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The special, weekly tourist train to Chandangarh was about to leave Rampur station. The special gauge train had four coaches with seating arrangements and only one compartment with luxurious sofas accommodating only four passengers. The four seating coaches were full.

The tickets to the luxurious coach were exorbitantly high and so this coach was usually run empty. But that day three seats were booked. One of the occupants Prakash who had booked the tickets just the previous night was on his couch. He had opened his story book and was engrossed in reading it. The guard was waiting for Mr. and Mrs. Chopra, the other two passengers.

In a matter of a few minutes, a middle-aged couple walked into the platform. It was apparent that the unwilling Mrs. Chopra was being dragged by enthusiastic Mr. Chopra. They occupied their seats in the luxury coach and the steam engine-driven, special gauge train started.

Prakash was impressed by the gorgeous Mrs. Chopra and aristocratic but little elderly Mr. Chopra. He noticed that Mr. Chopra was quite in a romantic mood. As the train entered the forest area and started climbing up the hills, the surroundings were getting more and more fascinating. Mr. Chopra was trying to appease the lady and was making an effort to change her mood. But he was not getting any success.

Mr. Chopra was pointing at the deep valleys, the attractive waterfalls, and the breathtaking scenes which were making him excited. He was making different sounds at the sharp turns taken by the train. When the train entered a tunnel, it was completely dark in the compartment. Prakash heard a muffled sound. He guessed Mr Chopra, in a terrific romantic mood, must be kissing his wife. But in just a couple of minutes, the train came out of the tunnel and the coach was illuminated. Prakash found Mr.Chopra irritated.  Probably, Mrs Chopra had not cooperated with him.

Just to remind the Chopras of his presence in the compartment, Prakash asked Mr Chopra whether he would like the lamps in the compartment to be ‘on’ when the train entered the tunnel. Mr Chopra, staring at Mrs Chopra,  hurriedly replied, “No. No. Isn’t it fun to pass the tunnel in total darkness?” She ignored him completely. Prakash thought there was not everything going well between this couple in their thirties.

After some bright sunshine inside the coach for a few minutes, the train again entered a tunnel. It was pitch dark once more. Prakash heard muffled sounds again. He was getting disturbed by the long, muffled groans. He thought Mr Chopra had started enjoying his hill-station fun right before reaching the resort. The moaning sounds were irritating Prakash. The tunnel was very long. After a few minutes, the muffled sounds stopped. Prakash imagined that the middle age had put a stop to their vigorous activity.

When the tunnel ended after about 12 minutes, bright sunshine entered the coach. Prakash hesitated to lift his head to look at the fun-loving couple. After his eyes got set on the light inside the compartment, he looked up. And he was aghast.

Mrs. Chopra was lying dead on the couch strangled by her scarf and Mr Chopra was not to be seen. Startled by this horrifying scene, Prakash got up. He shouted for the police. But in the noise of mountain climbing, coal engine driven train, his call could not reach even out of his compartment.

Using the vestibule Prakash passed through the other coaches, contacted the police, and told the entire story of the murder.

Prakash returned to the compartment with the police and switched on the lights of the compartment. Again, he was shocked. The dead body was not there. The police looked for some proof of the murder. But due to the absence of any evidence, the police brushed aside the story of the murder as a simple hallucination and went back to their place. Prakash had some different ideas. He switched off the lights. The train entered the tunnel. There was total darkness in the compartment.

After half an hour the train halted at the station “Bandhavgali.” All the tourists got out onto the platform to stretch their legs. Prakash took this opportunity and contacted the local police. When Prakash told the entire story, of how Mr Chopra had insisted on putting the light off when the train entered the tunnel. Prakash also explained how the muffled noises in the dark were mistaken for kissing and sex play by the middle-aged couple. The second tunnel after the train started from Rampur was fairly long. It took about 12 minutes for the train to come out of the tunnel. The police of Bandhavgali believed what Prakash had told them. They did not brush aside this happening as a piece of hallucination.  Even the missing of the body of Mrs Chopra from the coach, happened while the train was moving in the tunnel.

After a halt for 15 minutes at Bandhavgali, the train started to take the tourists further deep inside the forest and to a higher altitude.

About 3-4 hours later and passing through 7-8 tunnels, the train reached Chandangarh only to start the return journey after a week. Prakash was received by a person responsible for the accommodation of tourists at Chandangarh. He found the Chopra couple missing.

Prakash took charge of the small cottage, which he had booked.

He had dinner and went to bed.

The next day, after breakfast, Prakash took a stroll in the thick forest. When he returned, Prakash found someone waiting for him.

“I am detective Dhananjay. I need to know a little more about the murder which you witnessed.”

“Okay. Tell me what you want to know about yesterday’s happening.”

“Prakash, I have been working on this matter since yesterday after the train reached Chandangarh. I have collected all the information that I could get. And now, I will tell you the entire story which I guess must have happened.

To start with, we have found that Mr Chopra was the only son of the well-known landlord of Meerut. He was married to a daughter of another rich, cultured family in the nearby area. Mr Chopra’s father was not happy with the behaviour of his son. Despite several warnings, he strayed away from proper conduct. Mr Chopra’s father trusted his daughter-in-law more than his son. That resulted in his property going in the name of the daughter-in-law instead of his son, after senior Chopra’s death. That made Mr Chopra extremely unhappy. There were regular sparks between the Chopra couple.

