The police aren’t giving much away but it seems that the deceased had overdosed on alcohol and drugs, as well as cut her wrists in order to commit suicide…
My ears had started to ring. Overdosed? Drugs?!
The deceased has also left a suicide note. However, it’s contents are not being revealed to the Public. The Police suspects foul play but says it’s too early in the investigation to say if this is a murder or a suicide. The family and friends, particularly the ex-boyfriend of the deceased girl, have been brought in for questioning but the Police haven’t made any arrests yet…
And Sushant switched off the TV. Thank God for him.
“Are you ok?” He asked me, tenderly, so unlike us guys.
I didn’t answer. Of course, I wasn’t okay. How could anyone be okay after knowing that someone you knew, loved, was dead and that you were being blamed for it? I had collapsed on the bean bag in the living room. My head was in my hands and I was this close to breaking down.
Because I felt my life was in an endless loop of a sorry-go-round. I had one, just one good thing going, when life slammed me down on the road again. But more than that, much more than that, I could feel denial, disbelief, and incredulity over how Suhana had ended her life. I had known her for 6 long years. That’s a long enough time for one to know a person inside out. How, then, had I missed her being addicted to drugs? I knew she liked her drink, but I also knew she did it occasionally. But drugs?! It was unbelievable, what they had just shown on the evening news.
She couldn’t be addicted to drugs because she hated drug addicts and people who lost control of their lives. Suhana was always a go-getter, an over-ambitious, perfectionist who loved controlling people. It was part of the reason why I had started to fall out of love with her. Sometimes she could get downright bossy and manipulative. Oh, she loved with all her heart but she could smother you with her love too.
So, it was hard for me to believe that she had chosen to kill herself that way rather than fight it off. It didn’t seem like a Suhana-thing to do.
Then there was what the Officer had hinted at –
Bhai, it’s a suicide, possible murder case…
Why did they suspect murder? Questions, doubts, fears were eating away at my insides and were manifested in the pearls of sweat forming all over me. Now that news of her death was out, how long was it going to take for people to put two and two together? My life was going to get worse. Correction. My life was over. I might as well put a bullet through my head, is what I thought. It would have made no difference to the world because I was as good as branded a murderer, even if I hadn’t actually killed her. And what’s more, I believed that myself. Her death was going to be my albatross forever.
Call it nemesis, guilt or whatever, but Suhana’s last words came to me right then,
This will come back to haunt you…
Like a butcher’s knife bearing down on a bleating, shit-scared lamb, fear sliced into me as I literally pictured Suhana reaching out to me from beyond the grave. I began shivering all over. Sweat began to pool under my arm pits and my sweatshirt’s neckband. The sweatshirt seemed too clingy, like a film, and I was hyperventilating, as that one phrase kept ringing in my ears like an unholy dirge. Suddenly, the room felt claustrophobic and I couldn’t breathe. I threw my sweatshirt over my head and rushed out to the balcony to gulp in lungfuls of the cold January air.
Sushant ran after me, “Are you out of your mind? Its freezing outside! Come back in!” He started to push me back into the warmth of the living room, but my legs buckled under me. The shakes wouldn’t stop. I never believed in ghosts, but that night it seemed that Suhana’s ghost had come to haunt me.
Sushant ran back in and came out with a glass of water and stuck it in my hand, but I was shaking so hard that the glass slipped and fell on the ground with a harsh clank.
“Dude, you got to calm yourself down. Get inside for heavens sake!”
“Sushant”, I whispered, “She’s taking revenge on me…”
He bent down to retrieve the glass, but stopped midway, “What’s that?”
“She’s taking revenge on me, Suhana. She…” I was shivering so hard my speech was coming out slurred, “She warned me that it will haunt me…”
“Oh c’mon, dude! Are you telling me you think ghosts are haunting you now? That this is all because of a ghost? Pull yourself together!”
“Dude, I know that there are no ghosts. I know that. But I think… I think she cursed me or something….” I could see him roll his eyes, “Look at how everything is going wrong since that night.”
I could envision my future. The end of my career, my love life, a possible jail sentence… It looked bleak and gray.
Sushant patted me on the shoulder and said, “If I were in your place I would have thought the same way, but you have to pull yourself together. You can’t lose your shit now.”
I had a meltdown right then, “Dammit, what am I supposed to do? How my I supposed to pull myself together when everything…every fucking thing in my life is going wrong?!” I shouted at the top of my lungs, even while Sushant looked around nervously to see if someone was watching. He tried wrestling me into the living room again, but I wouldn’t let him, “Chor mujhe. Lemme go! Maybe I should end it all as well…”
Something singed my face and I realized some two seconds later that it was Sushant’s slap on my face. But it did help. I came to my senses and walked back into the room like an automaton and he shut the door behind us. He refilled the glass and handed it to me, while he sermonized over my head, “I know things are difficult, but you can’t give up now. The police is suspecting you, I know, but you have a strong alibi… in me … in those rickshaw-wallas we talked to that night…. and that hotel staff who we went to. No one can say that you had any part in it. If anyone can and should be suspected, it’s Suhana’s father because he threatened to kill you two…”
“Yeah, but he said he was at home the whole time and his wife was there with him. Except that phone call there is nothing to implicate him…”
“Well, there’s nothing to implicate you either! Stop being irrational!” He slumped himself onto the couch right next to me. I guess he got tired as well. The police had kept him at the station for 3 hours straight. He had told me all they had asked him and I didn’t see anything in his statements that could possibly point the finger at me, but that didn’t alleviate my fears.
After a few minutes of a loaded silence he questioned me, “And for godssake, who the heck is Pihu? They kept asking me about her.”
I recalled that he knew nothing of her. “She’s my girlfriend”, I answered sheepishly.
He threw his hands up in the air. “You have a new girlfriend who you didn’t even tell me about?”
“Sushant please, not now. Things have just started between us. I wasn’t going to broadcast my relationship to the world before it even began in earnest.” I rubbed my throbbing temples.
“Well fine. But was she involved?”
“How could she be? She never even saw Suhana”, I parroted out the same line to him that I had asked you to say to everyone when I called you from the PCO right after I was released from the station… That we had met and separated early in the evening, that you weren’t there that night, and you had never seen Suhana. I felt bad lying to Sushant but I had to do it to protect you.
“Well damn, at least show me her picture. Is she cute?”, he bumped me on the shoulder and smirked at me. Bless him, he wasn’t saying that out of curiosity. He was just trying to lighten the mood. It did help a bit. I gave him a half smile and said, “I don’t have my phone on me. The police took it to check my call records and messages.”
“Because of Suhana’s and her father’s calls?”
“Suhana never called me. She didn’t have this number. Only her father…”, I trailed off as it hit me.
Somehow, Malhotra knew my new number…
To be continued.
©Pradita Kapahi, 2017.