The Masked Man and The Murders

It is 3’o clock in the night. A man in his inebriated state was walking down the street humming to himself as he walked. He frequently paused to chug from the beer bottle he’s holding. Abruptly he stopped walking, and rushed to the side of the road to take a leak. He continued to hum as he peed when he heard a dog barking at him.

He turned his head halfway to the dog, cursed it and threw the beer bottle from one hand aiming at it’s head, albeit nearly missing it. The dog ran away, and he turned his head again to the wall, continued peeing, after a while he zipped up his pants and turned forward with his back to the wall, in front of him stood a man who wore a full black face mask that covered his entire face except his eyes.

The masked man said in a grave voice, “You shouldn’t have thrown a bottle on the dog, he could have died.” The drunkard cursed him and pushed him back. But he didn’t move. Angered by this, the drunkard whipped out a pocket knife and tried to stab him but he stopped midway when he saw a pack of angry german shepherds as many as 30 came gushing towards him and soon surrounded him completely.

Growling and barking they inched closer to him, frightened by it, he dropped the knife and ran for his life. The dogs continued to chase him. The drunkard screamed for help as he sprinted but it was an empty street with jungle on either side and the nearest house wasn’t until a few kilometres. He ran towards the bushes in order to hide away. Soon he got tired and stopped to catch hold of his breath. Gasping and panting he tried to walk further deep into the jungle. He could hear the dogs barking sound from a distance and it got fainter as he walked away. Sighed and relieved, he laid down fatigued by the chase, and fell asleep.

There was a deafening silence in the jungle, except for leaves gustling and crickets chirping sound. All of a sudden there was a sharp noise indicating a phone call on the drunkard’s mobile. He woke up, trembling, promptly picked up the call from an unknown caller. But the sound was loud enough to reach his attackers and soon they hounded him. Following which were shrieking and screaming sounds thereafter it became quiet again.

The masked man put a X cross on the photo of the drunkard which was the first photo in an array of photos pinned to his wall.

The next morning-

There was a group of people swarmed all around the body that was discovered by a labourer in the wee hours of the morning. They stood behind the tapes placed by the police that was now scanning the entire crime scene. The body was shot from multiple angles via the forensic photographers. It was badly injured with multiple bite marks on the face, neck and the torso. It was beyond facial recognition. The clothes were half torn with blood stains all over. The police recovered a broken mobile phone near the body and some petty cash from victim’s pockets. None were sufficient to identify the victim on the spot. Thereafter the body was sent for autospy and identification to a medical centre.

Inspector Archana Bhattacharya was conclusive from the bite marks on the body and a large number of animal footprints indicated it to be a case of fatal animal attack, which wasn’t uncommon in a place like that. Question was what was victim doing there when it was clearly dangerous to go inside the bushes at night. Also why did all the footprints seemed as if they originated from outside of the jungle and then disappeared in the jungle. She thought about it in her car on her ride back to her office.

The autospy indeed confirmed the cause of death to be asphyxiation occurred due to a blunt injury to neck which could be from being attacked by either a pack of wolves, or a large canine.

The phone recovered from the victim was thoroughly searched for any kith and kin of the victim. But to no avail. The phone had a very few contacts possibly because it was a prepaid disposable phone. The owner could be a lowlife or a beggar using a cheap phone. The victim’s fingerprints were subsequently checked in the police’s database for a match. And as it turned out they matched to a person named Bunty, who had a rap sheet of assault and thievery. He was recently out on a bail for stabbing a person in a bar brawl.

A month ago,

“Will you be able to finish the job”, said a man sitting across Bunty in a dingy pub. He continued, “My boss wants them all alive and unhurt even if they tried to run and scream”.

“How will I find them?”, Bunty asked.

“You will be provided with an address and some cash to transport them to their destination, but you need to-”, he was cut short as he heared some loud voices coming from two people fighting over whether to allow a couple of dogs in the bar, after a long heated discussion and some threatning verbal exchanges, the bar owner allowed the customer to bring his dogs into the bar.

“As I was saying, my boss needs it to be done as quickly as possible, here is your advance payment for your work, remaining after the work is finished”, said the man as he opened his suitcase that read “KA” on its handle and handed over some cash to Bunty.

Bunty reassured him about the job as he hastily collected the money from him. In that hurry he knocked over a bottle from the table, which landed on the feet of a German Shepherd who stood nearby the table and he started bleeding as some pieces of shattered glass went into his skin. He whimpered in agony. Upon hearing it, the owner came running, he could barely control himself when he found out it was Bunty’s fault and he slapped him. Following which was a blink-and-you-miss-it action where there were blows landed from either party and before the dog owner could strike another blow, Bunty stabbed him with a pocket knife. He fled away but he was soon caught and jailed. Soon enough he was bailed and was handed over an envelope with some money and an address. He smiled and walked away.

“So what have we got from his phone? Any threatening messages, any phone calls which can shed some light on last night’s events as to why he was there and how did he end up getting killed by a group of animals?”, asked Archana to her subordinate, sub-inspector Amit.

