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24th October 11:00 AM - Bangalore
They entered the glass-walled coffee shop. It had a wooden desk from where they served beverages and snacks to patrons.
Mayur looked at a board which had the list of food items and their prices. He turned to an attendant at the other end of the desk and asked for two coffees. When the server handed over the steaming cups, Mayur went and sat opposite Aisha. He placed the cups on the table.
They took a couple of sips in silence.
Aisha placed the beverage back on the table and referred to her notes. "We're calling Harsha next."
"Yes," said Mayur. "We are. He is the last suspect based in Bangalore and I don't want to delay any further." He took his phone from his shirt pocket and called Harsha.
He didn’t answer.
Mayur sighed. He called again.
After many rings, there was an answer. "Harsha here."
"Hello, Mr. Harsha. It's Detective Mayur Varma."
"Detective Varma?" Harsha sounded surprised. "Tell me how can I help you?"
"This is in connection with Priya's murder. I would like to interview you as part of our investigation."
"Priya?" asked Harsha, sounding astonished. "Who …is …she…? I really…"
"Mr. Harsha," said Mayur. "We have heard that you had been in love with Priya and were interested in getting married to her."
There was a pause. Harsha cleared his throat and went on: "Oh, are you talking about Priya Bedi, my classmate?"
"Yes, I need to find out a few details about her."
"All right. Can we continue to discuss the matter over the phone?
"No, Mr. Harsha," said Mayur. "I prefer seeing you to discuss the matter. Can you come to my hotel for an hour or so? We can meet in the restaurant."
"Sure, I'll be glad to meet you. Can you give me the hotel details?"
Mayur told him the room number. "I'm looking forward to it."
He ended the call and placed the phone back in his shirt pocket.
"Thank God, he's agreed to come here," Aisha said. "Was he reluctant?"
"Yes. Though I didn't notice any kind of nervousness in his voice, I wonder why he pretended he didn't know Priya and about her murder at first."
"Maybe, he didn’t pretend, but we can conclude only after interviewing him and finding out more about the case," Aisha said.
It was eleven o'clock sharp when the doorbell of the hotel room rang. "It must be Harsha." Mayur and Aisha rose and walked toward the entrance. He opened the door.
A young man in his mid-twenties looked at Mayur with his eyes wide. "Detective Mayur Varma?"
Mayur stretched out his hand. "Yes. And you are…"
"Oh, it's nice to meet you." Mayur shook his hand. "Meet my assistant, Aisha Mishra." Aisha smiled and also shook his hand.
"Let's go to the restaurant," said Mayur.
Inside the café, Mayur located a less crowded area near a window and got a table. Harsha sat opposite Mayur and Aisha.
When the waiter arrived, Mayur ordered coffee for all.
"Mr. Ahuja," said Mayur. "As part of Priya's murder case, we would like to learn certain facts from you."
Harsha leaned forward.
"You said your last name is Ahuja?"
"Okay, Mr. Ahuja," Mayur said. "What do you do for a living?"
"I am a software engineer at Cisco."
"For how long had you known Priya?"
"I met her first at the engineering college. We studied our course together."
"Did you both like each other?"
"Um…I can say we were good friends. We studied together and shared class notes."
"What was your opinion of Priya?"
"She was a lovely girl," said Harsha. "It's a great loss for us and I miss her a lot."
"Were you interested in marrying her?"
"Was Priya interested in marrying you?" asked Mayur.
"I think so, but she was under pressure from her parents to get married to Nayan."
"So, she didn't commit to you."
The waiter returned with coffee and placed the steaming beverages on the table. Mayur's pulse quickened as he was eager to find out if Harsha was a left-hander.
Harsha took the cup from his left hand, sending a shiver down Mayur's spine. If he wears a size nine shoes, he will be a strong suspect and I need to get his call records from Prakash as soon as possible.
Mayur sipped the coffee then placed the cup on the table. "Did you threaten Priya's father when she got engaged?"
"You need to tell the truth, Mr. Ahuja. Did you threaten Mr. Bedi?"
Harsha grew pale. He stared down, nodding.
"Did you vow revenge on him?"
"No, Mr. Varma," said Harsha, his eyes wide and brows pulled together. "I'm not that kind of person. I agree that I was disappointed to lose Priya, but didn't hold any grudge against her."