>> Friday, January 15, 2010
By Ajay Pradhan | January 15, 2010
As Peter jogged with Zoë in the park, he sensed something was wrong when he saw several cops huddled near the cliff overlooking the ravine.
“I wonder what the cops are doing here this early in the morning. I’ve never seen them here before,” Peter, slightly breathless, said to Zoë.
“Something seems to be wrong,” said Zoë, looking in the direction of the policemen.
“Let’s go check out,” said Peter.
“But, Pete, should we really? We don’t have a whole lot of time today.”
“Come on, ZoZo; let’s just see quickly if there is anything they need help with.”
“Let’s make it real quick, then. We might be interfering if we linger on.”
The area was barricaded with police tape and the police were not answering any question or providing any information. They were stopping people at random and interrogating them.
One policeman approached Peter and Zoë and asked, “Hi, I’m Inspector Deepak Gurung. Do you live in this area?”
“We don’t live very far from here,” said Peter. What’s the matter, Officer?"
The policeman ignored Peter’s question, “Do you come to this park often? When was the last time you were here?”
“We’ve been coming here every morning this past week. Is something wrong?”
“Have you witnessed any incident here recently? Any screams? Any assault? Any fights or scuffles? Anyone injured? Any backpackers?”
“No, we haven’t.”
“And who is she?” The policeman asked Peter, looking at Zoë.
“She’s my fiancée.”
“Give me your names and contact information. Both of you. We will contact you if we think it is necessary.”
After writing down their names and contact information, the policeman handed Peter a business card and said, “If you recall seeing anything out of ordinary, give us a call. You may go now.”
“What’s wrong, Officer? Is somebody hurt?” Zoë asked, before walking away.
“You just leave now.”
Peter and Zoë departed from the park.
Earlier in the morning around six-thirty, an anonymous phone call had tipped the police about bodies of what appeared to be two young women at the bottom of the ravine. When policemen came to the scene, they found the area pretty much undisturbed except for a backpack, a pair of broken sunglasses, and wallet with approximately two-hundred dollars and ten-thousand rupees in cash.
When the police arrived at the scene early in the morning, a thick fog hung over the ravine and obscured a clear view. They could not spot the bodies down in the ravine. When the fog started to lift up, they could spot the bodies with the help of binoculars from the rocky ledge. Four policemen were preparing to climb down to the bottom of the ravine by a rope ladder approximately fifty feet below the ledge. The park-side shoulder of the cliff overlooking the ravine was secured by two lines of barbed wire to prevent unsuspecting park visitors from walking to the edge of the cliff and falling off to a near certain death. The ravine bottom was rocky that formed the bed for strong currents of waters cascading down with enormous force. Only sheer magic or a divine intervention could save anyone falling off the cliff.
Inspector Gurung of the Special Homicide Department of Nepal Police led the taskforce to investigate what appeared to be a case of double homicide. Several police detectives and forensic specialists were inspecting and searching the area for evidence and taking pictures and collecting any relevant specimens.
Four policemen had reached the bottom of the ravine with the help of body harness and rope ladder. Bodies of two young women lay on rough rock and boulder surfaces approximately twenty feet from each other. The bodies appeared to belong to approximately nineteen to twenty year-old Nepali women. Based on their facial features, they could have been either twins or sisters only a year or two apart. When the policemen had completed taking pictures of the bodies and the scene and collected any tell-tale evidence, they prepared to lift the bodies with the help of body bags harnessed by ropes up the cliff to the waiting team of policemen in the park above. At that time they spotted a third body partly submerged in the riffle of water obscured by a large rock formation, approximately thirty feet from the second body. This too was a female body, belonging to a Caucasian woman approximately thirty years old. After making sure that those were the only bodies present at the scene, the policemen lifted the body up to the park surface. Then they climbed up to the surface by rope-ladder.
The bodies were handed over to the coroner and forensic specialists for detailed investigation. The preliminary inspection of the bodies established that the death was caused by gunshot wounds in the chest of all three women.
