was wearing a light pink linen tank top and white hot pants and despite her distraught shape, a generous amount of her flawless skin was on display. Despite his known aversion to the members of opposite gender, even Prakash could not stop admiring Nidhi's well sculpted body. Prakash concluded that Nidhi must be the kinds to go to the gym religiously. Prakash also noticed that the windows behind Nidhi overlooked the garden and the swimming pool. Thanks to the Ashoka trees, from Nidhi's vantage point, you could not see anything outside the house. And vice versa.
In the room, in presence, in various states of distraught was Nidhi's entourage. Next to the french windows, on a writing table sat yet another strikingly good looking woman, of about 25 or so. Her hips were casually resting against the table and her arms were folded in front of her chest. She was wearing a pair of skin tight denims and a bright tee shirt. Prakash guessed that she must be Payal, Nidhi's manager and close friend. Prakash quipped to himself, "Even this Payal could be an actress". On the bed, sat the famous Neelima Kapoor, Nidhi Kapoor's mother. Prakash did not have any difficulty identifying her. He had seen his share of films when he was young. Though Neelima was old now, one could see that she would have been a splendid beauty in her heydays. Next to the bed, on a chair, sat Naveen Kapoor. He still had a look of hostility in his eyes and body language. He was talking softly to Neelima and Prakash could not hear their conversation, even though he was in the same room as them. Two servants, apparently a middle aged couple were busy tending to all those present in the room. The lady was standing next to Nidhi and the man was standing against a wall, close to Naveen.
Unlike the rest of the house, Nidhi's room was rather spartan. Apart from rich embroidered curtains, thick rugs and cushions in all shapes and sizes, a very few items of vanity were at show. Unlike the reception hall and her study, the bedroom did not have a single picture of Nidhi or her movie posters. Prakash found it rather strange. Prakash also noticed that the room did not have a single book. It did have a large Sony television and a few bollywood and hollywood DVD stacked neatly in the cabinet, just the way books and vinyl records were stacked in the office. He also saw a Harman Kardon music dock on the writing table where Payal was standing, connected to a mobile phone. There was no music playing though. There was some sort of a walk in closet on the far side of the room and Prakash could not see it from where he was standing but could make out that it was a dressing room, closet and storage, all rolled into one. There was another door next to the closet. It apparently led to the bath.
Prakash waited for Nidhi to answer but she continued to rock back and forth slowly on her hips. When no one else volunteered an answer, Prakash started to move towards Nidhi but Naveen interrupted, "This is not the right time to ask her such questions. Cant you see she is already troubled. If not for the shoot yesterday, God knows what would have happened. You must leave us alone now. I'd have a word with Commissioner Sharma."
Prakash shot an angry glance at Naveen. Prakash's eyes were hard and cold like a stone. Even though he was a small man, his eyes could easily send shivers down the spine of even hardened criminals. But Naveen did not flinch. He instead got up from the chair, walked between Prakash and Nidhi and folded his arms over his chest. Prakash realized that Naveen was either overprotective of Nidhi or was trying to shield her for some reason. Prakash said, "I am merely trying to help your family here, not that I want to. I don't really care about these mutts but the letter is a serious matter. I am sure you must be used to getting death threats all the time but do any of you realize that this time it is for real?"
Prakash took back a step. He was about to go out of the room. He paused and said, "Tambe, give me that letter." Without waiting for an answer, he literally snatched the letter from Tambe and placed it on the empty chair that was previously occupied by Naveen. He continued, "This letter was in the typewriter in the room downstairs. If after reading this, you change your mind, you may talk to Mr. Sharma and come see me at the station."
At the mention of the typewriter, Nidhi turned her neck slowly at Prakash. Prakash noticed the movement and for an instant he and Nidhi were looking into each other eyes. Prakash thought that Nidhi's eyes were her best feature and could now imagine why all her films did so well despite lack of any substance. Nidhi broke the gaze and glanced around the room, searching for the letter that Prakash was talking about. She found it on the chair and then she stared at it, wrapped inside a transparent evidence bag. She looked at the letter and then at Prakash and then at her mother, Neelima. Finally she rested her eyes on the letter.
Prakash noticed Nidhi staring at the letter, he turned around and left the room. Praveen followed him with a nonchalant walk. Renu was too dumbfounded to make anything of this. She was standing close to the door and after Prakash left the room, everyone, except the famous Nidhi Kapoor, was starting at her. She did not know how to react. She retraced her steps, turned around and stumbled out of Nidhi's room.
Renu climbed down the stairs and ran after Prakash and Praveen. She caught up with them when they had reached the lawn and were almost out of the main entrance to the house. Renu said, "What is this? You would simply walk away? Shouldn't you investigate further?"
Prakash looked at her, began to talk, and then stopped short in his tracks. He was staring at something behind Renu. Praveen and Renu turned around as well and they saw Nidhi Kapoor running towards them. They were stunned at Nidhi's sudden transformation from a shock-stricken young dame to having total control of her sense.
"Wait, wait", she was panting. She continued. "Sir, wait a minute please. I want to speak to you about this". She was holding the letter in her left hand and was waving it frantically in the air. Behind Nidhi, Prakash and party could see Naveen Kapoor and Payal Chopra trying to catch up to Nidhi.
Prakash said, "What about it? Clearly your uncle believes that he does not need my help. Contrary to popular belief, we are really short staffed and..."
Nidhi interrupted Prakash in mid speech. She said looked him into his eyes and said, "Ok, stop it. I apologize for my uncle. He is like that only. Please. You know, my dogs and cat were very important to me. I am not worried about the attack or the letter. I have been getting such threats since I was a kid. But I really want to see the bastard punished. Please help me."
