Clueless about clues

Clueless about clues
A police station in the city had repeated burglaries, leaving every self-respecting functionary in it flummoxed. They had not revealed their investigative exercises which had yielded no results. After all, the strong box had been under the hawk eyes of the inspector himself. The station had to resort to a ruse to avoid ignominy. They had planted tainted currency in the box and had left it open.

And finally, the sweeper, a regular employee of the police station, had been caught stealing. But, the story had a happy ending. Learning of her plight that prompted her to get duplicate keys, the police’s heart melted and they paid up her bail money to let her go. Heartrending, of course. But what if the loss is yours and you call the police for help? You need clues, and they are not easy to come by. 

I haven’t been burgled at home. But I am wary ever since I had a taste of police’s “efficiency”. Some years ago, setting out to go abroad, I parked my car at the kerb to attend an urgent summons of a prominent citizen. Later I found the vent glass of my car prised open, and the briefcase gone. It contained my travel tickets, travel cheques and the passport.

I reported the theft to the local police station. Nothing happened. After a reasonable lapse of time I called the Chief of Police, who I presume twirled his luxuriant moustache when he said, “We will find them and crush them. Don’t worry.” I made 10 more calls to him. Nothing happened and my trip now was beginning to seem a distant dream. I applied for duplicates of everything.

After a fortnight, I got a call. A man said in Dakhni Urdu that I could have all the papers back for a price because they were of no use to him. I promised a down payment of Rs 100. The tryst was fixed at Hotel Staylonger. I called the chief of the sleuths, who said he was deputing his Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Crime! A half-blind old man came to me as I sat waiting with the money next to the swimming pool. The DC, who had paan in his mouth as part of his disguise, promptly lost him in the crowd.

Another week passed. A couple of anonymous calls later and with a little persuasion, the same voice came on most hurt that I should do the dirty on him. I apologised and promised total connivance. The price was now up to Rs 500. The venue was declared as the park next to the Kensington swimming pool, behind the watchman’s house. This time I was taking no chances. I called the Twirling Moustache and admonished him for the manner in which the paan-chewing deputy had botched up the last operation, and asked for the best.

And best I got. Kensington Park is normally deserted. On the appointed hour, when I walked in for the target, the place was brimming with the most unlikely characters. They were all in uniform — not khaki, but the idiotic striped bush shirts and grey pants.

They lounged on benches, under trees and on the lawn — holding newspapers and peering intently. The moment I entered, they all looked up, eyes pregnant with meaning. A blind thief would have seen them! In disgust, I made for the back of the watchman’s hut and waited.

As the hour struck, an athletic-looking man, slinging a gunny sack, jumped the fence and came running. He dropped the sack and left in an instant. The park emptied with the fervour of the spectator at an Indian side losing a cricket match.

The sleuths lost him at the hedge of a reasonable height that he cleared and they could not. The sack contained all I wanted. The only consolation was that I didn’t have to pay the amount. I didn’t even bother to call the police again.

Next time you get an appointment with a dacoit, may I suggest that you bind him head to toe with a jute rope, stick a confessional statement in his mouth and present him to the nearest police station? That at least should get us going towards a definite clue.

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