“Suhana’s dead… and I’m at the police Station.”
It knocked the wind out of you. Your next words were babble, half-formed, incoherent thoughts that reflected the state of confusion you were in, “You din… impossib… Oh my God! No…”
“Pihu, I didn’t do it! She committed suicide… Listen, I really can’t talk now. They’ve brought me in for an interrogation. I might be here for sometime so I’ll call you later…. Please, you don’t call me. I will, okay?”
“Okay, I’m hanging up. Bye”, I hung up in a rush just as the officer who interrogated me approached me with a quizzical brow.
“Loverboy, kiss se baat kariya tha tu? (who were you talking to)” He regarded me with undisguised suspicion and motioned me to get into another interrogation room. Another interrogation? This couldn’t be good, I thought worriedly. I reluctantly rose up from my seat and went inside. That room wasn’t much different than the one I was in before, except it had no windows at all. It looked hopeless, dingy and scary. The plaster was peeling at places and the solitary tube-light imparted a dull grey pallor to the room. A place like that could force any kind of admission only by dint of being hopeless.
I sat down on the chair and he and a constable followed me into the room.
“Yes, so who were you talking to?” He asked me again.
“A friend… umm….Why am I being interrogated again?” I was getting worked up. I had already been there for about 5 hours without any answers to my questions and it was beginning to get to me that they were repeating their questions and not believing my answers. I felt like I was being pushed to admit or reveal something.
He lowered himself onto the table beside me, his fat, pudgy backside half hanging from the corner, and the putrid smell of stale sweat coming off him in waves. He snatched my phone from my hands and I was helpless because I had myself volunteered my phone’s contents to him. My biggest fear now was that he shouldn’t find out about you… that you were with me last night. We hadn’t done anything wrong, but there’s something about being in a police station that saps hope out of you like a Potteresque Dementor, makes you vulnerable and prone to foolishness. And stupidly enough, I kept your name out of it, not realizing that once the phone came to him, he would know about you.
It didn’t take him long. He was scrolling through my messages, and obviously, there were a lot from you. The kind that lovers share. Soon enough he came up to speed and aimed a barbed comment at me, “Is this Peehoo your girlfriend?” I didn’t answer. I didn’t need to. The answer was on my face. He smirked, “Wah! Abhi ek chori nahin ki dusri pakad bhi li? Bada shana hai tu! (Hadn’t left one yet when you grabbed another. You’re very smart.)”
My insides were roiling in anger but I dared not show it lest he detained me further at the station. He spent a good 10 or so minutes just going through my phone, looking through my call history, messages, photographs too, I suspected.
At length he humphed and kept the phone down beside him on the table. He eyed me suspiciously again, “Malhotraji has given me an important piece of information…” What the fuck is that dog upto now? I knew something bad was coming. He waited for me to say something. When I didn’t, he schooled his expressions into a blank canvas and said, “You are the Nominee for one of the Deceased’s bank accounts.”
Oh shit! This could go against me. But how was that relevant. I blurted out, “So? So what?”
“So… Malhotraji insists that you had something to do with this suicide because you wanted the money in her account…”
Unbelievable! “Is he insane? Does he not know that being the nominee I have no rights over her money? I can only operate her account but the money will always go to her family. I have no rights over it! I was her boyfriend, for crying out loud, not her husband!!” And through that entire eruption of mine he kept looking at me dead in the eye, scrutinizing every twitch of the eye, every rise of the chest, every flare of the nose and, it seemed to me, every thought in my head too. I had to give it to him, he was good at being a cop.
He kept quiet, and I should have too but I was buzzing with indignation and I needed to vent it out, “What the devil does he think I could do with it even if I got it out? Hide it? Run away with it and become a criminal? If that were the case I would have escaped by now… Don’t you see Sir, he’s making unnecessary accusations so he can get away with it…”
“Pipe down!”, he showed me a hand and forced me into silence. On hindsight, that was a good move. A good move for me because I was talking too much.
He took another trajectory. “So… your phone doesn’t have many pictures or messages from the deceased, but you have plenty from your new girlfriend. Why is that?” He cocked his head to the side flippantly.
I was befuddled at this change of topic but I explained, “Last night when she came to me and we fought, I felt that I needed to forget her and I deleted all the messages and pics I had of her.”
“Ooooh, I see… Bechara, ghumm ko bhulane ki koshish kariya tha tu! (Poor you, trying to erase the memory of her)”. Clearly he did not believe me. He started again, “So, you tried calling the deceased at around 8.27 in the evening. And this Peehoo called you some 30 minutes before that. Where was she before this? With you?”
