Murder in Mumbai

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A DUTTON GUILT EDGED MYSTERY Published by Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A. Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.); Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England; Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd); Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd); Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi–110 017, India; Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd); Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England Published by Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. First printing, July 2012 Copyright © 2012 by K. D. Calamur All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions. REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA ISBN 978-1-101-58748-5 Printed in the United States of America PUBLISHER'S NOTE This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

[Pearson Branding Line]


For R. and A.



Anyone who’s lived in Mumbai1 will understand this: You love it; you loathe it; you embrace it. In return, the city—in all her splendor, in all her munificence—makes you hers. Technically, Bombay shouldn’t work. It’s home to 14 million people, a creaking infrastructure, simmering tensions, and corruption. Yet, it remains cosmopolitan in spirit, mercantile in philosophy, optimistic in outlook. Unlike the rest of the country, it’s unburdened by history. Caste, religion, and gender aren’t barriers. It boasts of India’s largest stock exchange, the most muscular film industry, the richest cricket team. It’s at once New York and L.A. and Dickensian London. It’s among the last of the world’s great cities: raw and real, unhindered by finesse, bolstered by jugaad,2 and pulsing with what’s only known as Mumbai Spirit. And it was in this city that I began my journalism career. Bombay was different then, of course. No malls or multiplexes; no call centers or Porsche showrooms; no Westerners living or working. What it did have then, as now: characters. Venal politicians, crime bosses, hustlers, broke cops, migrant workers, and salarymen all seeking a place in the relentless, chaotic march toward success. Mumbai also had books—everywhere. There were established stores like Strand and the now-shuttered Lotus; there was Smoker’s Corner hidden away in the old part of the city and A.H. Wheeler at the railway stations; and there were the raddi wallahs3 and street-side bookshops in Fountain with collections carefully curated from the estates of old Parsis. It was among these that I discovered Pulp: Chandler and Hammett and James Hadley Chase and Edgar Wallace and countless others. So it’s no exaggeration when I say that being the first to be published in a new imprint along with Mickey Spillane is a little like getting a guided tour of the moon with Neil Armstrong. 1

Mumbai or Bombay: While the city is officially Mumbai, I use the terms interchangeably to reflect actual usage.


jugaad: a Hindi term that roughly translates to overcoming privation through resourcefulness


raddi wallahs: scrap dealers who often sell used books


It’s this city and those stories that planted the germ of an idea in my mind. The idea lingered and grew—slowly. Over the years, as Mumbai changed, for good and ill, the idea took shape and became the story you’re about to read. The format adds to my excitement. The question is no longer “Are eBooks the future?” because that future’s here. I hope Dutton’s revival of its Guilt Edged Mysteries imprint reinvigorates the genre, produces a new stable of writers, attracts a new generation of readers, and inspires someone else half a world away. I hope you enjoy Murder in Mumbai.

Krishnadev Calamur

Dutton Guilt Edged Mysteries



The two men waited in their car looking at the rain come down in sheets. No one had anticipated the showers, which broke the spell of the oppressive summer. The men watched as cars snaked their way in a seemingly never-ending procession past St. Michael’s Church, past Mahim Creek with its ever-present odor of rotten eggs. If you were flying over the city, this would be a marvelous sight: miles of cars illuminating the arteries that took weary workers home after a long day. But if you were one of the unfortunate souls stuck in the bedlam, calling home to say you’d be late, yet again, then there was nothing romantic about it. In fact, the two men in the car, longtime Mumbai residents, had long ago given up any romantic illusions about the first rains. True, it brought respite to the city, which was sweltering through every pore, but they recognized it for what it would soon do: flood the streets, wash away homes, stop trains, bring chaos. Inside the car, there was piercing silence. Outside, anything but. People were still going home. The city was still adding new residents: human, canine, bovine, and even porcine; new additions that would be swallowed up by the belly of Bombay. But the two men were oblivious of all this; oblivious of the Siberian cranes that stopped just a mile up the road each year to escape the cold winters of their home; oblivious of Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum, which bustled even at this hour, even in this rain. All they could think about was the content of the trunk and how they could dispose of it. Neither man spoke. It was as if they couldn’t bear the words that would pierce the silence. The last thing either wanted was to say something he’d regret. Not tonight. Tonight, they had to be quiet. One of them wanted to smoke, but knew the other hated the habit. Instead, he scoured his pockets for chewing gum. None was to be found. There wasn’t supposed to be a body in the trunk. It was not supposed to be like this. The job was supposed to set them up for retirement: break in, take the electronics, leave. They


had planned to pull the contents of the laptop: credit card numbers, business secrets, bank accounts and frequent-flier data, passwords and pins. They had a buyer in Dubai waiting to send them the rest of the money into an offshore account. Their routine, perfected over several jobs, had been foolproof. Until now. After watching their target for an eternity, they had ascertained her work habits, her daily schedule, her husband’s infidelity and even the days of his assignations. And when they went to the apartment building, they had expected it to be a smooth job. Instead, they had a body stuffed in a bag lying in the trunk. They were waiting for the traffic to ease so they could get rid of it. They couldn’t take the risk of being spotted. I wish I’d never taken the job, thought the man riding shotgun. He’d been doing this a few years, and it was lucrative. But nothing was worth this kind of risk—nothing. He found himself in a precarious position. It wasn’t as if he could call the police and tell them that he had found a body while burglarizing an apartment. Questions would soon arise about what he was doing in the flat and his presence there was enough reason for him to be a suspect. After all, he thought, who would believe a bloody thief? The rain began to abate after what seemed like an eternity, though in fact it was only an hour. Pedestrians trotting through the glistening streets with umbrellas that did little good in this weather slowed down in relief. The cars began to move, their occupants eager for the comfort of hot chapatis, rice and dal, fried fish, a glass of scotch to ease away the worries of the day. Traffic soon thinned to a trickle. The time was right. The two men got out of the car. The driver walked to the trunk and pulled out the large, unbearably heavy red Louis Vuitton suitcase. The passenger did his best to avoid the little rivulets running down the street, carrying with them all the bits of food, plastic, condoms, and rotting garbage they had encountered. It was as if the rains had washed the city’s sins away, but left the most unappealing evidence of those misdeeds behind. The driver dragged the bag to the overflowing rubbish heap. Now that the downpour was over, the dogs had returned, rummaging through the fetid trash for scraps of food. One of the dogs growled as they approached. The driver picked up a bottle from the heap and threw it with force. It hit the animal, which yelped and scrammed away. The other dogs moved to another part of the dump where they could


scavenge undisturbed. The passenger felt bile rise at the sight of the damp grime and the smell emanating from the decomposing rubbish. He wished he were somewhere else. He wished he hadn’t taken this job. He wished he didn’t have such a conspicuous bag. Almost as if he read his thoughts, the driver spoke: “We should have used another bag.” “You’re right,” the other said. “What if someone finds it?” The driver sounded worried, but the other man did not answer, though those were the same thoughts running through his mind. They dug through the trash, swatting the flies and mosquitoes. Both looked around, but except for a few cars that drove straight past them, assuming them to be some of the city’s countless ragpickers finding treasure in someone else’s trash, there was nobody about. The two men concealed the bag under the trash and got back into the vehicle. If either was repulsed by the smell he had brought back, he didn’t bring it up. The driver started the car, looked around carefully to see they hadn’t been noticed, and drove away, just in time for the heavens to open up again.

Later, the newspapers said that it was the most rain that had fallen on the city in more than twenty years. Except for brief respite, it rained almost constantly for a week. One week of leaky roofs, blocked drains, closed schools, urchins playing in waist-deep water, cars submerged. But despite all the pain, the heat was broken, and the city fell in love once again with the monsoon. The boys were all around twelve and for them the rain brought with it adventure. They gathered at daybreak after a long night—last night had been the worst; the storm before the calm. Most of the roofs of their squalid homes had leaks. They had spent much of last night covering them with plastic sheets, aware of the futility of the task but ignoring past experience. Just as they had anticipated, the sheets made little difference. They spent the rest of the time in the Sisyphean task of ferrying buckets to place under the leaks, periodically emptying them, starting over. The boys weren’t sure when they fell asleep or even how long they had managed to rest, but when they awoke they were glad the rain had stopped, even gladder 7

the sun was out. They stood around their makeshift playground, separated from the passing traffic by an imaginary line that seemed to protect them from errant drivers. The boys had bare feet, their rubber slippers utilized as stumps for their impromptu game of cricket. Everyone wanted to either bat or bowl. Fielding was never desired unless it meant you could be close in and be part of the action; being nearby also meant you could with sufficient bravado claim bat or ball. All this meant that the youngest boy, seven years old, got the job no one else wanted: to field at the far end. His job: to retrieve the ball on the rare occasion that it was hit toward the overflowing garbage dump—overflowing because the ragpickers who sifted through the rubbish with their bare hands, prospecting for recyclables, weren’t due there until later in the day. The boys might have lived in slums and might have queued up every day to shit in a squalid shared public toilet or bathe by the train tracks, but by God, even they had standards, which began and ended at rummaging through the garbage heap—there was, after all, an entire group of people in the abstruse caste system whose job it was to do just that. The little boy waited endlessly. The others seemed to have forgotten about him. He thought about running back home, but he knew that meant that his brother, who was now batting, would mock him mercilessly later. He began daydreaming, thinking of an age when he could claim the bat and ball and shine with both. He daydreamed of flying away from here, like a bird, and stretched out his arms. In his reverie, he didn’t hear the cries of “Catch it” being shouted. He was whirling around like a dervish and then sensed someone nearby. When he looked up, he saw two others running toward him, their eyes fixed on the ball that was rocketing past them, their hands at the ready should they be able to dive and catch it. He froze and looked at them. “Catch it,” one of the others said. He ran toward the others and in his excitement tripped and fell on one of them who stumbled and hit the other, leading all three of them to collapse in a heap on the ground. He watched as the ball sailed past them and landed gently in the midst of the rubbish pile before rolling down to some invisible orifice. “Chootiya,” the boys yelled. One of them clipped his head. He cowered and looked at his brother, who was laughing. “You’re a real chootiya,” he said. “And you’re all badwas.”


“Go get the ball or you’ll have to pay for the next one.” Buying a new one wasn’t even an option so the boy looked at his only choice: climbing a mountain of rotting, stinking garbage. He looked at his brother. “Go get it.” Arse, he thought. He slowly walked toward the dump. The smell was overpowering. He had gotten used to the smell of fresh shit on the side of the roads every morning, but this was something that he just couldn’t bear. Still, reluctantly, he climbed the dump, past bottles, plastic bags, items he didn’t recognize, to the spot where he saw the ball land before it disappeared. He pretended he was a mountaineer, making sure he didn’t lose his footing. He was finally at the spot where the ball landed before it rolled down. “See anything?” his brother asked. He shook his head. “Look closely,” one of the others shouted. “I’m looking, right.” He scanned the ground, straining his eyes to see the red ball. It was like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack, except this was a rubber ball in a garbage dump. Bottle after bottle after bag after bag after newspaper lay below him. And then he spotted something red sticking out. “I think I see it,” he said, as he walked down carefully. The other boys waited. Once the ball was retrieved, their game could continue and the little runt could continue fielding where he was or he could go home. Either way the story of him diving through trash would be a good one for years to come. “Akhil,” the boy shouted to his older brother. “What?” “You guys better come here.”


Chapter 1

The streets were coming alive with school- and office-goers. Stalls selling sandwiches, tea, and newspapers were already busy, catering to those on their way to work and those returning home after a long night on the job. Inspector Vijay Gaikwad, riding his Enfield Bullet motorcycle to work, watched the city that never slept awake. Gaikwad had been born and raised here, a Son of the Soil as it were, and he knew where to look to catch it stealing a nap. As a young man, he loved to watch Mumbai slowly rise, languidly stretch, and then return to a state of familiar frenzy. But those moments were rare now. The city hummed and he seemed to perpetually flit between home, the station, and crime scenes. Gaikwad barely had time for himself. He was late for work this morning because he had to drop his always-tardy son at school. And he wasn’t looking forward to the ride to work. The rains had been brutal. In places he could see the rainbow sheen caused by petrol from a leaking vehicle glistening in the morning light. He knew it would be a hot day, hot and sticky the way it invariably was after a downpour.

Gaikwad was dressed in his neatly pressed khaki uniform, riding past the past: roadside tea stalls, barbershops, and the seemingly infinite line of establishments that sold marble. At a distance, he could see the future: the city of new skyscrapers rising up in the haze. He was heading toward the new bridge that leaps from Bandra to Worli, across the Arabian Sea. Even if the rest of the city was crumbling, the bridge, especially when lit at night, let Mumbaikars believe, even if for an instant, that their India was indeed shining. The traffic was particularly bad this morning on the Western Express Highway, just as it was


particularly bad every morning, in every place. But the uniform did have its benefits. There were few things more intimidating in the city than the sight of a cop riding his Enfield bike down the highway. People—forget the people: even the city’s holy cows and stray dogs moved aside to let him pass. Gaikwad could see the Bandra-Worli Sea Link looming in front of him. It was beautiful even in the hazy daylight. But though the bridge was supposed to reduce the time it takes to go from Bandra to Worli, it created a bottleneck on the other side, obviating the need for it: another giant desi cock-up. It took us ten years to build the 3.5-mile bridge span, Gaikwad thought, quickly doing the math to arrive at a paltry third of a mile each year. The cost: $342 million, not counting the bribes and threats, veiled and explicit, that went into securing permits, paying off the cement mafia, protection money, and, of course, enriching the nation’s great leaders. As his boss, Khan, often said, there are many bad things we can say about our motherland, but there’s no denying we have the best government money can buy. Gaikwad decided to skip the bridge and take the old way: Mahim Causeway. He was fond of the area because it was one of those parts of the city that would never change. It looked the same as it did twenty years ago and Gaikwad knew it would probably look the same in another twenty years while a shoddy Shanghai, or whatever Chinese city Mumbai was trying to emulate unsuccessfully, sprouted all around it. As he crossed the bridge into Mahim, taking in the smell of rotten eggs from the creek, his phone rang. “Gaikwad here.” “Sir,” said the voice on the other end. “There’s been a murder.” “Where?” “Near Mahim Causeway.” He was mere minutes away. “Who is it?” “Unidentified, sir. But she is a phoren lady. DCP sahib is also coming.” “OK,” Gaikwad said. “I’m on my way.”


A murder was never good news, but the murder of a foreigner—especially a foreign woman—was particularly bad news. Foreign victims led to negative publicity. It was the only time when the press and the politicians took notice. No one cared the rest of the year when the poor were targets. Those victims would—if they were lucky—merit a one-paragraph story in the Crime Report column of the paper. But god forbid if someone rich or, worse, a foreigner, were the victim of a crime, especially a violent one like murder; it was hell for the investigating team. There was the recent case of a murdered English teenager in Goa and a spate of rapes in the north. Both had received negative press coverage at home and overseas. Mumbai had been lucky in that it had avoided such tragedy—until now. Gaikwad knew that incriminating questions would be asked about the police and stories would follow about the safety of women in general and specifically Western women. And then, he knew, there would be recriminations. As Gaikwad arrived at the scene and dismounted, he saw reporters were already there, ferreting around for any bit of information. Bloody vultures, he thought. His boss, Deputy Commissioner of Police Adnan Khan, walked toward him. “Who’s the victim?” Khan asked, not bothering with pleasantries. “A foreigner, sir.” “I can see that. Do we have any ID?” “No sir. Not yet.” “Who found her?” “Kids from the jhopadpatti. I’ll speak to them.” “All right, ask everyone if they saw anything.” “My men are on it, sir.” “I want results on this one. Fast. What are you working on now?” “Those burglaries, sir.” “Make this your priority. I want a fast result.” “Yes, sir.”


Gaikwad walked around the garbage dump and looked at where the body had been discovered. A large red suitcase lay in the pile, where the body had been concealed. He could still taste the breakfast in his mouth, and the smell of the rotting garbage made him want to gag. He turned away and took a deep breath. “Find out,” he said to the nearest constable, “where this bag came from. Make sure it’s collected with any other evidence.” Questions ricocheted through Gaikwad’s mind: Who was this woman? What was she doing here? Was she reported missing? Who did this to her? “Inspector,” said a familiar voice, breaking him out of his thoughts. “Are you on the case?”

Earlier that morning, Jay Ganesh sat unwashed, unshaved, and unkempt in his trademark black T-shirt and black jeans in his office at the Mumbai Tribune. The clothes hung from his frame, lean from years of running, a habit he regrettably no longer pursued because of his knees. He sat in his office, staring at the Crime Report column on his monitor and lamenting the decline in quality of crime in the city. Jay had seen better days. Once a star reporter at the rival Chronicle, Jay’s professional decline had been almost as rapid as his rise. He’d had exclusive after exclusive, detailing the links between crime bosses and midlevel politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, and actors. The stories had won him a few friends, many enemies, and several awards and admirers. But the fall was precipitous. Almost everyone in the city took for granted the unholy nexus between politics, business, and crime. Jay should have known better. But in his professional zeal, he began to believe that he could make a difference. Despite warnings, subtle and otherwise, he had pursued a story about a senior state minister’s involvement in an illicit land deal. He thought he had documents. He thought he’d crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s. He thought that his editors would be excited. He was wrong. They told him the story couldn’t run. Jay begged and pleaded. He threatened to quit. He threatened to take his story elsewhere. And then one morning as he walked into the Chronicle’s building, he found that his security key didn’t work. He went to the front desk, but they said they had instructions not to let him in. These were things that happened in the movies, Jay thought, or to other people. He created a scene, but the only effect it had was having him escorted from the premises. 13

He tried contacting his bosses and friends from the paper, but no one returned his calls. He was a pariah. Once, he saw a group of coworkers leaving a restaurant and when he made eye contact and smiled, they hurried away. Jay drank for a week, brooded for another. He then began to look for another job. But it was as if there was a conspiracy. No one would touch him. And that’s when he got a call from Manisha Thakkar. He and Manisha had started their careers together, and she had risen to become the editor of the Tribune. Like everyone in the small, incestuous world of newspapers, she knew what had happened to her old friend. She offered him a job, which he gratefully accepted. But, she told him, he would have to stay away from the high-profile crimes for now—until the attention abated. He was not happy. But at least he had a job and still covered crime—even if it was mundane crime like burglaries. For the past year, Jay had been editing the Crime Watch column. He was itching for something big, something that would revitalize his career. But that couldn’t be done while editing the blotter. The crimes were usually petty (“Nine Break-Ins at Lower Parel”) and the bluster of the headline (“Psycho Techie, On Interpol Wanted List, Gunned Down”) seldom matched the substance of the crime. Jay’s office was a mangled maze of functioning chaos, much like the city he loved. His desk was cluttered with scraps of paper with phone numbers that no longer existed; bits of notes from long-ago crimes; old newspapers that had been read, but not disposed; a wilting plant thirsting for water; halfempty (or half-full) tea cups; and his laptop. There were no mementos or personal items, except for a postcard with a picture of Tintin. At the corner lay a sagging bookshelf whose contents suggested the reading habits of a bright graduate student. Perched on the windowsill lay possibly the city’s last transistor radio, which was coerced into functioning every morning with a little thud on its battery panel. Depending on the time of day and year, it would be tuned to the BBC World Service or the cricket commentary. Today, it was tuned to a station that played an endless loop of sad Hindi songs from the 1950s, reflecting Jay’s nostalgia for a time he never knew. He should have been home. It was before nine in the morning and the newsroom was mostly empty. Technically, it was his day off. But the older Jay got, the more he found that the solitude he once coveted


was turning to loneliness. He did not want to be alone. He could not bear the thought of wallowing in the self-pity that he was now accustomed to. He just wanted the hook of a good story, one that would put him back in the big leagues.

He dealt with the self-pity the way he knew best: by burying himself in work and hoping for a good crime. But of late those had dried up. The gangs had been quiet, content to reap profits in the city’s legitimate businesses while taking the occasional potshots at rivals in exotic locations like Dubai and Bangkok. Even the story he was investigating, the theft of electronics from homes in South Bombay, lacked heart. His Mumbai had reached an affluent middle age. It appeared as if the city’s criminals had, too. Everything was predictable in its blandness. Everything inglorious in its mediocrity. Why would criminals need to risk selling drugs when they could grab land and build a gaudy mall to sell Rolexes to the city’s nouveau riche? The thought made him pensive. He called a couple of police stations. Nothing. He turned to his police scanner, a gift from a fence whom he had rescued from a trumped-up murder charge. Silence. It was like everyone was on vacation. And then, through the static, he heard it. Despite the interference, he recognized the voice immediately. His pulse quickened. It was Inspector Vijay Gaikwad. And if it was Gaikwad, Jay knew it must be serious. His ears strained to catch every last detail as he furiously jotted down notes on a piece of paper conjured from the organized chaos of his desk. He took a deep breath and looked at the marginalia: white woman; body; garbage heap; near St. Michael’s Church; Mahim. “D’Souza,” he shouted. Janet D’Souza, the paper’s best photographer at all of twenty-seven, had been out until two at a bar that charged too much for drinks that were too small. She craved the comfort of her bedroom and her head under the covers. The office was the last place she wanted to be. Jay was the last person she wanted to hear from. “Yeah?” she replied, her voice hoarse. “Get your stuff,” he said. There was excitement in his voice. “We’re going to Mahim. There’s been a 15


As a rule, Gaikwad did not like reporters. He thought they were amateurs who got in the way. They seemed to revel in level of access they had to VIPs and were afraid of getting their hands dirty—but never afraid of letting a good story get in the way of the truth. Jay Ganesh, who was standing in front of him now, smiling, was a rare exception. Gaikwad did not like him, but he did tolerate him. Besides, he knew what the reporter had gone through at the Chronicle and respected him for it. He looked at Jay and forced a smile. The two men could not have been more different. Gaikwad liked to describe himself as someone from Mumbai—a Mumbaikar. Jay, on the other hand, was from Bombay, a Bombayite. They were in many ways two different cities united by geography and divided by economics. The men had grown up in different worlds. The policeman was raised in Parel, near the mills, speaking Marathi; the reporter had grown up in upper-middle-class comfort, the child of two English professors; he dreamed in English and spoke it to his contemporaries. He used Hindi and Marathi only when he had to. In another life, Gaikwad thought, Jay might have made a good cop. His eye for detail and his nose for a story ensured that he followed any lead to its logical end. The thing he found strange about Jay was that he was perpetually unshaven and scruffy and seemingly wore the same clothes every day. Jay knew Gaikwad hated most reporters. But he also knew that he was honest, which nowadays was a rarity not only in the police department, but in practically every walk of life in India. Gaikwad could spot clues that others had missed; his powers of deduction were to be envied; and more than all of that he had instinct. If there was anything Jay found amusing about the policeman, it was his vanity. His uniform was always neatly pressed; he wore his knockoff Ray-Ban Aviators with pride; and the tip of his Rajput-like mustache was neatly waxed. “So, Inspector,” Jay said. “What do we have?” “It’s a phirang,” he replied, using the word for foreigner. “Any idea who?” 16

“Not yet. But Khan wants to know now.” “Any identification?” “No.” “A prostitute?” The city was now home to call girls from Eastern Europe and other exotic locations, seeking a slice of the rising India and its obsession with light-colored skin. “Not sure,” Gaikwad replied. “Though she doesn’t look like one.” “Could I take a look?” “Absolutely not. I don’t want you messing up the crime scene.” “You can walk with me. I won’t touch anything. Besides, I might be able to recognize her.” Gaikwad saw he had a point. Although Jay claimed to stay away from places filled with the good city’s glitterati, his schooling and college ensured he knew a veritable who’s who of Mumbai’s elite. “All right. A quick look.” The two men walked toward the gurney on which the woman’s body had been placed. Gaikwad lifted the shroud to reveal her face; one hand dangled. He looked at Jay, who grimaced. Under normal circumstances, the body would have shown the normal signs of decomposition, but the rains had not been kind. “What’s that on her wrist?” Jay asked. It was a silver bracelet. Gaikwad used his baton to prop the arm up. He knelt down, putting on rubber gloves, and removed the bracelet. “Liz Baar-Tone,” he said, reading the name engraved on the inside. From the expression on his face, Gaikwad knew Jay recognized her. “Know her?” “I know the name. Yes. She’s Liz Barton, the CEO of Mohini Resources, the mining company.”


Chapter 2

By the time Jay Ganesh had returned to the newsroom and quickly typed out six hundred words on the discovery of the body of Mohini Resources CEO Liz Barton, practically everyone knew that he’d been the one who’d identified her. News of the murder spread quickly. Jay tried to call Gaikwad again in the hopes that he could ferret out some more information that no one had. But that one tidbit—of the red bag that her hand had been sticking out of, leading to her discovery—was all Gaikwad had. Jay knew the paper would lead with the story. He looked at the photographs Janet had taken and went with her suggestion. She’s more than a pretty face, he thought to himself, immediately chiding himself for his sexism. His phone rang. It was Manisha Thakkar, his editor. “You free?” she said. It was more a summons than a question. “I’ll be there.” He walked through the newsroom, which had begun to fill up. Phones were ringing; some went unanswered. He walked into Thakkar’s office. She was engrossed in her monitor. “Good story,” she said, without looking up. “We need to be ahead of the curve on this.” “I’m on it,” he said. “What’s happening with those burglaries? Anything new?” “Not since the last one.” “There’s something else I need you to do.” “Oh?” “There’s a party at the Taj.”


“Tell me you want me to go as a guest,” Jay said, more with misplaced hope than the realization of what she was about to ask. “I’m not sure they allow unshaven people who wear the same black T-shirt and jeans every day,” she said, chuckling. “Actually, it’s an event.” “You want me to cover a party?” He sounded incredulous. “Manisha, you can’t be serious.” “I’m extremely serious. With the exception of this murder, it’s been a while since you’ve written anything. The bean-counters are asking me questions and it’s a good way to get out there again.” “For God’s sake, yaar,” he said, in exasperation. She looked annoyed, the way a mother does when she deals with her favorite child who is throwing a tantrum. They had been—and still were—very close. While many of the newer staff were terrified of Thakkar, Jay could walk in and talk to her with the same candor that he had when they were twenty-five. She appreciated this, and retained a soft corner for him. She also knew Jay had the potential once again to be the city’s best reporter. In a media world seemingly fast populated by young things whose attention spans were only matched by the gravitas of the reality shows they watched and their Twitter feeds, Jay stood out: He possessed exacting standards; he set a high bar for what he considered news. “Why don’t you ask Kedar to do it?” he asked. “He loves hobnobbing with those people.” “Look, Kedar is off,” she said. “I know how you feel about this celebrity stuff, but it’s paying your bloody salary. Besides, you’ll know a lot of people there.” “Don’t remind me.” Jay was uncomfortable with the fact that because he’d grown up in the city and had gone to the “right” school and college, he knew many of its best-known personalities—some of them well. “You think I like having this shit covered? But it’s selling the papers,” Manisha replied. “The owners want it done. The public laps it up. Think of it as taking one for the team.” Jay had a reputation for high-minded rants. His sanctimony often annoyed those who worked with him, and today was no different. Except he knew Manisha would put up with it because she wanted him to cover the assignment. The owners had specifically asked for a veteran who could write, and there were


few of those. Few of the interns could write. If you asked Jay, he’d say they couldn’t read, either. Those who could were too raw. And so Jay was “volunteered.” “Fine,” he said with the petulance of a four-year-old being forced to eat the last morsel from his plate. “I’ll do it. Whose party is it?” “Actually, it’s not as bad as it could be. It’s Kabir Khurana’s.” “The industrialist?” “How many others do you know?” “You know I met his father once.” “Of course, I know. We all know that story,” Manisha said, a smile forming at the corner of her mouth. “You’ve told it to me a million times.” Jay looked sheepish. “Fine. What’s the party in honor of?” “Do these people need a reason? But this time they actually have one. It’s a do bringing together the city’s business community.” “Is it Barton related?” “Good question. It was scheduled weeks ago, but you never know. You may get some tidbits about the case there.” “So, I suppose in a way it could be related to crime,” he said with a grin. “We’ll hold a spot open on page three, so come straight back.” “We’ll need a good photographer. Can you get me Janet?” “You like them young and pretty, don’t you?” Manisha said with a knowing smile. But Jay had already left her office.

