Friday, October 26, 2012

Walk the Line - Chapter 41

It was five in the evening when Bhardwaj walked into the war room. The others had all taken their places and Ratan stood at the head of the table. There were six people around the table. Ratan, Bhardwaj, Pat, Amar, Sachin and Luke. They had compiled all the information that they had found throughout the day and each person had a folder in front of them. All of them had their eyes on Ratan as he began to speak. 

‘Let’s start with Ms.Gupta’s abduction. The waiter, Amit Mathur, was brought in. According to him, one of the other waiters asked him to locate and give Ms. Gupta the message as he did not know who Ms. Gupta was. We suspect that the kidnapper is none other than this other waiter.

‘We questioned the manager of the hotel. It seems this waiter, was a last minute addition. New to the hotel. We don’t have pictures of him, but in your file, you will find a sketch of him based on the description provided.

‘The car in which she was abducted was found abandoned on a side road, about 20 kms from the hotel. Fingerprints found in the car have been lifted. We are waiting on the finger prints results. They should be ready by tomorrow.

‘The car registration shows that it belongs to one Mr. Himen Choudhury of Daryaganj. Mr. Choudhury reported the car as being stolen two days ago. He was questioned about it, but suffice to say that Mr. Choudhury’s alibi is water-tight and therefore is not a suspect.’

‘What alibi?’ asked Sachin.

‘Mr. Choudhury is about 45 years old. The waiter in question was in his early thirties,’ Ratan said.

‘Rani Sahiba was present at the party yesterday. However, none of the primaries have been able to give us an adequate description of this Rani Sahiba, so far.

‘We caught a good break today when Mr. Raizada pointed out the similarities between four victims and Ms. Gupta. So now we know we have two parallel crimes taking place. Rani Sahiba and Shyam are involved in both these cases.

‘Rani Sahiba is still elusive at this point, but Ms. Cromley has been working with Ms. Gupta to get a profile for both Rani Sahiba and Shyam. Ms. Cromley?’ he stepped back and Pat took his place.

‘Rani Sahiba and Shyam Jha work as a team. She is the alpha person in this team - the leader. She is probably a woman in her mid-thirties to forties. She is a career woman, and a success in her field. Whatever her field is, it includes working with and/or access to young beautiful girls. Rani Sahiba is bi-sexual, that is, that she likes both men and women. She possibly indulges in S&M practices. Since these are more or less taboo in India, it means that she has traveled extensively in Western countries, where such practices are more common. We should look for a rich, successful career woman, who has traveled extensively in the West. Being successful also means that she has access to finances that are beyond the reach of the average person. She would probably own the properties where the girls are kept until they are sold. This woman is well-known enough to be invited to the Raizada wedding. From this we can infer that she will be someone that the Raizadas do business with on a regular basis.’

She took a deep breath and looked at her notes.

‘Shyam Jha. He is a male in his mid-thirties. We know this from descriptions that Khushi has provided us. He is financially supported by Rani Sahiba. He has been living in her shadow ever since their marriage or whatever relationship he has with her. He is charming and smooth, and this makes him the perfect bait for their targets. He entices them to meet with Rani Sahiba. Once that is done, they abuse the women sexually and use them. Finally selling them off into the slave market. Physically he is a powerful man and he likes to show that power off in front of Rani Sahiba. In his mind, he attempts to show her that she is not the leader, he is.’

She sipped from a glass of water before continuing.

‘Coming to Khushi Kumari Gupta. The first known contact between Khushi and Rani Sahiba was in Delhi, when she started getting blank calls. Later she (air quotes) bumped into Shyam Jha. They became friends, as the blank calls had already alienated her from her best friends. It is obvious that Shyam had been following her around, taking pictures of her and perhaps, also making those blank calls. Then one day he drugged and kidnapped her. There two possibilities here. (a) That Khushi had been targeted solely by Shyam as a possible slave or (b) that Khushi had already caught the eye of Rani Sahiba some time prior to their move to Delhi. The time period would be immediately preceding this move. The latter seems to be a more probable scenario.

‘The reason I say this is because she continued receiving those calls after she reached the US. Then the calls began when she came here. Obviously, she has not been forgotten. Rani Sahiba has fixated on Khushi as the one that got away. During the period when Khushi was away in the US, four girls were murdered that looked very similar to Khushi. This is a classic expression of transference by the killer. He or she wants to have the real thing. They find a replacement, but when they realize that it is only a replacement, they kill the girl. The particularly brutal nature of these homicides exhibits the anger that the perp has towards Khushi.

