The Detective

She got off from the Ladies’ door of the bus and adjusted her sari. He got off from the rear Gents’ door, trying to appear unconcerned about her. She began walking towards the large vegetable market, where she would spend the next hour haggling and complaining loudly that the vendors were all cheats.

Being a private detective had sounded so exciting in his teenage, with bizarre cases solved on television and in novels. How he hated them now! It was true that he had to wear disguises, his .22 hung in white-leathered holster, and he had to pull down his cap over his eyes to be not noticed, but that was it. Murders, jewel thefts and state secrets the police solved (or botched), and corporate frauds fell into the hands of the larger agencies. His bread and butter were provided by wayward spouses and employees; the occasional blackmail got him some jam.

Now he had to loiter around until she had done with her purchases. He had been following her for three weeks now, and had to do it for one more. There were ten thousand rupees at the end of it, promised by the suspicious husband. Either she had guessed that she was being followed (which in his long experience was not uncommon among women), or she really had nothing to hide. Every Monday evening she came to the vegetable market, Tuesdays and Thursdays she visited her elderly mother, Wednesdays and Fridays she was at home, and Saturdays at the mall. On Sunday she was in front of her husband’s eyes all the time, so the detective had that day off.

This job was boring. Most spouses who had the other followed drew a blank. Their responses displayed relief, trying unsuccessfully to hide secret disappointment at being denied the excitement available to the stars of their favourite soaps. But the relief at not being cuckolded soon led to acrimony over the fee, with allegations of sloth, avarice and imbecility added in insult. Which is why he had to insist on being paid half his fee before taking the case, there being a likelihood that he may never get to see the other half. If the suspicions were confirmed, then of course it became impossible to ask for his money without sounding insensitive or tactless.

As she boarded the bus to go home, he became aware of being followed himself. Wondering what the matter could be, he set about the old dodging tricks that he had nearly forgotten through disuse. After she got off at her home stop, instead of following her home, he slipped down an alley. In the few minutes that his pursuer stood puzzled, he had gotten behind him. His hands closed over the fellow’s nape and turned him round.

“Hey, why are you following me?” he threatened, letting his captive get a good view of his .22.
“I…I… don’t blame me. The husband of that woman only set me after you. He was unsure of you.”


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