FOOTBALL

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The person in a civil dress arrived the following day carrying a notepad. He has just left the field after practice. The coach has patted the back and departed driving his sumo. He has a beauty of a bike. He reached near it as the shadows were about to touch it. Then he noticed, the person appeared to be examining the intricate design of the bike standing near it.


The person in the civil dress said to him as he reached, ‘Oh! I was waiting for you’ A total stranger. He thought - perhaps some fan of this game. But the stranger said, ‘You are the first witness of the murder, isn’t it?’ He was somewhat startled as he raised the issue of the murder that he was trying to shake off his mind. The approach appeared like that an interrogation. He just nodded without uttering any question in response –‘Yes, it was I. I have recorded everything at the police station’.

The stranger nodded in such a manner as if he has accepted his version. Said, ‘Yes, yes, you have corroborated with evidence too’.

The stranger said again, ‘Today I had been fortunate enough to watch you practice. Wow, what a shot you have in your feet! The ball travels like a bullet. No ordinary goalkeeper would be able to deal with it’. Saying so, he paused – as if pondering over something, and the question that followed made him feel uneasy – ‘But that day why at all your shot faltered – moved way off the target? It flew over the wall and dropped inside the compound of the other apartment!’  He already had a doubt, the stranger may belong to the investigating wing. And is interrogating him after raising the issue of the murder. The way he is proceeding, it appears he is still kept in the list of suspects. What is there for him to be afraid of? He has not committed the murder. He was just the one to see the dead body. But why is he feeling uneasy in replying? He has understood, he does not have any satisfactory reply with him to establish why his shot went wayward. How can he say that he shot the ball intentionally in that direction just to create an opportunity to have a close look at the beautiful lady? The stranger, of course, did not pester him more about that, and started examining his expensive bike without waiting for the reply. Then he leaned over and pulled out a long hair from between the front and the rear seat. There is no doubt that it belonged to a lady. As the sumo did not arrive, the coach took his bike to drop his daughter home from college. It must be her only. But before he could explain anything, the stranger said, “You have a good number of fans. Girls included. That dead lady was also one of your fan, isn’t it? I have gathered that she watched your practice regularly.’
      
Now there was not an iota of doubt in his mind that the stranger must be from the investigating wing. Tactically trying to get him to talk. And what reply does he give for this question? He has sensed an uncomfortable feeling rising in his mind. Why has a sense of guilt been encompassing him? A beautiful lady watches him play in an enchanting way and is it unnatural for his youthful mind to be attracted to it? But why is he still suffering from a feeling of guilt at the comment of the stranger? She has been murdered by someone else, not him! Why has the officer from the investigating agency thought that he had a motive ? Definitely he has thought! Otherwise would he have asked such questions? An unseen rat ran through his heart at the comment of the stranger that followed. He said, ‘You know, in the detective novels the writer projects the actual murderer as an innocuous person and at last the famous detective unmasks him. But this is a case of actual murder. Here things do not need to be so complicated. The murderer can’t hide himself you know’ – saying this, the stranger gave him a cursory glance. What has this investigating officer thought! He has surmised him to be the murderer! But why couldn’t he protest strongly? Why did he vaccilate? 

The stranger commented no more nor questioned again. Said, ‘Ok, I take leave for today. We’d meet again. Keep practicing well. Please ensure that your shot does not miss the mark this time. You must have killer instinct. Isn’t it?’ Killer instinct? It means I am a suspect of this murder! - He thought and understood that the investigating agency has  arranged to keep a tab on him.

The stranger appeared the following day after practice. He did not inform his coach about the encounter of previous day. He found himself at peace after taking a refreshing bath on returning to his flat. He is not the criminal, why need he be afraid? Is it a crime to be attracted to a beautiful lass whom he found intensely watching him play? And she was murdered by someone else, can the blame of murder be imposed on him just because he happened to be the chance first witness? Is there any proof-witness? These arguments made round in his mind and he became calm. He had a good night’s sleep too.

But the stranger appeared the next day too. He appeared to be waiting for the coach to depart. He strode forward as he was about to ride on his bike. The smile that he greeted him with appeared to be a crooked smile. ‘Namaskar’, the stranger said, and examined both his hands with a close look. Said, ‘It is not just your legs but your hands are quite strong too’. Meaning? What does he want to convey? The words of this investigating officer is quite annoying. Rather than saying in an oblique way, why doesn’t he say directly, you are the killer, you have thrust the knife in the back of the lady with your powerful hands. Speak up and finish all your imaginations soon. All your cryptic words are quite boring. He uttered these in soliloquy only. Outwardly he remained tight-lipped. [Continued]

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