A Perfect Murder!
March 2, 2012 8 Comments
I have taken to ‘crime’ with this story – my attempt to add to the lore of perfect murders that never failed to hold their audience in a spell! Your inputs are most welcome. Here you go:
The boy from the Nair’s tea-stall came in to clear away the cups and collect money. The young man was suddenly all attention as I cleared my throat and started off:
“You caught me at a wrong time, my friend. But not to worry, you won’t go back disappointed. I’ll tell you this much:
This happened some thirty years ago. When it did, for a few days it was the main fodder for the newspapers of the town only to fade away from the public eyes shortly after and gather dust in the police records as an unsolved crime.
On that day, a couple of hours after the day-break, Ramesh’s body with the head bludgeoned was discovered a little distance away on the far side of the town road that sped past the village at its fringe, expectedly causing quite a commotion among the villagers. Though raw emotions were abundantly on display on numerous occasions, a violent end of this kind was unprecedented in living memory for the village.
To begin with, it had appeared as an open and shut case for the Aet (Head Constable). His stars were certainly on the ascent as he was moving into a different league now with this crime. So far the most action seen by the Aet were at best (or is it ‘at worst’?) incidents of aggressive posturing that never even developed into heady brawls and blows. Perhaps this was the key to the golden door of promotion for him?
To speculate, nay, to suspect, it could have been his neighbor Reddy who had alleged Ramesh had diverted canal waters from flowing into his farm. Recently events had taken an ugly turn that led Reddy to file a complaint with the police against Ramesh. Or the advocate Ramalingam of the Blue House, whose fortunes were bleaker than his single black-coat? He had taken to betting on horses rather than grapple with clients and cases in the courts for some fees in small-change. The horses running to a different beat were less than obliging, pushing the ever-hopeful Ramalingam deeper into the consuming embrace of Ramesh. As the debts mounted, Ramesh had begun calling in his dues, much to the advocate’s great discomfort.
Besides Reddy and Ramalingam, well, it could have been any of a half-a-dozen other guys with enough motives to ‘stick it’ into Ramesh’s back. An arduous task of investigation now seemed to be on the cards for the Aet drawing out beads of perspiration on his furrowed forehead.
But then fate chose to favor and not unduly vex the stretched Aet. Like how? Prints of a right foot of an adult in stride, though somewhat smudged, were still visible in stretches from the spot where the body was found up to the road. It was enough to stump any man of intelligence. Killers however accomplished didn’t walk distances without putting the left foot down. Though he did not have the benefit of Conan Doyle’s oft-quoted words of wisdom, the Aet’s native intelligence rose to the occasion working on the same principle: “When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
It all pointed to none other than Thangarasu, about whom he made inquiries. As the main grocery shop-keeper in the village, Thangarasu was no less hated by all for his sharp practices including clever adulteration and overcharging. He had lost his left leg some years ago in an accident on the town road. Over the years he had gotten used to walking with a wooden crutch. Someone had advised him to go for fitting out a ‘jaipur’ and get rid of the crutch. He had not come around to it yet.
Now, of motive, there was no dearth: It was rumored Ramesh had extended substantial amounts to Thangarasu on the promise of an equal share of the thriving shop business. And the latter had not made good his promise. Of late they have had a few show-downs; the last one was not strictly in private.
So it was time for the Aet to find Thangarasu in his house and wrap up the unpleasant matter in a cinch. As he got ready to make his move, a spoil-sport in the crowd that had collected at the scene – every crowd has a fair sprinkling of them – drew the Aet’s strained attention to a solitary cloud in the otherwise sunny sky. Why Thangarasu’s crutch made no marks anywhere on the soil? After all Thangarasu had so far not evidenced any extraordinary ability to walk unaided on one foot.
But the Aet was not the one to be discouraged by such trifling details in the face of unassailable evidence of the foot-prints. He was sure he could get Thangarasu to explain the unexplained once all loose ends are tied up. So Thangarasu was rounded up and prosecuted in the days that followed. In the town court, his lawyer punched a hole big enough for an army to march through in the prosecution’s case that the case was quickly dismissed. That was it. There were no other witnesses or evidence of any kind. The file was consigned to the inactive pile.
The consensus in the village was some unknown outsider had authored the crime, allowing life to quickly return to its normalcy. Some of the spiritually inclined folks maintained it was without doubt justice meted out by Karuppannasami (a village deity) for reasons not known to them. How else did one account for a left leg not going along with the right leg?
So if it was not Thangarasu who did it?
In the early hours of that day, Nagaraja – he owned a cloth store in the town – had routinely stepped out to collect for the boiler some firewood from the trees on the far side of the town road. That’s when Ramesh accosted him. It was all Ramesh’s fault. The vile black-mailing money-lender was threatening to expose him to his wife who had brought him considerable wealth by marriage. The consequences were unthinkable. Like all other wives, she would never be the one to see reason – after all a mistress in the town can’t be expected to survive on mere love and fresh air.
Ramesh was implacably deaf to the fervent appeals made by Nagaraj. The latter had momentarily lost his head and…Luckily for him, no one was around at that hour – their altercation and the violent end went unnoticed.
This still does not explain the missing prints of the left foot. Right? That’s where Nagaraja’s luck continued to hold out for him. After the act of passion and the initial rush of panic, he quickly collected himself. In an effort not to attract attention to himself, he continued moving the firewood he had presently with him. As he dragged the piece behind him with one end carried on his left shoulder, the other end of the firewood obliterated on the ground whatever prints were out there of his left foot.
Now would you still expect the poor Aet, blissfully snoring in his bed and lost to the world of the living at that instant, to somehow reconstruct this improbable though not implausible sequence of events and net the perpetrator?
So there it is – a story of perfect murder that no one ever found anything about and remained unresolved till date.
Well, I must leave you here. I have a flight to catch and the cab is waiting out there.
You ask: ‘You mean no one knew anything about it?’
Yes, Nagaraja didn’t breathe a word to any living soul.”
As I finished, there was silence thick for a while.
The young man was pensive. As I got ready to leave, I heard him coming up behind me.
In a voice that seemed to have lost its youthful vigor and purposeful tone, he blurted out:
“Then, Sir, how is it possible…”
I didn’t wait for him to finish:
“Go figure! Bye,” as I rushed out to the waiting cab.