“I checked his phone, it was newly bought, hence there were very few calls and a handful of messages placed. Bunty worked mostly as a delivery guy, he transported almost anything from illegal drugs, electronic items to exotic wild animals. He would receive messages from his employers about the package source and destination with delivery date and time. And he would ship them as per order”, replied Amit.

“Also, we have requested the phone company to give us the call details for the calls received by Bunty in last few days. We should have them by tomorrow.”

“I see, Though I wonder what went wrong?”, enquired Archana.

“He made a lot of enemies as well as he had a few drunken fights and some fallout with his employers over money, I gathered it from his rap sheet, anyone could have get him killed, but why would a pack of wild animals harm him?”, asked Amit.

“Why indeed?”, pondered Archana.

“Maybe a delivery went wrong and somehow these animals got freed and attacked him?”, continued Amit.

“Animals don’t harm humans unless provoked, and I would think if a group of animals have been caged, and they were to be released they would flee off and not perform an organised killing of their captor. From the footprints of the crime scene I saw that they chased him for a distance and then attacked him, they must have had followed instructions of their owner who could be the perpetrator”, replied Archana.

“So what’s the update on the target?”, a message read on a woman’s phone.

“It wouldn’t be a problem anymore. Was taken care of last night”, was the reply.

“What about the cellphone?”, woman texted back.

“Working on it”, the reply came.

“Dammit”, the woman shrieked as she read the text. She texted back, “GET THE DAMN PHONE” as she stepped out of her car and went into a farmhouse stood in front of her.

The place was large, it was covered with grass and trees everywhere and in middle of the field stood a small building. She walked straight towards the building. It read, “Shvan — Rescue Shelter for Dogs”, she stepped inside, it was partitioned into three parts, a small office, where most of her employees sat, the other was a pantry, and the third one was her office, to where she was headed. A gentleman was already sitting there waiting for her.

“I am sorry to have kept you waiting.. so what have you decided?”, she asked to the man wearing a suit as she proceeded to shut the door.

“Mrs Parvati Kashyap, I must say your reputation precedes you. We came here last year as well, that time we met, your husband, Mr. Arvind Kashyap. We had a lengthy discussion about the future of this place, we offered him a very good price for a buyout, but he simply declined. He said, he could never shut this place to let us open a restaurant. And remarked that it would always be a kennel. But now since he has passed away few months back losing a battle to cancer, you want to renegotiate?”, said the man.

“My husband loved this place. So did I, but Mr. Sharma, in this current day and age of economy we both know that the shelter is not doing well financially, there are a lot of expenses and almost no returns. My husband wasn’t practical enough to see what’s best for us. I am ready to accept your offer”, said Parvati.

“What about the animals? What do you plan to do with them?”, asked Mr. Sharma.

“That has already been taken care of. They will be sent to a new home”, Parvati replied back.

After a while, they both came out of her office looking happy as they had mutually reached a decision. Parvati insisted on showing him around, so she called one of her employees, Gaurav to help him see that place one more time.

“It is not in my place to ask, but I have heared of the rumors that you will be opening a restaurant here in place of the shelter house soon enough?”, asked Gaurav as they walked out of the building.

“Yes, it’s true. But don’t worry, you guys will be offered a severance,” Mr. Sharma replied.

“What will happen to the animals?”, Gaurav enquired as he guided him to the farmhouse.

“I am kind of surprised that you are more concerned about the animals than your own job?

Well.. Mrs. Kashyap has made some arrangements, I am sure the dogs will love their new home.”, replied Mr. Sharma.

Gaurav nodded and changed the subject. He gave a trip of the farmhouse and showed him the dog shelter. They were different breeds of dogs present — Golden Retriever, Bulldog, Rottweiler, German Shepherd, etc. Gaurav loved dogs, he had worked at the kennel since the very beginning, so he knew each and every dog and was quite popular among them. They all barked in excitement when they saw Gaurav, they all came to their cage door as he passed by them one after the other.

After a while they returned back to the office, where Mr. Sharma bid farewell to Mrs. Kashyap and left with a promise to return soon with a contract.

Later, Mrs. Kashyap announced to the whole office of this new deal with Mr. Sharma i.e. the conversion of Shvan from a kennel to a restaurant, and laying off all the employees and the relocation of animals to another shelter. Soon enough they were gossips and disappointing nods all over, they encircled Mrs. Kashyap and questioned about their survival to which she assured them an extra month’s pay and will refer them to as many employers she knows.

After the dreaded announcement, the entire office environment became unpleasant and depressed. In the breakroom, people were heared criticising their boss Mrs. Kashyap and they lamented of how situation would have been different had Mr. Kashyap been alive. Some guessed as to how much she must have made from the restaurant deal and commented on how little she will pay us. Some suggested to stand up against her.

“What do you say all, let’s go up to her and demand our jobs back?”, said Vimal, an employee.

“I don’t think she would do anything, if we pressed her too hard on this, she might not even pay us severance”, said Alisha, who was a little timid of them all.