Once Mr Chopra travelled from Rampur to Chandangarhall alone. He also had booked this cottage. The surprised cottage attendant when asked him the reason for his visiting this resort alone without his spouse, he told him that he was a writer and he needed total solitude in the thick forest, to write his story. This resort offered perfect surroundings to write a thrilling plot. Throughout the week that he stayed here,  he was drawing tunnels and was noting down the time taken by the train to pass that tunnel. He was writing something connected with that time. Joining the dots, I think, he had planned to kill his wife, connected with the time the train took to pass the tunnel.

The first short tunnel he used to create the muffled sounds by forcefully kissing his wife. He was successful in creating the impression of love activity during the complete darkness while passing through the tunnel. He knew the next tunnel would bring in the darkness for at least 12 minutes. He strangulated his wife by blocking her mouth using the scarf his wife had put on. But there his calculations went wrong. It took some extra time to complete the act of strangling. So before he could throw the body out of the coach, the train came out of the tunnel. He left the dead body on the couch and hid himself. As expected, you, the other passenger, were shocked and you ran out of the compartment using the vestibule. In a minute, the train entered another tunnel which he knew would take 5-6 minutes. Ensuring that there was no one around, he came out and managed to throw the body out of the coach. This happened unnoticed as the train was still passing the tunnel.

So, Mr Prakash, be careful. The accomplished murderer is on this resort and he may try to wipe off the witness to his meticulously planned murder. We have kept the watch on your cottage. But my request to you is not to venture out into the forest all alone.”

After the week was over, the holiday trip was getting ready to return to Rampur.

Again detective Dhananjay came to the cottage where Prakash had spent the entire week.

“Mr Prakash, getting ready to go back to Rampur? I don’t think you need to worry about getting back to Rampur. You will be escorted by the police.”

Prakash was surprised.

Detective Dhananjay continued,” The further story of the missing Chopra couple goes like this.

One Mr Girish knew Mrs. Nayana, wife of Mr Chopra. He had a secret relationship with her. She used to complain to him about her husband. Mr Chopra always used to abuse her. Sometimes he used to burn her with his cigar. Many a time Mr Chopra went to different places all alone keeping her locked inside the house. Girish, the regular once met her when she was alone. Since then, they had regular secret meetings. Nayana had found a sympathizer in Girish. She started opening out her problems to Girish.

Once Nayana told Girish that her husband Mr Chopra had booked a cottage in the Chandangarh resort and they were going there just a few days later.

“This will rejuvenate you and you will be out of this terrible depressed mood.” Mr Chopra had said.

“No. I am not coming with you. You first change your behaviour and I will be alright then. I need not  go to any resort.” Nayana had pleaded.

“No. We must go there. I will show you how much I love you. You always keep complaining about ill-treatment. Now, when I am taking you out, you don’t want to come. I am sure you will enjoy it. There is no choice. You are coming with me to Chandangarh.” Mr Chopra had insisted.

Nayana told this story to Girish. Girish also was wondering how come all of a sudden Mr Chopra had turned sympathetic to Nayana.

“I suspect foul play. You have to be very careful. “ Girish said.

“But what can I do when I will be there all alone with him.”

“I suspect he might have some plan to get rid of you. So that he can have the entire property at his disposal.” Girish said.

“Yes. I also feel like that. But what can I do?” Nayana expressed her helplessness.

“I will also come to the resort fully prepared and will keep an eye on him,” Girish assured.

“Yes. That will be nice.” Nayana was relieved.

“Luckily, I have not met Mr Chopra so far. So he does not know me. I will book the train going to Chandangarh.” Girish said.

“This is a weekly train. It goes every Sunday and returns on Saturday. Today only you book the luxury coach which has a capacity of four passengers.” Nayana suggested.

“Okay. “ Girish agreed with her.

And thus the third passenger Mr.Girish was in the luxury coach as Mr Prakash.”

Dhananjay took a pause. Looked straight into Prakash’s eyes. He further continued, “And Mr Prakash, the further story you have concealed and have not told to the police.

When the police went back not finding any proof and the train entered a tunnel again, Prakash was in dark. He was just listening to the sounds in the compartment. He heard the dragging of the body from the toilet to the door of the compartment. The door was opened and the body of Mrs. Chopra was thrown out of the train. At that moment Prakash switched on the lights.  Mr Chopra was at the opened door. He was startled. He pulled out his revolver and fired at Prakash. But Prakash was also prepared. Prakash ducked and fired straight at Mr. Chopra. It hit him in the chest. He lost his balance. And he collapsed very close to the open door. While falling down, Mr Chopra tried to hold whatever came his way. He seized Prakash’s hand. While sliding down the train, Mr. Chopra pulled one cufflink from Prakash’s sleeve.

The train was still running in the tunnel.  And he pushed the dead body of Mr. Chopra out of the train. The body went tumbling.

And Mr Girish alias Mr Prakash here is the cufflink which Mr Chopra held onto. When the dead body of Mr.Chopra was discovered nibbled by hyenas in the tunnel, this cufflink was shining in his hand. And I had noticed the missing one cufflink from your shirt given for washing to your attendant. Mr Girish, you are under arrest. You have killed Mr Chopra, who had killed your love Nayana, that is Mrs Chopra. Now you will spend the rest of your life in the resort of jail in Delhi. Good luck!”


Vijay Likhite

The author is a B.E. (Electronics) from Mumbai University in 1971. Owned a manufacturing unit. A few science and technology based articles in Marathi were published in Sunday Edition of local newspaper.

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