Follow Kabir on his adventures as a private investigator, with inner demons to battle.
“The umbrella barely covered my stature, and I let the rain pour over my shoulders. My head hung low and my eyes gave away silent screams through little drops of tears i tried to keep within. Letting go was hard.
The winds didn’t help my knees from shaking. Only made me cough out sneezes and shook me down to the road puddled with water. I let go of the umbrella.
It was hard letting go.”
“What happened next?” the man in the sweater asked me as he dotted down what I talked out.
The comfortable sofa I laid on was no longer as comfortable,I got up. My eyes were wet but like the man I pretended myself to be, would, I too, wiped them off with a sense of ego and self assurance that I wasn’t weak.
“Isn’t my time up today?” I asked wearing my blue leather shoes.
Doctor Raj peered at the clock kept on the short table by his side.
“Seems like.” He said, “But we have made progress.”
I smiled as an answer as i had no words to spare. And through the wooden floors and glass walls I exited my Psychiatrist’s humble abode.
I called myself a cab , through one of those apps. I knew how to drive but didn’t prefer to do the same.
It’s funny how it began to rain when I travelled to my apartment , held 29 minutes away in Delhi’s Ashok Vihar. Funny not so to make me laugh, funny as the irony it held in my life.
The universe always had a weird way of connecting with me, not always cute as mostly eerie.
But pushing away my memories of the past i tried to force my mind to the thoughts of my ambiguous future. The cases that waited for me, the people close to me, who might want to hurt me, the people who I pushed away, who wanted to give a fuck. How messed up had i made life? Did i not want peace? Did only darkness inspire me and only the depth of it invited me?
At home my mind needed be numbed. I needed peace temporarily. Beer wouldn’t help. I needed the big guys. The only therapy that was worth emptying my pockets for.
I helped myself to my first glass of scotch. It held me company among the empty yet clustered small room my apartment provided. Staring at the painting I started gulping down my poison. It’s strange how some things just catch your sight, and it’s then harder to move your eyes from them. These things which seem so ordinary and for a matter of fact , are. Is it your eyes which have something special or your mind finds it’s spices in the matter of that ordinary thing.
This was a simple painting of a bearded man who wore a cap on his head, smiling madly while he held a dog close to his chest. The dog looks down while the man stares right through me, smiling, mocking me, him having more lives around him than me.
But I didn’t feel bad. I smiled back, sipping my scotch.
There were two things at my place, away from the mess that i had created . That painting and a rusty silver chain pocket watch. It’s heads stuck at quarter to eight.
Wrapped around my broken guitar’s headstock. A guitar I could never learn how to play, kept near the fridge since years.
I grew up in Mumbai to a very rich family, was sent to Delhi at the age of 12. Studied over here and completed my graduation from Delhi University 5 years back. Now I am a 28 year old bachelor living alone in an apartment , away from all family ties. That is how my life can be summed up. But here’s the weird part. I am comfortable in my life. Broke but comfortable.
With a degree in bachelor of economics, I chose my career as private investigator, or you can say a person who isn’t qualified enough to be a detective. I work cases now and then. Have successfully solved quite a few and have two pending, which I aim to finish by the end of this month and collect my genuine 15k from both.
“Yeah.” , I picked up the anonymous call, three pegs down, many to go.
“Did you find out?” asked the concerned voice.
“Well? When can I expect the answer from you?”
“Just please try to hurry ! I need to make a decision, and isn’t this what I pay you f”
I kept the phone.
I don’t take calls on Tuesdays, and if I do, then no matter if it’s my client or the president, I talk on my terms.
Yeah i knew i had two pending cases, and both had been extended out of their promised dates but perfection needs time. And in any way, I had informed both the parties of the time it would take me to do my work, but they wanted it to be quick. Every client does. People don’t want to spend much time on important things these days. These days it’s always about spending on the present.
Another glass of scotch awaited me as I returned from the call. Placing myself back on the sofa, my lips back to my drink and my eyes back at the painting. Staring at the happy man who had someone.
The sun was above our head, but it didn’t shine, it stood above us as bleak as a bright moon.The grass was our ground and we had held it with our backs against it, looking up at the clouds that were shaped as dogs .
Grass was a little wet but I didn’t mind it, neither did she. I felt relieved, felt that i belonged there , maybe that’s what happiness felt like.
I could feel her hands in mine, and on looking at her, by my side, I noticed the bleak sun’s shine had blinded me to her face. But her giggles were still heard. Her sweet voice. My little girl.
I tried my best to watch past the brightness. I needed to see her face. I needed to know I hadn’t forgotten her smile. In the struggle of gazing past the light, I stood up on my feet. It was then when it started raining. She disappeared, the garden faded, the sky flew away and the sun was not anywhere to be found.
The dream had come to an end.
Breathing heavily I helped myself to the glass of water I had kept on the side of the sofa I had crashed at . It was empty. Just some drops of scotch retained in it.
My mind was still conflicted with the thought of moving. I was in a terrible hangover, at 4 in the morning. I had huge sips of water from the bottle that laid inside the refrigerator. I knew I was awake now, and sleeping was going to be a troublesome task.
But I had to see her, had to remember her smile, I couldn’t let myself forget her. I forced myself back on the sofa, took a pillow to hug tightly as I slept. Waiting for sleep , waiting to dream of her again. Still in a terrible hangover, I shut my eyes.
“Hello, I had booked a cab with you.”
“Yes sir, where do I pick you up?” the cab driver replied.
And I informed him of my address.
It was time for me to get started on work. I was working on two cases. Today I was to follow a certain someone from somewhere to somewhere else. This case was given to me by Mr. Manu Mehta.
