Updated: 3 days ago
The Axe Slayer
Mr Maniratnam, a businessman, gets killed in the middle of the night & his head is taken by his killer. When the Police are called, they summon Detective Govindam to get some help in finding the killer.
“The Axe Slayer” is the second case of Detective Govindam, where the budding detective collaborates with Inspector Sharma and Ankitha to find the mysterious killer of Mr Maniratnam while learning the treacherous past of his victim.
24th April 2003
On a full moon night, as Mr Maniratnam lay resting in his bedroom, an axe clipped off his head with brute force.
The following day, while Govind was reading the daily newspaper, comfortably seated in his rocking chair on the balcony, the phone rang and there was a brief gaze from him to pick up the phone, which I conveniently ignored. After a few rings, accepting the defeat, he picked up the receiver.
While I was preparing for my bar exam, I continued to tail him on his cases and started writing investigative journals for the local paper.
Concluding the call, he shouted, “It’s Inspector Sharma. He says he would need our help.”
That’s all it ever took for Govind. A request for help.
It took us half an hour to reach the scene via an auto rickshaw, and Inspector Sharma was, as usual, standing with his intense grimness inspecting the crime scene. He seemed both curious and anxious at the same time as we exchanged looks.
While Mrs Maniratnam was crying, their servants stood in stunned silence near the room entrance. We entered to take a look at the body and noticed blood spread all over the white sheets and Mr Maniratnam’s body lying on his bed, but to my surprise, his head was nowhere to be seen. Before Govind could ask the inspector, he confirmed that the head was indeed missing. Govind had noticed the clean-cut, the inspector continued by mentioning that the early forensic findings suggested that the weapon used was an axe, and Govind nodded, agreeing with the conclusion.
Suddenly from nowhere, a hand with a cup of tea appeared in front of me. One of the servants of the Maniratnam family brought it, and I accepted his offer and continued to observe the body. Camera shutter sounds were ringing in my ears while Govind was taking a look at the axe cut.
The cut around the neck was clean and swift and it also ripped the pillow, indicating the killer was not only strong but also unhesitant. Probably, Mr Maniratnam didn’t even know what was going on, before he was killed. I could guarantee that whosoever the person was, he knew how to use an axe for such a cut. But the biggest question, which was storming my brain, was why someone wanted to kill Mr Maniratnam, a reputed businessman and well-respected man. Govind understood my thoughts and said, “Would be great if you start thinking where is the head?” before his regular show-off biz and asked me to note a few points.
“As we can see, there were no bloodstains in any other part of the room. It was totally closed, and not even a single trace of someone coming through the balcony could be seen, and so this concluded that the murderer had entered from the main entrance. Where did the murderer put the head? How did he carry it? What was his motivation? Why didn’t anyone notice him if he entered from the main door? Are the questions which we need answers to, Ankitha.” said Govind as he turned towards me and winked.
Before long, we were back in the office, and I noticed Govind’s Rubik’s cube that lay as a paperweight in the middle of all the papers was still unsolved. Picking it up, Govind tried to find possible answers with each flip of the cube, while I was reading the intel received after enquiring about Mrs Maniratnam. I could also hear Govind’s excitement about the case, and I was sure he would want me to write it down that very night itself and I was planning too.
Thinking this would be a good time to reveal my findings, I informed Govind that one of the servants named Krishnakanth was from the village Mr Maniratnam originally came from and was hired a year ago, and Govind stopped for a minute. He immediately instructed me to go to Mr Maniratnam’s native village and find out every detail I could find about Krishnakanth and his relationship with Mr Maniratnam before he joined as one of the servants in the home. Though I disliked such requests in the past, I’m more than willing to help, and I think it is because it helps me with my content or offers me a little joy to help Govind.
The next day, we were invited to Mr Maniratnam’s funeral, and I could notice that Govind was preoccupied throughout the event, asking the obvious question of where Mr Maniratnam’s head was even after I reported back a lead but Govind wasn’t satisfied yet.
Not bothering and lost in my thoughts, I stood beside the others silently. Those rituals always annoyed me, but the interesting element was that Krishnakanth stood beside Govind, observing the proceedings with great pity. Greeting Govind with a smile, he asked, “Are you also an atheist?”