By this time, while talking, Nidhi had come really close to Prakash without anyone realizing it. She was holding onto Prakash's arm by now.
Prakash underwent a sudden transformation. He looked at his arm. Nidhi realized it and let go. Prakash said, "Ok, I would need to ask you a few things. You will have to lodge an official police complaint about this letter. Can we sit somewhere quiet?"
Nidhi nodded like an obedient school kid and led them to her bedroom once again. She went and sat on her window sill. Prakash asked everyone else to wait in other rooms while he interrogated Nidhi at length. Renu observed that Nidhi was composed throughout the entire interview and volunteered information at a few places even though she was not asked.
After Nidhi, Prakash spoke to Payal, Neelima and two servants. He did not interrogate Naveen. Prakash relied on his memory to notice details and interviews, Renu on the other hand took copious amount of notes of all interviews. Praveen in the meanwhile had left to work with the rest of police team that had arrived to take a stock of the crime scene.
Prakash eventually got Nidhi and Naveen in a room and said, "I'd be leaving now. My team is already here and is working in your study. They would leave in a bit. I would need those CCTV tapes as and when you can get those. Please send them over. And let me know in case you need an extra cover of security."
Prakash and Renu walked out. As they were coming out of the house, Renu asked, "What do you make of these interviews"?
Prakash said, "Everyone seemed to cooperate. I could not read anything in any one's body language. I don't think someone would have had the balls to barge into the house with all the security and electronic surveillance. The animals were plain unlucky. Everyone believes that if Nidhi was not out for a shoot, she wouldn't have been with us."
Prakash continued, "It has to be an insider. But cleaving these animals like this, I don't think a woman is capable of doing it. Naveen Kapoor looks like those typical rich snobs but I he is not capable of hurting anyone. He is a rather meek person and he hides behind his loud mouth. If he wasn't related to Nidhi and Neelima, he couldn't be anything more than a mere orderly in a large building. So I think I can rule him out but I have been wrong in the past. The servants have been with Kapoors since last 15 or so years. So I don't know. Everyone seems to be above suspicion. I have asked Naveen for tapes from CCTV. Let's see what comes out of those. What did you think?"
Renu was back to her usual self, "Hmmm, makes sense. I thought as much. I have a few observations as well. But before that, I am starving. Can we please go and grab something to eat please?"
Prakash was getting irritated. He said, "I'd be in my office. I'd drop you to some place on the way."
Renu played along, "Of course. Now that you have The Nidhi Kapoor's phone number, why would you talk to a mere reporter? That Payal is not bad either. No?"
Prakash shot an angry glance and did not say anything. Renu continued, "But what was in that letter that made her forget all her worries and run to you like that?"
Prakash took the letter out of his pocket, handed it over the letter to Renu and said, "Here, read it for yourself. Hand it over to Tambe once you are done."
I have been trying to get in touch with you for so long. I have tried to speak to you so many times but you are always busy. Today Nidhi, the separation from you got the better of me and I had to come and meet you. I went to your film set but you had left by that time. I thought I would catch up with you here at your home. I knew you would be in your study. Didn't you say so in your interviews?
I came here and well well well, I was surprised to see all those books. I did not know you were interested in reading. You have never mentioned that anywhere. But it was a good surprise. May be when we are together, we could take a few books with us for the holidays.
Coming back, I loved your room and just when I sat down on the couch to play some music, your dogs and cat starting growling at me. Thanks to that documentary about you on the Discovery channel, I knew about them and I had come prepared. I had a pack of biscuits laced with sedatives and it was easy to pacify the greedy animals.
I just sat there and I waited and waited and waited for you. Since I did not have anything to do, I thought I'd play with your pets. But the silly creatures were almost asleep and were no fun. And I thought, why not just remove them from the scene altogether? I started with the cute pug. I know you call it Cho. Ever since that mobile phone company used it in their ads, every one has bought one. Did you also get it because of that ad Nidhi? Even if you did, thanks to me, its gone now. I held the pug in my arms and twisted it neck like a coil, like that wristwatch that you had to wound regularly. I did it till the neck snapped with that sweet sound of the bone breaking. Its the most comforting sound ever Nidhi, the sound that a bone makes when it breaks. Someday I would make you hear it.
Ceaser, the bulldog was next. You know I tied one of it hind legs to the writing table. I actually wanted to write this letter on its belly. I would have been the best love letter ever. I started to write but despite the drugs, the damn dog did not stop moving at all. I got so angry so angry that I just stabbed him in the belly with your pencils. And then it started to cry. Can you believe it? Cry! A dog. I just plunged a pencil in its face so that it would stop crying.
The cat, was surprisingly easy. I merely had to lift it up and slam it on the floor some three four times. You know I was surprised to know that cats don't really bleed as much as dogs, or even us humans do.
And then I cleaned all the mess. I piled them on top of each other on the nice carpet. It made a brilliant sight. And then I started to wait again! I waited till almost the morning. I wanted to stay longer but I had to go. If I am missing from my room for too long, they will know. And I don't want them to know about me. But of course you know who I am. Don't you?
I will be in touch. Will meet soon. You and I are meant to be together. This word can't keep me away from you any longer. There are so many things that I need to tell you Nidhi, so many.
Till the time we meet, you please take care. And wait for me.
Renu got so engrossed in reading the letter that she did not realize that Prakash had left her alone in the sprawling lawns of the Kapoor's. She looked around and found Tambe smirking at her. Tambe said, "Madam, saheb has left. I am also done talking to the guards. I am heading towards the police station. Do you want a lift?"
Renu nodded and said to herself, "something is not quite right here. I cant put a finger on it yet though". She was now riding shotgun in an open jeep of Mumbai police and it was flying down the empty expressway.