Read the first part of this story here – The Man with the scar – A Detective Nag story: A Robbery and a Clue
On the Wednesday of the week after the attempted robbery, Detective Lalith Nag was walking down the busy End Point road,behind the old Manipal University building, with his eyes on the ground, hoping against hope that something would turn up to put him on the right track. He raised his eyes. Twenty feet in front of him, walking in the same direction, was a man of powerful physique, dressed in a dark kurta (which had come into fashion because of the sweeping nationalist movement running across the country’s schools and colleges), heavy shoes and a dirty gray hat. An expression of pleasure flitted across the detective’s usually emotionless face, and he instinctively muttered under his breath, “The man.” But one thing troubled him. The fellow walked with a firm, lively step and in general possessed an air of nonchalance that seemed foreign to a man of dark deeds.
Where the End Point road cuts the university campus there was a saloon with a corner vestibule that could be entered from either of the crossing streets. A wooden pillar which had recently received a coat of white paint formed the support. As the shadowed man reached the corner he grasped the pillar and swung himself up the university campus road. This act meant everything to the detective. He kept his eyes riveted on the spot where the big sinewy hand had rested for a moment, and when he reached the pole he smiled. There were four distinct finger prints on the white background. It was lucky for the detective that his man was so tall for this circumstance had caused him to grasp the pillar higher than others who had passed that way, and hence a clean background was afforded the finger prints. It took but an instant to draw a knife, cut a sliver from the column containing the marks, and start again on the man’s track. Nag followed until after some blocks he saw his quarry disappear into a disreputable looking cottage (one of the many abandoned ones in the now decrepit university campus), that was huddled in between the street and the newly constructed railroad tracks at the rear.
The man-hunter walked unconcernedly up the street, took a note of the house number and returned to police headquarters. Here he compared the marks on the saw with those on the sliver. The two prints on the saw, and those of the index and middle finger on the chip exactly coincided.
The next two days were busy ones for Nag. He wanted more evidence before arresting the man. And he got it.
On Friday afternoon he went to the office of the Chief. “Anything new?” queried that official.
“Tonight,” said Nag, “send a detail of ten to the corner of the old university campus road and the valley view street.”
“So you’ve got him, eh?” But Nag was gone. He had important work to do.
At ten that night Nag quietly picked the lock on the door of the wretched cottage. It opened, and beckoning to five of the officers who stood in the shadow of another house, the detective entered the hallway. It was pitch dark except where a line of light shone beneath a door twenty feet away, while a hushed murmur of voices showed that the room was occupied.
Advancing cautiously, the detective threw open the door. The room was dirty and evil-smelling. From a defective chimney, the smoke of a grate fire swirled at times into the room, permeating the air with a murky haze which the light from two lamps on opposite walls failed to penetrate thoroughly. Around a table at Nag’s left, four men were playing cards; two more, one of whom was the man with the scar, were seated before the fire.
At the detective’s entrance every man sprang to his feet, but when they caught sight of the officers with their drawn revolvers, the hands that were speeding toward hip pockets stopped, and at Nag’s command were sent skyward. No man offered fight. The work of putting on the handcuffs, summoning the wagon, and taking the men to the station was quickly done.
After being booked at the station, the men were taken upstairs before the Chief, who with Shetty and three or four other officials was awaiting their coming. All eyes were centered on the man with the scar. His jaw, covered by a stubby black beard, jutted defiantly forward, his black eyes glittered beneath his shaggy brows, and his shoulders were much stooped—a fact noted with some astonishment by Nag, who two days before had been puzzled by the erect carriage of the man. He was the first to be examined. When the first question was put he held up his handcuffs and said:
“Take these off, sir, and’ I’ll tell you something very interesting.”