The Early Break


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“Cameras at the front of the store and those at adjacent streets that he used, got satisfactory photographs of the culprit’s face and the number plate of the car he used”

The whole room was a mess. Papers covered the desk and much of the floor. The cabinets were overflowing. Files were precariously stacked on top of said cabinets. The whole scene indicated utter laxity.

“So, here it is,” said the hefty lieutenant.

“This is my cabin, sir?” the young policeman was apprehensive.

“What is it? Too cramped for your liking? You’ll get used to it, boy!” The lieutenant thumped his fat palm on the youth’s back and waddled off, still laughing at his own joke.

“Sure I will.”

Sarcasm. It was Mayank’s alter ego. Sometimes he used it more often than he knew. It’s probably a mixed bag when you want to be a detective. Useful at times and sometimes sarcastic is probably the last thing you want to be.

Mayank looked at the state of the room, wondering how its previous occupant managed to not choke on the dust. As he recollected, he had in fact choked. Not on the dust, obviously, but at the hands of a drug lord who the said occupant had tracked down. The family pleaded in court but the evidence, thanks to the drug lord’s heavy bribes, had been burnt. That’s just how the criminal law system works nowadays. You either deal with it or it deals with you.

Most of the files were outdated and many more were filled with cases that had been closed. They had to be moved to the archives. Mayank found a cardboard box under the desk and filled it with all the files he could fit in it.

“Hey! New guy! The boss man’s calling you,” said a fellow employee to Mayank just as he was emptying the cardboard box in the archive room.

“Oh. Okay thanks.”

“I’m Jai, by the way. Over at forensics.”

“Hi! I’m Mayank.”

“I know. Everybody knows. You topped the test.”

“Yeah. You’re new too?

“Pretty much. Been here two months.”

“Okay then. See you later!”

“I’ll catch you at lunch if you’re free. Vada pav?”

“Yeah that’s cool”

Mayank felt slightly less tense now that he’d made a friend on the first day. He knocked on the Inspector’s door and went in after a resounding “COME IN” emanated from within.

“I was told you called for me, Sir.”

“Mayank! Welcome to Colaba Police Station! Settled in?”

“Just about Sir. Thank you.”

“Good, good. And my hearty congratulations on your outstanding test scores. Toppers are not a new sight but the margin by which you topped the other candidates has set a new bar for future examinations.”

“Thank you very much sir.” Mayank was slightly taken aback by the casual nature of his superior.

“Anyways, I hear you have good skills in deduction. I have a case here that I wouldn’t mind putting you on.”

“Surely Sir. Nothing better than having something to do on the very first day.”

“Ha ha! Very true. I must warn you though, that I cannot guarantee a spot every time. That would depend on your performance. I have a lot of young talent lining up.”

“I understand Sir. I shall try my best to not let you down.”

“I admire that as much as I look forward to your work. Now go on; I’ll send over the case files to your cabin in a short while. And remember, hard work beats talent when talent does not work hard.”

“Yes Sir.”

This had been a new experience for Mayank. He was earning rich dividends for his hard work in the exam. He knew how it would give an early boost to his career, if he did well on this case.

Detective – work had always attracted and intrigued Mayank. The thrill of the closeness to danger, the adrenaline pumping through the veins, the mass recognition on success. It is a deadly combination, fame and pleasure. But Mayank knew that he was more than just a junkie and he knew that he was not going to be living off it. Or did he?

Mayank went back about moving the remaining files to the archives and segregating them appropriately. One particular file caught his eye. It was a case about a robbery and the subsequent murder of the victim. Quite common. It said it had been filed on the third of May, of the previous year and had been shut about ten months later, when the culprit was not found. The robbery had taken place in a jewelry store just when it was opening in the morning. CCTV cameras in the store had been switched on but didn’t get a decent picture of the guy since he had it covered with a black mask, again commonplace. However, he removed it as he got into his getaway vehicle and cameras at the front of the store and those at adjacent streets that he used, got satisfactory photographs of the culprit’s face and the number plate of the car he used. The photocopies of all of these photographs had been attached.

Most images were blurred but his face was the kind one wouldn’t forget easily. He had short, dark brown hair. His bushy moustache was of the same colour and so was his untidy stubble. He had a roughly oval face and the wrinkles suggested he was around his 40s or probably older. That’s all well and good but his most striking feature was a deep scar he had on his right cheek. The scar extended from his lips to his right ear and it was slightly bleeding in the images taken from the right side. The file also contained a synopsis of the CCTV recording which answered the question of the scar’s bloody presence. It said that the owner of the jewelry store had a gun tucked in a drawer and while the thief was busy emptying his new – found treasure into his bag, the owner took it out. Just as he was about to shoot, the crook noticed him and his sudden movement saved him from a bullet to the head. The bullet whizzed past his cheek and crashed into a glass panel behind, leading to the bloody cheek. That scar would surely be an easy identification mark for the man.

“Ah! You’re still here!” said the suddenly – appearing Jai.

“What? Oh, its you,” Mayank was a little startled, “Yeah. Its lunch already?”

“Oh, no. The Sub – Inspector sent me to get you. Apparently you’ve been put on his case.”

“Yeah, the Inspector told me.”

“Oh. The SI says they’ve got a lead and they’re going to interrogate him. Called for you. He’s waiting for you near his cabin.”

“Oh. Thanks man.”

“Sure.”

“I’ll see you later,” said Mayank as he began to hurry out. He was excited.

“Yeah, looks like we won’t have lunch then.” Jai was smiling slyly.

Mayank didn’t find the Sub – Inspector near his cabin but a peon informed him that he’d just left and would probably be by his car. Mayank hurried down and found him waiting impatiently.

“You took long,” said the SI in a gruff voice.

“I’m sorry Sir. I was just informed.”

“I see. Get in.”

The SI had a white Hyundai Accent with opulent interiors. Mayank sat in the front passenger seat.

“So you went through the case file right?” inquired the Sub.

“No Sir. The Inspector said he’d send it over but I haven’t got it yet.”

“Yeah it’s just been a while. I had to call you because two constables just tracked down a lead and have him at the Dadar Police Station. Unfortunately I don’t have a copy of the file here right now. You’ll find one up at Dadar, though.”

The two managed small talk over the next forty minutes before they got to Dadar. One of the two constables the SI mentioned was waiting for them outside and escorted them in to a cell where the ‘lead’ was being held. He was narrating the looks of the culprit to a sketch artist and the other constable mentioned by the SI was beating him periodically. Just how the cops extract information.

As the sketch artist got to completing the face, Mayank had a weird feeling. Like something in this situation had been experienced earlier in another situation. Like déjà vu.

The Sub – Inspector said just what was going through Mayank’s face, “Isn’t that the guy from the jewelry store robbery last May?”

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