There were groups made, some were with Vimal, some with Alisha. A man sat there quietly for some time, listening and observing. After a while, he got up and left the room abruptly. He made his way to Mrs. Kashyap’s office. Her office was on the other end of the building, as he left the pantry, he passed their office in the passage, it was almost empty with only two people on their desks Gaurav and Shekhar. Gaurav looked and saw him walking friskly towards his boss’s office. He opened his mouth to greet him a word or two, but the man didn’t see him and moved past him. He knocked on her door, went inside on an acknowledgement to enter.

Their were loud noises heared in her office, Gaurav and Shekhar were stunned by this and they left their work and immediately went closer to hear more. Shekhar ran to call others from breakroom, while Gaurav tried to hear more intently.

“How dare you Manish? Are you threatening me”, said Mrs. Kashyap angrily.

“I don’t intent to, but if you don’t ensure all of us our jobs back, then you would face the consequences”, replied back Manish sternly.

With that he stormed out of her office and went away leaving everyone baffled.

At the police station,

“Who have we got here?”, asked Archana to Amit, as she pointed to an array of people standing, waiting to be questioned.

“Mam, the one from left is Kareem, he was caught with Bunty on a case of burglary went wrong, they both were put in same cell but when on a small quarrel, Bunty tried to stab him, they were then put in separate jails. The next is this woman named Priya, who was once married to Bunty but she left him as he had beaten her several times over petty issues. The third man is Pankaj, they quarrelled over an incident where Bunty had accidentally injured one of his dogs, a German Shepherd, thereafter a quarrel broke among them and in the heat of the moment, Bunty stabbed him and tried to run away but was jailed, he was recently out on a bail”, said Amit.

“Hmm.. so it could be any one of them, they all had motive, or maybe none of them”, replied Archana.

She continued, “Let’s interrogate them and find out where they were that night?”

Meanwhile, in the evidence room, a man dressed as a cleaning staff member, carefully located Bunty’s cellphone, went to the call logs and messages of his conversation with Mrs. Kashyap and then erased them one by one.

One text message received on Mrs. Kashyap’s phone, it read, “Cellphone captured and history erased.”

Mrs. Kashyap sighed a relief.

After the interrogation, Archana went to get a cup of coffee, while her mind raced to the conversations she just had. Kareem was out with his friend in the city that night. Priya was at her parents’ house, and Pankaj was present out of town as he went to a nearby village with his friends to celebrate one of their birthday. They all had strong alibis who gave their statements, none seemed to raise a suspicion. She came back to the present when Amit called her name, telling her that we have got the phone call details.

They immediately went browsing through Bunty’s phone records, the last received call by Bunty was from a caller who had bought a prepaid phone, so it had a fake name and fake address in the call detail, they checked the cell tower location, the time and address were 2:25 AM, sector 23. They checked the CCTV footage on that road near to that tower, luckily there was a camera placed. There was a car that passed it at exactly that time. From the number plate, they came to know that it belonged to Pankaj, the third suspect in Bunty’s murder case. It all connected together, they arrested him with a motive to kill Bunty and he was put behind bars for further questioning.

Mrs. Kashyap was relieved when she heared that police has caught hold of the alleged murderer behind Bunty’s death. She got into her car and drove off. She likes to take a walk in the park nearby her house every evening. It was a little late today, there were a very few people left, so she felt a bit uneasy, but soon brushed her thoughts away and continued walking.

She must have been walking for half an hour when she noticed a shadow behind her. Earlier she ignored thinking it to be a random jogger. But soon enough the shadow came closer and closer, as soon as she turned back to see who it was, there stood a man, average height, wearing a blue hoodie, grabbed her phone and her car keys, and before she could react, he ran away. She ran behind him screaming, “Thief!.. Thief!.. Catch him”, but he had already disappeared in the park. Defeatedly, she went to catch an auto, luckily she spotted one and hopped in. It was dark so she could barely make out the driver’s face but she told him to take her home and gave him her address.

What had just happened shocked her and she couldn’t come to terms with it, when she looked out of the auto, it appeared to have slowed down and it came to a halt at an unknown location. She asked the driver why he has stopped and where are they, and now getting terrified with each moment passing by. The driver responded without turning his back, that the auto had some malfuntion, and he will fix it. The driver stepped out of the auto and asked her to do the same. She reluctantly came out and asked where are they. The driver didn’t respond. Upon asking him again, he turned his face towards her, there stood a man with a black mask on his face, the same man who faced Bunty before he was killed. He said in the same grave voice, “You are going to pay for your deeds” and with that he pulled a gun to her face. She begged him to spare her and offered him any amount of money in exchange, but his eyes were cold and merciless. He pulled the trigger. A loud gunshot is heared and the body drops to the floor.

The masked man put X cross on Mrs. Kashyap’s photo, 2nd in line of the four photos stuck on his wall.

Archana sat face to face with Bunty’s murder suspect Pankaj. She asked him again in a firm voice, “Why did you kill him?”

“I didn’t”, replied Pankaj.

