The breeze rustled through her tresses as it blew over the trees in the copse. The tiny bells attached to the jhumkas hanging by her ear, tinkled a soft jingling sound as they danced to the whims and fancies of the wind. A stray lock blew over her face as the breeze intensified its hold. The dupatta lost the battle to the current, fluctuating wildly as it matched the movements, beat for beat. Held back by the safety pins tied on the shoulder.

The branch creaked under the unnatural burden inflicted upon it, swaying its precious package. The crows flew closer to the trees. A squirrel hunting for nuts watched them with wary eyes. as it moseyed around. The crows’ wings fluttered as they settled on the aforementioned branch, their beady eyes fixed on the objection of their interest.

A hanging dead body.

An excited cawing broke out in the murder as their eyes took in the scene. The dying sun cast its final golden fingers over the tree like a fading spotlight. The birds, restless, flew towards the branch’s pendant. They made a beeline for the closed eyes, jabbing at them with their powerful beaks. Peck. Peck. Peck.

A tussle broke out and the more powerful crows pushed their peers aside. The losers settled for the earlobes, their pincer-like mouth nipping through the juicy, penetrable flesh. The falling jhumka startled the squirrel who watched it with avid interest, sniffing it before realizing it was not a nut, scurried away to safety.

The man stood behind the trees watching the scene unfold in front of him. His eyes tracked every violating nip of crows, a smile yawning through his face. Very soon nature would reclaim what was hers, hiding the evidence of his crime. He watched as the second jhumka kissed the ground amongst the gnarled roots of the peepal tree as the whizzing wind played havoc with the crows’ feast. The jhumka fell with a plop, its bells protesting its fall.

He watched till the sun disappeared over the hill, leaving the night to the owls and feasting crows. He was confident the body would not be discovered, and even if it was, recognition would be a nightmare. He hummed a tuneless tune under his breath as he made his way away from the body. Just as he cleared the copse, he paused. Maybe, he thought, the earrings are made of gold. It would be good to get some money after selling them. Perhaps some country liquor will go down easy after the wonderful night he had with the girl. She definitely satisfied his needs. Now over to another need.

He traced his footsteps back to the tree, the susurrations rising to a cacophony. He bent down and retrieved the earrings and placed them in his pocket and one last look at her, he made his way home. Back to his unsuspecting wife, and his daughter who was flirting with puberty.

I could gift the jhumka to my daughter. A sort of early payment for services soon to be offered, he thought.

Life was good.