It was a strange murder. Both the killers were ‘hired killers’ — they were to be paid Rs. 3 lakhs each — and though it was their first ‘job’, they went about it in a very professional manner. After being given the photographs of the couple to be killed and their location, the killers undertook careful reconnoitering over an entire month to study the movements and timings of the couple who were to be eliminated. This enabled them to zero in on the most suitable spot and time to carry out the dastardly killings. Amongst other timings, the hired killers — both in their early twenties — noted that the couple, in their early forties, took a walk in a park just a few yards from their house in South Delhi between 5.30 and 6 o’ clock every morning. The best spot for the killing and an easy get-away seemed to be the south west corner of the park, just outside the park railing, where a ‘mochi’ (cobbler) plied his trade during the daytime under the shade of a tarpaulin. It was here that the killers began their wait on that fateful morning.
Along with a couple of residents, I noticed them too when I came out with the daily birdfeed and wondered why these two strangers were standing there aimlessly. On being asked, they said they were waiting for someone. We were uneasy, but since they seemed uninterested in any of the houses around or in anybody in particular we let it pass. As luck would have it, for some odd reason, the couple — Ashutosh and Saumya (not their real names) for whom the killers were waiting didn’t come for their morning walk that day. But the killers knew the couple walked down to get milk and bread from a grocery store at the roundabout at around 7 o’ clock, so they continued their wait. Two hours of standing around is a long time and several other residents questioned them and this time they elaborated that their mobike, which was parked besides them, had broken down, and they were waiting for a mechanic. As luck or destiny would have it again, instead of the targeted couple coming out to get milk and bread, it was their son who went to the grocer’s. But the killers didn’t give up.
“He loved life. Not only are the memories of his death most painful, his presence seems to be everywhere. It may be my imagination, but my son actually sees him.” wandering around often.”
They knew the couple drove out at around 10 o’ clock and slowed down at the corner where they had stationed themselves. This time, the wait paid off — partially at least. As the silver coloured car began moving down the lane, they pulled out their weapons. When the car slowed down, they saw it had only one occupant – the husband, Ashutosh – but they decided to go ahead anyway. It was the shorter killer who fired – I was less than two feet away, returning from the park with my dogs – and missed! The car accelerated, took a sharp left onto the main road and then for no apparent reason zoomed across the road and stopped. Barely three yards separated the car and the killers. “ Maar, maar, sar pe maar” ( “Shoot, shoot, shoot at the head”), I heard the taller killer shout and the shorter one ran across the road and shouted, “ Sheesha neeche kar, neeche kar” ( “Roll down the glass, roll down the glass” ).
We all heard a shot, and then, firing another in the air, the shorter killer ran to the mobike which the taller killer had already started and they sped away. Stunned and frightened, it was after a considerable length of stillness and silence that somebody finally ventured to the car and saw Ashutosh slumped over the wheel, blood gushing from a hole just behind his ear. He must have died on the spot. Even though his family was immediately informed and his teenaged son lost no time in rushing him to the nearest hospital, there was no chance. The doctors pronounced him dead. The killers were caught fairly quickly by the police and revealed some very shocking details, but that’s another story.
An emotionally devastated Saumya lived in the house where she and Ashutosh had spent so many happy years for a little over a year and a half and then could take it no longer. “He loved life. Not only are the memories of his death most painful, his presence seems to be everywhere. It may be my imagination, but my son actually sees him wandering around often. Whatever it is, we can’t live here any more, so we’re renting out this house” she said. The family which moved into Saumya’s home soon found that they weren’t alone. The first time they heard furniture being moved around in a room which they later discovered Ashutosh used as his computer room, they thought a burglar had broken in. But they soon connected a heavy presence in the house with the furniture being moved around often in the dead of night.
Unable to adjust to, or share their house with what was quite distinctly ‘another world’ presence, they left several months before their rent lease was to expire. Saumya is hoping someone else will take the house on rent soon, and so it seems is Ashutosh’s spirit. “Even when he was alive, he never liked to be alone,” the neighbours confided, “and now instead of being in an empty house, he spends part of the night up on our terrace garden, swinging on our iron swing — hearing the swing creaking in the middle of the night gives us the shivers.” I and others too have heard it, and it is, indeed, an eerie sound and eerier still to think of Ashutosh’s spirit whiling away the night on the swing.
At other times, neighbours on both sides of the house can hear furniture being moved at night. But it puzzled me why Ashutosh had chosen to stay on instead of accompanying Saumya and his son when they moved out. “Two things”, Saumya explained when I called her. “ He loved the house, and he probably also realised that I couldn’t reconcile to his spirit presence”. What now? Saumya says she has done everything possible to ensure release for Ashutosh’s soul. It is now the owners of the swing on their terrace who are desperately searching for a way out. “Dismantling the swing won’t help, because Ashutosh’s spirit may then leave the terrace garden and decide to move in with us, and that’s scarier than hearing the swing go creak, creak every night or every other night”.