Govind surprisingly nodded, confirming his guess, and Krishnakanth remarked, “I could see that you are bugged up with the proceedings!”
As Govind continued his silence, Krishnakanth again asked, “Would you like to come to my house just a few blocks away to escape this?”
With a smile, Govind replied, “No thanks. I am fine.”
Taking a deep breath, he exclaimed before leaving, “I cannot take it anymore. This cemetery is annoying me.”
After the funeral, Govind called Inspector Sharma and asked him to search the cemetery, to which the inspector was quite surprised. However, Govind assured him that he had identified the murderer, and according to his theory, Mr Maniratnam’s missing head would be around his burial site itself. The next day, he assembled every house member in the living room since the police finally recovered the missing head, just as Govind had predicted.
With the entire room packed with members of the house, Mrs Maniratnam curiously asked, “What is going on here, detective?”
Unable to bear her impatience, Govind replied, “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m pleased to inform you that we have found Mr Maniratnam’s head, and I have found the killer as well. You’d be surprised to know that he is in this very room right now.”
Leaning back on the only closed door, Inspector Sharma questioned in exhaustion, “So, who was it?”
“Mr Krishnakanth, please proceed. I don’t want to waste my energy.”
“Wh... Wha… What? Do you think it’s me? I… I… was not the one who buried the head there...”
“Ahh... Then tell us how you know that the head was buried in the first place?”
“A... aa... aa”
While everyone gawked at him, Govind said, “Ahh… apparently I should spend my energy after all and tell them what happened… So, Mrs Maniratnam, your servant here, Mr Krishnakanth, is also from your in-law’s place, as you said during our inquiry. I had my doubts about him when he offered me tea when I first came to the crime scene. How could a person working the whole day in the house have such dirty nails containing mud which usually is the case with gardeners?”
As Krishnakanth silently placed his hands in his pockets, Govind continued, “To know more, I sent Ankitha to his native place to inquire about his past. From there, I learned that your husband and Krishnakanth were relatives. Your husband was Krishnakanth’s son-in-law, and he molested and cheated on Krishnakanth’s daughter before he married you. While he was marrying you, Krishnakanth’s daughter tried to oppose him, but Mr Maniratnam’s father not only covered it all up but even insulted and harassed her badly. The poor woman couldn’t take all that and decided to commit suicide.”
Noticing how Krishnakanth’s face turned red, Govind concluded, “And our dear Krishnakanth here, or should I say, Mr Arvind, being the discarded adopted father, who never met your husband in the past, introduced himself as a poor guy and entered your house. And yes, Mr Arvind, who was a woodcutter in the past, knew how to use an axe excellently. Am I right, Mr Arvind, or am I wrong?”
Giving up his pretence, Arvind shouted, “Yes! Yes! I did kill him… I killed that bastard for what he has done to my girl in my absence. When I buried her body in this very city, I vowed to kill him….”
Not bothering anyone in the room and even pleased with himself, Arvind continued, “And as promised, I buried his head near her tomb as an offering. I thought if the head was missing, it would be impossible to solve the case, and I would be living freely until my last days. But, I am curious to know as to how you got to know where I buried the head?”
Staring into his guilt-free eyes, Govind replied, “As I told you, ever since I saw mud in your nails and got to know about your previous profession, I had a suspicion. It grew when you were the only servant to attend his funeral, implying a closeness, and my mind started ticking when you said the cemetery annoys you. So, I just tried a blind shot and asked Inspector Sharma to search the cemetery, and the rest happened, as you know.”
As soon as Govind completed, Mrs Maniratnam shouted, “You...” and held Mr Arvind by his collar. Though it seemed like she wanted to hit him, she just cried and shouted, “Take him out of my sight!”
It was disheartening to see the look on Mrs Maniratnam’s face as she realised, she mourned a man who never truly deserved to be loved.
As for Mr Arvind, being jailed in the past for his crimes did not deter him from taking the law into his own hands. He chose to fall back on the world of violence to bring justice to his daughter. He went from being a father who could not protect his daughter’s life since he was always locked up to being a father who would now be imprisoned for avenging her death.
This short story is available in paperback & ebook.