Lone Body

“May I enter Detective?”, Mr Rao peeks through the open door of the kitchen. “I heard you had something you wanted to talk to me about.”

“Of course, Mr Rao. Come in. And please call me Naik. ‘Detective’ burdens the conversation for no necessary reason. I just want to have some chat. And at the same, if I can get the work I am here for, done quickly, better for all of us. Right?”

“Sure. By the way, ‘Mr’ is no less burdensome,” quips Mr Rao, half-heartedly.

“So what do you know about the situation we are in Rao?” Naik’s quick, curt response takes Rao by surprise. He realises that irrespective of the words used, the conversation to follow is going to be somber. His brow is getting damp, and he knows that isn’t a good sign.

“Nothing much to be frank. I came late from work yesterday, was completely tired you see. So I went straight to my room and went to sleep. I was woken up only in the morning by your friend, asking me to join you here. So in a sense, I know lesser than you do.” Rao blurts out everything he had come prepared with.

“That was lickety-split, huh, Rao.” Rao sees Naik lean closer and look deeper at him. He could sense Naik believes he knows more than what he was revealing. “Anything else you want to mention? We can also go through, you know, the regular drill. I can ask some questions to remind you of stuff you may know.”

Rao sighs. “I gave you what matters Naik. Others’ just stuff. Details.”

Naik is again quick to respond, “It is the stuff, the details I love Rao. You see otherwise this detective job is boring. What fun is it to listen only to the sad, murky bites from people’s lives?” He pats Rao’s lap a couple of times, then slumps back into the beanbag. “I love this job because I get to know people - their habits, their thoughts, their behaviours. I happen to solve some crazy cases over last few years just through such chats. Nothing much.”

Rao knows that wasn’t really the case — Naik was in the news a lot recently because he was a sagacious detective. He realises his attempt to skim through yesterday’s happenings was futile. He also knows the regular drill with Naik would be a lot more dreadful.

“As you wish Naik. I have been living in this house for last 4 years. You must already know ..”

Rao sees Naik signalling something to his friend. Realising Rao has stopped, Naik grins and mouths a nimble ‘sorry’ and leans back again.

Rao continues, “You must already know that we are 4 people sharing the house. Actually, 3 now, given, you know..” He peeps at the chalk outline around where Joy’s body lay. ”I met Joy just a couple of weeks back when he joined us in this house. Adi and he knew each other from the beginning. I am not sure how though. I haven’t got much chance to talk to them about their acquaintance. Adi and I have known each other for last two years. He is a good guy, so was Joy, I guess. Unfortunate, he had to fall this way.”

Naik’s scratching his soul patch, deep in some thoughts. “How do you think Joy died?”

Rao shrugs and then responds, “Well, it was an unfortunate accident, wasn’t it? An electric shock while using that Microwave? And that is why I was stumped in the morning when I heard you are on the case. Why, do you think there is some foul play here?”

“Sir,” Naik straightens up, “I rarely do think when I am on a case. As I told you earlier, I just come to chatter. I have just happened to have solved few cases over such chats. Anyway, do you know a lot about Microwaves?”

Rao is taken aback by the direct question. “Why? Me? No. I mean I am not an electrical engineer.”

“It’s alright, of course,” Naik grins. “I just felt you looked a lot confident on the reason behind Joy’s death. So I thought you must know something about Microwaves that I don’t. Why do you feel that that harmless device is the reason we are sitting here Rao?”

Rao continues to stare at Naik, his heart pounding now. I have no idea what’s cooking inside this devil’s mind. The perspiration is now clearly visible on his forehead. “Mr Naik, I have no idea what you are hinting at. On my way here, Adi had mentioned that Joy’s died of electric shock. I see him lying here on the floor, his legs towards the Microwave, with it still displaying the time since it had been on. Other than Joy’s fallen body, nothing else looks out of sort for this room. There are no signs of any combat that might have played out here last night. So I connect the dots and feel his death has to be natural – he got the electric shock while using the Microwave and ..”

“.. and he then turned around to fall face first?” Naik isn’t looking at Rao anymore — he is busy noting down something in his diary. After a momentary pause, he apologises, “Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to break your train of thoughts. But you were doing my job so well, that I felt I should help you too.”

The tone of snark in Naik’s voice isn’t lost on Rao and he is done fooling around though. “See. I have no clue what’s going on here. I have no idea why you are even here. I came home late yesterday, slept right away. I haven’t been to the kitchen since then — came here only in the morning today when you called me. I do not know Joy well, neither did I have an issue with him. He appeared to be a calm sedate guy, it’s unfortunate that he passed away. Even more unfortunate is the fact that now that you are on the case, we all would be held up in this house till you are done and I have to chat with you.”

“Aha, that’s how you summarise,” Naik is already jotting something in his notebook. “Thank you so much, Rao. You can leave now.” He goes through the content of page titled “Mr Roy (x)”.

Does not know Joy. Adi knows Joy well. Rao knows Adi well.

Easily swayed by bites of information and runs with it.

Lies about not being to the kitchen yesterday after office — has his tiffin at the wash basin.

As Rao is about to leave the kitchen, Naik stops him. “Just a food for thought Rao. Why do you think Joy died while using the Microwave and not, say, after using it?”

Rao, wiping his brow, shrugs, “I don’t know. Maybe because people do not instantly die after using a microwave. They usually eat?”

Naik slumps back, satisfied, in his beanbag, “There you go. Thank you, Mr Rao. You can go back to the living room.” He makes another note.

Did not have food at home last night.

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