‘Rani Sahiba still wants Khushi, and she is unwilling to let her go.

‘I believe that the kidnapping was a solo attempt by Shyam to get Khushi to Rani Sahiba as a prize offering. But as we know, it failed.

‘Our first priority should be to find Rani Sahiba. She is the mastermind behind the whole slave trade. But with the murders, she has become a dangerous woman and must be treated as armed and dangerous. Shyam, whether on her orders or not, is also capable of murder, and therefore should also be considered dangerous.’

Pat finished her spiel and sat down. The operatives were given time to ask her questions and she answered them as honestly as she could.

‘What can we expect from them? That is, how do we expect them to behave at this point?’ asked Amar.

‘Their escalation has already occurred. Since they knew Khushi would be at the wedding, they have kept a close eye on her, so they must be shadowing her. The failed attempt yesterday might act as a trigger to a more violent attempt to get to her.’

‘Shouldn’t we be warning the Raizadas and the Guptas about this?’

‘Mr. Raizada has Khushi at his home. It’s fairly securely guarded from what he has told us. But it would not be past Rani Sahiba or Shyam make another attempt. Moreover, she will not be in the house all day. She has to go out and about. If they are watching her, then they will definitely make the attempt outside the Raizada house.’

The meeting dispersed soon afterwards and Pat found herself alone with Ratan.

‘The CCTV tapes from the hotel have just arrived,’ he said. ‘We should start looking through them and see if we can spot him.’

‘Why don’t we get Khushi in here tomorrow, too?’ asked Pat. ‘She’d know if she saw him, surely?’

‘Good idea, Ms. Cromley,’ he said.

‘Also, Ratan,’ she said. ‘I think it would be a good idea to have someone watch the Raizada mansion. If Shyam and Rani Sahiba are following her, then this would be the ideal place to do so.’ She ran a hand through her hair, feeling tired and grimy after this long day. Suddenly she remembered something. ‘Ratan, I need a gun,’ she said.

He nodded his head. ‘What kind do you prefer? Our standard issues are Glocks or Brownings.’

‘The Glock,’ she said, ‘I’m more comfortable with it.’

‘I’ll have one assigned to you,’ he nodded, opening the door to let her out.

***

Nani, Payal and Anjali were waiting impatiently in the lounge. They’d seen the SUV pull up but it seemed like it was taking a long time for the two of them to come inside. Finally the door opened and Khushi and Arnav walked it.

‘Chotey, you’re back!’ said Anjali with a delighted smile. He looked at his sister at a loss for words. Why does she always have to state the obvious? he thought.

‘Yeah, di,’ he gave a slight nod and a grimace that passed for a smile. He headed for the stairs, leaving Khushi alone. She moved towards her room when Anjali’s voice stopped them both in their tracks.

‘Have you had lunch?’ she asked sweetly, obviously unaware of the palpitating tension between the two of them. Payal and Nani watched with barely suppressed smiles. Anjali could make anyone’s life hell with her sweet- coated words.

‘No, di,’ he said. ‘We didn’t have time.’

‘What?’ Anjali was astonished. ‘It’s almost two and you two couldn’t get lunch? Come and sit down, both of you, right now,’ she took charge. They protested that they weren’t hungry, but when she got on a charger there was no stopping Anjali. The two of them finally sat down at the dining table, and Hari brought out food for them.

Khushi realized how hungry she was and began to dig into her food.

‘Khushi,’ said her sister. ‘How was your day?’

‘Good, jiji,’ she said. ‘It was good.’

Anjali tried to make conversation with Chotey, but he was answering in monosyllables, his brows together in a glower. The day that had begun so well for him, had rapidly gone downhill. He was wondering how the hell he’d let it happen. The imp just looked at him, shook his head and let himself out the door. As soon as they finished eating the two of them headed off in opposite directions and very soon, the trio heard two doors slam almost in unison.

‘What the?!’ said Anjali. ‘I wonder what happened between them?’

‘Looks like they had another fight,’ said Nani.

‘Khushi is a very stubborn girl. Whatever it is, he is going to have a hard time making it up to her,’ said Payal worriedly.

‘And why should Chotey be the one making up, pray?’ asked his sister defensively.

