Diary of Sub Inspector Nagaraj, Electronics City Police Station
30th January 2018, Monday
For the past three days, I have been searching for that last person in the group photo I found in Vishal Mishra’s house. I asked Vishal’s family first. His parents had no clue about the person. Vishal was a bachelor, so there wasn’t anyone close to him. Then the next stop was the hospital where three of the dead doctors worked. But, unfortunately, nobody recognized the photo there as well. I hope this last fellow is not already dead. Maybe he is in another city or country altogether. I hope this murderer takes time to reach that one last person.
3rd February 2018, Friday
Tomorrow, I am going to meet Dr. Deepak Seth in Hyderabad. He is working in the City hospital. He is the fifth person in the photo. Thankfully, he is not harmed yet. I was searching for him the past week, and it feels like a miracle that I finally found him. Thank God for social media! As a last resort, I had thought of checking Vishal’s Facebook profile. There was a series of condolence messages. One of them got my attention. I was almost sure. Still, I send the profile picture of that account and the old photo from Vishal’s home to our IT department. They confirmed it! The fifth person on the old photo, in fact, matched with Vishal’s Facebook friend – Dr. Deepak Seth. I am going to meet him now. He is the last person in the photo, and everyone else in it is dead!
After reaching Hyderabad on Saturday, inspector Nagaraj booked an appointment with Dr. Deepak Seth. Nagaraj didn’t want to go in his official capacity, as he hadn’t got the consent from his circle inspector to make an inter-state inquiry. So, he booked a doctor’s appointment and hoped to get some clue from their meeting.
Nagaraj waited in the hospital, tapping his fingers on his knees. The strong smell of formaldehyde covered him.
These hospitals smell so bad, Nagaraj thought as he anxiously waited for his turn.
The token machine blinked, and Nagaraj stood up with a sigh. His legs felt heavier than usual. The smell of formaldehyde almost choked him.
“Hello, Mr… Umm Nagaraj,” Dr. Deepak was very warm. Nagaraj was silently observing the doctor.
“What is your concern?” the doctor asked. Nagaraj stuttered for a few seconds. Then he unlocked his mobile phone and showed Dr. Deepak a photo. Nagaraj was expecting a sudden reaction from Dr. Deepak. He expected that the doctor would shudder or turn pale as he saw that old photograph. However, there was only a slight shade of surprise on the doctor’s face.
“Where did you get this photograph? Who are you?” Dr. Deepak asked Nagaraj; his voice was slightly shaking.
“I am a police inspector. I am investigating Mr. Vishal Mishra’s death,” Nagaraj didn’t want to hide anymore.
“I came to know about Vishal’s death from a mutual friend. While he was alive, I couldn’t make up with him. I could only write a condolence message on his Facebook profile,” Dr. Deepak said with a tinge of regret.
“But, I didn’t know that a police investigation was going on,” he added.
“Don’t you recognize the other three in the photograph?” Nagaraj grew curious.
“I had met the three of them on our trip to Goa. It was almost fifteen years back. They were Vishal’s friends.” Dr. Deepak said.
“Do you know all three of them are dead? You are the only person alive in that photo. Not just that, they all died in the last two weeks. All in car accidents, and the three of them in accidents on the NICE road in Bangalore,” Nagaraj paused for a while observing the doctor very closely.
The doctor’s face turned grave. Not that he shuddered or anything. It was nothing out of the ordinary, though. There were no signs on his face that suggested he had something to do with the deaths.
“Oh, I didn’t know that. As I said, I was the roommate of Vishal back in medical college. These three guys were his classmates. I might have seen them a few times in college. But I have never spoken to Vishal or the other guys after college,” Dr. Deepak abruptly paused, as he had divulged something.
“Why is that? Vishal was your good friend, right?” Nagaraj was too smart to miss the point.
“It’s a bit of a long story,” Dr. Deepak said.
“You better tell me now, so that you won’t have to tell it in the station,” Nagaraj warned the doctor.
“I have no intention to keep anything secret. It was a long time ago. I used to meet the three of them as they used to visit our room. Vishal and they were great friends. I was one-year junior to them. They were all from rich families and had a very stylish lifestyle. I couldn’t afford it. So, I tried to stay away from them,” Dr. Deepak gulped water from his bottle.
