"Do you know who all visited Mala? I mean, when Raj was gone, working for days at a time?" Sumit asked.
"I have no clue. Most of the time it was her friends who visited her. Everyday a young girl named Panna comes to teach Ankur, but she hasn't been here the past two days. Malaji mentioned that Panna had been diagnosed with typhoid when I talked to her yesterday."
"Well, thank you for your help," Sumit said as he looked out the window and saw the rain had stopped. He got up to leave but, on his way out, he took a cursory look at the office.
As if by reflex, he entered a world where time was measured precisely, details were noticed obsessively and he was supernaturally alert to sight, sound and even people's movements.
As he left the office, he took notes on every detail possible. He knew his staff would do the same, so he could count on them in case he missed anything.
- The police arrived at the murder scene at 3pm.
- The medical examiner is yet to submit his report. Mala was probably shot sometime between 10am and 12pm.
- There was no evidence of burglary.
- There was no murder weapon at the scene.
- The murderer possibly knew the family…
He spent an hour turning these thoughts over in his head before he decided to finally go home.
When he got home, he saw Ramona crying. He wanted to console her but was too exhausted to even talk. He went to the bedroom to freshen up and, when he came out, found Ramona hadn't moved. She still sat on the couch, tears streaming down her cheeks, sobbing silently.
He held her in his arms and said, "I promise you I will catch whoever did this, okay? I promise you they won't get away."
Lonely was not the right word. It wasn't strong enough. There was no word to describe the way Raj felt. After he lost Mala, Raj's world became silent. Empty. Even when he was standing in the middle of a crowded room, he heard nothing. He longed for the familiar voice that used to whisper in his ear at parties, "Can you believe she's wearing that? What was she thinking?" He longed for the clanking of utensils in the kitchen, the gentle whisper of Mala breathing soundly as he fell asleep, her warm hug…
Sumit and Ramona tried so hard to make him feel he was not alone. Ramona sent food to the family. Sometimes, she invited them over for dinner. On these nights, she would call up several people other people, just so Raj would have company, but he was completely alone. His marriage, amputated in the prime of his life, could never be replaced.
He missed Mala so much that he couldn't stand it. He searched for anonymous support in chat rooms, just to ease the discomfort of the amputation a little bit. It felt like taking morphine after a surgery. At first, it eased the pain for awhile, but then it returned, feeling stronger than before, the temporary respite only making the pain more pronounced.
He couldn't sleep. The loneliness spread its wings. Guilt, anger, frustration, and sadness – all came wrapped in a package, beautifully signed, "With Love, Stay Alone."