Photographs of Shekhar, Tara, Cyrus, Jenny and Roohi were pinned on the green board that hung inside Java's office room. Java scratched his head hard to draw a connection between Naina's murder and the five people who were present on the fateful day at the Dutta's.
"Keep it on the table."
Just when the constable was about to head out, Java called him, "bring in the brown envelope that we discovered at Cyrus' home that day."
He came out of the room, took the brown envelope from the constable and headed to Dutta's.
Roohi's face lit up as she heard her dad speak. "Yes daddy."
"Great! Then just play while your daddy will bring his princess her favorite drink," Shekhar said and gave a peck on her cheeks before leaving the room.
He closed the door behind in order to avoid Roohi from hearing his conversation with Tara.
Tara was standing next to the window and gazing outside. "I look worried because I am worried Shekhar."
"I think I just saw Java step inside the apartment complex."
"That scoundrel! He is doing this deliberately. He is just taking a revenge for the article that I wrote about him and his department."
"Whatever be it Shekhar. The point is that the murder took place in our house. And unfortunately, we were present in the house when it took place."
"What are you trying to say Tara? You think our being present in the house has been a blunder?"
"It's not that. But I have a strong feeling that Java thinks we might have had a hand in killing Naina."
"He even knows about the threat I had given to Naina when she tried out my clothes and jewelry."
"That must be Java."
"Don’t worry. Just answer him with confidence and he will be fine," Shekhar said and went to open the door.
"Hello, Mr. Dutta."
"Hi," said Shekhar purely dismissing the courtesy shown by Java for the first time ever since they had met.
"I needed to talk to you all, thus came in so soon," Java walked in as Shekhar stood holding the door knob.
"Hi, Mrs. Dutta." Tara nodded.
Hearing the doorbell, Roohi had come out of the room. Her smile disappeared as soon as she saw Java standing next to her mom and dad in the drawing room.
"Hi, Roohi dear. How are you doing, my child?"
Roohi clutched the note and a doll in her hand and walked up to Shekhar and stood behind him without saying a word.
"I suppose she is not in the mood," said Java looking at Tara and Shekhar.
"What brings you here, Mr. Java?" Tara asked with a not-in-the-mood-for-nonsense look.
"You see Mr. and Mrs. Dutta, the investigation is taking various turns every time I try to derive some point out of it. Hence, I needed to speak to all the three of you again."
"Three of you? Are you going to speak to Roohi again as well?" Tara demanded angrily.
"Don't be annoyed, Mrs. Dutta. I will not take too much of your Roohi’s time but just a few questions that will do no harm."
Tara was now extremely angry at the way Java showed his ignorance towards the fact that Roohi was just a 9-year-old girl. She was now ready to charge at him, but Shekhar held her back.
"Mr. Java, we'd appreciate if you could leave the child out of this mess."
"I would, if I could. Now, can I use your study room once again to carry on the interrogation?"
"Do we have a choice?," Shekhar thought but maintained his calm and simply nodded.
He then turned towards Roohi, "Sweetheart, you don't have to worry about anything. Just answer what the uncle asks. Mummy and daddy are here for you," he told and gave her a hug. He then took her to his study where Java had been waiting for her.
"Mr. Dutta, you may excuse us for now. I would like to speak to her alone."
Shekhar walked out leaving Roohi behind with Java.
"Sit down, my child," Java was completely different this time while speaking to roohi. He knew that if he had to get answers to his questions, he'll have to be very careful and polite to her.
"Roohi, how have you been?"
"Why okay? Why not good? Missing your Naina aunty?"
Roohi turned pale. She half nodded and half shook her head.
"Hmm. And how have your parents been since Naina aunty.. erm.. left?" He wanted to say dead but thought the other word was sober enough to not scare Roohi.
"They are fine but sad too. Mumma is finding it tough to manage. She took leave to take care of me. I am happy because I get to spend more time with daddy and ...erm.. mumma too," the excitement in Roohi's face was evident. She was happy that her parents were there with her all the time.
