With no clear motive and inconsistent confessions from the three suspects, the police must go deeper into their past, and what they discover is both horrifying and baffling. Who murdered Anant, and more importantly, why? By the author of The Girl Who Knew Too Much, here’s another bone-chilling thriller.
Sanya wakes up with a start and sits upright on her bed, almost motionless for a few minutes. Her neck feels stiff, and she gently caresses it with her right hand. She looks outside the bedroom window to her left. The morning is crisp and bright. The first rays of sunlight light up the room. Tiny motes of dust dance it as it slants through the window on to the carpeted floor across from the bed.
She closes her eyes, inhales deeply and begins concentrating on her breath. She meditates for the next fifteen minutes, oblivious to her surroundings—a morning routine that she has religiously followed for as long as she can remember. When she is done, she gets off the bed and walks over to the dresser.
She sits down on a chair and looks at her reflection in the mirror. A tired face looks back at her. At thirty, she should be looking younger, she thinks. Her hair has already started greying, albeit just a few strands on the left side of her head. She notices a few pimples dotting her cheeks and runs a lazy hand over them. She leans forward and examines the dark circles under her eyes, not inordinately concerned. She hasn’t been sleeping well over the past few weeks.
She had turned thirty last month and, on her insistence, her husband had thrown a lavish party at their sprawling bungalow in Golf Links, Gurgaon. Her rich and famous husband is a real scrooge and hates parting with his money.
A smile escapes her at the memory of the silly argument she had had with him. It had taken her weeks to convince him that it was okay to spend money on special occasions. She turns her head to the left and lifts her hair to expose the scalp. The round Band-Aid doesn’t quite cover the entire wound on her brow and a small patch of skin, with dried blood on it, has escaped its confines. She runs a soft hand over it and gently presses it. She winces in pain and leaves it alone.
She puts on her glasses and rises, her eyes still on the mirror. She is tall, just a few inches shy of six feet. She looks piercingly into her own eyes for a minute or two, before heading to the bathroom.
After her morning rituals, she steps out of her bedroom and heads downstairs to the kitchen. Their helper, Sharda, greets her with an affable smile.
‘Hello, Sanya madam.’
‘How are you, Sharda? All good?’
Sharda nods. ‘I’ll get you some tea. Breakfast is almost ready, just a few more minutes.’
Sharda then gazes at her forehead and, in a flash, her face puckers in a frown. ‘What happened, madam?’ she points at the Band-Aid.
Sanya hisses sharply through her teeth. Sharda is looking intently at her. ‘I . . . I fell from . . .’ she stops.
‘I think you already know, Sharda.’
Sharda looks at her pityingly, ‘Oh, madam, he hit you again, didn’t he?’ Then adds after a pause, ‘Was it after dinner when he was, er . . . scolding you?’
‘Yes,’ Sanya says. ‘When we went upstairs to our room.’
‘But why do you let him, madam?’
Sanya doesn’t reply. Sharda is looking at her expectantly waiting for an answer. When her gaze doesn’t drop, Sanya says helplessly, ‘You wouldn’t understand, Sharda. It’s not that easy.’
Sharda wants to add a rebuttal, but her eyes fall on the gas stove, and she hurriedly turns off the flame. Some tea boils over from the saucepan. She mops up the mess and pours the tea into two cups. The toaster behind her produces a loud ding and she extracts the bread slices and places them on a plate. She retrieves the butter from the refrigerator.
‘Okay madam, you take the tea. I’ll lay out breakfast on the table shortly.’ She looks up at the wall clock. ‘It’s not even seven. You’re up early today.’
Sanya yawns. ‘Yes, I couldn’t sleep well last night.’
Sharda nods slowly, obviously concerned, as she butters the toast. ‘Where is sir?’
‘I’m not sure,’ she replies, shaking her head. ‘Haven’t you seen him yet? He’s an early riser.’
‘No,’ Sharda replies. ‘I haven’t seen him since morning.’
‘Okay, he might be in his study in the basement then,’ Sanya says, ‘reading something.’ She rolls her eyes. ‘He just reads all the time. Sometimes I think he’s a book with two legs sticking out.’
Sharda lets out a hearty laugh and Sanya chuckles, breaking the tension in the air.
‘Okay, let me go and call him.’
‘Sure, madam.’ Then as an afterthought, she adds, ‘Don’t let him do this to you. Men become stronger when they know their women need them.’
Sanya takes the stairs down to the left of the kitchen and calls out her husband’s name. Once. Twice. It doesn’t take long for her to cover the entire length of the basement. At the far end, she pushes the door to her husband’s study.