Mr. Mehta had a trouble in his Paradise . He was the son of a very rich businessman, aspiring writer but was forced into the family business. Did his graduation from Delhi , same as me and, had gone to London for his Masters in finance. Imagine a man of words, to be reduced to a man of petty numbers. Natural more than not, he would resort to outer sources of happiness.
And it was in London that he found his to-be wife, Ms Ruth Anderson. A waitress at Starbucks.
He used to go there when he needed some air away from the bullshit he was taught in his college. So he took his laptop , wallet and Jacket, the three things he said he would never forget while going out, to Starbucks.
Taking off his Jacket he used to write on his Laptop, stories ,quotes, poems, anything but numbers and graphs.
And Ms. Ruth had her eyes on him since quite a while, as she told him, but only approached him on 21st of November 2012, getting him a coffee he didn’t order for. Seating herself besides him, being more gutsy than other women he had met in his life. Admiring his Jacket is how she started the conversation, and then after her shift ended, he took her to St. James park and dedicated one of his old poems from his laptop to her. They kissed for the first time there.
Manu fell for everything Ruth had, and Ruth fell for the three things Manu always carried with himself when he went out.
But recently (2016) , Mr. Mehta approached me , he suspected her wife was cheating on him with someone. His theory was based on a message he saw on her wife’s phone from an unknown number . She had gone to the washroom and left her phone on the table while they were in the middle of dinner at their mansion.
The message said ‘Yesterday night was fun, let’s do that again soon’.
And when Manu checked her phone again the next morning, the message was no longer there, neither was the number. So he regretted not taking the number the night before. And so he needed my help.
“Any domestic conflicts?” I had asked him when he had come to me for the job.
He shook his head.
“Any reason she might be unhappy.”
He looked up at me, his eyes wet, “I gave her everything she ever wanted, loved her with all I had, gave her a restaurant in her own name..” his voice trailed , “But.. but I can’t have kids. I’m infertile. And she doesn’t want to adopt. And” He laughed with tears in his eyes “And that must be enough to make her forget everything else.”
“I didn’t mean to infer that Mr. Mehta.” I said. “Don’t worry I will find out what is going on.”
And here I was, on my way to ‘Baiser de goût’ which was the restaurant owned by Ms. Ruth. It was french for ‘The kiss of taste’.
Lucky for me I was given the spare key by Mr. Manu , for the backside entry to the restaurant. It was 7.30 in the morning, the restaurant opened at 10. But the staff arrived at 8.45 AM. I had less than an hour and 15 minutes to figure things out.
I made my way past the alley, which was cluttered with trash cans and a few dogs . Soon I reached the back entry of the restaurant. There was just one door fit in the wall along with a sliding window which was accompanied by the curtain. As told to me by Mr. Manu, this door was the direct entry to Ruth’s office . And beyond her office were the kitchen , the hallway and the restaurant’s seating area.
It had been months since he had been to the restaurant, the business kept him busy. He could barely reach home at 9 for dinner every night.
So I took out the keys and attempted to open it, but key seemed that it didn’t belong there. Either Mr. Manu had given me wrong keys or the locks of the door had been changed . Nonetheless I had to gain access inside her office. And I couldn’t afford it to look like I had broken in after I was done.
I placed my hand on the door , then my ear. The material felt like plastic, more like Poly Vinyl Chloride. That is a comparitively cheaper material than what the Mehta’s could spend on. The window on the other hand the window was an aluminium sliding window, which is a high end window.
There was no rust on the aluminIum parts, but a little bit of corrosion. The door somehow had no scratches or marks or patches. It seemed brand new.
Maybe not just the locks had been changed, but the entire door had been replaced.
Targeting the window as my only plan of entry, I took off my blue bag from my back . It was time to take some tools out. What I needed was a flat head screwdriver, an air wedge and a flat bar.
I put the flat bar in between the window pane and the area where it’s look would have stood. Gathering some area, I put the air wedge in between the little area that I had opened. Now the trick was to pump up the air wedge, while I put the screwdriver, above the flat bar and push it simultaneously, after every pump. So the three tools stood in line. The screwdriver, followed by the flat bar and then the air wedge, all stuck in the small gap i had created.
With every pump I pulled the screw driver up against the gap , attempting to hit the lock. And within the next 4 pumps I heard a pop as the window gave way , sliding to its left.
The lock was left unharmed , I had gained access and now was left with an hour to search inside and leave unnoticed.
Past the curtains a rustic smell welcomed me, strange for a 5 star restaurant to give away that smell. I snooped around the room which contained a desk , a desktop on it and an elegant wooden chair besides the table. The wall was painted sea blue, the ceiling seemed to be painted some shade of purple. The table was sorted. No papers lying around in blunder, no pens or pencils kept carelessly.
The desktop pc was shining bright as if cleaned just last night. It was a pleasant change as compared to the apartment that held me in my nights.
The wall had three frames hung to it, one acknowledging the restaurant as one of the best in the city by the food critic ‘Jasvin eats’, a frame of Mrs. and Mr. mittal hand in hand and another frame of a famous hussain painting of a horse. A copy of-course.
All that I could divert my attention to were the two drawers on the wooden table. Thankfully neither was locked. Unfortunately both were empty.
I looked around , snooped for a little longer till my eyes caught the dimly lit corner of the room, where the paint had worn off.
I went closer to it, sat down on my knees and my nose could smell ash from over there. A fire had taken place some time back it seemed, maybe a few days back even.
Getting up, I went away from the walls to stand at the centre of the room. The room as a whole felt a little funny. Something wasn’t right. And that’s when it hit me. The furniture , as well as the door of this room was all brand new, bought maybe just a few weeks or days back. Not just that but the paint had been redone a few month back too, not so carefully as to hide the corner that smelled of ash.
There had been a fire sometime back in this very room, maybe in this restaurant.