"So what did your mumma cook for you these days?"
Roohi thought for a while and then said "whatever I ask for"
"Roohi, are you happy?"
"Yes,” she smiled and for a moment Java saw genuine happiness in Roohi’s face.
Was it because of the fact that her mom stays at home with her?
Java smiled at her and asked, “Is it because mumma stays with you?”
“Who? Tara?” Roohi questioned clearly amused, and quickly added, “Tara mumma? Yes. But I am happy because dad is happy?”
“Why is dad happy?” Java asked suspiciously.
“Because I am happy,” she smiled.
"Roohi, did your parents go to place where..erm..Naina was there...the evening she died?" Java came straight to the point as he saw the conversation wasn't leading anywhere.
"Yes. They did when I shouted seeing blood."
"Did you see anyone else?"
"I don't remember. I was too scared."
"Did your father go in earlier?"
"No.. my dad didn’t"
“Are you sure?”
“Why will my dad go?”
“Roohi, are you sure?”
“I don’t know,” she was no longer the happy, smiling kid. Java immediately realized that she was scared, so he politely asked, "And where was mumma?"
"I don’t know."
“She was near me and then I don’t know,” Roohi said with a slight shaking of her head back-and-forth.
“What about Cyrus and Jennifer? You remember them?”
“Where were they?”
“Cyrus bhaiya was shouting when I came out of the room, and Jennifer di was standing near me when light came.”
Java was back to square one; again all four of them are equally suspicious. For what he had in mind, thinking Roohi might say something that may give a lead to his case, Roohi however didn't say anything of that sort. He now thought it's better to let go of her and speak to her parents instead. May be they were right, Roohi was merely a 9-year-old girl to say anything.
"Okay Roohi, you may go now. Can you ask your mumma to come in?"
"So, Mrs. Dutta, I assume you must be having a tough time taking care of the entire household alone?"
"Not at all," Tara said in a more than confident voice.
"Really? How do you manage to be so good at multi tasking?"
"It seems you are forgetting Mr. Java that I am a professional and I know my tasks very clearly."
"Interesting. How come you're so calm and composed with Naina's absence?"
"I don't have a choice. She is gone and will never return. My life has to move on."
"Surely. Your life is moving on rather very smoothly."
Tara sensed the mocking tone.
"Mrs. Dutta, you'd said that you caught Naina red-handed many a times trying your clothes on. Did it concern you that she may have filled in your shoes many a times when you were absent from the house?"
"What are you hinting at Mr. Java? I was happy the way Naina looked after my house and Roohi especially."
"And how about Mr. Dutta?"
"Shekhar mostly kept to his study."
“I meant how about Mr. Dutta and Naina?”
“Stop making cock-and-bull stories.”
“You didn’t answer my questions, madam.”
“I trust my husband, and he is worth my trust. Hope that answers your question.”
"Hmm. But then why did you threaten Naina of dire consequences for something as simple as clothes?"
"I said it in anger. I did not mean it."
"Mrs. Dutta, we all tend to say things we do not mean to when we are angry."
"But often what we say, we do turn them into actions."
"Are you trying to say I killed Naina?"
"I didn't mean that."
"Then what did you mean?"
"How were your terms with Naina after the incident, when you caught her trying your clothes?"
"I have a lot of other things to worry about in my life. Such petty issues don't hold much importance in my life. It was a mere incident. I warned Naina. And that's it."
"What were relations between Naina and Mr. Dutta like?"
“I don’t believe this,” Tara said.
“Listen madam, I asked professionally, how did they treat each other?”
"Just how they should have been. See Mr. Java, I know you have lots and lots and lots of doubts. May be we are in your list of probable killers too, but let me assure you, Naina was more than a family to us. We might have had arguments, but she had been there with me through thick and thin. Forget killing, even hurting her unnecessarily was out of question for us. You are merely wasting your time here. Why don't you speak to the two other people who were at home, but had nothing to do with our family?" Tara said and got up from her chair to leave.
