Cursed to Death (Part 2)

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By Rida Kamdar

Chaudhry and Siddique Chronicles

The story until now:
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.
The story continues:
The next two days yielded much better results as someone came to the office claiming to know the victim. He was Mr. Rafiq Surjani’s friend which was the victim’s name as we found out. Mr. Farooq Falak was out of the country which is why it took him so long to come forward with any details. He didn’t know our victim very closely but he did know that Rafiq worked as a call attendant at for a small domestic company. He had no kids and no immediate family except a brother who lived two towns over. Furthermore, he was a peaceful man with no enemies except a budding cold war with his brother that extended a decade. According to Mr. Falak, The rivalry had remained stagnant for a long while but it was quite possible that it might have flared up.
The reasoning was sound which is why we decided to make a trip outside Karachi to meet Mr. Rafiq’s brother Mr. Sohail Surjani who lived in a small apartment with a son and wife. As this was a long trip, Siddique refused to travel in my car claiming that the toxic fumes from the leftovers in my car might just kill him during the journey and he did not plan to die in such a humiliating way. So we found ourselves on the highway in Siddique’s freakishly clean car. No seriously I think he took a toothbrush to his car mats because there was no dirt anywhere whatsoever.
We got to Mr. Sohail’s residence after a four-hour drive in apparently a prison as Siddique did not allow any snacks, drinks or even water in his car. I was, to say the least, a little cranky when we finally arrived. We knocked on the door and were met by a harried man with a small moving ball under his arm. On closer look we realized that the ball was actually his toddler son who was trying to wriggle out of his grip while make strange screeching sounds.
We took a step back from that squalling creature and fearfully looked at its attendant and asked,
“Is he safe?”
Mr. Sohail laughed, “Let me guess, you both are unmarried?”
“Yep, although I do see Siddique in the claws of domestic life very soon. His mother is on the prowl for a victim these days,” I cheerfully replied. Siddique scowled at me and very officially introduced us causing a frown on Mr. Sohail’s face which is the reaction we usually get.
“Come on in the drawing room and will you guys please wait while I give Saleem to his mother.” Turned out Saleem was the name of the bawling creature. We whole-heartedly agreed and sat down.
“Would you like something to drink or eat maybe?” Mr. Sohail asked us.
“Oh no need for th….” Siddique started to say before I kicked him in the shin and said, “Whatever you have available will be just fine.” No way was he starving me in the car and here when this nice man was offering himself.
“Of course,” Mr. Sohail smiled at us and went to get the refreshments. While he was gone Siddique pointed out how inappropriate my behavior was as a detective and I pointed out his freakish love for his leather car seats and my growling stomach. We stopped when Mr. Sohail came back with a tray of tea and God bless him, samosas. Siddique gave me a dirty look and then turned his attention to Mr. Sohail.
“Mr. Sohail I am sorry to inform you that your brother was found murdered three days ago,” Siddique informed him. “Which is also the reason we came today. We would like to know your whereabouts on Tuesday from 11 to 11:30.”
“My brother is dead? And wait… you think I did it?” Mr. Sohail exclaimed. “Why would I kill my own brother?”
“Yhdou rivflary….” I said between bites.
“What?” Mr.Sohail looked mystified.
“Chaudhry why don’t you swallow that samosa and then talk?” Siddique glared at me. I swallowed and said, “Sorry. What I was saying was that Mr. Falak told us about your rivalry with your brother. We reckon that maybe it got heated one day and you snapped and killed him?”
“Rivalry? And Mr. Falak? Who is he? My brother and I had no rivalry. We just didn’t talk due to the occupation he had chosen for himself. I disagreed with it and he refused to change it. So we stopped talking,” Mr. Sohail explained.
“You disagreed with him being a call attendant?” I said incredulously. “I mean okay maybe you wanted him to be a doctor or something greater but isn’t that a bit harsh?”
“A call attendant? Who told you Rafiq was a call attendant? He was a thief plain and simple. He dragged my father’s name through the mud and put it on fire while he was at it.” Mr. Sohail shook with anger as he practically threw these words at us.
“Mr. Falak, his friend who identified the body and who told us about you, he told us that Rafiq was a call attendant. You say you don’t know him?” Siddique asked.
“I don’t know anyone by that name to be around my brother and mind you that was a small circle but maybe this is a new friend. I wouldn’t know as I haven’t been in touch with him for over a decade but whoever this man was he lied to you. Stealing was an addiction for Rafiq and he would have told me if he had changed,” Mr. Sohail said wearily as if he had lost all his energy. “And now that same profession has taken him to his grave, trust me.”
At loss for words to say I went with the official line and said, “Thank you for your cooperation, Sir, and we are very sorry for your loss.” We both made our way out of the apartment and made the four-hour journey back to the office. There was nothing else we could do at that very moment so we left for home to get rest for later.
***
“Shhh, you are louder than an elephant.” Siddique shushed me and I shushed back. There was a small shushing war before we both saw movement ahead and trained our cameras at it. We took pictures as a man got out of a black car with a small crate and walked into a warehouse and returned empty handed. He got back in the car and drove off. We got up and finally made our way home for blessed sleep. I might have made that comment out loud at which Siddique snorted and then commenced making fun of me. He may laugh now but wait till those eye-bags start showing.
***
Next day, we found ourselves at a dead end when we tried to look for Mr. Farooq Falak. Apparently no one existed by that name. He had disappeared from the scene like dirt in Siddique’s car. We were sitting in the office playing catch with a tennis ball pondering this new development out loud in hopes that we might make sense of this when Shehzad, from Major Crimes Division, stuck his head in and said,
“You blokes are playing catch on the tax payers’ money. Have you no shame at all? Don’t you have a big homicide case to solve or something?” He rubbed our failure in.
“Don’t gloat Shehzad, it could easily be you bouncing a ball off a wall next time,” I told him. “What are you so happy about anyways?”
“Just got movement on one of my coldest cases. Can you believe that guys I mean my dad and I thought the Aryan artifact was lost forever? I just got chatter in the thief crowd, they are talking about it resurfacing again. I might actually get to catch the two idiots who stole it and make my Dad proud,” Shehzad gushed.
“Yeah the Aryan Artifact Case, I remember, it was your dad’s case wasn’t it in the late 80’s? Two thieves took it out of the archeological site robbing the archeologist years’ worth of his research and sold it on the black market?” Siddique reminisced.
“Yeah but that’s not what made the case so interesting. The interesting part is that artifact is cursed; no one can own it more than a month which is why we were never able to trace it back to its seller. Any buyer documented or otherwise found the artifact gone after a month or so only to resurface again somewhere else and so on, my dad’s whole career is based on this artifact,” Shehzad informed us.
“Well good luck catching those thieves,” I told him “and get out of our office, your cheerfulness is grating on us. Shoo.”
We shooed the overly giddy man out of our office. I threw the tennis ball at Siddique who was lost in thought and the ball bounced off his head.
“Hey Einstien, wake up and pick up that ball. What are you thinking anyway….wait you don’t think that….” I broke off as Siddique nodded.
”You have got to be kidding me. Shehzad is going to kill us,” I implored.
“It is what it is Chaudhry,” Siddique shrugged. “We have got to come up with a plan and fast before the opportunity expires.”
So we abandoned our ball and got to work.

(...to be continued)