‘Because my sister .. ,’ Payal stopped. Good grief! This was her first day in the house, and already she was getting into it with her sister-in-law! She swallowed back what she was about to say and then said mildly, ‘I mean, I’m sure she irritated your brother about something.’

Naniji smiled at that. Good work, Payal! she thought approvingly. ‘Anjali, in a relationship, it’s always better for a man to apologize. He is the one that has to do the making up, even if she is in the wrong.’

‘Wait,’ she held up her hand, ‘and why haven’t you given this piece of advice to your grandson-in-law?’

Naniji laughed merrily at that and instead turned to Payal. ‘I think you should go see why your sister is so angry.’ Turning to Anjali she said, ‘and get Akash to talk to Chotey now.’

‘But Nani, he is in such a temper right now,’ she was worried.

‘Exactly. He won’t be thinking straight,’ slyly.

‘Nani, you are beyond great,’ said Anjali with a big grin on her face.

****

Khushi was standing in the middle of her room. She’d kicked off her heels as soon as she’d got in. The jacket was off, and she was alternately pacing the floor and muttering to herself. Hearing the knock on her door, she walked across to fling it open, startled to find Payal there.

‘Jiji,’ she said.

Payal walked in without an invite, taking in the handbag thrown in a corner, the shoes in two different places and the jacket tossed on the chair. Khushi was in a fine mood, she thought. Gently now, she told herself.

‘Khushi? What is it?’ she put a soft hand on her sister’s shoulder.

Khushi stood there for a moment rocking on her feet before going, ‘aaarrgghhh!!! I am so pissed... I could.. Who does he.... ‘

‘How about you complete one sentence at a time?’ her sister raised an eyebrow at her.

‘Jiji, I am just so mad!’

Payal took in the red flags on her cheeks and innocently said, ‘Who’s he?’

‘Arnav Singh Raizada. Dear Lord, give me patience. The man thinks no end of himself.’ Payal kept quiet waiting for the tirade to finish. ‘What does he mean by telling me how I should live my life? Where I should go and what I should do?’

‘Perhaps because he wants to,’ Payal slid that thought in, quietly.

‘He .... What?!’ Khushi looked at her sister, her anger falling like a cloak at her feet.

‘Perhaps because he wants to.’ Payal repeated. ‘Or perhaps because he thinks he has the right to. ... Does he, Khushi?’ her eyes searched her sister’s face.

Khushi slumped onto the bed, head bent taking that in. She could feel her heart racing at the possibility. She looked up with lost eyes at her sister, ‘I don’t know, Jiji. I really don’t.’

Payal let it go. ‘Go take a shower, you’ll feel better, then come join us for tea.’

She nodded, slowly getting up and walking to the bathroom. Her sister followed her with worried eyes. Arnav seemed to have made a dent on Khushi. But was it mutual?

*****

Akash in the meantime, had gone looking for Arnav. He knocked on the door, and heard a short ‘Come in.’ So in he went carrying two cans of Coke.

Arnav had obviously just come out of the shower, a towel wrapped low on his hips, hair still dripping water. His laptop, a bag and a box lay on the bed, which was quite unlike him, since he was almost obsessively neat.

‘So, bro, how did it go with the buyer today?’ he asked.

Arnav stared at him blankly. Buyer? What buyer? ‘What?’

‘You know, the one from America that you and Khushi were going to meet this morning. Although why you would take her to meet a buyer, I didn’t quite get.’ Smooth, Akash, he thought to himself. He watched as Arnav turned away, picking up his blow dryer to dry his hair, the buzzing drowning out any conversation that Akash might want to have.

‘It was good,’ said Arnav, when he realized Akash wasn’t going anywhere.

‘So....er... why didn’t you take her to lunch then?’ Akash continued his quiz.

‘Did you come here to ask me about the buyer or was there something else?’ he was pulling on his warmups as he spoke before pulling out a white tee and slipping that on.

Akash waved the two cans of Coke. ‘I just thought we could hang out for a bit, relax, chew the cud, so to speak.’ He handed over the diet Coke to his brother, who nodded and popped open the can. They headed out to the pool, pulling a couple of chairs into the sun.

‘So you want to chew the cud with me? Akash, you got married yesterday! Shouldn’t you be spending time with your wife?’

