Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Slow and Sure

"Madam, your brother and you shared a close bond?" the police inspector spoke with due respect.

Meena nodded, wiping tears from her red eyes. "Even after I married, he continued to live with me. He was like my son," she said, her voice breaking.

"He came into a lot of money, which he has bequeathed to you...?" he asked, his eyes keener.

She nodded. "Yes, he told me that. I had fallen in hard times a few years ago. A year or two later, he said he made money from some deal that had gone well. That is many years ago. Then, when his health started failing, he told me he had willed it all to me."

"And that was...when?"

"Oh, maybe five years ago..."

"By then your husband had passed away? You didn't move in with your brother?"

She shook her head. "I have fond memories of this place."

"Your brother's house was more comfortable..." the policeman lead her on.

She shook her head firmly. "I have too many things I am attached to here. I didn't care for his wealth."

"So what do you plan to do with what you have inherited?"

"Charity. I have something of my own that will see me through life."

The policeman looked at her sceptically, and yet, seeing her simple dignity, he could not suspect her for long. He got up finally, inclining his head respectfully, and left. No motive here. The neighbours vouched for the close relationship the siblings shared. The night before the brother, Mangesh, had died, she had come as usual, made him comfortable, cooked his dinner and left. He had even limped to the balcony and waved to her. "Life is a cycle, di," he had said and laughed. She had smiled back. "Yes, everything comes back full circle."

It was as usual. But he had died. Of poisoning. No trace of anything anywhere except in his stomach. Who administered it? This loving sister? Some passerby? He had no enemies, his sister vouched. No ghosts from the past, and no one other than the sister had been around him. Even if she was a suspect, there was nothing to prove anything... Maybe suicide. One fatal dose and end of story...

Meena had really given all the money away. She had told him even when he wrote the will. But when a week before Mangesh' death he mentioned he had already written the will, she had again demurred.

Now, she wanted nothing to do with it. It was not meant for her. It was money that would leave her bitter. Money that her husband and she should have enjoyed, that she should have had in her account, that would have been used to treat her husband. But Mangesh had cheated her of what should have come to her. "Folly of the youth," he had said watching her. "At that time, I needed money badly. Your husband told me about the big commission he had got for a deal he had clinched. You both would have put it in FD and watched it grow slowly. I promised him bigger returns and tempted him. He told me not to tell you."

She had tensed as he narrated the incident from so many years ago, when her husband had told her a good deal had turned sour. She had smiled and borne. "You couldn't make good your promise?" she asked, ready to forgive her brother the overconfidence.

He smiled, but continued to watch her. "How do you think I became rich?"

She breathed hard but her smile remained intact. "Why tell me now?"

"What I am giving you is yours. Don't refuse it..."

"What about what you should get?" she had asked after a long pause when she struggled with the feeling of shock that wouldn't go.

He touched her hand and said softly, "I have enjoyed all that I could. Now I am confined to my chair, my home... What can I do with the money?"

She shook her head. Yes, what can you do with obscene money when your body let you down? She nodded, "You are right. You can't do much. But that's not what I meant." She smiled reassuringly. He smiled, relieved to be her little brother again.

Her baby, the one she couldn't forgive... And now, she could never forget.

The poison, mixed with his food. For once, she cleaned the vessels and plates after he finished his meal to wash away all traces of poison. Slow but sure, she was assured by the Internet.

It had turned out to be right.
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