(This is a feeble translation of a story by popular Bengali writer Sardindu Bandopadhyay who created the character of Byomkesh Bakshi, a detective.)
Byomkesh was sitting on a chair with his feet up on the table. The newspaper was spread open over his lap. Both of us were at home; this is how we had spent the past four days with nothing to do. The thought that another day would pass off uneventfully, was depressing.
Byomkesh was engrossed in the newspaper and his feet were dancing vigorously as if they had a mind of their own. I was smoking away silently and both of us were quiet.
But how long can you remain quiet?
"Any news?" I asked breaking the silence.
Without lifting his eyes from the newspaper, Byomkesh said, "There is grave news. One notorious goon has completed his term and has been released from jail."
"Who is he?" I asked.
"His name is Ramanath Niyogi and he has been released from the Alipore jail. It is a ten-day old news and the newspaper has felt it appropriate to inform its readers today," Byomkesh replied. He threw aside the newspaper and shrugged his shoulders.
I realised that the lack of news had disappointed him. "Who is Ramanath Niyogi? I asked him.
Byomkesh began to pace the room listlessly. He stood by the window looking at the clouded skies before replying, "Mr Niyogi is not really an unknown person. A few years back, his name had appeared in the newspapers. But the memory of the common reader may not be that sharp to recall the events which occurred ten years ago."
"That is right, but you have not replied to my question. Who is he?"
"He is a thief ... but not a petty thief. He has high standards who sets his sights on bigger things and not on your pots and pans. He is intelligent and at the same time has tremendous courage. You do not find thieves like him nowadays."
"It is unfortunate for the country," I replied. "But why did his name appear in bold few years back?"
"That is because he was finally arrested and faced trial," Byomkesh said while drawing out a cigarette. "It all happened ten years ago, but I still remember the events as if they had occurred yesterday. I had just started my career as a private detective ...."
"Let me hear the entire story," I prodded him.
"There is not much of a story but the police had not been able to find the real thing."
"What is that real thing?"
"Okay, let me tell you from the beginning. During that period in time, there were a spate of jewellery thefts in Kolkata. One day there would be burglary at one jeweller's and the next day another jeweller would be the victim - such was the case. Within a matter of 15 days, burglars struck at five big shops and made away with lakhs worth of jewellery. The police began their investigations in right earnest."
"Then the jewel thieves struck at the home of Ramendra Singh - a very rich and religious person and scion of a royal family . He is a kind-hearted human being and people like him have become rare these days. It was a hobby with him to collect jewel stones and these were kept in a glass showcase and exhibited in a room on the upper floor of his house. The jewels were well guarded round-the-clock. Despite this, thieves struck at his home and they fled with a few valuable jewel stones after attacking two guards and renderring them unconscious."
"Among the valuables, the thieves had taken away a sapphire - a blue sapphire. It was Singh's favourite. He felt that the sapphire held his fate and he wore it on his finger always. But a few days back, the sapphire had come loose from the ring and so it was kept separately. Singh had wanted to repair the ring at the earliest but thieves took away the sapphire before he could do that."
"I do not know whether you have any knowledge of sapphire but blue sapphire have an occult value. It is said that people have become millionaires because of wearing sapphire while on the other hand it is also said that some people have been reduced to rags, again for the same reason - sapphires sometimes bring good luck and sometimes bad. The same sapphire which brought bad luck to somebody could prove beneficial for somebody else."
"Upon losing the gem, Singh was very depressed and he announced a reward of Rs 2,000 to anyone who could bring it back - whether the thief was caught or otherwise. Police tried their best and police inspector Nirmalbabu took up the case. Nirmalbabu has since retired. Ramanath Niyogi was arrested within a few days and the police recovered all the stolen goods, excepting the sapphire, from his home. Ramanath was sentenced to twelve years imprisonment but he never opened his mouth about the stone."
Just then we heard the sound of footsteps, someone was climbing up the stairs. "Someone is coming, could be a client," I said.
Byomkesh listened to the footsteps attentively and declared, "It is an old man .... he is wearing expensive shoes .... probably moves around in a car and, so, is rich ... walks with a little limp." Suddenly sounding rather agitated, Byomkesh said, "Ajit, just look out of the window and see whether there is a Rolls Royce outside. It is there! Good. It is a remarkable coincidence but our visitor is Ramendra Singh."
There was a knock at the door.
Byomkesh opened the door and welcomed a simple man, who was past 60 and who had a slight defect in the leg that caused him to limp. Although simple looking, there was a natural grace about him.
Singh looked at Byomkesh and smiled. "From your manner, it seems you were expecting me. Is that so?" he asked.
"Not exactly. But when the police could not make any progress in the matter of your secretary's death, I was hoping that you would approach me," Byomkesh replied.
"That is true. It has been five days now, but the police has not been able to make any progress. I thought you could help. I had developed a kind of affection for Haripada - besides his death was so gruesome ...," Singh paused for a while and continued, "He was, of course, not a saint. But you know it is a passion with me to bring people like him on the right path. Then, Haripada was very efficient and he had a feeling of gratitude towards me."
"Forgive me for interrupting, but I did not know that there was a blot in Haripada's character. Had he done anything wrong?"
"He had a long record of crime and had served several terms in the jail. The last time he was released ...."
"Please tell me from the beginning. I have read few things in the newspapers but if I get a first person account from you, it will clear up a lot of things," Byomkesh insisted.
"Fine. I will tell you everything. It was six months ago that Haripada was released from jail. He came to me the very next day he was released and told me about his life. He did not hold back anything .... Haripada told me that if I provided him with an opportunity to walk the straight path, he will never take to crime again. I felt pity for him. He was below 40 but had served four jail terms. The last sentence was quite long as he had been held guilty of serious offences like drawing money through forgery. I saw that he was repentant."
"Haripada told me that he had learnt typing and shorthand through his own efforts and if I could give him some employment he would not let me down."
"I employed him and he rented a small house nearby."
"Within a few days, I realised that Haripada is intelligent and devoted to his work. He became quite indispensable for me. I made him my secretary after Abinashbabu's death, my former secretary."
"Of course, the stigma of his past could not be erased. But it was certain that he had changed for the better. I think he had taken to crime owing to poverty and with poverty now removed, his criminal tendencies had vanished."
"Anyway, what happened last Tuesday is unimaginable. In the morning we learnt that Haripada had been murdered. I informed the police and, then, went to Haripada's house. Haripada was lying dead on the floor; there was blood all around. The murderer had slit his throat in a barbaric manner and what was most horrible was that the food pipe was pulled out and chopped to pieces. You have visited several murder scenes, but I am sure you might not have seen a more gruesome sight."
Singh paused at this point and shut his eyes. A shiver ran through his body when he recalled the scene.
"Were there injuries on any other part of the body?" Byomkesh asked.
"Yes, he was stabbed on the chest with a knife. The doctor has said the death resulted from this injury. The murderer had slit the throat later. Oh what cruelty! How can man turn into such a brute?"