Like everyone in the city, whether they could afford to go in or not, Jay had affection for the Taj. Guidebooks would tell you that The Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, to give it its proper name, was built in the Indo-Saracenic style, opened its doors in 1903, and was the last word in old-world luxury. But to the city, it was more than that. It was a symbol of Indian nationalism from an era when there were few signs 20

of any; a story of Indian pride when the nation was colonized; a window to the past; a foothold into the future. The story goes that the hotel was built after one of the city’s great industrialists was refused entry into Watson’s, the grand hotel of the time, because of its whites-only policy. Whether true or not, the story had stuck. The Taj stood in its illuminated splendor overlooking the harbor, still the venue of choice for such events, while Watson, long closed, now lay crumbling only a few miles away. Although he had been here more times than he could count, Jay felt like an impostor as he walked through the heavy security cordon, installed after the 2008 terrorist attacks on the city that had bloodied the iconic hotel and all of Mumbai. All around him, Jay saw familiar faces from the business pages. Some he knew from school. They waved at him and smiled. The thought of shared memories filled him with dread. He didn’t want to be talking to any of these people. He wished he were somewhere else, preferably an event bringing together the city’s criminal gangs. What a group photo that would make. He smiled at the thought. “You’re wearing a suit,” said an amused voice from behind him, one that he instantly recognized. “Whom did you piss off?” “You’re a very funny woman, Priyanka—but you’re a sight for sore eyes.” “If only you’d thought of that,” she said with the amusement never leaving her voice, “when we were married.” “Ah, yes,” he replied with a sheepish grin. “Kick a man when he’s down.” Jay Ganesh and Priyanka Sahani had a brief and troubled marriage at a time that now seemed too far away to remember. His zeal, the very thing that she found attractive before they were married, had begun to grate on her. He worked impossible hours, immersed himself in his job, and seemed to fill his time with everything but her and their marriage. Whenever she raised it with him, he had a stock reply: “But this is how I’ve always been.” When it became too much, she left. But being in the same business meant that they kept running into each other, and they decided early on—well, she decided—that they wouldn’t let what happened between them ruin their once-close friendship. Time didn’t heal his actions, but she had long accepted that he was


a better friend than he was a husband. Besides, she had moved on—and perhaps that’s why making her peace with what once deeply hurt her was possible. She’d met a man who was devoted to her and married him. She’d segued from a career as a high-flying reporter covering the courts to being one of the city’s top columnists. Of all the people whom she’d known as a young journalist, Jay was the most like Peter Pan. He resolutely refused to grow up. While the rest of them had maintained their liberal views while reveling in luxury and hobnobbing with—some even becoming—the city’s elite in their new avatars as columnists, editors, and TV journalists, he was still the man who’d go down to a messy crime scene, talk to the beat cops, call the gangs and get a gory story. And at the end of the day, he’d go to one of those dives and drink late into the night with his sources so he could find out what was brewing in the city’s underbelly. She envied that about him, but was happy she did not have to do it anymore. After all, the luxury of the Taj was something you could get used to. Jay felt a tinge of regret whenever he was around Priyanka, regret for what might have been. Despite the years, the failure of his marriage never left him. It loomed over his other relationships, all doomed, since then. He sometimes wondered if he’d ever meet anyone else. “Boss,” Janet said, breaking him out of his thoughts. “You made it—and in a suit. It’s Christmas.” Jay couldn’t help but notice the transformation. Her usual photographer’s uniform of jeans and Tshirt were replaced with a black salwar kameez that showed off her youth. But the camera around her neck and her press pass left little doubt as to why she was there. “Janet, you know Priyanka, right?” “Yes, we’ve met,” the women said in unison as they smiled. “OK—time for me to take some pictures. I’ll catch you back at the office, boss,” Janet said. “Do you need a ride?” “That’d be great. Call me when you’re leaving.” Jay scanned the room. He could see the closeted industrialist drooling over a young man while his wife was on the other side of the room nursing a drink. He could see the once-dashing cricketer now


known more for his clichés on television than his fluent straight drive; the aging actor with the failing kidneys was surrounded by still-fawning fans, all the while smiling but avoiding eye contact. He recognized a couple of journalists, conveniently placed near the open bar, who recognized him, waved, and urged him to join them. One of them worked for a paper notorious in the business for accepting money for stories. Jay could not help but notice his TAG Heuer, which cost as much as he earned in a month. Immaculately coiffed and manicured women in saris that clung to their bodies sipped goblets of Bordeaux flown in from France for the event. They wore bedazzling gold and diamond jewelry and traded air kisses with passersby. Their husbands stood with permanently fixed smiles on their faces, almost on display like their wives’ Ferragamo bags. The others were models, starlets, people famous for being famous, and businessmen in shiny Italian suits, which did little to conceal either their wearers’ stomachs or their poor grooming. Invisible waiters waltzed through the room with outstretched trays that proffered caviar, miniature crab cakes, and, since this is India, cocktail idlis with coconut chutney and samosas skewered on toothpicks with tamarind chutney for a spice kick. Every event in the city was centered on food, which was invariably excellent. Priyanka looked amused. Jay felt out of place. “How do people get this rich?” he asked. “They are the people who keep us employed,” she said. “Bloody hell,” he said. “God help us.” “So what do you know about the Mohini CEO case?” Priyanka asked. “Funny. I was about to ask you the same thing,” Jay said, smiling. “You first.” “Not much. You’ll read about it tomorrow, of course. But she was discovered near Mahim Creek in a garbage dump. Police reckon she’d been there a week, but it’s hard to tell because of the rains. She was concealed in a large red suitcase.” “A red suitcase?” Priyanka said. “Yeah. But there are no other clues, at least for now. And what can you tell me?” “Well, this event was scheduled a while ago but it might turn into an impromptu memorial service of


sorts. Lots of people here knew her, including Khurana. And he apparently knew her very well.” “Very well? What does that mean?” “Can’t be sure. Only rumors.” “But wasn’t she married?” Jay asked. “You do know that people don’t need to be married to each other to engage in a relationship, right?” Priyanka said, smiling. “You know what I mean.” “Yes. Yes. She was married,” she replied. “Actually, her husband was screwing that woman there.” She pointed to a striking Indian woman with an older Westerner. “Who’s she?” “Uma Rhys. And that’s her husband with her, David Rhys.” “Is that also a rumor?” “No. That’s more than a rumor,” she said, chuckling. “It is as we say in the gossip business a wellknown fact.” “Maybe that’s what I should write about for my piece tonight,” he said. “Yeah, I can see that going down well with Manisha.” He smiled. “Maybe I can attribute it to a well-informed source who deals in well-known facts.” “I am well-informed, but definitely not your source.” “So what other Barton dirt can you give me?” “Well, she’d been here a few months. Actually, apparently it was unexpected. Their local man—a desi—was supposed to get it. But they went outside the company to get a new national head.” “And how did he react?” “Like a stellar company man, but rejection can be hard for anyone to take. Besides, I’ve met him once. Slimy fellow.” “Isn’t that Kabir Khurana?” Jay said, looking at a man in the distance. “Good,” she said in mock praise. “You’ve been reading the papers.”


Khurana was one of the city’s biggest industrialists, with interests that spanned textiles, telecoms, mining, and entertainment. He was dressed simply: a white shirt and white pants, kolhapuri chappals, and Gandhi-style glasses. “Kabir Khurana—the man with his fingers in every pie. That guy can probably buy everyone in this room and yet their drivers dress better than him,” Priyanka said. “Well, he probably knows he can buy them all,” Jay said. “Still, he’s nothing like his father.” “Ah, yes, his father,” Priyanka said, amused at the prospect of what would inevitably come next. Khurana’s father, Khulbushan Khurana, was one of India’s most famous freedom fighters, a man known for his loyalty to Mahatma Gandhi and who despite his family’s wealthy background had immersed himself wholeheartedly into the country’s freedom struggle. “Did I ever tell you about the time I interviewed the old man?” Jay asked. “Only a million times,” she said, laughing. “Ah, there’s Gaja Kohli. Now there’s an interesting story you need to hear.” “Oh?” “There was a party here last month. Barton was there. And Kohli was there, too.” “That must have been interesting.” “You have no idea.” Gaja Kohli was an environmental activist whose campaign against Mohini’s operations had been making the news with unfailing regularity, primarily because of his habit of going on hunger strikes, a tactic that always yielded results in a nation that thrived on emotion. He was invariably portrayed as a champion of the oppressed. He dressed the way old socialists in India often did, in khadi. He wore plasticrimmed glasses. His lean frame and weathered brown skin lent credence to reports of his Spartan lifestyle. He was engrossed in conversation with a much younger woman. Even from this distance, Jay could see hero worship in her eyes. “So, what happened?” “So they’re at the party. And he walks up to her, and starts screaming.”


“Screaming?” “Well, maybe not screaming, but enough to create a scene.” “Was he drunk?” “Perhaps a little. When there’s free booze, even old socialists imbibe.” Jay laughed. “And what happened?” “He went on and on about how the company was killing his people, displacing them. Called her a killer. He was in a rage.” “Did they call security?” “No. Khurana was here. He escorted Kohli away.” “Now, that is interesting,” Jay said. “You are seriously awesome.” “I know that. Now I need to go and you need to mingle.” “I suppose I should. Can’t I just follow you?” “Too late. Besides, I’m here with Shantanu—not on work.” “Ah—the lucky Shantanu.” “You had your chance,” she said, smiling, as he walked uncomfortably away into the crowd looking for familiar faces to talk to for a piece that he knew would be execrable. He spotted Janet, trigger happy with the camera, and wandered over to her. “So, how long are you going to be here?” She looked at him, amused. “Not much longer.” “Get any good pictures?” “A few, but I’ll know better when I head back to the office.” “OK. Find me when you’re done.” “Don’t worry,” she said with a smile. “I’ll look for you.”

At eleven o’ clock that same morning, a well-dressed man wearing Ray-Ban shades, dragging a large red Louis Vuitton bag, walked into the Good Luck apartment building in South Bombay. If there was 26

anything else distinctive about him—whether in clothing or appearance—no one noticed it: not the sweeper who cleaned the compound, the drivers who loitered in corners, chewing paan or smoking beedis and ogling at maidservants, not the vegetable vendors who went door to door to offer the freshest produce. No one saw him leave, either. He walked in past the watchman who may have been dozing at the time. Even in his half-asleep state, the guard, one of a legion of Nepalis who left their homeland in search of a better life, would have recognized the Ray-Ban’s: They were the kind worn in the summer’s Bollywood blockbuster. But the watchman’s memory was less clear when it came to other details—what the man wore, whether he had any distinctive features, whether he had spoken, how tall he was. Men like the watchman did not question men like the one who entered the building. And it didn’t help that the watchman was dozing off at the time the incident occurred. The watchman was seated behind the desk with a register on which visitors were, in theory, supposed to sign in and sign out. But in practice, few people were willing to question someone who looked at ease in Western clothes and walked toward the elevator with the casual arrogance of someone used to having his way. The man with the Ray-Bans had ignored the watchman who was sitting two feet away. In such circumstances, the watchman, who had risen early and donned his neatly pressed khaki uniform with the words Good Luck Apartments embroidered in gold lettering upon his chest, was hardly going to ask: “Sir, which floor?”

Later that evening, when Mrs. Rukmini Mahajan turned the key and opened the door, she didn’t notice anything unusual. An hour later, when her daughter, Anjali, came home, she noticed that something was wrong. “Mama, where’s my laptop?” she shouted. “Did you check your room?” her mother said unhelpfully. “Of course I checked it.” “Maybe Papa took it,” Mrs. Mahajan said. “Check inside.” Anjali Mahajan walked across the apartment to her parents’ room, muttering under her breath. There 27

she found that not only was her laptop not there, but her parents’ desktop wasn’t there, either. The wires were hanging idly from the walls and where the CPU and monitor would sit, there was nothing. The wire from the mouse oscillated gently in the air. “You’d better come here, Mama.” “What is it, beta?” “The computers aren’t here.” “What computers?” It didn’t take long for the two women to figure out the machines had been stolen. Mr. Mahajan was out of the country—in the U.K.—in the hopes of getting a new customer for his outsourcing firm. The servant had called in sick. It was the younger woman who called the police. By the time the squad arrived, the two women had also discovered jewelry missing, along with a digital camera, USB sticks, and iPods. Surprisingly, at least surprisingly to them, the TV, DVD players, and assorted entertainment devices were left alone. Inspector Vijay Gaikwad, already burdened with the Barton case, asked the most experienced constable with him, Sakharam, to question the watchman. But the watchman could not be sure if he saw the man leave. Sakharam was sure he was hiding something. While his men compiled an inventory of the items that were missing and questioned neighbors and other building staff about who had entered and left the complex and whether they had seen something unusual, Gaikwad asked the Mahajans about their servant and whether they had any reason to suspect her. They didn’t, they said. She’d worked at their home since 1991 and had known Anjali since she was a little girl. There’s no way she could be involved, the women insisted. Still, in spite of the fact that he knew there was a possibility, a strong one, that this theft was part of the same series that had hit the city, Gaikwad asked them for the maid’s address and sent a constable over to the slum where she lived with her children. On their way out, he asked Sakharam what came of the inquiries with the watchman. “Sir, you know how these people are,” Sakharam said. “It’s always an inside job. A few slaps and


he’ll reveal everything.” Gaikwad sighed at the comment. There were so many things wrong with it. Yet, he knew that the constable was right: It was typically an inside job. “OK,” he said. “We’ll take him along.” “Eh, watchman,” the constable said. “You’re coming with us.” The watchman looked at Sakharam and then Gaikwad. From their expressions, he knew it wasn’t a request. “Sirji,” he said. “I don’t know anything. Mother swear.” Gaikwad glowered. “We’ll talk about it at the station.” Gaikwad hated this part of the job, so he usually left it to Sakharam, who troublingly seemed to revel in it. Gaikwad sat—half-stood—at the edge of his table at the police station. The watchman was seated; Sakharam stood in front of him. “What did you see?” the constable asked. “Nothing, sir.” The Nepali had seen it in the movies, but when the thud of the slap from Sakharam’s palm landed on his face, he rocked the chair back and ended up on the floor. The watchman held his cheek, now inflamed and stinging. Tears welled up in his eyes. “What did you see?” “Sir, I swear nothing.” The slap this time was harder—though he could not feel that because of the pain that was already shooting through his face and the humiliation that was spreading through his body. “Sir, I swear. I swear. On my mother’s head. I didn’t see anything except what I told you earlier. Mother swear.” “So someone walks in. You don’t ask him anything. You don’t see what he’s wearing. You don’t ask him to sign in. So either you aren’t doing your job or you were in on it. Which? Think and answer.”


As he watched the watchman squirm, Gaikwad felt guilty. He knew this was wrong, but this was a force that believed no one respected the police unless you humiliated them and forced them to cooperate. “See,” Gaikwad said, lowering his voice, making it more sympathetic. “We’re here to make you remember. Cooperate and you can go home. If you don’t, I’ll leave you with Sakharam. He will do a lot more than slap you if I’m not around.” The constable smiled, relishing the possibility. “Go to the cell and wait there. I’ll give you an hour. Think it through.” As Gaikwad saw the watchman being pushed into the cell, his phone rang. “What’s the status of the murder investigation?” It was DCP Adnan Khan. “We’re pursuing leads, sir.” “What are you—a bloody press release? Tell me what you’re doing.” Gaikwad told him about the latest burglary, and shared with him his suspicion that it might be part of the same series. “Same types of equipment were taken, sir,” he said. “And we are questioning the watchman.” “OK,” Khan said. “Don’t leave any scars. You have this evening. If you don’t get anything, hand the case off to someone else. You need to focus on the murder.”


Chapter 3

Gaikwad propped himself against the seat of the parked Enfield and took a sip from the tall glass of watermelon juice. It was dusk, when the light from the setting sun fought a losing battle against the coming night. Behind him, the traffic crawled toward Worli and the suburbs, an inch at a time. There was nowhere to go, but the horns still had something to say. Two-wheelers sought the tiniest gaps between cars and squeezed through to wheedle their way home. The breeze from the sea acted as a salve for the day; the drink refreshed him. Gaikwad was at Haji Ali Juice Center, a Mumbai institution. Inside, the tables were packed with lovers and families, their incessant cacophony creating a hive-like buzz. Waiters hovered around, taking orders, delivering trays full of drinks, little pizzas, and other snacks. Outside, men were propped against bikes and scooters, rich kids from South Bombay awaited their orders in their 7 Series BMWs (with tinted windows, of course) and families waited to get in. Although he was not a philosophical man, Gaikwad had to wonder about the unceasing banality of life. Here he was drinking juice, watching the rest of the world go about its daily monotony, knowing that his next task would alter the course of another man’s life: Gaikwad was on his way to the Barton residence, to tell Liz Barton’s husband that his wife was dead.

Several things bothered Gaikwad about the case, where the body was discovered and its condition being prime among them. The initial examination revealed the body had been in the dump for at least a week, through seven days of the city’s worst rains in two decades. Gaikwad belonged to the school of thought that believed that what wasn’t apparent was as important as what was obvious. And what wasn’t apparent to Gaikwad was why, if the woman had been lying in Mahim for at least a week, had she not been


reported missing. In fact, if it hadn’t been for her runner’s bracelet, they might not have identified her as easily. Where was her husband? And what was his role in this? Gaikwad looked past the juice center to the sea and said a silent prayer to the Haji Ali mosque in its illuminated splendor against the backdrop of the setting sun. It was more from force of habit than any enduring faith. His father brought him here when Gaikwad was a boy. They would stop for juice at the center and then walk on the causeway, accessible only during low tide, along with other worshippers— Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Hindu—to seek their miracles at the tomb of the fifteenth-century saint. Now, long after his own faith had become shaky, Gaikwad found himself yearning for the routine of his boyhood. He could see worshippers at a distance silhouetted in the dark, walking like ants toward the mosque. The bells from the nearby Mahalakshmi Temple, dedicated to the Hindu goddess of wealth, brought him back to the present. He drained the glass, got back on the Enfield, and turned onto Warden Road. He went over the details of the case—the few details he had. Jay Ganesh, the reporter, had told him that the woman had been threatened publicly by an environmental activist. Her husband was having an affair—things did not look good for him right now. And her relationship with the billionaire Kabir Khurana was close—whatever that meant. God knows what other skeletons lay buried, he thought. Better to get started with the husband and the activist. Gaikwad did not feel comfortable in this part of the city. Although his uniform gave him a modicum of protection and, indeed, power, he felt displaced. Here, Mumbai had remained Bombay more than fifteen years after the city had been officially renamed. To Gaikwad, it had always been Mumbai. And in fact what you called it varied depending on the language you were speaking at the time. It was not uncommon for someone speaking in English to call it Bombay and in the same breath refer to Bambai when speaking in Hindi or Mumbai in Marathi. It wasn’t as if Gaikwad resented the idea of someone calling his city by its Western name. What galled him was the way the city’s old neighborhoods and their people were dismissed, as if they no longer mattered to those who lived in the more affluent parts of the city; parts like the one he was now riding through.


Gaikwad drove past the legendary Warden Road Club with its swimming pool the shape of India before its partition at independence in 1947. He imagined Britons of the time, sipping their G and Ts, summoning their wallahs with their drinks, complaining about the infernal state of affairs, all the while reveling in a pool shaped like the country they ruled. Little had changed at the club, Gaikwad thought, in the more than six decades since the country had become free. Although the club no longer had boards that read “Dogs and Indians not allowed,” it still offered membership only to those with non-Indian passports—so they could be free to be free without, as a recent newspaper article put it, offending “Indian sensibilities.” Gaikwad was not surprised. This was the part of the city where the residents were proud to say that they felt more at home in the East Village or Knightsbridge than they did in the city’s suburbs of Vikhroli or Ghatkopar. On the rare occasion that Gaikwad had one drink too many, he would rail against what he saw as neo-colonialism. His wife, Lata, invariably shut him up. The U.S. consulate, with barricades to prevent people from getting too close, lay to his right. Even in this age of a shining India, the line outside during the day was serpentine: nervous students with admission letters in tow hoping for a slice of the American dream; families hoping for a reunion with loved ones; businessmen hoping for a slice of the pie; touts, with offers of notarized documents, photographs and photocopies, hoping for a quick buck. Just past the consulate, on Nepean Sea Road, lay Liz Barton’s apartment building. Gaikwad parked his bike and walked through the gate. “Baar-Tone,” he said to the watchman. “Baar-Tone sahib.” “Eleventh floor,” the guard said, bobbing his head noncommittally. He walked into the waiting elevator where the liftman, in a neat gray uniform with Sea Breeze Apartments printed in small gold lettering upon his chest, pressed 11, as if informed by telepathy where Gaikwad wanted to go. He found the bell and rang it. He could hear footsteps on the other side; the volume of the television being lowered, more footsteps. The door opened. “Yes?”


“Mr. John Baar-Tone?” “Yes. I’m John Barton.” “I am Inspector Vijay Gaikwad with Mumbai Police Department,” he said, displaying his police badge. “Can I come in?” John Barton moved aside to let the inspector in. Gaikwad’s eye immediately went to the giant TV on the wall. It was turned to CNN International. The latest images from Afghanistan filled the screen. Barton picked up the remote and hit mute, leaving the war to unfold without the needless explanation. Gaikwad took in the apartment. The living room was large, almost as big as his entire flat. It was decorated well, with Indian art on the walls; bronze religious figurines from various Indian regions. Gaikwad knew enough to know these were not knockoffs or prints. He could hear the sounds of an invisible maid in the kitchen. “What is this regarding, inspector?” “When did you last see your wife, Mr. Baar-Tone?” “My wife? Why?” Gaikwad had seen it many times before. The realization that something is amiss; the dawning that this policeman is here to give him some bad news. “What’s happened to her?” Barton said, his voice a little louder. “What’s happened to her?” “Mr. Baar-Tone, please sit down.” He did as he was told. “I’m afraid I have some bad news. A body was found today near St. Michael’s Church in Mahim. We have reason to believe it was your wife.” “That can’t be right,” he said, not believing his own words, hoping against hope that this man had his information wrong. “Liz has never been to Mahim.” “We need you to identify the body, sir,” he said. “It’s a formality.” The man was staring blankly at Gaikwad now, tears pouring down his face.


“Whenever it’s convenient, sir.” “Of course,” he replied, now more mechanical. “Do you have a friend you can call, sir? Someone who can stay with you?” Barton nodded, still looking dazed. “And, sir, forgive me for asking this, but when did you last see your wife?” “Two weeks ago. She went to Singapore on work.” “Singapore?” “Yes.” “For how long, sir?” “That’s it, you see,” he said. “She was supposed to go for ten days but came back early. I had gone to Madh Island with friends and tried to come back, but the roads were flooded.” “Did you speak?” “On the day she returned, yes. But we lost power there, the phones were out from the rain; my cell phone battery died. I came back as soon as I could.” “And was the house empty when you returned, sir?” “Yes. I just figured she was at work. I called there, but got no answer. I tried her cell phone, but she’d left it behind at home.” “Thank you, sir,” Gaikwad said. “If you remember anything, please let us know. I’ll send a constable at nine tomorrow to pick you up.” Gaikwad shut the door behind him and walked to the elevator. Barton’s grief was genuine, but the inspector found it strange that while the city seemed to know through the media that Liz Barton was dead, her husband did not. Gaikwad also knew he was having an affair. He’d have the chance to ask him more questions the next morning. In the meantime, he still had to talk to Gaja Kohli.

There were two ways in which to conduct an investigation: You could go in without any warning and surprise and possibly coerce a suspect into a confession, or you could make an appointment and treat it 35

like a sympathetic conversation until the suspect revealed something new. Gaikwad preferred the second way. It was, in his mind, less messy, more effective. Immediately after leaving Barton’s house, Gaikwad called the environmental activist Gaja Kohli, who agreed to meet him in an hour at an Udupi restaurant in Nariman Point. It was dark when he got there. Gaikwad was struck to find the restaurant was near the Mohini building, a massive glass-and-concrete structure. Outside the building was Mohini’s logo: two palms enveloping the Earth. In the recent protests against the company’s operations, some signs had cleverly parodied the symbol—with the palms crushing the Earth. Gaikwad saw reporters, cameramen, and photographers gathered in a scrum outside. Some of the TV reporters were doing inane live shots, no doubt offering new—and undoubtedly false—tidbits about the case. By now, everyone knew that the American CEO of an Indian company had been found dead. The vultures were hovering. Gaikwad walked into Madras Café. There were a few diners, mostly bachelors who had no one to cook for them at home. “Kohli?” he said, making his way to a table where the activist was seated with a woman. Kohli was wearing a long kurta with jeans. He had stubble on his face and looked tired. He peered at Gaikwad from atop his glasses. The woman was dressed in a loose-fitting salwar kameez. Her cell phone was on the table and she kept glancing at the time on it, as if every moment here was time ill spent. She looked at Gaikwad warily. He recognized her immediately. She was Arundhati Hingorani, the city’s premier human rights lawyer. “Inspector sahib,” Kohli said. “How can I help you?” He spoke in Marathi, the local language. “I’d like to talk to you about the Baar-Tone case.” They sat in the non-air-conditioned section (the air-conditioned section cost more and the department was footing the bill). A cashier, either the owner or a close relative, sat behind the counter, greeting familiar faces. Incense sticks behind him paid obeisance to Ganesh, the remover of obstacles, and Laxmi,


the goddess of wealth. Gaikwad could hear the buzz of efficiency—or was it the ceiling fan that whirred noisily above them? Waiters moved silently about; a water boy ensured no steel tumbler was unfilled. Like most Udupi establishments, Madras Café left a large tray filled with water in steel tumblers on a pedestal near the entrance, so thirsty passersby could slake their parched throats. Not many people paid attention to it anymore, but it was a custom meant to reverse discrimination against India’s lower castes, who for thousands of years were not allowed to drink water from the same source as their higher-caste brethren. In Gaikwad’s mind, this was India at its best. While every community clung desperately to its customs and language and culture, Mumbai asked no questions. No one cared who you were, what caste you belonged to or where you came from. The city was the confluence of the three things that improbably brought the country together: cricket, Bollywood, and food. It took India’s disparate, often warring identities and crafted something entirely new—something unrecognizable, uniquely Bombay. Gaikwad looked at the man sitting across him. He knew that had it been someone else investigating the case, Kohli would be in a cell being threatened with slaps; who was he kidding—those threats would have been followed through. Of course, that was not his style. Besides, the man had a lawyer sitting next to him: and not just any lawyer. From the body language the two shared, Gaikwad could tell their relationship wasn’t merely professional. He figured that meant her defense of him would be even fiercer. Gaikwad would have to tread carefully with the questioning. “He’s done nothing,” she said, almost on cue. “We just want to talk, madam,” Gaikwad said, putting on his most officious tone. “He barely knew her,” she said. But Kohli placed his arm on her to signal that he would handle it. Gaikwad could see her relent. Gaikwad regarded himself as a modern man, but one thing he still relished was the formal tone in which conversations were still conducted here. Despite the country moving ahead, people clung to that formality in speech, in manners. But this woman was direct. More direct than he was used to. He wasn’t sure what to make of it.


“Sir,” he said, looking at Kohli and turning on his sugar charm, “We would like your cooperation in this matter. As you know, a foreigner has been killed. We just want your help.” “I’ll do what I can,” Kohli replied. “You were seen arguing with her a month or so ago,” Gaikwad said. “Media reports say you threatened her.” “You believe what you read in that gutter press?” Hingorani interjected. “Madam,” he said, trying to appeal to her better side, “please understand my predicament. The pressure is on us when these things happen.” “If your department treated people with respect and wasn’t taking bribes, it might be one thing. You people want it both ways.” She paused. “OK. Get on with it.” “Thank you, madam,” Gaikwad said. He wanted to hate this woman, but he knew somewhere that she was right. And if he brought it up with either his wife or his daughter, he knew they’d agree. Men nowadays, even the ones who spoke English fluently and dreamed in the language, were still officious when they saw someone in uniform, but women, especially educated Bombay women, were different. Uniform or not, they were self-assured to the point of arrogance. On the one hand, it irritated him because the order of things was being disturbed. On the other, he thought of his own daughter and it made him proud, because he could see her with exactly the same self-confidence this woman possessed. “Sir,” he said, looking at Gaja. “When did you last see the murder victim?” “At the party.” “Never after that?” “Didn’t you hear him?” Hingorani replied. He ignored her. “And what did you think of her?” “She represented an obstacle, but she was not a target. It’s the company, all these multinationals that come here. We want them out.” “OK, sir,” Gaikwad continued. “I have to ask you this: What were you doing last week?” “He was with me.” Again it was Hingorani.


“I haven’t even said which day,” Gaikwad said, smiling this time. “Doesn’t matter. We were together through the week.” Gaikwad continued looking at Gaja. He looked uncomfortable. “We were together, inspector.” Gaikwad knew that he was concealing something. “Is there anything else you want to share with us?” he asked. “Possibly someone else who might have a grudge against her?” “How the hell would he know that?” Hingorani barked. “Now, if you’ve finished wasting our time, we’d like to leave.” Gaikwad heard the words, but they didn’t register. His gaze had not left Kohli. There was something there. He could see it. A conflict within him. Kohli was weighing whether he should divulge what he knew. “Sir,” Gaikwad said, “Whatever you say will be in the strictest confidence.” “Nothing, inspector. That’s all.” “Thank you both for your time,” Gaikwad said, gesturing to the waiter, who brought the bill. “Let the police department take this,” Gaikwad said. “For your cooperation.” He wished he could get another ten minutes with Kohli without the woman present. But that wasn’t to be right now.


Chapter 4

Had Jay Ganesh ever wanted to escape angry parents, an oppressive spouse, the burden of caste or the trap of poverty, he would have run away to Bombay. It was, he knew, the easiest place in the world to get lost—15 million people, all leaving you alone. That’s why he knew finding Liz Barton’s killer wouldn’t be easy. Jay could not help but wonder about Liz Barton’s life. He had often seen Western backpackers trying to walk unobtrusively through the city’s streets, despite their size, gait, and garb. Many of them seemed to be in a trance. It was one thing following the advice of your Lonely Planet guide and going to Haridwar and Hrishikesh for the Kumbh Mela, watching people, each simultaneously an individual and a mass of humanity, but it was something quite different to watch that orchestrated chaos day after day, moment after moment in this city. Most visitors to the country were content to take in the Taj Mahal in Agra, possibly Rajasthan and Delhi, but Bombay was chaos and Bombay could swallow you up without you even realizing it. Is that, he wondered, what happened to this woman? Jay remembered a trip he took across America in the late ’90s. It involved little money and many Greyhound buses. He made it a point to sit behind the driver, just so he could be content with a sense of security. In parts of the South or in vast, lonely expanses of the Midwest, it seemed as if he was the only person of color for miles. It was not as if anyone made him conscious of this fact, but in moments of great solitude, your identity often becomes more apparent to you than it ever has in the past, than you ever thought it could. The ringing phone broke him out of his reverie. “Do you have that story ready?” It was Manisha Thakkar, his editor.


“Yes. I sent it to you ten minutes ago. I’m trying to work on the Khurana profile.” On the ride back from the Taj last night, he and Janet discussed what they had seen and heard. Jay knew he would never be able to persuade Manisha to let him investigate the murder. There was simply too little to go on—“unless you count gossip,” Janet had told him. So they decided that they would together pitch a profile of Kabir Khurana, a man who had been close to the dead woman. It would be a backdoor way to get into the Barton case, and if Jay learned anything in the process, so be it. The ride back to the newsroom was quick—too quick, Jay thought. Somehow, being with Janet seemed natural. For perhaps the only time in his life, he hoped for traffic. He’d spent the morning Googling Kabir Khurana, to see if there was anything other than the usual fawning profiles. He tried to look for personal information, but little was available besides what was already known: the son of a famous nationalist leader; educated at Harrow and Oxford, where he was a cricketing blue; against his father’s wishes, an MBA from Cornell; returned to India and instead of joining politics as was expected of him, took over the long-ignored, much-ailing family business, which in a matter of two decades he turned into a global player in mining, energy, and telecommunications; spoken of reverentially by both his allies and his rivals; keeps a very private profile; whispers about his fondness for women, but nothing ever in the open; is known to do The Times cryptic crossword every day. Many of the profiles of Khurana that Jay did find were based on interviews with former college classmates who knew him decades ago. If the articles were to be believed, Khurana was a near saint. Jay, as a matter of course, did not believe in saints. Next, he decided to go through the most recent news articles about Khurana and his businesses. There was little he didn’t already know or that he hadn’t come across in the articles he had just gone through. The only thing that he found interesting was that Khurana had lost a bid on a project that eventually went to Mohini Resources. It was the same project that was now being held up because of the protests organized by Gaja Kohli. Jay didn’t like the idea of doing profiles. But at least this one was interesting. Not much was known about this man. If he did a good job, and Jay had no doubt he would, the piece might even be fun.


