But now I knew half the truth. It was time to know the rest…..
I rode towards the Hospital where the autopsy was conducted according to the papers, and called the pathologist. I wasn’t hoping he’d be helpful anyway. And he wasn’t. He denied ever conducting the autopsy. He denied being at the hospital too. He cited reasons like patient privacy, blah, blah, blah, then he hung up.
Time for Plan B, but I had to be quick, or I could get into serious trouble. So I chose to approach someone else… someone who’d trade information for money. Someone in the lower rungs of this hospital, like a nurse or a cleaner, who’s always disgruntled with his job and never paid enough, never respected enough. But my whole plan rested on the flawed idea that everyone on this planet had a price.
First, I somehow needed to get in touch with someone involved with the Mortuary at this Hospital. It took me a while of loitering about, observing, but finally I found a way. I sneaked into an unlocked, unoccupied doctor’s room. I quickly scanned the room for any chart or paper that indicated numbers or extensions to common Hospital Areas. I couldn’t find any. Shit! Now what? I was running out of time and fast…
Then an idea came to me. It was a huge gamble but I had to try it.
I took the phone in the room and dialled the number pasted on a slip on the phone for the reception extension. Someone picked up and promptly asked, “Yes, Dr. Mehra?” Bingo!
“The Mortuary, please?”
“In a minute, Doctor”. Her voice went off and a pre-recorded tune played on the phone. It must have taken her only a few seconds to connect the call to the Mortuary but those few seconds felt like hours, and my heart was hammering in my chest so wildly, I felt it would break open my chest cavity. What if this ‘Dr. Mehra’ came into the room? What if there was a CCTV camera somewhere in the room, or outside it? What if she realized that I didn’t sound like Dr. Mehra at all? I crouched down lower and under the table so no one could see me even if they barged in. The tune went off and someone answered, “Yes, Dr, Mehra?”
I modified my voice a little to make it sound deeper, more authoritative, “Err… who’s this? Dr. Kamath?”
“No Doctor, he went out a few minutes ago. Is there a message for him?”
“Who are you?”
“I’m the Diener, Doctor.”
“Could you come up to my room please, now, if possible?”
“Me, Doctor?” Shit, did he suspect something?
“Yes, please.” I prayed.
“Ooookay… I’ll come right away.” And I hung up. This could be the make or break point. Either I was going to be discovered, possibly beaten up by the staff and thrown in jail for trespass, or the diener was going to give me what I came here for. I prayed fervently for the latter.
I sneaked out from under the table and hid myself now behind a curtain in the room that served as a partition to an examination area, so that whoever entered could not see me right away, and so that I could still escape before I got caught, should the need to escape arise. All theoretically, of course.
Every footstep outside the room made my pulse race and my heart pound faster. I kept looking at the clock as the minutes ticked away…. I’ve been found. They’ve caught me!
Finally the door opened with a soft click and someone said, “Dr. Mehra?”
Get your shit together! Be on your guard! I told myself, “Shut the door please”, I ordered him, in as normal a voice as I could muster.
The door was closed promptly.
I came out from the partitioned section of the room and the diener was instantly startled to see me. I lunged towards the latch to the door before he could run out, and thrust my hand out in a motion to ease him, “Please, I just need information!”
“How the heck did you enter this room? Let me out! I’m going to shout if you don’t let me go…”
“PLEASE! I just need information. I’ll give you money….” I quickly took out a wad of money I had withdrawn on my way to the town, and flicked the notes between my hand, still keeping an eye on him.
“I’m not for sale….” he started to walk towards the door.
“Buddy, it’s 30, 000… Only for 5 minutes of information… plus I know something about you that could cost you your job!” Stupid, stupid move! But it worked!
“I…”, he gulped and blinked his eyes rapidly. “Lock the door first. Dr. Mehra’s not in the hospital right now, but be quick, someone could have noticed you coming in through the hall’s CCTV”.
I bolted the door right away. I walked towards him, pushing him into a corner. “Do you know about the Rajiv Gupta autopsy?”
I saw his mind ticking till he finally recalled, “God, that was years ago! I didn’t work on it personally, someone else was the Diener back then, but I know of the case.”
“What? What do you know of the case?”
“Only that he died of overdose. It was a suicide, wasn’t it?”
“Yes…. what else do you know? How did he overdose?”
He stopped to think again. He scratched his neck while he said, “I recall, but I can’t be sure, because most of the case I know only from the papers… It was a drug overdose case… a pretty huge amount of overdose, for someone who was supposedly taking drugs regularly, like the papers said. Clearly he got careless…”
Or maybe someone gave it to him, but I didn’t say that out loud. “Yes! Which drugs?” I stepped closer towards him, anticipation driving me crazy.
He blew out a breath emphatically, “God, that I don’t know!” He rolled his eyes at me.
“Please, think hard, tell me if you know what they were. Were they medical drugs?”
He then looked at me sharply, his narrowed and he licked his lips, “Why are you suggesting that?” He knew something alright.
“Tell me if they were… Morphine and Fentanyl, or both?”
