The CEO Who Lost His Head by Aditya Sinha (Pan Macmillan India, 2017) is a crime thriller. Morning Analysis CEO Buster Das has been found dead in his office with his head bashed in. When unlikely detective duo Sandesh Solvekar and Mona Ramteke make it their mission to catch the reckless criminal, they find themselves knee-deep in Mumbai’s sordid world of dissolute starlets, business moguls and a sell-out media. An excerpt:
Solvekar and Ramteke were back at Sea Mermaid. The lift reached the fifth floor and the doors slid open to reveal the foyer of Buster Das’s flat. They were greeted by a large bronze Nataraj, frozen in cosmic dance, and a maid in a tight polyester sari and a tighter oily braid. Both the Nataraj and the maid were approximately the same height as Ramteke. The maid and Ramteke curiously sized each other up, as if they were either cousins or rivals. They exchanged barely discernible smiles. Ramteke then scanned the foyer with a look that said that the space was the same size as her bedroom. The maid led them to the living room where Mrs Das, who had showered and fit her gym-toned body into a frilly top and jeans, sat, dabbing her eyes, surrounded by two grieving Golden Retrievers.
As soon as the detectives entered the room, the dogs switched from mourning to barking loudly, as if to ask them whether the case had been broken open yet.
‘Don’t worry, they’re totally harmless,’ Mrs Das said, sniffing.
Sandesh and Ramteke remained frozen in their spots, while the dogs continued their full-throated interrogation.
‘Whiskey! Friskie! Stop it, girls,’ Mrs Das barked, and the two dogs instantly piped down and returned to her side in commiseration.
Sandesh and Ramteke were still standing like statues, looking uncertainly at the two sets of sofas and the two antique chairs that had narrow teak legs, upholstered arms and thick cushions. They wondered where they should sit. Ramteke followed Sandesh’s lead and sat on one of the antiques.
‘Who did this to my Buster?’ Mrs Das asked before they were even fully settled in their chairs. ‘Why did they do this?’
Neither detective said anything. So the dogs got up on their hind legs and resumed barking, only to be hushed into silence once again.
‘You know, we had a fight just yesterday morning,’ she continued. ‘I told him I never wanted to see him again. I didn’t know my words would come true.’
Mrs Das burst into loud, shaking sobs.
‘Ma’am,’ Ramteke said. ‘Buster was not his real name,was it?’
She stopped sobbing and looked at Ramteke. ‘Actually, no,’ she said through her tears. ‘His name used to be Banke Bihari. Banke Bihari Das. B. B. Das. He changed it just after we got married. Officially. Put a notice in the Statesman. Cost a lot of money back then, when the Statesman was Calcutta’s number one paper.’
‘You were saying that you had a fight,’ Sandesh said. ‘You had said you never wanted to see him again.’
‘I told him that living with him was torture, but that did not mean that I wanted to live without him,’ she said through her tears. ‘He tortures me even in death.’
‘Ma’am. What was the argument yesterday about?’
‘The usual,’ said the grieving widow.
Sandesh and Ramteke looked at each other.
‘What will I tell our son?’ Mrs Das said. ‘What if he thinks I killed him?’
‘Did you?’ Ramteke asked.
‘Don’t be silly,’ Mrs Das said dismissively. ‘We had gone out the night before, to Yauatcha, at Bandra-Kurla Complex, for their dimsums. One of the Behind Bombay girls gave it a raving review.’
Sandesh had read about this restaurant in the paper. It was an expensive eatery, a place where a dish called dim sum cost around Rs 400 a dish. Corporate types really lived it up, he mused.
‘It started off well enough,’ Mrs Das continued. ‘We had a scallop shui mai and a spinach roll and also some very nice fried chilli squid. It felt good to eat all this food because I had such a good workout in the morning, but Buster wasn’t paying attention. He kept staring at some woman sitting at another table with her friend.
‘I told him, for God’s sake, stop staring, but he said, you know who that is? I looked and, you know how Bombay is filled with all these starlets and models trying to be film stars; so I thought it must be one of those girls, though she didn’t look too familiar to me. Then Buster said that it was Charuchitra Singh. I looked at her again and then it struck me: was she the thinking man’s sex symbol? That’s what they call her. She was so thin, and she looked a bit horsy, and she was wearing these huge glasses. Her eyes were beady and even chinky-looking, and I was wondering, what was the big deal? It must have been the hair — she had a gorgeous thick mane although it almost hid her horsy face, and her shoulders were so narrow that I imagined her as a stick insect, and yet she was considered a sex symbol.’
Listening to the widow, Sandesh thought that perhaps Buster Das had bashed his own head in. He shook the notion from his head.
‘You think she’s some hot sex symbol?’ Mrs Das asked.
‘Then why are you shaking your head? Anyway, without even excusing himself, Buster just got up and went to their table and shook hands with her. I could see the whole thing, and I couldn’t believe his nerve. First she stared at him suspiciously, and then he must have said his magic words because a huge smile broke out on her face. I could see her inviting him to sit down.’
‘What magic words?’
‘You know, CEO of Morning Anal,’ Mrs Das said. ‘What?
Don’t be so shocked. That’s what Buster used to call his own paper. He said the Editor was always trying to give it to the advertisers in the ass.’
‘When they hear the magic words Morning Anal, even the powerful feel their knees going weak. Even those in the police. Anyway, Buster sat down, and can you believe it, he did not sit opposite her, with her friend, but squeezed in right next to her. While I was still sitting at our table. I was so angry. So I called the waiter and ordered their most expensive champagne and a lobster stir-fry, and then left.’
‘Good shot,’ Ramteke said.
‘I went home and cried, and then out of the blue, his sister called from Calcutta,’ Mrs Das said, ignoring Ramteke. ‘She’s a real moody bitch. I told her what happened, and she started telling me I shouldn’t have ordered the expensive champagne. Can you believe it? She had nothing to say about her brother slobbering over some starlet’s hair. In fact, I think she was proud of the fact that he was spending time with that whore of an actress. Yes, I googled her. I banged the phone down on her even though it was a mobile phone.
‘I couldn’t go to sleep. I poured myself a gin and watched TV, and waited for Buster to come home. I waited and waited and waited. Eleven o’clock, midnight, one, two ...
(Excerpted from The CEO Who Lost His Head by Aditya Sinha, with permission from Pan Macmillan India)
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