Jay’s editor, Manisha Thakkar, had been ecstatic when he pitched the story. “I should send you out on assignments to the Taj with Janet more often,” she quipped. She said she would start the legwork to find out how to get in touch with Khurana. But tracking him down would be hard. Unlike others among India’s wealthy, Khurana avoided the spotlight. No flashy cars, gaudy homes, or salacious sex scandals—none public anyway. If there was anything murky about his business dealings, they were never discussed. Since his company was privately held, there was little reliable information about his actual worth, though estimates agreed that it was somewhere in the low billions. Jay decided he would have to use his own resources to track down Khurana. He thought of the one person he knew could help: Priyanka, his ex-wife. “You’ve really got to stop calling at odd hours of the day,” Priyanka said with the mock disdain one reserved for old friends. “People will talk.” Jay laughed. “I have a favor to ask of you.” “Of course you do,” she said. “How may I be of service?” “I need to know where Kabir Khurana is.” “You and everybody else. What do you need him for? Something juicy, I hope.” He could almost hear the glee in her voice. “Unfortunately not. I’m working on a profile.” “Jay Ganesh—society reporter?” “Not quite. But I thought it would be a good way to talk to one of the people involved with Liz Barton.” “You’re a devious bastard. You know that, don’t you,” she said. She sounded amused, but impressed. “You know it’ll be difficult, right—if not impossible? That guy might have his fingers in every pie, but he is very hard to get in touch with.” “Yeah, I know. That’s why I called you. You’re known to deliver the impossible.” “Ah! Ever the flatterer. Let me see what I can do.”


“You’re the best, Priyanka.” With time on his hands, Jay decided he’d look over his notes on the burglaries that he’d been investigating before this case came along. There must be a story in there somewhere, he thought. For the past few weeks, it seemed like that was all he’d been writing about—especially because of the brouhaha caused by those whose homes were burgled. They’d excoriated the police force and said the city wasn’t safe anymore. And with each passing day and each burglary, the police looked more inept. It had made for great news. But with Barton’s body being discovered the previous day, all Jay could think about was that killing. The burglaries seemed trivial in comparison. He went over his notes and sighed. There was nothing in there—nothing that he hadn’t put in a story already. He hoped the profile of Khurana would lead him to something better.

Jay didn’t have to wait long to hear back from Priyanka. His cell phone buzzed. He read the text message: “Your man’s in town. Can be found in the evenings at Red Rose apartments, two buildings down from here. You’re welcome.” Jay was impressed with her efficiency. “You REALLY are the best,” he replied. “I owe you. How did you find out?” “Let’s just say I have a source working for him—we share the same maid. Ha!” Jay was amused, but not surprised. The city possessed an invisible network of information— domestic servants, gardeners, and drivers who all seemed to know one another and carried tantalizing bits of information about their employers from one house to another. They’d helped him out tonight.

As waits go, this one seemed interminable. Jay was sitting in his white Premier Padmini, known commonly as the Fiat, fresh from another series of repairs that did little to conceal its age and wear. The leather upholstery had long frayed, leaving visible signs of the protruding cushioning. Perhaps, he thought, it was time to replace the car. It was now costing him more to maintain than it was worth. But he


was emotionally attached to it. It was his first big purchase, made at a time when cars lasted a lifetime and were held together with safety pins and rubber bands. Although he had moved along with the rest of the world to disposable incomes and disposable gizmos, he couldn’t get rid of this car. Perhaps, he thought, it reminds me of what Bombay used to be like. He had been sitting outside Red Rose apartments for a little more than an hour in the hopes of catching a glimpse of Kabir Khurana and securing an interview. Manisha had put in a formal interview request with Khurana’s PR people, but no reply was forthcoming. In the meantime, he decided to take a more direct approach. He would wait outside and once he saw him, would accost the billionaire and talk to him. The plan was absurd, but it was the best thing he could come up with.

Jay craved a cup of tea. He ran up to the chai wallah at the entrance to Khurana’s building. “Ek cutting,” Jay said. “Pani kam.” The tea was frothy, and the smell of the special blend of spices in it comforted Jay, the way certain smells sometimes bring back memories of your childhood. Upscale coffee shops were popping up on every corner, but this hit the spot like nothing else. What is it, he wondered, as he took the last sip of this tea, that makes us cling to vestiges of the past even when the present is rushing in with such great force? Even standing on this street, outside the home of one of the richest men in the world, Jay saw it. The chai wallah and paan wallah, the coffee shop, the new mall; the emaciated man defying the laws of physics to pull a handcart that was twice his weight; the twentysomethings in their Mercedes SUVs. The contrasts jostled for space, but there was no battle for supremacy. Because India in its all-encompassing glory allowed both to flourish. And flourish they did. He returned to the car and waited. The first hour had turned into a second and then a third. There was no sign of Khurana. The elusive billionaire was doing a good job of being elusive. But just as he was about to give up, a white Mercedes drove into a parking spot. The watchman ran to it, opened the door, and saluted. A man got out of the driver’s seat. It was Khurana. “Jackpot,” Jay said. He opened the door and got out of the car. “Mr. Khurana,” he shouted. 44

But Khurana appeared not to hear him. “Mr. Khurana.” Khurana stopped, seemed to hesitate a little before slowly turning around. He smiled. “Yes?” “I’m Jay Ganesh—with the Tribune. We put in an interview request.” Khurana looked confused. “We’d like to do a profile of you for the paper.” He could see Khurana think and pause for an instant longer than necessary. The billionaire then smiled. “You know, Mr. Ganesh, I don’t do interviews. Sorry.” He continued walking. But Jay was persistent. He walked alongside Khurana. “It’ll be quick,” he said. “I won’t take up much of your time.” But Khurana continued walking toward the apartment building, ignoring the reporter who was walking alongside him. “I know you’re a busy man, Mr. Khurana,” Jay said, “But your father was both important and great. He gave me my first interview when I was a cub reporter.” Khurana paused and looked at Ganesh. “You’ve met my father?” “Many years ago,” he replied. “Yes. It was at his Laburnum Road house.” Perhaps it was the mention of his father that touched something inside Khurana, or perhaps it was the memory of his boyhood home; either way, Jay could see Khurana was reconsidering. Finally, he smiled. “You’re very persistent, Mr. Ganesh,” he said. “Come tomorrow morning. My assistant will call you today and make the arrangements.”


Chapter 5

About ten minutes after he woke up the morning after discovering Barton’s body, ill prepared to deal with the world, Inspector Vijay Gaikwad knew it was going to be a bad day. Half-asleep, he staggered to the bathroom, urinated, and began brushing his teeth. “Are you waking up?” he asked Lata, who had bundled herself into a little ball under the covers. “Five minutes,” she replied, trying unsuccessfully to keep the new day at bay. “Make tea.” Gaikwad looked at the clock on Lata’s nightstand. He’d already missed his morning walk with Chitre. These days, it was the only exercise he was getting. He walked past the children’s room to the sparsely furnished living room. He could see his son, Sachin, draw the covers over his head, hoping against hope his parents would leave him in bed so he could miss school. His daughter, Kavita, was already making her way to the bathroom. Gaikwad thought of his relationship with his own father. He used to tremble at the man’s voice. His words were the law. When his father came home from work in the evenings, it was expected that Gaikwad and his brothers and sisters were quiet until the old man finished listening to the news on All India Radio, after which he inquired after their homework and their academic progress. Yes, Gaikwad thought, times had changed. His son was emblematic of that change. The boy was fifteen and on the verge of his schoolleaving examinations, one that could make or mar him for the rest of his life. But the boy’s attitude toward school and toward life in general was dismissive, as if it were all a big joke. He was always in front of the television, watching inane programs, or playing cricket with the other idiots in the neighborhood, and then standing on corners and watching giggling teenage girls walk by. In short, anything but studying for the exams that had the potential of taking him to a better life. Gaikwad knew he


shouldn’t compare his children, and he would never have done it openly, but he couldn’t help but wonder why his boy couldn’t be more like his girl. He thought of the last time his wife had asked him to talk to the boy about taking his studies more seriously. The boy’s replies were either flippant or monosyllabic. He did not seem to understand the world he was up against: one billion Indians, more Chinese, and the rest of the world. Gaikwad wanted his son to be more than he was, but the boy had little interest in anything but the most mindless fun. His daughter, Kavita, on the other hand, was the polar opposite. Two years younger than her brother, star at her school; everything she touched turned into gold. They had more awards from her than they had place to display and Gaikwad and his wife were proud of her, proud that they had created this clever little girl. There was no need to worry about her, but his boy, yes—there were plenty of reasons to worry. Why is it, Gaikwad wondered, that we spend our time worrying about the ones who don’t live up to their ability? Sometimes it felt to him that in their worry about their boy, they didn’t encourage their daughter for her success. Success was almost expected of her. It seemed unfair to him and he thought he should bring it up with his wife. He pushed the thoughts aside and opened the front door. He picked up the milk in the two plastic bags and the daily paper. The world might have moved on to websites and mobile news and the twentyfour-hour entertainment on TV they peddled as information, but in Gaikwad’s world the paper was the civilized way of doing things, the way his father had done it. He remembered his own father sitting down at the table while his mother prepared breakfast: poha, a sort of puffed rice, and chai. The children were not allowed to talk as he read the paper, page by page, cover to cover, headline by headline, until he had perused it completely. Although he had never left the country, his father had been one of the most wellinformed people Gaikwad had ever met. And though he had chosen a different path for himself—policing instead of teaching—the older he got the more he appreciated the habit that he had formed merely by watching the old man: reading the daily paper over a cup of tea. Gaikwad put the papers on the table, the milk in the kitchen and walked over to say a little prayer to various Hindu gods and goddesses assembled in a shrine in the kitchen. Also in the shrine were a statue of


the warrior king Shivaji and a picture of his and Lata’s late parents. It was part of his daily routine (and it would be followed by a brief stop at the temple outside the building on his way to work). Did Gaikwad believe in God? He didn’t know the answer to that. He put the daily prayers down to a sort of insurance policy, in case God did exist. The water for the tea was boiling. Gaikwad carefully added the tea leaves and then the milk. One spoon of sugar each for himself and Lata. He poured three-quarters of the cup on the saucer and turned the fan on, so it could cool faster. He blew into the contents of the cup and took a sip. It needed more sugar but the doctor had asked him to reduce his sugar intake. His thoughts were interrupted by Lata’s approaching footsteps. “Good morning,” she said as she walked into the room and into his arms. He’d never been physically affectionate, but she was and he’d not only become used to it, but had grown to like it. “You missed your walk this morning.” “Yeah, I know. Tomorrow that Chitre will be pulling my leg about it.” Lata smiled. “Are you ready for the day?” “No,” he said, and sighed. “I’m never ready.”

Two hours later, Gaikwad was at work. His first order of business was John Barton. The American had identified his wife’s body. He had agreed to come to the station to answer a few questions. Gaikwad had been as sympathetic as he could be when he first met Barton, but there were too many things that he’d said that just didn’t add up. The TV channels had been relentless in their coverage of the case and their pursuit of the killer or killers. DCP Khan was demanding results fast. Gaikwad went over the case details. The post-mortem had said Liz Barton had been dead for at least a week. She’d been struck on the head. She’d been killed elsewhere, concealed, and brought to the dump. Could her husband have done it? Gaikwad liked to begin each murder case by getting to know the victim. Murders often focused on the last few days of a victim’s life and the next few days, if investigators were lucky, would focus on 48

catching the killer. But little, if any, attention was paid to what the person was like. What his or her story was, what motivated them, moved them, what they feared. And he felt that when he asked a surviving husband or wife to talk about their spouse, it opened them up to other, more probing, questions later. Almost on cue, John Barton entered. “Hello, inspector,” he said. “Good of you to come,” Gaikwad said. “Again my condolences.” “Thank you. How can I help you?” Gaikwad ordered the constable to bring a Coke and a glass, and ordered a chai for himself. “What was your wife like, sir?” he asked. Barton took a deep breath. “I can’t believe she’s gone,” he said. “Inspector, are you married?” “Yes, sir.” “Then you know how it is. It’s hard to live without them.” Gaikwad nodded. “She was so excited about coming here. It was a dream come true for her. She was always talking about coming to India. Her parents were here in the sixties, you know. They loved it. They used to call her their Indian baby. She was conceived in this city.” “What did she think of it?” “The truth—she loved this city, but couldn’t help but be shocked by what she saw here. Her feelings were complex. She found it vibrant, liberating, contradictory, chaotic, exhilarating. At the same time, she detested much of what she loved. “She found the chaos stifling; the contradictions depressing. There’s no privacy here, no silence. She missed that about home. The solitude.” The constable arrived silently with the tea and Coke. He poured the tea into a slightly cracked white cup and the Coke into a large glass. Gaikwad took the tea, pointed to the drink, and gestured to Barton. “Please.”


“Thank you, inspector.” He took a sip. When he first began this job, Gaikwad was confused when someone bereaved performed such banal actions. Was it a sign of guilt? But as time went on, he realized that these actions were non-voluntary. It was as if a body that was in shock was performing them to subconsciously relieve pressure. Barton drained half the glass with his first sip. Gaikwad wondered if he’d eaten anything since he’d heard about his wife. But he decided to press on with the questions. “Did she enjoy her work?” “Yes,” he said wistfully. “It was her life. The global recession hit us like it hit everyone. She lost her job on Wall Street. It devastated her. Then this opportunity came along; it seemed like a sign from heaven. She immediately jumped at it. And she loved the challenges of working here. Of being in a new place. Of being in a new field. Of being so removed from our old lives.” “What about you, sir?” Gaikwad asked. “What did you think?” “Initially, I was very happy,” he replied. Gaikwad could see sadness creep into his eyes. “Initially?” “It was exciting,” he said. “The opportunity was exciting. There weren’t any jobs on Wall Street for her at the time. This came along at the right moment. I just wanted what was best for her. Besides, inspector, she has always been more ambitious than me.” Gaikwad noticed that he had used the present tense, as if unable to acknowledge that she was gone. “What do you mean?” “She spent her time climbing the corporate ladder. I’ve spent the last ten years writing a book that at this point may never come out. But I was excited—excited about coming here. I thought it would finally give me the impetus needed to finish the revisions on the novel.” “What is it about—the novel?” Gaikwad asked, hoping he could use it to gain insight into this man. “About a man’s search for himself, inspector,” Barton said. “Does he find himself?” “I thought so, inspector. Now I’m not so sure. I was hoping this time would allow me to gain some


more insight into the subject. Instead I’m here talking to you, with my wife lying dead in the morgue.” “Did she have any enemies?” “Personally, no,” he said. “But professionally she could be cold. It’s tough to be a woman in the workplace. More so at the top. Even more so in India.” Gaikwad nodded. Although there were some high-profile women officers on the force, the police department remained overwhelmingly male. “But I steered clear away from that part of her life,” Barton said. “Why?” “Well, inspector, to tell you the truth, it never struck me in the U.S., but I felt useless here. And as excited as I was to come here, I couldn’t wait to leave. Her job became what was keeping us here. “This might offend you, inspector, and let me apologize if it does, but it can be quite a culture shock coming to this country, this city. No matter how I try, I can’t get out the grime, dust, and sweat that cling to my skin and seep through my pores. “The fact that I’m a house husband is shocking to most people here. I am—was—the only male among the non-working spouses and partners. I felt patronized by some of her colleagues. The Westerners hide it well, because they are excellent at pretending, but the Indians didn’t even bother to hide their disapproval.” Gaikwad took in what he said, but didn’t react. “There are a few things about your wife’s murder that I don’t understand,” he said. “I was hoping you’d straighten them out for me.” “I’ll do what I can.” “We’ve ascertained that your wife was killed a week ago. Where were you that Tuesday?” “Me?” “It’s a routine question, sir, we have to ask it.” “I told you. Madh Island. We couldn’t come back. Liz was in Singapore. She came back early.” “Why didn’t you go with her?”


“It was work, inspector. She didn’t need me tagging along there, too. And as I told you before, I liked to stay out of that part of her life.” “Was there anything unusual that she experienced before she left? Anything that troubled her?” Gaikwad could see Barton wanted to say something more, but that he was hesitating. “Whatever it may be,” he said. “Nothing, inspector,” Barton said. “I can’t think of anything.” Gaikwad could tell he was lying. “OK. And who were you in Madh Island with?” “Friends.” “Friends who can corroborate you were with them?” The blood drained from Barton’s already-pale face as he realized where the questions were leading. “It’s delicate, inspector.” “I need a name.” “Uma Rhys.” “And what is the nature of your relationship with her?” “As I said, inspector, it’s a delicate matter.” “I need an answer, sir. Murder is a most indelicate matter.” “We were—for want of a better term—romantically involved,” he said. “She’s married, too.” “Were?” “It’s tenuous.” “I’ll need her address and number.” John reluctantly wrote the information down and handed it to Gaikwad. “Is there anything else you want to tell me, sir?” “No, inspector. That’s all.” “Another thing I can’t understand, sir. Perhaps you can shed light.” “I’ll do what I can, inspector.”


“When I came to visit you, you were unaware of her death. Yet, the news seemed to be around the city for a while. No one had called you?” “I don’t know what to tell you, inspector. I really had no idea.” “But you had CNN on, and I know they reported it.” Barton looked sheepish. “Actually, I rarely watch the news,” he said. “I was watching an X-rated movie when you rang the bell. I muted the sound and changed the channel. CNN was on—that was what Liz watched.” The explanation was inane enough to be true, Gaikwad thought. But he knew he could squeeze more information out of this man, information that he seemed reluctant (scared?) to share. “We appreciate you helping us, sir,” Gaikwad said. “But for the time being don’t leave town. We may have more questions.”

Gaikwad had appointments that morning and he told the constable to cancel them. They would have to wait for now. He phoned Uma Rhys. He had expected the call to be awkward, but the woman sounded more amused than anything to hear from him. “Yes, inspector,” she said. “You can come now if you like.” He detected a knowing smile at the end of the line. He had not raised the knowledge he had of her relationship with John Barton, but he didn’t need to. Why else would anyone want to speak to her in connection with Liz Barton’s murder? Gaikwad did not consider himself a prude. People made decisions that they lived with all the time. They might not be decisions they were particularly happy with or proud of, but they were their decisions nonetheless. Infidelity was one of those decisions. He knew enough men, including friends, who had been unfaithful. That did not make them bad men. It did not even mean that they did not love their families. He once heard someone say that it was extremely difficult to consistently be a decent human being. And there was something to that. Most often it was a momentary lapse of reason; at worst it was a selfish act that could not be helped. But, he had to concede that most of the adulterers—he shuddered at the antiquated 53

notion of the word—he knew were men. They usually boasted of their indiscretions when they had drunk too much. Still, though he did not condone it, he knew it was none of his business. But this woman was different. And her reaction to it was hardly embarrassed. She seemed blasé. Gaikwad did not know how to reconcile himself with that sort of a reaction. Was it sexist? Perhaps. Was his inbuilt Indian moral code kicking in? Probably. His motorcycle pulled up in front of the skyscraper in Cuffe Parade. It was the sort of building that exuded the stench of wealth and power and immediately excluded those who did not reside within its walls. There was a hierarchical totem pole. The wealthiest residents, who had both money and power, lived at the top, and the top executives from the state-owned firms, who wielded more power than riches, lived near the bottom. This was in contrast to his own four-story building, which lacked an elevator. The lower floors were more prized there because of the convenience of walking up fewer flights. It was a uniquely Mumbai phenomenon. Each flat in this building possessed a servant’s quarter. A guard post at the gate with a watchman armed with a Doberman decided which vehicles and pedestrians could enter. The daily staff—gardeners, maids, drivers, vegetable vendors (because in India even the richest people like a good deal)—existed on a list and were checked off as they showed the building-issued ID card. “Yes?” the guard asked Gaikwad. “Rice,” Gaikwad replied. “Who?” the guard asked. “Uma Rice.” “Oh! Rhys. Just a minute,” the watchman said, making it a point to reply in English. The Doberman looked calm but alert. The guard called a number, but did not take his eyes off Gaikwad. Gaikwad could see him mutter into the receiver, but he could not catch what the man was saying. Soon, he replaced the receiver. “Madam will see you,” he said, still in English. Gaikwad rode the elevator to the 23rd floor, near the top but not quite at the summit. The flats on the top six floors belonged, if gossip was to be believed, to diamond traders from Surat, whose modest white


shirts and trousers belied their billions. The elevator ascended swiftly and quietly. The attendant pointed to the apartment in question, lest Gaikwad wander where he was not wanted. He rang the bell and waited. A servant opened the door. “Come in,” she said. He did not have to state his business. He was led into a large living room with a balcony that overlooked the Arabian Sea. The floors were of marble; the windows were open and the temperature here was ten degrees lower than it was in the rest of the sweltering city. He noticed the artwork on the wall. They weren’t prints. He pretended to browse the bookshelves, but nothing caught his attention except a couple of photographs of a striking woman whom he suspected to be Uma Rhys and a much older white man. They were both smiling and looked happy. “Hello, inspector,” said the voice from behind him. He turned around. She seemed more beautiful than in the pictures. She carried herself with the casual elegance and arrogance of the Indian rich, simultaneously disarming and dismissive. “How can I help you?” “I’m here to talk to you about Liz Barton’s death.” “And what do I have to do with that?” Her voice was teasing, even flirtatious. Gaikwad was flustered, something he was not accustomed to. “Don’t worry, inspector. I don’t want to embarrass you. I know you know about my relationship with her husband. And you’re wondering if I—or John—killed her. Right?” He could not have said it better himself. “Yes. That’s right.” “Well, you don’t have to worry. Much as I liked John, I like my husband more.” “That’s what everybody says, madam.” “Yes. But the difference is my husband knows about my proclivities. You can ask him yourself. He’s an older man. He’s a kind man and he’s understanding.” Gaikwad felt even more embarrassed, more at his prudishness than anything. “But you don’t need to worry, inspector,” she continued. “I broke it off with John.”


“Why?” “Are you married, inspector?” “Yes,” he mumbled. “Let me ask you then: Do you fantasize about other women?” Gaikwad’s discomfort was apparent. Uma’s smirk did not leave her face. The maid walked in with two cups of tea. She placed one in front of Gaikwad along with an assortment of biscuits. Gaikwad took a bite of the Bourbon biscuit, his favorite, and dipped the rest in the tea, delaying as long as possible the answer to her question. All he could think about right now was Lata and how she had proscribed biscuits from his diet. “You don’t need to answer that, inspector,” Uma Rhys said, laughing. “Your silence says a lot; besides, you’re human. Now imagine you were in a relationship with another woman and it went from the excitement of clandestine meetings and sexual thrills to the banalities and drudgery of everyday problems. I assume your wife already does that for you. Why would you need another avenue for those talks? Do you see what I mean?” “You mean your relationship with Mr. Barton had become routine?” “In short, yes. I wanted excitement. With his wife’s death, I knew he’d want a shoulder to cry on. That’s not me.” He appreciated her candor, even if he found it intimidating. “Were you with him on the night of the murder?” “There—I can help you. Yes. We were at Madh Island; I have a house there.” “And when did you come back?” “We returned together. I dropped him off and continued on home.” Gaikwad jotted down notes illegibly in his black notebook. “Is there anything else you noticed about him or her?” “Well, she was a cold fish. He was needy. Definitely wasn’t getting what he wanted from her. But you know these Western types, they like the idea of a liberated woman until they want a cup of coffee—


and their wives won’t make one for them.” “Do you think she had any enemies?” “Hard to say. You know, there was that Gaja Kohli chap—everyone knows about his altercation with her. Then there was her number two at Mohini, Vikram Hazra.” “Her deputy?” “Yes. Word around the expat circuit is that he was passed over for promotion. And he was pissed.” “Anyone else?” “There’s always Khurana.” “Kabir Khurana?” Gaikwad asked. “He lost that contract to Mohini. Rumor has it he was seething. But you know these billionaire-types, always smiling to mask whatever they are plotting behind the scenes. “And, inspector, you know, all this is off the record. Don’t use my name. I have to socialize with these people.” He looked at her. She was still smiling, but he knew that her smile, too, belied the seriousness of her last comment. “Of course, madam. Thank you for your help—and for the tea.” Gaikwad closed the door behind him and rode the elevator down. He tried thinking of the case. His conversation with Uma only underscored that he’d have to talk to Hazra and Khurana.

Gaikwad knew there was little chance of a lowly inspector getting through to Kabir Khurana to question him in a murder inquiry, so he decided to go through his boss, DCP Adnan Khan. “Are you sure he has links to her?” Khan asked. “Yes, sir. I have it on good authority that they were close.” “What does that mean? They were banging?” “I don’t know, sir,” Gaikwad said, wanting to laugh at the directness of the question. “But they apparently did spend a lot of time together.” 57

“OK. I’ll make a few calls. Just be delicate. We don’t want him complaining to the commissioner.” “Yes, sir.”

An hour or so later, Gaikwad received a phone call. “Inspector Vijay Gaikwad?” “Speaking.” “I have Mr. Kabir Khurana on the line and he’d like to talk to you.” Gaikwad was not the kind of man to be intimidated by the prospect of a conversation with a man who could make or ruin his career, but he was curious what Khurana wanted. “Inspector, this is Kabir Khurana.” “Yes, sir. How can I help you?” “I received word you wanted to talk to me, so I thought I’d call you first. Unfortunately, I’m on my way to Delhi to the meet the PM, so I can’t entertain you right now, but you can ask me any questions you have over the phone.” Gaikwad noticed—and he was supposed to notice—that the first thing Khurana did was mention his access to the country’s prime minister. What he was proposing, of course, was highly irregular. But it was better than nothing. And as of now, Gaikwad was only trying to ascertain what happened to Liz Barton. “Sir, I have a few questions about the Baar-Tone murder case.” “Yes. Yes. Terrible business. What is happening to our city?” “Sir, it has come to our attention that you were close to Mrs. Baar-Tone.” “Close? I wouldn’t say that.” Khurana’s voice had a certainty to it. “We knew each other, sure, just as business people know each other, but we weren’t close.” “So you never met her, sir?” “It depends what you mean by meet, inspector,” Khurana said. Gaikwad could hear that he was enjoying himself. “Were your interactions one-on-one or more in a public forum, sir?” 58

“A bit of both, inspector. But you know I wouldn’t make a rush to judgment with either of those scenarios. I spend a lot of one-on-one time with my driver, but we’re hardly close. I spend a lot of time with my board as a group, and I would say we’re fairly close.” “We’ve been told by several people that you shared a close relationship with her, sir,” Gaikwad said, hoping the statement wouldn’t haunt him. “Inspector, this is India,” Khurana said. “You know how people are. A man and a woman talk, and the next thing you know the rumor mills are working overtime.” Still, there’s no smoke without fire, Gaikwad thought, but he realized this was going nowhere. He tried a different tack. “So, from your assessment of her, sir, do you think she had any enemies?” “It’s hard to say, inspector. We live in bad times.” Gaikwad was irritated by the fact that this man was not saying anything, but the inspector wasn’t in a position to protest. “Anything else you can think of, sir? Anything that might shed light on the case?” There was a pause. “Honestly, inspector. I can’t think of anything. I’m not sure where you got the idea that we were close. We were just associates.” “My apologies, sir. And thank you for your time.” Gaikwad knew that Khurana had been lying. But was it because he didn’t want to be associated with the whiff of scandal or was it something else?


Chapter 6

Jay was sleeping the deep sleep that comes only at dawn when the ringing phone woke him. His eyes still shut, Jay reached for his cell phone, groping for it on the nightstand until he found it. “Hello,” he mumbled, his voice dripping with sleep. “You’re still sleeping. It’s six thirty in the morning!” “Hello, ma,” Jay said in reply, unsure if he wanted to have this conversation at this time. “You haven’t forgotten about your father’s eye surgery, no?” Crap, Jay thought. He had forgotten. His father was getting laser surgery to remove a cataract in his right eye. “Of course not, ma. It’s on Saturday, right?” It was a stab in the dark. “Yes, yes. Saturday. But be on time. There’s construction near Andheri station. Someone has to wait in the car while your father is there.” “I’ll be there. Don’t worry.” “And what about the pooja? You’re coming for the pooja, no?” “What pooja?” “What is wrong with you? The same pooja we have every year.” “Oh yes. Of course. I’ll be there,” he said, not wanting to prolong this conversation any further. The pooja, or religious ceremony, was one observed annually in the Ganesh household to mark Guru Purnima, a day ostensibly to honor the family’s spiritual guide. The Ganeshes, including Jay’s mother, would never have called themselves religious. But religion pervaded not only the spiritual realm of


people’s lives, but also the cultural. It was, to put it mildly, everywhere: on the streets, in the form of street-corner temples and churches; the muezzin’s call to prayer; giant swathes of the city blocked off for religious festivals ranging from Ganesh Chaturthi, to honor the elephant-headed god, to Ramadan, the Islamic holy month. And so, even if a family did not consider itself religious or visit a temple, mosque, or church regularly, religious occasions were an excellent occasion to meet old friends and family. So it was with Mrs. Ganesh and her annual Guru Purnima festival. “Make sure you’re on time,” she bellowed. “Lots of people have been asking about you.” Jay knew better than to ask what that meant. Invariably it meant that his mother had conspired to introduce him to some girl whom she hoped would make a good daughter-in-law. Jay avoided such occasions, but the pooja would be hard to miss. There would be consequences. “No, no,” he replied. “I’ll be there. Don’t worry.” “Of course you’ll be there,” she replied. “Just don’t be late. And remember Saturday—your father’s eye surgery.” “Ok, ma,” he said, but she’d already hung up. Jay was half-amused, half-irritated when he put the phone down. His mother had to have the last word. And he could never say no to her. Such an Indian failing, he thought. But while his father’s procedure and the pooja were still a few days away, he had a more immediate task at hand: a fresh angle on the story of the burglaries. He would have to keep working that story until he interviewed Kabir Khurana later that day or fresh revelations emerged on the Barton murder. One aspect of the burglaries puzzled him: Jay couldn’t figure out how a perpetrator or perpetrators could walk unobstructed and undetected into apartment buildings and make away with so much. The answers, he thought, must be obvious. It could be that they were residents of the buildings in question, but that was too ridiculous to consider because that would mean an absurdly large gang that worked together in the area, and he knew from experience that if a gang were large, its members would have slipped up by now. No. It must be small. Perhaps one or two and no more than three people. Which would rule out residents because there would be too many of them given the number of buildings and the areas in which


the crimes had been committed. Then who? Vendors or building staff who had access to the complexes? Possibly, but they would draw the scrutiny of the watchman had they behaved differently than they usually do. So it was likely a confident stranger—one who walked comfortably past the security guard and into the lift, and then the apartment and then made his way out. But how would he know where to go? How would he know when to go? How did he know that the apartment’s residents were out? Why did he take electronics? What could you do with electronics? You can sell them in the black market. You can keep them at home. But so far seven homes had been affected and practically the same items had been taken: computers, some electronics, some jewelry. No thief was likely to hold on to all those items. Chances are he was going to sell them. That could be done in two places: Chor Bazaar—the thieves market—or Lamington Road. He decided to start with Chor Bazaar.

