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24th October 10:00 AM - Bangalore
Mayur and Aisha hired a taxi to Rahul's house; he was eager to see and question him. The car stopped just outside the gate. Mayur paid the driver; the intricate iron gate squeaked as he opened it and stepped in. An Alsatian dog, secured to a pole by a steel chain, barked.
"Let's wait for someone to escort us," Mayur said.
The latch sounded. An elderly woman with a fair complexion and wrinkles around her eyes opened the door. She regarded Mayur and Aisha intently for a few moments. Her face lit up with a slight grin as she stepped from the porch. "Rahul is freshening up. Please come in."
Mayur smiled back. His glance shifted towards the blooming red roses, growing in the flower pots which were lined alongside the house and the compound wall. The smell of wet soil and the fragrance of flowers wafted in the air.
The old lady walked into the living room. Mayur noticed a pair of brown shoes, placed near the closet. He bent down to unlace his footwear and glanced at the shoes, which Mayur thought belonged to Rahul. He read the number nine printed on them.
"Please be seated." The old lady gestured them to wooden cushioned chairs. "Rahul should be here at any moment." She walked out of the room.
Mayur sat in silence, looking at the modern art hanging on the wall. A small chandelier hung from the ceiling. The windows were draped with flower-patterned blue curtains. The showcase in front of him contained beautifully arranged wooden artifacts and plastic flowers.
A man, wearing blue pants and a white shirt approached. He stared at Mayur with a questioning look.
Mayur rose and bowed slightly. "Hello, I'm Detective Mayur Varma." He looked at Aisha. "And this is my assistant Aisha Mishra."
"I'm Rahul." He smiled. "Nice to meet you."
They all shook hands.
Rahul sat on a cushioned chair. "I think I saw you both at Priya's funeral. Didn't you attend it?"
"Oh, yes," said Mayur. "We did, but I don’t remember seeing you. What about you, Aisha?"
She shook her head. "No, I didn't."
Rahul bit his lips and averted his gaze.
"Rahul, I need to ask you some important questions regarding your niece's murder."
Rahul nodded. "Sure…um…why…not?" He swallowed.
"What is your full name?"
"How old are you?"
"I celebrated my twenty-seventh birthday last week."
Mayur forced a smile. "Belated greetings and what do you do for a living?"
"I own a business - a computer training center."
"I'm an engineer in Computer Science."
"Why did you choose to teach instead of working as a software engineer?" asked Aisha.
"Well," said Rahul. "I'm passionate about teaching. A few personal matters prevent me from working as a software engineer."
"We understand that Priya's mother is your sister," said Mayur. "Is that correct?"
Rahul nodded. "That's correct."
"Is she older than you?"
"Do you have any other siblings?"
"Yes, I've got a younger sister who is unmarried."
"What does she do?"
"She is a software engineer."
Mayur paused. "Why have you not thought of getting married yet?"
Rahul raised his brows. "That's my personal matter, Mr. Varma." He shot an intense gaze at Aisha and then looked back at Mayur. "I don't want to discuss this with you now."
But Mayur persisted. "You don't want to talk about it because you were betrayed by Priya, right?" He tried not to mock.
Rahul shrugged. "Who told you I was betrayed?"
"Your elder sister, Mrs. Bedi," Mayur said. "Do you agree you were hurt knowing that Priya was engaged to some other guy and you held a grudge against her?"
"I agree that I loved Priya." Rahul stared down. "But-"
"And you thought of vengeance because Priya broke your heart," said Mayur.
"No, that's not correct." Rahul bit his lip. "How could I think of harming my niece?"
"Yes, you indeed thought so, Mr. Bhatt," said Mayur with his voice raised.
"No, Mr. Varma," Rahul said. "No…I didn't kill my niece." He paused. "God shouldn’t have been so harsh on her, you know."
Mayur composed. "Mr. Bhatt, if you loved Priya, why didn't you talk to your elders in the family? Why didn't you act when you heard Priya was getting engaged to someone else?"
"I did raise my concerns and told her parents about my interest in Priya. But her father was a hard nut to crack. You know, Mr. Varma, I didn't want to put myself down by begging Priya's hand in marriage."
"What did Priya say?" asked Aisha. "Did she talk to you before she got engaged?"
"Priya didn't want to disappoint her father. I insisted she reconsider her decision, but she refused to go against her parents."
"How did you feel, Mr. Bhatt?" asked Mayur. "I'm sure you were hurt when you heard that from Priya."
Rahul rubbed the back of his neck. "I told you already. I was hurt, but I'm not involved in the murder. I loved Priya and I'll continue to love her," Rahul said, his voice raised.