Ria was in high spirits the entire week as she stayed at home ignoring the cold stares and well aimed snorts coming her way from her so called family. She was at peace after she had decided not to bother anymore and having called off her engagement with Vikram. There was no further communication with Vikram and for that she was grateful. She could only handle so much melodrama. She visited a local doctor couple of times and got her wound checked and both times he assured her she was doing well not before appreciating the stitches quality. Ria felt better too… she could walk faster without pain and could sustain her weight for longer on her feet. Though her folks may have wondered what she was doing at home instead of being at work, she didn’t bother to explain. She knew irrespective of their attitude they needed her financial help and that she would do. She was yet to convey her decision of moving out but wanted to find the place first before she did it and for that she needed her next salary. Before everything, on a priority she transferred the amount borrowed from Gaurav to an account number Keith had obtained for her after repeated pleading. She occasionally talked to Keith during the week on everything under the sky… but nothing about Gaurav. She was disappointed Keith revealed nothing at all.
She also spoke to Preeti once in a while to keep abreast about the office gossip and God… the girl spoke nonstop. However Preeti’s tirade was a welcome break from her home’s cold silence and she missed the hospital. Preeti also apologised on behalf of Tushar and the other members who were present at the party and they all texted her that they awaited her resuming work in the hospital. Ria was thrilled at finally being accepted…Besides that Preeti also updated her with other hospital chatter like, Tara mavshi’s son was all set to complete his diploma engineering and she was on the seventh heaven. Ria felt happy for the lady…she was uneducated but had slogged her guts out as a single parent to educate her two children. This was her elder son… her daughter had just passed tenth grade with flying colours. Then Preeti also told her about Sudhir who was down with the flu and how the staff made fun about his baggy clothes. Ria chuckled thinking about the loathsome asshole. Swara apparently hadn’t reported for work either from the day of the party. There was some rumour about an engagement on the cards and that she was probably going to resign. Ria was glad the woman was finally settling with someone after the image she had cultivated. Finally Preeti mentioned that the bossman was acting all absent minded… giving same instructions twice and was mostly incognito. Apparently poor Karuna, his assistant was harried out of her wits catering to everything on his behalf… Ria’s heart skipped a beat and she couldn’t wait for Friday to arrive.
Finally on Friday morning Ria was bouncing in her steps and she couldn’t wait to finish her breakfast and leave for office. Her mother had slightly mellowed down, now that Ria had also received her salary she had immediately transferred some amount to her father’s account and had purchased the monthly grocery for home. She had also purchased a saree for her mother who often bought stuff for herself only if it matched Pooja’s requirement and the later would land up claiming it. Finally her mom smiled as she left for work today. It was only after she reached the bus stop she realised she had left her phone at home for charging and it was switched off as well.
Gaurav had a miserable day it was still Monday… three more days and he would see Ria. He had wanted to enquire about her leg but had chickened out and he had often overheard Keith speak with Ria. He had been envious at the ease in which Keith could speak with her and he had made it a point to convey her well-being every time he spoke with her. It was past midnight and he was still in Karma brooding over a bottle of cognac. It was just an hour more here before he retired to his home. Business in the week days especially in the month of Shravan was fairly low at this time of the hour. So he just had a waiter to wind up things and the others were let off early. That ensured they got their rest before the weekend madness began. As he stared into the amber liquid he realised he had never been so restless before irrespective of what life had thrown. Not even when he had been…. No… he didn’t want to go there. No matter what he did, the innumerable therapy sessions he had been through… he couldn’t yet face his demons. The nightmares still troubled him… Even the very thought of his past brought out the shudders and the burning sensation on his back… but at least now the panic attacks were under control. His therapist had told him to face his past openly and even try medications but he had staunchly refused. His past was just that… his past. Whatever he was now… was a renewed Gaurav who had rebuilt his life and now it revolved around his work in the hospital, Karma and Parijath.
The next day he was early at work, dressed impeccably his appearance giving no indication of his inner turmoil or lack of sleep. He had been lost in thought not reading a word of the file spread open before him… when Karuna came knocking in. Strange, because she always used the intercom…
“Yes Karuna what is it…?”
“…Um… sir you phone has been switched off since the last three days or so and you haven’t been responding to my texts …. Actually there is this meeting with…”
“…Ok … Ok…. Wait a minute… I had left my work phone in the drawer here…when I left last Friday… you know… the day of the party…?” He dug into his pocket and took out the bunch of keys selecting a little one from the lot. “Here… take this and check the second drawer in that shelf…”
Karuna took the keys and did as he said. “…Um…sir…there is no phone here….”
He clearly remembered leaving it there. “It has to be there Karuna…just move the files a bit…” Why was his memory failing him… the blank spell surging in after years… No… No… He remembered locking the drawer after leaving the phone there and he wanted no one to know about his visit to the old hospital where he used his personal phone… a private number to anyone he called, which he never did. He used the landline to communicate with Manek and Keith. He had been so engrossed with his thoughts surrounding Ria and his behaviour towards her that he barely remembered doing anything that evening before going on autopilot to the old building.
“Sir… there is no phone…” Karuna handed over the keys back to him.
“Uh…Ok… just do one thing… put up a request with the concerned department to issue another phone to me…”
“…But sir…if they ask the reason… shouldn’t we report the loss…?”
“…Karuna… let me handle it later Ok…? The work has to go on… So what meeting was it …?”