Jay walked past young and old Muslim men, some with skullcaps, who eyed him warily. He saw groups of men stripping apart cars for their tires, carpets, engines, gear boxes, and steering wheels, all of which would be sold. The men doing the work paused briefly to watch him walk past. He made it a point not to look at them. There was nothing you could not buy here. Schoolboys loitered around a sandwich wallah, men pulled handcarts with gunny sacks covering large blocks of ice that would later find themselves cubed, cooling the drinks in ritzy South Bombay; men, no older than boys, sat idly on scooters and chatted with one another or barked into cell phones; a lone goat walked by, unaware of its fate as the main ingredient in biryani; the call to prayer wafted through the air. Jay walked past storefronts that sold headlights, bicycles, exercise bikes, plastic mugs, past little boys eating snacks and past prying eyes. Men walked with their burqa-covered wives in tow. It was one of the few places in the city where you could still see young men who wore jeans and carried backpacks while they rode motorcycles to engineering colleges living side by side with religious and social orthodoxy. But the area was changing just like everything in Mumbai. Tall, poorly built skyscrapers hovered over the neighborhood like vultures awaiting the clearing 62

of prime real estate. The city had changed so much, Jay thought. Soon, this area will go the way of others: unrecognizable and unremembered. Jay walked to Trustwell Electronics; he knew the owner, Shakil Shah, who’d been in school with him. “What’s up, you bastard?” Shakil asked cheerfully, happy to see his old friend. “The usual, yaar. Middle of a story and all that.” “What’ll you drink? Thanda? Garam?” No was never an option. You could either have something cold—thanda—or something hot, garam. “Chai. No sugar,” Jay said. He’d long stopped counting, but this was the third of his nearly dozen cups of tea during the day. “Chottu, do chai lana,” Khan shouted to an invisible subordinate. “How’s business, man?” Jay asked. “Usual, yaar. You know how it is. Sometimes up. Sometimes down. Sometimes it can be tough even in Chor Bazaar.” He laughed. Jay could not help but notice the changes in his boyhood friend. Shakil had been a star athlete and student, one of a legion of Indian boys destined for a career in medicine or engineering. Instead, after his father’s sudden death, he took over the family business right after graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering. Now, he sat behind the counter for at least twelve hours a day, much like his father had. His hair had turned prematurely gray; his stomach was prosperously protruding. It was hard to believe they were the same age. “So tell me,” Shah said, “what brings you here? Can’t be the kheema.” (Mincemeat.) “Actually, I need some information.” “What kind?” “I’m looking into some thefts.” “Thefts? Leave that stuff to the police, yaar. Why do you want to get involved?” Before Jay could say anything, a little boy came with two shot glasses of tea. Each man took one,


blew into it to cool it down, and took a sip. “So, how are your parents?” Shah asked. “Good, yaar. They ask about you. And how’s the missus and the kids?” “Good. Good. Mariam is going to be in the seventh standard. Don’t know where time goes.” “Yeah, I know.” “OK, bhai, I know you’re a busy man. Tell me what you want to know.” “I’m looking for stolen electronics.” Khan laughed. “You’ve come to the right place.” The area’s reputation preceded itself. “What would you like? iPads? I know a guy with fresh stock.” Jay ignored his question. “I’m looking for goods sold on these particular dates.” Jay handed him a note, which Shakil examined from atop his black plastic-rimmed glasses. “Can you also check your store in Lamington Road?” “I’ll see what I can do.” “I appreciate it, and I’ll owe you one.” He drained the chai, made small talk with his old friend and looked at his watch. It was almost time for his interview with Khurana.

Jay headed back to the newsroom where he was supposed to meet Janet and head to the old Khurana family home for the promised interview. Kabir Khurana preferred to conduct his few interviews there instead of the apartment building where he lived. Jay had been to the family home before, many years earlier, to talk to Khurana’s father, the revered independence-era leader Khulbushan Khurana, for the newspaper. The elder Khurana was known for his loyalty to Gandhi and had immersed himself in the freedom struggle against the British. The old man had been dying and Jay, then a trainee journalist, was sent to interview him for an upcoming Independence Day special supplement. Jay had been nervous. It was his first big interview. He did not want to disappoint—yet he felt intimidated. He was meeting someone he 64

had read about in history books, whose name adorned roads and buildings. He was so old in fact that most people assumed he was dead, a relic of the past that the new India had no time for. Khurana lived in the old family house near Chowpatty, in a street long forgotten by developers, adorned by Laburnum trees that lined both sides. It seemed incongruous in Mumbai’s dizzying pace and dearth of space. Jay did not know what to expect when he rang the bell. Usually, when he went to interview someone famous, he would be ushered in by a servant who’d then be dispatched to produce a cup of tea or, if it was hot, as it often was, a Thums Up—the Indian cola—or a Limca. But in this case, no one came to the door. He tried the bell again. “Coming.” He could barely discern the voice. He could hear a struggle with the lock. The door opened. It was Khurana. He looked younger than his ninety years. Not an ounce of fat on him. The man in front of him looked like an older version of the photograph in all the textbooks. “Are you from the paper?” His accent was British, the kind you never heard anymore except in Pathé newsreels. “Yes, sir.” “Well, you’d better come in. Will you have some tea?” “Yes, sir, thank you.” “Join me in the kitchen then,” the old man replied. “I’ll have some, too.” Jay did not know how to react. Here he was with one of India’s most famous independence-era leaders who was making him tea—certainly odd in a country that lives by the dictum, “Why do anything if you can have others do it for you?” Should he offer to take over? He wasn’t sure. “Sir, can I help in any way?” “No. No. Just sit. How many sugars?” “Two, sir.” “You must watch your sugar intake, son,” he said. “It leads to weight gain.” They began talking. The old man regaled him with stories about the freedom movement, his


interactions with Gandhi and Nehru and Jinnah and the Mountbattens. Jay thought he got some excellent quotes for a profile. An hour and a half later, he thanked the man and left, returning to the office. He was so excited, he went straight to his machine and wrote eight hundred words that came out effortlessly and sent it to his editor. “Good piece,” came the e-mail reply. “But it’s not running. Afsana did a roundup of movie stars and what independence day means to them. Come in early tomorrow. You’re on the phones.” Today, after all these years, Jay was standing again outside the house. This time Janet was with him. Jay felt instantly comfortable when they entered the large house on Laburnum Road, just a few houses down from the house Gandhi used to live in when he was in the city. A servant had opened the door and let them in. “Sahib will be here shortly,” he said. Jay could not help noticing the contrast from when the older Khurana opened the door himself. Janet and he had gone over their notes, but talked little inside the room where they perused the mementos and collected their thoughts. Janet set up a tripod and adjusted lenses to take some stock images of the room. Jay looked around. It seemed to have been preserved in a time capsule. Behind glass-covered shelves lay photographs of the old man with Gandhi, Nehru, Jinnah, and even King George VI. There were also pictures of the old man with people neither Jay nor Janet recognized. “Take a picture of that shelf,” Jay told Janet, who happily pointed her viewfinder toward the shelf and







of someone





A servant came in with a tray on which rested two cups of piping-hot tea and a plate of biscuits. “Can I get you something else?” he asked. “Thank you. No,” Jay replied, helping himself to a Marie biscuit. “Is Khurana sahib here?” “He should be here any minute. He just phoned to apologize.” “I wonder if we’ll get to see the cars,” Janet said. “The cars?” Jay asked. The cars—antiques and vintage models—were the senior Khurana’s pride and joy, his respite from


the socialism and penury he espoused against the British. “You know the old man had one of the largest vintage collections.” Almost on cue, Khurana entered. “I’m sorry,” he said. “The traffic.” “It’s quite all right,” Jay replied. “We weren’t here very long. Just admiring the room.” “It’s a shrine to my father. Untouched since he died.” “He was a great man,” Jay said. “So here I am,” Khurana said. “What do you want to ask me?” For someone who did not grant interviews, Khurana deftly handled his questions. He was open where he needed to be: on information that was already out there—school, college, childhood, his father. Evasive when obfuscation was necessary: business, politics, the global economic climate, his rivals. And gracious at all times. He plied them with snacks, insisted they stay for a meal, and turned the interview into a conversation. The day ended with a tour of the house. Khurana took them to his father’s room where there were more photographs, the old man’s bare bed, a bookshelf adorned with classical literature, Indian myths, and the collected works of Wodehouse. “Your father liked Wodehouse?” Jay asked, amused at the seeming contradiction. “He loved him. Especially Psmith.” Jay scribbled more notes in the margin of his notebook. “You have to remember,” Khurana said, “he was a child of the British Empire. And he was from a privileged background no matter how much he resented his own class. Some of the habits he picked up in England stayed with him for life, even if he sacrificed his suits for khadi.” Next, they went to the room that was Kabir Khurana’s when he was a boy. Books were neatly arranged on a shelf. There was one photograph: a passport-style photograph of a woman. Jay examined it. “My mother,” Khurana said by way of explanation. “I never knew her. She died when I was very young.”


“Was it tough being raised by a single father?” “Truth be told, I was raised by a series of aunts and nannies. My father belonged to India and the world. When I was young, I resented that he belonged to everyone but me. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to understand why he did what he did and why his work was important.” Jay eased the uncomfortable silence that followed by walking up to a cricket bat mounted on the wall. “It’s Wadekar’s seventy-one team,” Khurana said. “In many ways, cricket remains my one true vice.” “And it’s a fine vice to have,” Jay said. “Do you ever go to a match?” “Not anymore,” he said ruefully. “Time seldom permits it.” They soon found themselves back in the room where they had begun their interview. Khurana pointed to various photographs and showed them documents from his father’s time, in short doing everything except talking about himself. Jay was wise to it, but he had enough material for his story and let him continue to talk, hoping each word would add to a sense of familiarity among them. “We’re also doing a piece on Liz Barton,” Jay said. “What did you think of her?” “Yes. Yes. Tragic business,” Khurana said. “Truth is I didn’t know the woman very well. We met once or twice. Mostly business dealings. Still, no one likes to see anyone killed like that.” Why did he lie? Jay wondered. Their friendship was well-known, yet he was downplaying it. But he decided not to challenge it. “In your brief meetings, did she ever talk about anything personal?” “Nothing that I can recount. She was very business-like. That’s one thing I like about Americans. They stick to the task at hand unlike us, who revel in questions about how our uncles and aunties are.” Janet, who had gone exploring on her own, returned. “Do you still keep your father’s cars?” she asked. “Ah, yes,” Khurana said with a twinkle in his eye. “They were my father’s pride and joy. Would you like to see them?” He led them through a side door to a garage. There, parked as far as the eye could see, stood row after row of old cars, their chrome grills shining, their Art Deco designs reminiscent of a long-gone


elegant age. Jay stood and stared, as if motion or speech would defile the sanctity of this shrine to the automobile. “Buick 1931 Series 50. 8-cylinder engine, 77 bhp, mechanical brakes, Delco-Remy ignition, Hotchkiss drive conventional transmission.” Janet moved from vehicle to vehicle, rattling out names, years, models, specifications. “1908 Woolsley, Maybech, Lagonda, Hodgekiss.” She was oblivious to Jay’s amusement. “1938 Cadillac. V-8 engine. 135 bhp. Three-speed gearbox; and my favorite, a 1947 Packard Clipper Deluxe: the last year of the original design. 165 hp. Only 2,200 built.” She looked at Jay. “What? Can’t a girl like cars?” “Yes, of course you can. But that’s more than liking cars,” Jay said. “That’s obsessive.” “My dad owns a garage,” she said, a tad self-conscious. “I grew up fixing them up.” “So can you tell me what this is?” Jay asked, barely controlling his laughter. He was standing next to pre-liberalization India’s car of choice, the Hindustan Ambassador, the elephantine car modeled on the Morris Oxford, and incongruous in this shrine to motoring. “Very funny,” Janet replied, and began shooting pictures. “Actually,” Khurana said, “that’s the only one that’s mine. It was my first car. It’s all original parts and it never leaves this garage.” “Then let me take a picture of you with it,” Janet said as Khurana blithely stood next to the vehicle.


Chapter 7

Gaikwad had risen early this morning, before the alarm rang, and took the stairs down to find his morning walking companion, Chitre, awaiting him. They’d walked for an hour. The sun was out already and he quickly worked up a sweat. The early monsoons had beguiled the city into forgetting the heat. Gaikwad cursed nature as he made his way home. His children were still asleep. Lata was up, waiting with coffee. As with every case he worked on, he told her the details. “Do you think he did it?” she asked him, standing close as he shaved, watching him carefully trim his thick mustache. He assumed she was talking about John Barton, the dead woman’s husband. “Not sure,” he replied. She knew how he felt about her guessing who the murderer was. But he knew that wouldn’t deter her. It was an age-old routine they had with every case. He would discuss the basics of what happened, and she, though she knew he found it amusing, came up with her own theories and list of suspects. “I saw that husband’s photo in the paper,” she said. “He looks like a fishy sort.” Gaikwad laughed. “You think everyone looks fishy.” “No. No. He had shifty eyes. You can always tell a person by what’s in their eyes.” Gaikwad rinsed the remaining shaving cream off his face. “What about the other woman?” Lata asked. “I can’t tell. She seems too upfront to be a killer. But you never know.” “I bet they conspired together to kill his wife,” Lata said, completely ignoring Gaikwad’s remark. No matter how much he told her that murder was seldom about sitting in an English castle and


eliminating suspects by the fireplace, Lata’s suspicion shifted with each emerging character. “I think he did it,” she would say. “I think it was her.” Or “I bet the truth is hidden somewhere.” Gaikwad found it charming, but it also helped him go over the case in his own head. Look for possible motives; discover previously unseen things. He had a big day ahead of him today—at least he hoped it’d be big. He was due to interview Vikram Hazra. But first he had to make his way through traffic and get to work.

The police station was slowly coming to life. The constables on the night shift languidly stretched before making their way to homes in far-flung suburbs, cursing the prospect of the impending bus or train ride. Gaikwad walked in past the saluting constable and made his way to his office. He took his place at the cluttered desk and browsed the paperwork to look for something pressing. There was nothing—but that could be because the night staff hadn’t bothered to transcribe anything yet. “Gaitonde,” he called, summoning the station’s long-serving constable. Gaitonde took his time, reveling in the knowledge that he’d been here longer than anyone and needed to hurry for no one. He looked at Gaikwad and thrust his head forward, as if to ask, “What?” Gaikwad was used to this. “Anything happen at night?” “No. It was quiet.” “What do we have today?” “Those people from the mohalla are coming to talk about some danga. Then there is a couple who has been wanting to get married.” “Where from?” “Rajasthan.” “And?” “That’s it so far.”


A Mumbai police officer was much more than a sleuth. He was in many ways a community facilitator, a coaxer, a cajoler; someone who would talk to various religious groups and placate their various gods to ensure there was no violence; someone who could talk to a neighborhood elder to have a word with an errant teenager. A police officer did all this—and solved crimes. And for every cop like Gaitonde, counting his days until retirement, or others who had enriched themselves for generations to come, there were many like Gaikwad for whom donning a uniform, coming to work, and ensuring that Mumbai remained the city its people desired was an all-consuming passion. “Send the couple in,” he said. He’d seen it a hundred times before: a young couple escaping their homes in the north, fleeing from the constraints of rigid caste and religious rules that forbade their relationships. The only place they could go to escape was Mumbai. It was the only place where they could get lost, where they could elude sometimes-murderous families. Mostly they wanted protection; sometimes they wanted to be married. A sympathetic police officer would always help. The boy couldn’t have been older than nineteen. “How old are you?” “Twenty-three, sahib,” he replied. His voice was timid. His head bobbed as he answered. “And you?” Gaikwad asked, looking at the girl. “Nineteen,” he replied. “Did I ask you?” Gaikwad said, cutting him off. “Nineteen, sir,” she replied, her eyes not leaving the floor. “Come here to get married?” “Yes, sir,” he replied. “Why not at home?” “I’m from the gardener caste, sir,” he replied. “Her family are weavers. When they found out about us, they beat her. My father threatened to kill me.”


“You have your birth certificates?” “Yes, sir,” the girl replied, gesturing to a plastic folder that she clasped tightly as if it held her most precious possession. “Theek hai,” Gaikwad said. OK. “I’ll write a note for you. Go to Bandra court and ask for Kode. Tell him I sent you. He’ll register your marriage.” “Thank you, sir. Thank you,” the boy replied. He walked toward Gaikwad and tried to touch his feet, gesturing to his fiancée do the same. It was a mark of respect given to elders. “Enough, enough,” Gaikwad said. “You’re in Mumbai now. Just take care of each other. Go.” As he watched them leave, Gaikwad could only hope that theirs would be a happy ending. He saw many cases like this each year. Not all of them ended well. It was quite common for the families involved to entice the couple back with promises of reconciliation, and then to kill them. Their misplaced sense of family honor and betrayal triumphed any love they may have felt for their children. He looked at his watch. He had to see Hazra. “Gaitonde,” he called. The constable waddled in. “Tell the mohalla wallahs to come later.” Gaitonde grunted in acknowledgment.

Vikram Hazra, the acting CEO of Mohini Resources, lived in an old art deco–style, five-story building on Marine Drive. Much of the city’s new wealth had gone to the suburbs, to gleaming skyscrapers with swimming pools and marble foyers. But to those who lived in Bombay, Marine Drive represented the city’s old wealth—a sort of status that was near impossible to attain even in an age when everything else was for sale. Gaikwad would have preferred to meet Hazra at a more neutral venue, like work, but he had insisted that the interview would be conducted at his home. “Do I need a lawyer present, inspector?” Hazra had asked. “That’s up to you, sir,” Gaikwad said. “We’re just asking questions about Mrs. Liz Baar-Tone.” 73

The door was opened by a servant who led him in. Gaikwad’s eyes immediately went to the balcony from where the Arabian Sea stretched to infinity. Gaikwad walked around the room, admiring the curios. Photographs of Hazra and presumably his family—shiny, happy, and smiling—at the Eiffel Tower, outside the White House, in Sydney adorned the mantel. Gaikwad looked at Hazra in the pictures. He looked tall, though that was usually tough to gauge from a photograph, broad, and needed to lose a few pounds. His hair was graying; he had a salt-and-pepper mustache. He dominated the photographs. “I’m sorry to keep you waiting, inspector.” Gaikwad turned around and saw the man in the photographs walk toward him. “I’m Hazra.” His hand was outstretched. Gaikwad took it, and noticed his firm handshake, unusual in a culture where shaking hands isn’t common. The man in front of him had lost the weight that he carried in the pictures. He was dressed in business casual: khaki pants and a blue shirt. “Will you have anything to eat or drink?” Hazra asked. “No thank you. I’d like to get straight to business.” “What can I do for you?” “As you know, we’re in the midst of a murder investigation.” Gaikwad looked for a tell, but Hazra didn’t betray any emotion. “Yes, tragic,” Hazra said. “Liz Barton was a valued colleague.” “We’d like to ask you a few questions about her death.” “Anything I can do to help.” “What was your relationship with her?” “She was my boss.” “And you were comfortable with that relationship?” “What do you mean?” “We might live in a modern India, sir, but many men still dislike the idea of a woman on top.” “Inspector, this is a corporate environment. Not a police station. People get ahead here because of their skills, not because of their gender.”


“I understand,” Gaikwad said. “But tell me, sir, what was she like?” “What do you mean?” “Was she popular? Liked? Did she have friends, enemies? Was she close to anyone? A colleague, perhaps? Her relationship with her husband—that kind of thing.” “My dealings with her were professional, inspector. So, it’s hard for me to say. But the few times we did socialize—office parties, that kind of thing—she was very sociable. You know how these foreigners are. They’re very comfortable in most settings. At work, she was the boss. She wanted everyone to call her Liz, but you know our culture. Most of the staff called her madam. But they seemed to respect her.” “What about you? Did you respect her?” “She was my boss.” Gaikwad noticed he hadn’t answered the question. “What was your own relationship with her?” “Cordial. Professional.” “So you didn’t socialize after work?” Hazra smiled. “No, inspector. We did not.” “Do you know of anyone who could gain by having her out of the way?” “Again, no. Obviously, her death has been a great shock to all of us.” “But you were her number two and you now have her job, right?” Hazra continued smiling, but the look was no longer friendly. “I do, yes. Anything else, inspector?” “I’ve heard that you were passed over for the job that eventually went to her.” “Not a secret, inspector. Check the business press. But would I kill someone for a job? No. You have to realize, inspector, that these foreigners come and go, but in the end we’re the ones who choose to stay behind in the country. If not today, I would have gotten the job tomorrow or some other time.” “So you were biding your time?” “I suppose you could say that.”


“Did she have any enemies?” Hazra paused. “Inspector, in this line of work, especially at her level and mine, we don’t really have friends. Sure, we get along with people, but no one gets close. But did she have enemies? It’s hard to say.” He was hiding something. “Yes?” Gaikwad prompted. “No, that’s it. No enemies I can think of.” “Are you sure, sir? This could be of crucial importance.” Once again, he could see Hazra hesitate, and then just for an instant he thought he saw Hazra’s expression soften before it hardened quickly once again into inscrutability. “No, inspector. Nothing else.” “Thanks for your help, Mr. Hazra. If you think of anything else, let us know.” “Of course, inspector. It’s a tragedy. We may have work rivalries, but no one expects something like this to happen.” Gaikwad knew he was right, but all he had done so far was ask questions about this case. He really needed some answers.


Chapter 8

Jay’s desk was cluttered with papers and books, a long-cold glass of tea sat next to a stained, idle wooden coaster, a dog-eared novel lay quietly beside a set of keys and a cell phone that almost ceaselessly vibrated. The area around Jay’s laptop was the only one that was relatively uncluttered. Outside, reporters and editors tapped away furiously on their keyboards, their eyes never wavering from the screen; phones rang incessantly. Although smoking had been banned in the newsroom a decade or so ago, the smell of tobacco rested heavily in the air. Jay was reviewing the notes from his interview with Khurana. Manisha had been pleased with the effort and planned to give it prime placement. Although Khurana didn’t share any new bits of information, the fact that he confirmed what was until now only conjecture about his past and his business deals was important. Jay’s piece was newsy. He had pre-empted Manisha’s order and added bits of personal information—though personally he found them irrelevant. But he could hear her voice: “That’s what our readers want to know. What he drives—not what his strategies are.” And she was right. India’s aspirational middle class loved to know personal details of the powerful in the hopes they too could replicate it in some small way. Self-help books dominated the bestseller lists long after they had fallen out of favor in the West. Jay had sat with a designer in the paper’s multimedia department to work on a slideshow of Khurana’s life and home. Called a web extra, it was meant to drive the newspaper’s readers to its adheavy website. “So, do you have anything good? The photos, I mean.” Janet showed him the prints. Although she had long changed to the digital format, she was old school


about one thing: printing out photographs that she could examine for details. Some things, she felt, were best seen when they were in your hands. “These are very good,” Jay said. “What about the ones in his father’s room?” “Those didn’t come out so well.” “Can you go and take them again? Just call his assistant. I have his number.” “You can’t use these?” “These are good, but since we’re also focusing on his relationship with his father, I thought one photo in his father’s room would work well.” “OK.” “Call and ask if you can go back today. I want to get Manisha to look at this on the page today. So we can decide when to run it.” “OK. Shouldn’t be a problem.” “Also, and don’t take this the wrong way, but are you free for a drink this evening?” Janet looked momentarily taken aback. “No pressure. Just a work thing,” Jay said, as if defending himself. “No. It’s fine,” she said smiling. “Eight?” “Sounds good,” Jay replied. “We can talk about the case.” As he watched her walk away, ruing his final words, Jay wished he’d said something witty.

Since he couldn’t do anything more on the story until Janet returned, Jay decided to focus his attention on the burglaries. Including this one, there had been seven in all. But there was little happening with the story because of the Barton murder. It seemed as if all of the department’s attention was focused on the killing. But there had to be a new angle somewhere. Jay decided to call Patil, an old friend on the force who was in charge of all the evidence that came in from various cases. Patil picked up on the third ring. “Jay bhai!” he said, instantly recognizing the number. “How may I be of service to you?” 78

Jay knew the routine. Despite his own preference for dealing with issues directly, he knew it would be considered rude to broach it immediately. Instead, the two men would have to do an age-old dance of verbal formality, each aware that the call was not merely social. “Leave aside talk of service, it is I who is your servant,” Jay said, knowing how absurd it sounded coming from his mouth. “How can a big man like you serve anyone, Jay bhai,” Patil said. “It is our job to serve.” “You’re too kind a man to be working in the department, Patil sahib. Too kind a man.” “So, tell me, Jay bhai, what can I do for you?” “Anything new on the burglaries?” “Ah. The burglaries.” Jay was relieved at the seriousness in Patil’s tone. “Any new developments?” “Well, ever since the murder, that’s all we’re focusing on. But we were finally able to get the surveillance videos.” “Which ones?” “The ones from the latest burglary. But because of the murder, no one’s had time to watch and compare them to the old ones.” “Can I see them?” Patil laughed a forced laugh. “You’re going to get me fired, Jay bhai.” “Arre, without you the department will fall apart. They can’t get rid of you.” “Now you’re telling the truth. OK, come in an hour. They’ll be in an envelope. You didn’t get them from me.” “How could I get them from you, Patil sahib? You would never give them to a lowlife like me.” “You’re right about that,” Patil said, laughing.


There was more good news later in the day. Shakil Shah called Jay with exactly the kind of news he’d been hoping for. Shah had nothing to share from Chor Bazaar, where his main shop was located, but it was a different story in Lamington Road, a hub of cheap electronics and electronics parts. Jay knew the area well. In many ways, it hadn’t changed at all. He visited it often when he was a schoolboy to buy the series of prescribed textbooks from Navjivan Bookstore. But even in those days, it was a hub for computers and electronics. You could place an order for a computer of any configuration, and within a week, they’d deliver a fully loaded machine with any software you might need and all the software you likely won’t. On a more recent occasion, Jay had had the opportunity to take an American business journalist around the city, including to one of those periodic raids on vendors of pirated videos and music CDs that were staged to mollify the global intellectual property treaties. The American had looked across the street from the raid and saw fully loaded PCs being sold undisturbed at a fraction of the price they were available for in the West. “Is this all shareware?” he’d asked, incredulous at the cost. Jay laughed. “In India, everything is shareware,” he’d replied. Yes, in theory, this was a crime, because the software was blatantly pirated, but in Jay’s mind there was a hierarchy to crime: terrorism, murder, drugs on top; intellectual property near the bottom. The police department did not have the resources to tackle it in any meaningful way. Shakil told him that an electronics store in Lamington Road had bought electronics parts from a man on three occasions in the past three months. The man they remembered was nondescript, certainly not enough for Jay to find him or even know where to look. But the dates tallied with the ones of the three most recent thefts. “Good for your friend. Now I need you to do me another favor.” “Sure.” “Ask him to notify me personally the next time he sees this guy.”


“You owe me big time, man,” Shah said.

A peon—one of many employed by practically every city business to run errands that would invariably crop up during the day (from buying tea and snacks to delivering and picking up packages) had brought back the surveillance videos, which Patil had helpfully transferred to DVDs. Jay began watching them in order, starting with the first burglary. At first he felt the enthusiasm that is reserved for a new task. But with each passing minute, with no apparent discovery, the zeal turned to drudgery. At this rate, he thought, this task would take hours, if not days. And what exactly was he looking for? Jay could see the organic life of Mumbai’s apartment buildings unfold. He felt like an anthropologist watching some species in its native habitat—except the species here were the city’s affluent who kept the rest of the world at bay with their high walls, building security, and chauffeur-driven cars. In the videos, Jay could see the milkman arrive, followed by the paper wallah. The woman who cleared the garbage from homes was next. Then the kids left for school in their mostly white uniforms: girls in pinafores and ties, boys in ties and full-sleeved shirts and long pants, the younger ones in shorts, carrying bags heavier than their little shoulders could bear. Their parents followed next, driven to work by their army of waiting drivers. For these residents, the city was vibrant, exhilarating, the best place on Earth. Everyone—by which they meant everyone they knew—had a cook, servants, drivers, and gardeners. Nobody had to clean their own bathrooms or drive themselves in the never-ending chaos that was the city’s traffic. “Nothing like Bombay, yaar” was a phrase you often heard in the city’s coffee shops and bars. Jay had watched the videos for hours with nothing to show for it. He leaned over the monitor, staring at the screen. The gray image from the security footage showed little. People entering the lobby, walking to the elevator or walking out of the elevator and into the lobby. If he was looking at something significant, he didn’t know it. Was that something? He decided to rewind the tape. He watched a man in a suit enter the elevator carrying a large bag. Ten minutes later, he was out with the same bag. But it was the way he carried the bag that piqued Jay’s interest. He carried it into the elevator with ease, but wheeled it 81

out. This time, he was tugging it. It seemed weighted down and became stuck in the gap between the elevator and the lobby. Jay wasn’t sure why, but he thought he had something. He put on the first DVD again and played it through, this time watching for something similar. And there it was, once everyone had left the building: the same man carrying the bag in and wheeling it out soon afterward. Jay could feel his heart race. He played the remaining DVDs; it was the same thing. He picked up the phone. “Gaikwad here.” “It’s Jay Ganesh. Do you have any leads on the burglaries?” “The burglaries?” “Yes. I know you’re busy with the Barton murder, but I’m working on a story.” “This is off the record, but we’re questioning a watchman from the incident.” The word questioning and its various interpretations—most of them unpleasant—ran through Jay’s mind. He decided not to press the issue. “What has he said?” “Nothing. Swears he didn’t see anything. Idiot must have fallen asleep.” “Now I have something you cannot ask questions about.” “What?” Gaikwad asked. “Firstly, give me your word. No questions.” “OK. What?” “I have surveillance videos from the other burglaries.” Gaikwad was not pleased. Someone’s head should roll for that, he thought, and he knew exactly who—that bastard in records. But Gaikwad had given his word. “OK. What do you have?” “Ask your watchman if he saw anyone with a large bag.” “A large bag?”


