Sheila sat in the small room staring blankly at the man sitting across the table, a small bulb of light hanging above her head, he asked, “Why?”
The same question she had been asking herself; Why? Why had all this happened to her? When did her life change so drastically? She looked down at her trembling hands which were still stained with blood. She looked up again at the policeman who looked well into his mid-forties with a strand of white hair, the rigid expressions and unwavering eye contact told her that he must have done this a million times before. The nameplate on his uniform read, Inspector Krishna Pathak.
“You are not going anywhere until you speak up, Miss Bedi. a man is dead and you are our prime suspect, so the sooner you open your mouth the better,” he said sipping tea from a little glass that you would get at small tea stalls anywhere and everywhere in Pune.
“How many times do I have to tell you that I didn’t do it? I could never do it. Not to anyone and especially not to him, I loved him. I…” Sheila broke into a cough, her throat was drying up, she couldn’t remember the last time she had water. Pathak placed a glass of water in front of her, she picked it up and gulped it within seconds.
“Shinde, get madam another glass of water! She seems quite thirsty. Of course, slitting someone’s throat open will do that to you.” the sarcastic tone was infuriating, Sheila banged the glass on the table and covered her face with both her hands.
“I didn’t do it. I didn’t do it. Why don’t you understand?” she managed to speak between sobs.
“All I understand is, we found you next to Mr.Gopal’s dead body at his house, in his bedroom holding the murder weapon. So Miss. Sheila Bedi, please make me understand why I should believe anything you say.” Pathak spoke without blinking once, then rested back into his chair, running his hand over his hair. From where he saw, the case was open and shut. Crazy girlfriend murdered her live-in boyfriend. Not the first case of this type for him.
“I wasn’t even supposed to be there yesterday. I was supposed to be at my sister’s graduation but I was called there. I had not expected to see Gopal like that…” she said looking down at her trembling blood-stained hands through eyes blurred with tears.
“Who called you there?”
“I don’t know who that person was but, she said she was trying to help me.”
“Gopal was cheating on me, with multiple women. This girl was one of them and she was trying to expose him. You can check my mail and messages, she has contacted me multiple times over the past few months. “
“Your call and phone details will be in my hand in no time. So this woman you are talking about, do you know her name? How did she find you?”
“I don’t know. I just know that one day I got an email from this unknown person and my life changed forever.”
“If you can walk me through this incredibly interesting life of yours, it’ll be of measure help.” He looked down at his wristwatch, 8:30 p.m. the old and faded dial showed. He thought of his wife who would be furious as he missed his son’s birthday once again. After 20 years of hard work and not giving in to the corruption that most of his co-workers gave into, all he could provide his family with was a small house at Parvati gaon, a prime center but relatively less richer localities of Pune City. Not that his family complained, all they wished for was a little bit of his time, but here he was dealing with another ‘love murder’ drama. But as he had said throughout his life, Work above everything! “Go on Miss. Bedi, we have a lot of time.”
Sheila just wanted this to be over now; she took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and looked back at her life.
Sheila Bedi, the most intelligent yet conventional girl, that’s how she was known in school. Despite being excellent in her studies she never was very ambitious. Her dreams were pretty simple; a good home, a loving family, and a man who was devoted to her.
Now in her late twenties, she had her share of dating but nothing that ever turned into a relationship. Even though she loved her family to the fullest and wanted to have her own one day as well, she still was a hopeless romantic. She didn’t want to give in to her parents’ urges for an arranged marriage. Her interest in fashion made her take up a course in fashion designing at Weenie’s hub, one of the top fashion institutes in Koregaon Park Pune, which was closer to her home.
It was during this course that she met Gopal Yadav, a young photographer who was exactly her opposite. He had big dreams and did everything to achieve them. She still clearly recalled their first interaction.
“I see the models here are quite beautiful.” Sheila was standing in her office wearing a newly designed dress which her senior made her try out on herself. She was startled to see a man standing at the door, wearing ripped jeans and a casual black t-shirt. He had a smile that could light up any room, or so she thought.