‘She’s busy with the womenfolk. They have another rasam coming up! These never-ending rasams,’ he groaned. ‘Bro, if you ever get married, just run away, elope, okay?’ Nicely done, Akash, he patted himself on the back.

‘I’m not getting married,’ Arnav scoffed. He pause and then said, ‘Well, at least not in the near future.’

‘So you ARE thinking about getting married?’

‘What?! I never said that,’ he looked at his brother over the rim of the can as he raised it to his lips. What was he going on about? ‘Why’re we talking about my marriage?’ he asked.

Akash looked down and said shyly, ‘you know, bro. Marriage is a pretty cool thing.’ He looked away into the distance. The poetic look, and then turned to look at his brother who had a baffled expression on his face.

‘Really?!’

‘Really, bro. It’s beautiful. Just being with the person you love.... Knowing she’s yours for all the days of your lives..... it’s a really great feeling .. being in love....’

Arnav snorted and shook his head.

Akash was wondering how to introduce Khushi into the conversation when the bulb lit up inside his head. ‘But of course, you wouldn’t understand.’

‘What makes you say that?’

‘You do understand?’

‘Akash,’ Arnav was now getting annoyed. ‘What the hell are you talking about?’

‘Being in love, bro’ he watched his brother closely. Arnav pulled out his shades and put them on. He also found the slow rise of color in his brother’s neck very interesting. ‘You got something you wanna talk about?’ he asked gently.

Arnav shook his head and looked away. ‘No,’ he said shortly.

‘Oh well, I’d better go,’ said Akash. His phone rang. He listened for a moment and said, ‘Okay, Payal. I’ll tell Khushi.’ From the corner of his eye, he watched his brother jerk at the name. Oh ho! Not so immune, are we, brother mine? he thought, grinning in his head. He hung up and looked at Arnav. ‘I gotta go call Khushi. Payal wants her for something.’

Arnav nodded and said nothing. As he reached the French doors, Arnav stood up, ‘Akash! Why don’t you go to Payal? I’ll send Khushi.’

‘Sure, bro, thanks,’ said Akash before turning away with a huge grin on his face. Excuses, excuses, Arnav Singh Raizada. All you want is an excuse to see her.

****

Gauri Virdi paced the floor of her penthouse apartment. She hadn’t heard from him in over twenty hours. The wait was killing her. Something had happened yesterday. She was sure of it. Something that took ASR and Khushi out of the room for over an hour. Was it the same something that made him leave? She looked out of the window, tapping the glass with her long red nails. Come on, where are you? she thought. She looked at her phone. No messages, no calls, no nothing. Where was he?

The doorbell rang and she turned around. Her manservant ran to open it. Shyam stood in the doorway. He’d shaved off his moustache and got rid of the glasses. Now the only thing that remained of his disguise was his hair. There wasn’t much he could do about it.

She marched over to him and yelled, ‘What the fuck, Shyam? Where the hell have you been?’

‘Rani Sahiba, I’m sorry. But I needed some time to change and rest up before I came here.’

4 comments:

  1. And the plot thickens.... Wow ! Superb... the story continues.... the mystery deepens and so do the feelings of a certain Mr. Raizada.... he can't keep his eyes / hands / anything off Ms. Gupta now... can he???

    Loved the small snide remark about the sugar coated words of Anji... ahahah !!!!

    42.... bring it on !!!!

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  2. The threads are unraveling......RS's obsession with K & Sz personal agendaz r going to cause their downfall....

    A&K as usual mohabbat door jaaney na dey gussa pass aaney na dey....;-)

    Well m looking fwd to their *making up*....

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  3. Hey!
    Sorry, been away for a while. Read 3 chapters together! Made me so happy!

    Your entire description of the War Room and the proceedings within it sound most believable. Some amount of research must have gone into this.

    Arnav and Khushi, what can I say, they are fabulous! Also, I might have said this before but I love the Imp, so much! I like how you use it to give us an insight into Arnav's otherwise cryptic head!

    Thank you for writing and sharing!

    Will be waiting for more.

    P.S. I had expected Arnav to chuck Aakash out!

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  4. Oh boy, Arnav and Khushi really have a firey relationship, all over each other one minute, wanting to tear the other one up the next. But that is Arhi.
    He needs to tell her why she has to go back.... Payal and Akaash these two are a right pair, get married and feel everyone else should be, or is that because they want the teasing directed towards someone else?

    ReplyDelete

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