“Yes. Just go with it.” Jay gave him the rest of the details of what he’d seen. Gaikwad asked the watchman to be brought to him. A few minutes later, Sakharam brought him over. The fear hadn’t left his face. “Did you see anyone with a bag?” “Yes, sir. I see everyday. Little boys and girls going to school. Sahibs and memsahibs with their bags going to work.” Had this been someone else, Gaikwad would have thought they were mocking him. In this case, it was clear this man was merely stupid. “No, no, you idiot,” Gaikwad said. “A man with a big bag.” The watchman thought for a while. “Haan, sahib,” he said, scratching his head. “He wore Ray-Ban glasses.” “Ray-Ban glasses?” “Like Akshay Kumar,” he said, naming the famous actor. “Why, sahib? Who is he?” Gaikwad didn’t answer. He called Jay back immediately. “I think we may have something. Bring the tape over. I’d like to do a more formal identification.” “I’ll be there in an hour.” Jay beamed. He was on the verge of catching the burglar. The man had been spotted on camera. Now, all that was left was for him to be caught. Then the police would have to do their job. He looked at his watch. It was eight. He was supposed to be meeting Janet for drinks. “Shit!” He dialed her number. “How would you like to go to the police station with me?” “Do they serve martinis there?” “Just a short stop. I’ll pick you up in fifteen minutes.” “Fine. Don’t be any later than you are. I hate delays.”


Chapter 9

Gaikwad began by riding out to Barton’s home near Nepean Sea Road. He was beginning to feel more comfortable with the area. In the course of a normal day he rarely, if ever, came to this part of the city, but this case had changed that. He’d become warily accustomed to the hum of the neighborhood: the long lines outside the consulate, the obvious affluence; even the children of the privileged riding in their chauffer-driven cars, blaring music or yapping into cell phones, irritated him less. Much of the city was being transformed into just this. “Is that such a bad thing?” he wondered. Gaikwad reverted to the task at hand. He decided to start with Barton’s neighborhood to see if he could learn anything about Liz Barton. He had learned little so far: Both her husband and her colleagues had described her as cold, but driven. But no one could think of any reason why anyone would want her dead. No one could understand why the body had been moved to a garbage dump near Mahim. But Gaikwad often found that the people who noticed things in cases like this were seldom the victim’s friends, family, or neighbors. Instead, much of the information came from the local drivers, gardeners, maids, watchmen, and general factotums. This was a great gift to any Indian investigator, but it could also be a curse. People were more than ready to talk, in fact they loved to talk and share gossip, but the moment you asked them to cooperate with an investigation they’d clam up because of fear or embellish the truth to enhance their own role in the matter. Also, in many cases he’d investigated, it was not uncommon for the best witnesses to either become unreliable or outright hostile. Mostly it was fear. No one wanted to testify against the local goonda, or gang boss, at least not in public. Everyone saw a conspiracy lurking around the corner, men in dark rooms plotting dastardly deeds.


Gaikwad had changed out of his uniform into civilian clothes. It was almost noon when he reached Barton’s building. The early-morning bustle was slowly winding down at lunchtime, making its way for the much-needed siesta. He saw the building watchman share a smoke with a few other men, presumably building staff. He walked up to them, lapsed into Marathi and into a familiarity that instantly made everyone comfortable; comfortable, but they were all still aware by his manner of talk and the way he carried himself that he was of a different class. He offered them cigarettes, a welcome change from their Monkey brand beedis, talked about the latest cricket score, and listened as they shared gossip from around the neighborhood before making his move. He told them what he did and what he wanted to know. “Did any of you know her?” he asked. They shook their heads. “She was an angrez, sahib,” one of them said, using the word for English, but used generally for Westerners. “She smiled at us sometimes, but never spoke.” “What about her husband?” “He kept to himself.” “But if you really want to know about her, talk to her driver, Borkar,” one of the others said. “Oh?” Gaikwad asked. “Yes. He lives not far from here. He was always saying what a good woman she was.” Gaikwad lingered. He did not want to leave immediately, lest they think he was merely using them for information. “Call me,” he said, “if any of you can think of anything. You’ll be doing me a personal favor.” Gaikwad knew that no man would ever pass up the opportunity to have a cop owe them a favor. He finished his smoke, asked for directions, thanked them, and moved on. Gaikwad walked past paan-beedi shops, makeshift auto garages, back-alley pharmaceutical operations, chapati-making outfits, people milling about idly, and sleeping dogs spread out near dozing cats and prostate cows, until he found himself at the entrance to a slum. The smell of urine was strong, as was the aroma of freshly prepared


meals. A Hanuman temple stood at the entrance; orange flags, denoting the Hindu faith, lined the path. Although he’d grown up in similar surroundings Gaikwad had long tried to forget what it was like to come to a place like this. Being on a motorcycle or a jeep gave you a certain immunity, a certain ephemeral sense of power, but here, in his regular clothes, Gaikwad confronted what he hated most about poverty: the sheer desperate misery of it. And what he couldn’t understand when he grew up here, and he certainly did not understand now, was how all these people who lived here did so with a smile on their faces. They might as well have been residents of Malabar Hill instead of a squalid little slum with shared toilets and open sewers. Gaikwad stood at the fourth door to the left. The door was open but the curtains drawn. Inside he could hear a television. “Borkar?” he asked, before repeating the name louder. A head peered out from behind the curtains. “Yes?” “My name is Inspector Vijay Gaikwad,” he said, showing him his badge. “I’m here to talk about Liz Baar-Tone madam.” Borkar did not look happy at the intrusion but invited Gaikwad in, probably knowing that refusing a cop was a bad idea. ”How can I help you?” he asked, his tone guarded. “I’ve heard that you were close to her.” “She was a good woman.” “Can you tell me anything else? Who could have killed her? Did she have enemies?” “I don’t know about that. But she was getting threats.” “Oh?” “Yes. I think it was quite a few times but I only saw it once.” “You saw it?” “Yes. I dropped her off at home and was parking the car. Then my phone rang. She was screaming. She said many things in English but she was speaking too fast for me to understand. But she said, ‘Come up. Come up.’ So I rushed up and found her hysterical. She showed me to the bathroom where on the mirror there was a threat written in red.”


“What did it say?” “‘No more warnings.’” “Are you sure?” “I read a little English. Enough to know that I am right.” “What about her husband? Where was he?” “I don’t know. I’ve heard he had another woman, but she seemed OK with him. He came later and comforted her.” “Did you call the police?” “She was insistent that we not do that.” “Did she say why?” “No.” “Why didn’t you tell the police?” “I didn’t want to get involved.” “Are you still working for them?” “No. I don’t have a job anymore. After her death, her husband said, ‘Don’t come.’” “He said that? Why?” “I don’t know. So I stopped going.” “Can you think of anything else? Anyone else she was close to?” “No. She mostly kept to herself. Sometimes she chatted in the car to her brother in Amrika. She would go out with her husband sometimes. Sometimes she would talk to Hazra sahib at the office, and a few times I dropped her off at Prithvi Theatre for coffee. She would meet that Khurana sahib there.” “Khurana sahib?” “Yes, the industrialist.” “Was it business?” “Not sure. They were friendly.” “As in, were they having a relationship?”


The driver thought for a while. “No. I can’t say for sure they weren’t, but mostly they just talked. I never noticed any hanky-panky that you notice when married people are doing things they shouldn’t be doing.” “Are you sure she didn’t have any enemies?” “I told you—I don’t know. But she was a very good woman. Every day she would talk to me in her broken Hindi. She treated me like a human being. You won’t understand, sahib, but people like us live on the margins and our employers act like we don’t exist. We’re invisible beings who open their car doors and clean their houses. They tell their friends that we’re like their family, but we still are made to sit on the floor in their houses and drink tea or water from ‘special’ glasses. There is always that sense that we are less. “But madam was not like that. She asked about my wife and children. About my kids’ education, offered to pay for their fees in an English-medium school.” Gaikwad knew exactly what Borkar was talking about. As a young man, it used to infuriate him. Now that he was on the other side of the divide, he just thought of it as the Indian way. “Were you with her on the day she came back from Singapore?” “Yes, sir. She’d called me on my mobile. Told me to come to Sahar airport. I waited there and took her home.” “And she was fine?” “She seemed a little anxious. She was trying her husband’s number but couldn’t get through. Then she made another call. Not sure to whom, but she spoke for a little while and hung up.” “How long did you stay?” “Not long. When I dropped the keys off, she told me to go home.” “And you did?” “I came down and waited with the watchman, smoking.” “For how long?” “Only ten to fifteen minutes.”


“Did you see anything?” “I saw that Gaja Kohli sahib, that NGO wallah, waiting in his car.” “Kohli? Are you sure?” “Yes, sahib. Because there was that party incident and we knew that he had threatened her.” “And you didn’t do anything?” “What could I do? He was sitting in his car. I don’t know what he was doing there.” “Anything else you can think of? Any arguments she might have had?” The driver paused for a brief moment, enough for Gaikwad to know he was remembering something. “It might be nothing.” “However insignificant, it may be important.” “A week before she went to Singapore, I went to her office to give her something. But that Hazra sahib was there. The office was empty and they were arguing. Loudly.” “What about?” “Don’t know, sahib. They were speaking in English and it was very fast and it was loud and he stormed out of the office.” “Did he see you?” “Yes. But he didn’t acknowledge me. These people never acknowledge us.” Gaikwad processed what the driver was saying. It was frustrating. And then he thought about the murder victim as a person—someone with the same hopes, aspirations, drive, compassion, and fears as the rest of humanity. But someone had decided to end her life. “Please call if you remember anything,” Gaikwad said, knowing that the driver had little more to offer. “This is my personal cell phone number.”

It was late by the time he finished with the driver, returned to the station, changed back into his uniform, and finished dealing with the requisite paperwork of the day. Gaikwad decided that he would visit Gaja Kohli. He found it hard to believe that this mild-mannered man, known around the world for his 89

principles, could be involved in something like murder, but his experience also told him that there were no “murdering types.” We are all capable of horrible acts; some people are better than others at curbing their baser instincts. Which category did Kohli fall into? He’d allowed Kohli to pick the venue for his interview the last time—the Udupi restaurant. This time, Gaikwad wanted to be in control. He thought about calling him to the police station—after all, he did lie during questioning—but Gaikwad found that talking to people in their own surroundings put them more at ease. There was too much fear introduced into the equation at the police station. Everyone expected to come in and get slapped around or worse, and they would confess to anything, including murders that had taken place fifty years earlier. Still, Gaikwad knew he’d have to put Kohli on the spot, enough to get the complete truth out of him.

“Yes, inspector, how can I help you?” Kohli said when Gaikwad called. In truth, the inspector was relieved that Kohli’s partner, Arundhati, hadn’t answered. The women he’d met on this case—Arundhati and Uma—both intimidated him: one for her overt aggression and the other for her overt sexuality. “I’d like to discuss the Barton murder with you.” “I’ve told you all I know, inspector,” Kohli replied in Marathi, his voice still friendly. “Just a couple of loose ends that need tying up,” Gaikwad said, not wanting to give anything away. “Glad to help. Same place?” “No. Either the police station or your apartment.” Kohli paused. “Why don’t you come here?” he replied. “We can talk in a more relaxed setting.” “I’ll be there in an hour.”

Gaikwad was surprised at the building in front of him. It was old and he’d had a hard time finding it. This was the old part of Mumbai; the residents didn’t care to show that they were wealthy, and many were,


fabulously so. But if you knew the city, you knew who lived here and what they did. It was an old building near Opera House, the Baroque-style building that had lain crumbling for as long as Gaikwad could remember (but which was the object of restoration plans for as long as he was alive). The area was mainly commercial, but people still lived here, people for whom Bombay rarely stretched beyond Worli. Their flats were tucked away in hidden lanes in invisible buildings that were known only to the most wizened paan wallahs who’d run businesses here for decades, watching the city change even as they remained virtually unchanged. The building begged for a coat of paint; the only vestige of its once proud past was its art deco design, now hidden behind scaffolding. Gaikwad looked up: Air conditioners jutted out of every window, clothes were being hung out to dry. Smokers and children stood at their balconies, peering down, curious as to what a policeman might be doing here. Gaikwad walked into the unlit foyer (there was no watchman; the bulb had gone out) and groped his way in the darkness to the wooden stairwell. The stairs creaked with each step, as if crying out, unable to stand the burden of the decades. Gaikwad hoped for some light, but there was none. Eventually, he came to the top of the flight of stairs. He could make out a door. He felt like a blind man as he moved his hand along the wall, hoping to find a bell. He rang it. “Jee?” It was a girl; she looked no older than twelve. Her clothes were of high quality, but worn, the kind worn by servants in the homes of the affluent. Despite the hand-me-downs, the girl smiled. “Kohli sahib aahe ka?” Gaikwad asked in Marathi. Is Kohli there? “Yes, come in,” the girl replied in halting English, still smiling. Gaikwad entered. The outside of the building belied the inside of this flat. The hall, as the living room is called, was capacious and, in contrast to the stairwell, well-lit. Light from the setting sun streamed in through the large windows. Bookshelves lined the wall, sagging under the weight of carefully selected tomes, many of which looked unread, tribal pottery, and art. A large abstract painting in orange dominated one wall; on another was a giant poster that read, “No justice, no peace.” An old-school record player stood at the far end of the room; Gaikwad was pleasantly surprised that there was no television here. He walked up to the bookshelves and recognized only some of the names. They were what you


would expect in the home of every Indian intellectual: Gandhi, Marx, the Frankfurt School, Subaltern studies. Gaja Kohli might have come from very humble beginnings, Gaikwad thought, but he’d built a comfortable existence for himself. “Sorry to keep you waiting, inspector,” Kohli said. Gaikwad turned around and smiled. “Thanks for seeing me at such short notice.” “My pleasure. Anything to drink? Thanda ya garam?” Hot or cold? “Nothing for me, thank you.” “Inspector, you’ve come as a guest, you must have something. Priya,” he called out. The girl who opened the door appeared, still smiling. “Two teas. No sugar for me. You, inspector?” “None for me, either.” “OK, two teas. No sugar.” The girl bobbed her head to signal she’d understood and retreated to the kitchen. Gaikwad couldn’t help but think that no matter what political cause Indians espoused, they didn’t think twice about having servants—even child servants—who did their chores for them. He shouldn’t have been surprised, but he, for some inexplicable reason, expected Kohli to live up to the ideals he espoused: self-reliance, dignity. He decided to come straight to the point. “Kohli sahib,” he said, “why didn’t you tell me that you’d gone to visit the American woman on the day she died?” Gaikwad could see blood drain from Kohli’s face. His jaw dropped slightly, and the years of selfconfidence that he’d built up seemed to instantly dissipate. Gaikwad could see he was battling with himself about whether to come clean. He decided to help Kohli along. “We have a witness.” Kohli sighed, and shook his head. “She was alive, I swear it,” he said, and then desperately added: “Do I need a lawyer?” Gaikwad could only think of the formidable Arundhati Hingorani. He certainly didn’t want her here


now, but he couldn’t deny this man representation. “That’s up to you,” he said. “We’re having a conversation and you’re cooperating. If you’d prefer to get a lawyer, we can continue this at the station.” Kohli seemed to assess this offer for a while. He nodded. “No. Let’s talk here.” “Tell me what happened.” “She called me to talk. Said she’d like to address the concerns my group had. I wasn’t going to say no. I went there. She’d just come back from a trip. She seemed relaxed. We spoke. She was very gracious. That’s it.” “What did you talk about?” “My group’s goals. How Mohini could help in those goals.” “Was she offering you money?” “She offered me support, inspector. It’s tough running an NGO. More costs than you can imagine.” Gaikwad looked around the room, dripping with refinement, and thought that the appearance of poverty cost a lot of money, too. “Did you take it?” “I said I’d think about it.” “Did she appear worried?” “No. I’d only met her once before.” “At the party where you threatened her?” He looked sheepish. “Yes, at that party.” “What made her contact you?” “I’m not sure. It was a surprise to me, too.” “Why did you not tell us this?” “How would it look, inspector? I’d be a convenient suspect and your force has a reputation.” Gaikwad let it pass. “Still,” Kohli continued, “if you want to look at someone, look at Hazra. He approached me about


increasing the protests against Mohini.” “Vikram Hazra?” “Yes.” “Why would he do that?” “You must ask him.” “What did he offer you in return?” Kohli hesitated. “This is in confidence, right?” Gaikwad nodded. “He offered support for the NGO.” “And you took it?” “Yes. It was an easy choice. Mohini was a target anyway. If we were getting paid to target them, so be it.” Gaikwad felt revulsion at this man. The servant appeared, still smiling, holding a tray balancing two cups of tea. “Here’s the tea, inspector,” Kohli said. “Thank you, but I must go,” Gaikwad replied abruptly, no longer wanting to share the same air as this man, let alone a cup of chai. At least on the force, he thought, people were openly crooked; here they adopted public piety but did the same thing. He made his way through the dark stairwell, this time his memory easily finding the footing. He had to talk to Vikram Hazra.


Chapter 10

Jay should have been happy about the breakthrough in the burglaries; instead he was annoyed. The drinks with Janet never happened. By the time they finished with the videos at the police station, the bars had been closed. He was tempted to invite her home for a drink, but the last thing he wanted was for her to think he was lecherous. He spent the morning at work, putting together the notes he’d taken on the burglaries. He looked for Janet, but her desk was empty. “Anyone seen D’Souza?” he asked a photographer. “She’s out on an all-day assignment,” he replied. “Won’t be back until tomorrow.” Disappointed, Jay thought about calling her, but decided instead to wait. He felt indecisive. He hated being indecisive. Jay returned to his office where he went over the Khurana interview again. There was little to add to the story. He called a few police stations to see if there was anything else going on in the city. It was quiet. After what seemed like an eternity, it was time for him to head to Bandra to meet an old friend. Almost immediately, he found himself stuck in traffic. It was hard to describe traffic patterns in the city. The only thing that could be said with certainty was that it was getting worse every day. There was no such thing as rush-hour traffic; there was no such thing as driving against the flow. The city’s old commercial houses and businesses were based in Nariman Point, the newer ones in Bandra Kurla Complex, the media houses in Bandra, Andheri, and Versova, the ad agencies in Parel. And since there wasn’t one place where the city’s population worked, everyone seemed to be everywhere all at once. They


said four hundred new vehicles were added to the city’s roads each day. Jay felt as if each of those four hundred vehicles were at this time trying to occupy the same tiny spot in front of him. True, the roads had lanes, neatly demarcated with white lines. But these were ignored. While this road, in theory, had three lanes, five rows of vehicles packed it, each aggressively inching forward, ensuring that no other vehicle could move ahead or, God forbid, change lanes. It was like the adage about the exhibit of crustaceans from around the world and the Indian crabs being the only ones in open glass bottles. There was no worry of one escaping, the story went, as the others ensured it would never make it out. Cars, trucks, buses, taxis, auto rickshaws that worked the suburbs, bicycles, and pedestrian traffic vied for space, each content in spending an hour and a half on the road, so long as no one else got home earlier. On the sides of the road, businesses thrived. A little tea stall brewed the concoction for weary workers heading home after a long day; a paan wallah sold cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and prepared betel leaves that would be chewed, its red spit stains providing a semi-permanent coloring on the city’s walls; worshippers stopped at adjacent makeshift shrines dedicated to the Virgin Mary and Sai Baba, an early twentieth-century saint worshipped by Hindus and Muslims, thereby uniting, at least temporarily, three of India’s four biggest faiths. Little boys, no older than twelve, but seemingly much younger, carried stacks of newspapers, magazines, and pirated versions of the latest paperback bestsellers (fiction as well as the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” variety) and offered them to those facing interminable rides home in their cars; beggars, usually accompanied by children, some maimed, silently and pathetically implored passengers for cash. They picked their targets well: usually guilty Westerners or Indians returning home after a long time, having forgotten the existence of such public squalor (the true city residents remained buried in their newspapers or carried on with their conversations, as if the beggars didn’t exist); a sinewy man, his muscles twisted and distorted, sweat pouring from his brow, pulled an impossibly heavy handcart laden with ice, covered with sawdust to prevent it from melting, toward an unknown destination. It would ultimately cool someone’s drink in South Bombay. Jay looked at the air conditioner. It was blowing hot air. He rolled down the window of his old Fiat. The fumes combined with the heat made it feel like a furnace. Jay’s skin burned. Most of the time, he felt


immune to it, but there was something today that made it worse than usual. He coughed and wished he were someplace else. He went over the details of the burglaries. He had made a breakthrough that would help the police in its investigation, probably even result in the capture of the man in the video. He felt confident, an emotion that had long deserted him. Like many such things, luck had played a role.

Jay knew that without the tapes, he’d have been unable to make what seemed to be the first incision in the case. It had been an arduous process, but well worth the result. Once he’d determined that the videos had shown the same man walking into the apartment building, all he had to do was ensure that the watchman had seen him. And the Nepali watchman in custody at that very moment had remembered a man just like that. Of course, Jay knew that the Nepali was possibly ready to confess to anything given the time he’d spent in a jail cell, but it corroborated what he’d seen in the tapes. Even if the watchman were lying, Jay knew the tapes were not. So, the police were now looking for a man who strode confidently into apartment buildings and walked out just as calmly with a conspicuously large bag full of electronics. He also had the details from his friend in Lamington Road who had told him of attempts to sell stolen electronics on the days of the burglaries. Jay had kept that tidbit from Gaikwad. He intended to catch the thief himself. An hour and a bit later, Jay arrived for his meeting with an old school friend—now a Jesuit priest— who ran the alumni association. There was little to distinguish the Rev. Sandeep Fernandes, S.J., from the others at the Barista coffee shop near Lilavati Hospital in Bandra. He wore dark trousers and a white half-sleeved shirt and peered at his laptop through his Gandhi-style metal-rimmed glasses. That’s how Jay found him when he walked in twenty minutes late for their appointment. “Sorry, man,” he said. “The bloody traffic.” Fr. Sandeep Alfred smiled. “Your timekeeping was always crap.” 97

“Yeah, and the traffic in this city doesn’t help. Still, twenty minutes isn’t so bad!” “No,” Sandeep said, smiling. “It allowed me to finish my notes for tomorrow’s class.” “I still can’t believe you’re a damn teacher—or a bloody priest.” “Sometimes neither can I,” his friend replied, chuckling as if the memories of teenage transgressions all came flooding back at once. A waiter approached and took their orders—both asked for black coffee—and returned a few minutes later. They sipped the hot drinks and oblivious of the waiter or the people around them regaled each other with stories from school. As schoolboys in the 1990s, the two had attended a well-known Jesuit boys’ school in Mazagaon, known for its grey stone walls and Gothic architecture, red mud and blue Mercedes school buses with its name proudly emblazoned on its sides. The boys wore white shirts and white trousers—invariably reddish brown by the end of the day—and blue ties, sang the school prayer, school song, and national anthem with equal zeal and eventually left with fond memories of the teachers, priests, and even the canings they received liberally. The school attracted a fervent following among its Old Boys, who met periodically to raise money for charity, to play cricket, or to just exchange gossip. Sandeep, now a teacher at St. Serephina in Bandra, headed the alumni association and periodically called his old friend Jay when he wanted media publicity for alumni events. Jay was only happy to oblige. Bombay may have been one of the biggest cities in the world, but in many ways it operated like a village: with things getting done through word of mouth; through friends and family; through someone who knew someone who knew someone else who’d only be happy to oblige. It was, as Sandeep liked to joke, the original social network. After they had finished discussing school-related matters, the topic inevitably turned to which Old Boy was doing what. They talked about the professors, the IT programmers and management consultants in the U.S., the athletes, the boys who’d seamlessly taken over their fathers’ businesses, the ones who were still adrift so many years after school. “What are you working on?” Sandeep asked. “These burglaries, you know. I just had a breakthrough. But the police still need to catch the guy.”


“I read about those. What did you find?” Jay told him about the video, the man with the bag, the conversation with Gaikwad. “And you think the police wallah will keep his word?” “I’ve dealt with him before. He can be prickly, but he’s true to his word and, more importantly, I’ve never heard anything about him being on the take.” “That’s a rarity.” Jay nodded in agreement. “What else?” Sandeep asked. “Anything else that’s interesting?” “I did this profile of Kabir Khurana. We’re still waiting for the photos, but it’s going to run on the weekend.” “Khurana! He’s an Old Boy, you know?” “Really?” Jay asked in surprise. “I thought he studied at Harrow.” “He finished there, but his first few years were here. In fact, his father was at the school, too.” “Khulbushan Khurana? Really?” “Yeah. The freedom fighter. And I remember one of the old priests from the school telling me there was some controversy about the Khuranas. About how the father used his influence to make something go away.” “Oh?” “I’m not sure what it was. But it was hushed up. And the younger Khurana was then taken out of school and sent to the U.K.” “Any way to find out more?” “It’s just gossip, yaar,” Sandeep said. “Not something you can print.” “Arre, I won’t print it. Just gives me some background.” “I’ll check. Fr. Casale is still around. If anyone knows it, it’ll be him.” “He’s still around? He must be what—” “He turned ninety-nine this year. Still sharp as a tack. There’s something about these World War


Two–type European fellows. Strong as an ox.” “Must be all that roast beef,” Jay replied. They laughed. It was a common joke because beef was difficult (but not impossible) to find in India—since Hindus view the cow as holy. Any feat of physical prowess exhibited by non-Indians—from Pakistani fast bowlers to Jamaican sprinters—was usually attributed to beef. “Well, give him my best. And ask him.” “Arre, man, I said I will, nah. OK—anyway I should go. It’s prayer time.” “Isn’t it always prayer time for priests?” “No,” Sandeep said, laughing. “Only for sinners like you.”

The traffic gods took pity on Jay as he raced down the Western Express Highway toward his parents’ home in Andheri. His phone rang. It was his mother. “You’re coming this evening, no?” Jay scanned his memory for what he was supposed to be there for. Damn, he thought, it was the day of his father’s eye surgery. He felt guilty at having forgotten. “Of course, I’m coming over there right now.” “Achcha, I just wanted to check.” He picked up his parents and drove them to the ophthalmologist near Andheri station, where his father was due to have laser surgery to remove his cataract. On their ride there, Jay could not help but think how his parents’ roles had reversed over the years. When he was young, his father’s voice and laughter filled the room. Jay recalled how secure he felt holding his father’s giant hand as he walked to school. His mother, on the other hand, was the quiet one. But even at an early age, he could see that she got things done. Jay did not like to see his parents age—especially his father. Along with the usual ailments that accompany age, his father looked physically smaller now. He had shrunk. He was taciturn. His laughter no longer filled the house. Jay’s mother now filled that void. If she displayed quiet confidence then, she was dominant now. He was their only child who still lived in India. And because he 100

met them more often than his siblings—but not often enough, if his mother was to be believed—her personality occasionally grated on Jay. Still, he was grateful for it. Visiting a silent home trapped in old memories would have been too sad to contemplate. Jay brought the car to a halt outside the clinic. “You wait here. It’ll be an hour,” his mother said. “Don’t go anywhere. I don’t want to be waiting here forever.” “I said I’ll wait here,” Jay said, his tone betraying the exasperation he felt. Jay watched his parents walk into the clinic. It was a reputable-looking place, assuaging his concerns that his father would yet again choose a smooth-talking, cut-rate operator who would provide substandard services. It was one thing when he did that for an electrician, a whole other thing with an eye surgeon. Jay double-parked his car. There was no way he could leave the vehicle here even if he wanted to. With all the construction work nearby for yet another flyover, he would be towed. In many ways, this felt like he was on a stakeout. He pulled the lever and reclined his seat. He checked his phone for messages, but there were none. It was the perfect time for a nap. Jay shut his eyes, but the noise outside made it impossible. There was noise from the construction work; noise from the chatter of the women workers who ferried bricks and cement on their heads from one part of the site to another, in an endless assembly line; noise from the scooters that darted recklessly around corners, blaring their horns in warning; noise from the solitary walking cow that had a bell around its neck; noise from the cawing crows that gathered near garbage dumps to eat scraps. Bombay was seldom silent and when silence came it was brief, and it brought peace. Not today though. Today, Jay waited for a silence that never came. He looked at the time. It had been barely fifteen minutes since his parents had gone in. They’d said one hour. So it was more likely that it would be ninety minutes to two hours. That’s how things worked. You tacked on time, expected nothing else, and asked no questions. Jay did not know when he first noticed the black BMW parked at the corner. On a normal day, he would not have paid any attention to it. But BMWs, Audis, and Mercedeses were much desired by the newly rich, and this was a solidly middle-class area. Even if someone were considered wealthy, they


would spend their money on Japanese reliability, not German style: a Lexus, perhaps; certainly a Honda; definitely not a BMW 7-Series. Jay kept his attention on the car. The windows were tinted. He could not make out if there was anyone inside. He was tempted to get up and walk past it to see, but the fear of being towed and his mother’s wrath were not worth the risk. Besides, it was a car parked in the middle of the street. Nothing more than that. So what if it were a BMW? Perhaps this area was changing, too. It wouldn’t be the first. Just then Jay saw a man leave a ramshackle two-story building and approach the BMW. He wore a suit, yet did not look uncomfortable in it despite the heat. His mustache was trimmed. He wore his prosperity comfortably. The man looked around furtively before getting into the backseat, almost as if he did not want to be seen here. A moment later, the car glided away, oblivious of the stones, gravel, and potholes on the road. Jay immediately recognized the man. He’d never met him, of course, but his photograph had been in the papers recently. It was Vikram Hazra. What was he doing here? It could be an innocent visit. But why come here when he could send a legion of peons and supplicants? It must have been important. With nothing to go on except his instinct for a story, Jay got out of his car and walked toward the building from which Hazra had emerged. Jay looked around. There was a Xerox shop on the ground floor. College students stood in clusters, awaiting their orders of photocopied notes, pages from American biology textbooks, indifferent to the concept of copyright violations. A typist sat outside, his old Godrej typewriter replaced with a word processor, providing his services mainly for those needing legal paperwork for the courts nearby. The board on his rickety table informed the world that he was also empowered as a notary—a one-stop shop for all your legal needs. But Hazra wouldn’t have come from here. He had to have been upstairs. Jay walked to the entrance and looked at the board. On a worn wooden plate were the words Eagle Services. Something about the name jogged his memory. But what? He walked up the stairs to investigate. He tried the door, but it was locked. He looked for a bell, but there wasn’t one. What had Hazra been doing here? Jay realized he had to get back to the car, but he had to do one more thing. He walked down the


stairs and walked up to the typist. “Bhai sahib,” he said, big brother. “Eagle Services?” He pointed up. The typist looked at him with curiosity. “You have to make an appointment.” “What do they do?” “If you don’t know, why are you asking?” “A friend told me about them.” “Then ask your friend what they do,” the typist said, laughing at his own joke. “Is there a number I can call?” “Sorry. Besides, I have work to do,” he said, pointing to the pile of papers he had to type up. “You know how much money I’m losing just by talking to you?” Jay knew where this was headed. “Sorry, bhai sahib,” he said. “I would like to compensate you for your loss.” “Achcha,” the typist replied, smiling. Jay removed his wallet and prayed that he had some money in it—an amount this man would not consider insulting. He took out two one hundred rupee notes. About $2.50. The man’s smile broadened. He took it. “They’re an investigating agency,” he said. “Very discreet. No one is supposed to know, even me. But their secretary left early one day to be with her boyfriend and gave me some papers to type. I put two and two together.” He looked content with his intelligence. “What do they investigate?” Jay asked. “Think of them more as problem solvers,” he said. “Yes. Problem solvers.” “What kind?” “Use your imagination, son. They’re discreet. Have an office in a crappy building, but their clientele drive Mercedes and BMW cars. So probably not errant spouses.” Jay smiled. “You’ve been a big help, bhai sahib,” he said. But the man had already gone back to his typing.