“You’re lying, just like you lied about you being out of town the night Bunty was killed. We checked CCTV footage, your car appeared to have crossed the cell tower from where you called up Bunty after which his half eaten body was found”, said Archana as she stamped her fist on the table.

“Yes, it’s true I lied about my whereabouts to you, I was present in the city and it was indeed my car, and yes I did call him up, but trust me I didn’t kill him. Sure I wanted to take a revenge from him and that’s why I called him to threaten him but I didn’t kill him”, pleaded Pankaj.

“I find it hard to believe you Pankaj, all the evidence points towards you.. it’s only a matter of time before we get the medical report of your dogs’ DNA and compare it with DNA of the saliva of bite marks on Bunty, and once they match, you may face death penalty, so it’s better if you accept your crime now and tell us why and how it happened, then we can try for least form of punishment.. I’ll give you some time to think”, said Archana as she left the interrogation room.

“There is a murder reported of a woman named Parvati Kashyap, she was shot dead by an unknown assailant. Yesterday, she went to her evening walk like everyday to a nearby park in her car and never came back. Her servant tried to call her, he went to the park to locate her. Her car was found missing. Once he coudn’t find her, he filed a missing report today and we found a body an hour ago which fitted the description as it was confirmed by her servant”, said Amit to Archana.

“What do we know of her?”, asked Archana

“She was a woman in her mid forties, a widow, no kids, her husband, late Mr. Arvind Kashyap, passed away from cancer. He was a famous industrialist, but soon after he passed away his company suffered quite a few losses, it was all in the papers. She ran a kennel, named — Shvan, located on the outskirts of the city; had no criminal history”, answered Amit.

“What about the gunshot?”, asked Archana

“Yes, as per the autospy report, the bullet that was extracted from her body was shot from a 0.32 calibre pistol point-blank. Her phone and car is missing. It seems like a robbery cum murder case to me”, replied Amit.

“Could be.. we need to find her belongings to catch her murderer”, said Archana.

The DNA test result of Pankaj’s dogs came and it was negative for the perpetrator’s dogs. Archana was disappointed and with no reason to hold Pankaj guilty, he was also freed. There were two murders happened in the city in last 48 hours, and they were nowhere close in catching the criminals.. or a criminal. Archana thought to herself, it seemed like a conincidence that Bunty was killed by a pack of large animals which could be dogs and Mrs. Kashyap ran a kennel. Is it possible the killer knew both the victims? Or maybe it is a mere conincidence and they are two separate cases altogether. Her head hurt thinking about it.

Archana visited the crime scene, the park where Mrs. Kashyap was last seen walking. She looked at the CCTV footage of the nearby road. From the autopsy report, it was gathered that she was shot between 9–11 pm. Archana saw that Mrs. Kashyap’s car is seen on the road adjacent to the park at 8:35PM. Few seconds later she walks and crosses the street as park was on the other side.

At 9:00 PM, a man wearing a blue hoodie got into the car and drove way.

Three minutes later, she was seen walking out of the park, she took an auto that stood next to her.

And that was the last time she was seen alive. Archana took down the auto number.

The video footage didn’t make sense, if the robber were the killer, how come Mrs. Kahsyap came alive after the robbery. So either the robber took her car, and met her later and shot her, which is very unlikely, or the killer and the robber were two different guys.

The news of their boss’ death spread like widlfire in Shvan. All the employees were worried as to what will happen to them, who will pay their severance, everyone knew of the altercation between Manish and Mrs. Kashyap a day before. So they all had their own theory as to who would be behind her murder, some blamed Manish while others defended him.

“Mrs. Kashyap was last seen in this auto. From the CCTV footage I can tell she took the auto yesterday at 9:03PM at Rainbow Park therefater the auto was seen at Hamilton Road, then in Lane 24 and then it stopped behind the warehouse, as police was notified by a passerby of a body found near an autorickshaw at that place. I searched for its owner and turns out it was stolen 2 days ago, the forensic team has thoroughly checked the auto for fingerprints of the assailant but as we doubted we didn’t find any except for the victim’s”, Archana told Amit.

“We need to find out where was this auto stolen and by whom”, said Amit.

“I read the complaint filed by rickshaw owner, it said, like everyday he parked the auto near his house at night but in the morning it wasn’t there. 20–30 vehicles are stolen everyday from this city, it is not hard to steal one, anybody could have done it. I have talked to some of the past auto theft accusers for the autorickshaw and the victim’s car. And so far, no luck in catching the criminal”, replied Archana.

“Any luck with the gun”, asked Archana.

“We still are at lookout for the gun. We have searched for recent gun purhases in the city. But it’s more likely that the assailant have bought it illegally which would make it impossible to track him”, replied Amit.

“What is the update on the robber and the stolen items?”, asked Archana.

“The CCTV footage gave us a description of robber as a male, average height, medium built, age between 20–30, wearing a blue hoodie and black pants. But we didn’t get a clear picture from the cameras mostly because his face was covered; we have alerted the patrolling police of the stolen car, if the robber tries to cross the borders, we will catch him. Also we are in touch with second hand car dealers as the robber might try to sell the car or car parts.”, replied Amit.

