'Oh, yes, sorry, yaar, so forgetful I'm getting.' She took her seat again. 'See, Chubby, the fact is that, regarding the Riya Kaur murder, one witness has come forward.'
'What kind of witness?'
'A human one, naturally. You think it could be a dog or a monkey or some such?'
'Nothing would surprise me.'
'Well, she is very much a woman.'
Mummy gave him a blank look. 'That is all—a woman,' she said.
'A member of the family, a servant, neighbour...butcher, baker, bloody candlestick maker?'
'Language, if you please.'
'She is related to Riya in a way, yes.'
'And this woman claims to have witnessed what, exactly?'
'She saw what happened with her own two eyes.'
'Saw what exactly?'
'You wish to know her testimony, is it?' asked Mummy with a sigh. 'For that, Chubby, some time will be required and you've a meeting to attend unfortunately.'
Puri placed both hands palms down on the desk, as if he needed the support to steady himself.
'Just answer me this: the female, your witness, is she willing to go on the record, to testify in the court?'
'That could prove...complicated.'
Puri took a deep breath and exhaled, determined to remain cool, though he felt like he could explode.
'Mummy-ji, tell me who this witness is, exactly and precisely, or I will not get you the file. Final.'
'But you promised!'
'You've one minute, then I'm terminating this conversation. No discussion.'
'Very well,' she said, composing herself. 'If you must know, Chubby, the witness is in fact Riya Kaur herself.'
'She's alive? You've met with her?'
For a fleeting moment Puri felt hopeful. His father's failure to solve the case had troubled him to his dying day. The case had been a personal one. Riya Kaur's father was his close friend.
Was it possible that Mummy had got to the bottom of it once and for all?
Her reply—'More or less'—brought him back down to earth with a thud, however.
'More or less? How someone can be alive more or less, I ask you?'
'Simple, na,' replied Mummy. 'Saanvi is the reincarnation of Riya Kaur.'
Puri closed his eyes. 'By God,' he breathed. 'You're saying some woman is claiming to be Riya Kaur?'
'Not some woman, Chubby, if you please. Saanvi. She is '84 born.'
'And you plan to present her into court, I suppose? Your Honour, this is the woman who went missing all those years back. We recognize that she looks 'nothing' like Riya Kaur and that she is 'not, in fact', Riya Kaur at all. But if it please the court, we ask Your Honour to indulge this little fantasy!'
Mummy's face flashed angry defiance. 'Saanvi is the one, rest assured,' she said. 'So many details she knows. Like the colour of Riya's wedding sari. How she could know such a thing?'
Puri stood up and began to gather his things: keys, wallet, the Ram Bhatt matrimonial case file.
He grabbed the custard creams as well.
'So, you'll get hold of the file tomorrow?' asked Mummy.
Puri ignored her.
'Chubby, you gave your word!' came her voice as he exited his office.