Excited, Jay returned to his car. It was still there, just as he had left it. Later, his parents emerged from inside the clinic. His mother looked stoic. His father, with an eye patch, looked like a dissipated pirate. Jay smiled at them. His mother didn’t smile back. His father’s effort was half-hearted. “All good?” Jay asked. “Yes,” his mother replied. “We need to come back tomorrow, though, to take the patch off.” “That didn’t take much time,” Jay said. “They said an hour,” his mother said. “It took ninety minutes. No one in this country has any concept of time. They say one thing and do another. No respect for anyone.” Jay smiled to himself and drove them home, making small talk all the way. But all he could think of was what Vikram Hazra was doing at Eagle Services.


Chapter 11

All Gaikwad could think about during his morning walk, despite Chitre’s best efforts to engage him in conversation about a flat sold in their building, was what Barton’s driver had told him. Immediately after the identification of the body, Gaikwad had spoken to John Barton, Hazra, Khurana, and Kohli, and though, in the back of his mind, he tried to find motives for each man he interviewed, he’d hoped that the killing was a random one. But the driver’s revelations had been instructive to say the least: Barton had known of the threat to his wife’s life though he said nothing about it; the driver had overheard a loud argument between Liz Barton and Hazra a week before she died; he’d seen Khurana with her several times and, perhaps most incriminating, he’d seen Kohli visit Barton only a few hours before her death. Kohli, of course, had an explanation for it. He’d said that she was offering him money. Before that interview, Gaikwad had held Kohli in high regard, but the conversation had burst another bubble. Kohli was as dirty as the rest of them. We live in an era of no heroes, Gaikwad thought. It would have been too easy, he thought, had only one of their stories been inconsistent, but now three people he’d spoken to would have to be questioned again—and this time the conditions of the questioning wouldn’t be as sympathetic.

He decided to start his day with a visit to Hazra. He rode his bike to the Mohini office, weaving through the traffic that inched forward. He was tired by the time he got there. Not the best way to start the day, he thought. He walked past the giant statue of two hands enveloping the Earth, which had become a city landmark, into the cavernous marble foyer. A pretty young woman wearing a headset sat behind a lone


desk. Inside, the furniture and style had the efficiency of Scandinavian design, incongruous amid the chaos and inefficiency of the city. Workers streamed in, others walked out for smoke breaks or other appointments. They all looked at him, but pretended not to. The only uniformed person most of them interacted with was the security guard in their residential high rises. Gaikwad felt ill at ease here in his uniform. It drew both overt and covert attention. Perhaps, he thought, he should have come in mufti. “Yes,” asked the pretty young woman behind the desk. “I’m here to meet Hazra.” “What is this regarding?” “I’m with the police. Please tell him I’m here.” She dialed a number on a phone he couldn’t see and whispered silently into the mic. “Top floor,” she said. “He’ll be waiting.”

The first thing Gaikwad noticed—you couldn’t help but notice it—was the view from the giant window behind Hazra’s desk. It was as if you could reach out and touch the other skyscrapers, temples to Mammon that reached up as high as the eye could see. The view, Gaikwad thought, was one that could lull someone into a false—perhaps one-sided might be a better term—sense of the city’s affluence. Now it was easy to explain the confident demeanor of people who sat in offices like this: It was positively empowering. “Impressive, isn’t it?” Hazra said as he looked up from his computer toward Gaikwad. The inspector was a little embarrassed that he was caught gawking. “I don’t often get an opportunity to see Mumbai from this high up,” he replied. “It makes you giddy,” Hazra said, smiling, and without missing a beat, “So what can I do for you, inspector?” The tone was friendly. “I have some more questions about the American’s death.” “Oh?” 106

“What was your relationship with her like?” “We’ve been through this inspector,” Hazra said, the smile not leaving his face, but his tone becoming distinctly icy. “We were colleagues. I was passed over for a promotion. But we worked well together. At the end of the day, inspector, all I care about is Mohini. I’m here for the company and to serve its interests and that’s what I do.” “Let me go over this again then, sir, just to be sure: You had a good working relationship with her, but you also had the most to gain from her out of the way. I mean, you’re in her office now, aren’t you? The one with the nice views?” “Inspector, that’s crossing the line. I kept to my office for a little while after her death, but I’m running the show now and its location is more central.” “Plus, the views are nicer, I bet.” “What are you getting at?” The smile had left Hazra’s face. “Let me tell you my problem, sir: You tell me you had nothing to gain from her death and that you had a good working relationship with her, but during the course of our investigation, I’ve learned that you paid Gaja Kohli to protest against Mohini. If all you care about is what’s best for the company, why would you do that?” The blood drained from Hazra’s face. He was no longer a man at ease. He took a few moments to compose himself, but it was enough time for Gaikwad to know that whatever would come out of the man’s mouth next would either be an evasion or an outright lie. “How did you come by this information?” The composure had returned to his voice and face. “We can’t reveal that.” “Well, it’s an absurd suggestion. I don’t even know who Gaja Kohli is.” “Sir,” Gaikwad said, “please don’t make this difficult. We have evidence that you not only met Kohli but spoke to him several times. We have phone records to prove it.” Hazra paused for a moment. “How is your boss, DCP Khan, inspector? You know, he and I play golf together.”


“I’m happy to hear that, sir,” Gaikwad replied. “Perhaps you’d be happier answering questions from him than me.” Hazra became quiet. For a moment, he seemed to weigh his options. “I just told him to protest against the company. Not kill her.” “Can you repeat that loudly, sir?” “I just told him to protest against the company. Make her uncomfortable. Not kill her.” “So you did speak to him?” “Yes.” “And what was the nature of your conversation?” “You already seem to know that.” “Yes, but we want to know if your version tallies with ours.” Hazra looked around the room. He seemed to focus on the mantel with the photographs of his family. “I had nothing to do with her death. Nothing. It’s true that I spoke to Kohli and asked him to target her for protests. But that was only to scare her. I wanted to be in charge of the company.” He paused. “That position should have been mine. I was all but assured it before they gave it to an unqualified foreigner. But I would never kill her. I would never kill anyone. I just wanted to scare her away back to America.” “So who did the work? Kohli? Who made the threats? You or he?” “What threats? I don’t know about any threats. I didn’t ask him to do that. I don’t know how far he went.” “Did Kohli kill her?” “I don’t know. My instructions were only to scare her away.” “Sir, understand my problem,” Gaikwad said. “A woman is dead. You wanted her job. You asked an activist to follow her to scare her back to America. But you say you don’t know if he left her threats on your behalf. You say you don’t know if he killed her. Why should I believe you?” “I’m telling the truth, inspector.” His voice was hushed. “We’ve also come by another bit of information.”


“Oh?” “Which is why it might be helpful if you told us what you know rather than us carrying out a conversation of this nature.” Hazra thought for a moment. “I have nothing to add.” “Yet, we know that a week before Liz Baar-Tone left for Singapore you were spotted having a loud argument with her.” “It’s that bloody driver isn’t it?” “Answer the question, sir.” Hazra looked defeated. “Yes. We had an argument.” “About?” “Company matters.” “We’re in the midst of a murder investigation, sir. Let me be the judge of whether the matter is company-related or not. And if you choose not to cooperate, we can continue this conversation in the comforts of the police station.” “We fought about Kabir Khurana.” “Khurana?” “Yes. She was spending an awful amount of time with him. Frankly, I thought they were sleeping together.” “And that bothered you?” “No. I don’t care. My concern was the company. I was afraid he was using her to elicit company information. After all, it’s well-known that Khurana Enterprises lost the energy contract to us, and Kabir Khurana is not someone who takes a loss lying down.” “So you were angry?” “Yes,” he said, whispering. “Yes, I was. That bloody woman was destroying this company.” “And did you threaten her?” “Threaten?” Hazra sounded incredulous. “I threatened to tell the board in London. I didn’t care what


happened to her. She could have died for all I cared. I only cared about Mohini.” Hazra paused at his own words. He looked embarrassed. “I didn’t mean that, inspector,” he said apologetically. “I’ve never wished anyone ill in my life. I just cared about the company.” “And your position in it, no doubt, sir.” “Ambition is not a bad thing, inspector.” “No sir. It’s not. But how far one goes with it can be. How far did you go, sir, to stop her?” “I didn’t kill her, inspector. I’m telling the truth. I can only speak for my actions, not for Kohli’s or anyone else’s. But you know, there was one other person who wanted her out of the way?” “Who?” “Her husband.” “How do you know that?” Hazra sighed and looked down toward the floor. “I told her husband.” “What?” “I told her husband.” “What did you tell him?” “That his wife was spending an inordinate amount of time with Kabir Khurana.” “How did he react?” “He flew into a rage. Began calling her names.” “But he was having an affair, too?” “Inspector, don’t ask me to explain human nature. I was hoping he’d react in a way that would lead both of them to leave the country.” “But that didn’t happen.” “No. She was dead a few days later.” “Sir, I don’t need to tell you this, but you might have directly contributed to her death by inciting her husband.”


“Look, I didn’t mean for her to die. If I could take it back, I’d do it differently. I just had Mohini’s best interests at heart.” “And your own, too.” “Yes,” he said, almost silently. “Yes.” “And you’d go to any length to protect them?” “Yes,” Hazra said, before he realized what that admission could entail. “But I wouldn’t kill anyone.” “You’ve been very helpful, sir,” Gaikwad said. “I’ll return if I have any more questions, and if you remember anything else, call me.”

Gaikwad cursed the traffic as he rode back to Nepean Sea Road from Nariman Point. Gaikwad wore no helmet; a white handkerchief covered his mouth and nose to keep the pollution at bay. In the wind, it flapped up and down, rendering it useless. He arrived at the building, once again passing the American consulate with its endless line outside. He dismounted and walked through the gate. The watchman recognized him and smiled. Gaikwad had called him from Hazra’s office to ensure the American was, in fact, home. He wanted to surprise John Barton. Gaikwad smiled back and waved, walked to the elevator. Magically, the liftman pressed 11.

John Barton opened the door. He looked disheveled. He hadn’t shaved and his growth was fast crossing over from being stubble to becoming hair. His eyes were red and swollen. Gaikwad could smell the odor of alcohol tinged with sweat. He stared at Gaikwad vacantly, as if trying to place him. Gaikwad saw a flicker of recognition. “Yes, inspector?” he said, but with the monotone with which one might greet a stranger. “I had some questions about the case.” “This is not a good time, inspector.” “I’m afraid it’s urgent.”


“Look. I’ve helped all I can. I just want to be left alone.” “We’ve come across some new information . . .” “I don’t care,” Barton said loudly. “I don’t. I’m sorry.” “Mr. Baar-Tone, we can either have a conversation now or I can take you in handcuffs to the police station.” John looked resigned. Gaikwad was glad he didn’t create a scene, or threaten to call the consulate or do other things that foreigners did when they became involved with the law in the city. Barton moved aside and let Gaikwad enter. The room was starkly different from the last time he was here. For one thing, it was in disarray. Unwashed clothes lay on the floor. Half-eaten plates of food and half-full glasses of drinks lay on tables. The artwork on the wall was the lone sign that this room once possessed order. “Well, what do you want?” “Why didn’t you tell me about the threats to your wife?” The antagonism became subdued. Gaikwad could see him fold. Barton slumped to the couch, buried his head between his knees, and held his temples. Gaikwad gave him time to become composed. “I should have told you.” “Yes. You should have. Why didn’t you?” Gaikwad said, his voice growing louder. “I wanted to leave this bloody place. I couldn’t bear it. She loved it here. I just wanted to go back home.” Gaikwad decided to grope in the dark for the truth. It was an old tactic. Say something you suspect and hope the suspect corroborates it. He decided he’d go for it. “So you threatened her? Made those threats?” “Yes,” Barton mumbled. “Yes. I didn’t mean anything by it. I just wanted to scare her so we could go back home. I just wanted it to be the way it was. Before we came here. Before we became other people.” “Did she know it was you?” “How do you mean?”


“It was your handwriting on the mirror. I’d assume she knew your writing.” “I’m left-handed, inspector. I wrote it with my right hand. It could have been anyone’s handiwork.” Gaikwad saw that Barton had thought it through. What else had he thought through? What else did he know? “Did you know about her relationship with Kabir Khurana?” “Yes. Hazra told me. That’s why I wrote those messages. I wanted us to go back to being the people we were.” “Did you confront her?” “Yes. We fought about it. She thought the idea of her having an affair was ridiculous. She couldn’t believe I would accuse her of sleeping with him.” “What did you say?” “I told her I didn’t believe her. I told her she was lying. I told her I’d seen pictures of them together. She denied it. She said he was teaching her the ropes of doing business here. She found the idea of sleeping with him absurd. She was in tears when I didn’t believe her.” “Do you now?” He nodded. “I did then, too. Maybe it was guilt because of my relations with Uma, but I wanted to take it out on Liz. This was the only way I could.” “So what next?” “That’s it. I’m getting ready to leave. I just want to go back to my old life.” “We’d like you to stay, sir, until the investigation is complete.” “And if I refuse?” “I will arrest you now, and you can have access to a barrister.” Barton nodded.

On his way home, Gaikwad could not help think about the dysfunctional nature of this man’s relationship with his wife. He was sleeping with someone else. He suspected her of doing the same. He secretly 113

threatened her so she could be scared back to her own country. Lata and he had been married a long time, but the thought of threatening her was absurd. They each knew which buttons to press to annoy the other, but they’d never—at least he hoped they’d never—resort to this. His cell phone rang. “Vijay,” Lata said. “Can you pick up paneer from that place in Khar when you’re coming back?”


Chapter 12

What did Vikram Hazra, Liz Barton’s deputy at Mohini Resources, want with a shady private investigating agency? Jay Ganesh could not get the thought out of his mind. There were several possibilities, of course, but Jay could focus on only two: Either Hazra had something do with Barton’s death or there was something else sordid he was involved with. Either way, it was a good story. Of course, Hazra could have used Eagle Services for some domestic matter—perhaps he suspected his spouse of infidelity; perhaps to investigate a prospective son- or daughter-in-law. But from the nature of his conversation with the typist outside Eagle’s offices, Jay knew that those reasons were unlikely. Jay was sitting in his office. It was Sunday morning. The city was resting. For most office workers, it was their only day off. And they used it well—typically rising late and spending it with friends and family. Jay had promised to visit his parents for lunch. His father’s eye patch had come off and Jay heard him sound cheerful on the phone. Jay liked visiting his parents for Sunday lunch. The big Sunday meal was a tradition in his house, and when his siblings were still in the country, it was boisterous: full of arguments about sports, politics, books, movies. These occasions were mostly quiet now, save for his mother not-so-subtly inquiring about his relationship status. But he still liked to go for them because they brought back old memories and he hadn’t found a cook better than his mother. Before he could do that, however, Jay had to go over his notes on the burglaries. There had been nothing since the revelations about the surveillance videos. He’d spoken to Gaikwad last night and the inspector had assured him they were trying to find the man in the tape. But the inspector had also begged him not to print anything until they had someone in custody, lest they tip off the burglar. Deals with the police were not something Jay liked to strike often, but Gaikwad had promised to call him first if an arrest


was imminent. That way he could still have the exclusive ahead of others. He looked at the clock at the top of his computer screen. He still had a couple of hours to kill before lunch. The newsroom was still empty. He picked up the phone and dialed his friend Shakil Shah. “Hello,” came a voice, muffled on the other side. “Sorry, yaar, did I wake you?” “I wish,” Shah replied, though he sounded tired. “Bloody kids woke up early and woke me up, too. Want to go to the beach today. So we’re making preparations.” “A day at the beach. Sounds like fun.” “It was fun when we were eighteen. Have you seen the bloody place now? Dirty and crowded. Besides, it’s damn hot, yaar. Where are the bloody rains when you need them?” “Achcha, so I need a favor.” “Haan, bol.” Tell me. “What do you know about Eagle Services?” “Eagle?” Shah’s voice dropped a register. “Why do you want to know?” “Professional curiosity.” “Bhai, let me tell you. Don’t get involved. Best not to.” The harassed, tired father of only a few moments ago had disappeared. Shah sounded serious. “Not getting involved. Just want to know.” “I can tell you, but don’t involve me in it.” “You know I won’t.” “You know Chhota Mirchi?” Jay knew the name well. Chhota Mirchi, or little chili, was one of the city’s most notorious gangsters. What would Hazra want with him? “Of course.” “It’s his.” “He owns it?”


“Yes. Apparently, and this is weird, he wanted to be a cop as a kid.” “Chhota Mirchi wanted to be a cop?” Jay sounded amused. “Don’t laugh, yaar. Anyway, his chosen profession was such that he couldn’t do it, so he decided to open what he calls a full-service agency.” “Full service?” “Well, it’s owned by him, so they aren’t going to be doing divorce cases. But they do investigate and the rumor is that they also discreetly take care of any problem you might have.” “What kind?” “Don’t be stupid, yaar. I’m not going to spell it out. Any problem—you understand? Any problem.” “OK. I get it. Well, I won’t pester you anymore.” “You say that and two days later, you’ll be pestering me again,” Shah said, laughing. “And you never come home anymore. My mother was asking about you the other day.” “Yeah. It’s been busy, yaar. I’ll come soon.” “Yeah. Just pop in when you’re in the neighborhood. Anytime.” “Will do. Thanks again, man. Appreciate it.” What did Hazra want with the agency? Clearly, it was something dubious. And what did “anything”—which Shah had refused to elaborate on—actually mean? The trouble with such claims, Jay thought, was that they left a great deal of ambiguity. It could be that Shah himself did not know, but had assumed the worst because of the gangster’s reputation. But then given what he himself knew of the gangster, Jay knew that “anything” could mean exactly what it meant—all manner of unpleasantness. Should he pursue it further or let it go? As soon as he had that thought, Jay knew he couldn’t let it go. He would pursue it further, but first he had to get to his parents’ house for lunch.

Of course, nothing was that easy. For no reason at all, Jay was stuck in traffic. These days he felt like he spent most of his in traffic. The car was stationary. Vehicles behind him and in front of him and next to him were idling. Some blared their horns, in the futile hope that it would get the traffic moving. He was 117

on the Western Express Highway, heading to his parents’ home in Andheri. Must be the bloody construction, he thought. After spending decades planning on being the next Singapore, the next Hong Kong and now the next Shanghai, city officials had finally come up with some sort of a blueprint that would transform Bombay into the twenty-first century. There were construction projects all over the city; everywhere cranes; everywhere emaciated men and women ferrying bricks and other material on their backs and heads, hauling them on primitive wooden wheelbarrows from one place to another so the city could put up another skyscraper; another flyover; another hotel; another gleaming office building. But in true Indian style, everything was fraught with chaos and graft. What should have taken one year or perhaps two would take five or perhaps ten. Meanwhile the city’s residents were strangely content in the knowledge that despite the disorder the project would one day be complete. They didn’t mind idling in their cars, waiting for the building project to end, so that one day they could make it home without lingering longer than they needed to in the endless, soul-sucking traffic. Jay’s phone rang. He looked at the number. It was Fr. Sandeep. “Hey, Sandeep,” he said, his irritation at being delayed quickly dissipating at the knowledge that his friend was calling, possibly with information. “What’s up, man?” “I have news for you, yaar.” “About the same thing?” “Yes. And it’s good stuff.” “Tell you what. Come home. I’m going to my parents’ place. You know, right. Andheri, yeah. Come there. We’ll have lunch.” “Sure. Give me half an hour.” “Don’t take the bloody highway. It’s backed up near the airport.” “OK. I’ll take the Parla flyover.” “Yeah. Avoid S.V. Road near Shopper’s Stop. They’re building that flyover to Juhu there. I was stuck there for an hour yesterday.”


“This is why you should get a bike or scooter. Your car’s too big to maneuver.” “So, any hints about Khurana?” “Patience, son,” Sandeep said, laughing. “It’s a virtue.”

The familiar smell of the big Sunday meal greeted Jay as he rang the bell to his parents’ flat in Andheri. He’d opened the same wrought-iron red gate, badly in need of a coat of paint, that he had opened as a schoolboy; walked the same path, past the same watchman who smiled and greeted him and called him baba, or little boy. The watchman, once young, vital, full of strength, was wizened. But he kept his job because people here were used to him. Jay waved at a few familiar faces, children whom he used to play with. They were now parents of their own children. They still lived with their parents—except they now ran the households while their parents had retired, content to spoil their grandchildren. Kids played cricket at exactly the same spot he used to play. They paused to let him pass. “Hello, uncle,” some said, using the general terminology for all older men. He smiled back. From outside, Jay could see his mother hover over the kitchen stove, stirring something. For an instant, he was transported to his childhood. He expected to ring the bell, for the door to open and his brother and sister to be there, along with the competition over the last samosa, over who could eat more, over who was better read, over who was stronger. He could smell the food from outside. He instantly felt at ease. Unlike many other unmarried Indians, he’d moved away from his parents’ house. He had his brief marriage to Priyanka to thank for that. Many of his friends who still lived in their childhood homes complained about being emotionally suffocated, though they did little to change that. Of course, his mother never ceased to remind him that they were getting older and could benefit from at least living with one of their children. If she felt hurt or shame, as people of her age often did, about his divorce, she never shared it. Some things were best left unsaid. Indians of her age had more in common with the citizens of Victorian-era England than they did with anyone else. The appearance of propriety was more important than propriety itself. 119

His father opened the door and smiled. He seemed even more shrunken this time than the last. But the patch was gone. Jay entered. His mother scurried toward him from the kitchen. “Come, come,” she said, “what will you eat? Or would you prefer something to drink? Come, come. Tell me what’s new. It’s like you have no time for us. What will you eat?” Jay wanted to remind her that he’d seen her the previous day, but decided against it. While his father moved slowly, the speed of his mother’s actions belied her age or her fragility. “Ma, I speak to you practically every day and come here once a week!” This was their conversation each time: the aggrieved mother who complained she didn’t get enough of her son; the irritated son who pointed out that they saw each other enough. He even knew what would come next. “My friend Mridula, her children come every day to see her. But my children? Two are sitting in America and the one who is here never comes home.” “That’s because we cut their umbilical cord,” Jay’s father whispered, not wanting to interrupt his wife’s monologue lest it be deflected toward him. But Jay caught it and gave his old man a sly smile. “Before I forget,” Jay said, hoping to change the topic, “here are those things you wanted for the pooja.” “Thank you, kanna,” his mother said, her mock anger quickly dissipating. “And I invited Sandeep over, from school. You remember, right?” “Yes, of course,” said his mother, who never remembered names. “The priest, right?” “Yes.” “How is he? You’re in touch with him?” “Yes, ma. I’m in touch with most of them.” “OK—wait, let me get you something to drink.” Jay looked at his dad. He was rocking on his wooden chair, smiling benignly. “How’s the eye?” “I can see, but they’ve told me to keep it dry.”


“Well, be careful.” “Yes, tell him to be careful,” his mother interjected. “We know how the men in this family think that the laws of nature apply to everyone else but them.” Jay looked at his father, who chuckled. They both knew she was right. Jay could only join in.

The conversation during lunch was the loudest it had been in years. Sandeep had arrived and they spent the meal reminiscing about school days while Jay’s mother offered them endless second helpings, all the while calling them “growing boys.” It was as if the clock had been turned back to when Jay and Sandeep were boys, regaling each other with tall tales, each jokingly mocking the other all the while devouring the pulao, dal, and aloo. After the meal, they went to Jay’s old room, the one he had shared with his brother. It looked just the same, as if at any moment the doorbell would ring and his brother would enter the flat in his school uniform and head to their room. “So, what do you have for me?” Jay said, coming straight to the point. “I’ll tell you the long version. I went to see Fr. Casale. As you know, he’s now retired, more than ninety but still sharp. And I casually asked him about Kabir Khurana.” “What did he say?” “At first, he refused to talk about him. Pretended he didn’t know who I was talking about.” “The senility defense?” “Yes. Except we both know he’s not senile. So anyway, I let it go. Thought I’d bring it back at a better time. He asked me about school, about the alumni association, about the dinner we’re organizing. That’s when I told him I was meeting with you about some publicity material for the dinner.” “What did he say?” “He asked how you were. And then he looks at me and says, ‘Is that why you asked me about Khurana?’” “No bloody way.” “Seriously. He put two and two together right away.” 121

“So what did you tell him?” “I told the father that he was too smart for his own good, but yes, you were working on a story and were digging around and I had remembered that there was some gossip about Khurana, about his days at school, before he was sent to England.” “What did he say?” “For a long time he didn’t say anything. I thought maybe he’d fallen asleep with his eyes open. He’s done that before. Not easy being close to a hundred. But then he sighs, looks up at me, and says, ‘That boy was bad news.’” “Oh?” “At the time he went to school, it was a boarding school with some day scholars who came in. Khurana was a boarder, even though he was from Bombay, because of his mother’s ill health, and his father’s long jail sentences, and possibly his peccadilloes.” “So what did he do?” “Casale wouldn’t go into details, but he did say, and I’m quoting him, ‘He was a cruel boy.’” “What does that mean?” “He wouldn’t say. I tried to prod him, but he just wouldn’t say. He said there were several incidents over the years, but one final one that broke the proverbial camel’s back. They called in his father and told him he would have to find an alternate school for his son. A week later, he was packed off to England and the older Khurana was back in jail.” “What happened then?” “Nothing. A few years later, Kabir Khurana came back to Bombay, took over the ailing family business, and turned it into a global conglomerate.” “That sounds like Khurana all right.” “Yes. But that’s what Casale told me.” “Not much to go on. You think he’d be averse to talking to me?” “Short answer, yes. But he never turns down an old boy. He loves the school and the boys it


produced.” “Except Khurana, apparently,” Jay said. “Yeah, except him.” “Will you take me to see him?” “Sure. But why? You’ve done your story on him. You’re investigating thefts, right?” “I’m always looking for a story, Sandy, you know that. Besides, there’s something about his guy. He’s too . . .” Jay groped for a word. “Too clean?” “Yes. Squeaky clean. No one’s that clean.”


Chapter 13

Gaikwad’s first stop this morning was the city; he was due to meet his boss, DCP Adnan Khan. Gaikwad liked Khan. He was quiet and stayed out of the way. He gave his men leeway to solve crimes and backed them to the hilt when things went wrong, which they often did. But this was India; there was only so much even a supportive boss like Khan could do. Besides, Khan belonged to the Indian Police Service and could be transferred to another job; Gaikwad, on the other hand, belonged to the state police and was here to stay. This murder was getting too much attention in the media. Half-truths, outright lies, and bits of information supposedly known only to the investigating team were being printed in the papers and recited like the Gospel truth on television by reporters who looked young enough to be his children. Gaikwad knew Khan was under pressure from his own bosses—especially those of the political variety— and he was on his way to the DCP’s office to give him a rundown on the investigation. His cell phone rang. “Gaikwad,” he barked. “It’s Jay Ganesh.” “Yes, Jay?” “Can we meet this afternoon?” “For what purpose?” “I’d like to know how the case is going.” “Which case?” “Come on inspector, we’ve been through this. I gave you information on the burglaries. You give me information on the murder. I won’t print anything without your say-so.”


Gaikwad still wasn’t sure. Finally, he said, “OK. Where?” “Apsara. Noon.”