“Umm… may I help you?” She said blushing, partly surprised that he mistook her for a model and partly shocked at the fact that she felt so drawn to someone she had just met.
“I’m Gopal, the new photographer. Weenie asked me to meet a certain Sheila Bedi, who is the designer for the photoshoot. I didn’t expect to run into a model though.” he had now entered the office and was standing just a few inches away from her, she noticed his beautiful black eyes and couldn’t take her own off them.
“ I am Sheila Bedi and I am not a model.” she was smiling like a teenager talking to her crush for the first time. She couldn’t believe herself.
“Oh wow! Well, that was a genuine mistake, I mean anyone would mistake you for a model. You are so beautiful.” Gopal ran his hand through his hair which was styled like an old 90’s model. Very rare to find guys with such vintage hairstyles these days!
“I’m flattered. But that’s not what most people would agree upon.” She was fairly beautiful with long ink-black hair that ended at her mid back, beautiful brown eyes, full lips. Although she was of average height standing just 5 feet tall she carried herself in a way that made her stand out in a room full of people. But despite this, calling her a model was a little too much.
“Well can’t say about others but I would surely love to shoot with you, especially in that dress.” And there was that smile again. Sheila could swear her head was spinning but she managed to get into the professional mode and they went on with their work.
Gopal was charming, with his amazing photography skills, extremely handsome looks, and outgoing personality he could win anyone over yet he seemed to be only interested in her. Soon they grew close, a lot closer than Sheila had imagined. She still remembered every little detail of their first time together. The way he had decorated the room, every small detail he took care of, it all felt like a dream. But then the lovemaking was very real and of a kind that you get addicted to. After the first time it seemed like it never stopped; every day, every time they met, no matter the place or the time sex was always on the table. If Gopal was a drug Sheila had completely lost herself in him. She was addicted.
Their relationship went on for a couple of years and then Sheila wanted more. She had told him right at the beginning about her dreams, how she imagined her life and he always welcomed her thoughts,
“I want what you want because I want you” he said and Sheila believed him every time.
She moved in with him, left her parents’ house, worked as a stay-at-home wife. Everything was perfect until one night, Gopal was away for a project and Sheila got an email.
“Can I have some more water?” Sheila was barely able to speak now. Recalling her time with the love of her life, the man who betrayed her, the man who is now dead was draining all the energy from her body.
“Shinde!” Pathak shouted at the constable again, he immediately came in with the water.
“Thank you.” This time she drank it with a lot more calm.
“I see you are getting comfortable. All I know till now is your Bollywood- wali love story with the dead guy. Yaha pe picture nahi ban rahi madam ( I am not making a movie here). Tell me something that would help with the case.”
“You said you wanted to know everything. This is my story and I choose to tell it this way.” For the first time in the past hour, both her voice and her hands had stopped trembling.
Pathak raised his eyebrows, then sighed. “Fine. go on. What email did you get and what did you do after that?”
“It wasn’t just that email. I had also got a few calls before, but it wasn’t until the email that I took the situation seriously.”Sheila recalled that night once again, how she spent tossing and turning in bed before finally deciding to go to the one person she could talk to.
Sheila sat on the couch at her best friend Neha’s house. The group pictures on the nearby wall, the miniature TV that they bought together years ago, left her feeling nostalgic. It was like her second home.
“Here’s your coffee Mrs. Yadav!” Neha handed her a mug of coffee and sank herself on the couch crossing her lean legs.
“Don’t call me that! I’m not his wife.” Sheila took a sip and closed her eyes, visually looking more relaxed than before.
“Not yet, but you guys must have talked about it right? You are living together for almost a year now and to be honest you both have already started giving major ‘married couple’ vibes.”
“That’s what Gopal says too. He thinks we have turned into an old married couple just in 2 years of relationship,” Sheila said in a low voice, the tension started appearing on her face again.
Neha placed a hand on Sheila’s shoulder, “Dude, are you okay? You are never this low when you talk about Gopal. Is everything alright?”
