The police commissioner Mr Sanjay Kumar had just walked in to his office. It was 10:30 in the morning. His personal assistant Mr Syamjith Prasad came in with a bunch of letters.
‘Anything urgent?’, the commissioner asked.
‘No…but there is a letter which I think you should look into, but most probably a hoax…’
The commissioner extended his hand to take the letter. It was an off-white A4 size paper in which the letters were printed:
Let us see how smart you are. A series of murders is going to take place soon. The first one will happen on 1st April in Charminar. I’m not joking. This is just the beginning…..
Catch me if you can.
Mr Sanjay Kumar frowned on seeing the letter, ‘What is this? Where is the envelop?’
‘The person must have just dropped it in the letterbox and left. There is no address and no postmark.’
‘Hmm.. looks like a crank mail. Also date is 1st April. April Fool mail. Today is 31st March. We will anyway warn the Charminar police. Let us not worry too much about it. Okay – so what are the other papers about?’ They then moved on to routine discussions.
Next day, around noon the Commissioner Sanjay Kumar received calls not only from the Charminar police but also from the press. Padma Manepally, a housewife was found strangled to death. Her gold ornaments and the petty cash in the house was missing. The press had also got wind of the news. Someone called Prakash had mailed Times of India, Deccan Chronicle , Indian Express and the Hindu claiming to have murdered the dead woman. As proof he had mailed a few photos taken from the home of the dead woman along with the dead body. He had also mailed them a copy of the letter that he had sent to the police commissioner. The TV channels had also got wind of the news. As there was no other breaking news, the incidence was getting wide coverage. They were waiting outside the house. The main gate of the house was barricaded by the police preventing the paparazzi from entering.
Once he was informed of the murder, Mr Sanjay Kumar called Senior Inspector Gopi Reddy over the intercom. Reddy, who was a big foodie, had overeaten in the morning, and was not feeling too well. He had just settled down to take a snooze after popping an antacid to soothe his stomach when the phone rang.
‘Reddy,’ Sanjay Kumar barked over the phone. ‘Can you come over and meet me immediately.’
‘I am on my way,’ Reddy said trying to sound less than a zombie than he felt.
Mr Syamjith Prasad was busily typing in his computer when Reddy hurriedly entered the outer office. Along with a myriad other tasks, Mr Prasad’s job also included fobbing off people if they wanted to meet the commissioner. Many people wanted to meet his boss daily on petty issues, and it was his thankless duty to keep them away unless the commissioner wanted to meet them. And as the commissioner did not want to meet too many people, Mr Prasad had a tough job. But still he was always cheerful and smiling. Reddy, who could get angry easily, envied Prasad’s cool composure.
Prasad winked at Reddy and shook his head to signal that the commissioner was not in a good mood.
When he hovered near the entrance of the commissioner’s cabin, Mr Sanjay Kumar gave Reddy an irritable look, ‘Come in … Come in. What are you hovering at the door for? I wanted to show you something.’
Waving the letter sent by Prakash, he started to explain.
‘I want you to monitor the case as this is rapidly becoming a high profile case which needs monitoring by a senior police officer. I particularly want you to handle this as I want a fast solution to this case. I can already see the negative publicity coming our way and want to stem it. Take the letter, coordinate with the Charminar police , and get moving.’
Sensing this as a dismissal, Reddy said, ‘Sir I will do my best,’ and moved out of the commissioner’s office.
Inspector Kannan was in charge of the case in Charminar. Gopi Reddy arranged to meet Inspector Kannan and the doctor from the Charminar Police department in the first floor of the apartment complex where the victim used to stay. Kannan and the medical examiner were already at work when Reddy entered a few minutes later. A policeman had been posted near the front door to prevent anyone other than the police from entering. The body was lying in the tiny drawing room, close to the entrance of the apartment. She was lying face down. She had been tall and slim. She was around twenty five and clad in a simple salwar suit. A book by Prakash Publications called ‘Fun with Activity’, a children’s mind development book, was found by her body. The book had Prakash Publications prominently displayed in the cover and the name Prakash was also heavily underlined. The murder weapon had not been found. The killer had left no traces like finger prints etc in the murder scene. Senior Inspector Reddy felt sad at this brutal end to a young, promising life.
The police, after receiving information from the press about Padma’s murder, had informed Mr Ashok Manepally about his wife’s death and he had rushed back from office immediately. Then in his presence they had broken open the door to find Padma’s dead body. Ashok was sitting in the bedroom with his face buried in his hands. His eyes were red from recent tears. He slowly looked up when Gopi Reddy walked in with Inspector Kannan. He looked dazed and distressed.