“So Mrs. Mehra, can you tell us what happened exactly?” The balding man before her asked.
Eva was seated in a small room with a wooden table and two chairs; one on which she was sitting and the other one opposite her on which this irritating officer was seated.
“Officer Roy! This is like the tenth time I’m being asked the same question! Why? I’m not going to tell you now. You can ask the previous officers who had questioned me in the last 7 days…” Eva yelled.
“Relax Mrs. Mehra. This is the first and last time from my side that you would be asked. I have been assigned the investigating Officer in this case, you see. So it’s imperative for me to get a first-hand count from the only apparent eye witness. So please co-operate, one last time. It’s a sincere request.”
The only thing being it did not sound sincere at all, coming from this man. A receding hairline, potbellied stomach, and loose baggy clothes; he did not look like an investigating officer at all. Eva gave a dramatic sigh and said, “Alright officer. But remember this is the last time. You record all of this if you want. I feel like I’m a criminal, the way you people keep calling me anytime and asking me the same thing over and over again. It’s very difficult for me to relive all that repeatedly.”
“I’m sorry about that, but please. One last time. Promise.”
She sighed again before saying, “Okay, what do you want me to say.”
Officer Roy looked at this tall and frail looking woman in front of him and smiled. “How about you start from that morning? And I want to know all the details. Every single one.”
Eva scraped her chair backwards and went into a deep thought. She started speaking.
“Aditya was an early riser even on weekends. It was a Saturday morning and we were having breakfast. He suddenly asked me, ‘Eva, let’s go out of town for tonight. It’ll be fun. Also we couldn’t go anywhere on New Year’s. So let me make it up to you.’”
“I was very excited at the thought and I screamed in joy. “Oh wow! I so love you very much!” I told him and immediately got down to packing stuff for our impromptu stay. He had already booked a room at a resort in Karjat. In fact, he told me that he had it booked a few days before and wanted to surprise me. At around 9 am we started our journey.”
“What were you both wearing?” Officer Roy interrupted.
Eva looked perplexed at this sudden query, but she recovered herself and said, “I was wearing a teal colored jumpsuit and Aditya was wearing a cream colored t-shirt with brown cargos.” She looked at Officer Roy and said in an amused tone, “Do you even know what a jumpsuit is?”
Officer Roy was a bit annoyed with her attitude, but nevertheless he chose to not answer that. “Continue, Mrs. Mehra.”
“We were following the Google maps very carefully as it was a new area for both of us. I don’t know what went wrong, but about 2 hours later, we entered an area with dense trees on both sides and absolutely nothing else in sight. I got a bit worried and asked Aditya whether we were going in the right direction. He kept nodding in the affirmative. But after a few minutes, we kind of reached a dead end. I mean there was a road, but a car couldn’t go any further on that kind of a road. Aditya had to stop. And now we had no network as well. Going back in the reverse direction was the only thing that we could do. Just as Aditya started reversing the car, I heard a scream.
‘Aditya, did you hear that?’ I told him.
‘I heard a woman scream.’
Just then the scream came again. I was a hundred percent sure that it was some woman screaming and not anything else.
‘Now did you hear?’ I asked him.
‘You have gone crazy Eva. There’s no scream. Just the wind playing with your head. Let’s get out of here.’
But I wasn’t convinced. ‘Aditya, wait. I’m going to go and see what is that scream all about. You wait here. What if that lady needs help?’
‘Are you out of your mind, Eva? You cannot go in the woods by just hearing some imaginary scream! Look at where we are. It’s kind of creepy. And who knows that could be some ploy to rob us or something. Just leave it and let’s go.’
But I heard the shout again. I told him, ‘I’m going in there. You wait here. If I don’t come back in ten minutes, please dial 100 and get out of here.’
‘You’ve gone nuts. We really don’t need to get into this. We are here to enjoy our weekend, and let’s just do that.’ He pleaded with me. How I wished I had listened to him.”
Eva started shaking with sobs. Officer Roy handed her some tissues, “here Mrs. Mehra.” She took them and he continued, “I’m sorry that you have to relive all this. But believe me, we too want to solve this case, so that such a thing doesn’t happen to anyone else again.”