“I don’t know. Everything was okay a few weeks back. We had our usual fights but nothing that we couldn’t solve. Then one day out of nowhere he said he had to leave for Goa for a fashion gig. I was confused because it was so last minute but he convinced me saying that he only got the opportunity because the lead photographer backed out and since it was a big opportunity he said yes immediately.”
“And that got you stressed because?” Neha was confused as Sheila was never insecure about anything that Gopal did and in fact, always supported him in everything.
“A day after he left, I got a call from this girl who said that Gopal was actually in Mumbai and was lying to me about the whole thing. I was confused, I thought someone was just messing with me because there was no way Gopal would lie to me. I hung up on her but she kept calling, she also texted me a few times telling me what a fool I was to trust him.”
“Oh my god! Do you think she was telling the truth?” Neha was now gripping her mug tightly looking intently at Sheila.
“I was sure she was lying so I did the right thing and told Gopal everything once he returned.”
“What did he say?”
“He was very calm. I couldn’t really make out what was going through his mind. He said she must be one of the models with whom he had rejected working. I did what I always do, I believed him.”
“A model would go to such extremes just because he didn’t work with her? I really doubt that!” Neha said adjusting her glasses which were a tad bit large for her small face and tucking a strand of her short brown hair behind her ear.
“I didn’t. For me, Gopal’s assurance was enough.”
“Then why are you still stressed about it?”
“Yesterday I got an email with a lot of pictures of Gopal in clubs and beaches in Mumbai with different women with time and place details that coincide with the time he was supposed to be in Goa” She pulled her phone out and showed the pictures to Neha.
“These look quite real. That means he was lying to you! What a scumbag!” Neha banged the coffee mug on the wooden center table spilling the remaining coffee all over it.
“That table was a gift from your mom! Don’t ruin it just because my boyfriend’s a cheater.” Sheila joked trying to lighten the conversation but failed miserably.
Neha picked up a nearby napkin and left it soaking in the spilled coffee, “I’ll take care of that later. Now tell me, did you confront him?”
“No. I didn’t know if the pictures were authentic and I knew if I confronted him without any strong proof he would easily manipulate me into believing him.”
“And how are you going to find that proof?”
“There was a number along with that email. It wasn’t the same as the girl’s but I saved it. I could call on that and see who the person is.”
“Then what are you waiting for? Call right now!” Neha was visibly furious.
Sheila nervously looked down at her shaking hands, “I don’t want to. I don’t want this to be true. I don’t want to believe that he is cheating on me,” She said with tears in her eyes.
“I know it is very hard for you, but you gave this man everything. I still remember how mad your parents were when you decided to move in with him but you did it anyway because you loved him. You deserve to know if this man is even worthy of your love.”
Sheila’s phone blinked with a text, it was from Gopal, telling her he would be out of town for the weekend. Neha raised her eyebrows and leaned back into the soft cushions of the couch shaking her head.
“Call on that number Sheila. You deserve the truth!” Neha handed the phone back to her.
“You are right. It is already stressing me out and delaying the obvious is not going to help,” Sheila took a deep breath and dialed the number.
After just a few rings, a voice on the other end answered, “So you decided to believe me then?” A completely different voice than before. It was hard to make out if it was the same person.
“You said you have some proof. I wanna know what that is.” Neha gestured to her to put the phone on speaker and she did.
“How about I show you the proof instead?” the girl responded quickly.
“What do you mean?”
“Gopal is meeting me at his house this Saturday. If you reach there on time, you might get a chance to catch him red-handed. Will that be a good enough proof for you?”
Sheila gasped. She bit her lip and looked at Neha, the phone now trembling in her hand. Neha placed a comforting hand on her shoulder and nodded at her reassuringly.
“I’ll be there.” Sheila tried her best to keep her voice as calm as possible.
Sheila took another water break; Pathak went up to the small sink at the corner of the room and splashed some water on his face. He looked down at his watch again. 11:30 p.m. he took out his phone to find 4 missed calls from his wife. For a moment he almost dialed back but decided against it and placed his phone back.
“So that is why you were at Gopal’s, I mean your house instead of being at your sister’s graduation. But it still doesn’t explain how your boyfriend ended up dead and you with the murder weapon.”
