“Address? Phone number? Given to Constable Kadam?”
“Mmm.. Yes Sir, I don’t want any trouble Sir”.
“What did you see? State it clearly.”
“He was speeding Sir. On his bike. Didn’t stop at the signal. Swerved. Got onto the footpath, hit the man. They started fighting Sir. That man tried to interrupt but .. ” He says, pointing to the injured man being tended to by medical personnel in the ambulance.
“Who took out the hockey stick?”
“I don’t know Sir.”
“If I find out you are lying, I’ll come after you. What about the tube light, where did that come from?”
“I really don’t know Sir, I told you whatever I know, please can I go?”
“Hmm. You can go for now. We’ll call you if we need anything else.”
“Geeta Iyer, I stay in that building. See that white tower? Up on the 15th floor. I saw everything and came running down when it happened. I saw it from the start itself when he.. ” Her glance falls on the blotched stains of red interspersed with broken glass and tree twigs all around her on the pavement and she inadvertently shudders.
“Just answer my questions. No need to talk more than that.”
“Who started tahe fight?”
“Don’t know but the pedestrian was at fault. He walked into oncoming traffic. How can you blame that biker?” She says shaking her head, looking over at the ambulance, her face clearly displaying compassion for the good-looking man.
“That’s the biker?”
“Then what? He’s the biker. Poor guy.”
“Then who are they?” Inspector Sinha asks pointing to the patchy white sheet covered twin bodies laid out neatly side by side on one end of the road.
“That one is the man who walked into traffic. The other is the guy who tried to help the biker. Don’t blame the biker Sir, it wasn’t his fault.”
“Dr. Pradhan, MGM hospital. I have already supplied my credentials to the officer in charge.”
“What are your findings Doctor?”
“I cannot state with certainty yet, we will have to take him to the hospital. He needs to be checked out.”
“I am not talking about the one alive. He will live. And he will have to answer.”
“The biker died of blunt force trauma. “ Dr. Pradhan says pointing to the body on the left.
“How do you know he’s the biker?” Inspector Sinha questions, curious if bodies could tell you that.
“That’s what your men told me. I assumed they found out about it from the people who saw it go down.”
“Hmm. Please proceed”. Inspector Sinha says noncommittally.
“Either from the hockey stick or from falling on the road. I found traces of cement and tar on his head wound but that could have been from the earlier scuffles too. Or from the fall, he wasn’t even wearing a helmet. Hard to tell yet.”
“Hmm. And the other?” Asks the Inspector.
Several high pitched wails start out to his right, unnerving him momentarily. A quick glance confirms that its someone who knows at least one of the victims. Police personnel never brought the families to the crime scenes, there was too much gory stuff there to get over in a lifetime. Images of crime scenes could haunt them forever. Official procedures mandated that family be taken to the hospital. Which meant, someone here had to know the family to have called them. And he had to find out who that was.
“Stab wound to his chest. With a piece of glass. Some of it is still in him. He bled out almost instantly. Poor guy, caught in the middle of it. No wonder there aren’t any good samaritans left anymore” continues Dr. Pradhan as Inspector Sinha starts scratching his beard. A couple of constables try to console the stricken family members, a few more attempt to contain the spilling crowd.
“I need to take the pedestrian to the hospital. I want to make sure he doesn’t have any concussions.” says Dr. Pradhan.
“I am not done with his statement yet.”
“You’ll have to do that at the hospital.”
Inspector Sinha waves an irritated hand at him.
“Mohan Dixit. I’m his brother” He says, amidst sniffles, pointing to the sheet on the right, unable to look, desperately trying to hold himself together. Daylight gives way to dusk. Sinha worries about the impending night, it would slow down the investigation. So far, after talking to eighteen different witnesses, they weren’t anywhere close to confirming which of the three was the biker, which one the pedestrian and which one the good samaritan. He offers Mohan a glass of water.
“Is that his bike?” Sinha asks.
“No Sir, he didn’t have one.”
Well, Sinha thinks, that narrows it down a bit.
“But he always travelled pillion with his friends. Sometimes they lent him his bike too, though Dad disapproved. I don’t know all of Manish’s friends Sir. I wish I knew, I wish..” His eyes are consumed by sadness as his body is racked by sobs.
Sinha sighs. Back to square one.
Mohan’s eyes fall on a broken part of a hockey stick lying to one side, the head of the stick now a dark reddish brown. His breath catches as Inspector Sinha senses the realization hitting Mohan. Dried blood.
“Is that? Is that how?.. I will not leave that sonofabitch alive, how did he..” yells Mohan, anger pulsating through his veins, his muscles bulging as he strides toward the ambulance. Sinha struggles to pull him back just as two more constables come in to help.
“You have to calm down. We don’t know that he killed your brother. Let us do our job and we will find out and let you know. Contain yourself, don’t make me arrest you for assault. Your family has enough on their mind right now.” Warns Sinha. He understands the pain Mohan is going through. The depressed mind simply wants a physical entity to blame and in Mohan’s eyes the only survivor is to blame. But Sinha can’t let emotions distract him now. He has to be insensitive to do his job right.
“Is the traffic police responsible for this mishap? Have they been lax in monitoring the traffic?”
Media vans descend on the scene like a pack of vultures and quick-to-place-blame journalists shove microphones into the faces of those they identify as the top cops associated with the investigation and stricken onlookers. Photographers click pictures from various angles incessantly. It is going to be a long night, thinks Sinha, as he proceeds to talk to the next eyewitness on his list. He has always known that they are not dependable, but of a group of forty-three people who saw the whole thing go down, he hopes some of their stories would add up and help them construct a sequence of events.
Its late into the night when Sinha and his men wind up from the crime scene and move to the hospital. Glass pieces, twigs, the hockey stick and other possible tools of destruction are carefully bagged to be preserved as evidence. The crowd has trickled down to nothing. The media has moved on to juicier pastures. Municipality sweepers are asked to remove the broken glass, tree twigs and wash the area down. A few constables stay behind to supervise the wrap up activities. Tomorrow it would be business as usual, the road as heavily populated as always, traffic just as jammed as ever. Its 5AM by the time a vague picture starts forming and the police start building a chronology.
In a brief time span of 15 minutes, a minor brush-off has occurred, two men have exchanged verbal vilifications, got into a fist fight and come to blows. Of a group of more than 43 men and women, just one single soul has attempted to break up the fight, getting embroiled in it himself. Sinha wishes more had intervened as a group and kept them apart.
What really transpired between the men might forever remain an untold story, thinks Sinha, but his entire being screams that this was an event that could have been completely avoided. If only the men had chosen to step back from the brush off, if only they had decided to lodge an FIR with the police instead of trying to handle it themselves. It was yet another incident of road rage, adding to the recent statistics of road rages alarmingly on the rise, one that has ended in two casualties, a man severely scarred for life, witnesses left to deal with nightmares and horrid images of the fight, and heart-stricken families left to mourn their losses for a long time to come. Why have humans become so intolerant of each other, thinks Sinha, as he walks towards the lobby for a cup of coffee so he can keep going. Its going to be a long day.