On thin ice

Zac O? Yeah | Updated on January 12, 2018
Tropical Detective; Zac O’Yeah; Fiction; Pan Macmillan; ₹350

Tropical Detective; Zac O’Yeah; Fiction; Pan Macmillan; ₹350

Hari Majestic is the only witness to an ATM robbery, but the question is, will anyone trust his story? Will he prove himself a hero if he played his cards right?

The policemen arrived on an overloaded Cheetah motorcycle.

Hari knew the older one of the cops fairly well. Ropu had hairy earlobes and had worked at the KG Circle Police Station since time immemorial, and he used to be friends with Hari’s uncle. Ropu was okay, never beat up suspects. The one who drove the Enfield was called Danger Ramboswamy: he was young, well-fed and looked like he didn’t mind doling out whacks with his bamboo lathi to prove a point. The two policemen walked about on the crime scene, inspecting this and that, poking at things. Ropu observed, ‘There’s no ATM in the ATM.’

‘It seems to have been stolen,’ added Ramboswamy with an eye in Hari’s direction.

As it turned out, the closed-circuit camera’s lens had been covered with black tape — the kind that electricians used — and with that trick the system had been outsmarted, which meant that Hari was the only witness. The bigger question was whether anybody would believe him.

About half an hour later, a bank official got there to assess the damage. He was some kind of expert whom Hari hadn’t met before in the course of his relations with the bank. He introduced himself politely as ‘Solid Kuroopanna, fullest security level clearance’. But everything about him belied his veneer of politeness. He had small, cunning eyes and it was barely possible to make out the pupils. The whites had an unhealthy orange tint. There was a bright knife scar running from his ear to his mouth. He wore a synthetic off-white safari suit that had a concealed holster sewn into it, with a large-bored sidearm that jutted out conspicuously through the cloth. Kuroopanna studied the bolt holes in the floor, where the cash dispenser had stood, and said, ‘If I may ask, what do you see as your duty?’

‘To do my duty and you can quote me on that, sir.’

Kuroopanna glanced at Hari doubtfully. Hari saluted him.

‘And do you feel that is what you have done?’

‘More or less, sir.’

‘How hard did you try to stop them from uprooting the ATM?’

‘A little hard, sir. But they kicked me unconscious.’ He moaned and pressed one palm to his bruised face.

‘What you mean to say is, you were taking an eye-shut and were caught off guard?’

Hari thought it best to offer no comment.

‘Don’t be shy to admit it. It is understandable that you get sleepy at night.’

‘It was dark also, sir.’

‘You must be knowing something about this.’

‘What would that be?’

‘Since you let them rob our bank.’ Not unexpectedly, Kuroopanna had a pet theory. After robberies, security guards sometimes got blamed, so Hari knew that by default he himself was going to be a primary suspect for the rest of his natural lifetime unless other potential perpetrators emerged out of the sewers. ‘These men, were any of them familiar to you?’

The thin B-filmy man had something about him that rang a bell, as if he belonged in the CD Road area, but before Hari could frame an appropriate answer, the gent with the monster dog came past on his brisk morning walk.

Respectability oozed from him as compared to Hari, whose uniform was dirty, and he ranted, ‘Constable, good you caught him!’

‘Well, we haven’t exactly ...,’ said Ropu.

‘He’s the one who did it!’

‘Did what?’ asked Danger Ramboswamy.

‘Yes, arrest the rascal.’

Hari sighed. This wasn’t going well.

‘For what purpose should he be arrested?’ Ropu wanted to know.

‘I saw him do it and to that I shall testify in court, even if his rascal chums try to silence me.’

‘You saw him steal the ATM?’ Kuroopanna interjected with a leading question.

The gent brandished his walking stick at Hari. ‘No, the rascal committed nuisance in a public place.’

‘What are you saying?’ said Kuroopanna.

‘That he took a piss,’ clarified Ropu.

‘Constable Ropu,’ said Kuroopanna, ‘it is best that this Hari Majestic character is taken into custody until the case is shut.’

‘Chill-u, he’s known to the boss. He’s one of her informers.’

Ropu spat out reddish paan juice on the pavement at the same time as he said the word informers. ‘Let him go to the police station and make clarifications to clear his name.’

Kuroopanna suggested that Hari at least ought to take unpaid leave.

‘Until when?’ asked Hari.

‘Until the investigation is over.’

‘Sir, can I help with that?’ said Hari.

‘With what?’

‘Solving this case. I’m a professional detective.’ As Hari saw it, this might be a perfect opportunity to prove himself a hero.

‘We’ll call you.’

‘Fine then, sir. Wish you speedy recovery of the ATM machine. All the very best, and bye-bye.’

Relieved, Hari thought that it could have ended on a worse note and in a best-case scenario he ought to survive this too. He walked to the police station around the corner, near KG Circle. Now he only had to play his cards right.

Zac O’Yeah’s Tropical Detective, published by Pan Macmillan, was launched in December 2017

Published on January 12, 2018

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