“How could you just close the case like that?” I asked.
“Good afternoon to you too, Anwar,” said Vishwa turning away from his file to look at me with the usual smile of his.
I felt a little embarrassed. Though Vishwa and I have been good friends for so long and were beyond the usual pleasantries, I still shouldn’t have just barged into his office like that. But I couldn’t believe what I just learned in the office and had to hear it straight from him.
“Coffee?” he asked and I nodded.
I sat down and waited impatiently as he poured some coffee for us both. His table was overflowing with documents and I was wondering why he still hadn’t moved to a bigger office. After all the success he had in cracking the most difficult of cases, a lot of which I worked with him as partner, he was surely eligible to get a bigger office in our police station. But if I knew Vishwa, he would have surely declined an offer to move to a bigger office. He was a content man in most aspects, except for his insatiable hunger for tough cases.
He started, “Yes, I closed the case on that writer’s suicide –“
“Murder,” I cut in.
He smiled at me and said, “It was a suicide Anwar. The evidence shows just that,”
“Come on Vishwa. You were there, we were both there,” I was getting worked up again.
“Then you should have, of all the people, seen the evidences too,”
“Exactly! It was right in your face that the whole thing was a murder,”
“In your face?” he asked while signaling to me that my coffee was getting cold. “Anwar, it was a guy hanging by a rope in his own house. How obvious can it get?”
I knew Vishwa was making fun of me there. That man always enjoyed a good humor, most of the time in very unconventional circumstances.
“You were the one who came up with the clues Vishwa. Did you just get lazy to solve the case?” said I trying desperately to get back for that previous ridicule.
“I don’t know what clues made you conclude that this was a murder,”
I sat up. “Okay. If that is the way you want it, let’s go over the whole case then,”
Vishwa closed his file and looked me straight in the eye, waiting for me to start.
“Let’s start with the day we found out about the incident. It was five days ago and it was raining since the previous night,” I started as I tried to picture every detail of that day. “We were called in by the maid – “
“Who was the first witness and also had a good alibi to prove her innocence. I remember it all Anwar,” Vishwa said cutting me. “Get to the part where you started suspecting that this might have been a murder,”
“Yes. The stool the victim stood on while he had the noose around his neck and pushed over to hang himself. You remember setting that toppled stool straight don’t you? When you did that, I noticed that there was about an inch gap between the victim’s foot and the stool. It was as though he couldn’t have reached the noose even when he stood on his toes,”
“What do you conclude from that?”
“That the murderer killed the victim and staged it as a suicide. He tied the rope around the victim’s neck and pulled him up. He then placed a toppled stool there. But he failed to see if the stool actually was high enough for the victim to stand on while he had the noose around his neck,”
“Woah! easy there Anwar. That is a lot of conclusions based on one clue. How can you say that this killer tied the rope around the writer’s neck and pulled him up?”
“That is where the second clue comes in. You remember handing me the rope the victim was hanged with after examining it? The rope was frayed right around where it was looped through the hinge in the wall. It could only mean that the killer tied it around the writer’s neck, looped it through the hinge and pulled him up and tied the rope to the window bars nearby,” I finished looking triumphantly at Vishwa.
Vishwa was silent for a while. His face was quite serious. Then slowly came that smile. I knew that smile.
“I noticed all of the clues you mentioned Anwar. I agree that one could conclude that it was a murder based on these clues. But I looked beyond these clues and found more. The more I found, the more I became sure that this was indeed a suicide and no foul-play was involved,” he said and took a sip of his coffee.
“Let’s start with the first clue. The stool. It was raining the other night and all morning. It was quite cold and the post-mortem report says that we found the dead body about eight hours after death,”
“Rigor mortis, Anwar! It was cold and the body had become stiff and shrunken a bit due to rigor mortis. The cold weather only helped it set in faster,”
Vishwa was right. It was cold that day and rigor mortis usually does set in faster during cold weather.
He continued, “Also the gap between the victim’s foot and stool was only about an inch. He surely would have been able to reach the noose when he was alive and not all stiff and shrunken due to the cold and you know, death,”
“Then how do you explain the frayed rope?” I argued. “Surely don’t tell me that the fraying wasn’t due to abrasion against that iron U-shaped hinge from the ceiling,”
“I agree the rope was frayed due to abrasion. But if the victim was tied and then raised through the hinge, then shouldn’t the rope be just about frayed almost over the entire length it was pulled through the hinge and not just the little part over the hinge where the victim was hanging?”
I looked at Vishwa puzzled.
“Anwar, if the rope was tied around the neck of the victim and then pulled up through a hinge then the rope would have had abrasion marks all over where it was pulled through and not just that small little length where it was around the hinge. The fraying you saw was actually caused by the victim’s involuntary movement to free himself once he started to hang from the rope. His struggling movements caused the rope to fray around the hinge,”
All of this was starting to make sense to me. But I still wasn’t ready to give up. I still had one final argument.
“So let us say it was a suicide. Where is the motive then Vishwa?” I asked
He went to his cupboard to bring back a document. He gave it to me. Inside were a couple of pages of a new novel the writer was working on, a notebook and a couple of printouts of emails.
“He was quite under pressure due to the new novel he was working on. His first novel became a hit by quite a surprise and his agents were very keen to bring out his next novel. The emails were between the writer and his publishing agent. You could see that the writer made no money over his first novel due to a contract he made with his agent, and would receive profits only after a second novel. Also the notebook is a scrap book for our writer to chart out his ideas for the novel. The draft of the novel I gave you is incomplete,”
“What does this all mean? He was working on the novel anyhow under all that pressure. What made him to take his life then?”
“Writer’s block!” said Vishwa. “Our writer hit a serious case of writer’s block. He just couldn’t get himself to finish the novel. He was ranting about it in his notebook. This and adding to it his young age, his unexpected success with the first novel but his still unimproved living conditions and all that pressure to get the new novel out. Sure could push any man over the ledge,”
I had to accept my defeat. Vishwa had it all figured out. It was an open and shut case after all.
“So you were right. It was a suicide all along. I couldn’t see any motive for a murder still,” I said. “Can I have some more coffee?”
“Sure,” said Vishwa getting up to pour me some more coffee and some for him too.
He sat down again, took a sip out of his coffee and then said, “You know, there is still a chance that I could be totally wrong and you were right and this was a murder all along,”
I looked up and saw Vishwa smiling at me.
I looked up and saw Vishwa smiling at me.