“But, when their final exams were over, they planned for a road trip to Goa. Vishal had borrowed his father’s Porsche convertible car for the trip,”
“How do you remember that it was a Porsche? It was a long time back, right?” Nagaraj asked. He suddenly felt that he was getting closer to the answer.
“Because that car was the beginning of all the trouble,” Dr. Deepak smirked. Nagaraj turned silent.
“So, they were going on this road trip, and they wanted me to join them. I tried to back out from the plan, even the last minute. But they didn’t let me. Vishal used to help me financially for many things. I couldn’t say no to his face,”
“Then what happened during your Goa trip?” Nagaraj asked, curiously.
“Nothing happened during the trip. Actually, the trip went well, and we all had a great time, as you can see in that photograph. It was during our way back it happened,”
“What happened?” Nagaraj moved to the edge of his seat. He felt like watching a detective movie.
“We were coming back from Goa to Bangalore. We had started from Goa around noon and was planning to reach Bangalore early in the morning. Everything was perfect. The Porsche was a sweet ride. Everything was perfect until we reached the outskirts of Bangalore. We were riding through the village roads, now there is this NICE road,” Deepak gulped. He fell silent as if he was lost in that morning, 15 years back.
“Did you hit someone?” Nagaraj asked just out of pure habit.
“No, no. We didn’t. I remember it like yesterday. It was almost pitch dark as there were no streetlights on the road. We had just passed a massive rock boulder, and Vishal suddenly stopped the car. We were almost asleep, and I thought he had hit something,”
“Vishal took a reverse and stopped on the side of the road. There they were – a father and a kid. The father might be around thirty-five to forty. The son was around six or seven. They seemed to have rammed into the rock boulder. We immediately got down and checked them out. The father was dead. The child still had vital signs. His pulse was getting weak, and he was bleeding heavily. Our medical college was just fifteen minutes away from the spot. I was about to pick up the kid,” Dr. Deepak stopped as if he was pained by those memories.
“Then, Vishal stopped me, he told me that he would not let the kid into his car,” Dr. Deepak stuttered.
“But why?” Nagaraj asked.
“It’s ridiculous. Vishal was worried that the white seat of his luxury Porsche would be spoiled!”
“ ‘The seat cost lakhs, the blood will leave deep stains. I cannot afford to have it changed. Let’s wait for another vehicle to come.’ Vishal said. Then I told him he was an asshole. I tried to get the kid into the vehicle. But the other three came to Vishal’s help and stopped me,” Dr. Deepak took a long breath.
“It disturbed me very much. As doctors, we should have known the value of time in such situations. We should have rushed that kid to the hospital, but we just waited there, until a mini truck came along,”
“Didn’t the truck driver ask why didn’t you use your car?” Nagaraj spoke out first time in a long while.
“We lied to him. We told our vehicle broke down. Vishal and another one went with the child. We, the rest three, waited next to the car until the truck left. After a minute, we took a left,” Dr. Deepak said with a sigh.
“What happened to the child then? Did you enquire?” Nagaraj asked.
“Yes, I enquired. Unfortunately, the child passed away. We could have saved him if we took him to the hospital on time,” Dr. Deepak said. The smell of formaldehyde became strong inside the room.
“Do you think anyone would have murdered Vishal and the other three? Do you think it’s a revenge?” Nagaraj asked, after waiting for Dr. Deepak to recover.
“I don’t know Nagaraj. But, I too, had a recent experience on the road. I cannot explain its logic though,” Dr. Deepak gulped.
“It was a few days back. I was going to the hospital for an early morning case. Then I saw something,” the doctor paused for a while as if recollecting that morning.
“I saw someone by the road – lying in a pool of blood. I saw it very clearly. I stopped my car, took a reverse, and went to the spot. But, when I got down, they were gone. It was like, umm… I was hallucinating. I stood there for some time, and then I got into my car and drove off. All the while, I was thinking about that small boy,” Dr. Deepak said as Nagaraj listened quietly.
“Ok, doctor. Thank you for the information. Please take care of yourself,” Nagaraj said as he took leave. His head was whirring with theories, and none of them made any sense.
I exit from his consultation room, along with the inspector. Dr. Deepak was kind to me then, but he wasn’t brave enough. There is no use of kindness without courage. That’s why I tested him too. But, he passed my test. He got out of the vehicle, and I am sure he would have helped me. But he was too late. I was dead 15 years ago, on that morning, while they were deliberating about their costly Porsche seats!