Eva calmed herself before saying, ‘I did not listen to Aditya and went in the woods in the direction of the scream. I reached there and saw a woman lying face down in a pool of blood. I screamed and screamed. I dint even bother to see if she was alive or no. I just screamed and ran back in the direction of the car. When I reached back I saw that Aditya was not there. I started yelling his name like crazy. Just then, I heard another scream. It was a man’s scream this time. And I had a gut feeling that Aditya was in danger. I was in a dilemma about what to do. So I dialed 100 and ran in the direction of the scream. I was in shock to see that Aditya, too, was lying in a pool of blood. His clothes were torn and his eyes were blank and open. He looked horrific. I just turned back on my toes, ran back to the car and with trembling hands I drove in reverse until I could manage a U turn. I came back on the main road and stopped there. I dialed 100 again and gave my location. I also called for an ambulance. I was numb with fear. And totally blank. The moment the ambulance came, I explained to them about everything that happened and passed out.”
“Next, when I opened my eyes, I was in the hospital and I have been reliving that day since then.”
Eva wiped her tears and stood up. “Can I go now, Officer?”
“Just a second, Mrs. Mehra.” He quickly called for a glass of water and gestured for her to sit down. “I just need to clarify a few things.”
As Eva had a few sips of water, he asked, “Are you sure you did not happen to notice any heavy object lying out there?”
“I don’t know, I can’t say. I was too numb to actually notice the surroundings carefully. But as far as I remember, there was nothing of that sort in the immediate vicinity.”
“Alright, Mrs. Mehra. I’ll take your word for this one.” He paused for a while before asking, “What about the woman who was murdered? Reena Shastri. Do you know her? Have you heard anything about her?”
“No officer. I have never heard that name before, nor have I seen her before.”
“I find this case really strange and intriguing. Not a single clue. No murder weapon found. Nothing from their call histories. And nothing significant from your house as well.”
He began pacing in the small room, and after sometime, he smiled at her and said, “That’ll be all, Mrs. Mehra. You can go now. We’ll get in touch with you when we find something.”
“Thank you Officer,” she said and left.
Exactly a month later, there was a knock at Eva’s plush fourth floor flat in suburban Mumbai. She opened the door to find a frazzled looking Officer Roy.
She almost laughed at his state but managed to disguise it in a cough. “Did you find out who murdered my husband?” She asked even before he entered the house.
Officer Roy did not answer her question, but rather stepped inside the foyer, took his time to peruse his surroundings and went and sat on the plush sofa in the living room.
“Leaving for somewhere?” he asked after noticing two large suitcases near the dining table.
“Yes, I’m going to live with my parents in Pune. I can’t live here anymore. This place haunts me.” She said sadly.
“Hmm…” came the reply. He just sat there staring into space.
Eva got a bit nervous at this behavior of his and said, “What is it officer? Please enlighten me.”
Officer Roy appeared unfazed. He scratched his almost bald head before asking, “How did you do it, Mrs. Mehra?”
Eva was flabbergasted at the question thrown at her. “What are you insinuating?”
“You very well know what I’m asking you, woman.” He now stood and walked the few steps to stand face to face with her. He was short and reached until her shoulders.
She smirked down at him and said, “Then I guess you will never know the answer to that, officer.”
“You are really smart, Mrs. Mehra. But even the smartest of people make mistakes that ends their good fortune.”
All color drained off her face. She took a step back to process this. She continued with her charade, “I really don’t understand what you are talking about.”
“Well then, let me enlighten you.” He continued. “You remember, you were asked to go through the events of that morning almost eight to ten times before I finally questioned you?”
She nodded in the affirmative.
“So I happened to go through all the recordings a few days back. And I found my clues in them.”
Eva pretended to be unfazed, although her heart was pounding in her chest. She couldn’t imagine making any mistake. Her plan simply couldn’t fail.
He continued, “As I said, making you repeat everything again and again was my idea, because you were my prime suspect right from day 1. So in one of the recordings that you gave to my colleague, you said you saw a heavy wooden rod lying a few feet away. And in another one you said, there was an axe like object lying a few feet away. Whereas in all others you said that you did not see anything else, or rather you were so much in shock that you failed to notice if there was anything else.”
“So?” questioned Eva, “That doesn’t mean anything. I must have said something because I was still under trauma, rather I still am.”
“Agreed, Mrs. Mehra. But you also lied about knowing Reena Shastri. You said you did not know her. Whereas she’s your husband’s childhood friend and you both are friends on Facebook.”
“But I have over a thousand friends on Facebook, that doesn’t mean I know her personally. I don’t even remember adding her!” She said in exasperation.
