For a while no one spoke. Singh was probably pondering upon the inhuman traits of humans and Byomkesh was engrossed in his own thoughts.
It was Singh who broke the silence finally. "I have told you everything I know and although the police is investigating, I wish you would also take up the case on my behalf. Do you have any objections?".
"Not at all. But tell me how long was Haripada in jail when he served his last sentence?"
"He was sentenced to fourteen years imprisonment but the term was curtailed to eleven years for good behavior."
"Wonderful! Can you tell me something more about Haripada? Did you notice any change in his behavior a few days before the murder?"
"Yes, I had noticed some change. One day, about four days before the murder, he had come to me in the morning and suddenly became very uneasy."
"Was there somebody else along with you at that time?"
"I was looking through a few applications for employment at that time and one of the applicant was present."
"Did Haripada become uneasy in the presence of that applicant?"
"There is one more thing," Singh said after a brief pause, "it is an ordinary thing, actually. Very ordinary. But let me tell you just in case it helps. A few years back, a sapphire - a blue sapphire - was stolen from my house. I do not know whether you are aware of it."
"You are aware? Well, then you probably also know that I had announced a reward of Rs 2,000 to anyone who could get it back for me."
"Yes, I know that. But does your offer still hold?"
"Haripada too had asked me the same question. It was a few days after I had engaged him that he asked me whether I was ready to pay Rs 2,000 to get back the sapphire. I was slightly taken aback by the question because I had abandoned all hopes of getting back the sapphire after so many years and, besides, the police had also given up."
What did you tell Haripada?"
"I told him that I will surely pay up if the sapphire was returned to me."
"If I ask you that question again, will you give the same reply?"
"Yes, of course," Singh replied.
"I can tell you who murdered Haripada but it is for the police to gather evidence against the murderer."
"Do you really know who murdered Haripada?" Singh was aghast.
"It is a mere suspicion at present, but I am sure the suspicion will prove to be true. The murderer is Ramanath Niyogi."
"Ramanath Niyogi! The name is familiar."
"The name has to be familiar. It was Ramanath Niyogi who had stolen your sapphire ten years ago and went to jail. He has been recently released."
"But why did he murder Haripada?"
"There are reasons which would become clear once we delve into the past," Byomkesh said. He asked Singh to come back in the evening and promised that he would have everything on the platter by then and Singh could even get back his sapphire.
After bidding goodbye to an astonished Singh, Byomkesh himself prepared to leave. "Where are you going at this hour?" I asked him.
"I have to go. I must look at a few old prison documents and have some other work as well. Can't say when I will be back," so saying he picked up the umbrella and stepped outside in the rain.
It was 3 pm when he returned. While removing his shoes, he asked Putiram to serve lunch. "I am feeling very hungry. We will witness a matinee show - the show will begin exactly at 4 pm."
I was amazed. "Hey, what show?"
"Don't worry - the show will be held right here in this room. Ajit, please arrange for a few more chairs for the audience."
"What have you been up to?" I asked him.
Byomkesh put a large helping of omlette into his mouth and chewing at it with great relish answered, "I have a friend in the jail department. I went to his office and sifted through a few old records which proved that my conjecture was right."
"What is your conjecture?"
Byomkesh did not pay heed to the question and continued, "From there, I visited Inspector Purnababu who is investigating the case. I had a lot of convincing to do to get my work done there."
"But what was that work?"
"First, I wanted to find out where Ramanath Niyogi lived and, secondly, to have him arrested and have his house searched. The address was easily obtained but the search did not yield the desired results. Of course, a knife was recovered from Ramanath's house and it has been sent to the forensic laboratory. But I have not been able to find the thing which I had hoped to find. The man has great skills in hiding things."
"What is that thing which you were hoping to find?"
"What are you going to do now?"
"Now, I will act a part. I will try to assault Ramanath's conscience and see whether that bears fruits - here, I think Singh has arrived. The other actors will be arriving shortly," Byomkesh said while looking at the clock.
"Who else is coming?"
"Ramanath and his guards."
I did not find time to ask any more questions because Singh entered just then.
Even as we offered a chair to Singh, there were sounds of more footsteps outside and Purnababu entered along with two sub-inspectors and Ramanath.
There was nothing remarkable about Ramanath's features. I think in order to be a skillful thief, one has to appear very ordinary. His hair was cropped short and he had very alert eyes. He was wearing a sporting coat that was held together by large leather buttons and rubber shoes - no one would have imagined that he was a dangerous criminal.
Pointing towards Ramanath, Byomkesh asked Singh whether he could recognize him.
"Yes. It is the same man who had come to me with an application."
Byomkesh asked Ramanath to sit on a chair besides the table and the latter did as he was told. The two sub-inspectors sat on either side.
"Now I will tell you a story - not an fictional one but a true story. I will try to place the entire facts before you but if there are some errors, Ramanath would be able to rectify them. Apart from Ramanath, there was another person who knew the story I am going to relate. But he is no longer alive."
Ramanath's face was expressionless. He did not utter a word and remained seated without lifting his head.
"I will begin my story from the time when Ramanath went to jail. He went to jail but did not surrender the sapphire. He took it along with him. I do not know how he did this and I did not attempt to find out. If Ramanath wishes, he could tell us."
For a brief second, Ramanath glanced at Byomkesh but immediately lowered his eyes.
Byomkesh continued, "Ramanath had stolen a lot of valuable jewellery from Singh's house but I cannot imagine why he chose to keep only the sapphire with him - probably, the sapphire had a hypnotising effect; it is very exquisite also - a deep blue sapphire with a blood red streak. Ramanath was tempted to take it along with him."
"Whatever it was, Ramanath was lodged in the Alipore jail. Few days later, the police learnt that the sapphire was in Ramanath's possession. Ramanath's cell was searched. There was another prisoner in the same cell and he too was searched. But the sapphire was not found. Where did the sapphire go?"