THE UNFINISHED CASE
It is said that my great grandfather from France was an adventurous sailor. He with some of his seafaring friends and relatives discovered this island tucked away with dense forest on rich volcanic soil. They cleared the forest track for farming and habitation and named it Gateau as the solidified lava hillocks at the center of the island gave it a look of a cake.
The nearest mainland and other islands had English, Italian and German inhabitants. Given the fractious relationship between them in those days, Gateau remained virgin French in every way. Their language, culture, cuisine, and most importantly their family values remained unadulterated. Thus, Gateau remained a self-sufficient world that had little to do with the outside world.
We children grew up amid nature completely raw and innocent. As a little girl, I remember how we ran to the forest to collect sticks to make our national flag for Independence Day. To our astonishment, the whole floor was filled with mushrooms. Oh! How delicious they looked. My friend who had accompanied me was our neighbour’s son. We both realized that in order to have the largest share of it we need some container or bag which we had not taken with us for this unexpected find. We forgot all about the reason we had gone there. I picked up my frock and filled it with all it could hold little concerned that in hurry I had forgotten to wear a pant below. But never mind. That was the age when these essentials had no meaning for us. Our days were spent jumping on the haystack of farms, running through fields, and enjoying the juicy fruits from the forest.
People here lead a satisfying life. Death due to heart disease and stress was unknown. There was no suicide, no alcoholism, no drug addiction, and hardly any crime worth its name. The secret of their healthy life was more due to their culture which was imbibed in every person living here.
People spent their leisure time visiting one another, giving respect to seniors, helping parents and neighbours, by nature people avoided flaunting their wealth and success.
As I grew up older, I like others did not go out and managed the pharmacy shop of my parents. Life was pleasant without many highs and lows till an event happened that shook the very foundation of our society.
My neighbour’s cousin came to stay in Gateau. He was notorious from the very beginning. Somehow, he convinced the seniors and stood in the Municipal Chairman election. Nobody knew how he manipulated the votes and got himself elected. Once he occupied that seat, he started troubling all shop owners and investors to give him a percentage of their earnings. His actions became more and more unnerving till one day he was found dead.
A doctor from the neighbouring island came to do the necessary auto topsy. The cause of death was not disclosed and was known only to the doctor. A young Police Inspector from an adjoining island was sent to solve the death mystery. He met the doctor who had conducted auto topsy and the doctor disclosed to him the cause of death which was kept secret between the two and was not made public.
The young Inspector had heard about this place and people and thought that there would not be much in this case to solve. The people were by nature simple and he would be able to find the murderer making a few interrogations in no time. He would go back to his place of posting soon to do some real policing work.
At first, he interrogated the ward members one by one. He took a prior appointment and went to Monsieur Martin’s house. He was asked the details about his whereabouts on the day of the murder. Monsieur Martin with all earnest intention declared “I have killed him with my dagger as he was charging lots of underhand money and my business had become unsustainable”. He then brought a dagger wrapped neatly in a cloth. The Police officer was quite surprised to see someone owning up a murder which he had not committed as the reason of death was completely different. He took some time to regain composure and replied “The cause of death is something else “and left the place. On way he called his senior at office and related about this strange character who owned up a murder he had not committed. Next day he paid a surprise visit to Monsieur Duo another ward member’s house. This surprise visit was deliberate so that the respondent would have little time to make up a story of the crime. It was as if Monsieur Duo was expecting the Police officer. When he repeated the same questions that he had asked Monsieur Martin, Monsieur Duo said with all honest intention “I have murdered him with my bare hands”. This time the Police officer was not very surprised hearing this statement. He desperately realised that this murder mystery would remain a mystery here in Gateau as everyone would be ready including the actual murderer to own up committing the crime. One by one he interrogated the board members and some residents of the island who he felt might give him the lead. Each time they all confessed that they were the actual murderer and how they had killed him.
By now Paul became clueless and one day suffered a headache and came to my shop for a pain killer. Everyone including me knew the Police officer by name. His name was Paul. We did some polite talk. I felt pleased the way he admired my beauty and took a second look at me before leaving the stores.
We met again at a Golf club dinner party. I had taken special care to get dressed up for a party. Over a glass of wine, we had a more personal talk. He wanted to know about me, my likes and dislikes. He then invited me to the dance floor. We enjoyed each other’s company. It was late by the time he left me near my house.
The citizens of Gateau were too pleased with my intimacy and friendship with the Police officer. Very soon the citizens' forum decided to have a full-fledged police station and offered the post to head it to Paul. Paul gladly accepted this post and he had started liking this place a lot and especially wanted to have me as his life partner. The marriage was solemnized in the church and eating drinking and merry-making continued for three days.
We left for our honeymoon to a beautiful hill station on an adjoining island. One night while chit-chatting, I winked at him and said I could have slowly poisoned and killed the Chairman. Paul immediately became stiff for a moment. He was thinking how could I guess that the cause of death was slow poisoning? I laughed aloud and changed the subject.
We returned to our island and a year went by and a son was born to us. Life was good. Paul handled his new office well, but the murder mystery remained unsolved.
I was close to a childhood friend of mine Kathy. Many weekends were spent together. Her husband Philip was a sailor and had beautiful cottages for tourists close to the seashore. Most of the time he was away. Whenever Paul and Philip met, it was quite visible that Philip was not at ease. We both friends were silent observers and later we shared something and whenever Paul came at ear distance we hushed up. Paul had a feeling that we both knew something which we did not want to reveal.
As the murder case could not proceed further, Paul’s seniors advised him to close the case. Paul was not ready for that. He had an intuition that he was missing a link which was very near yet was illuding him.
After a while sniffer dogs were brought from another island on the behest of Paul. The sniffer dogs sniffed the clothes of the deceased and even though some time had passed they started barking loudly and ran towards the seashore. Suddenly they stopped near a dense bush and though they barked loudly it was obvious that they had lost the trail here. I remembered a case study in which the murderer had removed all his clothes and had walked that area forming an eight formation. This was to mislead the sniffer dogs. The clothes and shoes which the culprit was wearing were thrown into the sea which could never be retrieved. I realised that this was the end of the trail and knowing the nature of people living here, nobody would reveal anything more.
I had also gathered information about the deceased person that not only was he after money, but he also blackmailed and womanized women who tried to save their husband’s business.
Was it related to my wife’s friend Kathy and her husband in any way? Had he been blackmailing and taking sexual favours from her? Did her husband come to know about this and was my wife an accomplice in supplying the slow poisoning drugs which he drank without knowing? While interrogating Paul had come to know that the deceased was looking unwell and weak for some time. Why was the body language of Kathy and her husband so ill at ease when they met him?
Paul’s instinct told him that this was probably the truth, but he had no way to prove it. Did he want to get to the root of this murder now jeopardizing his family life? No, he was not that big a fool. Who would benefit from this? None. Let this case remain unsolved for the best of all people living on this island including himself. Paul put his finishing note and closed the case.
N.B – The image has been taken from Google and the copyright is with the owner.