Friday, November 2, 2012

Walk the Line - Chapter 44

Gauri paced the rug in her bedroom, her sharp heels making dull clacking sounds even through the rug. Shyam sat watching her pace. The skin was pulled tight over her face. She’d just had a botox treatment and even her frown fell short of being a scowl. She was not happy. It was almost seven in the evening. He checked his phone again. Nothing. He scowled now. This was not good. Rocky and Mannu should have called by now. Maybe it was one of those days, when ASR was working late. He liked to do that quite often, he knew. The man was a veritable workaholic!

He dialed Rocky’s number. The phone rang and rang again. He waited until there were six rings, and finally hung up. Then he tried Mannu’s number. Same thing, no pickup. What was going on? Had they met with an accident?

She looked expectantly at him. ‘Well?’ Hands on her hips, encased in black tights, ending with her feet in miles-high heels. she wore a lilac shirt on top, off one shoulder and embroidered with sequins along the single shoulder. Her hair was up in a French knot. She looked like the classy society lady, that the world knew her as.

He shook his head. ‘I don’t know, Rani Sahiba. They don’t seem to be picking up their phone.’ He shrugged, palms out. What can I do?

‘What kind of fucking idiots do you hire, Shyam?’ she snapped. ‘All they had to do was pick up the girl and bring her here.’

‘I know, I know,’ he soothingly said. ‘But sometimes things happen.’

‘Like what?’

‘Like maybe he's working late, and they decided to get some tea or something?’

‘He's working late? But they called and took their orders from you, isn’t it, when he LEFT an hour ago? You spoke to them before they hit the mountain road. So how can he be working late, my dear Shyam?’ her voice dripped with sarcasm. ‘Or did you forget you’d spoken to them?’ overly sweet. She was taking slow steps towards him with each sentence. She was standing nose-to-nose with him now. Her long index finger, poking at his chest, ‘Or is it that you know something has gone wrong?’ emphasizing each point with a stab. ‘Like you did at the wedding?’

His eyes flickered towards her, unable to hide his surprise.

She stepped back, her cheekbones turning red as she saw the look. ‘Oh my God! So it WAS you at the wedding, hunh? what did you do?’

‘No, Rani Sahiba,’ he croaked. ‘I didn’t do anything!’

‘What did you do?’ she screeched. ‘What was it? Did you attempt to kidnap her? From a heavily guarded public venue? did you? DID YOU?!!’ her voice rising with every question.

He nodded mutely, bracing himself, knowing what was coming. Even then, it shocked him when it came. A hard open handed slap, delivered with the full force of her fury. The flat sound echoing in the room. The next one was just as hard and just as shocking. She was screaming at him now, with frustration. Her clawed hands reached out to his hair, not finding anything to grasp at, slid down to his collar, bringing him close. ‘How dare you? How dare you disobey me? and how dare you not follow my orders?’ She shoved him back, and came in right after him. His face stung now, with the blows, and then another one hit him. He could feel himself getting hard, his breathing deepened, and excitement raced through his blood.

He gritted his teeth and jerked her towards him with one hand, the other digging into her scalp, pulling her close. But not today. Her knee came up and connected with a thigh. With a grunt of pain he let her go, doubling up and holding on to his leg.

‘Don’t touch me,’ she screamed. ‘You no good, son of a bitch!’

‘Calm down, Rani Sahiba,’ he gritted through his pain. ‘You need to calm down and let me think of something.’

She was breathing heavily through her nostrils, her bosom heaving with rage. ‘Yes, THINK!!’ she said, albeit a little calmer now.

His hard-on wasn’t going away, he knew. Just to see her like this, always aroused him. He tasted blood at the corner of his mouth. The bitch had drawn blood! He snaked out an arm and pulled her back to him, her back to him. Shoving down her head on the bed, he grabbed her tights and tore them down. All that covered her ass, was a tiny triangle of a thong. Her buttocks were bare.. She squirmed in the hold, trying to get away when he brought down one arm in a slap, thwack! on her buttocks. She stilled for an instant, and then struggled to move. He held her down, one hand going to his zip. ‘Let me show you what a real son of a bitch I am!’ he growled.


Rocky sat in a room all by himself. There were no windows in the room, and the walls were painted a dull grey. A single recessed fluorescent light provided illumination, bouncing off the rounded edges of the steel table. It was nailed to the floor. He’d tested it. So was the chair to which he was cuffed right now. He tugged at the bracelet, but it was no good. Just then the door opened and a tall man came in, followed by a shorter man.

Both were dressed alike, in casual short-sleeved shirts, and trousers. The taller one, had curly black hair, topping a face with eyes that were like black pebbles - deep set and completely devoid of life - under a straight brow line. His lips were thinned out as he held himself in check. The shorter man was also younger than the taller man. His hair was cut close to the sides, but longer on top. A diamond glinted in one ear. His face was less sharp then the taller one’s but just as emotionless.

