Standing before a seedy house, ACP Dharampal looked around. Policemen clad in plain clothes were loitering around innocuously. Additionally, a few backup units were stationed nearby, waiting for his command to swing into action. 

 

According to his intel, the outlaw was holed up here for some days. The most dangerous criminal on the run, in home minister’s words. “Two law-abiding citizens charred to death. We have a man on a killing spree! Shoot him at sight before he strikes again!” 

 

The media had reported a car with two young men inside was set to fire by a miscreant. But what made the minister suspect he will commit another homicide? 

 

Dismissing the thought, he knocked on the decrepit door a couple of times before prying it open with powerful shoulder thrusts. The faint streetlight peeking in through the glass window traced the silhouette of a man spread on a couch, snoring peacefully, unperturbed by the racket. 

 

“Get up!” Dharampal slapped his face and pulled him up, grabbing his shoulder. The commotion set the Black Label bottle free from the man’s grip, sending it rolling down to one side of the floor. 

 

“Who is it?” The slurred speech mingled with alcoholic breath made Dharampal flinch. The gruff voice sounded vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t place it. He fumbled with the switches for a while before he found the one that lit the room. 

A framed picture sat on the coffee table. That of a happy father holding his happy little girl.

Where had he seen her before? The father looked familiar too. 

 

“How the hell did you get in?” The words were more confident this time with an unmistakable, characteristic rasp.

 

Ah, Mohan! The shy boy who always minded his own business in college! 

 

“ACP Dharampal”. Dharampal brandished his ID.

 

“Dharampal Singh, who ragged me during my graduation?” 

 

Dharampal nodded.

 

Mohan the bookworm, a serial killer who will stop at nothing? He seemed more like a defeated soul. His sagging shoulders were perhaps carrying a burden untold. 

 

“How did you end up in this situation?”

 

“For my little girl.” Mohan took out an old newspaper from beneath the couch mattress and placed it next to the photo frame. 

 

Politician’s son and his friends absolved of gang-raping and immolating a teen-age schoolgirl due to lack of substantive evidence. 

 

Dharampal had ensured it. 

 

All in a day’s work, he told himself. 

 

“Bhabhi ji?”

 

“Committed suicide. She died in one swift stroke; I die every day.” 

 

“Where have you been all these years, man? Married, I assume?” The conversation was veering towards Mohan’s grief – an area prohibited for all and he didn’t like it. 

 

Dharampal nodded again. “I have two daughters.” 

 

“So you can imagine a hapless father’s anguish.”

 

The statement pierced Dharampal’s bubble. He sat in stunned silence, suddenly feeling very vulnerable. Goddamn fatherhood!

 

“One last murder and I will turn myself in”. A pair of bloodshot eyes pleaded with him.

 

***

 

“Wrong lead.” Dharampal informed his team and commanded them to back away. 

 

 

__________________________________________________________

Glossary:

ACP: Assistant Commissioner of Police

Bhabhi ji – A term to address a brother’s wife, often used for a friend’s wife or girlfriend also

 

PC: https://www.istockphoto.com/

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