For a while, no one spoke. Singh was probably wondering about the animal behaviour of humans; Byomkesh was engrossed in his own thoughts.

It was Singh who broke the silence. "I have told you everything I know. Although the police are investigating, I wish you would also take up the case on my behalf. If such a heinous murderer is not apprehended, the society will be at great risk. Do you have any objections?".

"Not at all. But tell me how long was Haripada in jail when he served his last sentence?"

"I had heard from Haripada himself that 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 did notice some change. One morning, about four days before the murder, he was doing his work near me when he suddenly turned ill. It appeared to me as though he was very scared."

"Was there somebody else along with you at that time?"

"I was going through a few appeals for financial assistance at that time and one of the needy persons was present."

"Did Haripada become uneasy in the presence of that person?"


"There is one more thing," Singh said after a brief pause, "it is nothing of importance. But let me tell you just in case it helps. A few years ago, a sapphire - a blue sapphire - was stolen from my house. I do not know whether you are aware of it."

"I know."

"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 it back 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. I don't think it will be difficult for the police to find proof after searching his house."

"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 must be familiar to you. It was Ramanath Niyogi who stole your sapphire ten years ago and went to jail. He has been released recently."

"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 afternoon and promised he would have everything on the platter by then; Singh could even get back his sapphire.

After bidding goodbye to an astonished Singh, Byomkesh prepared to go out. "Where are you going at this hour?" I asked.

"I must go. I have to go through a few old prison documents; I have some other work as well. Can't say when I shall be back." So saying, he picked up the umbrella and stepped outside in the rain.

He returned around 3 p.m. "I am famished; haven't eaten anything," he said while removing his shoes, "I will take a quick bath. Putiram, quickly make arrangements for some food for me. Today, we shall see a matinee show - it will begin exactly at 4 p.m."

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." Byomkesh went to bathe.

"What have you been up to?" I asked him while he was eating after finishing his bath.

Byomkesh put a large helping of omelette 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 the work?"

"First, I wanted to find out where Ramanath Niyogi lived and, second, I wanted 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 you were hoping to find?"

"Singh's sapphire!"

"What are you going to do now?"

"Now, I will act a part in the show. I shall play upon Ramanath's superstitious fears and see whether that produces any result. 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."

"They are going to come here?"

"Yes, that's what I have arranged with the police."

I did not get a chance 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 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 he was a dangerous criminal.

Pointing towards Ramanath, Byomkesh asked Singh whether he could recognize him.

"Yes. It is the same man who had applied to me for help that day."

Byomkesh asked Ramanath to sit on a chair beside the table; the latter did as he was told. The two sub-inspectors sat on either side of him.

"Now I will tell you a story - not a 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, 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 hypnotizing effect; it is very exquisite also - a deep blue sapphire with a blood-red streak. Ramanath was tempted to take it along with him. Ramanath had most likely heard that the sapphire brought good luck; a man usually mistakes misfortune that follows him as a friend.

"Whatever the reason, Ramanath was lodged in the Alipore Jail. A 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?"


Some useful links for
your career:

  • Union Public Service Commission - www.upsc.gov.in
  • IIT-Kharagpur - www.iitkgp.ac.in
  • Indian Statistical Institute - www.isical.ac.in
  • Indian Institute of Technology Madras - www.iitm.ac.in
  • Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - www.iimahd.ernet.in
  • Indian Institute of Mass Commission - www.iimc.nic.in
  • IIT Bombay - www.iitb.ac.in
  • Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad - www.ismdhanbad.ac.in
  • Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi - www.bitmesra.ac.in
  • Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training - www.cifnet.nic.in
  • Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (Deemed University) - www.iiita.ac.in
  • Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi - www.cmfri.com
  • Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai - www.tiss.edu