They pulled out the chairs facing him and dropped some papers, files and a leather folder on it. The shorter one opened it and took a pen from his pocket.

‘So,’ he said, in a very deep voice, his adam’s apple jumping up and down as he spoke. ‘Your name is...?’

‘Rocky,’ he answered surlily.

‘Rocky. Hmm? Seen that Sylvester Stallone movie?’

He shook his head. He’d recognized the shorter one from the car. He was one of the police, Amar.

‘So, Rocky,’ he began again. ‘What were you doing on that mountain road?’

‘Nothing, sa’ab,’ he answered.


‘No, sa’ab. We kept trying to tell that other man. But he pulled a gun on us, and now, you’ve arrested us?’ he protested indignantly.

‘I see. So why did you stop the car, then? You were ahead of him,’ pointed out Amar.

‘See, when we passed him, all of a sudden, he speeded up. Came up right behind us. So we thought we’d scare him by braking. Only the car fishtailed,’ he whined.

‘So you were going to scare a guy in a big SUV by braking? Good idea.’ Amar flicked an invisible piece of dust from on top of his file, opened it and looked at it. ‘What’s your companion’s name?’ he switched topics.

‘Mannu,’ he said sullenly.

‘And how much money were you going to get?’

Rocky’s eyes jumped. ‘Sa’ab. I keep telling you, we were just going on our way...’

Amar sighed and snapped the file shut. He stared at him for a few seconds and then suddenly slammed his hands down on the table. He stood up, shoving his chair back, the metal making a harsh screeching noise on the concrete floor. He leaned across the table, his face close to Rocky’s and said harshly, ‘so tell me why I’ve been sitting in the sun all day, while you waited across from AR Group? And why I turned up at the mountain road so quickly. I’ve been following you all day, Rocky. And I am NOT’ he shouted the last word, and it banged around the empty room. ‘I am NOT about take any bullshit from you. You get it?’ he snarled at Rocky.

Rocky was leaning back in his chair away from this scary incarnation from the pleasant man who’d been sitting across from him.

Amar walked around to him, while Ratan (for Ratan was the taller guy) watched impassively. He leaned over Rocky and said, ‘now, I am going to ask you one more time. How much money were you getting for this?’

‘Five lakhs rupees,’ he mumbled.


‘Five lakhs,’ a little clearer.


‘I don’t know,’ mumbling again.

‘You don’t know?’ and grabbed his shirt collar. ‘Talk!’

‘No, sa’ab, I’m telling you. I don’t know his name.’

The file was pushed under his nose, open to a page with six photos. ‘Which one?’

Rocky shook his head. The page was flipped. He straightened just a little, and blinked. Ratan narrowed his eyes and then watched as he shook his head again. He smiled grimly. Liar. Amar flipped the page, and watched as Rocky shook his head yet again. For the rest of the pages, he shook his head.

Ratan pulled back the file, looked at Amar and nodded slightly. He flipped the pages, till he came to the second page, took it out of the folder and put it face down on the table. Rocky followed his movements, but didn’t realize which page he’d taken out.

Amar sighed. ‘Telling lies again, Rocky?’ he asked conversationally.

Rocky looked up. ‘No, sa’ab, I’m telling you that man wasn’t there.’

‘So what did this man want you to do?’ change topic, keep his mind from remembering what he’d told earlier.

‘He just wanted us to follow those people and tell him where they went.’

Amar sighed dramatically. ‘Look, Rocky, I don’t know what you think you’re going to get out of lying to us. See, your friend, what was his name again?’

‘Mannu,’ sulkily.

‘Ah, Mannu.’ He paused for effect. ‘See, two of my friends are asking him these exact questions. Right now. Now, only one of you will get a better chance with the judge, depends on which of you talks faster. The first one who tells us what we want to hear, will get it. You’re not doing very well, so far. So I guess it will be Mannu.’ He looked at Ratan, who shrugged his shoulders.

‘Sa’ab, I’m telling you the truth.’

‘Are you?’ He nodded. ‘Then why’d you lie about the pictures?’ Amar leaned close once more.

Rocky’s cowered a little more into his chair. Ratan slid the overturned page to him and spoke for the first time. ‘Point him out,’ he said softly. He flipped the page over.

Reluctantly, he placed his finger on Shyam’s photo. ‘That one.’

‘And what did he really want you to do for five lakhs?’

‘Pick up the girl.’ Ratan nodded.

‘And after that?’

‘Bring her to a place, where he would pick her up.’

‘What place?’

‘He said he’d tell us after we picked her up.’

‘What about the man?’

‘He said, we could do what we wanted to him, as long as we got the girl.’

‘You’re doing very well, Rocky,’ he said encouragingly. ‘What’s his name?’

‘I really don’t know,’ Rocky was almost in tears.

