"Sir, what happened? Is Stella madam okay?" the guard enquired. "She left this place a week back. I saw her coming down the staircase instead of using the elevator, and she had a huge bag with her. I think she was in a hurry and didn't have time to wait for it," he added.
"When was this? Do you remember the day and date?"
"Yes sir. It was last Wednesday. My son was very ill and my wife had called me. The reception wasn't good here, so I went outside to hear her. We took him to the doctor. Sir, these days' doctors charge a lot of money. Poor people like us can't afford to be ill," he lamented.
"What time was it?" He tried to get him back on track.
"I think it was 12:30 to 1pm."
But he was with the mutilated body of Stella in the outskirts of City M at 10am in the morning!
"Hey, do you remember correctly?" He didn't want to alarm the guard by telling him that she had been found murdered.
"Yes, of course, sir! I found it very odd when Stella madam came down with her luggage using the stairs. She even gave me a huge hundred rupees tip." He grinned.
It was Abdul's turn to be surprised. He left the building after taking the guard's number and cautioned him that he might be called to the police station for further questioning.
Abdul was trying to put the series of events together during the entire journey back to the police station. He thought of going the traditional way. He went to the whiteboard hanging in his office and drew the series of events in a flow chart. After today's discovery, he knew that some pieces were missing from the jigsaw. Things were not fitting. If the guard saw Stella in the afternoon, who was the girl who got murdered, and what was Stella's ID doing on her? He wanted to check the autopsy report again.
An hour later the family whose daughter was missing came. The constable led them to his office. The family comprised of the father, mother and their teenage son.
"Good afternoon sir." The father initiated the conversation.
"Please take a seat. Sir told me about your daughter. I suggest that you speak to her friends before lodging an FIR. I am sure she must have gone to a nearby place for recreation. The phone connectivity mustn't be good. Don't worry. Such things are common in City M." Abdul tried to persuade them into not filing a useless report.
"No sir. My daughter has not contacted us for the past ten days. We have talked to every one of her friends and none of them know where she is. We even contacted her office and they are saying that she hasn't reported to the office for the last ten days. As a matter of fact, her manager is very angry. He was threatening to terminate her job if she doesn't contact them in the next ten days. Sir, I know my daughter would never go on a vacation without telling us. Please help us. We are very worried. She was staying in shared accommodation with two other girls and even they haven't heard from her for a long time now. One of them informed us about her absence when she didn't see her for two days. Shonali had started the job only six months back. Please sir, help us find her." The father became very emotional, while the mother started sobbing. Their teenage son started comforting his mother…