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“Post-mortem report has come, madam. Viscera report has also come,” said ASI Achche Lal diffidently. “It is showing natural causes only.”

“But then what have you been investigating, Achche Lal ji? And arresting people also!” Tara said.

“Investigations have revealed only theft, but no murder. In fact, ACP saheb has closed the murder enquiry. That is why, when I heard that the boys were coming to meet you, I thought I’d also come along. Case is officially closed, so we can discuss freely,” he repeated

“You have released Salman, I hope?” Tara asked.

“Theft case is still there, madam. It’s not just the mutton, no? He stole important documents also,” Achche Lal seemed embarrassed. “But his mother had come to the station. I have informed her that it is nothing serious and she should find a lawyer and have his bail application filed.”

“You could have let him go without any further entanglements,” Tara said quietly. “Anyway, what will you have – green tea, coffee?”

“Anything, madam,” said ASI Achche Lal.

“Nothing!” said Habib

“Coffee?” said Jamal

A smile flickered across her face: “Shall I just ask for coffee?”

Habib had hesitatingly called that morning to ask if they could come and see her to discuss the case. “Have there been more arrests?” Tara had asked, and had been assured that that wasn’t the case. She had agreed to see them in her home office.

She rose now to ask someone in the kitchen for coffee. Habib regarded the titles on the bookshelves. Jamal gazed at the strange painting behind her desk.

The coffee tray arrived soon with coffee in a French press, four ceramic mugs, a milk pot and a sugar bowl on the side. The men watched patiently as Tara poured coffee, and then asked each one of them if they wanted milk and sugar.

“Madam, what is your full name?” ASI Achche Lal asked as he reached for his cup.

“Tara Azad,” she said. “Stir it – so what did the two reports say, exactly?”

ASI Achche Lal put his coffee down and took his notebook out. “I spoke to the doctor also when I went to get the reports. She said that he had collapsed and fallen on the counter, and hit his head on the heavy steam iron. Then, because of his fall, the whole counter crashed to the floor, together with the steam iron, and Rahman miyan himself, and he probably hit his head a second time on the iron. There were several deep cuts, and a lot of bleeding also, but that was not the cause of death. In fact, she said that there was some internal bleeding also, but it wasn’t that serious and again it wasn’t the cause of death.”

“There was so much blood probably because he took Ecosprin, blood thinning medicine for his heart. I checked at his home, when I heard about the excessive bleeding in the post mortem report,” said Habib proudly.

“Waah, Habib. You think of everything,” Tara said. Habib smiled broadly.

“Detective Habibi is the best,” Jamal patted him affectionately.

“But how did Rahman miyan die then?”

“Madam, the doctor said that reports shows that he had some lung infection. There was a patch on the lungs. He also had a problem of shortness of breath.”

“It is called Dyspnea…” added Habib

“Then he was diabetic also, madam. Normally he was very careful. But the last few days his Mrs was not at home, so he had been eating a little greasy food. Viscera report shows very high blood acid levels, sugar levels and key…ketones also,” Achche Lal checked his notes. “His lung infection and all this bad food caused diabetic keto-acid-osis.”

Jamal, Habib and Tara simultaneously Googled diabetic ketoacidosis. “Serious diabetic complication, where there is excess blood acid, triggered by infection in the body.”

“Jamal bhai, this is why we tell you to be careful,” said Habib.

“The doctor told me that he had an infection, then he had sugar and that led to this condition. He went into a coma and passed away after a few hours,” Achche Lal had been thorough.

“So he fell unconscious, and then lay in a coma all night?” asked Jamal “Probably when Salman went in he was actually still alive. If Salman had attended to him…”

“According to the post mortem report, death occurred early in the morning. Whereas he must have slipped into a coma around midnight,” Achche Lal said.

Everyone sipped coffee in silence.

“But why did he have sugar? He was always so careful,” asked Tara suddenly.

“No, we don’t know that he had actual sugar. It could have been his infection, injury or stress even, caused by Rana and Kanwal,” said Jamal.

“Jamal bhai, the report mentions high sugar levels. I think he was actually fed meetha. I also think we know what happened, don’t we?” Habib looked earnestly at everyone present.

Tara nodded. “I think we do know what happened. Achche Lal ji, can we not have a meeting with all the suspects?”

“But case is closed, madam. How can we direct everyone to assemble? Bulbhaddar babu will not come; anyway he is too busy. If he doesn’t come, Kanwal and Nirmal will also not come, and nor will Shambhu,” Achche Lal said

“At least we can have the others?” Habib pleaded

“Achche Lal ji, were you able to test the contents of the pateela that you seized from the madarsa? asked Tara.

“Madam, they finished the whole pateela of mutton. Then washed it clean. What was there to test?”

“Did you test the bowl Rahman miyan had eaten in? I think you’d have found remnants of chashni in it.”


As they stepped out, Jamal and Habib teased Achche Lal: “You wanted to know her religion, didn’t you? That is why you wanted to know her surname.”

“Arre, no! I just wanted to know her full name.”

“But it is true. There was nothing in the house to indicate anything,” said Habib

“There were Tibetan prayer flags draped around the staircase and there was Rumi in the bookcase,” laughed Jamal.

“There was lots of detective fiction too,” said Habib.

“She was asking about Rahman miyan’s bowl. I didn’t want to cut her off when she was talking but the bowl had also crashed to the floor. We found some broken china and some thick shorba on the floor. Who was going to scrape that for testing?” Achche Lal sounded a little aggrieved.

“Achche uncle, even without the tests, it’s clear that Rahman miyan was given sugar. Tara ma’am and I both know what has happened. Please get everyone to assemble at Laadley’s shop?” Habib pressed again.


ACP saheb had clasped his hands together and was pressing the back of his left palm against his right cheek in a new stretching pose. “So it was natural death only. Bechaare Balabhadra babu was right. He was saying it must be some illness.”

“He was repeatedly asking us to close the investigations before the big day, sir. With God’s blessings, at least the enquiry is over in time. We were able to fulfil our duty,” said Constable Awdhesh Rana.

“There is one small thing though. Rahman died of some diabetic complication. Jamal ordered a pateela full of chashni on the same day. We have closed this enquiry because post mortem is showing natural death, but in future you keep an eye on those two. We cannot rule out broader conspiracy.”

To be continued…

Shahrukh Alam has been trying to write a murder mystery for a very long time. She has written versions of this story since 2013 and The Wire has published one such version earlier. She is hopeful that she’ll deliver a complete mystery this time. 🤞🏻

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