A detective always remembers his first case. Let me tell you about mine.
This happened long back – more than thirty years ago – in the 1970s – when Pune was a salubrious pensioners’ paradise – a cosy laid back friendly town where everybody knew everybody.
And let me tell you – at the time of this story – I was not even a full fledged detective – but I was just a rookie part-time amateur self-styled sleuth – studying in college – skylarking in my spare time as a private detective – masquerading as a Private Investigator for my uncle who ran a private detective agency.
Dear Reader, please remember that way back then, in good old days of the 1970s, there were no cell-phones, no PCs, no mobile cameras, handy cams or digital cameras, no modern technology gadgets, not even things like email and the internet that you take for granted today and the only method of investigation was the tried and tested good old physical surveillance where one spent hours and hours patiently shadowing and tailing your target.
“A woman wants her husband watched,” my uncle said giving me a slip of paper with a name and the room number of a well-known hotel in Pune.
“That’s all?” I asked.
“He is a businessman from Mumbai…drives down to Pune very often…at least once a week…sometimes twice…ostensibly in connection with business…but she suspects that he may be having an affair…”
One week later, waiting for the client to arrive at our planned rendezvous, I sat on the balcony of Café Naaz atop Malabar Hill Hotel sipping a cup of delicious Chai and enjoying the breathtaking sunset as the Arabian Sea devoured the orange sun followed by spectacular view of the Queen’s Necklace as the lights lit up Marine Drive.
She arrived on the dot at seven and sat opposite me.
I looked at my client. She was a Beauty, a real beauty, 35…maybe 40… must have been a stunner in her college days…I tried not to stare at her.
“Okay…Tell me,” she said, getting to the point straightaway.
I started reading from my pocket-book, “Thursday morning at ten fifteen he left his hotel room…deposited key at reception telling them that he was going for work would return in the evening…started to drive down in his car towards Deccan…picked up a female who seemed to be waiting for him…she sat next to him…and as they drove off away from the city into the countryside they seemed to be getting amorous…loved up, you know, a bit of kissing, cuddling…”
“No…No…skip the details…just tell me…is he or isn’t he…?” she interrupted me.
She seemed to be in a hurry. Maybe she was not comfortable being seen sitting with me over here and wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible.
“I think he is having an affair,” I said.
“Yes…I am pretty sure…”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Well we look for three things – the three key ingredients which are required to have an affair – TIME, INCLINATION and OPPORTUNITY…”
“Time…Inclination…Opportunity…” she repeated looking quite perplexed.
“Well they certainly had the Time…they spent the whole day together in seclusion…and they certainly had the Opportunity…behind the privacy of closed doors in that lonely discreet motel hidden in the back of beyond…and as far as the Inclination part is concerned…well, the way they were behaving…I have no doubt about it….”
A smile broke out on her face.
I was flabbergasted – now tell me dear reader – what would be your reaction if you came to know that your spouse was having an affair – would you just smile…
Suddenly I remembered what my uncle had told me, so I asked the woman, “Do you wish to increase coverage?”
“Photographs…receipts…documentary evidence…round the clock surveillance…full details….” I elaborated.
Of course all this would be handled in a professional manner by my experienced uncle and his agency…maybe he’d take me along as a learning experience.
“I don’t think so…” the woman said.
“No?” I said perplexed, “but you will require all this as evidence to establish that your husband is committing adultery…”
“Husband…? Who said he is my husband…?” she said grinning like a Cheshire cat.
“You said so…to the head of the detective agency…”
“No, I didn’t….I just told him that I wanted a man followed…”
“But we assumed…”
“A good detective shouldn’t assume things, isn’t it…?
“But then why did you want that man followed…?” I asked curious.
“Well that’s my private matter,” she said, “but since I like you, I’ll tell you…It is like this… One day, fifteen years ago, the day I completed my graduation, my parents showed me two photographs…the first photo was of the man you were following…the second photo was of the man who is now my husband.”
The woman paused for a moment, had a sip of water, and continued, “My parents told me to choose one…and I made my choice…but since then…during all these years of my married life… I was always tormented by the thought that I had made the wrong choice….now…thanks to you… I know I made the right choice…!”
She took out an envelope from her purse and gave it to me. “Your fee…and there is a bonus for you too for doing such a good job…” she said and then she got up and walked away into the enveloping darkness.
Later when I opened the envelope and saw that the “bonus” was more than the fee, I wondered whether she had two envelopes in her purse, one for each eventuality.
I never forgot the cardinal lesson I learnt from this case – I never assume anything…and now…before I start a new investigation…the first thing I do is to carry out a background check of my client.
Author: Vikram Karve