Java was taken aback by this sudden outburst of Tara's. Why did this women turn hysterical often, he wondered. Before he could bring himself to say something, Tara had already walked out of the room.
"So, Mr.Dutta, we meet again. Lets hope it will be a pleasant one this time. I don't intend to drag this conversation too long and will come straight to the point. How were your relations with Naina when Mrs. Dutta wasn't around?"
"Mr. Java, I think you didn't hear me well the last time. I told you Naina was like a family to all of us. We loved her."
"Ah much, love it seems. Owner confessing his love for his maid. News paper headlines,” Java guffawed and continued, “Let me go back a little. Let’s rewind your life story a few years back, shall we? Did you have any girlfriends before your marriage with Tara?"
“Oh. That was quick. How about after your marriage with her?”
“What?” Shekhar asked rudely.
“Let me tell you something, Mr. Dutta,” Java went on, “You and your wife take my patience for granted. Once if I find proper evidence against one of you, trust me, not even finest of the finest lawyers will save you. Speaking of law, how do you know this lawyer boy?”
“Hmm.. close enough to mention him by first name?”
“Mr. Java. Is it a crime to not know a person’s last name? He never told me,” Shekhar said with bitter sweetness.
“Very clever,” Java murmured to himself and to Shekhar, he asked, "How do you know Cyrus?"
"I just met him twice. Once outside at the tea stall and next when he brought the hurt Roohi."
“Hmmm… Do you know how Roohi was hurt? Or who taught her to climb trees?”
“Kids these days learn very quick.”
“Yes, indeed, your kids are very quick,” Java nodded.
“I mean you kid is very naughty.”
"Do you think Cyrus might have had a role in Naina's killing?"
“Woah!”, thought Shekhar.
"Mr. Java, just because he was inside the house when Naina was murdered, does that make him a criminal or you have found something else?" asked Shekhar eyeing the files in Java’s hands.
"Mr. Dutta, you are again taking me wrong. I am simply putting forward a question that I felt was needed. I suspect you too. Is that a good enough point?"
“This man has simply lost it,” thought Shekhar.
"Mr. Java, Could you please tell me what on earth made you think that I might have killed Naina? Why should I? She had been such a support to the family. Why would I want to kill her?"
“Hmmm…” Java nodded, and thought, “What a hard nut to crack”
“Mr. Dutta. How long have you been married?”
“It is going to be fifteen years by February.”
“Hmmm. If may I ask, did you have any child before Roohi?”
“Whaaat?” Shekhar asked with raised eyebrows.
Before Java could talk, Shekhar said, “Did you even realize what you are asking?”
“Please, keep calm, and answer my question. Is Roohi your only child?”
“Did you have any serious affairs in your college days?”
Shekhar wondered why is Java questioning him all these, he thought for a moment about Rekha, but she was a passing cloud, just like his ten other flings. It was just that the other flings knew that they were flings, but Rekha worshipped him as the love of her life. But, that was all long past. No one, no one knows it, not even Tara.
His thoughts were disturbed by Java’s cough.
“As I said earlier, Mr. Java. I didn’t have any girlfriends or lovers before Tara.”
Java smiled and wondered, “Maybe this guy is hiding more than what I know. What if Naina was pregnant or if she was claiming that she was pregnant? Was it a reason for Shekhar murdering her?”
“One last question. Do you think Tara was loyal to you?”
“You seem to not hear whatever crucial stuffs I ask, Mr. Dutta. Should I repeat it more bluntly?”
“No. I mean No, Tara is not such a person,” Shekhar said and wondered if Java knew something about Tara like how he had known about his past. “These are cheap tactics by these policemen,” Shekhar thought.
“Are you sure? Maybe she had done something behind your back.”
"Listen Mr. Java, I had told you very very clearly to restrict yourself to things that are pertinent to this case, by doing all this nonsense, you are only digging your grave. Naina was like a family to us, and Tara is all clean and pure as fire." Saying this, Shekhar got up to leave.
I’m the first, I’m the last I