By  Neel Anil Panicker

“You put me into this mess. Now you better clean it or I will spill the beans to the police.”

‘And risk being put behind bars for the rest of your life. Would that be ok, my dear father in law?’

Prakasham Muthuswamy turned back and looked long and hard at the young man seated across the table, who was inhaling deep a stick of King’s Regular.

Ultimately, revulsion took over and he had to look away. Two sparrows perched on a twig outside cooed to one another. A gust of wind, and voila! They were gone, flapping their tender wings and taking to the skies.

If wished life were that easy and all problems simply flew off in a jiffy, simply fading away into oblivion.

He leaned forward and spoke, his voice, this time, much softer and conciliatory, “Listen, my dear son in law, I think it is the best of our interests to help ourselves come out of this situation.”

Rajesh Yadav smiled. Life had helped identify him the vile creatures among homosapiens.

The moment he had known about his father-in-law he knew he was dealing with one such specimen.

He reclined his back against the mahagony chair and replied, ‘Good, I see that you see the light of reason. So, let’s figure out the best way we can do to get out this ‘situation’. To begin with, let’s see, what have the police against us?’

“Ah! That’s easy, my dear son in law…”

‘Hold on, it’s Rajesh. You can call me that. Now that we aren’t in-laws at all, right?’

The elderly man, though momentarily zapped, recovered quickly to honour his fresh as a daisy “ex-son in law” with an indulgent smile. He liked dealing with devils anyway.

“Ok, Rajesh, two murders have happened in the span of a week. First Anjali, my only child, was murdered and then, my dear wife Lekhsmi. This makes us__ you as my only child’s husband of less than a year, and me as the husband of my wife of thirty five years prime suspects.”

The young IAS officer stabbed his cigarette butt into the steel ashtray and remarked, ‘A small correction there. Your only daughter, not your only child, Mr Prakasham’.

Prakasham looked at the crooked young man who was smiling that crooked smile that

he knew was synonymous of all crooks___whether they come from the gutters or whether they are bred in proper English medium schools and colleges, and are even top ranking IAS officers, as this man most certainly was.

Mindful of the villainous ways of his recently  bereaved son in law and only too aware of the damage that he could wreck, Prakasham thought it best to strike a placatory note.

“Leave all those matters aside, Rajesh. What we need to figure out is how bad is the situation and what links, if any, do the police have to pin these murders to us.”

‘See, they found Anjali’s body parts scattered and placed in roadside bins all over the city precincts. That’s bad. That’s too bad. That shouldn’t have happened. You should have left it to me. I could have made it disappear, thrown it off a cliff into the Western ghats. No one would have …’

“I know, I know Rajesh. That was a mistake. Priya had warned me so. She said…”

‘What? Priya knows…?’

His voice, a raised hiss, Rajesh banged his fists onto the table.

Quite a few heads turned around from the surrounding tables.

“Pipe down Rajesh. And for God’s sake keep your voice low. This is the India International Cultural Centre. This is no place for any theatrics. Yes, she knows. So what? Let’s move on and figure out how best to control the damage.”

Rajesh lit yet another cigarette and inhaled deeply. A few seconds later and much quietened, he spoke, ‘And Mrs Lelkshmi, you seem to be excelling at committing one fiasco over another, Prakasham?’

“Well, I spoke to DGP Alphonso. He says the Forensics report can pin us down. Says there’s a lot of pressure. Minister Chandy is in Dubai. Tried reaching him; he’s gone incommunicado. His Secretary says it’s some mega million dollar oil deal. Is expected back in a couple of days. Maybe more.”

 ‘And that leaves us with no help in extinguishing the raging fires, right?

“Well, not exactly, I can still make us come clean from all this, Rajesh.”

Rajesh stared at ex-Father in law for a long time before getting up from his chair.

‘You do that, and do that fast. Or, remember, we’ll all soon turn into exces’.



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