Radha shifted to her brother’s place. She needed company. She got the best company she could have – her sister-in-law and her 2 children. Radha and Valli were childhood friends and still retained their affection for each other, after so many years. One evening they were watching television, when they realized that Radha’s acquittal was not far away. The current program was interrupted midway and a police message was flashed about the dead body that was found in Radha’s car.
Inspector Keshav asked Kartik the next day in the afternoon to visit the police station. As Kartik entered the station, Keshav said that much headway had been made in finding the identity of the dead man. “After we telecast the message on the dead man, we got many telephone calls. Most of them were supposedly from creditors. The dead man’s name appears to be Mahendra Pandey. A woman claiming to be his wife also called and said that he had been missing for a fortnight now. That would be for a couple of days before the body was found.”
He continued, “She had filed a missing persons report on the very morning we discovered the body. A couple of other people also called saying that they were the neighbours of the dead man. The ‘wife’ and the ‘neighbours’ belong to the Panvel area near the Bombay-Pune Highway, where we found your sister’s car. Let’s go there.”
First they went to the ‘wife’s’ place. Mrs. Pandey was a long-haired 35-year old woman with a height of 5’ 5”. She appeared to be visibly frightened of something. Their tour of the neighbourhood showed up nothing suspicious. Neither did their talk with the neighbours.
“It appears that the motive of the murder is debts. We just have to find the killers. An open and shut case, if you ask me,” commented the officer.
“Don’t be so sure, Keshav. I get the feeling that there is more to it than meets the eye,” Kartik commented thinking. “This only means that we have a whole new bunch of suspects now.’
Then something happened. A few days after they went to meet Mrs. Pandey, one man claiming to be the dead man’s neighbour came to meet the inspector. On routine enquiry, the man called Dinesh said that he lived in Belapur and knew the dead man as Poddar!
“Poddar has been living there for the last 5 years with his wife. Now, I saw on the TV that he has been married for 12 years. Does that mean he had 2 wives?” unwittingly the man had triggered an unexplained line of thought.
“But, why did it take so long for this man to surface?” Kartik asked.
“Because he was in Bangalore, for meeting his son all these days. He lives alone here and is a widower.”
“Let’s go and meet Pandey’s ‘second wife’ or Mrs. Poddar,” Kartik suggested.
Mrs. Poddar, a short-haired tall determined-looking woman, initially did not behave like her husband was dead. On hearing about the tragedy she went into a state of shock. Then she alternately sobbed and laughed.
Kartik shook her and Keshav slapped her hard to get her back to normalcy. A sip from a glass of water later, she told them her story. She had met Mr. Poddar at a party in Delhi, fell in love, got married and came to live at Belapur, 5 years ago. Everything was running smoothly for her. Her husband would go on tours of a couple of months, at a time. “So I never suspected anything. Besides, I have been receiving letters regularly from him during this time. I did not even file a missing persons report,” she informed them sobbing.
“Can we have those letters?” Inspector Keshav requested.
“Here,” she handed a bunch of letters over to the inspector. Kartik got the impression that Mrs. Poddar had deliberately kept them ready to be given away.
Both the men avoided telling the woman about the first wife, due to her critical condition. But, when she asked for the dead body, they had to reveal that it had been cremated about a week back by his first wife.
“I did not even get to see you for the last time,” she started lamenting loudly, which brought in the neighbours.
Leaving Mrs. Poddar to be cared for by the neighbours, the 2 men left.
When they went to meet Mrs. Pandey and told her about her husband’s second wife, she did not appear to care about the other woman.
“Though this seems to be a situation of bigamy, neither of the women seems to have a motive,” Keshav commented as they stopped outside to discuss the situation. “That is if bigamy is not the motive. But neither seems to know or care if her husband is bigamous.”
“Don’t be so sure of that there is no motive.”
“You seem to have a plan. Let’s hear it.”