Cursed to Death (Part 1)

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By Rida Kamdar

Chaudhry and Siddique Chronicles

“Wake up you sleeping beauty!!!”A voice screeched in my ears. ”You were supposed to be here an half an hour ago.”
I blearily looked at the telephone in my hand then looked at the alarm clock next to it. The clock blinked 3 a.m. in the morning so I looked at the telephone again. Had I made plans in the middle of the night and forgotten them? I sleepily pondered then tentatively put the telephone to my ear again only to be screamed at again by what I recognized now as my partner, not my partner in crime, the other way around he is my partner in catching criminals.
“Chaudhry I am standing in the middle of a crime scene trying to tell the boss you are stuck in traffic at 3 a.m. in the morning so you better be in your car on your way here or else there is going to be a crime scene at your place!” Siddique yelled, waking me up better than a cup of coffee.
I rolled out of my bed with the cordless attached to my ear and tried to get ready while Siddique filled me in about why he was calling at 3 a.m. in the morning.
“Got a call at 2.30 a.m. and mind you I woke up on the first ring unlike other people I would like to name, anyways two patrolman found a body at the south end of the Memorial Park and called it in. Chaudhry it’s bad! I am looking at it and in all my career I have yet to see something this gruesome. Whoever did this went all out trying to find out whatever it was they were looking for. Get here as fast as you can. Zohaib will fill you on on the rest of it.” Siddique disconnected as I raced through the empty streets towards the crime scene.
I got there to find Zohaib, the medical examiner, packing up. He had covered the body up with a black tarp.
“You are late Chaudhry,” Zohaib cited.
“Zohaib some of us like to sleep at night especially at 3 bloody a.m. in the morning so less with the critique and more with the information if you please.” The lack of sleep did not agree with me and I was feeling pretty snippy when Siddique came from behind and said,
“Oh yeah! You poor whining little prima donna, didn’t you get your beauty sleep?” proving that there was someone else feeling snippier than me.
“Okay! Okay! Siddique you gotta let it go. I am sorry I am late, now can we get on with the very serious homicide in front of us?” I admitted defeat.
“The body is male, Asian, 5’4 height, roughly 150 pounds around the age of 30 to 35, no distinguishing features, clothing suggests middle class and the cause of death seems to be electrocution based on the charring on his fingers and the unusual amount of rigor mortis around the area. The body also suggests signs of torture evident by the absence of all the nails and the loss of a pinky finger. Rigidity suggests he is been dead for at least 3 hours and I can tell you the rest after I take it to my lab so if you gents will excuse me I have to go.” Zohaib motioned to his crew who started transferring the body to the medvan.
“Three hours is a short time frame. The killer must have dumped him at about 11.30, given that the south side of the park doesn’t see much pedestrian traffic especially at 11.30. Even then the killer didn’t really try to effectively hide the body did he?” I reflected out loud as I watched the CSU (Crime Scene Unit) wrap up the crime scene.
“Yeah I got that too. It is like the killer wanted the body to be found like a message or something,” Siddique replied.
“What about the contents of his pockets? Find anything worth pursuing?” I inquired.
“No ID whatsoever, not a lot of cash either, some receipts, a coupon and wait... look at this, this guy has Shafeeq Anwar’s business card in his pocket! Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? What does a guy like our victim want with a guy like him?” Siddique said waving the white fancy vellum card at me.
“Isn’t Shafeeq Anwar like an oil tycoon or something?” I asked Siddique as we made our way to our cars.
“He is a Stock Exchange tycoon you nut! This is Pakistan there is no oil here to become a tycoon of.” Siddique shook his head at my stupidity while he opened his car. “Go on! I will meet you at the office and try to wake up a little so you don’t cite such stupidities in front of the captain. He’s already plenty angry.”
***
By morning and I mean this in the loosest terms as I was woken at 3 a.m., I had multiple cups of coffee and no leads to the killer except the business card. The victim seemed to have no immediate family as no one came to claim his body even after we released his picture to all the news outlets. Initial canvas of the crime scene area revealed no clues to the killer, not even a shoe print leading to or from the body. Whoever had done this was not an amateur and the patrolman who had found the body saw no one around the crime scene either. All in all this was a professional job which begged the question why leave the card on the body? Maybe he wanted to point us to Shafiq Anwar and this matched our earlier theory about a message but Siddique theorized that it could very well have been left because the killer saw or heard someone coming and did not have the chance to take it out.
Both theories held equal weight which made solving this even harder, along with the amount of paperwork and the lack of sleep. (Oh grow up Chaudhry! You can go nighty-night later,” Siddique apparently had had enough of my complaining).
Left no route to pursue, we made our way to Shafiq Anwar’s house… correction mansion. I drove while listening to the pleasant sound of Siddique critiquing the state of my car. Apparently greasy fast food wrappers are meant to be deposited in a dustbin and not under the car seat or in Siddique’s case on the passenger seat on which he had the bad luck of sitting on. In my defense, he should have looked before sitting and everyone doesn’t have OCD like Siddique. Some people like the odor of old fast food leftovers permeating their car (on a different note, I really do need to air this car out).