‘So how do you call him?’

‘He gave us a phone number. We call him there.’

His phone slid across the table to him.

‘Call him. Tell him you got a puncture so you couldn’t pick up the girl.’

Rocky looked at him scared.

‘Look,’ Ratan was dropping his voice lower, ‘you call him now, or I call him and tell him what a complete ass you’ve been. And that we’ve got you.’

‘You don’t know, Sa’ab. Boss will really hurt me, when I go back,’ he was whining now.

‘You call him Boss?’ A quick affirmative nod.

‘He can’t hurt you here, Rocky,’ soothingly. ‘We’ll take care of you. Now call him.’

Amar scrolled through the contacts and found ‘Boss’. He hit the dial and the speakerphone buttons, and held it up in front of Rocky.

The phone rang once, then twice. Someone picked up the phone. ‘Hello?’

Finally, they were hearing the voice of Shyam Manohar Jha.


Gauri and Shyam lay panting on the bed after their coupling, when his phone rang. He reached over for his trousers, and pulled it out from the pocket. ‘Hello?’

‘Boss, we got into a bit of trouble.’

‘What happened?’ She mouthed ‘speakerphone’. He switched it on, so she could also hear.

‘We... we had a tire puncture, boss.’

‘A tire puncture? A TIRE puncture?’ he raked his fingers across his scalp, missing his hair. What the fuck? A tire puncture?

‘Yes, boss. So we couldn’t pick up the girl.’

‘Okay. Where are you?’


‘At the tire repair shop.’

‘Okay, is Mannu with you?’

‘No, he went to get some tea for us.’

‘Okay. Call me back tomorrow. You can go home.’ He hung up.

She laughed humorlessly for all of a minute. ‘Just like you,’ she said. ‘Complete idiots. Where’d you find these guys?’ She laughed some more. ‘Don’t tell me. I don’t even want to know.’

He looked balefully at her, before getting up and starting to pull on his clothes.

She sat there in her half-naked glory and continued, ‘you know, Shyam, sometimes I wonder why I even put up with you. The only thing is you’re a damn good fuck,’ she finished, before sliding out of bed herself and moving to the bathroom door. Hand on the knob, she turned around, ‘you’ve got only three days left to get this done, you know. If not, I really have no need of you,’ she walked into the bathroom and slammed the door shut.

He stood there watching the door for a few seconds. Reaching for the phone that he’d put on the nightstand, he called a number. When the phone was picked up, he heard a familiar voice say, ‘This is Lallan. To what honor do I owe this call, boss?’

Lallan. A goon and a thug. And also the man who’d given him Rocky and Mannu.

‘Lallan, this Rocky and Mannu are useless. I need you to complete the job.’

‘What do you want from me?’

He began giving him instructions.


Amar and Ratan walked out of the interrogation room, and joined Pat who had been watching the whole scene from behind a two-way mirror, with Luke as her interpreter.

‘Well, Pat. What d’you think?’

She smiled and hi-fived them. ‘Great job, guys. But he’s small fish. We need those two.’ The others nodded, but they were suddenly feeling much more optimistic about finally closing this case!


The next morning, Ratan, Amar, Sachin, Luke and two more agents walked into a conference room at the Police Headquarters. They’d spent almost all night planning today’s activities. Every single logistical element had to be worked out - from timings, resources, communications, weapons, staging, routes, floor plans, everything.

The room had been set up almost like a class room, with a projector and a white screen, rows of desks and chairs facing forward. Men and a few women were still filing into the room. They stood at the front of the room, occasionally shaking hands with an acquaintance. The twenty-odd chairs were almost filled up, when Bhardwaj walked into the room. Everyone stood up and saluted. He saluted back and then gestured for them all to sit down.

‘Good morning, ladies and gentlemen,’ he began. ‘You are all here as part of a special task force. For the past six years, Delhi has been plagued with a rising number of missing women. Some of them have turned up dead, others have vanished...’

He continued laying out the plan that they had strategized over the night before.

The team was broken up into six groups. Each group would lead a team of police to each of the six locations of Rani Sahiba’s warehouse type properties. The raid would be simultaneous at all six locations, at three in the morning. Each of the team leads would be sequestered as they went through their prep. Then they would have to make their tactical decisions based on ground conditions. The teams worked throughout the day. Come night time, they would be ready to go.

The net was slowly closing in on Rani Sahiba and Shyam Manohar Jha.


Arnav yawned and woke up with the sun. It was still early. He put his arm behind his head, the tee he’d worn to bed, stretching over the lean muscles, and looked out the window.The adrenaline rush from the previous evening’s encounter had awakened something in him. Dinner last night had been fun. He smiled as he savored that word on his mental tongue - FUN! Something he’d been too busy to do all these years. There was something about being around Khushi, his lips twisted into a wry smile at the thought. She brought out that part of him. Even with her fears and the trauma she’d gone through, he admired the brave way she’d pulled herself together.