“Good.. what about the phone, any luck in tracing that?”, asked Archana.

“From victim’s mobile number, we asked the service provider to give us IMEI number and based on it we will be able to track it even when the robber changes SIM card”, replied Amit.

The news of Mrs Kashyap’s murder has been the focal point of all conversations in Shvan. Parvati’s sister, Lalita, was now in-charge of Shvan. She managed to run the day to day operations of the office as smoothly as possible like her sister amidst all rumours including the one which accused Lalita herself in her sister’s murder to inherit Shvan. She ignored them and instead focussed on work.

Mr. Sharma came down to see her. He was shocked upon hearing her sister’s untimely demise. He consoled her and prayed for her well being. Furthermore, he discussed his prior engagements with her sister and their future plans for Shvan. She told him to give her a couple of days to settle in and get upto speed with the matter. He agreed and left.

One evening while she was working, she received an anonymous phone call. She answered it.

“Hello Lalita” — anonymous caller

“Who is this?” — Lalita

“I am the one who killed your sister” — anonymous caller

It sent chills down her spine. She immediately responded,

“How dare you call me.. who are you? And why did you kill her?” — Lalita

“She died of her own fault. I don’t want you to pay for her sins. Call off the deal with Mr. Sharma or suffer the same fate as your sister” — caller

“Or what.. You are a coward who sits behind anonymity.. you took an innocent life and now you plan to take another..” — Lalita

“Innocent life.. your sister was a monster.. did you notice the number of dogs in the shelter, they have reduced gradually over a period of 6 months. Where did they go? Ever wondered?” — caller

“What do you mean?” — Lalita

“Call off the deal with Mr. Sharma. Don’t test my patience.” — caller

“What.. Hello.. Hello..”, Lalita answered but the call was already cut.

She was shook to her very core. She thought to herself, who could be behind it. And what does it have to do with the deal with Mr. Sharma. Was he right, have the dogs disappeared in past six months. Did the caller threatened her sister too.. If so did she ignored it and was murdered because of it. She was angered and frightened at the same time. She needed to get to bottom of it before she could tell anyone.

She looked for the office’s old record files. There were several records in past few months of the purchase of dogs to a company named Nexus Pharma Ltd. The employee who approved the purchase was Manish. She needed to talk to him.

The police was able to track the robber based on the IMEI no. He was produced before Archana, after a strict inquiry he spilled out the details. He told her that he received an anonymous phone call about a simple job to steal and run away from the target. Police recovered the mobile phone and the car from him moments before he was about to disappear to his native village.

The mobile was thoroughly searched for any threatning calls and messages indicating the killer’s identity. There were some deleted phone calls, made repeatedly to her from a same no., the no. was of no one else other than Bunty himself. There were also some deleted messages too, upon recovering them, the conversations revealed it to be between Mrs. Kashyap and an anonymous person, about some target and acquiring his cellphone, and thereafter subsequent capture of the cellphone and evidence erasure.

Therefater, the police setup a trap in which the same person was contacted by police posing as a client, a business colleague of Mrs. Kashyap who wants to avail their services and wants to meet them asap. He was subsequently caught and interrogated. He was a contract killer with an alias Lucifer. He was hired to eliminate Bunty and destroy his phone. But Bunty was already killed by someone else and his phone was confiscated by the police.

Lucifer subsequently followed orders to delete all calls and messages of Bunty and Mrs. Kashyap from Bunty’s phone that resided at the police evidence locker. The police was shocked upon hearing this and they fired the security guards outside the evidence locker room. The police further enquired Lucifer of the motive behind attempt to kill Bunty, to which he replied of being unaware of.

The police needed to figure out why did Mrs. Kashyap wanted to kill Bunty. He was a lowlife, did she send or receive an illegal package via Bunty and he discovered it and due to which she planned on eliminating him. And why did Bunty called her up repeatedly in past few days before he was murdered. What was the connection. Could they be killed by a same man, possibly a serial killer?

Lalita called Manish to her office about the dogs’ purchase he approved. She asked,

“Manish who is this Nexus Pvt. Ltd?”

“It’s a pharmaceutical company. They wanted to buy some dogs from our kennel for research purposes” — Manish

“I see.. Umm.. Manish I checked their file, and I couldn’t find their copy of licence issued by the CPCSEA organization which permits them to perform drug experiments on animals. Yet I see their purchase orders goes back to 6 months in past. I see it was approved by you and signed by Parvati, how did you and Parvati let it happen?”, asked Lalita

“Yes, they gave us a copy of their licence but it had to be renewed so it was sent back, we are waiting for the new one, and you know.. how these things take time”, replied Manish with a slight hesitation.

Lalita looked at him for a moment, acknowledged and buried herself in the file again. He quickly left the office before she could raise another question.