Officer Roy smiled. His plan was working. He just had to rile her up somehow, so that she would speak up. This was the correct time to throw his trump card. “So, don’t tell me that you did not know that Aditya and Reena were college sweethearts?”
Eva was stumped. She did not know what to say. How could this man know all of this? She couldn’t get intimidated by him. She had to stay calm.
“I know they weren’t in touch on their usual cell numbers. They had separate ones. And we found out about these numbers from your call records. Thank goodness, I took the pains to go through them again. There’s a missed call on your phone from one of these numbers, which I assume you must have done when Aditya wasn’t around. Now that, Mrs. Mehra was a huge mistake. Didn’t you know that all these records can be tracked? So we tracked the phone and we found it in a truck near Karjat along with another phone which I think was Reena’s.”
Eva was speechless. She recovered herself after a few seconds. “You are really very sharp, Officer Roy. I dint think that you would gather so much information so quickly. But still this doesn’t prove anything and I’m as free a woman as I was before the moment you walked in that door. And I’m also a widow mourning her husband’s untimely death. So, I suggest you leave and only come back with some concrete evidence.”
Officer Roy was stumped by this woman’s confidence. She did not show even an ounce of remorse for the great crime that she had committed. And sadly, he had no proof for that.
“So will you tell me how did you do it, Mrs. Mehra? Just for my knowledge.” He thought of giving it one last try.
“In your dreams, officer.” She smiled and went near the door, left it open and gestured for him to leave.
He sighed as he walked past her, gave her one last look before saying, “Enjoy your freedom till it lasts, Mrs. Mehra.”
With that Eva banged the door shut and sank down on her knees, tears pooling in her eyes. She wasn’t a bad woman. No. But she was made to do what she did otherwise she would have been dead by now. But no one would understand her sentiments. This secret would be buried in the recesses of her heart until she is lit on the funeral pyre.
She freshened up and finished packing a few other things that remained. She swore to never return to this damned place and start a new life in another city.
She sat in the hired cab and breathed a sigh of relief. She closed her eyes to take a quick nap and everything that happened in the last two months flashed before her eyes.
The sharing of secret calls and messages by Aditya, her rising suspicions, his late nights, the missed new year’s eve, her constant arguments with him, her finding another cell phone, going through all those messages exchanged by Reena and Aditya, the sickening feeling that she would get every time he would touch her, the lie of their three year marriage, her finding out Aditya and Reena’s intention about killing her, the trip that was supposed to be the end for her, her following them to the location where her murder was planned, her plans to turn the table around, the car stopping at the destined place, the scream, her insisting to follow the sound, her finding Reena there with a wooden rod in her hand, her stabbing Reena in the neck with a syringe loaded with potassium chloride, Reena’s instant death, her hitting Reena on the head with the rod, screaming again and again to get Aditya’s attention, hiding behind a tree, Aditya’s shocked expression in seeing Reena dead, her stabbing him in the neck from behind with another syringe loaded with potassium chloride, his instant death, then hitting him on the head with the same rod, tearing his clothes, burying the rod, the needles and syringes at the site where they were going to bury her, taking their alternate phones from their pockets, breaking them, running back to the car, dialing 100, back to the main road, calling the ambulance, throwing the broken phones in a truck that had stopped by to ask her well-being, the arrival of the ambulance, her fake passing out.
She woke up with a start and beads of sweat rolled down her face in spite of sitting in an air conditioned cab. She was gasping for breath.
“Are you alright, ma’am?” The driver asked.
She had a few sips of water from the bottle that she was carrying, “Yes, I’m fine now.” She said.
Her worst nightmare was over. She could have been a dead woman if not for her instincts. Her instincts to go through Aditya’s phone. To follow him to the woods and hear them planning her murder and burial. Her instincts saved her. She was not a bad woman. It was only her fight for survival.
Why did he marry her if he loved Reena so much? Just because she was rich? How much she hated them both. But they were in hell now. It didn’t matter anymore.
Was she a bad woman, was she not? Was she right, or was she not? She had loved him and all she got was betrayal. Those were the last things on her mind, when she again dozed off.
She woke up again to the shrill sound of her phone ringing. It was her mom. She smiled in relief. She told her that she would be reaching home soon. She took in the passing view and looked forward to starting over again. She was determined to put her past behind her and move on.
She wanted to enjoy her freedom. For now.