Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Mystery of the Black Envelope

The Mystery of the Black Envelope

Akaash Verma no subject Tue 26/07/2005 03:00 AM 4KB

The above line flashed across my mail client. Akaash has seen me off at the airport a couple of hours ago, must have reached his house a few minutes before the time he sent the mail. I was curious as to what was in the mail. The mail was sent using black stationary, and nothing in it. I powered of the screen, and looked at the azure sea beneath. The orange ball in the east lit up the sky to red; the birds were flocking in its direction as if to reach it. Slowly I slipped down to the events that started unfolding almost two years ago.

It was eight in the evening, I rise from my nap to answer the door bell, “Hi, I am Akaash, Akaash Verma, moved into the flat next to your's. Thought I would just let you know.” There was this tall, lean guy with professor’s glass on his nose, and a pleasant demeanor. There was this intelligent air around him.

“Hi, I am Raj, Raj Aryan”, I replied. “Why don't you come in”, I said moving aside to make way for him.

“Got to unpack lot of stuff, will come some time later”

“Sure!, can I be of some help.”

“No, Thanks, I will let you know when I need some”, saying this he left.

Over the next few days, I came to know that he is one among those countless software engineers who moved to Bangalore in search of greener pastures. We stuck an instant rapport in many areas be it be booze we drink, the sea foods we like, the books we read, and the biggest of all a hatred for Bangalore traffic. Things went on fine for about six months.

One evening I was passing by his door, and found him worrying too much over something. “Another Business Man Murdered”, read the heading of the newspaper in his hands. The article went on to explain that this was the sixth murder in the last eight months and police were yet to solve any of these. I looked at him puzzled and said “Hey, nothing to worry man, such things were common in a city like Bangalore”. He gave me a envelope which he was holding in the other hand. Except that it was black there was nothing in it, or nothing special about. I returned back quizzed at his behavior.

“You may think its crazy, but I am sure there is some relation between this envelope and the murders”.

“Come on Akaash, don’t be silly”

“No Raj, I am serious I have four black envelopes from the last six months, and all four of them, I found in my mail box. This time too, I found this envelope a week before this murder.”

“It must be a coincidence; I don’t think you should worry much about it.”

“Ok, ok I too thought the same, but can you explain where these black envelopes are coming from, why is it that each time I find them, there occurs a murder of a noted person in the city. This is way too much to be a coincidence.”

I was a bit disturbed; there is something to the questions he put, if not truth. “Don’t you feel you are being way too imaginative?” I said.

“I feel I am on to something”, he replied.

“Ok boss, up to you!, I wish you success in the mission ”.

It was some time before I could catch up with him on this front. One day he turns up and says “Raj! I told you about the black envelope sometime back, now I am sure it has a lot to do with the murders going on.” Sighting a heading in the newspaper he continued, “I have one more black envelope and here you see within a week, we have this murder in the city, my detective work makes me feel I am on to something.”

I was impressed with his argument, but decided to act as if I had no keen interest in the proceedings. “Hey, Take care man, if this stuff is for real you may find your self in a soup. Better take some police help.” “Oh! Nothing to worry, I am talking to inspector Jacob, and gave him all the circumstantial evidence I had; we think we know who the criminal is. He suggested I don’t reveal the thing to anyone until the issue comes up in court” he shot back with enthusiasm. I was waylaid; I did not see the issue of the black envelope as more than imagination, and now I see that he was infact right.

“That’s absolutely great, but how in the hell did you do that?”

“I came here to tell you just that, the hearing in the court is next week and I have to give my testimony, why don't you drop in once and you can get to know the story behind this.” he continued with excitement “You will be surprised to know who the culprit is”.

“You! Serious, all this has something to do with that black envelope”

“Yes! Yes!”

“Oh Man! That’s awesome, you are too much. Hey but I am relocating to Africa next Monday night.”

“My goodness, you never told me this, any way the trial is on Monday, just make sure you take some time out. I will help you with the travel stuff.” “You never told me this?”

“Sorry Akaash, I was actually busy with the arrangements for the relocation and thought I will let you know once things are done. Count me in on Monday; I will not miss the trial for anything in the world”

The court room was charged with anticipation of who the gruesome murderer was and how a seemingly insignificant pattern gave way to the criminal. To give a brief history of the murders, they were all committed in a meticulous manner, no single clue at the site of the crime. There was no apparent pattern among the victims except that all were from affluent families. The Bangalore police had to face the wrath of public for their negligence in this issue, but how does the public understand that this was not a simple case. Infact from what I heard of the case from Akaash, the murderer has not left a single clue in nine murders. If not for his extraordinary imagination, god knows how many more murders were waiting to happen.

The room was packed, the media, the families of the victims, onlookers like me, and many others whom I could not categorize. The proceedings started with the prosecution presenting its case, the defense presenting why the prosecution is wrong. The most surprising thing to me was that the criminal was none other than the person who stayed in the flat opposite to me. I have never seen him in over one and a half years of my stay in the flat. Then there were scores of witnesses. The evidence from police, it seemed this guy was a big smuggler too, about 4kg of heroin was found in his flat. This guy was not from Bangalore but he visited the city often. The police had strong circumstantial evidence sufficient to link him up to the crime. The defense could not prove anything and finally the guy was convicted to life term imprisonment for nine murders, selling drugs and other charges.

On my return back home, Akaash was there with me. I said, “To say I am impressed would be an understatement. How could you proceed with just the Black Envelope?”

Akaash started explaining, “After I talked to you that day about the envelope, I started reasoning, who is putting the envelope in my mail box? I had to have an answer for this if had to move further and also to convince myself that the murders have something to do with the black envelope. I reasoned that it can mostly be the work of postal department. I went to the local post office and talked to the postmaster as to who delivers the mails to our locality. Then I talked to the post man, but there was no clue from them. I was disappointed and almost left the issue. One fine day I came across the Z courier in basavagudi, an area very far from this place. The interesting thing about it was I saw black envelope similar to the one in my mail box.”

He continued, “I talked to the person if he delivers any mail to our locality, initially he was reluctant to divulge any information, but later agreed that he delivered mail to one particular address in our locality. And imagine my surprise when I realize that it is to the flat opposite ours.”

“But how is this related to the black envelope in you mail box?” I interrupted.

“Hey wait man; I am coming to that, this guy who delivers the mail, used to deliver the mail last at our locality. When ever he put the mail in the opposite guys mail box, he used to put the black envelope which he used as the base for all his mails, in my mail box.”

“Then what did you do?”

“It was straight forward from then; I became suspicious of this guy. I informed inspector Jacob of this and requested his assistance in keeping a watch on the guy. And sure enough he walked into our trap.” “ Last month when you were on tour was when we caught him red-handed. Once more I saw the black envelope, this time around I informed the police immediately, and as you know the rest is history.” he stopped.

“That was some excellent piece of work. You did a great job Akaash. I am proud to say that you are a friend and neighbor.”

That night he saw me off at the airport. I saw his mail again, switched of my notebook and closed my eyes. I could see Akaash going back to his house, finding a black envelope, not an empty one this time. I could see him opening it with suspicion; I could see a big “Thank You!” I drifted into my sleep with a grin on my face.