His eyes got large. He started shuffling. Something was wrong here. He took a few gulps and said, “Look, I don’t have anything to do with drugs, okay! If it’s drugs you want you should talk to someone else…”
“I cannot say. I don’t do it myself. God, I could lose my job for this!” he was positively fidgety now with worry.
He tried to get out of the corner, but I pushed him back. “Someone peddles drugs here, in the hospital, you mean? Morphine and Fentanyl? Look, you don’t have to be scared of me. Remember, I’m gonna pay you.”
“Yeah, but I could lose my job and my life for this, if that Gupta got to know…”
“Who? MLA Gupta? Rajiv’s father?”
“Yes, he’s the one who runs the drug scene here in the town. He’s also a member of the Board here at the Hospital, but everyone knows that he’s the one actually running it…. I’ve told you enough! Gimme the money, I’m going now…” He started walking towards the door.
“Just, please, 1 more minute!” I grabbed his hand and pushed him back into the corner. I took out the ring from my index finger that I’d been once gifted by my mother and showed it to him, “I’ll throw in this ring as well. See? It’s solid gold. Just tell me how could someone on the outside have access to medical drugs like Morphine and Fentanyl? How could a student get them?”
“Ugh… Student?! Only…only through a doctor I guess, or… or a pharmacist. But there’s too many rules regarding them. It isn’t easy…”
“But do you know if these drugs were peddled in schools here in town?”
“Maybe! His sons were hand in glove in this. That Rajiv guy used to be involved big time in school and sports events. So they could peddle drugs anywhere…. but I don’t know for sure.”
So that meant Rajiv and Sushant may have been drug peddlers…
“If there are so many rules against their illicit prescription then how does Gupta do it?”
“Ha! Bhai, he’s the local drug lord…. of course, unofficially. He’s very well connected and… dangerous as well… He’ll wink and all the doctors of the town will write free prescriptions for him like that”, he snapped his fingers at me suggestively.
“So you mean to say that he could influence doctors not just here but outside the hospital too?”
“Doctor Shrivastav too? The Oncologist?” I waited.
“I don’t know who that is…” he genuinely looked puzzled, “but if he’s an Oncologist then he’s authorized to prescribe both those drugs. Fentanyl and its patches particularly are used in reducing pain related with cancer treatment.”
Thank you God!
Unwittingly this diener had given me everything that I needed to make sense out of the mystery surrounding you. He couldn’t help me anymore. I took out the wad of money again, “Fine. Here’s the ring. Lead me out of this Hospital safely and I’ll give you the money too.”
I only waved the wad in his face in answer.
He ran a hand through his hair in frustration, but finally succumbed to my wishes.
“Follow me but stay ten steps behind…. By the way…” he began again tentatively, “How do you know I am involved with Dr. Prabha?”
So that was it? That was the dirt on him that he was so worried about? I only smiled at him suggestively and said, “You needn’t know, but don’t worry. My lips are sealed”.
The Diener had led me out of the hospital safely and into the parking lot. From there on he quickly ran away before someone could see us together. Fair enough.
I started running towards where I’d parked my bike. Seconds before I reached it, from the corner of my eye, I noticed movement towards me. Shit! Trouble…
I ran faster and had mounted my bike but rough hands grabbed me by the shoulders and threw me on the ground. Then someone gingerly placed his boot on my cheek.
“Having fun playing detective, barber?” He ground the heel in my face and I screamed in pain. Another boot ground into the palm of my prone hand. “It’ll hurt a lot more than this if I break this chikna (fair) face of yours or…. some ribs maybe”, a kick landed on the side of my rib cage and I doubled up in pain.
Rough hands grabbed a fistful of my hair, forcing me to look up into grey, menacing eyes and a face full of fuzz, “Listen up barber, you better go back to where you came from, or we’ll cut you up into ribbons… “
“Yeah, ha! Just like we cut that bitch up!”, said another gravelly voice.
“Shut the fuck up, you retard!” Clearly this man was the boss, and the one with the brains.
He thrust my face into the concrete and I received a couple of more excruciatingly painful kicks in the back, the groin and in the stomach, till I had almost passed out, or so it seemed to them.
Vaguely, I remember them getting into a car and driving away.
Sushant, you rat! You sent these men to scare me away!
But this had the opposite effect on me. I was now determined to make things right. Someone must. I didn’t care if it cost me everything, because dangerous is the man who has lost everything. And I had…
As I lay prone there on the concrete floor, I mentally began to put the pieces together. It was now clear to me why neither of the families pressed charges. There was a drug racket involved with MLA Gupta at the helm of it. Maybe, your father was providing illicit prescriptions for drugs and the MLA’s family were peddling them. Deaths and police involvement would have opened a can of worms. or maybe the Police had been compromised too. The MLA could have definitely lost a lot if your true story had gotten out in the papers. That’s why the lies about your character because you and your father were easy prey. That’s why they tried to kill you. And that’s why your father was afraid of reporting it.
I knew now how you got involved in drugs. It was either through your father or through Rajiv, unlike what Sushant had claimed.
I also knew for sure now that you killed Rajiv.
That’s what I was going to find out next…