He had then got busy with back to back meetings for which he was grateful… even before he had reached Karma he was half asleep… he still made time for a glass of his favourite Glenlivet. He was all alone in the lounge tonight except for a couple at the corner table from what he could make out in the dim light…wait the woman looked familiar… As he had two neat pegs and was about to make a third one… he suddenly felt nausea rising up his gullet. His head started to throb… and he started to palpitate. He sat on the bar-stool with a thud and took out his handkerchief loosening his tie to wipe his brow… Why the hell was he so hot in the usually freezing room… he felt the room spin…No not again…no… he wasn’t a worthless drunk…his father was wrong… no… who was it…someone came close to his face… and then everything was black.
Gaurav woke up with a start as someone sprinkled water over his face. “Sir…are you alright..?”
“Keith…? I… my head is spinning… Fuck… I want to throw up…” What the hell had happened? Why was it so dark here…?
Keith helped him stand up and took him to the washroom. As they entered the lit washroom Keith held him by the shoulders. “Sir… what the fuck….?”
What…? Keith turned him towards the mirror. He looked wide eyed at his reflection… his disorientation gone by now. Apart from his bloodshot eyes, he had scratch marks on his neck… his jacket lapels had been torn on one side and his hands… as he held then up he saw nail marks and Oh My God…light teeth marks on his right palm…and the worst… his- fly- was- open… Fuck… what did actually happen here. He rushed to a cubicle and threw up, retching furiously even as tears stung streamed down his face. Horrible hallucination if this was one…
Keith held his trembling shoulders and he covered himself up as he shuffled outside and plonked on a sofa. He held his pounding head… Keith left him and was back with a wet cloth which he wiped himself with and laid his head on the back rest. Keith sat next to him.
“Keith… what time is it?”
Oh God he was out for a good two hours at least.
“Sir… do you…remember anything at all?”
“…No… I was just right there… having a scotch and then I got this dizzy spell and I blacked out…wait… there was a couple…” He held his head harder as the pounding increased. Keith handed him a bottle of water which he gulped.
“…Sir I had been waiting in the car as usual. I didn’t see anyone leave… but when I didn’t see you emerge for a while I came in to check and found you like… this…” Keith went to the bar and looked around. “..Sir… you said… you were having the scotch… but there is no sign of the bottle or the glass… there was no waiter…?”
“…only Ram Singh… since there wasn’t anyone arriving I sent the rest of them away. That couple didn’t seem to need anything anyways… Wait… where is Ram Singh…?” The smart waiter was an asset to Karma ever since he had joined the famed lounge six months ago.
Keith rushed to the money box… nothing was stolen. He then dialled a number but swore as he disconnected. “Ran Singh’s phone number apparently doesn’t exist… Sir I think we have to call the police…”
“…NO…No… No police…” he held up his hand frantically. “…No police… no calling Manek too… He is caught up with his wife’s pregnancy blues so don’t have to disturb him… Just check the documents, ledgers and stock…”
After about half an hour Keith reported everything was fine and nothing seemed out of order. “Sir…we should check the CCTV footage… this doesn’t look good…” Of course who but him would know better… He nodded and with great efforts he walked to the monitor as Keith checked the footage right form midnight… but everything was grainy… what the hell. The cameras were working just fine when the technician had checked few weeks ago… Security was always top notch at Karma…
“Keith…just get the cameras checked by the technician tomorrow… And … no breathing a word of this to anyone Ok…?”
“…but sir this doesn’t …”
“…NO… nothing was stolen from here… I don’t want unnecessary police investigation here…”
Keith had relented and they had gone home. The next day he had not reported for work and just made up some excuses for Karuna to handle everything. She definitely deserved a huge raise for keeping up with his tantrums… But he couldn’t go to work or anywhere outside with those marks on his neck and hands. So Manek helped cover at Karma with the other waiters… To Manek he gave an excuse of catching the bug…. In next two days the marks were barely visible in his office clothes. The hand marks were light anyways but they were almost gone especially the teeth marks. For the life of him he couldn’t figure out what the fuck it was all about…
Finally it was Friday and Ria was to join back so was he. Gaurav was excited from the time he had woken up and no matter what…. he did… he couldn’t stop the pounding of his heart. He almost skipped around his house to Keith’s amusement. As he was got ready to go to the hospital, he realized he had missed her terribly at the hospital. He missed seeing her work or seeing her wait outside his cabin or … just see her eyes lit up when she smiled. The almond eyes which looked directly into his soul… the only time he felt his soul was pure and not the black modulus of his existence. He looked into the full length mirror of his bedroom and after a poignant pause, he smiled sadly. No matter what he had to stick to his decision? By Monday he would get a reply from the board of directors about that transfer… He would miss Karma and especially Parijath but Ria mattered the most…
The transfer if approved would take about fifteen days to come through with the formalities. He just hoped he could control himself with Ria around and finally decided not to call or speak with her unless it was extremely essential.
His building intercom rang, the shrill sound resonating in his house getting him out of his reverie. Keith answered after what seemed like ages…
Gaurav walked upto the phone and saw the caller Id… it was the security calling. Why was security calling at 9 AM in the morning?
Keith kept the phone back and looked at him pensively.
“Sir…the p..police are on their way up to the house…”
Police? He shuddered.
The doorbell rang startling him from his thoughts. Keith answered the door and the police walked in. He walked out into the drawing room. There were three of them one of them was the Inspector and the other two looked like constables.
“How may I help you inspector?” Gaurav asked.
“Dr. Chopra, you are under arrest.” the Inspector said
“a… arrest? What for?” He was almost palpitating.
The inspector came ahead up to him and said, “You are under arrest for the rape of Ms. Swara Sawant…”
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