The restaurant was on Linking Road, surrounded by high rises and the glitzy malls that were popping up all around the city. Even at this time in the afternoon, the roads were packed. It was hot, and Gaikwad found himself sweating in his khaki uniform. Perhaps, he thought, I should start wearing civilian clothes. Students from nearby colleges milled about. Boys sat on walls eyeing girls who walked down the road, consciously ignoring their gaze. Students huddled in clusters with their textbooks, arguing over something they’d been taught; young couples shared stolen moments, conjuring up a semblance of privacy in a land that gave them none; families alighted from their imported cars—not Japanese, but German—and escaped into the air-conditioned comfort of the store, which, once inside, would be hard to distinguish from any in the West—even the models in the ads were Caucasian. Amid all this stood Apsara, a vestige of a more obviously sleazy era, oblivious of the world around it, the last refuge for men who sought solitude for one reason or another. Gaikwad climbed the stairs (the lower section was being prepared for the evening entertainment, a dancing girl named Maya). The space was poorly lit, with a low overhanging lamp above each table. Paintings above the tables showed women in the Mughal art style. Across the room, just in front of the kitchen, lay a small shrine to Lord Ganesh, the remover of obstacles, attached to a hook on the wall. An incense stick blew thin wisps of sandalwood-scented smoke. Gaikwad immediately saw Jay at the far corner. He was sipping a beer. Jay looked up at him and smiled. “Inspector, drink?” “Too early for me. Besides, I’m on duty.” But looking at that frosted glass, and thinking of the heat outside, all he wanted right now was a sip. “So what do we have?” Gaikwad said as he sat down, wasting no time on pleasantries. He picked up the menu on the table and perused it: He could visualize his thickening arteries. The waiter arrived. “Tandoori Chicken,” Gaikwad said. 125

“Chicken korma,” Jay added. “And bring an assortment of rotis and naan.” The waiter nodded and walked away. Gaikwad looked at Jay. “I may have information that may be relevant to you,” Jay said. “Then I’m interested in hearing it.” “Not so easy, Gaikwad sahib. Tell me what you have on the murder.” “We can’t let details like that out. You paper wallahs are printing all sorts of garbage about this case.” “Have you seen anything in my paper that is false? Have you seen my name on any of those stories?” There were few things that annoyed Jay Ganesh more than the sweeping generalization that all journalists were unreliable hacks who would print any half-truth in order to get attention. He knew some crime reporters acted as fronts for certain gangs, arranging deals with rival gangsters, tipping off criminals before police raids, but he wasn’t one of them. His indignation must have shown on his face. Gaikwad looked apologetic. “I didn’t mean you, yaar. This case is a pain in the arse.” Jay took the last sip of his golden beer when the waiter arrived with their orders. The chicken korma was swimming in oil; the tandoori chicken looked unappetizing, as if the masala on it hadn’t quite been cooked. Oh the hell with it, Gaikwad thought. If the food’s going to be awful, I might as well have a drink. “One Haywards,” he told the waiter. “Make that two,” Jay said, smiling. It was as they dug into their meal, Jay seemingly oblivious to the quality of his food, that Gaikwad realized the journalist was probably a bachelor. This, to Jay, was regular food. For a moment, he felt bad for Jay. “This is excellent,” Jay said, looking up at him enthusiastically. “Inspector, you should try some. But also tell me more about the case.” Gaikwad gave him a rundown of what he had. His questioning of Barton, Hazra, and Kohli. His phone conversation with Khurana and the fact that he was planning to meet him. Jay listened to him


silently. He did not take notes, lest the policeman was put off by the idea of being on the record. Each bit of relevant information was tucked away within the recesses of his mind from where it would be summoned when he had to write a story. “OK. That’s it from me,” Gaikwad said. “What do you have for me?” “Do you know Eagle Services?” “Yes,” Gaikwad replied. “Chhota Mirchi’s attempt to attract a better class of criminal.” Jay could not help but be amused by that apt description. “What about it?” Gaikwad asked. “I saw your Vikram Hazra coming out of it.” “So what?” “So obviously it must be something important. Why would he go himself? Someone like him risking his reputation when all he had to do was send an underling.” “Fair point. But that doesn’t mean he did anything to the American woman.” “I didn’t say it did, but it’s an awful big coincidence given the timing of this case.” Gaikwad had to acknowledge Jay was right. “OK,” he said. “I’ll look into it. What else do you have?” “At this point it’s only a rumor.” “Rumors are always good, as long as we can substantiate them.” “It’s about Kabir Khurana. He was in my school. There’s a scandal involving him, and I’m meeting an old priest later today who can tell me more.” “That doesn’t tell me anything.” “I just wanted to keep you posted—and remind you that I have first dibs on this story when it breaks.” “OK, OK,” Gaikwad said. But he cursed the entire journalistic profession as a bunch of leeches.

As he headed back toward Nariman Point for a meeting with Kabir Khurana, Gaikwad wished he hadn’t 127

eaten that chicken, hadn’t had that drink, hadn’t met Jay Ganesh. And he wished that DCP Adnan Khan were conducting this interview instead. Like everyone in the city, he’d heard of Kabir Khurana. But knowing a man by reputation and speaking to him on the phone was one thing, meeting him and questioning him about a murder was an entirely different matter. And then there was that element about the city’s nawabs that he couldn’t quite put his finger on: Was it a disdain for the laws of the land; a disdain for people like him? Certainly, they possessed a casual arrogance that they didn’t hide. It was almost as if they were trying to say they were too important to talk to you. But, he thought, I shouldn’t categorize Khurana before I meet him. It was important to have an open mind. Gaikwad walked into the lobby of the Express Tower building. Security was tight. A rent-a-cop wanded those who entered. Gaikwad, probably because of his uniform, was given a free pass. This would normally irritate him because it showed a flaw in the security system, but today he was glad for it. He got into the elevator and went to the top floor where Khurana had his office. A secretary acknowledged him and asked him to wait a few minutes. “Mr. Khurana is in a meeting,” she said. “He apologizes for the inconvenience.” Gaikwad sat on the leather couch and leafed through the newspaper on the table. He’d already browsed through the news today. There was nothing else that caught his eye. He fidgeted until the secretary caught his attention. “He’s waiting for you,” she said, and went back to whatever she was doing. Gaikwad entered the office. Khurana rose to shake his hand. He was dressed simply. “How can I help you, inspector?” he asked. “And what will you have to eat or drink?” “Nothing for me, sir. I just had lunch. And thank you for seeing me.” “I was curious what the police would want with me,” Khurana replied. “I thought we’d taken care of everything on the phone.” “Well, sir, it’s a murder investigation and we are still making inquiries.” Khurana paused and took a deep breath. “Yes, a very unfortunate business,” he said. “One never


likes it when something like this happens to one’s colleagues.” “Sir, I have to ask you again—what was your relationship with her?” “I told you, inspector. We were acquaintances. Nothing more.” “Sir,” Gaikwad said, “we have it on good authority from more than one person that you enjoyed a close relationship with her.” “What are you implying, inspector?” His tone didn’t change; neither did his expression. “Just what I learned, sir,” Gaikwad continued. “You were spotted with her several times. At cafés, restaurants. And yet when I asked you about it, you denied everything.” Khurana paused and took a breath. “OK,” he said. “We were close. You have to understand . . .” The composure dissipated. “We were friends. Not more than that. We would talk. I liked spending time with her. She was intelligent, charming, beautiful. But it was nothing more than that. Mainly we discussed business, the business climate in India. “She was having some issues with the bureaucrats in Delhi and I told her how to circumvent it.” “Any reason why anyone would want to hurt her?” “I can’t think of anything, inspector. Naturally, I was devastated when I heard. Who could do such a terrible thing? And it sends such a bad message to the foreign investment community. Not to pick on you, inspector, but safety is becoming a problem in this city.” Gaikwad let the comment slide. The police were the first to be blamed for anything that went wrong. It was as if the city’s residents had forgotten that they too were part of society and if the city had become unsafe and the force crooked, it reflected on the citizenry as much as it did the police department. “But she was getting threats, inspector,” Khurana continued. “Yes. We are aware of that. Did they frighten her?” “To tell the truth, no.” “Did she suspect anyone?”


“She didn’t trust Vikram Hazra, but she didn’t think he could threaten her. She said he didn’t have it in him.” “What about Gaja Kohli?” “Ah,” Khurana said. “Gaja.” “You know him then?” “We studied together in America, inspector.” “And did you know of his campaign against her?” “Yes. In fact, I advised her to strike a deal with him,” Khurana said. “Let’s just say I know Gaja to be a very flexible man.” “And did he prove to be flexible?” “I don’t know the answer to that, inspector. The next thing I knew she was dead.” Gaikwad paused and re-examined his notes for what seemed like an eternity. He collected his thoughts. “What was your relationship with her husband, sir?” “Ah, that’s a little complicated, inspector,” Khurana said. “Why?” “He thought we were having an affair.” “And were you?” Khurana looked Gaikwad right in the eyes. “No, inspector. I told you. No. Was I attracted to her? Yes. But she was married to her job.” Khurana looked at his watch. “Well, inspector, if you don’t mind, I have another meeting soon.” “Of course. Of course, sir,” Gaikwad said. “Thank you for your cooperation.” “It’s my duty as a citizen, inspector. And tell me who your DCP is?” “Adnan Khan, sir.” “Khan—yes, a good man. I’ll bring both you and him up in my next meeting with the inspector


general and the chief minister. Tell them what a good job you boys are doing.” “Thank you, sir.” “I always take care of those who look after us, inspector.”

Outside, workers were streaming out of their offices, walking with their briefcases, purses, and bags toward Churchgate station, where they’d take the train home. The sun was low on the horizon, imparting a pink tinge to the water. Gaikwad walked toward his bike, assessing his interview with Khurana. The man had been forthright once he knew he’d been caught lying. But there was that bit in the end when he brought up the inspector general and the chief minister: almost as if he were reminding Gaikwad that he was well-connected. Was that a warning or was he merely making conversation? Gaikwad knew he would have to dig deeper to find answers. This was like playing a slow game of chess. Gaikwad was usually a patient man, but the fact there were few leads was beginning to annoy him. He wanted answers—and he wanted them fast.


Chapter 14

In Andheri (East), not far from Chakala Junction, on the way to the historic but decrepit Buddhist-era Mahakali Caves, lies a Jesuit school for boys founded in the 1960s. Nothing unusual about that—except that behind this school lies a facility where old Jesuit priests from the city spend their retirements. Many are engaged in fund-raising for the church and for the schools and colleges they once ran, soliciting contributions from men with fond memories of both the camaraderie and the canings. Others spend their time in prayer, while still others spend their time bitterly contemplating the state of the nation. Fr. Casale was among the third group. He was born in France and came to India soon after the war, the only war that ever mattered for men his age. He’d spent so long in India, so long in Mumbai, that he had lost any vestige of a foreign accent. His fieldwork, conducted while still a young man, among the tribal population of the state, was now a prescribed textbook at the college level. He knew more about India and Indians than many who had been born in the country. And for all practical purposes, he was Indian—at least to the boys of the school who doted on him during his tenure as the school principal. Most important, Fr. Casale considered himself a keen judge of human character. And so when he saw Jay Ganesh and Fr. Sandeep Fernandes walk toward him, smiling, he knew almost immediately what they had come for. Jay had called Sandeep earlier that morning. At worst, talking to Fr. Casale would be a dead end. At best, Jay knew that this could be his passport back to respectability, even more so than the case of the burglaries, which had seemingly stalled once he had handed over the evidence from the videotapes to Gaikwad. Fr. Sandeep had agreed to take him to meet the old priest in Andheri. Jay would meet him in Bandra and they would head there on Sandeep’s motorcycle. The ride was uneventful. Even the traffic was


compliant. “Do you think the old man will be willing to talk?” he asked Sandeep. “It depends on the father’s mood,” Sandeep replied. “You know he’s always been cranky—it’s just worse now that he’s older.” “Should I take him anything?” “You mean a bribe?” Sandeep said, blurting out the words and laughing. “He’s a priest, not a government servant.” “Of course, I didn’t mean that,” Jay replied, not knowing what he actually meant. “I was thinking more like a box of chocolates or fruits or cake or something.” Sandeep thought for a few seconds. “Get him Scotch.” “You’re joking.” “No. He told me how much he misses it. Because of his age and his health, they don’t let him have any anymore.” Jay didn’t need to be told twice. They stopped at a liquor store on the way. It was like all old liquor stores in the city. There was a storefront where men—and it was always men—lingered, and a counter behind which sat two men—typically two men—immersed in newspapers. The customers would bark out orders and the men would take turns conjuring up the liquor from the floor-to-ceiling shelves behind them. They mostly sold quart bottles, which were priced relatively modestly. The country has a complicated relationship with alcohol. While Hindu myths typically tell of gods drinking and becoming intoxicated, and alcohol consumption is common, it is still viewed with a certain amount of disapproval, a disapproval introduced perhaps by Victorian-era morality that has never left the country, though it’s been more than sixty years since the British left. A few states around the country even have a prohibition against it. Jay walked up to the counter. “Black Label?”


The clerk handed him a box from under the counter, passing it to Jay as if it were a precious commodity. In many ways it was. Johnny Walker Black Label is arguably the most popular whiskey in the country. For many years, it was a coveted gift from overseas. Jay paid for his purchase, wondering if he could expense it (it would be a tough sell with Manisha), and walked back to the bike. “Put the bloody thing in your bag for God’s sake,” Sandeep said. “I don’t want you to enter that place with whiskey and get everyone in trouble.”

Fr. Casale was sitting in an oversized leather chair engrossed in the cricket game on television when he sensed someone approaching. He looked up to see Fr. Sandeep and someone else. He immediately knew it was Jay Ganesh. “We’d better go inside to my quarters,” he said with resignation, even before they greeted him. The quarters were small—a room with a bed; a bookshelf weighted down by the volumes it carried. Jay perused the titles, which showed off the tastes of a Renaissance man. “You’ll have enough time for that later,” the father said. “Tell me, which batch were you?” “Ninety-one, father,” Jay replied. “Same as Sandeep.” Fr. Casale nodded. “I remember your face, but couldn’t place the year. So, tell me, what are you doing now?” Jay told him about his work at the Tribune and the burglaries he was working on. “And you had that unfortunate incident with that dirty rag, right?” “Yes, father,” Jay replied, surprised that the old priest was so plugged in. “You’re probably thinking how an old coot like me knows so much,” the father said, smiling. “But it’s all here,” he said, pointing to his brain. “When the mind goes, everything follows.” “Reverend father,” Sandeep said. “Jay has something for you.” “Of course,” Jay said, extracting the bottle from his backpack. “Ah,” Fr. Casale said, with a twinkle in his eye. “Just what the doctor ordered—just not my doctor.” He looked at Sandeep. “Bring three glasses from that shelf.” 134

Sandeep did as he was told. Jay looked at his watch. It was before five. He was not a Scotch drinker. He seldom, if ever, drank this early, but he was not about to say no to his old headmaster. Fr. Casale poured a peg for each of them. “Drink up, boys,” he said. “For the old saints.” Down the hatch it went. Jay wished he’d eaten more for lunch. “Now tell me why you’ve come.” “Father,” Sandeep began, “we’ve come about Kabir Khurana.” “Ah, yes. I somehow knew you would be back when you asked me all those questions the last time.” “Father,” Jay said, “I’m working on a story about the murder of the American executive Liz Barton. Khurana featured prominently in her life. I just want to know if there is something about him that should be known.” Fr. Casale contemplated what he was being told. He took a sip of the drink and stared into space. He shut his eyes as if he were taking a nap. He was silent. Jay looked at Sandeep and wondered if he should say something else. Sandeep gestured to him to keep silent. “Yes,” Fr. Casale said, finally breaking his silence. “Kabir Khurana, a nasty young boy. I remember him well. “I was a young priest. I’d spent the previous few years working among the Bhil tribes and the church then sent me to Bombay—of course, it was Bombay then. Not Mumbai. What a great city it was then. They sent me to the school.” The priest seemed wistful for a time gone by. “We were a boarding school at that time. Of course, there were some day scholars, but it was mainly a boarding school. Khurana’s father was in Delhi. His mother was ill. It was decided that the boy would be a boarder though he only lived a few miles away from school. “At first, he was like all the other boys: cricket, football, studies, school. But when he entered his teenage years, something changed. He was caught leaving the school compound at night—normally it was an expellable offense, but his father pulled the right strings with the cardinal, and the boy was allowed to


stay. “Then there were reports that he was going to the red-light district at Kamathipura. We had to have a word with the family then. He was taken home for a week and came back with bruises. He vowed not to do it again. The school told the father that the boy could not falter again. “But of course he did. I remember clearly. The police came to the school one night and asked for him. He was a minor and so we refused. We asked them what they wanted with him. They said that he’d visited the brothel again and had brutalized one of the girls there. She was on the verge of death. The principal at the time, Fr. Austin, immediately called his father. The boy was summoned. He didn’t deny it. Didn’t show any remorse. In fact, when they asked him about it, he was said to have smiled. ‘The bitch deserved it,’ he said. Of course, that was the end of it.” “What do you mean?” Jay asked. “We had to expel him. He was sent away to boarding school in Britain.” “And what happened to the girl?” “It’s sad, but who cares what happens to an unknown prostitute? They say she survived and went back to Nepal. But who knows? No one sees them come into the city, and no one ever sees them leave.” “What about the police?” Casale snorted. “That’s a gullible question given that you’re a crime reporter. India might have been a newly independent nation with much idealism, son, but human nature is human nature. Corruption and evil have always existed and they will always exist.” “What do you mean?” Jay asked. “The Khurana family paid money to keep the whole thing quiet. Years later, Kabir Khurana returned to India, took over the family business and made a name for himself. His father of course died, and is remembered as a hero, which in many ways he was.” “Do you think he is still capable of such acts, father?” Jay asked. “We all are,” the father replied. “Has he kept the beast leashed? It’s possible. Has he let it escape? That’s possible, too.”


Fr. Sandeep dropped Jay off at his car. The meeting with Fr. Casale had been more fruitful than he’d expected. But what did it really prove? The public has a short memory—and the Indian public more so than most. When Khurana returned to India, the matter was forgotten. His insouciance was gone, replaced by a new composure and confidence. It was as if those years overseas had trained him to be what he was born to be: a Khurana. With the reputation he enjoyed today, people would be only happy to forgive his youthful indiscretions, if in fact assault can be categorized as an indiscretion. But then, Jay thought, we tend to forgive and forget the trespasses of our rich and powerful. Still, all he had was a bit of gossip. The question was whether he could make the case that Khurana still had that temper and did, in fact, kill Liz Barton. But then what would the motive be? They were close. It had been suggested that they were lovers. Was it a tiff that went awry? Jay knew he was trading in theory and no newspaper in its right mind would print such flimsy allegation, especially against someone with an army of lawyers ready to pounce on any aspersion that might be cast in his direction. Certainly, during his own meeting with Khurana, the magnate had been magnanimous, even charming. Which reminded him, he needed to ask Janet what happened to those pictures. He hadn’t seen her in a few days. Was she avoiding him after that evening? Jay brushed the thoughts aside. He could only deal with so many problems at a time and compared to his nonexistent love life, these problems seemed far more solvable.

He decided to take his problem to Manisha. What would she say about his meeting with Fr. Casale? At best, something might come of it. She might tell him to investigate it a little more. At worst, she might dismiss it for what it seemed to be: gossip—salacious and juicy, true, but gossip nonetheless. His phone rang. “Jay Ganesh,” he said absentmindedly. “It’s Shakil,” came the reply. “Hey, brother! What’s up?” “I have something for you.” His tone was serious. Jay knew at once his friend was not in a mood for 137

pleasantries. “Tell me.” “Come over,” Shakil said. “Come home for lunch.” “For lunch?” “Yes. For lunch. Come for lunch.” Jay looked at his watch. It was nearly evening. Far too late for lunch. He knew Shakil had diabetes and a lunch this late was out of the question. His friend must have something else for him, something he couldn’t discuss on the phone. “I’ll be right over.” “Come via work and pick me up,” Shakil said. “Which shop are you at?” “Chor Bazaar.” “I’ll leave right away.”

Jay tried to speed his way through the by-lanes of old Bombay. They were narrow and crowded. Men sat idly by the sides of the street. Kids played. The usual army of retired folk and laid-off mill workers peered over their balconies. Jay evaded bicycles and scooters as he raced toward Shakil’s shop. The traffic came to a sudden halt. A cow was sitting in the middle of the street, slowly chewing grass, oblivious to the new India’s frenzied pace. It was less common now than when he was growing up, but cows in the middle of the street still brought traffic to a standstill. Because Hindus regarded the animal as holy, people waited until it decided to move. Some impatient drivers blared their horns, hoping this didn’t mean they would be relegated to whatever corner of hell reserved for impudent acts such as theirs. A couple of men walked up to the animal and tried to lure it toward the side of the road with the promises of more grass. Jay wished he had a scooter or motorcycle. He could have bypassed the animal and continued. He cursed the cow. He cursed the traffic. He cursed religion. The cow finally relented and moved. The city returned to its familiar frenzy. 138

Shakil Shah sat alone at his shop engrossed in a newspaper. “What’s up, boss?” Jay asked him. Shakil looked up at him and nodded his head. He did not smile. “So what do you have for me?” “Let’s get in the car,” Shah said. Jay did not argue. They got into the vehicle. “Drive.” “Where?” “Doesn’t matter. Just away from here.” “I figured you weren’t inviting me to lunch.” “You got that right. I don’t want my family involved in this jhanjhat.” (Trouble.) “What jhanjhat?” “After we spoke the other day, I decided to ask around about Eagle Services.” “What did you learn?” “No one was willing to talk.” “But?” “You’re right. There is a but. There were rumors the firm had been hired to carry out a hit.” “Who by?” “I don’t know. No one was willing to discuss that.” “Who was the target?” “Now there I can help you. But you’ve got to promise me that nowhere does my name enter this if it goes any further. No matter what. I stay out of it.” “Shakil, come on, you know me. We’re old friends.” “Yes, but you’re also a chooth who doesn’t know what he’s dealing with. For you everything is a bloody joke. A bloody story.” Jay didn’t say anything.


“So if you want me to tell you what’s going on, you need to promise me that you won’t involve me in any way.” “Dude, you have my word.” “OK. I asked around about any jobs Eagle may have been involved in. Of course, no one wanted to talk. Who wants to take a panga with someone like Chhota Mirchi? But then I heard a rumor.” “Who from?” “Never mind that. He’s reliable.” “OK.” “So I heard a rumor—a tip if you will—that Eagle had been contracted to kill that woman.” Jay felt his heart race. “Liz Barton?” “Yes. That’s the one.”

After Jay dropped Shakil Shah off, he drove back toward the newsroom. Without really expecting to, he had now become fully involved in the Barton killing. Jay was so lost in his thoughts that he drove toward the newsroom oblivious of the noise and traffic around him. The only reason that he even noticed his phone was that it was on vibrate. It was Gaikwad. “Haan, Inspector sahib,” he said. “How can I help you?” “We’ve caught the burglars,” the inspector replied. “Come to Santa Cruz station.”


Chapter 15

Gaikwad’s day had begun without any hint of how it would develop. He rose early, met Chitre for a walk, heard his neighbor complain again about his children, the real estate market, the Indian cricket team, and his impending retirement. Gaikwad then returned home for a quick breakfast with Lata and the kids. Quick because Lata had to be at work early. At work, his first order of business was to meet with Hindu and Muslim community leaders—or as the Indian newspapers referred to them, for fear of provoking riots, members of one community and members of another community. There had been religious tensions at a slum. Gaikwad wanted to get a handle on things before they got out of hand. It was an important and little-known part of his job. People were quick to pounce on the police when law and order broke down, or accuse the force of doing nothing when riots broke out, but officers like Gaikwad, and there were many all across the country, had regular meetings with religious elders to ensure villages, neighborhoods, towns, and cities stayed peaceful. Despite the best efforts, there was occasional violence. But in the larger scheme of things, Gaikwad was amazed and grateful that it didn’t happen more often. Constable Gaitonde reluctantly ushered the two leaders in. They were accompanied by a retinue of young men. Each group eyed the other warily, like dogs sizing up one another before a pissing match. Gaikwad asked the two leaders to sit down and asked Gaitonde to bring them all tea. He was wondering how to broach the issue without either side taking exception or umbrage that they were being blamed for the tensions. “They started it,” one of them said, not looking at his religious rival sitting next to him. “No,” the other countered vehemently. “They did. If they hadn’t assaulted that boy, none of this


would have happened.” Gaikwad decided to step in. “I understand your frustrations,” he said as if talking to a group of children incapable of playing nicely. “But you must also understand our position. We want both sides to thrive. After all, this is a democratic India where everyone has equal rights.” “What equal rights?” one of the boys standing at the back shouted. Gaikwad shot him a stern look. “I’m sure your leaders will agree that this discussion is best left to us,” he said. “We will come and solicit your opinions later.” Gaitonde arrived with the tea and reluctantly served it. Gaikwad looked at the men in front of him. They both claimed religious authority but were nothing more than common thugs. He wished he could jail them and leave them to a sadist like Gaitonde. Instead, he would have to “liaise” with them in order to keep the peace. “We will ensure that incidents like the one in which the boy was beaten won’t be repeated. And you have my word that we will catch those responsible.” He looked at the youths at the back. “If it’s one of you, step forward now. If it’s someone else, I expect you to name them. We have no space for incidents like this in this area. “Sirs, I will keep my end of the bargain. In return, I’d like you to shake hands and promise me that there will be no violence. We can meet again next week to see where we are. Agreed?” If the men disagreed, they did not show it. They promised to turn in the men responsible for the assault and vowed to keep the peace. They agreed to meet again the next week. When they left, Gaikwad asked Gaitonde for another cup of chai. He was making no progress with the murders. DCP Khan hadn’t sounded pleased when they’d spoken that morning. “You’re killing me, Gaikwad,” he had said. “I can only hold off the vultures on top for so long.” Just when he thought the rest of the day was a lost cause, he received a call. The man in the video— as well as a second man—had been caught.


Gaikwad and Gaitonde arrived at the police station where the men had been taken. “They’re in separate cells, sir,” the waiting constable said as he entered. Gaikwad hoped they hadn’t been roughed up yet. “Bring the main one first,” he said. “The other one can stew.” The capture of the two men had been the result of some old-fashioned police work. Once he’d gained access to the tapes from Jay Ganesh, Gaikwad had taken them to the police lab at Kalina. There, despite the grainy image, they’d been able to come up with a likeness of the person in the video—not perfect, but better than the facial composites that were drawn up from unreliable eyewitness accounts. He’d given a team of particularly sharp officers the unenviable task of matching the image from the video with their records. It took a day, but they’d found a match. But there were two problems. It was a juvenile record from nearly two decades ago and there was no known address for the man in the video. Still, the shortcoming didn’t deter Gaikwad. He used the police techniques that had been highly effective in the old days. His men contacted each one of the known associates of the man in the video. Most had no idea what had happened to him, some had died, and one, just one, had been able to tell them where the man now lived. Gaikwad looked up from the face on the printout he was holding. The man in front of him looked remarkably similar. If there was one thing that could be said about him, it was that he looked nondescript: medium height, average weight, a soft belly like many Indians his age, and what India’s newspaper matrimonial columns, with their obsession with color, would call a “wheatish complexion”—neither dark nor fair. “Sit,” Gaikwad told him. “I’m Inspector Vijay Gaikwad. This is Constable Gaitonde. We have some questions for you.” Gaikwad did not tell him that Jay Ganesh of the Tribune was in the next room watching the proceedings, taking notes for his exclusive. Gaikwad had been reluctant to call Jay, but he didn’t want to break his word. “We know what you did. You might as well start talking now.”


There was no response. Gaikwad knew he would have to at least threaten him before he got a reply. “Now there are two ways in which this can be done: You can cooperate and tell me everything or I will leave you in this cell with my sadist constable and send in a couple of other brutes who will first beat you, then torture you, and then think of ways to sear the pain onto your memory.” Gaikwad looked at the constable. He looked positively excited. “OK. I’ll talk,” the man said. “But you have to believe me. I didn’t kill her. We didn’t have anything to do with that.” “What are you talking about?” “The woman. The American woman in the papers. We took the body to Mahim but we didn’t kill her.” It slowly dawned on Gaikwad that the body had been dumped in Mahim not by the killer but by the burglar—that is, of course, if he was telling the truth. He decided to play along. “Don’t lie. We know you killed her. We know you put her in the bag. We know you took her to Mahim and dumped her. Why did you kill her? Did she take you by surprise?” “No. No. You have it all wrong. We were behind the burglaries, true. We were,” he said, tears trickling down his face. “But I’d never kill anyone. Never. “I entered the house. It was dark and I didn’t want to turn the lights on just in case there was someone there. I made my way into the bedroom and suddenly tripped over something before falling to the floor. “I was sure that if there had been someone in the house, they would have heard me. So I turned on my flashlight and saw my hands covered with blood. I wasn’t sure where it came from, so I turned the torch to the floor. I had fallen on the body.” “Why didn’t you just leave?” “My fingerprints. They were all over the body from my fall. If you’d found the body there, you would have known it was me. I have a prior from when I was a teenager. My fingerprints are on file.” “Did you see anyone else while you were there? Think carefully.”


“No. No. We just drove away as fast as we could.” As pathetic as the explanation sounded, Gaikwad knew he was telling the truth. He may have solved one crime—the burglaries—but his boss, DCP Khan, would not be happy to hear that a murderer was still at large. Of course, he could always charge him. No judge could fail to convict this man based on the evidence against him. He had already confessed to the burglaries; another charge, even if it was murder, wouldn’t really matter. With his own sense of right and wrong blurred, Gaikwad decided that the best thing he could do was keep the men under detention for another day and hope for a breakthrough in the murder. He could decide later what to do with him and his driver. “OK. Slow down,” Gaikwad said. “And what have you been doing since that day?” “Nothing,” he replied in a whisper. “Nothing.” “No more burglaries?” “There was one burglary, but all I could think about was the body. I tried to lie low. I told my partner to lie low. We made it a point not to be seen together in public—to act normally. I thought if we behaved normally, the police would stop paying attention. I went about my daily routine: I went to the gym, met with friends.” “Are they accomplices, too?” “No. They have no idea what I do. They think I’m living off the money my father left me.” “What else did you do?” “I used to go to clubs, meet girls. Things I used to enjoy. But I found I no longer enjoyed them. I felt I was being watched. I felt the end would come at any minute. But appearances had to be maintained. I had to continue doing what I always did.” “What did you steal? Where from? How did you pick the houses?” “It was easy. We went after executives or those with foreign connections. Areas like Bandra, Versova, Worli. They have plenty of toys. Xboxes, iPods, jewelry, computers—stuff that can fit in a bag. We watched a few buildings and then zeroed in on the ones where we could make out a pattern. Who left when. When they came home. It was easy.”


