The case of missing footwear

Many guests were surprised that the footwear of a former policeman was stolen.

In my 35 years of police career, I have supervised investigation of thousands of tough crimes, and personally investigated theft and murder cases.  I take pride at being a good detective and also never being a victim of theft. However, an incident, which occurred soon after my retirement, changed this.

My cousin had built a new house in the outskirts of Mysuru and had invited us for the house warming. We reached the venue and since the pooja was being performed, we had to leave our footwear outside. Reluctant to expose my new expensive footwear to any criminal eye, I hid them in a nook and went inside.

A shamiana was erected in the vacant plot outside for serving lunch. When I came out of the house for lunch, I was shocked to find my footwear missing. My wife taunted that had they been kept along with others, they wouldn’t have been stolen.

Meanwhile many guests expressed pity and surprise that the footwear of a former policeman was stolen. This was like rubbing salt on the wound. Someone said “Look, you must have detected many a difficult case, can you not detect your own stolen footwear?” Others joined the chorus.

Soon, I set out to work. Surmising that since the new house was far from  town, the job would not be an ‘outside’ one. I suspected the catering team. I interrogated the cook and the waiters in true police style but drew a blank. My attention next turned on the guests. The task was to find the ‘hawk-eyed’ guest who could locate and lift the hidden footwear.

I asked the host whether any guest had left the premises after my arrival. The host replied in the negative and said that all guests are close relatives and friends. My job became easy. As the first batch of guests sat for lunch, I went along with the waiters and gazed at the feet of each and every guest. Soon, I noticed my footwear adorning the feet of a decent-looking gentleman. The host informed that the guest in question was his wife’s uncle and a famous surgeon.

A ticklish problem stared at me.  What if the surgeon refuses to acknowledge that the footwear is mine? What tantrum would he throw if caught? What embarrassment would this incident cause to the host? Carefully weighing all the pros and cons, I decided to  close the case as “mistake of fact” – as is normally done by the police – and buy a new pair of footwear.

My conscience, however, did not permit me to allow the stolen property being taken away in my very presence. I discussed the matter with my cousin’s wife and sought her help. She asked me to wait till the surgeon completed his lunch.

She invited the surgeon and his family inside her new home on the pretext of giving them ‘tambulam’. As the surgeon left my footwear and went inside, I rushed to the spot, wore my sandals quickly and triumphantly sat for lunch. Later, I heard the surgeon muttering that someone had stolen his footwear.

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