“I went to our place at 5 in the evening as decided. The girl had promised me to leave the door unlocked and she did. I went inside only to be greeted with a deadly silence. I thought they must be in the bedroom. For a moment I almost decided to go back outside and pretend like I didn’t know anything. I didn’t have the courage to see the love of my life in bed with another woman. I stood in the living room for a moment thinking back at all the good times I had spent here with him. I loved him so much. How could he do this to me? Neha’s words echoed in my ear. I deserved better. I took a deep breath and went to the bedroom, the door was half-opened but there was no sound. I pushed it open and entered only to get the worst surprise of my life. Gopal was not with another woman, he was lying dead on his bed, on our bed. His throat slit open, his eyes rolled up, lifeless and dry. I went up to him, shouting, crying. I wanted to wake him up, it was so hard to believe that he was gone. The knife was lying on the floor, I don’t know why I thought of picking it up but I did. I went and sat beside Gopal, just looking at him. Hoping that he might wake up anytime and call my name like he used to. I just sat there whole night until—”
“Until we came and arrested you.” Pathak interrupted, sipping his 6th cup of tea now.
“Yes. The only thing I don’t get is, how did you know about his death if I wasn’t the one to call you?”
“Sir, Miss. Bedi’s phone records are here and we also got the IP address of the laptop she was getting the emails from. The address to which the laptop and the phone number used to call Miss. Bedi is registered as the same.” Shinde handed out a few sheets to Pathak who took a close look at the papers, yawning and rubbing his eyes.
“Do you know this address, Miss. Bedi?”
Sheila took the paper from his hand, as she read the address her eyes widened. “How is this possible? No, no. this can’t be,” she muttered almost as if talking to herself.
“What? What is not possible?” Pathak had now grown extremely impatient so close to solving the case.
“This is my parents’ address,” Sheila said with a trembling voice.
After a 40 minute travel from Shivaji Nagar to Koregaon Park, which felt longer than it ever had before, Sheila and the police reached her Parents’ place. Ideally, they should have reached in an hour but Pune’s traffic isn’t much heavy at 1 in the morning.
They were received by Mr. Bedi at the door, a tall, fairly thin man in his mid-sixties.
“This was the only thing left to see now. Did you bring the police to my house? Don’t you have any shame left?” He gave sheila a disgusting look before turning his gaze to the police. “Whatever she did, I have nothing to do with her and I don’t care. She lost all ties with me when she moved with that boy, and as for a mother, who would have cared is not in the city so you people can do whatever you want with her.”
Saying so he began to shut the door but Pathak stopped him. “Wait! We are actually here for the daughter you care about.”
“What do you mean?”
“Where is your younger daughter Mr. Bedi?”
“Kaveri? What do you want with her?”
“Call her out and I’m sure she’ll tell you herself.”
“Kaveri is sleeping. She had her graduation yesterday and she is very tired. Let her rest.”
“We checked with the college, Mr. Bedi. your daughter didn’t attend her own graduation.”
Mr. Bedi was sweating now. He kept looking from one police officer to the other unable to find the right words.
“Let us in Mr. Bedi, or we will have to force ourselves in.”
Within the next few minutes, the police were let in, Kaveri was pulled out of her bed and everyone including Pathak, Constable Shinde, a lady constable that was now holding Kaveri in place, Sheila, and Mr. Bedi were all gathered in Bedi’s living room.
“Kaveri Bedi, we have found that you were the one contacting your sister trying to expose her boyfriend. Care to explain?”
Kaveri stood without saying a word. Her face was blank. Her eyes dry and emotionless. For a girl in her early 20’s Kaveri looked much older. Her extremely thin figure and slouched shoulders made her look like she hadn’t eaten in weeks. She was wearing pajamas that had clowns all over them, like a six-year-old kid.
“Kaveri please speak up. Did anyone make you do it? Why did you say Gopal had an affair with you? Please speak up.” Sheila begged, unable to believe that her little sister could be involved in something so brutal.
Kaveri gave Sheila a pointed look, “Because he did Di!”
