The Grip of Infamy. Episode 5. Serialised Story by R. Sittamparam

Episode 5

Meeting this youth who identified himself as Saka at a nearby coffee stall, Anthony obtained a detailed report of residents in the neighbourhood who might have seen the shooting incident and Thana’s outburst of anger.

The gossipy Muthammal, living directly opposite the crime scene knows everything that happens in the neighbourhood. Mr Theermanam, her flustered husband is always trying to get her to shut up. One day you are going to be in big trouble because of this habit he keeps telling her.

Opposite Muthammal’s house lives retired Government-leaning Tamil daily Azhum Oli journalist Ali Tajudeen, a quiet man who minds his own business. But his outspoken son Abdul Haque works for an independent online news portal. One was never sure when Haque would be home as he had the habit of dropping by home following assignments in the city and probably sending stories online, from home to his copy editors at the Petaling Jaya office.

Also not to be discounted was the community social service stalwart Darcy Chin who never tired of lending a hand to neighbours in trouble or diligently monitor the late night goings-on in the neighbourhood. The father of a six-year-old boy, was not a bit shy to intervene in righting wrongs affecting neighbours despite sometimes told to mind his own business. And bold to the point of facing up to real physical danger – engaging in arguments and scuffles or even trading blows. There were instances when during his daily past-midnight cigarette smoking strolls in the area, the tall and tough looking Chin had frightened off would-be burglars and robbers and thus unknowing to many, helped safeguard the neighbourhood.

There was also the family of 14 children sired by the alcoholic Arumugam and borne by the neighbourhood house helper Thangamma. The children ranging in ages from one to 13 years old including two pairs of twins freely roamed about the neighbourhood in the afternoons and early evening, doing odd jobs and receiving handouts from neighbours. They were uncared for by the father, an odd job labourer and mother who was out of the house most of the day doing part time housework in the area and washing dishes at a nearby eating stall. The family lived in a rented old house, the only one in the neighbourhood that had not been extended or renovated. The landlady, Madam Letchumi a kind old widow in her 70s lived alone in the master bedroom of the house with the other two rooms and hall rented out cheaply to the Arumugam family. Letchumi, a retired Tamil school teacher had taken pity on the Arumugam family and taken them into her house shortly after she hired Thangamma as a part time house helper.

Anthony also heard of the mysterious old Malay bachelor known to neighbours only as Salleh. Obviously a UK educated man judging by his heavy British accent, mannerism and clothes resembling an English gentleman complete with Kashmiri pullovers, scarfs and British military beret. He made his first appearance in the area two years ago at a long abandoned house beside Ali Tajudeen’s house. Shortly afterwards, several contractors had arrived at the house to clean it up and do some renovations including putting up a wall around the house and a steel gate. Salleh did not own a car and always used a taxi to move around. He daily took a casual 200m walk – wearing his beret, scarf and light woollen vest over a neatly tucked in short sleeve cotton shirt – turning up at the Mysore Café for his late early afternoon tea and dinner at 8pm. Saka had also heard talk of closed circuit television surveillance in and around Salleh’s house. But no one was really sure about this as no camera had yet been seen around the house area.

Anthony’s chat with Saka was cut short when the former received a call. Thiagu’s frantic voice blared out from the mobile phone.  “A video showing Thana kicking Guru’s body has come up on WhatsAp and within minutes went viral and has now entered Facebook and Snapchat. Thana has flown off to India under the guise of holidaying with his wife and children.

“Thana wants us to go into hiding as well until he tells us to come out. Get out of Sentul immediately and go back to your hometown in Ipoh. Tell the others to do the same,” Thiagu gasped out.

Anthony returned to Saka and pushing a 100 ringgit note into the latter’s hand ordered him to show Haque’s house as he had little doubt the online reporter must be culprit who uploaded the incriminating video of his boss. He knew the tactics employed by sneaky online media reporters to escape the strict publication laws in place in the country, taking advantage of the loopholes in the legal system.

Taking Saka in a 4WD that pulled up near the stall, Anthony passed through the road where the shootout took place about five hours ago. It had grown dark and as the vehicle slowly passed Haque’s house, Anthony carefully surveyed the house which was shut up and dark. Only the closed wooden glass-panelled window of the master bedroom facing the road was lit up.

“Just as I thought, the rogue must be hiding inside after carrying out his dastardly deed. Just wait till I get my hands on him and I will show Thana how much I care for his wellbeing,” Anthony told himself.

All the characters in this story are fictional.

Sittam Param

Writer, poet, dramatist and former journalist. I have passion for art in all its forms hence my involvement in this portal.

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