The imp yawned and opened his eyes, smiled at him.

Tuesday morning, he thought. Four more days. With a sigh, he sat up in bed. For some reason, he didn’t feel like his usual jog or swim this morning. He wanted to hit the gym. A spot of Jeet Kune Do, and then maybe some weights. He liked to mix up his workout routines.

Half an hour later, he was soaked in sweat. The punching bag was the only alternative he had to a partner. He punched, kicked and landed blows in quick succession, the headband keeping the worst of the sweat and his hair out of his eyes. His focus was on the bag, slowing it down in his mind’s eye, hitting it harder with every blow. Taking the guard stance, he waited till the bag was swinging towards him. He jumped up, almost in a split, right leg straight out, left leg bent at the knees, his ankle tucked under his buttocks. He flew at the bag, his foot connecting sideways with it, and following through with a one-two-three punch, each landing with a satisfying thunk! on the bag as it swung backwards. He landed on the balls of both feet, his elbows tight against his sides, his hands at right angle to his body. He continued to workout for another half hour and then stopped.

Taking off the bottoms of his gi, he wiped down the sweat from his body before making his way over to the Bowflex, clad only in black gym shorts and running shoes. He adjusted the weights for his biceps and stretched a little before seating himself, gripping the bar tight. He began his workout, inhaling through his nose at every pull, exhaling through his mouth at every release, counting his reps in his head.

Khushi woke up to a beautiful morning. She lay in bed for a bit, smiling at last night. It had been fun. As promised, he’d left his gun behind. She’d been amazed and touched by the little signs of attention he’d showered on her all evening. She’d also seen the amusement on just about everyone’s face, especially, Anjali’s as they’d all observed their little by-plays. She sat up in bed and stretched. She’d fallen asleep in the car on the way home, and Akash and Payal who were also with them, excused themselves as soon as they got home, both with knowing grins on their faces. She’d woken up to find him carrying her to the door. He’d gently put her down, and kissed her, before finally opening the door and walking in with her. She didn’t feel like a swim this morning, for some reason. Perhaps a jog, but that wouldn’t be wise, given that Arnav would probably blow a fuse at the thought of her out on her own on the streets. Well, a jog it is, she thought, but on the glider.

She plugged in her ipod and adjusted the sound to a comfortable level, before opening the door to the gym. She hadn’t heard any sounds from inside, but then the room was soundproofed, so it didn’t surprise her. She opened the door and walked in and stopped short.

He was on the bench of the Bowflex, stretched out flat, as he pulled the bar down, his pectorals and abs contracting and expanding with each release. She licked her lips as she watched him, the ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ thundering in her ears. In fascination, she saw the beads of sweat on his arms, his biceps and triceps bunching with each move. Swallowing hard, she brought herself back to earth and moved to the glider, keeping her eyes firmly on it. She stepped into the foot holders and turned it on, leaving the intensity low as her muscles warmed up.

He looked up as he heard the whirring of the glider. He’d known from the moment she’d entered the room. How could he not? He seemed to have this inner radar that went off when she was in the vicinity. His gaze wandered over the red calf-length shiny tights she wore, up her smooth calves and thighs and rounded derriere. The milky white skin of her concave abs and back beckoned him. He could see the tip of the mustang tattoo on her back. The short, grey sports bra she wore, covered her chest, the thin red straps crisscrossing her back. He watched as she ratcheted up the intensity and began running faster, her hands pumping along her, ponytail swinging in rhythm. He blinked.

He went back to his workout, the brief respite, telling on his muscles. He pulled on the ankle straps on his feet and began his final set of weights. Legs and butt.

Ten minutes later, he was done. Breathing heavily, he watched her still running at speed, and then slowing down. He began his stretches, cooling the muscles down, before he could hit the shower.

She got down from the glider, her breathing slowing down and almost bumped into him.

He smiled. ‘Good morning,’ his voice husky, his eyes melting her bones.

She smiled back. ‘Good morning,’ her voice low, her eyes making molten lava run through his veins.



  1. Superb Madhs... the story is moving well... Loved the whole interrogation / war room scene... Not to mention, the gym !!! A sight for the sore eyes... I could just visualize the whole thing in front of my eyes.... Fantastic !!!

  2. Amazing Madhu.....RS & SMJ are going down.....m liking it....can it b a little gory for RS considering her character??

    So now tht A&K are already sweaty......a little more workout won't hurt rite....;-)

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  4. Super Mads... liked the way Aman & Ratan investigated & got the truth out of Rocky... Small glimpses of A & K makes the day & nice end to a chapter :)

  5. AM loving the way you switch between scenes, yet they all meld together, brilliant. Ok the last one had me grinning like the Cheshire cat! I mean whats not to like? :P


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