Archana subsequently inequired Shvan’s employees to see if there was a disgruntled employee who could be behind these murders. They all seemed a bit tense and uneasy as each person’s name was called out by the police for questioning. Each one of them were asked about their whereabouts on that night and whether they noticed anything unusual about their boss in past few days. There was a mention of the argument between Manish and Mrs. Kashyap a day before the incident. He was produced for questioning subsequently. He agreed to have had a minor altercation with Mrs. Kashyap pertaining it to their layoff as a consequence of the deal between her and Mr. Sharma.

The latter was also called for a probe. He admitted about the deal and was unbeknownst of any issues with her employees. Thereafter Archana questioned Parvati’s only blood relative close to her, Miss Lalita. She narrated the entire ordeal of last night about the unknown threatning phonecall. Upon asking if she suspected anyone, she said she wasn’t too sure but Manish might be involved in the case of illegal trade of dogs to one of their clients as she told them about the missing document.

The police detained Manish again and interrogated strictly this time asking him about his involvement in the recent purchases by Nexus Pharma and why did he approve them inspite of lack of proper documents. He reiterated his story as he told to Lalita, but Police made further enquiry from CPCSEA and they come to know that Nexus Pharma had indeed applied for a renewal of licence but it was under scrutiny as they had violated some of their norms regarding their treatment of animals by their research team. And hence it was directed to cease all experiments at the moment.

The police tried to probe one of the representative of Nexus, Praveen Singh, on the matter but he refused to answer and instead directed them to his lawyer. Archana was well aware that a big company like Nexus was capable of handling the case regarding their alleged purchase of dogs with an expired licence.

The police also discovered large amounts of sum being transferred in Manish’s account from an unknown source in the past couple of months. It was enough evidence to put Manish behind bars as he was involved in the aforementioned crime and possibly also murder of Mrs. Kashyap. He admitted of his involvement in the former but strongly refused of the latter. He told Archana that Mrs. Kashyap was equally a part of this scheme as she too received a large bribe for the purchase. And he intented to whistleblow if she didn’t give them their jobs back which ensued the argument the other day.

Meanwhile Parvati, on the police’s advice ceased her agreement with Mr. Sharma until Police captures the killer.

Archana thought to herself that if Manish is indeed telling the truth, then the person who called Lalita must be someone else, and why did he want her deal with Mr. Sharma to be called off?

A few days later,

It is quarter past two. Dr. V.K. Murthy, a man in his forties, wearing a dark brown suit, picked up his briefcase, came out of a laboratory named In-Vivo Toxicology and walked towards the elevator. On his way to the exit, the front desk executive greeted him, he didn’t reply back and walked out of the premises of Nexus Pharmaceuticals.

He briskly walked towards his car in the parking as it was dark and quiet. He hopped in and drove off. He barely made out of the parking when a man pulled out a gun to his head rising from the backseat of his car. He almost lost control of the steering from the shock but quickly got it back. He saw from his rear view mirror, the reflection of the man wearing a full black face mask saving his eyes.

The man forced him to keep driving, they reached an isolated place where the car halted. He handed over a syringe to Dr. Murthy and told him to inject himself. Dr. Murthy hesitated, the man threatened him to either inject the syringe or else he would be shot. Reluctantly, Dr. Murthy complied. “Who are you? What was in the needle?”, asked Dr. Murthy frighteningly. “I am the one who poisoned you just like you do to animals in your lab”, replied the masked man.

Very soon, the effect of the posion started showing in Dr. Murthy, he experienced a sharp pain in his head. He rubbed his temples with both hands.

“Why are you doing this to me? Please let me go… it’s a mistake… I beg you”, pleaded Dr. Murthy.

“You torture dogs in the name of science. And you are asking for mercy.. now you know exactly how your captives feel.. they scream, shudder and whimper in agony but you turn a blind eye towards them.. not anymore”, replied the man.

“Those experiments are done to ensure they doesn’t harm humans. It saves so many lives. Why can’t you see that” — Dr. Murthy

“What about the lives of animals.. they are equally a part of this planet.. what gives you the right to justify saving one’s at the cost of the other…” — the man

“…not to mention how ineffective and unreliable these tests are proven by ample scientists and scholars. You yourself has been against this notion. I attended your seminar on ‘Limitations of Animal Studies for Predicting Toxicity in Clinical Trials: Is it Time to Rethink Our Current Approach?’ on 3rd August, 2019 at Delhi. You strongly pushed forward alternate testing methods. What changed doctor?” — the man

“I still support that. But study of certain diseases require complex cell interactions that can only be observed in a living beings and not in a petri dish, which inevitably requires testing of animals. Afterall, it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong.” — Dr. Murthy

“Jeremy Bentham.. the founder of modern utilitarianism. He did say that.. meaning for a greater good of humanity the sacrifice of a few was justifiable. He has also said in the context of animals and their rights that, the question is not, can they reason? Nor, can they talk? But, can they suffer? It’s funny how we stand apart on the either ends of the dichotomy of the ideologies of the same man…” — the masked man

Dr. Murthy started experiencing shortness of breath as his heart rate increased and he gasped for air.

“…Well, I would love to continue our endless ethical debate, but I am afraid we need to shoot a video first”, continued the man.

