The Crime Scene
20th April, 08:45 PM
Detective Mayur Varma entered the living room of the Pragati Vihar mansion, where Rithika Menon had been murdered in her bedroom.
The Victim’s brother-in-law, Tarun, ushered everyone upstairs towards the bedroom.
Rithika Menon lay on the floor in a pool of blood with a corn knife stuck in the back of her neck. The deep wound must've caused her death. Her chest touched the vinyl floor with her face turned to one side. The blood had soaked her night suit--pale orange pajamas and a white shirt. Her wide-opened mouth, with her teeth--white and neatly arranged--, glistened in the fluorescent light. Her half-closed small eyes appeared scared. She must've gone through enormous pain before she succumbed to the injury. There was no sign of head or bodily injury, which indicated the murderer aided her to collapse on the floor after stabbing the back of her neck. Her wristwatch still worked and showed the time as a quarter to nine. The blood had soaked her well-cut long black hair and it added to the horror of the scene. Dried blood oozed out from her button nose.
Mayur looked around the room. The spacious bedroom measured around 25x25 feet. Two cots joined together, sat beside the window. A flower-patterned, sky-blue bed sheet covered the spring mattresses on the cots. A gentle breeze entered through the windows. A computer sat on a teakwood computer stand with its screen lit with a screen saver—an USA ranch with a rising Sun. The speakers attached to it played smooth jazz at a low volume.
A showcase, engraved in the wall, contained various wooden animals and plastic flower artifacts. The middle of the showcase contained a framed marriage photograph of Rithika Menon standing beside her husband. A wooden bookshelf stood below the showcase and it contained about two dozen fictional books—sci-fi and romance genres.
A cell phone, perhaps belonging to Rithika, lay on the floor beside her.
The room had three doors; a communicating door to another bedroom, a second one leading to the corridor, and a third one that led to the balcony. The dark blue creeper patterned curtains covered all the doors and windows.
Tarun introduced his girlfriend, Chitra Gokhale, to Mayur.
"Don’t touch anything until the forensic team arrives and do their job." Mayur shifted his gaze towards two other women. "May I know about you both?"
The women looked at Tarun Menon with their brows pulled together.
Tarun pointed his finger towards a younger woman, who seemed to be in her mid-thirties. "This is Laxmi Nirmal, our cook."
Laxmi bowed her head slightly.
"And," Tarun looked at the other woman who appeared to be in her mid-forties, "this is Parvathi Kalyan, the housemaid."
Parvathi bowed her head.
"How long have you both been working here?” Mayur asked.
"Um…for almost seven years," Laxmi said.
Mayur cleared his throat. He had learned enough about the place and the people around. He should enquire about the case details next. "Now, can I know exactly what happened and who found out first that Rithika was murdered?" He turned to Tarun. "I would like to hear from you first."
Tarun switched his gaze between his girlfriend, Chitra, and Mayur. He said: "I think it was around seven o'clock this evening when Chitra and I were playing chess in our bedroom. We heard a loud scream from this room. At first, I didn't think it was serious and I continued to concentrate on the game. I knew Rithika often made such noises whenever she saw a lizard or a cockroach.
A few seconds later, I heard her scream for the second time and this time it was loud and scary. I thought something must've gone wrong. Though I expected Sampath would be there with Rithika and he would address the matter, it was Chitra who rose to her feet. She said Rithika might be in trouble as her scream sounded somewhat unusual.
She immediately told me to check what the matter was. We walked towards the communicating door which led to Rithika's bedroom and unbolted it. Unfortunately, it was locked from the other side. I started calling out to Sampath and Rithika but there was no response. I knocked on the door fiercely and then told Chitra to check the other door of Rithika's room which led to the corridor.
I started thrashing the door with my shoulder until it broke open. When I entered this room, Rithika was lying on the floor in a pool of blood."
Tarun was breathing heavily and his eyes were wide open.
"What happened next?" asked Mayur.
"I was shocked to see Rithika lay on the floor and couldn’t think of what to do next. I heard the maid and the cook calling out to Rithika and knocking on the door. Perhaps, they too had heard Rithika screaming. Chitra returned and she screamed after seeing Rithika in a pool of blood. She went and opened the door for the maid and cook."
"From where did you think the murderer had entered the bedroom?" Prakash asked.
"Well," said Tarun. "There was only one way left for the perpetrator to enter the bedroom and that was through the balcony."
"Did you go to the balcony and check to see if someone was there on the ground?" asked Mayur.
"Yes. I did. But I didn't see anyone. It was also too dark for me to locate anyone."
"All right," said Mayur. "Is it usual for either Rithika or Sampath to close the doors, which led to your room and towards the corridor?"
"Well," said Tarun. "We usually close and bolt the door unless we've something to talk about. I never bothered to keep the door closed, but it was Sampath who often bolted it from the inside."
"And what about the door which led to the corridor?" Aisha asked Laxmi.
"Rithika ma'am kept this door open most of the time, sir," said Laxmi. "I often served the snacks and coffee to them and found this and the balcony doors open most of the time."