Back in his office, Inspector Gurung had one of the Sub-Inspectors prepare the preliminary crime scene report for records and submission to his immediate boss, Deputy Superintendent of Police Kamal Mudbhari. The DSP wanted the report by five o’clock; he was flying with his family to Kathmandu that evening to attend a family event.
In the evening, Peter’s parents and his sister accompanied Peter and Zoë to Pokhara Airport to see them off. His two old friends were also there to see him off.
Peter’s sister Kirti said, “Da, the next time we see you and Zoë, it’ll be for your wedding. I can’t wait for your wedding.”
Peter smiled at Kirti, and looked at Zoë. “Neither can I.”
Peter’s mom, Tula, who was always emotional at times of goodbyes, wiped a tear. “I’m glad you two could come home to celebrate Dashain this year. It has been three years since the last Dashain when we were together.”
Peter’s dad, retired major Khadga Man Serchan, was nostalgic. He said to Peter, “You remember that Dashain in 1982 after I returned to Hong Kong from the Falklands War, when you were merely five years old? We came to Nepal for our vacation.”
“Yes, of course, Dad. How could I ever forget that?”
The retired major turned to Zoë and said, “Has Peter ever told you about it? We were all having fun flying kites on the top floor terrace. The top floor terrace still didn’t have the railings then. Both Peter and I fell backwards down to the second floor terrace. It was our big fortune that Peter’s mom had just placed bales of hay to dry there; otherwise we’d have broken quite a few bones.” He started chuckling.
“Yes, he’s told me about it several times,” Zoë said, smiling.
“And, you know, I have never forgotten and will never forget this. The first thing Peter said was, ‘Dad, are you okay?’” Peter’s Dad’s eyes were moist as he patted the son’s back with is hands.
The retired major’s mind drifted back twenty-eight years to the year when Britain and Argentina fought a war over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands off the coast of Argentina.
That was the first war Britain was involved in after the World War II. The Gorkha Brigade of the British Army had earned a reputation as a brigade of fearless fighters during the World War. A Gorkha Brigade battalion was ordered to go to war on the Falkland Islands. Khadga Man Serchan was a sergeant at the time, with a young family. He was one of the Gorkha soldiers assigned to go to the war. His youngest child, Kirti, was not even two.
When Khadga Man broke the news about the impending conscription to the war, Tula was distressed and couldn’t think of anything to do or say for a moment. She was quite concerned for her husband. Wars are never easy on the family of even the most determined soldiers. Khadga Man and Tula had young children. She was concerned for them. But mostly she was very worried for the safety of her husband.
“I have two days to get ready. The battalion leaves in three days.”
“For how long?” asked Tula, hesitantly and barely audible.
Khadga Man looked in her eyes, then looked out the windows, and whispered after a palpable pause, “Who knows?”
“God be with you. And my prayers will always be with you.”
He took her hand in his and said, “I think it’d be better if you went to Nepal while I’m gone than staying here without any family.”
Three days later Tula left Hong Kong for Nepal with three young children. Her husband left with his battalion for the uncertain war on Falklands Islands.
Nine weeks into the war, one day on the South Sandwich Island, one of the three disputed islands, the other two being Falkland Islands and South Georgia Islands, Sergeant Serchan saved a local woman and her five year old boy from being killed by a salvo of artillery assault. Serchan was thinking of his own family, his two little boys and the baby girl, when he saved the mother and the little boy.
The mother belonged to a local resistance group that sided with Argentina. Sergeant Serchan had essentially saved an enemy—enough of a crime for him to be put through a court marital by the British Army.
During the court martial, the military prosecution questioned his loyalty to the British Army: “Your job was to kill the enemies, not save them. Why did you save them?”
“Because I’m a fighter, not a killer.”
The military judge quickly dismissed the disloyalty charge, and ordered that Sergeant Serchan be released from naval detention with full honors and dignity.
[To be continued...]