He pointed to a mobile device that stood fixed atop of the dashboard and instructed him to record a video saying that he is solely responsible for his death as he has been suffering from depression and anxiety for a past few days and he didn’t wish to live anymore. Dr. Murthy nodded in agreement. He knew it was futile to protest, he was poisoned, which meant he had only a couple of minutes and if he tried to disobey his captor he would be shot dead, either way he was about to die. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath.

“Can you do it quickly, I am afraid we’re on a clock.. well I don’t need to tell you ofcourse.. so chop chop.. shoot the video. Three down, only one more to go”, the man ordered.

Dr. Murthy was aware of the recent murders in the city, he never in his wildest dream had thought of being one of his victims, and very soon another. He needed to find out whom he was going to target next.

“Can you atleast fulfil a dying man’s wish”, said Dr. Murthy

“Sure”, the man

“Who is next?” — Dr. Murthy

“You know him. You work with him.. your boss and the CEO of Nexus Pharma, Mr. Kapil Agarwal” — the man

Dr. Murthy was not surprised, afterall the drug testing on dogs was approved by Kapil himself. Infact, he pushed for it inspite of their revoked license.

Pretty soon after the video recording, Dr. Murthy experienced a cardiac arrest and he died.

The killer put an X on Dr. Murthy photo and examined closely his final’s victim, Kapil’s photo.

A passerby alerted the police when he noticed the driver of a car asleep foaming at his mouth. The police secured the crime scene, they sent the body for autopsy, the driver was identified as Dr. Venkatrama Krishan Murthy as it said on his license. His family was notified. The police seized the car and examined it thoroughly. The items discovered in it were a mobile phone that stood fixed above the dashboard and a syringe on the car floor. They were carefully packed and sent for further investigation.

“The autopsy report claims cause of death to be cyanide poisoning. We have also got Dr. Murthy’s suicide video shot on his phone. He said about being under depression and blames no one but himself for his death. I believe he injected himself with the poison as the syringe obtained from his car has traces of cyanide”, said Amit.

“What about his family?What did they say?”, asked Archana.

“He lived alone. He was unmarried. His parents resides in Hyderabad. They were stunned upon hearing the news. Dr. Murthy last talked to them two days before and according to them he seemed fine. They’ll arrive here shortly to take his body to their hometown for cremation”, replied Amit.

“And what about his colleagues.. did he seem fine to them as well?”, asked Archana

“According to them, Dr. Murthy was a hardworking and tenacious man. He was working as a RnD head of Nexus Pharmaceuticals Ltd. for past five years.

Last night he was working in the in-vivo toxicology lab, to observe one of his drugs' effect on dogs. He seemed normal. They didn’t notice any unusual behaviour. Even if he was under depression, they wouldn’t notice as he was a quiet and reserved person. He was working late last night, all his colleagues had already left. The front desk executive told us he saw Dr. Murthy leave the office at around 2:20 AM. And today morning we found his body in his car.” — Amit

“Nexus.. wasn’t their license revoked?” — Archana

“Yes, but soon enough CPCSEA removed all bans and renewed their license. An insider told me one of top level officer in the organisation was paid enough to overlook all violations” — Amit

“The age old corruption in our country. Alas.. Money always seals the deal” — Archana

“Seems to be an open and shut case to me. The doctor lived alone. As a RnD head, he must have a lot of work related stress, with his parents away.. barely any friends as he was quiet and reserved in nature.. he could have taken a drastic measure to end his life.” — Amit

“Could be.. but it seems a little suspicious. The last victim, Mrs. Kashyap’s murder too earlier appeared to be a case of robbery cum murder. Even Bunty’s murder seemed a case of animal attack. What if the killer tried to deceive us into thinking it to be a case of suicide but could be a murder.” — Archana

“What if all these cases are connected? Nexus wanted dogs for their drug testing. With their license revoked, they thought of buying them illegally from Mrs. Kashyap’s kennel, Shavn. They also bribed CPCSEA officer to continue testing.

When we tried to talk to one of Nexus’s employee related to their involvement in illegal activity in our last case, what was his name?” — Archana

“Praveen Singh” — Amit

“And in the case of Bunty, didn’t you say that he was out on a bail. Who bailed him out?” — Archana

“It is the same man, Praveen Singh!”, said Amit shockingly

“So it was Bunty who was the carrier of dogs from shelter home to the lab. He had a history of violent behaviour with his past employers. It is possible that Bunty must have had an altercation with Mrs. Kashyap, probably he could have blackmailed her just like Manish did. And she planned to eliminate Bunty, so she hired Lucifer. But the job was already done by our killer” — Archana

“And now Dr. Murthy, the man behind the brains of Nexus’s drug development and it’s subsequent testing, the killer chose it’s victims carefully. Let’s look at his suicide video once again” — Archana

The news of suicide of Dr. Murthy came as a shock to Mr. Kapil Agarwal, the CEO of Nexus. He couldn’t come to terms with the fact that the man as brilliant as Dr. Murthy would take such step. And the same he told to the police as well. But again, if not suicide, then who could harm him, he didn’t have any enemies as far as he know.