He sounded wistful in the knowledge that those days were over. “And you sold the electronics?” “Yes, but that was more for pocket money. The real prize was the laptops and PCs. We would extract data or remove the hard drive and send it to Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore. We have buyers there. They pay good money for that information. Credit card data, corporate information. That kind of stuff. The beauty of it is that by the time anyone complains of identity thefts, we’ve moved on to new people. And the credit card companies get left holding the bill. So, really, no one’s getting hurt.” Gaikwad couldn’t help but think that this was the brave new frontier of crime. “What were you afraid of being caught for? The murder or the thefts?” “The murder, of course,” he replied. “I know you have an overstretched department. A few thefts you won’t bother. One murder—especially a foreigner—you’ll be on it. I expected the police to come knocking at the door. I read the paper diligently, scouring for details of that bloody red bag in the garbage dump. But there weren’t any—neither that nor any report on the burglaries. For a while, just a brief while, I breathed easily. I thought perhaps the police and the press were incompetent. But at other times, I became paranoid: Were you close to catching me and didn’t want any information made public that could tip me off?” “So what did you do?” “There was rationally no way for you to link me to the bag. I’d made no errors since taking the body. And I know my partner is reliable, too. But I found myself becoming paranoid. When people lingered too long at street corners, I thought they were cops. I felt I was being followed. I began to inspect the lampshades everyday, suspecting that you had wired the place. That’s when I decided: I would have to leave the country—alone. I wanted to tell him . . .” “Who?” “My partner.” “OK.” “But I lacked the courage. I felt I was betraying him. Leaving without saying good-bye only


reinforced that. Yet, I had little choice. I could explain later. After all, he knew how to take care of himself. There was no reason to worry. Many years earlier, I had come up with a list that I had tucked away. It comprised the most important items I’d need if there ever were an emergency. I put together the items on the list: passport, underwear, socks, two suits, a folder with papers bearing pie charts and bar graphs, a laptop. To all outward appearances, I’d be an executive traveling overseas on a short, workrelated trip. The passport was made out to another name just in case there was any trouble. I took it and drove to the airport.” “And that’s where you got caught.” “Yes,” the man said, again in a whisper. It was this part of the operation that had given Gaikwad particular satisfaction. The man in the video had walked up to the immigration official, past whom every traveler has to walk at India’s international airport. The man behind the counter had looked at the assumed name on the man’s passport, Shankar Mahamurthi, and began speaking to him in Tamil. Despite his planning, the man did not know the language and panicked. His expression gave him away. “Please stand aside,” the immigration official said. “Secondary screening.” Soon another official appeared and took him to a room. He opened the door and entered. Two policemen were waiting inside. “Mr. Pankaj Taneja,” one of them said. The man in the video did not reply, but he could see the officer was holding a sketch with his own image on it. “Good. Good. Now that we’ve met you, let us go back to the police station where your good friend, Dinesh, is waiting for you. We have some questions for you.”

On hearing his partner’s name, Taneja knew it was over. From a vantage point across the street, the police had continued watching Taneja’s apartment after he’d left. They’d seen Dinesh visit the apartment and then, finding his partner gone, rush back to his own 147

home. They could see he wanted to run, but he kept his nerve, even stopping to greet acquaintances on the street. “He’s a cool customer, sir,” a constable had later told Gaikwad. They gave Dinesh a few minutes before they knocked on his door. The hurried sounds from inside stopped. The silence was piercing. They knocked again. They could hear footsteps and then, after an eternity, the door opened. “Yes?” “Dinesh bhai?” “Yes. Can I help you?” “I’m with the police,” an officer said, showing him his badge. “Can we come in?” “What is this regarding?” he tried to keep his voice calm, but was failing. “It’s not a request, Dinesh bhai. Let us in.” “I’ll tell you everything,” he said, the fear creeping into his voice. “I was just the driver.”

“Got all you want?” Gaikwad asked Jay when he’d finished both interviews. “Do you think he did it?” he asked by way of reply. “Off the record. No. Don’t mention the murder in your story—you’d be doing me a favor.” “I’ll hold off on it for now, inspector. But you’ll have to give me dibs.” The man was a vulture, Gaikwad thought. “OK.”

Jay Ganesh left the police station and walked up to his Premier Padmini parked a few blocks away. The sun was setting, and there was still no sign of the second rains. Jay was sweating by the time he reached his car. He reached down his pockets for the keys; they were stuck. He cursed himself and tugged at the key ring. That’s when he heard it—a click. He turned around and saw a metal object pointed at his head. He knew enough to know it was the barrel of a gun.


“Hand over the keys,” said a voice. Jay did as he was told. Carjackings were unheard of in Mumbai, but he realized soon enough that this wasn’t a carjacking. He was blindfolded and pushed into the rear seat. The man with the gun took the seat next to him. Another person, who had not spoken, sat on the other side. A third person started the car and began driving. Jay turned his head to see if he could discern anything through the blindfold, but it was dark and they had tied it tightly. “Keep looking ahead, you fool,” said the man with the gun. “Someone wants to see you.”


Chapter 16

Jay could not tell how long he’d been in the car. The blindfold was disorienting. He could not tell where he was being taken. The men in the car did not speak. They ignored his questions. (“Where are we going?” “Who wants to see me?”) He did not know who they were. He tried to listen for familiar sounds that could give him a clue to where he was, but when he most needed it, Bombay’s sounds deserted him. There were two things, however, that Jay knew for certain: that they had spent much of the time in traffic, which meant they hadn’t gone far; and if the men had meant to do him harm, they would have done so already. The car finally came to a halt. The doors opened and the man next to him pushed Jay out. Another grabbed him. He felt himself being escorted forward. Doors were opened and shut and only when he detected motion did Jay know that he was in an elevator. The men still said nothing. The elevator stopped. Again, he felt himself being pushed out. “Wait here,” said one of the men, pushing Jay onto a couch. “Don’t try anything.” Jay knew that he couldn’t try anything—some of his escorts were probably still with him. Besides, now that he’d come this far and had built up (misplaced?) bravado, he wasn’t about to leave without discovering who had arranged his abduction and why. He placed his hands upon the couch. It was fine leather, the kind found in luxurious hotel lobbies. But Jay knew it was unlikely he was in a hotel. “Take that damn blindfold off,” said a voice. Pointedly, the words were spoken in English, as if the speaker wanted Jay to know he was dealing with much more than a petty thug. Jay felt stubby fingers prod at his eyes and whip the blindfold away. His eyes took a moment to adjust to the sudden brightness. “Welcome, Mr. Ganesh. Sorry that our meeting had to be under such circumstances.”


Jay looked at the speaker and saw the hint of someone familiar. “I’m Ram Iqbal, Chhota Mirchi’s son.” Jay gauged the young man in front of him. Typically, Bombay’s underworld possessed both power and wealth, but sadly these two attributes did not translate into taste. Their clothes were both expensive and loud; their speech coarse—a pity because as anyone who knew them could attribute these were intelligent men; intelligent and ruthless. But the man in front of Jay was a different beast altogether. He spoke well. He was dressed in black trousers and a button-down white shirt: simple, but elegant. He looked more like a returning graduate student from America than a gangster’s son. “What do you want with me?” Jay asked. “Or are you speaking for your father?” Ram Iqbal examined Jay with amusement. “You’ve been asking questions.” “What kinds of questions?” “Mr. Ganesh, please don’t insult my intelligence. You’ve come here as a guest and I intend to treat you as such.” “You kidnap all your guests?” “You were unlikely to have responded to an invitation.” That was probably true, Jay thought. “So are my questions of the wrong nature?” “Shall we just say that while there’s nothing wrong with your questions per se, the assumptions you may be drawing from them could be erroneous.” “And what assumptions am I drawing from them?” The smile on Ram Iqbal’s face became serious. “Mr. Ganesh, I know your work and respect it. You could either deal with me or with my father’s aides and their old ways. I personally don’t like it—find it too messy—but they swear it’s effective.” “OK. Fine,” Jay said, not relishing that prospect. “What do you want to know?” “Why are you asking questions about Eagle?”


“I want to know why Vikram Hazra hired you.” Iqbal laughed. “What so funny?” Jay asked. “Nothing. Go on.” “I’m looking into the death of Liz Barton, the American CEO of Mohini Resources. Hazra wanted her out of the way. He hires you. She dies. Did he order her dead? Did you kill her?” Ram Iqbal was silent, as if soaking in the magnitude of each word Jay had uttered, reveling in their implications. Finally, he smiled. “Mr. Ganesh, let me tell you a story. Will you indulge me?” “Do I look like I have a choice?” Jay replied, gesturing toward the cord used to bind his hands. “True. But it’s a good story—and one that I hope will not only entertain but illuminate, much like what your newspaper claims to do.” Jay could not help but think he was in the presence of a Bond villain. All that was missing was a lifesized aquarium with giant sharks. At any moment, he thought, at the press of a button, he would find himself swimming among them. “Have you been to Asalfa Village, Mr. Ganesh?” “I’ve ridden past it on the bus from Andheri Station.” “Why didn’t you stop and get off?” “It had a certain reputation. Area burned in the riots.” “And what do you think of the place you’re in right now, Mr. Ganesh?” Jay looked around him. The flat was tastefully furnished. He was on a high floor. The views from the balcony were expansive. It was difficult not to impress. “Are we in Juhu?” “You know the city well,” Iqbal replied, chuckling. “So, my father started off in Asalfa and we’re now in Juhu. What does that tell you?” “That you like the beach?”


“Funny,” Iqbal said, not laughing. “Would you want to leave such an environment and live a life of risk? I’ll answer for you—no. My father had a heart attack last year. It was kept quiet. We have too many businesses and we don’t want the other gangs encroaching on our turf. But I had to return from America where I was studying computers. My father never wanted me to join this. So I decided to transition it into a more legitimate enterprise. “Besides, there’s more money in ‘legal crimes’ like property development than ‘illegal crimes’ like extortion and murder.” “So what did Hazra want with you?” “He wanted us to keep an eye on her.” “An eye?” “He didn’t trust her. Thought she was selling out the company’s secrets to that Kabir Khurana.” “And did she?” “I can’t reveal the details of a confidential inquiry, Mr. Ganesh—it’s not like I work for a newspaper. We have standards.” Iqbal laughed at his own joke. He continued: “But she was spending an awful amount of time with him.” “So Hazra didn’t order her dead?” “Between you and me, he’s too meek for that. He just wanted surveillance. We did the job, gave him the results.” “Why did he come back to see you?” “After her death, he was spooked. He didn’t want any link to us. Of course, he didn’t count on you seeing him leave our offices.” “Why are you telling me all this?” “As I said, we’re trying to go legit. The more you look into our activities, the more it spooks potential clients. They want discretion—not the object of gutter press coverage.” Jay couldn’t help but admit the logic to that reasoning. “What now?” he said.


“Well, you leave. And don’t tell anyone about what you heard. We found you once,” he said, gesturing to his men. Iqbal knew he didn’t have to complete the sentence. “You’ll find your car waiting for you.”

Inspector Vijay Gaikwad did not much believe in coincidences. At the start of this investigation, he would not have thought to tie together the burglaries with Barton’s murder. But the arrest of the two men had changed his mind. The men had without prompting confessed to disposing off the body in Mahim, but they were insistent they hadn’t killed her. His instinct told him they were telling the truth. He had to admit, though, that the case against them was strong. After all, who would believe their innocence when they had already confessed to a string of crimes and to the fact that one of them had been inside the dead woman’s apartment and was stupid enough to leave his fingerprints all over the crime scene? But the suspect had claimed that he had tripped and fallen over the body—one of the most absurd excuses he had ever heard from a criminal—and had feared that his fingerprints were all over the scene. Clumsy, true. But plausible? He had spoken to his boss, DCP Adnan Khan, about the investigation and his belief that they should proceed with the inquiry into the American woman’s killing. Khan was not happy. He was a result-oriented man, and each day they were without a result meant that he had to deflect the media’s queries about the case and had to assure the Western press that India was, in fact, safe for business. But Khan, despite his temptations to declare the case closed, decided to give Gaikwad another week.

“If by that time you don’t have anything,” he said, “we have to charge those two idiots.” Gaikwad did not like what he heard, but he realized Khan had few choices. Trouble was Gaikwad had fewer. Why was the man in the video, Pankaj Taneja, there in the first place? Taneja had told him it was for Liz Barton’s laptop, possibly her cell phone and other electronics. But those items, unlike the ones found from the other burglaries in a subsequent search of Taneja’s flat, had not been recovered. Where did they go?


Gaikwad went over the notes from the interview with Taneja and Dinesh. All the men had spoken of was the effort to get the body in the bag out of the building. No mention of a laptop or any other electronics. He walked over to the holding cell and peered inside. Taneja was sitting on the cold, hard ground with his head buried between his raised knees. He looked up when he heard the cell door open. “What did you do with the laptop?” “What laptop?” “Barton’s laptop.” “What about it?” “We couldn’t find it when we raided your place.” “You think I waited to complete the job? All I could think about was getting out of there.” “So you left it there?” “I didn’t even see it.” “So it should still be there?” “As far as I know. Why?” But he got no reply. Gaikwad returned to his desk and dialed Barton’s number. John answered. “Hello?” “It’s Inspector Gaikwad.” “What do you want?” His tone was hostile. “Do you still have the laptop?” “What?” “Your wife’s laptop. Do you still have it?” “Yes. I believe it’s still here.” “We need it.” “Why?” “Part of our investigation.” There was no reply.


“Sir, we’re in the midst of a murder investigation and your own cooperation in this case has left much to be desired,” he said. “If you insist, I can get a warrant for it, but it would save us both time and a good deal of grief if I can come over and take the laptop now.” “All right,” he said with resignation. “Send your man.”

Getting the laptop was one thing, getting past the password screen was another—John Barton didn’t know it. By the time a constable had gone to retrieve the machine and returned, most of the whizzes in the cybercrimes office had gone home. Gaikwad thought he could wait until the next morning, but he could sense that the answers he sought lay just beyond the screen. As if hoping for a miracle, Gaikwad tried the most obvious passwords he could think of: He tried Liz’s name, her husband’s name, the name of her company. He tried these and others in various combinations of upper- and lowercase letters. It seemed to go on forever, and each time the machine told him he had supplied the wrong answer. He could call in one of the tech whizzes, he thought, but that would involve overtime, which they had been asked to limit except in the case of dire emergencies. Gaikwad was on the verge of giving up. There was always tomorrow, he thought. The phone rang. “Hello?” “Dad, I need a ride home.” It was his son. Gaikwad wanted to tell him to take the bus the way he did when he was a boy. “Where are you?” The boy told him. It was only ten minutes away. “I have a couple of things to finish off. Come here and we’ll leave together.” “Thanks!” He hung up. He went over the case in the file once more. He was risking everything on a laptop that may or may not yield anything. Still, it was further than he had been in the case, and Gaikwad felt hopeful. He was lost in the files, reviewing the post-mortem report for what seemed like an eternity. 156

“Hey, Dad.” He looked up and couldn’t help but smile. The boy walked in with the casual confidence of the young, without a care in the world. He was dressed in cricketing whites, turned brown from the practice, and carried a bag that weighed almost as much as he did, stuffed with his kit. When had he grown so much? Gaikwad wondered. It was only yesterday he was teaching the boy to ride a bike. If he were aware that his father was perpetually worried about his future, he was either oblivious of it or he didn’t show it. “Ready to go?” he asked. “Give me a couple of minutes.” “Interesting case?” The boy was peering at the open files on the table and fingered his way through the papers. “That’s work stuff,” Gaikwad said sharply. “Have some respect.” Gaikwad never discussed the details of his cases with his children, lest they think the profession was glamorous. It was at the end of the day more thankless than anything. He didn’t want either of them to be seized by some misplaced sense of adventure and join the force, too. “New computer?” his son asked, oblivious to the rebuke and making his way straight to Barton’s computer, still on the table, and admiring it. “No. It’s part of a case,” Gaikwad replied. “And it’s locked.” “You need to get in?” “Yes. But the IT guys don’t come in until tomorrow.” “I can do it for you now if you like.” Gaikwad could have hugged him. “How?” “It’s easy. Look.” The boy powered the machine off and restarted it. As it booted up, he pressed a key that took him to the administrator’s screen. Gaikwad didn’t know what the boy was doing, but he was mesmerized. The boy’s hands glided over the keyboard. He looked only at the screen.


Within minutes, the machine started up again and prompted him for a password. The boy typed it in: Voila! The boy moved aside. “If you need to shut it down again, the password is ‘Gaikwad,’” he said, reaching for the cell phone in his pocket that had just pinged. Gaikwad felt an immense shot of pride shoot through him. He wanted to ask him how he did it, he wanted to ask him where he learned it from, but the boy was already checking his phone for messages and texting back to someone else holding up a cell phone in another part of the city, or perhaps country. Gaikwad moved up to the machine and looked at the folders. His eyes immediately fell upon one that labeled Personal. He clicked on it. He went through the documents slowly. At first it didn’t make sense. But then things began to fall into place. He grabbed his phone and called DCP Khan. “Khan here.” “Sir, Gaikwad here.” “Yes. Yes. Any progress?” “Sir,” Gaikwad said carefully. “You need to see this.” “What is it?” “I think I have a suspect, but I’m not comfortable talking about it on the phone.” “Very well,” Khan said. “Come over.”


Chapter 17

Gaikwad stood with Khan, watching Khurana arrive home. He half expected him to be immersed in his laptop or talking on the phone, as most people seemed to be nowadays, but the billionaire seemed quietly contemplative. The car pulled up to the front of his apartment building. In his impatience, Khurana opened the door before either the driver or watchman could get to it. The driver saluted as he walked past him to the elevator. Khan and Gaikwad had agreed they would give him a few minutes to settle down at home before they visited him. A minute or so later, Khan looked at Gaikwad. “Let’s go,” he said. Gaikwad and two constables followed him to the building. They made their way up and rang the doorbell. Khurana answered, holding a drink. The policemen stood outside, shuffling uncomfortably. Gaikwad could see he recognized him. “DCP Khan,” Khurana said, ignoring the inspector. “To what do I owe this pleasure? More money for the police fund?” But Khan did not smile, and neither did Gaikwad. “Can we come in, sir?” the DCP asked. “Of course.” The men followed him in and closed the door. “To what do I owe this pleasure?” Khurana repeated, still using the tone he reserved for those people with whom he played golf. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to come with us, sir.” “Why?”


“We’d like to ask you some questions about the murder of Liz Barton.” Khurana thought it about for a second, drained his glass, and smiled. “Of course,” he said. “But I’d like my lawyer present.”

Gaikwad made sure that he did a thorough job. He didn’t want to mess this up, and not just because Khan was watching. “Would you like to wait for your lawyer to get here, sir?” “That’s all right,” Khurana replied. “We can start.” “Sir, do you know why you’re here?” “Yes. But you have the wrong man. I didn’t kill her.” “Sir, we have recovered evidence from her computer that shows she was taking confidential information about your business and passing it on to her superiors.” Khurana looked defeated. “Yes, I know,” he said. “I know what she was doing.” “So you killed her?” DCP Khan interjected. “I told you. I didn’t kill her.” His manner was firm. Gaikwad knew he wasn’t going to change his story. But the evidence he had recovered had been foolproof. Liz Barton had befriended Kabir Khurana and had been taking information on his business ventures and sending them on to her superiors in London. For a man known to be professionally ruthless, it was a massive betrayal—certainly it gave Gaikwad a motive for murder and that’s all they’d have to persuade the judge of. “Sir, we have seen the information,” Gaikwad continued. “Yes, yes, I know,” Khurana said. “But it was the wrong information.” “What?” “Inspector, I don’t make friends. And I made a mistake making this one. I was emotionally drawn to her. But then I discovered that she was stealing information. We were at a restaurant and I had my iPad 160

with me. I’d been working on a presentation. I got up to go to the restroom and while coming back saw her fiddle with the iPad. She put it away in a hurry, and I didn’t let on that I noticed it. I began feeding her wrong information—fake files left carelessly at her place—just to see what she would do with them. When Mohini began to make irrational business decisions based on the information I’d left lying around, I knew she was betraying me.” “So you killed her?’ “No. I live every day with the knowledge of my past deeds.” “Are you referring to the prostitute?” When Jay had told him about it the last time they’d met, Gaikwad had dismissed that piece of information. Now it seemed pivotal. “Yes,” he said quietly, not making eye contact. “I don’t expect to be forgiven, inspector. I live with that violent act every day. I didn’t want to add another one to that list. I confronted her.” “What did she say?” “At first she denied it, of course. But then she laughed at me, calling me a fool and when I told her that I’d been feeding her false information, she became irate.” “Did you struggle?” “No. I tell you. No. I left. The next thing I know, I saw on TV that her body had been recovered in Mahim.” Gaikwad looked at Khan. The DCP’s expression was inscrutable. His phone rang. It was Jay Ganesh. “All right,” Khan said. “Let’s take a few minutes until your lawyer joins us, Mr. Khurana.” Gaikwad walked out to take the call. “What is it?” he said. “Inspector, it’s Ganesh.” “I’m busy, can you call back?” “It’s important. I know who killed Liz Barton.”

Earlier that day, Jay had called Patil, the police archivist and his source at the department. 161

“Haan, Jai bhai. How are you?” Patil had said. “With your blessings, Patil bhai, everything is good.” “So tell me, how can I help you?” “Has the department recovered the stolen goods from the burglaries?” “No, bhai. Most of it has been sold. It will take a while. But we found a long list of targets, where they lived, who their neighbors were. An Excel spreadsheet, in fact. Can you believe it? Even India’s bloody thieves are high-tech.” Patil almost sounded proud. “Can I see the list?” “Jay bhai, you’re going to get me into so much trouble.” “Have I ever burned you?” “OK. Come fast. I’ll hold it for you.”

Jay should have asked him to e-mail it, but despite stories about the country’s IT prowess, the overwhelming majority of people were techno illiterate. He rushed out to Patil’s office. “Going somewhere?” It was Janet. “To get some records.” “Don’t tell me you’re going to drive,” she said. “You’re always bloody late. Let me take you.” Jay wasn’t going to say no. They quickly got into her car and headed there. “Listen, I’m sorry about . . .” he said. “Forget it,” she said. “We were working on a story. I know the story comes first.” “It’s not that.” “Shut up,” she said, smiling. “Don’t apologize. When this story is wrapped up, you can take me out.” “It’s a date,” he said.

An hour later, they were back at the newsroom with a long list of printed names. Jay cross-checked the


names on the list with those of the victims. The list had names of the victims and their neighbors. It included details like who left at what time, when they returned, how many people in a household; a highly organized spreadsheet put together by a highly organized thief. Jay then came to Liz Barton’s name. He scanned the information around it. That’s when he saw what he never expected to see. He immediately took it to Janet. “Look at this,” he said. She did, looking at it and registering the name on the list. “Wow.” “I’m going to call Gaikwad.”

Janet and Jay arrived at Liz Barton’s building just in time to watch Gaikwad pull up in the police jeep. “You sure about this, right?” Gaikwad asked him. “It’s on the list, inspector,” Jay said. “Take a look.” Gaikwad looked at the list, but didn’t seem placated. “Yes, but I had spoken to him. I know how he makes his money. Why wouldn’t he just tell me?” he said. “Why would he?” Jay asked. “You’re investigating a murder, not public integrity. This raises a huge red flag.” Gaikwad was not convinced. “I don’t disagree that he could have done it, but hunches aren’t enough,” he said. “Inspector,” Janet said. “We’ve looked at the records. She wasn’t here that day. She was in Delhi. There was no reason for him to be here.” “OK. It could be a coincidence, but I’m going by what you say only because—actually I don’t know why I’m going by what you say. But let’s do it.” The watchman smiled at the inspector and let him through. Gaikwad smiled back. Jay and Janet followed him into the elevator. 163

“Eleven?” the liftman asked. “Yes. Eleven,” Gaikwad replied. No one spoke as the elevator climbed up slowly and then came to a stop. They got out and walked through the hallway. They rang the bell on the door. They could hear footsteps on the other side. The door opened. “Yes?” It was Arundhati Hingorani, the human rights lawyer and companion to Gaja Kohli. “Oh, inspector, it’s you. What do you want?” “Is Mr. Kohli here?” “What is this regarding?” “Madam, please let him know we’re here. I have a warrant for his arrest.” She didn’t have to go. Kohli emerged. “Gaja Kohli, I arrest you for the murder of Liz Baar-Tone,” Gaikwad said. “Wait a minute here,” Hingorani protested. “Where’s the warrant? What’s your evidence?” “The evidence will be presented in good time, madam. As for the warrant, here it is.” Hingorani perused the warrant while Kohli read it over her shoulder. “This is from Judge Das. I’m going to appeal it. That man is a warrant machine. Even on the flimsiest of evidence, he will issue a warrant.” Gaikwad knew she was right. It was precisely why he’d approached Das for a warrant. He also knew that if Jay was right, the warrant was justified. “That is up to you, madam, but we have a valid warrant for his arrest.” “Then what is he doing here?” she said, pointing at Jay. “I found the evidence,” Jay replied. “And what is your evidence?” Kohli asked, a look of amusement on his face. “That Arundhati lives here and I sometimes come here?” “On the face of it, that’s no evidence, you’re right,” Jay said. “But you were seen by Liz Barton’s driver on the night she died.”


“What does that say?” Kohli asked. “I was coming to see Arundhati.” “But that’s just it, sir,” Gaikwad chimed in. “The last time I asked you about it, you said you were with Mrs. Baar-Tone. Now you say you were with this lady. Which is it?” “I was here. Now that I think about it, I was with Arundhati.” “But sir, Ms. Hingorani wasn’t here that day. She was in Delhi for a human rights conference,” Jay said. “We’ve seen the video footage. My newspaper even carried a front-page story on the conference.” “And when we originally interviewed the both of you, Ms. Hingorani said you were together the whole week. When we checked, it turned out she was in Delhi. So why were you here, sir?” Gaikwad asked. “He doesn’t need my permission to come here,” Hingorani said. “What’s mine is his.” But both Jay and Gaikwad could hear doubt creep into her voice. “It’s OK, darling,” Kohli said. “I did it.”

Activist Arrested In Barton Killing

By Jay Ganesh

MUMBAI—Noted environmental activist Gaja Kohli was arrested yesterday in connection with the killing of Mohini CEO Liz Barton, shocking the city’s elite and possibly bringing an end to a much-scrutinized investigation. Kohli’s arrest came after information provided by this newspaper. Material seized in a raid on the homes of two men arrested in connection with a series of burglaries revealed Barton’s home was a target of the break-ins. A police source says the burglar tripped on Barton’s body, panicked and stuffed it into his large red Louis Vuitton suitcase, which was later found dumped in Mahim. The material seized also included a list of names of burglary victims, their neighbors, and


their comings and goings. Reporters for this newspaper found Gaja Kohli’s partner, Arundhati Hingorani’s name on this list. Police sources say Kohli’s initial conversation about his access to Barton’s building was a lie. Upon further investigation, his alibi was also a lie, police said. Kohli has admitted to receiving bribes from various companies in order to finance his lifestyle, police said. Barton, upon overhearing him discuss illicit cash payments on the phone in the building’s hallway, threatened to leak his corruption to the media, police say. In the argument that followed, Kohli repeatedly struck and eventually killed the American CEO, police say. Barton was found dead in Mahim last week, a day after she returned from Singapore. The two men arrested earlier in connection with the case are being charged in a separate case of burglary. The charges against Kohli tarnish the reputation of one of the country’s most respected environmentalists. Please turn to Page 3 for more.

Related coverage on Page 4.

Jay woke up with a terrible hangover. He had trouble lifting his head off the pillow. Perhaps, he thought, those last few drinks hadn’t been a good idea. He could no longer knock them back like he used to. But the good feeling from last night still lingered. The mood had been celebratory. His reporting on the Barton killing and the story of his role in the discovery of who killed her had secured him more than his fair share of attention. There had been media interviews and calls and e-mails from former colleagues whom he had lost touch with long ago. They all came out of the woodwork. After all, he thought, everyone wants a piece of the winner. It was nice feeling—to be wanted. He looked at Janet next to him, her eyes closed, peaceful. He sighed with contentment and went back to sleep.


A few miles away, Inspector Vijay Gaikwad was waking up. He groped for the alarm that was making an infernal racket and hoped he could will the impending day away. “Get up,” Lata said. “Sometimes you’re worse than the kids.” Gaikwad reluctantly opened his eyes and looked out the window. The sun was already up. Lata was looking down at him, smiling. “Chai?” He nodded, smiled at her, and reached out his hand. She took it; he pulled her down onto him. “Now—this is a good morning,” he said. “The kids . . .” “They won’t wake up until you yell at them.” “It’s tempting,” she said, still in two minds. But Gaikwad was already kissing her. “We’ll be late for work.” “One day is fine.” She gave in, closed her eyes, and yielded to him. The phone rang. “Damn.” “Must you get it?” “I have to. It’s the cell—I sometimes hate this job,” he said as he reached for the phone. “Gaikwad here.” “Sir, there’s been a murder.” Gaikwad listened silently as the details came one by one. “I’ll leave right away,” he said. He looked guiltily at Lata. “Sorry.” “I am used to it,” she said. “I married a policeman after all.” “I promise I’ll make it up to you.” “I’ll hold you to it.” He looked outside the window. Once again, it had begun to rain.



Although the process of writing is solitary, there are many who’ve made the process easier over the years: my parents, who inculcated in me a love for reading; my older sister, a tough act to follow; my brother for his friendship; my agent, Josh Getzler, for incisive comments; and my editors Stephanie Kelly and Ben Sevier at Dutton Guilt Edged Mysteries. Lastly, this book wouldn’t have been written, let alone completed, without my wife. She poked, prodded, and cajoled me, honest in her critique but always steadfast in her support. I dedicate this book to her.





Krishnadev Calamur is an editor at NPR in Washington, D.C. He was born in New Delhi and brought up in Mumbai, where he began his journalistic career. He has also lived in London and Missouri. This is his first published work of fiction. Calamur lives in Arlington, Virginia, with his wife and their dog.