The morning was in its prime and the day was yet to gain its vigor. The young boy was playing hide and seek with his brother. They love to come to this part of the village. There are so many shady trees, shrubs, and old dilapidated buildings. The adjacent road beside the vast barren field leads to the city ahead and this gives them a chance to admire the look of the new model vehicles passing by. It had rained last night and the field was still muddy. The murky weather made their game even more interesting. He asked his brother to go and hide. The younger one left immediately. He went beneath the rubbles of the big old structure. As he was about to hide behind the humongous banyan tree, he felt something was tickling his bare feet. A very foul odor masked the smell of the rain-soaked mud. He looked under and seeing something he screamed. The elder one immediately rushed there and found a hand was coming out of the muddy soil. He was the braver of the two and while his brother closed his eyes and started crying in sheer fear, the elder one started digging the soft mud with a stick of wood he found nearby. It rained heavily last night and it was easy for him to unearth and find out if it was actually a hand or someone was playing a prank with them. After digging for a while, he was sure that something very unusual had happened there and he like his younger brother was gripped by the clasp of fear. Something very dangerous was before them. It was a body. A pale, body with no skin. Maggots have already started their feast and the smell was unbearable. Before he could scream, he puked. The younger one started running and the elder one too followed him.
They sprinted towards their village around a kilometer away and when they reached the pan shop at the outskirts of the village, they almost lost their ability to speak. Their eyes expressed they did not have a very pleasant outing in the fields. They were panting and breathing heavily. The stinking smell indicated that one of the boys had just puked. The worried shop owner gave them water and asked what had just happened. They could not even talk. The shop owner could smell something was wrong. Gradually the elder one briefed him what they had just encountered. His nephew was a village police attached to the local outpost. He dialed his number on his mobile and briefed him what he had just heard. At first, the nephew though he was kidding but when he heard that the hand of the corpse had just four fingers, he made a note of it and immediately informed his superior. Normal young boys of that age could not fabricate such ghastly things, his rational sense suggested him.
As the horrified boys were still struck by the fear of the gruesome sight, a van with armed police came to the pan shop. The senior-most cop asked the boys the direction of the place and they hurried to the spot. The little boys were right. There was a body buried in the ground. None of them has ever encountered such a horrible crime. The body was still decomposing signifying it has not been too many days since it was buried there. The oldest of the contingent dialed the SHO of the nearby police station and gave him a detailed account of the sight. It was a crime scene and anything done in a hurried manner will only tamper the pieces of evidence, his better sense had suggested him.
In an hour, the place was full of cops and forensic experts. The body was exhumed in presence of a magistrate and every minute details of the place was noted down by the senior police officials. The smell was unbearable but the sight of the corpse was even more appalling. The entire skin of the body had been peeled off. As if someone was dissecting human body and flesh in an anatomy class. And there was nothing but hollow depressions in place of the eyes. Someone had already taken off the eyes. And the middle finger of both the hands was missing. The forensic expert was aghast at the cruelty inflicted on the departed soul before her death. Yes, it was she, a lady. The prima facie appearance suggested that she was a young girl.
Soon the ACP rushed to the spot. It was ACP Vikrant’s first posting in the commissionerate. His training days or the brief stint as DSP had been quite enjoyable. He had read about cruel murders. But those were only in the books. He had never imagined that he would be dealing with some so soon in his career. He briefed his boss, the DCP. DCP Dixit instructed him to engage the sniffer dog and barricade the entire area. Every piece of evidence had to be preserved, he clearly instructed. The rain last night has already made their task difficult. Dixit also instructed him to engage more manpower and dig the entire area. Something was very, very serious, his experience was mumbling in his ears. It took almost a couple of hours for the police to bring the sniffer dog to the site. Local SHO had already engaged some menials in the task of digging the ground. As the work progressed and they kept on digging, to the dismay of everyone present there, it was clear that the young girl was not alone. Fragments of bone were soon being unearthed.
Gradually, as more manpower was engaged for the digging and evening was paving way for the night to arrive, few more skeletons were discovered. The work went on. None of the officers present have ever encountered such a crime scene. It looked like a battle had taken place there and the remnants of the martyred soldiers were just discovered. The Police Commissioner Lakhotia was already there. Outside the boundary created by the police by fluorescent tapes, there was an army of media personnel hounding for some glances of the works or some bytes from the police officers. The officers were tight-lipped. As the Commissioner came out of the scene half an hour later to breathe some fresh air, he took off his cap and made the official statement before the press- ‘We have so far discovered total twenty-one skeletons and we strongly believe there are many more underneath. As of now, I cannot give you any more information. Our work will go on and the forensic experts have already started working. Whenever any substantial update is available, you will get that from me. Thank you.’ As the lights were flashing, Lakhotia was still having the chilling sensation in his whole body. Each and every skeleton had the same feature. The middle fingers were missing. Only the forensic experts will corroborate whether the eyes and the skins had the same fate as that of the fresh corpse or not. He was shocked and needed a smoke to declutter his mind. The dark night has already set in.
To be continued… The next chapter will be uploaded on 27/06/2021
Read the chapter four of the novel here.