He pondered over it for a while. He was alone in his house today as his wife and kids were away on a family function. He stayed back as he had important client meetings in the city. His house was large enough to accommodate three families atleast. Apart from 6 bedrooms, three on each floor of a 3-story building except the top floor as it had his office along with a private pool and an auditorium.

He decided to take a bath to take his mind off the current incident. He must have been swimming for few mins when he noticed a shadow in the water. He looked above and saw a man standing with his face covered with a black face mask.

The video taken from Dr. Murthy’s phone was playing on a computer. Archana replayed it a couple of times just to see if there was a man present in the car besides the doctor. But there wasn’t. She noticed one thing though, Dr. Murthy’s eyes.. they blinked unusually. It wasn’t that he blinked more but they seem to follow a pattern. She has seen that before. A while ago, she was watching a documentary about a POW Jeremiah Denton who was captured during the Vietnam war. When he was forcefully made to appear in a televised propaganda interview by his captors, on the pretext of trouble with the lights, he blinked his eyes in a pattern which was later decoded to be a morse code for TORTURE.

Dr. Murthy has conveyed a message too. Archana jumped to the beginning of the video and started noting down the blink pattern.

Before Kapil could react, the man jumped in the pool. He landed a couple of punches to knock Kapil unconscious.

He woke up with a broken nose and a sharp pain in his right jaw. His clothes were all wet and he was tied to a seat in his auditorium and in front of him there was a video playing of dogs who wailed and moaned as they were injected with a drug willfully. “I see you are awake.. how about an experiment on you just like your company does on the dogs.” — the man.

Archana was able to write down the pattern in terms of dots and dashes. It was, ...-- ---.. .---- ----. -.- .-

Which translated to 3819KA. What could it mean?, Archana thought to herself.

“Could 3819 be killer’s car number. But what is KA?” — Amit

“Or it could be his address” — Archana

It baffled Archana and Amit as they tried to figure out what it meant.

“Ahhhhh..”, screamed Kapil in agony as the man injected him with a drug. “Please stop.. what do you want.. who are you.. why you doing this to me?” — Kapil

“I am your Karma. The result of your evildoing. And you shall be punished.” — the man

“Please take my money.. whatever you want.. just spare me”, begged Kapil

“Your money.. you think you can buy me off just like Mrs. Kashyap or Kunal, the CPCSEA officer who cleared your license. Tell me how much money you gained from your investors in the pretext of drug testing on animals. I am aware that big companies, institutions grant a lum sum for the pharmaceuticals who test drugs on animals.” — the man

“How do you know about all this? Who are you?” — Kapil

“You know me.. I am the man who pleaded before you.. before the police, the court, the entire system to stop this massacre of animals in the name of research. But no one took me seriously. You tried to shut me off through Mrs. Kashyap, she threatened to fire me.. but I couldn’t be stopped. And now here we are.” — the man

Archana and Amit discussed over and over as to what could “3819KA” mean. Then Amit remembered something, he went to Dr. Murthy’s house and he saw a photo frame of a news clipping whose title was “Limitations of Animal Studies for Predicting Toxicity in Clinical Trials: Is it Time to Rethink Our Current Approach?” and it was dated 3–8–19. It all clicked.

“The code in “3819KA”, had to be about that date.” — Amit

“But what does it have to do with the killer?” — Archana

“Maybe he attended the seminar” — Amit. With that he immediately contacted the organiser of the conference and asked him list of attendees.

“We still don’t know what KA means?” — Archana

“I have got the list.. there were about 34 people who attended this conference. And I am checking their photo ids as issued by the organiser. And one of them was our killer. Let me see.. Oh god..”, Amit was stunned for a second.

“And here we are”, the man removed his mask to reveal his identity.

“Gaurav!”, Kapil was shocked.

“You.. so you killed Bunty, Parvati and Murthy..” — Kapil

“Yes.. they deserved that as much as you. Each one of you was blinded by money. Someone needed to stop you all. So let me finish what I started. This ends with you.” — Gaurav

“We need to find Gaurav.” — Archana

“His phone is switched off. Last known location was his home. What do we do.. how we find him. He must have fled the city” — Amit

“No.. I know where he is.. did you remember when we met Praveen Singh, Nexus’s employee regarding questioning of the illegal purchase of dog, he had a briefcase which had initials — KA. It meant Kapil Agarwal. The briefcase belonged to Kapil. I think Murthy warned us about Kapil.” — Archana

Gaurav pulled a gun at Kapil. “Any last words?”, said he

“Please.. dont do this..” pleaded Kapil

“Kaalo asmi loka kshaya kritpraviddho. It means, Now I have become death, the destroyer of worlds.The famous words as remembered by Robert Oppenheimer from Bhagvad Gita after the first atomic bomb was dropped…”, Gaurav said.

And with that shots are heard. Gaurav drops to the floor. Kapil sees that Archana has shot him.

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