[if this is the first time you have landed here, I strongly recommend, you check this out first]
The police color painted Tata Sumo bumped and rolled on the dusty streets. Agasthya, Kabir and Chandra had left as soon as they heard report of a critical Salil Batra. From what they could understand from the broken conversation over the radio, was that Batra had fallen sick about an hour after their last radio contact. They had to turn back to the last village they had crossed and had admitted Batra into the local hospital. No foul play was evident, but Agasthya would be the judge of that. The car bumped up and down tremendously but Agashya and the others didn’t have time for comfort.
The sub-district hospital at Phulera didn’t exactly inspire confidence. If it wasn’t for the police vans and the excavation jeeps parked outside, Agasthya’s team might not have noticed the hospital altogether. Their car halted with a screech right in front of the building. It didn’t have much of parking space outside, and the already parked cars were already creating a bottleneck on the road. This was too much activity for a small town like Phulera. Agasthya instructed Kabir to have all the cars except for one moved out to the police station nearby. As always Agasthya didn’t want to attract any un due attention.
The hospital was a 4 floor building, built in regular government squarish style with two equal wings with a big entry gate in the center. The paint was scraping and the dusty surroundings didnt help. There were a ramp, but they were chocked by a train of gunreys. There was a ward boy and a constable waiting for Agasthya outside the enrty of the hospital. He spotted them and motioned for them to lead. They entered the hospital and went up the cemented stairs built in the center right behind the reception. The receptionist, a lady dressed in a Sari with nothing to point that she worked in a hospital, stood up but noticing the urgency with which Agasthya walked, sat back down without asking a question. There were no elevators here, Agasthya was getting even more worried.
“He was diabetic.”, the constable spoke as he led them up the stairs. “He had an attack while we were traveling. He did have a pack of injections on him, and we did give him two of those. But he just didn’t react. One more floor. So we had to turn around and go back. Right. This hospital doesn’t have insulin either. We have asked for it to be delivered from the Railway Hospital nearby. That’s the room right there.But we were too late.”, the constable’s almost whispered that last part. Both Agasthya and Chandra had picked up that info almost immediately however. They stopped dead in their tracks and turned around accusingly at the constable.
“He died half an hour ago. We tried everything, we really did.”, the constable replied meekly. “Well that’s just great.”, cursed Chandra, “I am going to have the jobs of everyone of you for this” he spat out in anger. “We tried everything sir, we gave him 2 injections, but he didn’t react.”, the police inspector that was sitting outside Batra’s room. He walked up to them, his service hat in his hand,”It wasn’t our fault.”, he declared submissively. This was not good, this was bad. He raised his left hand to shut up everyone, the inspector, the constable and Chandra looked at him as he massaged the bridge of his nose thinking.
“How long has it been?”, finally Agasthya spoke, pointing the question to the inspector.
“Half an hour or 45 minutes sir.”, the inspector replied uncomfortable in his semi-wet uniform.
“Has the doctor who was treating him, done a preliminary inspection?”
“Yes he has sir. He is preparing a report right now. he says the cause of death is natural.”
Agasthya nodded, “Chandra, collect statements from everyone. Every single one from Batra’s team. I want a detailed account of every day that they were out on their expedition. Who they met, how much they traveled, what food did they eat. You get my drift?”
Chandra nodded in response.”You”, Agasthya pointed at the inspector.”Help him, and contact the forensic team from Jaipur, till then put the body on ice.”. The inspector nodded vehemently and leaded Chandra away downstairs again. Agasthya turned to the constable, “Where is the doctor who treated Batra”. The constable quietly turned around and led Agasthya to the last room in the row, it had a small wooden plaque outside it. Dr. Ravindra Rathore it read.
The room was small, hot and stuffy. A feeble fan tried to do its best, but was losing out to the heat. The walls were covered with various charts of different body parts shown in various details, the one right in front of the door was empty though apart from the solitary diploma that hung center. There was a steel table, crowded by the general stuff expected on a doctor’s desk. None of it was high tech but none appeared to be rusted either. There were 3 spring loaded chairs in the room, the doctor sat on one of them, working away filling up a file, while the other two across the table from him were empty. Agasthya knocked on the doctor and he looked up.
“Cause of death?”, Agasthya spoke coldly. He didn’t have time for greetings.
Dr. Rathore recognized that he meant business. He closed the file and spoke with a sigh, “Diabetic attack.”
“Forced or natural?”
“Natural as far as I can tell. His body needed insulin, we did not have any at our hospital.”
“But my team tells me he had insulin injections with him, and they tried giving him 2 of them. Why was that ineffective. And why didn’t you use them?”
“Yes interesting thing about those insulin vials. They dont really contain insulin.”
“Poison?”, Agasthya spoke thinking ahead.
“No. Salt water.”
Of course. Agasthya thought to himself. Poison has a chance of being neutralized, salt water was harmless, colorless and odorless just like insulin. Just not insulin. Dr. Batra was supposed to be on his excavations, there wasn’t supposed to be a hospital around. Agasthya’s move to bring the doctor in had spoiled the killer’s plan, just not enough.
Agasthay turned to the constable again, “Bring me the medication pack for Dr. Batra.”, constable nodded and sprinted away. He turned his attention back to the doctor, “Anything else you can tell me doctor?”
“No, the diabetic attack lead to a cardiac attack. I think the heat amplified the process. He was in comma when they brought him in here, and he died 20 minutes after that. I am finished with the report, you want to take a look?”
“Maybe later.”, Agasthya shook his head disagreement. He would ask Chandra to take a look at that, and see if he can spot some irregularities. He turned his attention to the constable who had come back with Dr. Batra’s medication bag.
The bag was a modified travel cooler. It had various layers of Styrofoam with carving for both the bottles and the syringes. Each layer had 8 of both, covering a week and one for emergency Agasthya concurred. The empty vials were placed back onto their respective slots. Agasthya went through 2 layers until he came across one which had both empty and filled vials. He picked one of the filled ones and then one of the empty one and observed them.
If the killer used these vials, then his best chance for a clue was in them. If he was right, and the killer indeed was a serial one, then he would have dropped a note, a hint something, and then he noticed it. The label on the filled vial, it had a red outline. He picked up another vial from an earlier layer and turned it around to check its label, this one had a green outline.
Either the vials were from different companies, or this was the clue he was looking for.
The vial with the green Label read: Insulin, Torrent Pharmaceuticals Limited, Address :Off. Ashram Road, Ahmadabad – 380 009. Gujarat, India.
He picked up the red vial now and read the label it read: Akash Sharma, CEO, Akash Informatics and E-Commerce Ltd., AMR Tech park, Bangalore, Karnataka- 560 068