I knew what he was trying to get at. I lied through my teeth, “No she wasn’t. I don’t know where she was… We met only for sometime in the evening yesterday and then she went home and I came back to my place… and that’s where I found Suhana waiting for me.”
“Does your Peehoo have an alibi to prove that she was home?”
“I don’t know…” I was beginning to get nervous, “Look, she had nothing to do with it! She didn’t even know Suhana. She had never seen her, never met her. She only knew her by name and that me and Suhana had been together for some years, that’s it!” I knew I looked flustered. Tiredness, confusion, nervousness and hunger were getting the better of me and it didn’t help my case at all.
“Sure?” He cocked a brow at me. This seemed so, so wrong. I felt like I was sinking into a quicksand of lies but I had to. I had to keep you away from all of this. I looked straight into his eyes, “Sure.”
He squinted his eyes a fraction, clearly still in disbelief. I’d had enough of this cat and mouse play. I countered, “Why aren’t you telling me why I’m really being interrogated again? What was in her suicide note? Where was she found?”
He got off the table, walked around it and slumped into the chair across me. He was still staring at me in the eye, “I can’t tell you that yet. But take heart, it’ll be all over the news by tomorrow I suspect”.
“What?!” I cried out in disbelief.
He shrugged and carried on, “Bhai, it’s a sensational suicide, possibly murder case. The media is already crawling all over the story.”
I went blank. Has there ever been a time in your life when you’ve felt like the life has been sucked out of you? Like a vacuum cleaner went over you and all it left behind was parchment skin, devoid of color, devoid of humanness? That’s what I felt when he said that.
Murder? Oh fuck! Do they think I… Is that why he is interrogating me again? “Sir…” I was floundering for words, “I haven’t murdered her…”
“Careful!” He warned me in a grave tone, “Whatever you say here may be used against you.”
When he put it that way, I knew… I knew in my gut that Suhana’s suicide wasn’t being treated as suicide. That they, the police, suspected murder and that I was a suspect.
I was speechless. My fear was written plainly on my face. But I had to ask him the one question that was ricocheting off my brain walls, “Why do you suspect murder?”
I saw a ghost of a smile twitch at the corner of his mouth. But all he told me was, “I can’t tell you that. It’s sensitive information.”
“Sir, please! I… I haven’t murdered her. I didn’t even know she was going to do something as foolish as this. I had no part to play in it…”
“Of course you had. You were the reason she killed herself… if this is suicide.”
“NO…uhhh…. maybe, but that isn’t a crime! Why am I being treated like a suspect?”
“Who says you’re being treated as a suspect?” He was calm, elusive, passive even.
I wasn’t. “Well then why am I being interrogated again?”
“I’m just doing my job. I have to ensure that the witnesses are all interrogated when their memories of the incident are fresh in their minds. That’s all!”
I crossed my arms on my chest in a sign of both defiance and disbelief. So I was a suspect. But why? What reason could there be to call a suicide murder?
He started in his calm rumble again, “So your Peehoo doesn’t know the deceased personally?”
“How many times do I have to say it? No, she doesn’t!!”
He only smirked at my irritation, and added, “We’ll have to interrogate her too?”
Oh shit! “But why?”
“Because I feel like it…” and then he motioned to the constable, “Tukaram, release this fellow, but keep this phone. And make arrangements to get his roomie and this Ms. Peehoo here for the interrogation.” He looked back at me, “I hope, Loverboy, you won’t give me a hard time finding her whereabouts.”
“But I don’t know where she lives!” I blurted out in honesty. I didn’t know where you lived. You never told me the exact location aside from the landmarks and the general area. But that only cemented the suspicion on me.
“Then I’ll ask her myself. Now get out and remember you’ve promised your cooperation. If you try to run away, I will have to get a warrant for arrest? Sunn riya hai? (you hear me?)”
With that he marched out of the room. Tukaram urged me to get up and follow him to the main hall again, where I was asked to sign some paperwork which I mutely complied with. My head was dazed with the information I had received and the possibilities that that information generated. Murder?! Oh God! How could this ever happen to her? The more I thought about it, the more guilty I felt. I cursed myself for the millionth time for letting her go last night. I cursed myself for being heartless. But what good was doing that?
She was gone forever now. And the blame was on me…
To be continued.
©Pradita Kapahi, 2017.