As we rang the bell of the sprawling, 2-acre mansion belonging to one Mr. Shafiq Anwar, a gorgeous Aston Martin drove up the driveway and parked behind my poor old Honda. We took a moment to salivate at the sight of the powerful result of British engineering before tucking our tongues back in our mouths and act like the official Homicide detective that our badges claimed us to be. The man who got off the car was none other than Mr. Shafiq Anwar.
“Assalamo alaikum, Sir! I am Zahirudeen Chaudry and this is Faheem Siddique from the homicide division of Karachi PD. Would you be so kind as to lend us a few moments of your time?” We both flashed our badges at him.
“Homicide you say? Was somebody murdered? Not someone from my family is it?” Mr. Shafiq put a hand on his chest.
“Oh no sir, no need for alarm. It wasn’t someone from your family but these are matters best discussed privately so if you don’t mind we would like to come in.” Siddique soothed him and shot me a glare as if to say “you wanna give this guy a heart attack before we even talk to him?”
“Of course, of course anything for our police department. Come in.” Mr. Shafiq ushered us into his house and in the drawing room.
We waited until Mr. Shafiq recovered from the virtual heart attack I had delivered and while his butler (yes they had a butler, an honest to God black suit, white gloves wearing butler) laid out refreshments on the table in front of us. I was starting to feel like royalty before Siddique suddenly wrecked that train and said,
“Please there is no need for this. We just want to ask some questions regarding a body we found on the south side of the Memorial Park. We found your card in his pockets. We just wanted to know if you can provide any information regarding this person.” Siddique laid out the victim’s picture on the drawing room table probably giving another mini heart attack to the guy.
“I am really sorry, detectives but I do not recognize this man at all.” Mr. Shafiq said.
“Are you sure sir? Please look at him again. Can you at all guess why he might have your card in his pocket?” I implored seeing our only lead fall apart.
“I would really like to help you detectives but I have no idea why he might have it. He could just have easily got it off me in an event and I wouldn’t remember meeting him amongst all the other business hopefuls I might have met that day,” Mr. Shafiq told us shaking his head.
“Thank you sir, we will remain in touch if anything else comes to light and please do not hesitate to contact us if you remember something,” Siddique said giving him our card as we made our way outside.
“Wasn’t he a little quick in denying any knowledge?” I asked Siddique.
“Yeah I thought so too. Let’s put a tail on him and see where that leads.” Siddique said as he got in the car and promptly got out again with one foot firmly planted in a box full of leftover coleslaw. I drove the rest of the way back to the office with Siddique swearing up and down that he will clean my car if it was the last thing he did. Well at least I can cross out cleaning the car off the to-do list as Siddique has agreed to take that job.
(to be cont.)