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24th October 9:00 AM
A hot shower relieved Mayur from his overnight stress. He made love to Aisha a couple of times in the night, and his body ache had been reduced after a comforting shower.
He came out of the bathroom with a pale purple Turkish towel wrapped around him. Aisha was still lying on the bed; no doubt she too was tired after their extended romance. Mayur went to her and told her to get ready.
When Aisha went into the bathroom, he put on his underwear and chose his pale blue business suit from the closet. He donned it and stood in front of a dresser mirror. His not so oblong, but well-chiseled face appeared fair. His dark almond-shaped eyes sparkled in the fluorescent lights.
He combed his black silky hair and applied a facial cream. After making sure his make-up was in order, he walked towards the balcony to breathe in some fresh morning air.
A cold breeze that swept down the balcony rejuvenated him. He leaned on the balcony railing, looking at the busy street below.
The traffic was stalled and an inspector in a khaki uniform hooted to clear the congestion. A couple of crows took flight above the building; a few sat on an electric wire, oblivious to the chaos on the road.
Mayur needed to return to Hyderabad soon after he finished interviewing the remaining suspects. He ought to discuss his findings with Prakash and find out if Prakash had made any progress in the case. Mayur hoped that Prakash had some useful leads after he had met the owners of the Pizza Hut branches.
Aisha approached him. In her teal and white silk sari, she looked beautiful. An intricate necklace hung around her neck glistened in the sunlight and it matched her heart-shaped face. Her full open lips were smeared with pink lip gloss.
"Are we calling Harsha and Rahul now?" she asked.
"Yes." Mayur took his phone out of his shirt pocket and called Rahul. The phone rang and rang. Rahul didn’t answer.
Aisha continued to look at Mayur with an expression on her face that said, 'what's the matter?'
"Rahul is not picking up the phone."
"Why don't you try again?" Aisha said. "Maybe, he saw your number as unknown."
"You may be correct," said Mayur. "He doesn't have my phone details." He called Rahul for the second time.
After a prolonged ring, he answered. "Hello, Rahul here."
"Hello, Mr. Rahul. I'm detective Mayur Varma speaking from Bangalore." He waited for Rahul to say something.
"Detective Mayur?" Rahul said, inquisitively. "Are you sure you called the right number?"
"Yes, Mr. Rahul," said Mayur. "It's regarding your niece, Priya who was murdered in Hyderabad."
"Oh, I see." Rahul sounded shaky. "I'm pleased to speak with you, Mr. Varma. How can I help you?"
"We would like to meet you and ask a few questions related to the case. Are you free today?"
"Well…you…know…" Rahul stumbled for words.
Mayur remained silent, allowing Rahul to compose himself.
After a few moments of silence, Rahul said. "Sure, where would you like to meet me? At my office?"
"Can you come to my hotel?"
"Um…What if we meet at my home? You can also meet my mother there."
"All right," said Mayur. "May I know your home address?"
"Sure. I'll message you the details soon." He paused. "Is there anything else you would like to know?"
"No," Mayur said. "I'm looking forward to seeing you soon." He ended the call.
Aisha straightened. "Are we meeting at his residence?"
Mayur nodded. "Yes."
"You should've insisted he come here." Aisha frowned.
Mayur smiled. "I have good reasons."
"What are they?"
"Rahul said we can meet his mother - Priya's grandmother. Don't you think we can get more information from her?"
Aisha's eyes glinted. She smiled. "You made the right decision. No doubt Priya's grandmother will help us."
Mayur's pulse quickened. "But it was Rahul who suggested the place, you know."
"Um…do you think there-?" Aisha sounded curious.
"Yes. I can understand his psychology. Rahul was nervous when I introduced myself. But he sounded confident after I agreed to come to his home."
"Well, I don't understand what-?"
"I think Rahul feels comfortable and safe in the presence of his mother. He doesn't want to show any sign of guilt and maybe, he would succeed in hiding his emotions."
Aisha remained silent. She seemed to have understood the motive behind Rahul's interest in inviting them to his home.
"Do you think he is involved?" she asked.
"I can't say anything until we have a shred of proper evidence to prove his involvement." He put his hand on Aisha's back. "Let's go and have breakfast. We'll finish our interviews tonight."
They walked into the hotel restaurant and ordered Uthappa - a thick pancake with onion toppings.
The place was half empty and the muffled conversation of customers filled the surroundings. The hot and spicy smell of sambar masala wafted in the air.
The waiter in a white uniform served the food.
Mayur took a bite of Uthappa. He chewed and then said, "The injury to my leg yesterday was not an accident."