A young Swati, 18, and her family have recently moved to the beautiful village of Sundarpur. When they arrived home from the Maha-arti performed by the village head Rajababu, they found a very anxious Vimala, their housekeeper and her daughter, Kamala, who is close to Swati’s age and always comes to chat with Swati, waiting for them.

The newly appointed Inspector and Swati’s father, Mr. Prabhakaran, and enquired, “What happened?”

She says tearfully that, “Teacher Didi’s father is missing. He was nowhere to be located despite our best efforts to find him. She also requested assistance from the police, but they are blaming her instead. Now, only you can help her, Sahib. Their family has done so much for us poor people.”

“Ok, I will go with you.” says the inspector, and they leave for the police station.

Swati and her mother were horrified by this information. Swati stared at Kamala, who gestured to take her inside so that they could talk. Swat had always aspired to be like her father. Once inside, Swati commanded, “Now, tell me everything.”

Kamala replied, “As you have heard, Teacher Didi’s father, Mr. Mahipal, has been missing since yesterday. My mother and I were with her the whole time while looking for him. She claimed that had been concerned about something for a few days, but whenever she questioned him, he remained silent and now he’s missing. She is suspecting something very wrong might have happened to him.”

“Why are the police blaming them instead?” Swati enquired.

“It’s because, the money given by the government for the new school building is also gone, so everybody is concluding that he is the thief.”

Swati has heard about Mr. Mahipal and his family; although they are not rich, they have always helped everyone within their capacity. That’s why the villagers have chosen him to oversee the things related to the new school building for the betterment of the village kids. He was also called the village’s well-wisher, frequently outdoing the village chief’s own accomplishments.

Later, when Swati questioned her father regarding the incident, and he simply stated that, although he helped the teacher file her complaint, everything points towards Mr. Mahipal only.

Hence, she sneaked out of her house with Kamala at night and went to the only school in the village, in order to obtain more understanding. There, she saw that the cops had taped off the area beforehand. She entered to search for clues. When she proceeded to the spot where Kamala had indicated the money was stored, she discovered that the cupboard’s lock was shattered by a stone thrown nearby. Everything else remained as it is. The study table, however, has been pushed back a little from its original position, and the metal cupboard has a visible dent on one of its sides, which shouldn’t be there as it was a new one.

Swati realised, “Something is not right; if Mahipal Kaka was in charge, then why would he break the lock? He can simply open it with the keys, and why would he leave his family here if he wanted to run away with the money?” We have to look everywhere more thoroughly. I believe someone has purposefully sought to destroy the evidence, to put the whole blame on Kaka.”

They spent some time searching the jungle behind the school before noticing that some branches and shrubs, that had been snapped close to the cliff above the river.

“Where does this river flow?”, Swati questioned Kamala.

“Towards the city.”, she retorted.

Swati quickly returned to her father and told him everything after that. At first, he became quite upset and scared for her safety, but after calming down, he informed her that although his colleagues were least interested in thinking otherwise, they still investigated it and found that a villager’s two bulls went astray the night before and ran into the jungle. A lot of struggle ensues in taming them, which may be why the bushes next to the cliff were scrambeled. Nonetheless, he has still requested every hospital in the city to report if they have seen an unidentified battered patient or a dead body recently. He is still anticipating their response. As for the room, that’s not enough to prove anything, as it is a rusty old building. Also, they didn’t find any fingerprints there, which is rather strange.

The next morning brought news from a city hospital that they do have an unidentified patient who has been in coma for two days. Swati also went there with other villagers and teacher Didi, who supports Mr. Mahipal, to learn more about the case. To everybody’s relief, the person was indeed Mahipal Kaka, but since he was unconscious, nothing could be asked of him, so the police allowed only his family to go near him. Swati felt sorry after hearing about his battered condition from others.

Now that they have finally found the missing person, the question still remains: is he really the culprit? If not, then who? Did someone really try to kill him or was it just an accident that happened while he was running away? Where’s the stolen money?       

 To be continued….