“What?” Sheila was shocked. Gopal was having an affair with her sister?
“Miss. Kaveri, you better come clean about everything you did. We have already wasted more time than we should have on this case” Pathak found the last of his patience breaking.
Kaveri went up to the sofa, took a seat, and finally said, “Fine. I’ll tell you everything.”
I met Gopal 3 years back when I was in Mumbai at my aunt’s place for summer vacation. Gopal was our neighbor. When I first saw him, I was instantly attracted. He had something about him. I made the first move, and in no time we were inseparable. Two months that I spent there were all about Gopal. We went on dates. He was the first guy I had ever dated. I wanted to tell Di, I wanted to tell my friends but he said we should wait till we are absolutely sure ourselves. I agreed. When my vacation ended, I asked him to meet, we went to our usual hotel and before I left he promised me he would call and come to meet me in Pune. I came back, days passed, weeks passed but Gopal didn’t call. I tried to call him so many times but he didn’t respond. I contacted him on social media, but nothing. Then one day I got a text saying, “We are over. Stop stalking me.” I gave my everything to this guy and he broke up over a text. I felt like a fool, I didn’t tell anyone about it and tried to forget everything; but a year ago Di came home with a guy she was in love with, I was very excited to meet him but when I saw him I lost it. It was Gopal. My Gopal. Now he was my Di’s boyfriend? I tried so much to talk to him but he treated me like I was just some crazy ex. I tried to tell Di but soon realized that she was as manipulated by him as I was. So I made a plan and started contacting her as an anonymous girl. I even used a voice modulation app so she wouldn’t know it’s me. I tried calling and texting her for months but she never seemed to believe me so I gathered pictures of him with the girls he was cheating her with. I wrote two emails that day. One I sent to Di, the second I sent to Gopal blackmailing him that if he didn’t meet me, I’ll send them to Di. That’s why he agreed to meet me on Saturday. I had not planned to kill him. I just wanted to expose him but, when I met him he started to beg. I had expected him to be mad, I had expected him to not care just like he didn’t care for me but instead, he begged. He said he loved her and he was going to do whatever it takes to be faithful to her. Gopal Yadav, the casanova! was begging for a girl’s love. But that wasn’t me. It was my sister. She was to him, what I could never be. How was I supposed to take that? So I killed him. I grabbed the knife sitting on the fruit plate and slit his throat with it. Poor guy didn’t expect it at all. Then I left him bleeding and went from the back door. These two fools didn’t think of having a CCTV for their house, it worked in my favor. I knew Sheila Di would come, I had called her. I thought of killing two birds with one stone. So I called the police from a local P.C.O reporting a murder. I killed him and I wanted her to rot in jail as well. She was his love. Why wasn’t I? She stole him from me. She deserved to rot in jail.
Sheila collapsed on the ground after hearing Kaveri’s confession. Mr. Bedi now looked at his younger, more loved daughter like he didn’t even recognize her anymore.
“She didn’t steal him from you. She didn’t even know about you both. I can’t believe you framed your own sister for a boy” Pathak had seen many such cases before but the dryness with which Kaveri spoke was still surprising.
“I don’t regret it,” Kaveri spoke without hesitating.
“We’ll make sure you do. Sawant, take the girl in the jeep.” The female constable followed the orders.
Kaveri was taken away. Sheila and her father sat in the living room, motionless.
“Miss. Bedi, we are sorry for the trouble. You are free now. Make sure to come and complete the formalities at the police station whenever possible.”
With that Pathak left, leaving Sheila with mixed emotions. She sat wondering how her life changed in the past two days. The love of her life was dead and her sister not only murdered him but also tried to frame her. She got up to finally clean the bloodstains from her hands. When she came back to the living room, her father was standing there with a cup of coffee. His face pale, eyes were swollen from crying.
“Come beta. I know you have had a very bad couple of days” he managed to speak.
Sheila couldn’t control her tears and ran across the room to hug him.
The woman that put her family and loved ones above all, was not only betrayed by the two most important people in her life but also lost them forever in just a matter of two days.